There are some categories that were easy to predict from the start. We can count on Daniel Day-Lewis winning the Best Actor Oscar and (like it or not) Anne Hathaway taking home the Best Supporting Actress gold. In contrast, the Best Supporting Actor category is among the tightest races in recent memory, and though there are two or three front-runners among the nominees, it really is almost anybody's game to win or lose.
“Silver Linings Playbook” may be the wild card at this year's Academy Awards. Although David O. Russell's comedy-drama hybrid received eight nominations, it is only a sure shot in the Best Actress category, in which Jennifer Lawrence is the consensus front-runner. But if there is one film that could produce a series of upsets, including in the Best Picture category, it's “Silver Linings.”
After much procrastinating -- the fear of being wrong in public can be very paralyzing -- we have finalized our Oscars prediction list among the major categories. (Sorry, but we've excluded the Best Animated Feature category: We did not see enough of the nominees to make a confident prediction.) Let us know in the comments section whether you agree with our predictions, or, more likely, how off-base you think we are:
Best Picture Nominees: “Les Miserables,” “Argo,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Lincoln,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Amour,” “Django Unchained,” “Life of Pi"
Predicted Winner: “Argo”
Challengers: “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Lincoln”
Should Win: “Django Unchained” (as if)
After Ben Affleck was snubbed in the Best Director category, “Argo” has been gaining what feels like unstoppable momentum, cleaning up at almost every awards show in the run-up to the Oscars. Most significant, Affleck won the top Directors Guild of America award, which is historically a strong predictor of Best Picture victory. But "Silver Linings Playback" has a chance to surprise us all in this category. The movie was a hit among most (but not all) critics, and director David O. Russell and his well-liked cast have enjoyed a controversy-free pre-Oscar press tour, during which “Silver Linings Playbook” has been credited with raising awareness about lesser-known forms of mental illness. “Lincoln” has not had as easy a ride, but we can't rule it out: It's a story about America's most beloved president helmed by one of Hollywood's most beloved directors, who got another knockout performance from the equally beloved Daniel-Day Lewis (who is just about guaranteed to win the Best Actor prize.)
Best Director Nominees: Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln”; Ben Zeitlin, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”; Ang Lee, “Life of Pi”; David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook”; Michael Haneke, “Amour”
Predicted Winner: Ang Lee
Challenger: Steven Spielberg
Should Win: Ang Lee
While “Life of Pi” may be a long shot for a Best Picture trophy, Ang Lee is well positioned to take the Best Director Oscar home for his gorgeous adaptation of Yann Martel's 2001 novel, which had previously been thought of as “unfilmable.” Indeed, Lee faced numerous challenges in production -- including working with live animals and having to film in a “self-generating wave tank,” as noted by the Telegraph. But the always-affable director, who took home the Oscar for “Brokeback Mountain” in 2005, is quick to credit his cast and crew for his success. If Lee wins again, we are guaranteed a humble, gracious acceptance speech. If he doesn't win, it will probably be because Spielberg does.
Best Actor Nominees: Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln”; Denzel Washington, “Flight”; Joaquin Phoenix, “The Master”; Hugh Jackman, “Les Miserables”; Bradley Cooper, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Predicted Winner: Daniel Day-Lewis
Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis, Joaquin Phoenix
The Best Actor Oscar is the “Lincoln” star's to lose, and he won't. If it were not for him, this would actually be a very close and fascinating race. All nominees (except for one -- Hugh Jackman) are well-deserving.
Best Actress Nominees: Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook”; Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty”; Naomi Watts, “The Impossible”; Emmanuelle Riva, “Amour”; Quvenzhane Wallis, "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
Predicted Winner: Jennifer Lawrence
Challengers: Emmanuelle Riva, Jessica Chastain
Should Win: Emmanuelle Riva
While I personally would love to see Emmanuelle Riva -- who won the best actress prize at BAFTA (the British Oscars) -- take home the Academy Award in this category, all signs point to the “Silver Linings Playbook” star. Indeed, Jennifer Lawrence no doubt prepared her acceptance speech weeks ago. As I pointed out in an earlier IBTimes article that many readers did not like at all, I don't quite understand why Lawrence -- who was fantastic earlier in “Winter's Bone” -- is considered the actress to beat here. Her performance and her character are among the weakest points in the film. But I am not making the decision; the Academy is -- and she did win Best Actress nods at both the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild award shows.
Best Supporting Actor Nominees: Robert De Niro, “Silver Linings Playbook”; Alan Arkin, “Argo”; Phillip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master”; Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln”; Christoph Waltz, “Django Unchained”
Predicted Winner: Christoph Waltz
Challengers: Tommy Lee Jones, Robert De Niro
Should Win: Waltz, De Niro
This is the toughest race to predict among all the major categories, and it will likely come down to Tommy Lee Jones and Christoph Waltz. Whenever I watch professional sports (which is usually a maximum of three times a year), I always get the sense that the team that wants it more is the team that wins. In this case, I'd have to say that Jones probably wants it more than Waltz -- although maybe not more than Robert De Niro, who would arguably be the crowd-pleasing choice. It's harder to get behind Jones, despite his excellent performance in “Lincoln,” because he just seems so gosh darn grumpy all the time. With five knockout performances nominated, do we really need to give the Oscar to the guy with the worst attitude? Here is a case where I feel like my personal preferences might be corrupting my objectivity, but, still, I'm sticking with Waltz.
Best Supporting Actress Nominees: Anne Hathaway, “Les Miserables”; Amy Adams, “The Master”; Sally Field, “Lincoln”; Jacki Weaver, “Silver Linings Playbook”; Helen Hunt, “The Sessions”
Predicted Winner: Anne Hathaway
Should Win: Jacki Weaver, Sally Field
Sigh. At least we can count on this award being given out early on in the ceremony, so we can get it over with and spend the rest of the show making fun of Anne Hathaway's obnoxious acceptance speech.
Best Adapted Screenplay Nominees: “Amour,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” “Flight,” “Django Unchained,” “Zero Dark Thirty”
Predicted Winner: “Zero Dark Thirty,” Mark Boal
Challenger: “Django Unchained,” Quentin Tarantino
Should Win: “Moonrise Kingdom” (Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola), “Django”
I've almost gotten over being completely blown away that Mark Boal is somehow exempt from the politically charged “Zero Dark Thirty” backlash that has essentially shut down director Kathryn Bigelow's chances of winning anything meaningful this year. We're supposed to have problems with how certain aspects of the true story were represented (or misrepresented, rather) in the film, right? We're supposed to be concerned that the film implies pretty explicitly that torture by the CIA of suspected terrorists led to the killing of Osama bin Laden. So shouldn't we be blaming the script? Anyway, logic aside, Boal is the front-runner in this category, although Quentin Tarantino's “Django Unchained” could be a spoiler. Tarantino won the Golden Globe; Boal won the Writers Guild Award. It would be great to see “Moonrise Kingdom” take this one, although its chances are very slim. (According to Ben Zauzmer, the Harvard sophomore who created a sophisticated statistical model to predict Oscar winners, Anderson and Coppola have only a 6 percent chance of winning. Not very good odds at all.)
Best Adapted Screenplay Nominees: “Argo,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Life of Pi,” “Lincoln”
Predicted Winner: “Argo”
Challenger: “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
Should Win: “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Argo”
This could be a pretty close race, too, although “Argo” has the lead for its appealing story-within-a-story structure and its celebration of the Hollywood filmmaking culture. But David O. Russell's “Silver Linings Playbook” adaptation (from a novel) should not be overlooked. In fact, it's possible that Academy voters who did not choose “Silver Linings” in other categories that it was nominated in might throw it a bone here.
Best Documentary Nominees: “The Gatekeepers,” “Searching for Sugar Man,” “How to Survive a Plague,” “The Invisible War,” “5 Broken Cameras”
Predicted Winner: “Searching for Sugar Man”
Challenger: “The Gatekeepers”
Should Win: “The Gatekeepers”
According to the predictions made by Harvard's Zautmer (which were correct for all major Oscar awards last year), “Searching for Sugar Man” has an 80 percent chance of winning this category, the highest among all the major nominees discussed so far. I had previously thought the Oscar would go to either “Sugar Man” or “The Gatekeepers,” and was surprised to learn that the odds were so heavily in “Sugar Man"'s favor -- at least according to this one particular model, whose creator conceded to having his own doubts about the wisdom of using a quantitative model to predict the Oscars. Still, “Searching for Sugar Man” has dominated the pre-Academy Awards, winning the BAFTA and the Critic's Choice awards, as well as top honors when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last year. Perhaps more important, as Indiewire pointed out, “Sugar Man” is the only documentary in the bunch capable of leaving its viewers with a smile on their face.
While “The Gatekeepers” is an extraordinary, capital-I “important” film, it is the opposite of uplifting: Its subjects, former heads of the Israeli secret service, openly despair about the future of Israel and the possibility that the conflict with Palestine can ever be peacefully resolved. Further reducing its odds is the fact that Israel is the subject of another Best Documentary nominee, “5 Broken Cameras.” That said, it would be great to see “The Gatekeepers” take the Oscar home. But the trophy will likely go to “Searching for Sugar Man,” the most watchable film of the group.
Tune in to ABC on Sunday at 8 p.m. EST to watch the 85th Academy Awards presentation. Meanwhile, tweet me your predictions! @EllenKilloran
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