On Sunday, we’ll bear witness to the most recent batch of actors, filmmakers, and writers duke it out for the title as Greatest Person In History. I’m kidding, of course, but even without the Oscars being a WWE grudge match (which I would most definitely watch, by the way: think mud wrestling between Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence), it is an exciting time for film buffs worldwide. Will Argo continue its winning spree even without the Best Director nomination for Ben Affleck? Will Daniel Day-Lewis become the first actor in history to win three Oscars for Best Actor? Will Quentin Tarantino shrug off a nearly 20-year curse of nomination-only recognition and finally take home an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Django Unchained? All these questions and more will be answered on Sunday.
But until then, let’s look at all the nominations and take a guess as to who will be left in the snow and who will rise in the annals of cinema history as being deserving of having the title ‘Academy Award Winner’ before their name in movie trailers.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Chris Terrio – Argo
Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin – Beasts of the Southern Wild
David Magee – Life of Lie
Tony Kushner – Lincoln
David O. Russell – Silver Linings Playbook
We should be looking at an Argo sweep across the board, especially in how the film has won in basically every award competition for the last month and there’s a very good chance Oscar is feeling rather guilty for snubbing poor Ben a Best Director nod. This isn’t anywhere near a guarantee, though – David O. Russell may very well swoop in with the acclaimed response his script for Silver Linings Playbook has received. Lincoln may come in as a dark house win, but my money’s between Terrio and Russell. The deciding factor seems to be the ratio of current wins – and right now, Terrio has Writers Guild of America and the Golden Globes, Russell has the National Board of Review and the BAFTA, and Kushner has a few of the critics associations. I’m sticking with Terrio – but I wouldn’t be surprised about Russell.
Who Will Win: Chris Terrio – Argo
Who Should Win: Chris Terrio – Argo
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Michael Haneke – Amour
Quentin Tarantino – Django Unchained
John Gatins – Flight
West Anderson and Roman Coppola – Moonrise Kingdom
Mark Boal – Zero Dark Thirty
If Quentin Tarantino doesn’t win this, I’ll eat my keyboard. There was some initial worry before the Golden Globes, but with Tarantino’s award tally success, this is a lock. He really has no real competiton here. Even considering the massive initial buzz, Boal dropped away as the frontrunner when he missed wins at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAS. While Boal’s win with the Writers Guild of America may show be showing a shift towards a win for the political thriller, money seems to be safely bet on Tarantino.
Who Will Win: Quentin Tarantino
Who Should Win: Quentin Tarantino
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams – The Master
Sally Field – Lincoln
Anne Hathaway – Les Misérables
Helen Hunt – The Sessions
Jackie Weaver – Silver Linings Playbook
This is still the one category where there’s absolutely no room for mystery – it’s gonna be Anne Hathaway. No contest whatsoever. It helps that she has a universal win ratio across the board – the Golden Globes, the BAFTAS, the Screen Actors Guild, and pretty much every single critics association. Considering Hathaway’s searing and heartbreaking moments as Fantine, no one deserves this award as much as her.
Who Will Win: Anne Hathaway
Who Should Win: Anne Hathaway
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Alan Arkin – Argo
Robert DeNiro – Silver Linings Playbook
Phillip Seymour Hoffman – The Master
Tommy Lee Jones – Lincoln
Christoph Waltz – Django Unchained
This category has changed its frontrunner at least five different times now, by my count. First, around September, it was Hoffman who seemed to be the lock. Then The Master came and gone and Django Unchained took its place with its duo competitors, DiCaprio and Waltz. But now, it appears that DeNiro and Jones have been pushing as a last-minute surprising twist. Even with Waltz having the bulk of the category’s awards thus far, it’s possible that the Academy might be leaning more towards awarding DeNiro or Jones an overdue clap on the back for their careers instead of giving Waltz another Oscar for another Tarantino performance so close to his last win. My money’s still on Waltz just because of his current track record, but I wouldn’t be surprised by a “surprise” win from either of these dark horses.
Who Will Win: Christoph Waltz
Who Should Win: Christoph Waltz
Jessica Chastain – Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva – Amour
Quvenzhane Wallis – Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts – The Impossible
Jessica Chastain. Jennifer Lawrence. One of these two names will be taking the award home in this category. But of this category, it should be Watts as the frontrunner, considering her tear-jerking work in The Impossible as an injured mother during a hurricane. Chastain is solid but subdued, another one of those acting-like-a-normal-person performances with nothing too showy involved. Lawrence is definitely bolder in what she tries to do as a widow with mental problems in Silver Linings Playbook, but even her considerable work doesn’t surpass what Watts achieves. Between Chastain and Lawrence (both of whom Hollywood loves right now), Lawrence has the current award advantage. Between those two in terms of quality and the current push, my guess would be Lawrence.
Who Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence
Who Should Win: Naomi Watts
Bradley Cooper – Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln
Hugh Jackman – Les Misérables
Joaquin Phoenix – The Master
Denzel Washington – Flight
This category comes down to one: Daniel Day-Lewis. As Abraham Lincoln, Lewis provided the most obvious Oscar bait in recent years but in a rather unpredictable way – through honest and emotive subtlety. This is nowhere near as showy as one would expect from the man who played Daniel Plainview from There Will Be Blood, yet somehow, we can’t look away from him. Lewis’ Lincoln commands a room with a single, soft-spoken word. As celebrated as Jackman (rich and heartfelt) and Phoenix (showy and hypnotic) have been in their prospective roles, no one seems to be able stop the Daniel Day-Lewis juggernaut this year. While I prefer Jackman (and even Phoenix, in a way), Lewis is unstoppable and does pull off some pretty unique character work.
Who Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis
Who Should Win: Hugh Jackman
Michael Haneke – Amour
Benh Zeitlin – Beasts of the Southern Wild
Ang Lee – Life of Pi
David O. Russell – Silver Linings Playbook
Steven Spielberg – Lincoln
How odd to see very few of the directors for the “best films of the year” on this list. No Tarantino, Bigelow, Affleck, or Hooper. Of the two, the only ones who have a real shot are Spielberg and Russell. Spielberg is a national treasure, so the Academy might be leaning towards taking this opportunity of retreading Spielberg’s Best Director win without Best Picture win the director previously faced when he lost Best Picture to Shakespeare in Love in 1999. He’s the easy choice. He’s also the lazy choice. Of the year, Lincoln is not even in the top five best-directed films. This is a brand recognition move more than anything else – War Horse deserved this nomination more last year. Of the nominees, the only directors who actually ‘deserve’ this award would be Ang Lee and David O. Russell. Lee’s Life of Pi is inherently hinged on the success of the directorial editing and design, and Lee pulls it off beautifully. Russell tells a very difficult, very personal story and makes it a crowd-pleasing comedy of the highest sort. So who deserves this most? Directing is not the same as writing or acting – just because a story is well-crafted or the acting is fantastic doesn’t mean the directing should be praised. That’s Lincoln‘s fault – a film where its acting is getting all the attention. Of these directors, Lee does the boldest work that’s obviously directorial in nature. His work is the most mind-blowing. Lee would have my vote, but Lincoln is just too juicy of Oscar bait to not have the Academy jump all over it.
Who Will Win: Steven Spielberg
Who Should Win: Ang Lee
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty
A tough pick – but it seems it’s all Argo versus Lincoln vs. Les Miserables. Zero Dark Thirty seemed like a far palpable frontrunner during the Golden Globes, but now, Ago seems to have the win ratio pedigree of being the one to beat (with the Golden Globes, the BAFTAS, the Producers Guild of America, and a MASSIVE amount of critics associations). But what we’re most likely going to face is a choice between whether the Academy is willing to split the Best Picture/Best Director winner. Of the three, only Steven Spielberg has a Best Director nomination – both Tom Hooper and Ben Affleck got locked out of the race in that category. The last film to win Best Picture without having a Best Director nomination was Driving Miss Daisy in 1990. That’s 23 years of tradition being challenged this year. Of the two frontrunners without a Best Director nom, Argo clearly has an edge due to the universal acclaim and The Artist-type hype. Spielberg is a safe choice to make, but it’s in the performances – the direction – that people have been discussing. Argo is a love letter to the power of cinema, and the industry has been looking for a reason to clap for Affleck’s rise from sub-par actor to powerhouse director – it’s definitely one of the most miraculous and fascinating career changes in recent years. My guess? Argo – like The Artist last year – will be the Hollywood film to ride off into the sunset.
Who Will Win: Argo
Who Should Win: Argo