The Oscars are my Superbowl.
This year I really buckled down and committed to seeing all the Best Picture, Best Foreign Language Feature, and Best Documentary Feature nominees before the actual ceremony. I'm proud to say that with the exception of one documentary nod (The Gatekeepers, which I can't find anywhere at the moment), I finally completed my lengthy quest. And now that some of the potential indicators of Oscar success (the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, miscellaneous Guild awards) have passed, I've collected my own predictions in the blog post below.
I'm only commenting on 10 categories; the major awards and a few minor ones, for sake of efficiency and interest. As Oscar politics dictate who gets awards as much as personal preference or quality of work, I've divided each nominee pool into two categores: "Prediction" and "Favorite." Predictions indicate which nominee I think is mostly likely to actually get the award, and Favorites are the ones I personally hope will win. In many cases the two overlap, and will be noted as such. Enjoy!
BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
PREDICTION: Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
FAVORITE: Daniel "Duh" Day-Lewis
BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
PREDICTION: Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)
FAVORITE: Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
PREDICTION: Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)
FAVORITE: Yup. Christoph Waltz. That's a bingo!
BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
PREDICTION: Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)
FAVORITE: Anne Hathaway...though this version comes in a close second.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
FAVORITE: Wreck-It Ralph
I don't think Wreck-It Ralph was leagues better than Brave, but I definitely think it was better. What this film has going for it are some fantastic characterizations, a brilliant cast, and art direction as equally charming and creative as any on the list. Unfortunately, there some things the Academy just traditionally seems to frown on and video-game related content is still squarely within that region. But I'm not terribly heartbroken about this category, as both were fantastic films in their own right.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
It's nominated for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Picture of the Year; that fact alone would be practically all you would need to make this prediction, and frankly award precedent is the only thing I'm basing my prediction on. I hated Amour. I honestly can not see why everyone has their lips firmly planted against Amour's wrinkly cheeks. Even as a "depressing foreign film," I thought Amour was incredibly underwhelming; and this is coming from someone whose favorite films are Tree of Life, Solaris (Tarkovsky's version), Umberto D. and a plethora of similar pieces - so it's not like I don't know how to enjoy a good art film. It took home the Golden Globe and the BAFTA in this category, and again it's nominated in the most prestigious category the Academy administers - so it's more than just an educated guess that it will win here. But I can't shake the notion that the critical acclaim surrounding Amour is some elaborate emperor's-new-clothes prank. Some things just don't translate well to film, and I think the unfathomable misery of watching a spouse slip into dementia (and all the humiliating things it entails) is one of them.
FAVORITE: En Kongelig Affære (A Royal Affair)
I don't know a whole lot about the history of the Danish royal family, so this film was both educational and entertaining. Following the story of physician Johann Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen), A Royal Affair illustrates the events surrounding his arrival in court, his friendship with the mentally ill King Christian VII (Mikkel Følsgaard), and his subsequent affair with Queen Caroline Mathilde (Alicia Vikander). It's a lush costume-drama/period piece, replete with elaborate royal set pieces and political intrigue. After some moderate research into the film's subject matter (read: "a few minutes on Wikipedia"), I was pleased to find out that much of the overall story is based on actual history. As with any piece of this nature, many details are embellished or completely fabricated, like a brilliant scene where Struensee and Christian have a Shakespeare "quote-off." I really enjoyed this movie; it's exactly what an epic-costume-period-drama-romance should be.
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
PREDICTION: Searching for Sugar Man
This category isn't always the easiest to predict, but more often than not a good indicator is how "big" of a movie the documentary is. Documentaries aren't known for garnering a lot of commercial attention, so the Oscar usually goes to the one that everyone has actually seen. I made a small experiment of trying to find the nominees at a local Target, and the only one I could find available was Searching for Sugar Man. But I'm not just cynically rolling the dice on this entry, as the film also won the DGA in its category as well as the BAFTA. The only thing really not in its favor is that it's not a stereotypical "Oscar-bait" documentary - like the others in its category. The movie chronicles the story of an enigmatic folk musician in the 70s, as opposed to covering topics like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (5 Broken Cameras, The Gatekeepers), the early days of the American AIDS epidemic in the 1980s (How to Survive a Plague) or rape in the military (The Invisible War). Don't get me wrong, I think Searching... is a fantastic film and I really enjoyed it. But traditionally speaking, Best Documentary goes to films with "heavy" thematic material. Still, this unassuming film about a guy who was basically the original true hipster (his album was so obscure, he couldn't even find a copy to purchase himself) has the award momentum behind it, so it stands a very good chance of the winning the Oscar.
FAVORITE: Searching for Sugar Man - just take a listen to some of his music.
BEST WRITING - ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
PREDICTION: Argo - Chris Terrio
Argo has been the subject of a great deal of pre-Oscar buzz for several reasons, but it's been very difficult for me to pin down exactly where it will and won't come down with a win. In this particular category, there are two things underpinning the conflict: the fact that it won the WGA award, and the fact it lost the BAFTA (to Silver Linings Playbook). Traditionally, the WGA has been the stronger indicator, but since the Golden Globes only has one category for screenplay (which Tarantino won this year, I'm happy to say) makes it all the more difficult to call. Intercontinental drama between the BAFTAs and the Oscars adds one more layer of intrigue to the whole affair, so I'm not 100% with this prediction. But on that note...
FAVORITE: Silver Linings Playbook - David O. Russell
I'm almost 100% confident that one of these two will take home the Oscar on February 24th. It just so happened that Silver Linings Playbook was my backup for this nomination even before the BAFTAs, so while the WGA difference gives me pause, I was already down to these two titles anyway. All of the nominees in this category are strong contenders, to be sure. But a win for either of these movies will be both historically and personally acceptable.
BEST WRITING - ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
PREDICTION: Zero Dark Thirty - Mark Boal
I bet the last category on WGA precedence, so for the sake of consistency I'm going to do it again here for a few reasons. Original Screenplay Oscar winners tend to run fairly close to WGA winners, for one. On top of that, Golden Globes and BAFTA nominations are fairly diffuse and not the strongest of indicators. Again, all of the contenders in this category are strong, but I don't think Zero Dark Thirty will be winning any other major awards this year - so it's possible that this will be the consolation prize, per se. That's not to disparage the film; it's brilliant and every bit deserving of the critical acclaim it's received thus far. But like the previous category, I'm torn between this one and my Favorite...
FAVORITE: Django Unchained - Quentin Tarantino
As I've mentioned before, Django Unchained is just a favorite of mine - regardless of awards season. The inconsistency with which the Golden Globes and/or the BAFTAs (both of which Tarantino has already secured) coincide with this category makes it a really, really hard to decide. But, as fate would have it, my prediction would be a repeat of the 82nd Academy Awards. That year Boal took the award for The Hurt Locker over Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds; a win that coincided with Boal's win in the WGA as well. Furthering the coincidence is the fact that Waltz won for Best Supporting Actor that year for a Tarantino movie - which he is poised to do again this year. Though the major difference between this year and that is that Boal won the BAFTA for The Hurt Locker in 2010 - and Tarantino nabbed it for Django this year. But for that one difference, these two separate years will be identical if Zero Dark Thirty gets the Oscar, so it's almost impossible to judge with certainty.
PREDICTION: Ang Lee (Life of Pi)
The Academy has made it extremely difficult to predict this category this year on the simple fact that they snubbed Ben Affleck. His directorial skill aside, he's won every other notable award for Argo - the BAFTA, the Director's Guild, the Golden Globe, etc. Failing that, looking back through Oscar history to try to put together some pattern for directors who won without a Best Picture doesn't really give us any firm statistical ground to stand on. So what do we have? Well, we have the fact that Life of Pi is brilliantly directed, without question. The majority of the film's principle action takes place on a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean with an Indian boy and a tiger. The fact that it's not boring is accomplishment enough, but it's even thoroughly engaging and visually pleasing to boot. Beyond that, we have one simple and probably completely unrelated fact: Ang Lee is the only director in the nominee list to beat Spielberg. Granted, he's the only nominee to have even been in the running against Spielberg before, but it's all I've got. It's a long shot, and it's not one I'm completely confident about. But with no real metrics upon which to base this decision, I just had to make an arbitrary call.
FAVORITE: Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)
The margin of difference between these two (for me) is razor thin. I'm fairly confident that one or the other will take home the award (though David O. Russell is a worthy wild card), but it's really hard to say. For what it's worth though, Spielberg is one of my all-time favorite film makers and something of a personal hero. On top of that, Lincoln is a truly brilliant film and superbly directed. So I would be quite happy to see my Prediction confounded in favor of my Favorite.
I don't think it's the best film of the year. I really enjoyed it, I thought it was great - but I don't think it's the best movie I've seen this year. Having said that, it has an almost unbeatable list of wins behind it already: Director's Guild, Best Director from the BAFTAs and the Golden Globes, Best Editing at the BAFTAs, Best Picture at the BAFTAs, and Best Picture (Drama) at the Golden Globes. Regardless of your opinions of the film or of Ben Affleck, it's got the most momentum behind it. And I think a big part of that is due to its subject matter; it's a movie about a movie. Not only that, it's a movie about how the movie industry was employed to save the lives of American citizens. The Academy rarely passes up an opportunity to pat itself on the back, and Argo provides it with a whole slew of ways it can do that. If it does win, it will be on a very small list of films to win without a Best Director nomination as well - the only other one since the 1930s being Driving Miss Daisy. So it's going to be an upset of some kind or another; whether it's a Best Picture win without a Best Director nomination or a loss despite significant recognition from other awards ceremonies. As with any prediction, it's hard to be 100% sure - and only in a handful of the mentioned categories am I even close to absolute certainty. But while it wouldn't totally surprise me to see Best Picture go to another film, especially considering the films in question (minus Amour...blech), I'm more than marginally confident that Argo will take home the Best Picture win at the end of the night.
FAVORITE: Django Unchained
It's wishful thinking, I know. But given how much Quentin Tarantino has contributed to film - both the industry and the art - I can't help but hope for a dark horse win here. His entire oeuvre is overflowing with an almost childlike love of movies, and he's the kind of director whose signature is readily apparent. Moreover, his films are the kind of works that truly stand out; they cause controversy, they inspire academic scrutiny, they make money, and they're undeniably unique in their presentation. So while I know that Oscar tradition - for whatever reason - frowns upon the ilk of Tarantino securing the coveted prize, I will continue to lobby for his works in whatever small way I can. Because it's high time he took home a Best Picture win considering how often he appears on Movie-of-the-Year lists.
That's a wrap! See you February 24th!