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Joaquin Phoenix in "The Mast."
SHOULD WIN: Day-Lewis. Or Phoenix, whose alcoholic, pleasure-seeking World War II veteran embodies the human struggle between animalistic and spiritual urges. Or Cooper, pained and magnetic as a bipolar man intent on reuniting with his estranged wife and keeping an upbeat outlook. It was a banner year for male leads, and a victory by anyone in this category would be well-deserved.