Thursday, February 21, 2013

Oscar Predictions: The Major Awards

Welcome back. I trust that you're all sitting comfortably and are as uproariously drunk as I am. How anyone could even contemplate making it through an awards ceremony sober is truly beyond me. Anyway, that's not important. What is important, is that we're now down to the final, precious few; the Oscars that most people care about! Without any further ado, let's get to it.

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year


Amour (2012)(Austria)
War Witch (2012)(Canada)
No (2012)(Chile)
A Royal Affair (2012)(Denmark)
Kon-Tiki (2012)(Norway)

I'm at something of a loss with this category since, as of the time of writing, I haven't actually seen any of the nominees. This is doubly bad on my part since I've had a screener of A Royal Affair sitting on my desk for the better part of four months, so I should have see that one at least. However, this one seems relatively easy to predict (even though the only thing predictable about this category in the past has been how unpredictable the winners tend to be) considering the incredibly rare sight of Amour appearing in both Best Picture and Best Foreign Language, something which hasn't happened since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2000. (Although Letters From Iwo Jima was a foreign language film nominated for Best Picture, it was not nominated for the Foreign Language Oscar since it was an American-produced film.) Historically speaking, films nominated for both tend to walk home with the latter, because how could the Best Picture of the year possibly be in any language other than English? The very idea!

Prediction: Amour

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year


Brave (2012): Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman
Frankenweenie (2012): Tim Burton
ParaNorman (2012): Sam Fell, Chris Butler
The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012): Peter Lord
Wreck-It Ralph (2012): Rich Moore

This is a phenomenally strong category this year, comprised as it is of three terrific stop-motion animations and one fantastically inventive, funny and warm animation in the lovably lumbering form of Wreck-It Ralph. This makes it all the more of a shame that the good but not great Brave will almost certainly win. The others are all a little too esoteric to really hold sway over Academy members, whereas Brave is pretty safe and easy to like, and even easier to vote for.

Prediction: Brave

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published


Argo (2012): Chris Terrio
Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012): Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin
Life of Pi (2012): David Magee
Lincoln (2012): Tony Kushner
Silver Linings Playbook (2012): David O. Russell

As I've said before, the contest this year seems to have boiled down to Lincoln vs. Argo, so the winner of this category probably comes down to which of the two triumphs on the night. Despite the late surge of support for Argo in other awards ceremonies, I think that Lincoln will probably still take home more of the major awards since it has the advantage of being nominated for Director. The Academy seems to prefer to give all the big awards to one film whenever possible, so without the crucial piece of a Best Director nomination, Argo is at a slight disadvantage. (After all, it has been 23 years since a film won most of the major awards without being nominated for Best Director. The film that last achieved that was Driving Miss Daisy, and it probably wouldn't do Argo's credibility much good if it became known as the new Driving Miss Daisy.) Also, Tony Kushner's a critical darling who crafted a terrific script, which should probably count for something in a category designed to celebrate good scriptwriting.

Prediction: Lincoln

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen


Amour (2012): Michael Haneke
Django Unchained (2012): Quentin Tarantino
Flight (2012): John Gatins
Moonrise Kingdom (2012): Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola
Zero Dark Thirty (2012): Mark Boal

This is, hands down, one of the most competitive categories this year. Ironically, this is because not one of the films nominated is particularly competitive when it comes to winning Best Picture (though, to be fair, two of them aren't up for it) and so don't have the possible advantage of a sweep carrying them to victory. Of the nominees, Flight and Moonrise Kingdom don't really have all that much buzz behind them and were often talked about for their performances rather than their scripts, whilst Zero Dark Thirty seems to have been derailed by the inane controversy over whether or not in endorses torture. Which it doesn't. (The nomination for Flight is somewhat interesting, since it suggests that a lot of the people who vote for the Academy Awards might be involved with a different AA as well.) That leaves Amour and Django Unchained, and both have a good case. The former comes from an esteemed film-maker who has never been nominated, whilst the latter is just really fucking good. I think the really fucking goodness will probably win out.

Prediction: Django Unchained

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role


Amy Adams for The Master (2012)
Sally Field for Lincoln (2012)
Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables (2012)
Helen Hunt for The Sessions (2012)
Jacki Weaver for Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Anne Hathaway. How could it not be? After all, even the people who hate Les Misérables cite her rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" as the musical, dramatic and emotional high-point of the film. In all honesty, her performance alone is probably responsible for the success of the film. This isn't a contest. It's four other women getting invited to watch Anne Hathaway give a tearful speech.

Prediction: Anna Hathaway

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role


Alan Arkin for Argo (2012)
Robert De Niro for Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master (2012)
Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln (2012)
Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained (2012)

Striking a blow for going with what you know, everyone nominated in this category has already won at least one Oscar before, so for many of them it's a contest to see who completes their bookends. However, I suspect that the winner will be Robert De Niro who, greedy so-and-so that he is, will be looking to add a third Oscar to his collection. Does his avarice know no bounds? I wasn't terribly keen on Silver Linings Playbook, but De Niro delivered one of his best performances in years (damning with faint praise, sadly) and I think the Academy might like to reward him for putting a bit of effort in for once, as well as enjoy one last chance to say, "Remember how good you used to be?" before his involvement in the ceremony inevitably winds up being as an appearance on the In Memoriam section.

Prediction: Robert De Niro

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role


Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Emmanuelle Riva for Amour (2012)
Quvenzhané Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
Naomi Watts for The Impossible (2012)

A surprisingly strong category this year considering that the Academy usually struggle to scrape together five great performances to nominate in any given year (which is more of an indictment of the lack of great roles for women than a lack of great actresses). It seems to come down to a knock down, drag out fight between Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence, an idea which would probably boost the ratings considerably if the Academy took it more literally. At this point, the smear campaign against Zero Dark Thirty has done just enough to cost it Best Picture, but the heft of Chastain's performance will probably have weathered it enough to clinch victory here, especially when you factor in the Academy's renowned anti-comedy bias, which hurts Lawrence's chances. Emmanuelle Riva might be a spoiler here on account of being old and French, but I'd still go with Chastain.

Prediction: Jessica Chastain

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role


Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln (2012)
Hugh Jackman for Les Misérables (2012)
Joaquin Phoenix for The Master (2012)
Denzel Washington for Flight (2012/I)

I'm not saying that Daniel Day-Lewis' victory is a foregone conclusion at this point, but considering how much preparation he has put into this whole thing by spending thirty-something years pretending to be a world-renowned actor, it just seems rude not to give him something for all the effort.

Prediction: Daniel Day-Lewis

Best Achievement in Directing


Michael Haneke for Amour (2012)
Ang Lee for Life of Pi (2012)
David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Steven Spielberg for Lincoln (2012)
Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

Considering that Ben Affleck was not nominated in this category - and I'm not the biggest fan of Argo, but it deserves to be nominated for its direction much more than, say, its screenplay - that defuses some of the uncertainty over who will win Best Director. Since the contest is down to Argo and Lincoln, and Argo isn't in this particular race, Steven Spielberg will take home the Oscar for directing the most awards friendly of the bunch. Not a knock against him or the film: I loved Lincoln, but it is pretty much the most Oscar-friendly film of the last ten years.

Prediction: Steven Spielberg

Best Motion Picture of the Year


Amour (2012): Margaret Ménégoz, Stefan Arndt, Veit Heiduschka, Michael Katz
Argo (2012): Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck, George Clooney
Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012): Dan Janvey, Josh Penn, Michael Gottwald
Django Unchained (2012): Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin, Pilar Savone
Les Misérables (2012): Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, Cameron Mackintosh
Life of Pi (2012): Gil Netter, Ang Lee, David Womark
Lincoln (2012): Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy
Silver Linings Playbook (2012): Donna Gigliotti, Bruce Cohen, Jonathan Gordon
Zero Dark Thirty (2012): Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow, Megan Ellison

As I've said over and over, the contest this year is basically between Lincoln and Argo, and whilst they haven't actually gone head to head in many of the major categories, this is the big one. The key question is whether or not Argo can overcome the idea that a film can't win Best Picture if it is not also nominated for Best Director. There have been instances of it in the past (Driving Miss Daisy, obviously, but also the first Best Picture winner, Wings, managed it in 1928, and Grand Hotel also did the same a few years later) but it seems so ingrained that the best film of the year must also have been one of the best directed that the lack of a nomination makes it seem almost impossible for it to overcome that prejudice. Whilst it's not completely out of the realms of possibility, I'm going to side with precedent and say that Lincoln will probably win. (Which, of course, means that Les Misérables or Life of Pi is actually going to win on the night.)

Prediction: Lincoln

Right, that's over and done with. Please enjoy the ceremony and feel free to come back afterwards and tell me what an utter clod I was for getting everything wrong. Same time next year?