Last year, I wrote a column bemoaning the fact that, thanks to social media and blogs devoted exclusively to Academy Award prognostication, the Oscars have lost all their suspense.
Oh what a difference a year makes!
I’m not quite sure how it happened, but the Oscars are a veritable free-for-all this year. Oh sure, there are a couple of locks: Daniel Day Lewis for Best Actor and Anne Hathaway for Best Supporting Actress are “bet the ranch” type material. But everything else feels gloriously, uncharacteristically up in the air.
The weirdness of this year’s race started when the nominees came out and both Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow were shut out of the Best Director’s category. Since Argo and Zero Dark Thirty were at the time seen as legitimate Best Picture contenders, it sent the whole race into a tailspin: Wait, how can either of those films win Best Picture if their directors weren’t seen worthy of recognition? (Yes, films have won Best Picture without the director getting nominated before—Driving Miss Daisy was the most recent one—but it is a rare feat.)
But then something bizarre happened: Some combination of Ben Affleck and Argo started to win every pre-Oscar award. And I mean every one: Critic’s Choice. Golden Globes. Screen Actor’s Guild, Director’s Guild. You name it.
Argo suddenly had the kind of momentum that seemed to lead to an inevitable Best Picture win. But if so, where does that leave the Best Director race? And what does it say about the Oscar nomination process? Argo may not be auteurist in the true sense, but it’s Affleck’s sense of timing, humor, and suspense that makes the film hum. So if Argo is the best film, why wasn’t he nominated?
The Affleck Effect may explain the uncertainty over Best Picture and Best Director, but it doesn’t explain why I still have no clue who’s going to win Best Actress or Best Supporting Actor.
Whatever the reason, it’s great to have Oscar race that is so uncertain for a change. Last year I watched with a “gotta make the donuts” grimness. This year, I’m breathless with anticipation. So let’s examine the awards a little more closely, shall we?
Who will win: It does, indeed, look like ARGO. Even though that would leave the Academy with a bit of egg on their faces for not nominating Affleck.
Who might win:
The prestigious Lincoln should’ve been a mortal Oscar lock—a grand film by America’s most treasured director about a significant time in American history. But, by focusing on the inside politics of the abolishment of slavery, by making the film more about Lincoln the man than Lincoln the myth, so to speak, Spielberg’s film feels ever-so-slightly wonky, a beautifully-constructed civics class. Still, it certainly has a real shot.
And never count out Silver Linings Playbook, a more- delightful-than-it-should-be film about bipolar disorder which is backed by the almighty Harvey Weinstein, Oscar’s Machiavelli, a man who never met an award’s race he couldn’t manipulate.
Who will win: Can I say, beats me? Nah, guess not. Okay, then, I’ll go with STEVEN SPIELBERG. When in doubt, go with the living legend.
Who might win: The fabulous Chinese-American director Ang Lee did a masterful job with Life of Pi and his name has been getting increasing “hey, could happen” buzz. But the buzz isn’t loud of enough to convince me. This really doesn’t feel like Life of Pi’s year.
Then there’s David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook. As you’ll see, I never count out anyone on Team Weinstein. Ever since the film won for Best Comedy at the Golden Globes, the Silver Linings Playbook gang have been masterfully trying to convince us that their film is NOT a comedy, as comedies rarely win Academy Awards. It’s true that the film deals with mental illness and has richly etched characters, but it still falls squarely in the romantic comedy genre. Nice try, guys.
Who will win: DANIEL DAY LEWIS will win the 2013 Oscar for Best Actor. Enuf said.
Who will win: Okay, here’s where I might be going with my heart a bit instead of my head (always a deadly sin for Oscar prognosticators.) But I just have this gut feeling that the sublime EMMANUELLE RIVA from Amour might win it. Her performance as a woman clinging to her dignity and identity in the last stages of her life was haunting, nuanced, emotional—heroic. And at 80 years old, it’s fair to say this will likely be Riva’s last chance to win the award. Might Oscar voters honor her? Or was Amour simply too dark, too intimate, too foreign to appeal to the Academy?
Who might win: Well, Jennifer Lawrence is considered the frontrunner, so obviously she may very well win. I do, however, think there might be a “not so fast, whippersnapper” factor to the 23-year-old’s nomination. She’s a rising star—there will be many more nominations (and wins) in her future.
Jessica Chastain also has a shot. She, too, is a rising star—a smart actress and a true chameleon. In Zero Dark Thirty, she flips the script on a paradigm that has been successful for male actors—the tough, driven, nearly crazed-by-obsession CIA agent who brings down Bin Laden. Oscar voters love her.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Who will win: ANNE HATHAWAY. Next!
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Who will win: I’m really on the fence about this one (a theme). Experts say ROBERT DE NIRO, so great as a disappointed father who expresses a panoply of unspoken emotions through his obsession with football, has the edge. De Niro + Weinstein does seem pretty formidable, so okay, I’ll go with that.
Who might win: Um, everyone else. Seriously, I could make the case for all of them (okay, maybe not Phillip Seymour Hoffman, cause The Master is just too weird and highbrow for the Academy)—but yeah, Tommy Lee Jones, Christoph Waltz, Alan Arkin, all contenders. I’d say Jones has the next best shot.
A few more predictions without analysis:
Best Original Song: “Skyfall”
Best Animated Feature: Wreck-It Ralph
Best Foreign Language Film: Amour
Best Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained
Best Adapted Screenplay: Tony Kushner, Lincoln
Best Documentary: Searching For Sugar Man
Two final thoughts:
People often think that I have an advantage in picking the Oscars because I see so many films. Actually, the opposite is true. If anything, seeing the films is a disadvantage when it comes to picking Oscars. It’s all about reading the tealeaves. Being emotionally attached to a particular performance or actor only clouds your judgment.
And here is a picture of my dog Oscar: