Saturday, February 23, 2013

Oscars predictions: Mostly up in the air

This year's Oscars race has been an unusually turbulent one, which makes predicting winners more of a fool's errand than usual. Right from the start, the nominations up-ended most people's expectations with the surprise double snub of Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow for Best Director. At the time, conventional wisdom dictated that this doomed "Argo"'s and "Zero Dark Thirty"'s chances of winning Best Picture, and momentum shifted to "Lincoln" as the film to beat.

But then a funny thing happened: Academy members, apparently moved by either shock or guilt at Affleck's omission, began throwing all the precursor awards (Producers Guild, Screen Actors Guild, even the Directors Guild) at "Argo." (Why their sympathy didn't extend to Bigelow is an interesting question: I chalk it up to a combination of the torture-related controversy that dogged "Zero Dark Thirty" and the fact that she'd already won a director Oscar just a few years ago, for "The Hurt Locker.") And suddenly, improbably, "Argo" became the front-runner for Best Picture. However, the ripple effect of these shifts was to throw the director race (as well as screenplay) into complete uncertainty. Meanwhile, the acting races have been a little more stable, but at least two of them are close calls.

With these caveats, here are my predictions for the eight major awards:


Will win: ARGO (although I worry that voters may have tired of its comeback arc)

Could win: "Silver Linings Playbook" - never underestimate the persuasive powers of Harvey Weinstein. I will say I'll be unhappy if this happens, as SLP is in my opinion the second weakest of the nominees. (Weakest: "Les Mis.")

Should win: "Argo." I've been hearing a fair amount of blowback about its presumptive victory - not so much outrage as vaguely discontented grumbling (it's ok-to-good, not great; superficial; nothing new; changes the real story too much; "Lincoln" is so much better!). To which I say, totally amiably, "Argo fuck yourself." In the words of Roger Ebert, "This film takes first place on my best [2012] movie list because it is above all else a movie - pure, strong and sound. It has the classic values of a Hollywood thriller." I see nothing wrong with awarding this.


Will win: At this time, I'm going with SPIELBERG, by a nose.

Could win: Really any of them except for Benh Zeitlin, but Ang Lee ("Life of Pi") is probably Spielberg's closest competition.

Should win: Haneke ("Amour")


Will win: DANIEL DAY-LEWIS. This one's a lock.

Could win: Nope, no one else.

Should win: Haven't seen Denzel in "Flight," but among the others - and call me contrarian - I'd give it to Joaquin Phoenix. "The Master" was no masterpiece, but he was damned powerful.


Will win: JENNIFER LAWRENCE ("Silver Linings Playbook"), for reasons I can't quite fathom. Because she's young and the hot new thing? Don't get me wrong, she's talented; I just don't think Oscar-worthy. Not for this movie, anyway.

Could win: Jessica Chastain ("Zero Dark Thirty"), although Emmanuelle Riva ("Amour") has been picking up momentum recently which I, for one, am hoping will translate into an upset. Also did you know the Oscars will fall on her 86th birthday?

Should win: Caveat that I haven't seen Naomi Watts' film ("The Impossible"), but of the other four, without a doubt, Riva. Her performance will break your heart.


Will win: TOMMY LEE JONES ("Lincoln")

Could win: De Niro ("Silver Linings Playbook")

Should win: While all the nominated performances were solid, they were not even close to being my favorites of the year. Where is Jude Law for "Anna Karenina"? or Michael Fassbender for "Prometheus"? or Bruce Willis for "Moonrise Kingdom"? or if we're going with "Django," either Samuel L. Jackson or Leonardo di Caprio?


Will win: ANNE HATHAWAY ("Les Mis") - a virtual lock

Could win: Tiny chance of an upset by Sally Field ("Lincoln")

Should win: Didn't see Helen Hunt in "The Sessions," but among the others, Hathaway deserves her front-runner status.


Will win: This is a close one, but I'm going with AMOUR

Could win: "Zero Dark Thirty"

Should win: Haven't seen "Flight," but all the others are worthy nominees. If "Django Unchained" had just cut off that last 20-30 minutes, it would have the edge.


Will win: An even closer one, but at this time I'll go with ARGO

Could win: "Lincoln"

Should win: I know everyone loves "Lincoln" because "omg, Tony Kushner!" But it was a tad too stagey for me, it didn't integrate the political and personal/family storylines all that well, and the opening scene was beyond cheeseballs. (maybe it was just how Spielberg shot it, but I don't think it was good writing, either.) I'm gonna have to go with "Argo" again.

Again, I've never been so uncertain of my Oscars predictions in my life...but these are pretty conservative picks, so if I'm wrong, so are a lot of other people! We'll see what more surprises the Academy has in store for us tomorrow night...


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