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Oscars winners 2013: Daniel Day-Lewis was favorite to end on top

As 'Lincoln' the lead actor winner transformed himself completely.

February 25, 2013|By Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times Film Critic
  • Meryl Streep congratulates Daniel Day-Lewis on his lead actor Oscar.
Meryl Streep congratulates Daniel Day-Lewis on his lead actor Oscar. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

Of course Mr. Lincoln, um, I mean Daniel Day-Lewis, deserved the Oscar. Finally, after countless iterations of the 16th U.S. president on television, film and stage, it feels as if we know the man himself.

So deeply did the actor delve into the character in Steven Spielberg's film, any essence of Day-Lewis, the man, ceased to exist. He carried us back in time with him and gave us a seat at the table as the president pushed, prodded and finally demanded that his Cabinet, the Congress and the nation accept the 13th Amendment ending slavery.

FULL COVERAGE: Oscars 2013 | Winners

Lincoln offered the actor complexity, and Day-Lewis took full advantage. While the words moved us, consider just the body if you will.

The actor's lean and lank frame made him a good fit, but all the normal grace of his movements was overtaken by something else. The gait turned awkward, the steps too long, the arms so animated at times it was as if they might fly off. At others they were pulled in so tight you could sense the pain.

And the shoulders, always a little hunched, began to drop as the weight of the Civil War pressed down. The surprise is that there was no defeat. Instead he infused them with a weary resistance — like Sisyphus, you knew he would never stop pushing the boulder up the hill.

Oscars 2013: Backstage | Quotes | Best & Worst moments

It was an extraordinary moment in our history made manifest by an extraordinary president. An extraordinary actor made it real.

betsy.sharkey@latimes.com

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WINNING BALLOT: A list of the 2013 winners

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TIMELINE: Academy Awards through the years


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