Oscar Predictions: Final Round - Will Win/Should Win

Ben Affleck's Argo: our next Best Picture winner?
'Twas the night before Oscars, when all thro' the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The trophies were put on the mantle with care,
In hopes that Sir Oscar soon would be there;
Ben Affleck was nestled all snug in his bed,

While visions of D’rector noms danc'd in his head…

Yes, it’s Christmastime for film buffs. Santa’s got a brand new bag this year, and he’s leaving all sorts of surprises to be unwrapped at Sunday’s Academy Awards. It’s an open field in nearly every race, save for a handful. Argo is by all regards the frontrunner since it swept the guilds and won the Golden Globe. It’s a foolish bet on paper, though, since only three films have won Best Picture without having a Best Director nomination: Wings, Grand Hotel, and Driving Miss Daisy. While Driving Miss Daisy is a recent enough memory to give some hope, the numbers aren’t exactly on Ben Affleck’s side, since Wings was the first Best Picture winner (for 1927) and Grand Hotel won for 1932. Oddly enough, Grand Hotel received only one nomination: it was for Best Picture and it managed to win anyways. 1932 might be too old a precedent in this case, but it’s worth noting since Grand Hotel bucked an early trend and shows that there is far more to the race than numbers. Whoever calls Argo a long shot because of Affleck’s absence in the Best Director category is not following the Oscar race too closely.
Emmanuelle Riva in Amour
Best Picture seems like one of the safest bets of the night. Other contenders you might want to check off in the Oscar pool are Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln) and Anne Hathaway (Les Mis). Likewise, Amour is probably a safe bet for Best Foreign Language Film since it’s also up for Best Picture. Only three other non-American foreign-language films have been nominated for Best Picture in the past twenty years: Il Postino, Life is Beautiful, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The latter two won Best Foreign Language Film by a mile. On the other hand, Best Foreign Language Film is one of the few categories where voters must see all five films in order to be able to vote, so Amour might not be 100%  locked. I personally liked Canada’s War Witch and Denmark’s A Royal Affair better, and they’re much easier sits. Likewise, some Foreign Film contenders that seemed like frontrunners because they had additional nominations actually lost the prize (see: Amélie, Pan’s Labyrinth, The White Ribbon), so it’s possible that fans of a film might not be bothered to sit through all the nominees if they’re confident of its chances. With that being said, though, Michael Haneke is overdue for an Oscar and he seems unbeatable.

Most of the other categories are hard to predict since there is little consensus among critics, fans, and guilds. The dispersed support among these contenders simply reveals what a strong year it was for movies in 2012. In most cases, the winner couldn’t be more worthy even if he or she is not my first choice. Here’s a look at some of the major races:

Best Picture

Zero Dark Thirty
Argo, as suggested above, is the one to beat. It’s hard to dislike Argo and its vanilla ice cream flavour will probably give it an edge on the preferential ballot. If it’s not someone’s first choice, it could easily be number two or three. There’s really no reason to vote against it. Atop my ballot (Argo would be in my fourth spot) is Zero Dark Thirty, which might be hurt by the ballot since criticisms that it endorses torture might prevent it from amassing fifty percent of the votes (plus one). Zero Dark Thirty deserves the prize for how bravely and boldly it depicts (and deconstructs) a recent, relevant event.

My second choice, Silver Linings Playbook, could fare better since it’s a feel-good crowd-pleaser, as well as a smart, snappy film. The SLP campaign has played up the importance of the film’s depiction of mental illness lately too, which could inspire some voters to look at the film with a deeper gaze; however, the effort might have been too late to overpower the momentum that Argo built after the nominations were announced. Silver Linings is probably the wild card of the night, though, since it nabbed a rare quartet of acting nominations and was nominated in every category in which it was a legitimate contender.

Lincoln and Life of Pi, which would have spots eight and nine on my ballot, are probably going to be Argo’s main competition. As the two highest nomination-getters, plus the only two films with Best Director nominations from both the Academy and the Directors’ Guild, these two films have strong precedents to win. Likewise, Lincoln’s American charm and Pi’s technical pizzazz will earn Brownie points from some circles and help some voters overlook flaws that might not otherwise be forgiven.

Rounding out the Best Picture line-up are strong films that probably have little chance of winning because they won’t pick up ballots as the process moves along: Amour (“too depressing”), Beasts of the Southern Wild (“too small”), Django Unchained (“too violent, too racist, too profane”), and Les Misérables (“too many close-ups”). I wouldn’t count out Beasts entirely, though! People love that movie!

Will win: Argo
Should win: Zero Dark Thirty
Shoulda been there: Anna Karenina

Best Director

David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Kathryn Bigelow was absolutely hosed. Any argument one makes for the absence of Ben Affleck—a lack of risk, a lack of discernible style, a lack of technical prowess, or a lack of higher meaning—can’t be used to explain why Bigelow was left out. Her snub doesn’t make sense, nor does Affleck’s really, since Argo was generally seen as Affleck’s coming into his own as a director. The same could be said about my pick, David O. Russell, who seems to have really hit his stride with Silver Linings Playbook. Russell has been nominated before (for The Fighter), but SLP is the best result of his zany indie comedy style breaking through with the mainstream. He deserves this award for infusing Silver Linings with a distinctly snappy energy and an old-school charm. It’s a rarity as a romantic comedy and I think that much of the credit goes to Russell’s energy, plus his sensitivity to the story’s depiction of mental illness.

More likely to trump Russell, however, are past winners Ang Lee and Steven Spielberg. I can’t get excited about a win for either nominee since their direction is competent, but their film is nowhere near the calibre of their previous works. It’s hard to be moved by a repeat win for lesser material. I think Lee will probably win because Life of Pi is an undeniable visual achievement, and Lee essentially filmed the unfilmable, even though the script of the adaptation is a heavy-handed blunder. Spielberg could win, too, since Lincoln is solid all-American cinema.
Then there is Michael Haneke, who is arguably the wild card. (I’ll credit @Michael_Haneke if Amour wins this prize.) Haneke’s bleak, unsentimental intellectualism is immediately tangible in Amour and the skill of the film is easy to grasp in spite of its emotional coldness. Benh Zeitlin, finally, is bound to have some love for the originality of Beasts of the Southern Wild and he’s sure to win some well-deserved votes for getting such a strong performance out of young actress Quvenzhané Wallis.

But who will win Best Director? With every major prize going to Ben Affleck and most critical prizes going to Kathryn Bigelow (before some loonies launched their smear campaign against Zero Dark Thirty), there really isn’t any clue as to who will win. Ang Lee is the only director to have been nominated at the Golden Globes, the Director’s Guild, and the BAFTAs, so I assume he’s the default choice. It’s anyone’s prize to win though, and Best Director is probably the hardest race to call of the night.

Will win: Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Should win: David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Shoulda been there: Joe Wright (Anna Karenina), Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty)

Best Actor

Dark horse Bradley Cooper deserves Best Actor
Daniel Day-Lewis wins his third Oscar by a landslide. He’s a force in Lincoln, and his skill is on full display as Lincoln delivers speech upon speech. His great oration almost won my vote, but I’m rooting for Bradley Cooper, who showed a wholly unexpected dramatic side in Silver Linings Playbook while being just as funny as he was in The Hangover.

Will win: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Should win: Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Shoulda been there: Christopher Plummer (Barrymore), John Hawkes (The Sessions)

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain should win for Zero Dark Thirty
This category is a three-way race! From the beginning of the season, it seemed like Best Actress would come down to a run-off between Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) and Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook). Both give excellent, Oscar-worthy performances and they have both enjoyed a strong showing in the precursors. Both won Golden Globes in their respective categories, while Chastain won the Critics’ Choice and Lawrence won the bigger pony at the Screen Actors’ Guild. Chastain has mostly survived the ridiculous criticism of Zero Dark Thirty and her powerful performance might be a convenient way to acknowledge the film apolitically. Lawrence has the added bonus of her strong work in The Hunger Games this year, so that makes her a top contender.

In recent days, however, there has been growing support for Emmanuelle Riva (Amour). The 85-year old actress is considered overdue and while an Oscar won’t do much for her career at this point, it will serve as an acknowledgement of a life of strong work. Riva is quite good in Amour, but when it comes to an actress who spends most of her film bedridden, I personally think that Naomi Watts’s performance in The Impossible conjures far more emotion and depth. Riva’s age is especially worth noting in giving her an advantage over Watts, Chastain, and Lawrence, since her role is intricately connected to growing old; moreover, her age is an obvious factor when she’s nominated alongside 9-year old Quvenzhané Wallis, who is the youngest nominee ever in this category. Age might work against Q-Dubs, who I think is more worthy than Riva, but it will likely work in her elder’s favour.

Can Riva overcome the early lead by Chastain and Lawrence? I don’t know. Silver Linings Playbook has to win something on Sunday night with eight nominations and four acting gongs, so Lawrence seems like its best shot at the podium.

Will win: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook (or Riva?)
Should win: Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Shoulda been there: Keira Knightley (Anna Karenina), Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Smashed)

Best Supporting Actor

Philip Seymour Hoffman aka The Master
Like Best Director, any nominee in Best Supporting Actor could conceivably win. The nominees shared the wealth in the precursors, with Jones winning the SAG, Hoffman the Critics’ Choice, and Waltz the Golden Globe and BAFTA. Robert De Niro has been working the circuit pretty hard with a few wins and many nominations, and his recent appearance on Katie Couric reveals the depth of his performance in Silver Linings Playbook and shows why the film has a greater significance than one would expect for a romantic comedy. Alan Arkin hasn’t won any individual prizes, but he’s been the frequent nominee of the Argo ensemble. Anyone could win this prize.

Jones hams it up in Lincoln and his showy role had many people raving. I liked it not, even though I’m generally a big fan of Jones. Hoffman is The Master’s biggest force and he deserves to win for his strange, verbose performance. The difference between Hoffman and Jones is really the difference between “good overacting” and “bad overacting”. Waltz is equally over-the-top in Django Unchained and he enjoys the extra presence of a large role. Dr. Schultz is by all regards a lead role, which could give Waltz an advantage. (I wouldn’t argue with his win if it were in the lead category.) Alan Arkin is funny, crotchety and perfectly serviceable in Argo, and he could win if lovefor the film spills over.

The added ruse of Best Supporting Actor is that, for the first time ever, all nominees are previous winners. On some level, I think that voters might look at the ballot and wonder, “Which of these winners deserves another Oscar?” Waltz and Arkin won quite recently, and Hoffman only the year before Arkin, so it could be down to Jones and De Niro. De Niro gives his best performance in years in SLP, so he could be rewarded for his comeback, but my guess is that Tommy Lee Jones will take this due to the popularity of the film and to his streak of strong work in recent years.

Will win: Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Should win: Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Shoulda been there: Ezra Miller, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Best Supporting Actress

Helen Hunt is tops in The Sessions
Anne Hathaway wins for Les Misérables. It’s no contest. Like Daniel Day-Lewis, Hathaway has won virtually every major prize. Hathaway’s win could serve as a consolation prize for Les Mis, which is probably not going to win Best Picture or Best Actor. Hathaway would be my second choice, since her performance of “I Dreamed a Dreamed” is undeniably moving and a feat that one can easily use to argue the strength of Tom Hooper’s approach to Les Misérables: there’s so much raw, genuine emotion in that live-recorded unedited close-up!

I hope Helen Hunt pulls a surprise win for her performance of revelatory emotion in The Sessions. The size and range of her role could give her a chance against Hathaway, who has very little screentime in Les Mis. But since John Hawkes was surprisingly snubbed for The Sessions, Hunt probably won’t win. (Sigh.) Hathaway’s biggest competitors are likely Sally Field (Lincoln) and Amy Adams (The Master). Field gives a showy, if gratingly histrionic, performance as Mary Todd Lincoln. Adams, on the other hand, brings a fairly bland role to life in The Master. Everything that’s fascinating about the character is a credit to Adams. Adams also had the thankless task of carrying much of The Master’s weight on the campaign trail, so that could earn her more fans. Jacki Weaver, finally, must have earned a few #1 votes to land her surprise nomination for Silver Linings Playbook, but that might have been enabled by the fact that Hathaway earned such a high percentage of the original vote.

Will win: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
Should win: Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Shoulda been there: Nicole Kidman, The Paperboy

Life of Pi - biggest winner or Best Picture winner?
That’s all the main categories! Please add your predictions/votes below and play along during the show by filling out your own ballot. We shouldn't get too worried about the averages of our predictions though, since this is a very tricky year. Here’s a full list of the nominees with links to reviews. I managed to see every nominee that I could - only a few shorts, foreigners, and docs are missing. I'm predicting Argo to be win the big prize, but for Life of Pi to be big winner of the night with five awards. Seems silly, I know. The last time I predicted the Best Picture winner to have a lesser haul was for 2005, when I thought that Brokeback Mountain would win Best Picture and Memoirs of a Geisha would top its count with four Oscars. Both films ended up winning three awards, as did Crash, which won Best Picture. Are we in for that kind of night?

Best Picture

Amour  - Margaret Ménégoz, Stefan Arndt, Veit Heiduschka, Michael Katz
Argo - Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck, George Clooney
Beasts of the Southern Wild - Dan Janvey, Josh Penn, Micahel Gottwald
Django Unchained - Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin, Pilar Savone
Les Misérables - Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, Cameron Mackintosh
Life of Pi - Gil Netter, Ang Lee, David Womark
Lincoln  - Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy
Silver Linings Playbook - Donna Gigliotti, Bruce Cohen, Jonathan Gordon
Zero Dark Thirty - Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Megan Ellison
Will win: Argo
Should win: Zero Dark Thirty

Best Director

Michael Haneke, Amour
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Will win: Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Should win: David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

Best Actor

Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Hugh Jackman, Les Misérables
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Denzel Washington, Flight
Will win: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Should win: Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild 
Naomi Watts, The Impossible
Will win: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Should win: Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty

Best Supporting Actor

Alan Arkin, Argo
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Will win: Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Should win: Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams, The Master
Sally Field, Lincoln
Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Will win: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
Should win: Helen Hunt, The Sessions

Best Original Screenplay

Amour, Michael Haneke  
Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino
Flight, John Gatins
Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola 
Zero Dark Thirty, Mark Boal
Will win: Django Unchained
Should win: Zero Dark Thirty

Best Adapted Screenplay

Argo, Chris Terrio
Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin & Lucy Alibar
Life of Pi, David Magee   
Lincoln, Tony Kushner
Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell
Will win: Argo? (I really thought Lincoln had this until recently)
Should win: Silver Linings Playbook

Best Film Editing

Argo, William Goldenberg
Life of Pi, Tim Squyres
Lincoln, Michael Kahn
Zero Dark Thirty, William Goldenberg and Dylan Tichenor
Will win: Argo
Should win: Zero Dark Thirty (I really liked the edited of Silver Linings too!)

Best Cinematography

Anna Karenina, Seamus McGarvey
Django Unchained,Robert Richardson  
Life of Pi, Claudio Miranda
Lincoln, Janusz Kaminski
Skyfall, Roger Deakins
Will win: Life of Pi (or Skyfall)
Should win: Anna Karenina!

Best Production Design  

Anna Karenina - Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Dan Hennah, Ra Vincent, Simon Bright
Les Misérables - Eve Stewart, Anna Lynch-Robinson
Life of Pi - David Gropman, Anna Pinnock
Lincoln - Rick Carter, Jim Ericksom
Will win: Anna Karenina
Should win: Anna Karenina

We've hit the Anna Karenina part.

Best Costumes  

Anna Karenina, Jacqueline Durran
Les Misérables, Paco Delgado
Lincoln, Joanna Johnston
Mirror Mirror, Eiko Ishioka
Will win: Anna Karenina
Should win: Anna Karenina

Best Score

Anna Karenina, Dario Marianelli
Argo, Alexandre Desplat
Life of Pi, Mychael Danna
Lincoln, John Williams
Skyfall, Thomas Newman
Will win: Life of Pi
Should win: Anna Karenina 

Best Foreign Language Film

Amour – Austria
Kon-tiki – Norway
A Royal Affair – Denmark
No – Chile
Rebelle/War Witch – Canada
Will win: Amour
Should win: Rebelle 

Best Documentary

The Gatekeepers
How to Survive a Plague
Will win: Searching for Sugarman
Should win: The Invisible War

Best Song

Before My Time” from Chasing Ice
Skyfall” from Skyfall
Suddenly” from Les Misérables
Will win: Skyfall
Should win: Skyfall (everything else is white noise)

Best Sound Editing

Zero Dark Thirty
Will win: Life of Pi
Should win: Zero Dark Thirty

Best Sound Mixing 

Les Misérables
Life of Pi
Will win: Les Misérables
Should win: Skyfall

Best Hair and Make-up

Will win: Les Misérables
Should win: Les Misérables

Best Visual Effects

Will win: Life of Pi
Should win: Life of Pi

Best Animated Feature

Pirates: Band of Misfits
Wreck it Ralph
Will win: Brave
Should win: Frankenweenie

Best Short Film - Live Action

Buzkashi Boys
Death of a Shadow
Henry (watch)
Will win: Asad

Best Short Film - Animated

Adam and Dog (watch)
Fresh Guacamole  (watch)
Head Over Heels (watch)
Maggie Simpson in 'The Longest Daycare' (watch)
Paperman (watch)
Will win: Paperman
Should win: Adam and Dog

Best Documentary Short

Kings Point
Mondays at Racine
Open Heart
★ Will win: Inocente

The Oscars air on CTV at 8:30 pm.

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