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DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg. Perceived "snubs" aside, the directors branch did a nice job of nominating five distinctive filmmaking voices, even including a guy like David O. Russell who's adept at creating chaotic comedy. (The academy does have a sense of humor. Who knew?) The absence of Ben Affleck, though, does complicate the task at hand, since he won just about every precursor award leading up to the Oscars.
LEAD ACTOR: Daniel Day-Lewis. But you knew that already, didn't you? Certainly, the other four nominees in this category aren't sweating their acceptance speeches. In fact, one of the great awards-season moments came last month when Phoenix accepted the best actor plaque from the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. and said, "I'm assuming that the L.A. Film Critics were banned from seeing 'Lincoln.' I'm not sure who the distributor is; it's a strange strategy." In all of 17 seconds, Phoenix summed up Day-Lewis' dominance without exactly calling it into question. And why should he? Day-Lewis' immersive, inside-out performance captures both the majesty and the mystery of one of history's most iconic figures, challenging preconceptions and exceeding expectations. He more than earned his third lead actor Oscar.