It’s certainly an exciting race this year…and I guess that’s one thing we do need to praise Ben Affleck for. His omission from the Best Director ballot has opened up all kinds of possibilities in multiple categories…and secured a virtual lock in at least one. The Big One. And we are hours away from the annual broadcast of the film season finale, and still there are a number of races that are too close to call. You can check this very blog to find that I correctly called 8 awards in 9 categories last year. I’m going to expand my number of predictions this time around, but I am not as confident in my accuracy as I was in 2012. A few of these are real squeakers. This could be the year for some resounding upsets across the board. And you can thank Mr. Affleck for screwing up your office Oscar pool. See, I just can’t leave the poor man alone. Anyway, here comes my official prediction roster:
Best Picture: “Argo”, It’s been juggernauting for weeks and it appears nothing will get in its way. Not early frontrunner “Zero Dark Thirty”. Not more recent leader “Lincoln”. Not the massive achievement of “Life of Pi”. In a perfect world, we would see nominations for “The Master” and “Moonrise Kingdom” in this category…proving once again that this is not a perfect world. “Amour” is the best film of the 9 nominees, but that will certainly win elsewhere. So, “Argo” wins because Affleck was snubbed. Go figure.
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Has there ever been any doubt since awards season began that DDL would become the very first man to take home the Best Actor award three separate times? Or that he would become the first male or female to bring home the gold for performing in a film directed by Steven Spielberg? DDL may be the finest film actor of this generation, but I believe Joaquin Phoenix gives the performance of the year in “The Master”. And I’m still smarting from the marvelous John Hawkes being ignored for “The Sessions”(some solace in that he took the Spirit award yesterday!). I’ve heard some upset talk calling for a Hugh Jackman surprise for “Les Miserables”. And some dying down mumblings for Bradley Cooper for “Silver Linings Playbook”. Forget both. It’s Day-Lewis all the way.
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, I’ll shed a tear for the sublime work of Amy Adams in my beloved “The Master”, and Sally field is getting some sentimental late buzz for her turn as Mary Todd in “Lincoln”. But Anne had this locked as soon as she shaved her head and dreamed a dream.
Best Foreign Language Film: “Amour”, Whereas, I’ve seen just about every single contender in all categories…in this one I’ve only attended the eventual winner. And it’s not my fault. 3 of the 5 nominees had not even been given a release in the United States as of mid-February! But if “Amour” takes home anything on Sunday night, it has to be this one, right? There is some love out there for “No” from Chile, and there have been a few supporters for Denmark’s “A Royal Affair”. But “Amour” has been the most acclaimed international film of the year, BY FAR. I’d be in shock if Austria and Michael Haneke were overlooked.
The Two Horse Races
Best Director: Ang Lee, And he absolutely deserves it for his remarkable achievement in “Life of Pi”. But the temptation will be there to pair DDL’s third acting Oscar with a third trip to the podium for director Steven Spielberg. And if Michael Haneke wins in any other category, it will be screenplay. I’m banking on Lee to edge Spielberg for this one, after “Pi” also garners a slew of technical awards.
Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, But I’ll be pulling for Emmanuelle Riva’s work in the superb “Amour”. But I’m also a big fan of Ms. Lawrence’s perf in “Silver Linings Playbook”…and it seems just about everyone else is too. So, why do I want Riva, while expecting it to be Jenn? First off, because Riva is astonishing in the film. Also, because Emmanuelle turned 86 today, and she’ll never get a shot at this again. Ms. Lawrence is a spry 22, btw, and will most likely get a bunch of opportunities down the road. Lastly, because “Amour” is a far better film than “SLP”. But it’s not a travesty if Lawrence takes it, because she proves surprisingly deft for such a spring chicken. This one will be tight.
Best Animated Feature: “Wreck-It Ralph”, And it will be a fine and deserved win. However, I’m still nervous about “Brave” and the power of Pixar. “Ralph” is definitely the more original and ingenious of the two, but will it prove too frenetic for the more conservative voters? Will that breakneck pace drive those ballot casters to the warm, safe, comfy confines of the play-it-safe and much simpler “Brave”? I hope not. Early on, I sensed the possibility of a sympathy vote for Tim Burton’s “Frankenweenie”—and I would have been pleased by that as well. But that opportunity to finally bestow an Oscar upon the talented Mr. Burton’s head has faded in the lead-up weeks. “Frankenweenie” buzz has died. The very good “ParaNorman” and the jolly “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” appear to be completely out of the running.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Chris Terrio for “Argo”, I’m expecting that ridiculous “Argo” love to push Terrio to win by a nose over the much-documented, years of slaving process for “Lincoln” scripter Tony Kushner. You see how Affleck is effing everything up? There seems to be some love for David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook” screenplay too…but I’m not sensing that it’s enough to pull out a win(although Russell did nab the Spirit award on Saturday, he was up against a quartet of entirely different nominees). Terrio should pull this out, but a Kushner victory would be far from shocking.
The Wild Cards
Best Supporting Actor: Robert De Niro, He’s been galloping on the stretch towards the finish line, and I’m getting the inkling that it’s going to be just enough. The caveat in this category is that all five nominees are previous winners. Waltz in 2010, Arkin in 2007, Jones in 1994 for this category, and Hoffman for Best Actor in 2006. De Niro has a 1981 Best Actor win for “Raging Bull” and a 1975 Best Supporting Actor statue for “The Godfather, Part II”. Look closely at that chronology. De Niro has not walked to the podium in over three decades. And for a change, he’s been campaigning this season. Hard. Not only that, but in a recent interview with Katie Couric about the role, Robert broke down and cried. Real? Sure looked it…and it may just cinch it for him. Some pretty smart money is saying Waltz for “Django”, and it’s a strong argument after he nabbed the BAFTA recently. But I’m taking into account that he wasn’t
up against De Niro in that race. Plus, Christophe is the most recent Oscar victor of the bunch. Then there is the much admired, but decidedly crabby Tommy Lee Jones. He could ride a “Lincoln” sweep to his second Best Supporting Actor victory, and he also won the SAG award. But I think Jones’ momentum has ebbed just a bit, and De Niro’s recent buzz is only getting stronger. This could be the tightest race of all. Hoffman? He’s my favorite in the category, but NO ONE is talking about him. And Arkin seems to be the only one who hasn’t benefited from the “Argo” express. It’s Bobby by a hair.
Best Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino for “Django Unchained”, But I’ve been sensing a shift towards the deserving Michael Haneke for “Amour”, even though I think it’s going to be a case of too little, too late. And there still seems to be some admiration out there for former frontrunner in multiple categories, “Zero Dark Thirty” and writer, Mark Boal. But he won this in 2010 for “The Hurt Locker”, and “ZD30” stock has unjustly plummeted after the whole “torture justification” controversy. I’m feeling “ZD30” faces a shutout because of it. In a perfect world(again), the Wes Anderson/Roman Coppola “Moonrise Kingdom” script takes this…sadly, it doesn’t have a prayer. John Gatins for “Flight”? Never happen. So, it all seems to be lining up for Quentin, who shared this award with Roger Avary for “Pulp Fiction” in 1995. My bet would be that most of the older voters have been too afraid to even watch “Amour”, but Haneke’s buzz has been growing. But being that he’s an Austrian penning a French-language screenplay, I’m going to lean towards him being too much of an outsider to win. Tarantino by a chin.
Just For Fun
Best Documentary Feature: “Searching for Sugar Man”, A notoriously difficult category to pick, but “Sugar Man” has captured all the buzz by being the uplifting one about an unlikely comeback. “5 Broken Cameras” and “The Invisible War”(yesterday’s Spirit winner)are fine, but divisive, very political exposes. You shouldn’t count out “How to Survive a Plague” in a land full of performers that have been personally affected by the AIDS crisis. And you also can’t ignore “The Gatekeepers”(full disclosure: it’s the only one I haven’t seen)in a community with traditionally strong ties to Israel. But I think a “Searching for Sugar Man” win will bring Rodriguez’s story full circle…and it’s got a helluva soundtrack too!
Best Original Song: Adele(& Paul Epworth) for “Skyfall” from “Skyfall”, Everyone loves Adele. And just about everyone loves “Skyfall”(personally, I just don’t get it). She’s a multiple-Grammy winning, mega-platinum selling recording artist. And the latest James Bond entry has grossed over a billion dollars worldwide. It’s about as close to a lock as you can get. I challenge anyone to even be able to answer without googling what the names of the songs from “Life of Pi” and the documentary “Chasing Ice” are. And can “Les Miserable” garner an award for a song specifically penned for the decades-old musical(seems like a cheat, but it worked for 1996’s “Evita”)? Will there be some desire to have the ditty from “Ted” walk away with the prize, being that the performer and co-writer is also hosting the Oscars? Without question. But I don’t believe it will go beyond the gimmick. It’s “Skyfall” and Adele all the way.
So, there you have it. As usual, more time has been put into this selection process than should be expected for someone not getting paid to do it! But it’s a labor of love. And the season ends tonight, so in 24 hours the whole prediction and analysis bugaboo will be dormant for a whole year. Good…it’s exhausting! Also, as I read through this list, I realize how it all looks so good on “paper”. But it could collapse completely this evening! My record for 27 years is pretty darn strong…but this race has some of the closest contests in years. And I blame most of it on Ben Affleck…as I’ve been doing now for weeks. “Argo” fuck yourself, indeed.
*Editor’s note: I almost forgot about this, and I’m adding it just a few minutes after publishing. I’d like to dedicate this particular post to my beautiful Grandmother, Genevieve Kozlowski, who passed away at the age of 92(3 months shy of 93!)one year ago today. Grandma loved movie musicals, and she is partly responsible for my film obsession, considering all the times she brought me(under the age of 10!)to revivals of things like “The Sound of Music” and “Mary Poppins”, and original runs for “That’s Entertainment Parts 1 & 2”. All at the gorgeous Radio City Music Hall in NYC. You’ll always be in my heart, Grandma! Miss you much! ML