First, I must apologize for not having a top ten list ready. I have decided this year to do two lists: Pop and Prestige. The Pop Picks list will cover the films that aren’t in contention for the Oscars’ major categories, and the Prestige Picks list will focus on the big contenders.
The main reason why I have decided to do this is simple: I haven’t seen a few of the contenders yet. I still need to see Flight, Les Misérables, Lincoln and The Master, and it will probably take me about another week to do so. However, I have seen just about all of the movies I would like to see for the Pop Picks list, with the exception of The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
So the Pop Picks list should be ready at some point this weekend. I’m really just waiting on watching Perks and maybe The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. But since it’s not ready, I figured now would be as good a time as any to reveal my Oscar picks. Let’s get to it!
ANIMATED FEATURE: Wreck-It Ralph — Rich Moore
I have only seen two of the nominees, Brave and The Pirates! Band of Misfits, and I wasn’t crazy about either one of them. Wreck-It Ralph got very good reviews, so that’s the frontrunner, as far as I can tell.
ANIMATED SHORT: Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare” — David Silverman
The shorts are usually a disaster for me, but somehow I managed to get all three right last year. (That will be the first and last time that ever happens.) I have seen two of the Animated Short nominees, Disney’s Paperman, which was okay, and The Simpsons one, which was very good.
LIVE ACTION SHORT: Curfew — Shawn Christensen
Guessing at random here. What’s not to like about a movie called Curfew?
DOCUMENTARY SHORT: Open Heart — Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern
Guessing at random again.
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: Searching for Sugar Man — Malik Bendjelloul and Simon Chinn
Going with the frontrunner again. I haven’t seen any of the nominated docs, though I must admit, I’m awfully tempted to pick How to Survive a Plague based on the title alone.
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Anna Karenina — Sarah Greenwood (Production Design); Katie Spencer (Set Decoration)
Haven’t seen Anna Karenina, but it’s supposed to be pretty stunning, based on what I have read. I’m thinking Les Misérables could spoil here, though I haven’t seen that either, so I can’t judge very well.
COSTUME DESIGN: Anna Karenina — Jacqueline Durran
This one seems like more of a sure thing. Period pieces always win here.
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Moonrise Kingdom — Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
This race is wide open. Tarantino’s Django Unchained won the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay — they don’t differentiate between adapted and original — and Mark Boal won the WGA award for Zero Dark Thirty. On paper, Boal is probably the favorite to win here, but my suspicion is he won’t, since he just won for The Hurt Locker three years ago.
Does the award go to Tarantino instead, then? Maybe, but again, I’m leaning towards no. Tarantino won already for Pulp Fiction and my impression is he’s not terribly popular within the Academy. I really don’t think the Academy will vote to award a movie that cartoonishly depicts slavery and tosses around the n-word more times than I could count.
Working against both movies, actually, are some considerable controversies. Zero Dark Thirty has the issues with torture and Django is, of course, beyond revisionist. So what does that leave, then? Amour, Flight and Moonrise Kingdom. I haven’t seen Flight — I’m getting it in the mail from Netflix tomorrow — but it won’t win, I’m certain of that.
Amour won’t appeal to enough people. In order to win, a movie has to appeal to general tastes to some degree, and Amour absolutely does not.
Process of elimination leaves us with Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. Anderson has never won, he has been making acclaimed movies for quite a while now, and Moonrise Kingdom is pretty accessible for a Wes Anderson movie — I’m not a fan of his movies, and even I liked it. I think Moonrise Kingdom wins here.
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Life of Pi — Claudio Miranda
Skyfall could win here — renowned DP Roger Deakins has never won before, shockingly — but Life of Pi is the prettiest of the bunch, and it will likely be a technology win à la Avatar.
VISUAL EFFECTS: Life of Pi — Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott
Prometheus was pretty damn impressive, but I can’t imagine this one not going to Life of Pi.
ORIGINAL SCORE: Life of Pi — Mychael Danna
Life of Pi won the Golden Globe for Best Original Score, so I’m going with that. Argo could win here though, I suppose.
ORIGINAL SONG: “Skyfall” from Skyfall — Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
“Skyfall” likewise won the Golden Globe for Best Original Song, and everybody loves Adele, so I’m going to keep riding that train, even if “Skyfall” is pretty lackluster compared to Adele’s other songs like “Rolling in the Deep” or “Hometown Glory.”
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Les Misérables — Anne Hathaway
Haven’t seen Les Mis, so I’m choosing this one based on heat, and Hathaway’s got just about all of it.
MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING: Les Misérables — Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell
Les Mis for Makeup. Why not?
SOUND MIXING: Les Misérables — Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes
Supposedly this one’s a lock. Director Tom Hooper required all of the actors to sing live (for better or worse), which has created a powerful narrative, and musicals typically win this category anyway.
SOUND EDITING: Zero Dark Thirty — Paul N.J. Ottosson
This one’s tough, but I figure the bin Laden raid should push Zero Dark Thirty to victory here.
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: Amour — Michael Haneke
Haneke is nominated for three separate categories: Director, Original Screenplay and Foreign Language Film. I don’t think he’ll win those other two categories because they have an excuse to just give him this one.
ACTRESS: Amour — Emmanuelle Riva
This is another wide open category. Jessica Chastain won the Globe for Best Actress in a Drama and Jennifer Lawrence won the Globe for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy and the SAG award for Best Actress, so Lawrence is probably ahead of Chastain even though I think Chastain deserves it more.
However, Lawrence is too young. When it comes to Best Actor and Best Actress, the Academy rarely, if ever, gives those awards to actors and actresses who have not “paid their dues” yet. Lawrence only first appeared on the scene two years ago and is only 22. The youngest actress I can recall who has won recently was Natalie Portman at 29 a couple of years ago.
In Portman’s case, though, she had been doing solid work since she was a child, particularly after she had been cast in Star Wars. Chastain, like Lawrence, has emerged as an “it” actress over the past couple of years, but she, like Lawrence, has not been doing solid work for very long, even though she is 35.
A third horse has emerged late in the race in Emmanuelle Riva, who first appeared in the classic French New Wave film Hiroshima mon amour in 1959. Now 86, she is the oldest actress to ever be nominated for Best Actress. She won the BAFTA recently for Best Actress, and she’s my pick to upset Lawrence and Chastain.
Lawrence and Chastain will both be nominated again, and probably soon. They have their entire careers ahead of them, whereas Riva doesn’t. Furthermore, Riva is something of a screen legend. I’m reasonably confident with this pick.
ACTOR: Lincoln — Daniel Day-Lewis
I still haven’t seen Lincoln, so I can’t really comment on how great this performance undoubtedly is. DDL is seriously the man.
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Lincoln — Tommy Lee Jones
All of the nominees have won before, so this is a tough call. Alan Arkin is not going to win; he just won for Little Miss Sunshine. Christoph Waltz has a lot of screen time and is probably more of a lead, but he just won for a Tarantino role, so he’s probably easier to pass on, even if he is marvelous.
De Niro has no business winning. There’s nothing wrong with his performance, but he doesn’t do much. Hoffman is probably amazing in The Master — I still haven’t seen it — but he just won an Oscar for Capote not so long ago.
Process of elimination leaves us with Tommy Lee Jones, who won the SAG award for Best Supporting Actor and hasn’t won since The Fugitive almost twenty years ago. Seems like a pretty reasonable pick.
DIRECTOR: Lincoln — Steven Spielberg
Probably the most baffling category of them all. If Ben Affleck had been nominated, he would win this easily, but he wasn’t, and Kathryn Bigelow wasn’t nominated either. Neither was Quentin Tarantino. Or Tom Hooper, who won two years ago for The King’s Speech. The field was that strong this year.
As I already said, Amour isn’t winning here — director Michael Haneke will take Best Foreign Language Film award home as a consolation prize — and there’s no way first-time director Benh Zeitlin will win for Beasts of the Southern Wild either.
That leaves Ang Lee for Life of Pi, David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook and Steven Spielberg for Lincoln. Ang Lee won in 2005 for Brokeback Mountain, and Spielberg won in 1993 for Schindler’s List and in 1998 for Saving Private Ryan. Russell has never won and has only been nominated once before, for The Fighter in 2010.
I doubt Russell will win. The only way it will happen is if Silver Linings Playbook picks up Actress and possibly Adapted Screenplay to gather some momentum.
It’s not a particularly artful statement — it’s basically just a romantic comedy with some weighty issues at its center — so I don’t see it as the kind of movie that can come out of nowhere and win Director and only Director.
I also doubt Ang Lee will win here. Of the two previous winners, he has won more recently. Which leaves us with Steven F. Spielberg, who hasn’t won in 14 years. That’s long enough. Giving Lincoln Best Director will be the Academy’s way of honoring the film, since their hearts are clearly with Argo.
Plus, everyone in Hollywood knows how important the Lincoln project has been to Spielberg. He toiled away on it for more than a decade, making sure everything was perfect.
PICTURE: Argo — Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck and George Clooney
Argo has won pretty much every precursor award, and there’s little chance of it losing Sunday night, even though Affleck was snubbed for Best Director. Lincoln could sneak up and take it down, but I doubt it.
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Argo — Chris Terrio
Terrio won both the WGA award for Adapted Screenplay and the USC Scripter award for best adaptation. Tony Kushner could win for Lincoln, but not unless it gets Picture, as well.
FILM EDITING: Argo — William Goldenberg
Even if Argo misses out on Picture and Adapted Screenplay, it will win Editing. Very nicely done.