It’s that time of year again. Time to prognosticate about the Academy Award winners as best I can. Unlike past years, this time around I feel like I’ve seen a lot more nominees than in past years. Granted the expanded size of the Best Picture pool helps with that, but still – I did pretty well. And I’m not done yet – we have plans to squeeze in another 2 or 3 films this week, but my ballot for the office pool is due, so I’m going to just lock in my picks now and go with my best guesses. As always, the fine folks at EW helped me a bit on the shorts and the docs.
Best Picture – 7 of 9 films seen
What I’m loving this year is that very few categories, including this one, are a foregone conclusion. There is a real horse race here, and if you’d asked me a couple of months ago, I would have told you Lincoln was just too strong not to win. It’s got a mix that the voters love – historical fiction, strong acting, and Spielberg. But the awards season has put a lot of momentum behind Argo, and once I saw it I understood why; and it’s getting my vote. A BP winner that isn’t nominated for Director is rare, but if there was ever a year it could happen, this is it. The dark horse here could be Silver Linings Playbook, which has a thinner plot, but acting that will knock your socks off (hence 4 noms for the leads).
Actor – 3 of 5 seen
Let’s be honest, there is one category this year that is a lock, and this is it. Put your money on Daniel Day-Lewis for his deeply engrossing portrait of our 16th president. Which is a shame, because Bradley Cooper is really amazing, and Hugh Jackman is…Hugh Jackman. Need I say more about him?
Actress – 2 of 5 seen
I’m feeling guilty for being under-informed here, as I’ve heard how all the nominees were stellar this year. I think we will very soon see Jessica Chastain pick up an award, and little Quvenzhané Wallis is fierce in Beasts of the Southern Wild, but this year I’m going with Jennifer Lawrence for her on-the-edge woman who can stand up to DeNiro.
Director – 4 of 5 seen
I’m going out on a limb here. Steven Spielberg certainly made a great movie, and he’s got a lot of love out there. But Ang Lee took what was deemed an unfilmable book and made movie magic. He’s a creative visionary full of new tricks every time, and I’d love to see him win for Life of Pi.
Supporting Actor – 4 of 5 seen
This is a really tough category this year, as all the men I saw did a remarkable job with very different characters. Alan Arkin was gruff but funny, Tommy Lee Jones was at his blustery best in Congress, and Christoph Waltz creates charisma and chemistry in vast amounts. I originally was going to put my vote in Waltz’ corner, but I worry his role is too similar to what he last did for Tarantino. So I’m going with Robert DeNiro, who showed vulnerability, emotion and compulsion in a way I’ve never seen before.
Supporting Actress – 3 of 5 seen
This one is Anne Hathaway‘s to lose, and a few of her speeches this season made me worry she would grate on voters’ nerves, and they’d go with the safer choice of Sally Field. But I still think her scenes in Les Mis are so shattering she’s got what it takes to win this.
Documentary Feature – 0 seen
It sounds like a 3-way race this year – the critics adore the unraveling secrets of The Gatekeepers, or they like the tale of an artist’s second life in Searching for Sugar Man. I’m going to bank on the momentum of LGBT activism this year, and vote for How to Survive a Plague.
Documentary Short – 0 seen
No idea, so I’m relying on EW and picking Inocente, about a homeless artist.
Foreign Language Film – 0 seen
I think it will get passed over in other categories, so this award will go to the Austrian favorite, Amour. But Denmark and Chile have the dark horse chances here.
Animated Feature – 3 of 5 seen
All three films that we saw were pleasant and enjoyable, but I question if any of them is strong enough to win. Brave certainly was a triumph of animation (her hair!), but from what I hear, Wreck-It Ralph hits the right nostalgic buttons and should win.
Cinematography – 4 of 5 seen
Some great vistas in several of these movies, but Life of Pi was a profoundly visual movie that comes alive on the big screen.
Makeup & Hairstyling – 1 of 3 seen
Sure it’s tough to make dwarves and hobbits, but I felt like all the bad oral hygiene and wild hairstyles in Les Misérables were disturbing enough to win this award.
Production Design – 3 of 5 seen
You might remember this category as “Art Direction” but basically think of it as sets, props, etc. I felt like they really tried to go for it in Les Mis, but there were a lot of varied locations in Lincoln that involved some challenging set decoration, and I think it will win.
Original Screenplay – 1 of 5 seen
Shocking! Only 1 seen! And quite frankly I don’t see the script as the strength of Django Unchained. The buzz is this will come down to a race between Zero Dark Thirty (which has been skirting controversy) versus Amour. I’m going with the former, because I think the Oscar voters are above the petty criticisms against Mark Boal’s journalism.
Adapted Screenplay – 5 of 5 seen
I think this is really coming down to two book adaptations – David Magee adapting an “unfilmable” novel (Life of Pi), and Tony Kushner distilling a huge tome of a book on Lincoln. While my heart is with the former (because I read the book), I think Kushner created strong, believable dialogue from an academic work.
Animated Short Film – 0 seen
With both Pixar and The Simpsons entering shorts this year, it could be a tough race. My friend Emily swears by Head Over Heels, and EW says it will be Adam and Dog. I think I’m going with the latter just because I like animals.
Live Action Short Film – 0 seen
I’m going with Asad, which is about Somali refugees, which is very topical.
Visual Effects – 2 of 5 seen
Usually this would go to a superhero blockbuster like The Avengers (after all, The Hulk is fully animated). But the seamless integration of an animated tiger (and a zoo of other animals) in Life of Pi should take the award in its sizable teeth.
Costume Design – 2 of 5 seen
The ones I saw in Les Mis and Lincoln were good, but with this category you should always go with the showiest period drama – so this year it will be Anna Karenina.
Film Editing – 4 of 5 seen
No question for me – the relentless tension of Argo, particularly in the final 30 minutes, is a testament to the power of strong editing.
Sound Mixing – 5 of 5 seen
I’ve seen all 5! So you’d think I would be able to tell you the winner without hesitation, but this is one of the toughest categories for me. That being said, I think a musical is already a tougher challenge for a sound mixer (sound effects + music + singing), and we all know by now that Les Misérables used live singing. So it gets my vote.
Sound Editing – 4 of 5 seen
This is the one where sound effects themselves are recognized, and I once read you should always vote for the loudest movie. Of the four films I saw, that means I need to go with Skyfall.
Original Score – 4 of 5 seen
Lots of good choices here, but I have to give my vote to Life of Pi. When you consider that for long stretches the movie has no dialogue, it’s the visuals and the score that carry it forth to greatness.
Original Song – 4 of 5 seen (heard?)
The song from Ted was cute (and I loved the movie), but Seth McFarlane is going to have to settle for the honor of being host for the night. I looked at ScottE when “Suddenly” came on during Les Mis and mouthed, “What is this?” and then realized it was the Oscar bait that was added. And it was not that great. The clear, unadulterated winner this year will be the fabulous Adele, with the title theme for Skyfall - one of the best Bond songs in decades.
So that’s it! As I said, I’m not done watching these movies – I’ll most likely catch Zero Dark Thirty this weekend, one of the other animated features, and perhaps a third movie if I can squeeze it in. I’ll post in the comments before the Oscar ceremony if I think these viewings would have changed my ballot at all, but my pool picks are now locked.
How about you – any favorites you think I missed? Do you think Spielberg and Lincoln can pull out top honors? And what are you most looking forward to during the broadcast? Post in the comments, or respond via Facebook or Twitter!