In recent years, the Academy Awards have become something of an anticlimactic affair. What with the Broadcast Film Critics Awards, the Golden Globes, the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards and far too many other organizations and groups to list here giving out their honors before the Oscars, as of late handing out the famous gold statuettes has become something of an afterthought. As a result, the show has been a bit of a snore over the last decade, at least where the awards themselves are concerned.
However, this year, things are very different as there are only three sure things going into Sunday night’s ceremony – Daniel Day-Lewis will win for Best Actor for Lincoln, Anne Hathaway will win Best Supporting Actress for Les Miserables and Amour will win the award for Best Foreign Film. Beyond that, most every other category is a toss-up as the momentum has shifted from one film to another over the six weeks since the nominees were announced making it difficult to identify a clear frontrunner. So, in the interest of making a fool of myself, I’m going to predict the winners in the major categories as well as name the film that will take home the most awards and how many that will be. Remember that this information is not to be used for any wagering purposes…
Best Actor – As I said, Day-Lewis is a shoe-in and really, who can question this choice? He’s won every award he’s been nominated for regarding his work in Lincoln and there’s no question it is a captivating turn. Too be sure, Denzel Washington (Flight), Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables), Joaquin Phoenix (The Master) and Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook) all would be in the hunt any other year, but there’s no question that Day-Lewis will bring home the gold, making him the first actor in history to win three Best Actor Oscars.
Best Actress – Things start to get dicey in this category as there are three potential winners. First, Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) is very good but her award is simply being nominated. Secondly, while Naomi Watts gives a phenomenally moving performance in The Impossible, the buzz indicates that not nearly enough members of the academy have seen the film for her to pull out a win. This leaves us with Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) and Emmanuelle Riva (Amour). While many praised Chastain’s intensity, there isn’t much range on display in her performance to get her the Oscar. The voters like grand moments in an award-winning turn and there are really none here. That and the backlash against Thirty stacks the cards against her. If there is a frontrunner now, it’s Lawrence who’s made nearly a clean sweep at the other awards shows and seems to be the hot commodity in Tinsel Town at the moment. That, and the fact that she gives a star-making performance make her favorite. However, if there is an upset in the cards, it's with the award going to Riva for her moving, unvarnished turn as a stroke victim whose health gets worse and worse. The Academy membership consists mostly of folks over 50 and this may appeal to them.
Best Supporting Actor – Ah, things get even tougher in this category as each of the nominees are previous Oscar winners and each has one at least one other award at other ceremonies this year. Phillip Seymour Hoffman probably won’t win as The Master confounded more viewers than moved them. Great work but not this time Phil. The groundswell for Argo continues to grow after the Ben Affleck snub and Alan Arkin could ride that wave to victory. My gut tells me it won’t happen, though he’s quite good in the film and provides balance to a feature that’s constantly in danger of becoming too heavy. Christoph Waltz is a born scene-stealer and he’s at the height of his powers in Django Unchained. However, like The Master, Quentin Tarantino’s violent and controversial western didn’t sit well with all viewers and that may hurt the actor’s chance. Which leaves us with Tommy Lee Jones and Robert De Niro. Both give distinctive turns in their respective films and while Jones proves a nice counterbalance to Day-Lewis in Lincoln, I have a feeling they will give the award to De Niro as his work in Silver Linings Playbook is the best he’s done in years. While no one has called this a comeback film for the actor, it has that feel and members are going to want to acknowledge what is considered the feel-good movie of the year.
Best Supporting Actress – As I say, Anne Hathaway is the clear winner here and while I think some of the other nominees gave better performances, her brief turn was just one extended big moment and that’s what the Academy loves. Also, they’ll want to give something to Les Miserables in one of the major categories. The also-rans in this category are Sally Field (Lincoln), Helen Hunt (The Sessions), Amy Adams (The Master) and Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook).
Best Director – There is probably no more difficult category than this as the popular thinking among Academy members is that the most deserving filmmaker of the year isn’t even nominated. That would be Ben Affleck, who was snubbed by his fellow directors, yet who has become the underdog of the year. Those that were nominated include Benh Zeitlin, who won’t win because his Beasts of the Southern Wild is too odd for most voters while Michael Haneke (Amour) is a foreign director, which stacks the odds against him. This leaves David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook), Ang Lee (Life of Pi) and Steven Spielberg (Lincoln). Russell will probably win for Best Adapted Screenplay and Academy members will think that’s enough. Between Lee and Spielberg, I will go with the latter simply because Lincoln is more of a prestige production, the sort that the Oscars love to recognize in any way they can. Besides, it’s Spielberg.
Best Picture – So here is the award that makes no sense this year. All indications point to the fact that Argo will be the winner here, a sort of consolation price for Affleck. To be sure, it’s a fine film and the Academy surely could do worse. However, it makes no sense to have the Best Director and Best Picture awards go to separate films. (If a production is the best film of the year doesn’t it stand to reason that the best filmmaker of the year made it?) Traditionally, that’s the way it’s gone but for the first time since 1990, a film will win the top price while its director goes without a nomination. (That was Driving Miss Daisy). Lincoln or Silver Linings Playbook could pull off an upset but the word on the street is that the hostage drama will come home the winner. For the record, the other nominees in the category are Les Miserables, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Life of Pi, Amour, Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty.
In the end, Lincoln will take home the most awards with four as I think voters will want to spread the wealth what with the strong roster of films they have to choose from this year. Come Monday morning, we’ll see how much crow I have to eat.