BEST PICTURE – ARGO
Politics and romance are dominant themes in this year’s crop of nominated features. The academy is sticking with the nine-or-ten rule and as a result, most of this year’s short list doesn’t stand much of a chance of winning. That means the producers of Beasts Of The Southern Wild, Amour, Life Of Pi, Les Miserables, Silver Linings Playbook, and Django Unchained can all breathe a sigh of relief. None of them will need to prepare a speech for Oscar night.
From the beginning, this has been a three-picture horse race between Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty and Ben Affleck’s Argo. Originally, I thought Lincoln had the inside track (it was the most nominated film this year) but it’s not looking like the favourite any longer. The reprehensible ZDT, the only Best Picture nominee I’ve seen, doesn’t even belong here. Nevertheless, I suspect all the torture controversy has effectively killed any chance of victory.
That leaves Argo which Roger Ebert predicted back in September would actually win this category. I have a feeling the man is right again.
Argo for Best Picture.
BEST DIRECTOR – David O. Russell (SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK)
Here’s something that’s exceedingly rare. The winner of this year’s Directors Guild of America prize is not nominated for a Best Director Oscar. This is particularly puzzling considering that Ben Affleck’s Argo is going to win Best Picture. Also of note is the absence of Kathryn Bigelow who became the first woman to win in this category two years ago. In my view, her lack of a nomination this year is a welcome snub. Zero Dark Thirty was an irresponsible piece of shit not worthy of any positive recognition.
So, that said, who did make the cut this time around? Well, there’s first-time nominees Benh Zeitlin (Beasts Of The Southern Wild) and Michael Haneke (Amour), two-time nominee David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook), and former winners Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) and Steven Spielberg (Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan).
Without Affleck and Bigelow, this is a wide open race. But I suspect it’ll come down to either Russell or Spielberg. Although it’s been 15 years since the latter won his second gong for Private Ryan, could he possibly take a third for Lincoln? It’s possible but really, does he need another dust collector? The mercurial Russell, best known for those scary outbursts on the set of the dreadful I Heart Huckabees that leaked out on YouTube several years ago, who was last nominated for The Fighter, really needs this win more than anybody on the list. I’m going with him.
David O. Russell for Best Director.
BEST ACTRESS – Jessica Chastain (ZERO DARK THIRTY)
Three previous nominees compete with the youngest and oldest performers ever recognized in the race for Best Actress. In her very first movie nine-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis picks up her first Oscar nod for her acclaimed performance in Beasts Of The Southern Wild. Kids winning Academy Awards are pretty rare occurrences so Wallis, in my mind, is a real long shot. I’m sure she’s thrilled enough with the recognition. Honestly, how many little girls can say they’re a Best Actress nominee?
85-year-old Emmanuelle Riva (Amour) could be a sentimental favourite but I doubt she has enough Academy support to win. Naomi Watts was last nominated almost 10 years ago for 21 Grams but I don’t believe this is her time of triumph. That leaves two other two-time nominees, Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain. Lawrence’s 2011 nod for Winter’s Bone basically put her on the map as did Chastain’s Supporting Actress nomination for The Help last year.
In my mind, the winner of this category is the young woman who needs it the most. Since Winter’s Bone, Lawrence has been in big commercial hits like X-Men: First Class and The Hunger Games and will likely continue to be cast in mass appeal studio pictures for some time to come. She could very well win here but it really wouldn’t be a big deal if she didn’t.
Chastain, on the other hand, is only now becoming a viable leading lady thanks to some of her recent films. Even though I hated her deeply annoying performance in the infuriating Zero Dark Thirty, more than enough Academy members have likely checked her name on their ballots.
Jessica Chastain for Best Actress.
BEST ACTOR – Daniel Day-Lewis (LINCOLN)
A couple of two-time winners battle it out with a three-time nominee and two newcomers to the Oscar party in the race for Best Actor. Joaquin Phoenix struck out twice before with his nods for being the evil emperor in Gladiator and Johnny Cash in Walk The Line. The third time will not be the charm for him this year. Hugh Jackman and Bradley Cooper could pull upsets on their first attempts at Oscar gold but I doubt it. And Denzel Washington won’t have to find shelf space next to his Academy Awards for Glory and Training Day.
That leaves Daniel Day-Lewis who stunned audiences and critics alike with his portrayal of the 16th American President. I don’t expect Lincoln, the movie, to take home too many trophies (and yes, I realize I’m challenging conventional wisdom here) but it would be a real shock if this eccentric actor doesn’t receive his third Best Actor gong for this particular performance.
Daniel Day-Lewis for Best Actor.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Anne Hathaway (LES MISERABLES)
This might be the surest bet of them all. Do we even need to talk about previous winners Sally Field (Norma Rae, Places In The Heart) and Helen Hunt (As Good As It Gets) or perennial nominees Amy Adams (Junebug, Doubt, The Fighter) and Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom, Silver Linings Playbook)? No, we don’t.
Anne Hathaway for Best Supporting Actress.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Robert De Niro (SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK)
Here’s a rather unique situation. All the nominees in this category are previous winners. Furthermore, Philip Seymour Hoffman is the only one not to have won this specific award. (He won Best Actor back in 2006 for his acclaimed portrayal of Truman Capote.) So, with that being said, how in the hell do you pick the victor here?
In my view, it’s the guy that’s long overdue so Hoffman is out. Ditto Little Miss Sunshine star Alan Arkin who upset Eddie Murphy in this category in 2007. Recent SNL guest host Christoph Waltz won just three years ago playing a Nazi in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds which takes him out of the running, as well. Although it’s been nearly 20 years since the permanently grumpy Tommy Lee Jones won for playing the relentless Gerard in The Fugitive, I don’t see him winning, either, although many will disagree.
That leaves Robert De Niro, one of the most universally respected actors of all time. He’s the only multiple winner here: Best Supporting Actor in 1975 for playing a young Vito Corleone in Godfather II and Best Actor in 1981 for portraying boxer Jake La Motta in Raging Bull. Yes, it’s been more than 30 years since Bobby D took home a trophy. That slump ends in 2013.
Robert De Niro for Best Supporting Actor.
Here are the rest of my picks in the remaining categories:
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – BRAVE
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – Roger Deakins (SKYFALL)
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT – OPEN HEART
BEST COSTUME DESIGN – MIRROR MIRROR
BEST FILM EDITING – ARGO
BEST FOREIGN FILM – AMOUR
BEST MAKE-UP – THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY
BEST ART DIRECTION – LIFE OF PI
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – Thomas Newman (SKYFALL)
BEST ORIGINAL SONG – Skyfall (SKYFALL)
BEST ANIMATED SHORT – PAPERMAN
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT – DEATH OF A SHADOW
BEST SOUND EDITING – SKYFALL
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – Chris Terrio (ARGO)
BEST SOUND MIXING – LES MISERABLES
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – Mark Boal (ZERO DARK THIRTY)
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY
The 85th annual Academy Awards, hosted by Seth McFarlane, airs this Sunday, February 24th on ABC and CTV starting at 8:30 p.m.
(Follow me on Twitter @DennisCEarl.)
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, February 19, 2013