With voting for the 85th Academy Awards officially closed, and with Scott Sawitz already throwing down the challenge in his Monday Morning Critic column on what should win vs. what will win, I feel that now was a good time to unveil my final Oscar predictions. These are the same predictions I made to a crowd of onlookers Tuesday night as part of an Oscars discussion.
It has been an interesting award season to say the least, and my opinions have twisted and turned due to oversights, omissions and momentum in the months counting down. Now it’s crunch time.
On Oscar night we could be looking at Ben Affleck’s Argo going on to collect numerous awards. Or we could very well have The Weinstein Company getting its third consecutive Best Picture winner with Silver Linings Playbook. Steven Spielberg may finally get his third statuette for directing Lincoln while his star, Daniel Day-Lewis, would make Oscar history by becoming the only actor to have won three Best Actor awards. Life of Pi looks to be a shoe-in for visual effects, but don’t underestimate Ang Lee’s chances in the directing category.
However, I’m of the opinion that the Academy of Motion Picture, Arts and Sciences will be looking to spread the wealth on Sunday night; we’re likely to see a few of the Best Picture nominees pick up at least two awards. Though, if I’m wrong, it wouldn’t be the first time.
Rather than rundown all 24 categories, since I’m not familiar with some of the short films nominated, I’ll highlight the “Big 5” (acting awards and picture) along with some of the technical categories. Note: my picks will appear in bold.
Best Animated Short
Adam And Dog
Head Over Heels
The Longest Daycare
Here’s one of the few times I’ve seen a majority of the nominees. It helps that two of the five preceded films that had a theatrical release. Disney’s “Paperman” played in front of Wreck-It Ralph, while “The Longest Daycare” is a The Simpsons short featuring Maggie Simpson. Plus, “Fresh Guacamole” has been featured on Showtime. Of the five, I think “Paperman” is the strongest, plus its use of traditional hand-drawn animation with computer-generated animation is a benefit. But it is also one of the most romantic features, long or short, that I’ve seen in quite a while.
Best Sound Editing
Life Of Pi
Zero Dark Thirty
As much as I would like the honor to go to Zero Dark Thirty (the sounds during the interrogations to the siege on the OBL compound have quite the punch), but I’m going with Skyfall. The biggest Bond film yet had great set pieces including its opening sequence and Javier Bardem’s thrilling escape involving a train crashing into the building where he’s being held. And who could forget the finale involving a Straw Dogs (some would call it Home Alone) pastiche.
Best Sound Mixing
Life Of Pi
The men behind the sounds of Les Miserables can thank Universal’s campaign for this category by producing an EPK-style featurette that attempts to raise awareness about the film’s technique of having the actors perform their songs live on set instead of in a music studio and lip-syncing.
Best Visual Effects
Life Of Pi
Marvel’s The Avengers
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Snow White and the Hunstman
Definitely one of the few locks at this year’s Oscars. This award will go Life of Pi. Of the five nominees it has the most impressive visuals, but it also has the added benefit of being the only Best Picture nominee in the bunch.
Best Original Song
“Skyfall” from Skyfall – Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
“Suddenly” from Les Miserables – Claude-Michel Schonberg, Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boubil
“Before My Time” from Chasing Ice – J. Ralph
“Everybody Needs A Best Friend” from Ted – Walter Murphy and Seth MacFarlane
“Pi’s Lullaby” from Life of Pi – Mychael Danna and Bombay Jayashri
While I was secretly hoping that “Thunder Buddies” from Ted would be in the final five, I guess I’ll go with Adele’s Skyfall. It’s easily the best Bond theme since probably Duran Duran’s “A View to a Kill” and of all the nominees it’s the only one you’re likely to hear on Top 40 radio. That should count for something. Besides, the song and music branches seem to be the most progressive of the entire AMPAS. That would explain why you can put “Oscar winner” next to such acts as Trent Reznor, Eminem and Three 6 Mafia.
Best Film Editing
Argo – William Goldenberg
Zero Dark Thirty – Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg
Life Of Pi – Tim Squyres
Lincoln – Michael Kahn
Silver Linings Playbook – Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers
Realistically, the award should go to Cloud Atlas, but since it was ignored by the Academy in favor of five Best Picture nominees it looks like the best bet is Argo. Traditionally, the film that wins Best Film Editing goes on to win Best Picture. Though if it isn’t Argo look for Zero Dark Thirty with a surprise win. Either way, William Goldenberg has a 40% chance of getting an Oscar.
Life Of Pi – Claudio Miranda
Skyfall – Roger Deakins
Anna Karenina – Seamus McGarvey
Lincoln – Janusz Kaminski
Django Unchained – Robert Richardson
In a perfect world, Roger Deakins would finally get rewarded for his contributions to cinematography. The man has been nominated ten times, winning zero. Skyfall is great on a number of levels including the way Deakins handles the lighting in certain sequences. Who could forget that one on one confrontation done with silhouettes and shadows, and the scene in Hong Kong has a smorgasbord of strong visuals (not to mention Komodo Dragons). But much like the year Avatar got a cinematography award despite the film being mostly CGI, I could see that breathtaking visuals of Life of Pi will once again see Deakins remain winless at the Oscars.
Best Animated Feature
The Pirates! Band Of Misfits
It looks like this is the year where a Pixar film isn’t the odds on favorite to win. A similar situation happened when it was Monsters Inc. up again DreamWorks’ Shrek. However, comparatively speaking, Monsters Inc. was better received than Brave. But Pixar could be awarded on account that it goes against convention when it comes to traditional “Disney Princess” movies. However, I see I losing out to Wreck-It Ralph mainly on account that stop-motion films like Frankenweenie and ParaNorman are likely to cancel each other out. Sure, it may be a simple tale that plays heavily off of ’80s arcade and video-gaming nostalgia, but it was one of Disney’s better, non-Pixar efforts in quite some time.
Best Documentary – Feature
Searching For Sugar Man
How To Survive A Plague
5 Broken Cameras
The Invisible War
While there are varying kinds of documentaries, most either fall into the category of either being about someone or something, or championing a cause. In terms of the latter that would be The Invisible War and Kirby Dick’s introspective look at a lingering problem within the U.S. military (namely rape and sexual assault). While Searching for Sugar Man may not be “championing a cause” it is a feel-good documentary about a folk singer who went unnoticed in America only to become an international sensation in the country of South Africa during apartheid.
Best Foreign Language Film
A Royal Affair
If Michael Haneke’s Amour wins this award it guarantees that it won’t win Best Picture. It is the frontrunner in this category for stranger things have happened. Remember the year where The Lives of Others beat out Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth?
Best Writing – Adapted Screenplay
Argo – Chris Terrio
Silver Linings Playbook – David O. Russell
Lincoln – Tony Kushner
Life Of Pi – David Magee
Beasts of the Southern Wild – Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin
Of the five nominees, three are from books, one is from a play, and another is based on an actual CIA document and agent. One would think David Magee would be the favorite for taking a piece of literature that many thought to be “unfilmable” and make it work. But it is Ang Lee who has been given the lion’s share of kudos for the success of Life of Pi. The top three picks are definitely Argo, Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook, and you can put them in any order. All three were box office hits, but it seems like Chris Terrio has the inside edge. No offense to Tony Kushner’s screenplay, probably the strongest aspect of Lincoln, but his source material was three pages from the novel “Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin. But because David O. Russell isn’t the odds on favorite in the directing category (again, comedies seem to get a bad rap in general by the Academy) he could very well in this category.
Best Writing – Original Screenplay
Zero Dark Thirty – Mark Boal
Django Unchained – Quentin Tarantino
Amour – Michael Haneke
Moonrise Kingdom – Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
Flight – John Gatins
This is an interesting category that sees a couple of former winners up against some talented competition. Mark Boal’s Zero Dark Thirty recently won at the WGAs, but I’m not sure what makes Zero Dark Thirty an original screenplay versus Chris Terrio’s Argo. Is it a loophole because of anonymous sources in the case of ZDT? Realistically, the winner should be Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola’s Moonrise Kingdom because it is such a good story about teenage love. Going out on a limb I’m picking Quentin Tarantino, mainly on account that the man is due for an Academy Award he can claim himself (he shared screenwriting honors with Roger Avary back in 1994 for Pulp Fiction).
Best Supporting Actor
Robert De Niro – Silver Linings Playbook
Christoph Waltz – Django Unchained
Tommy Lee Jones – Lincoln
Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Master
Alan Arkin – Argo
In a rare occurrence all the nominees in this category are previous winners. So the question remains is who is the most deserving? Eh, you could probably put the names on a Post-It note and put it on a dartboard and pick a winner that way. Personally, I think the winner should be Philip Seymour Hoffman, but The Master was such a polarizing film that most of the voting body probably forgot about it, if they ever saw it. So with that in mind I’m going with Robert De Niro who gives his best performance in quite a long time. People seem to forget that De Niro had a career before the Focker movies. Here he proves his weight as a legendary thespian doing a role that isn’t as showy as Alan Arkin in Argo or as scene-chewingly good as Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained. As for Tommy Lee Jones, if he wins he won’t be on account of his toupee.
Best Supporting Actress
Anne Hathaway – Les Miserables
Sally Field – Lincoln
Amy Adams – The Master
Helen Hunt – The Sessions
Jacki Weaver – Silver Linings Playbook
Okay, here’s another lock for this year’s Oscars. The award is going to Anne Hathaway. All the other actresses have all but conceded at this point. If Jennifer Hudson can win it for belting out a soulful rendition of “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going”, then Hathaway can get it for singing “I Dreamed a Dream.” Besides, I figure the voters owe it to her for having to work with James Franco at last year’s ceremony. Any other year the award probably should go to Helen Hunt. Her performance was the most daring in terms of vulnerability playing a character that doesn’t glamorize sex but shows it in a natural setting (in this case as a sex therapist helping a man with polio).
Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln
Joaquin Phoenix – The Master
Hugh Jackman – Les Miserables
Bradley Cooper – Silver Linings Playbook
Denzel Washington – Flight
Never would I think I would see one of The Hangover‘s Wolf Pack with an Oscar nomination, at least this early in his career. Bradley Cooper is good in Silver Linings but he’s no Daniel Day-Lewis or Denzel Washington. For DDL it may be his best performance, and that includes his wins for My Left Foot and There Will Be Blood. But he makes playing Abraham Lincoln look easy. A much harder role is that of Denzel Washington’s in Flight. The nuances he gives his alcoholic character are strong, but it’s the kind of performance that is more introverted. Flight is far from a good movie, but Washington’s performance is great. Sadly, it will be just like the year he was overlooked for his performance in The Hurricane in favor of Kevin Spacey in American Beauty. I don’t think there will be any serious upset in this category, so if your office is doing a pool, Daniel Day-Lewis is the best pick.
Emmanuelle Riva – Amour
Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook
Jessica Chastain – Zero Dark Thirty
Naomi Watts – The Impossible
Quvenzhane Wallis – Beasts of the Southern Wild
Of these five Jessica Chastain gave the best performance. And to me it was the best performance I saw by any actor or actress in 2012. She is my pick to win even though it looks like the political fallout of Zero Dark Thirty makes her seem like an also-ran at this point. Outside of her winning, the award will be contested between Jennifer Lawrence and Emmanuelle Riva. Riva turns 86 on Sunday, and an Academy Award would make quite the birthday gift. Plus we’ll be seeing Chastain and Lawrence in this category in the years to come.
Ang Lee – Life Of Pi
Steven Spielberg – Lincoln
Michael Haneke – Amour
David O Russell – Silver Linings Playbook
Benh Zeitlin – Beasts of the Southern Wild
Oh, the Best Director category. When picking nominations I have three surefire picks. I had Steven Spielberg, Kathryn Bigelow and Ben Affleck. Only one of the three got nominated. But the omission of Affleck is a most egregious error on behalf of the director’s branch. Boy do they have egg on their face. And it is because of that why Argo is likely going to get the benefit of the doubt in a number of categories it wouldn’t be favored to win. Like it wouldn’t surprise me if it got a Sound award of some kind. With Affleck out of the picture, the director’s race looks to be a two horse affair between Ang Lee and Steven Spielberg. Between the two, Life of Pi is the only “director’s movie” so to speak. That gives an edge to Lee, for sure. However my gut tells me that the Academy will want to award Spielberg his third directing award, much like the Academy felt compelled to give Meryl Streep her Oscar last year despite her performance in The Iron Lady being far from her best work. It’s a close category, that’s for sure.
Silver Linings Playbook
Life Of Pi
Zero Dark Thirty
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Three of these nine appeared on my Top 10 List of 2012 with Zero Dark Thirty occupying the #1 spot. I don’t seriously dislike any of the nine nominees, but Amour and Life of Pi would probably be near the bottom. Look for Argo to pull a Driving Miss Daisy and be the first film in more than twenty years to win Best Picture without receiving a Best Director nomination. If not Argo, then we might see a comedy win the Best Picture award since 1998’s Shakespeare in Love.
Tags: Alan Arkin, Amour, Amy Adams, Ang Lee, Anne Hathaway, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Bradley Cooper, Brave, Christoph Waltz, Daniel Day-Lewis, David O. Russell, Denzel Washington, Django Unchained, Flight, Frankenweenie, Helen Hunt, hugh jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Chastain, Joaquin Phoenix, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, lincoln, Michael Haneke, Moonrise Kingdom, Naomi Watts, Oscars, Paranorman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Sally Field, searching for sugar man, Silver Linings Playbook, Skyfall, Steven Spielberg, Tommy Lee Jones, Wreck-It Ralph, Zero Dark Thirty