Meet our new awards expert Joe Reid — keep up with his column for the predictions, news and opinions you'll need to sound well-informed at parties for the entire awards season.
We are but five weeks away from the Academy Awards, and has been the case all season, there are way more races without a runaway favorite than usual. Fun for everybody! Challenging for those of us staking our considerable reputations on predicting the winners correctly. Here's where I stand right now, but it's a long road to the big night.
Nominees: "Amour"; "Argo"; "Beasts of the Southern Wild"; "Django Unchained"; "Les Miserables"; "Life of Pi"; "Lincoln"; "Silver Linings Playbook"; "Zero Dark Thirty"
With twelve nominations, you have to say "Lincoln" remains the frontrunner, but there are enough factors in play to make this the most wide-open Best Picture race in years. The surge in Ben Affleck advocacy at the Critics Choice and Golden Globe awards may not have been a fluke. I think the love for "Argo" was already there, and Affleck's snub in Best Director may have been the perfect catalyst for a sympathy campaign to beat the band. Don't think "Argo" can't "Driving Miss Daisy" this race. Also, like I said on nomination morning, Harvey Weinstein can smell blood in the water. "Lincoln" is the nomination behemoth, but it still feels more respected than loved, and with "Argo" poised to pull significant votes, an aggressive campaign (Harvey's favorite!) could absolutely pull "Silver Linings Playbook" across the finish line. And while we're at it, if THREE movies are already splitting votes, the threshold for victory becomes much lower. I'm not saying "Life of Pi" has enough to pull off the shocker, but 11 nominations does indicate a broad base of support.
Within Striking Distance: "Argo"
Left-Field Spoiler: "Silver Linings Playbook"
Nominees: Michael Haneke ("Amour"); Benh Zeitlin ("Beasts of the Southern Wild"); Ang Lee ("Life of Pi"); Steven Spielberg ("Lincoln"); David O. Russell ("Silver Linings Playbook")
With Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow out of the race, the field really did seem to clear for Spielberg to win his third. But, much as with Best Picture, I wonder if the lack of real enthusiasm for "Lincoln" could prove vulnerable across a six-week campaign. In that case, I think Weinstein's aggressive campaigning could be a factor on Russell's behalf. Still, I can't imagine a universe where the hugely beloved Spielberg gets upset by the notoriously difficult Russell in what amounts to a popularity contest.
Frontrunner: Steven Spielberg
Within Striking Distance: David O. Russell
Left-Field Spoiler: Michael Haneke
Nominees: Bradley Cooper ("Silver Linings Playbook"); Daniel Day-Lewis ("Lincoln"); Hugh Jackman ("Les Miserables"); Joaquin Phoenix ("The Master"); Denzel Washington ("Flight")
I still cannot see any way in which Daniel Day-Lewis loses this. There is no sense of fatigue in giving him a third Oscar, and there are no signs of a surge of support for either Jackman or Cooper. This should be the first box you check on your Oscar pool sheet.
Frontrunner: Daniel Day-Lewis
Within Striking Distance: Hugh Jackman
Left-Field Spoiler: Bradley Cooper
Nominees: Jessica Chastain ("Zero Dark Thirty"); Jennifer Lawrence ("Silver Linings Playbook"); Emmanuelle Riva ("Amour"); Quvenzhane Wallis ("Beasts of the Southern Wild"); Naomi Watts ("The Impossible")
It's still Lawrence vs. Chastain, and the longer that race remains neck-and-neck, the more that Emmanuelle Riva has an outside shot to make an end run around the both of them. Still, I think that's a remote possibility for the moment. Right, now my gut tells me Jennifer Lawrence, if only because the sheer hysteria of some of the attempted "controversies" that are being trumped up (I-Beat-Meryl-gate! Reading the SNL tea leaves!) make her look like the frontrunner they're trying to tear down.
Frontrunner: Jennifer Lawrence
Within Striking Distance: Jessica Chastain
Left-Field Spoiler: Emmanuelle Riva
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Nominees: Alan Arkin ("Argo"); Robert DeNiro ("Silver Linings Playbook"); Phillip Seymour Hoffman ("The Master") Tommy Lee Jones ("Lincoln"); Christoph Waltz ("Django Unchained")
I'm not sure the Globes' coronation of Christoph Waltz cleared anything up, and with him being absent the SAG lineup, the picture is only bound to get cloudier. Which makes this yet another race that should be a mystery up until Oscar night. That's the good news. The bad news is that I'm really being put on the spot by being asked to pick a favorite. I still think Tommy Lee Jones's role is the most voter-friendly, and Hoffman's performance is the most impressive (it's also a lead), but I don't want to mistake my own preferences for universal taste. Maybe my Christoph Waltz blind spot will doom me in this category until the moment Octavia Spencer reads the winner's name.
Frontrunner: Tommy Lee Jones
Within Striking Distance: Christoph Waltz
Left-Field Spoiler: Phillip Seymour Hoffman
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Nominees: Amy Adams ("The Master"); Sally Field ("Lincoln"); Anne Hathaway ("Les Miserables"); Helen Hunt ("The Sessions"); Jacki Weaver ("Silver Linings Playbook")
The haters keep lining up to hurl tomatoes at Anne Hathaway, and that's not nothing. I don't think the wave of ill feelings towards her is as towering within the Academy as it is on, say, Twitter. But it's enough to keep an eye on someone like Sally Field, who, it should be noted, has never lost an Oscar she was nominated for. She's the proto-Swank. Then again, if Melissa Leo's all-eyes-on-me antics of a few years ago didn't doom her in a much more competitive race, I think Anne's going to be just fine.
Frontrunner: Anne Hathaway
Within Striking Distance: Sally Field
Left-Field Spoiler: Jacki Weaver
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Frontrunner: Quentin Tarantino, "Django Unchained"
Within Striking Distance: Mark Boal, "Zero Dark Thirty"
Left-Field Spoiler: Michael Haneke, "Amour"
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Frontrunner: Tony Kushner, "Lincoln"
Within Striking Distance: David O. Russell, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Left-Field Spoiler: Chris Terrio, "Argo"
No, the Globe voters don't vote for the Oscar, but I do think Tarantino's win there pushes him ahead of a Mark Boal script that is bearing the brunt of the queasiness with "Zero Dark Thirty." Meanwhile, Kushner remains the prohibitive favorite in Adapted, but if "Silver Linings" is going to pull off the upset in Best Picture, this will be your first indicator.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Within Striking Distance: "A Royal Affair"
Left-Field Spoiler: "No"
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Frontrunner: "Searching for Sugar Man"
Within Striking Distance: "How to Survive a Plague"
Left-Field Spoiler: "The Invisible War"
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Frontrunner: Wreck-It Ralph
Within Striking Distance: Brave
Left-Field Spoiler: Frankenweenie
I honestly have no idea who's going to win Best Animated Feature. I hope you don't think less of me, but it's the truth. I'm fairly confident it'll be one of these three, but if "ParaNorman" gets called, don't come chasing after me.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Frontrunner: "Skyfall" (from "Skyfall")
Within Striking Distance: "Suddenly" (from "Les Miserables")
Left-Field Spoiler: "Pi's Lullaby" (from "Life of Pi")
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Frontrunner: Mychael Danna, "Life of Pi"
Within Striking Distance: Dario Marianelli, "Anna Karenina"
Left-Field Spoiler: Thomas Newman, "Skyfall"
Lots of narrative in this race. It's Thomas Newman's 11th nomination and Alexandre Desplat's 5th, and neither has won before. The "Argo" score is rather slight, however, and "Skyfall" might be viewed as hewing too close to the Bond formula to nab either one the win. Marianelli won previously for "Atonement," so they clearly like his stuff, but I think Danna repeats his win at the Globes for "Life of Pi."
Frontrunner: Janusz Kaminski, "Lincoln"
Within Striking Distance: Claudio Miranda, "Life of Pi"
Left-Field Spoiler: Roger Deakins, "Skyfall"
Is this the year Deakins finally wins? I'm not holding my breath. Kaminski has won this award for every Steven Spielberg Best Director effort, so if you like Spielberg this year, you should like Kaminski too.
BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
Frontrunner: "The Hobbit"
Within Striking Distance: "Hitchcock"
Left-Field Spoiler: "Les Miserables"
My inkling here is that the voters go for the glaringly obvious prosthetic work over the stricken faces of Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman in "Les Mis."
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Frontrunner: "Anna Karenina"
Within Striking Distance: "Lincoln"
Left-Field Spoiler: "The Hobbit"
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Frontrunner: Jacqueline Durran, "Anna Karenina"
Within Striking Distance: Eiko Ishioka, "Mirror Mirror"
Left-Field Spoiler: Colleen Atwood, "Snow White and the Huntsman"
It's Durran's third nomination for a Joe Wright directorial effort, and she should have already won for "Atonement." But that year, she ran into a brick wall of royal overindulgence in "Elizabeth: The Golden Age." Don't count against that happening again with "Mirror Mirror," especially with this being the Academy's last chance to honor the late Eiko Ishioka.
BEST FILM EDITING
Within Striking Distance: "Argo"
Left-Field Spoiler: "Zero Dark Thirty"
This category is famously a barometer for Best Picture, but three out of the last five years, the award has gone against that trend ("Bourne Ultimatum," "The Social Network," "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"). Still, an "Argo" win early in the evening should have everybody on the lookout for an upset at the end of the night.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Frontrunner: “Life of Pi”
Within Striking Distance: "The Hobbit"
Left-Field Spoiler: "Snow White and the Huntsman"
BEST SOUND EDITING
Within Striking Distance: "Life of Pi"
Left-Field Spoiler: "Zero Dark Thirty"
BEST SOUND MIXING
Frontrunner: "Life of Pi"
Within Striking Distance: "Skyfall"
Left-Field Spoiler: "Argo"
The Sound awards have both gone to the same film four out of the last five years, so there's a great chance that "Pi" or "Skyfall" (or, you know, "Argo," if they really go for it) sweeps them both. I'll hedge my bets for now, with the caveat that "The Hurt Locker" was one of those Sound sweepers, so don't count out "Zero Dark Thirty" either.
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This year's Oscar predictions, Oscar contenders and personal Oscar picks come from the eerily prescient mind of our Academy Awards expert, Joe Reid.