Last year at this time, I proffered the opinion that 2011 was a crap year for movies. I’m happy to report that 2012 provided us with a much better slate. I haven’t seen all the nominated films, but I’ve seen a goodly percentage of them. In particular, I found Argo, Silver Linings Playbook, and Lincoln to be the kinds of movies that give me hope for the future of cinema. And tonight’s Oscar ceremony should also feature a bit of history being made (see Best Actor, below), which will be exciting. Well, it will be for me, anyway.
Anyway, on with the picks. As always, I never let my ignorance get in the way, as the following should make clear:
CNN is trying to convince people that this year’s Oscar race is wildly unpredictable. CNN is obviously trolling for mouse clicks. (You’re welcome, CNN.) This category isn’t even close. The top prize goes to Argo, in a walk. Now, it’s true that when the nominations were first announced, the omission of Ben Affleck from the Best Director category made me immediately dismiss Argo’s chances of winning Best Picture. But then the guild awards started coming in. SAG. PGA. DGA. WGA. All of them gave their top nods to Argo. And as I’ve said repeatedly in the past, these guilds’ memberships have a lot of overlap with the Academy.
Argo isn’t going to sweep the Oscars like, say, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King did, but it will win this category. And I’m OK with that. Affleck and his crew did a fine job of making an historical event, of which we all knew the outcome, compelling and suspenseful. Good on ya, Argo.
The aforementioned omission of Ben Affleck from this category means that we will have one of those rare splits between Best Picture and Best Director. This, too, I’m usually OK with, as I’ve never bought too heavily into auteur theory. That said, I do think the Affleck snub is pretty damned inexcusable.
Anyway, the safe money is on Steven Speilberg, for Lincoln. It did garner the most nominations this year, and it’s one of his best films. Many have complained that it’s too talky, but hey, I’m a writer. I like dialogue.
Ang Lee is a potential spoiler here, for Life of Pi. The fact that Speilberg already has two directing Oscars could work against him. But I don’t think so. I’m sticking with Steve.
Jennifer Lawrence took the SAG award for Silver Linings Playbook, and I think she’ll do the same at the Oscars. Here’s the part where I remind everyone that actors make up the biggest voting bloc in the Academy. This year, we have both the youngest and oldest nominees ever in this category—Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) and Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), respectively—but neither of them will win.
And just by the way, how great must it be to be Jennifer Lawrence these days? Two Academy Award nominations to date, lead role in the Hunger Games franchise, and soon to have an Oscar on the mantelpiece. Not bad for a 22-year-old.
Daniel Day-Lewis makes history tonight for his performance as our 16th president in Lincoln. He will become the first person ever to win the Best Actor Oscar three times. He’s currently tied with a host of others, including Tom Hanks, Spencer Tracy, Marlon Brando, and Dustin Hoffman. Tonight, he outstrips them all. The quiet, unassuming dignity he brings to the role is truly a joy to behold. If you’re going to bet the farm on anything, bet on this one.
Best Supporting Actress
If Anne Hathaway is smart, she already has some shelf space cleared for her Oscar. Her unforgettable performance of “I Dreamed a Dream” in Les Misérables simply blows away all other comers in this category.
Best Supporting Actor
Here’s the toughest of the acting categories to pick. The SAG went to Tommy Lee Jones, for his portrayal of Thaddeus Stevens in Lincoln. Now, I don’t know if it was really that strong of a performance, but it was certainly more memorable than his role in The Fugitive, for which he won his previous Oscar. That said, SAG isn’t always a perfect predictor of the Oscars (e.g., Meryl Streep’s Oscar win last year), and Jones has some stiff competition this year. Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook) could be a sentimental favorite, and Alan Arkin (Argo) has the advantage of starring in this year’s Best Picture winner. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see an upset in this category. But I’m sticking with Jones.
Best Original Screenplay
Zero Dark Thirty has been taking a pounding in the press lately, but it still managed to win the WGA award. The Best Screenplay Oscar is often a kind of consolation prize for a film that misses in some of the higher-profile categories, and I think that’s what will happen here, which is good news for screenwriter Mark Boal. Possible upsets: Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola, for Moonrise Kingdom, or Quentin Tarantino, for Django Unchained.
Best Adapted Screenplay
This year’s Best Picture front-runner just won the WGA award for its script. That tells me that Chris Terrio will win for Argo. Terrio does face some stiff competition in Tony Kushner, a well respected writer who turned in a dynamite script for Lincoln (have I mentioned my fondness for dialogue?). But I have to figure that most Academy voters who are going to pick Argo for Best Picture will also pick it for Best Screenplay. Certainly all the writers will.
Best Animated Feature
Brave. Never pick against Pixar.
Best Foreign Language Film
This is usually the most unpredictable Oscar category, but this year, all signs point to Amour. Historically, movies that are nominated for both Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film lose the former and win the latter.
Best Costume Design
Period pieces dominate this category, and Anna Karenina took home the Costume Designers Guild award for period costumes.
Best Makeup & Hairstyling
Um . . . Les Misérables, I guess.
Best Original Song
Can you believe that in all the years of the James Bond franchise, not one Bond song has won an Oscar? Not “Live and Let Die.” Not “Nobody Does It Better.” Not Shirley Bassey’s brilliant “Goldfinger.” Well, that gets rectified tonight. Adele adds to her already impressive trophy shelf with a win for “Skyfall,” and deservedly so.
Best Original Score
Here’s a pretty wide open category. I’m going with Mychael Danna, for his work on Life of Pi. John Williams (Lincoln) appears to be the strongest competitor, but the guy already has five Oscars.
Remember all those guild awards that Argo has racked up? Well, Searching for Sugar Man has picked up Best Documentary awards from the DGA, PGA, and WGA. Add the Oscars to that list, and let’s move on.
Best Documentary (Short)
The trend in this category over the past few years has been toward uplifting stories of white people helping out less fortunate third world folks (Smile Pinki, Saving Face). This year, Open Heart fits the bill, so that’s my pick. Mondays at Racine could surprise, though.
Best Production Design
The Art Directors Guild gave its top awards to Anna Karenina and Life of Pi. I’m going with the latter.
Best Film Editing
This one often goes to the Best Picture winner, and Argo did win the American Cinema Editors award.
As I did last year, I’m picking against the precursor guild award winner. The American Society of Cinematographers honored Roger Deakins for his work on Skyfall. True, Deakins is something of a rock star among cinematographers, and he has never won an Oscar. But his fine work on Skyfall is nowhere near as flashy as Claudio Miranda’s breathtaking cinematography in Life of Pi. Last year’s award went to a gorgeous 3-D film (Hugo), and I’m betting this year will follow suit.
Best Sound Editing
Another tough category. The Motion Picture Sound Editors liked the ADR in Life of Pi, and the sound effect and Foley work Skyfall. Loud movies tend to do well here, so I’ll go with Skyfall.
Best Sound Mixing
Gotta go with Les Misérables here. All the singing was recorded live, on set.
Best Visual Effects
Life of Pi. The tiger was entirely CGI.
Best Short Film (Animated)
Yes, Maggie Simpson in The Longest Daycare certainly has name recognition, but that rarely matters in this category. Head over Heels, on the other hand, features the Aardman-like clay animation the Academy seems to love, so that’s the way I’m leaning.
Best Short Film (Live Action)
I’ve read that Curfew is amusing but kind of lightweight. It occurs to me that 2010’s God of Love could be described the same way, and it won an Oscar. Curfew it is, then. What the hell.
And there you have it. On with the show.