It's all over but the envelope-opening! Who's walking home with Oscars on Sunday? Funny you should ask ...
Nominees: "Amour"; "Argo"; "Beasts of the Southern Wild"; "Django Unchained"; "Les Miserables"; "Life of Pi"; "Lincoln"; "Silver Linings Playbook"; "Zero Dark Thirty"
Boy, did this thing seem wide-open a month ago. It's almost funny to think that Ben Affleck's lack of a Best Director nomination initially seemed like a reason "Argo" WOULDN'T win Best Picture. How naïve. How naïve of us all. I think the "sympathy wave" narrative for Ben Affleck's film is a bit overstated. It definitely exists, but I think "Argo" was popular enough that it was going to win anyway. That part isn't the anomaly, as it's the Best Director field that ended up goofy (not bad, just less in sync with Best Picture voting, for boring reasons having to do with the voting timeline being escalated). Anyway, now that all the Guilds have had their say, the momentum for "Argo" is pretty overwhelming. Sorry, "Lincoln" fans. Sorry, "Silver Linings Playbook" fans. I will not apologize for "Amour" or "Beasts of the Southern Wild" fans. You people are sophisticated enough to know how this works and be content with the high quality of your favorite films.
Within Striking Distance: "Lincoln"
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")
Ben Affleck is winning this in a walk! It sure seems like that must be so, given how much Ben's giant head has loomed over this year's race. But of course, he's not even nominated, leaving five relatively momentum-free directors, wandering around in a darkened room and bumping into each other. In the absence of anything close to a favorite, arguments are being made for any of these five. A vote for Zeitlin is a vote for the industry's future! Harvey Weinstein will bring this home for Russell! (I admit I was behind that one for a while). Two arguments that have caught on are that "Amour" can pull some kind of "Traffic"/"Pianist"-style mini-sweep and take Director, Actress, and Screenplay. I don't think so, mostly because Haneke doesn't have Soderbergh's "Man of the Year" narrative nor "The Pianist"'s galvanizing subject matter. Ang Lee is kind of in the Spielberg camp, where he's already won and nobody's lining up to sing his movie's praises, but they really like HIM specifically. I would love the trivia factor of having Lee win Best Director TWICE without Best Picture either time. I honestly think it's going to Spielberg by default, but I've been slow to back away from "Lincoln" all season, so maybe this is just stubbornness.
Frontrunner: Steven Spielberg
Within Striking Distance: Ang Lee
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")
Nope. I'm not going to do it. I'm sorry. I cannot write one more word about this category. Daniel Day-Lewis is winning. NO ONE is going to beat him. There are no good arguments to be made for anyone. Joaquin Phoenix won't no-show the ceremony. Hugh Jackman will make people like him by losing graciously. Oh! Here's one: will Bradley Cooper cut his hair before the ceremony? That's seriously the biggest question I have. Will he FINALLY see reason and put a pair of scissors to that mid-length mop? We'll find out on Sunday!
Frontrunner: Daniel Day-Lewis
Within Striking Distance: none
Left-Field Spoiler: Hugh Jackman; 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")
What initially seemed like Lawrence vs. Chastain has now become Lawrence vs. Riva. Lawrence took the SAG award; Riva took the BAFTA. I do wonder how much of this Riva talk is borne of people being bored with the idea of Lawrence sweeping through, but BAFTA has had pretty strong correlation with the Academy in this category. I think it'll be close, and Lawrence and the "Silver Linings" team will be a lot more nervous than maybe they expected they would be, but the Oscars are rarely that surprising.
Frontrunner: Jennifer Lawrence
Within Striking Distance: Emmanuelle Riva
Left-Field Spoiler: Jessica Chastain
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 just got through running down the cluster-eff that is this category, and emerged with the feeling that anyone but Hoffman can win. Even now, the guy I think is the frontrunner is not the guy I think will win. Robert DeNiro has been campaigning way harder than I ever expected he would, and the happy feelings Hollywood has for him have been surfacing at the right time. But I think this is coming down to SAG winner Jones and BAFTA winner Waltz. BAFTA has matched the eventual Oscar winner 6 of the last 7 years. SAG has only gone 5 for the last 8. MATH DON'T LIE, PEOPLE. I'm casting my very tentative vote for Waltz.
Frontrunner: Tommy Lee Jones
Within Striking Distance: Christoph Waltz
Left-Field Spoiler: Robert DeNiro
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Nominees: Amy Adams ("The Master"); Sally Field ("Lincoln"); Anne Hathaway ("Les Miserables"); Helen Hunt ("The Sessions"); Jacki Weaver ("Silver Linings Playbook")
Anne Hathaway. There's as little point in discussing this further than there is discussing Daniel Day-Lewis and Best Actor. And there's nobody in this category who needs to show up on Sunday with a new haircut, so let's just leave it at that.
Frontrunner: Anne Hathaway
Within Striking Distance: Sally Field
Left-Field Spoiler: Jacki Weaver
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Nominees: "Amour"; "Django Unchained"; "Flight"; "Moonrise Kingdom"; "Zero Dark Thirty"
Mark Boal won the WGA award for "Zero Dark Thirty," though neither "Amour" nor "Django" were WGA-eligible, so that doesn't really tell us much. "ZDT" has gone ice cold with voters these last few weeks, and while Tarantino is still a favored jester among many people, "Django" is unavoidably less red-hot than it was back when nominations were announced. With Best Director wide open, a lot of voters are giving Haneke a lot of consideration, and this category would make for a perfect compromise for voters who want to give him something, just not Best Director.
Frontrunner: Michael Haneke, "Amour"
Within Striking Distance: Quentin Tarantino, "Django Unchained"
Left-Field Spoiler: Mark Boal, "Zero Dark Thirty"
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Nominees: "Argo"; "Beasts of the Southern Wild"; "Life of Pi"; "Lincoln"; "Silver Linings Playbook"
Poor Tony Kushner looked like he had this thing locked up a couple months ago. Since then, "Argo" has proved to be much more popular with awards voters, winning the WGA, and "Silver Linings Playbook" won the BAFTA. I think "Argo" will end up winning almost everything for which it’s nominated, this included.
Frontrunner: Chris Terrio, "Argo"
Within Striking Distance: Tony Kushner, "Lincoln"
Left-Field Spoiler: David O. Russell, "Silver Linings Playbook"
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Nominees: "Amour"; "Kon-Tiki"; "No"; "A Royal Affair"; "War Witch"
The Best Picture nomination for "Amour" is a pretty good indication of how this will go.
Within Striking Distance: "No"
Left-Field Spoiler: "A Royal Affair"
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Nominees: "5 Broken Cameras"; "The Gatekeepers"; "How to Survive a Plague"; "The Invisible War"; "Searching for Sugar Man"
"Sugar Man" is the one everybody's talking about, but it's also the only one without an "important" subject matter (note that I'm employing those scare quotes quite deliberately; a movie doesn't have to be about a noble subject to be good, but awards voters DO value that aspect). Sometimes, voters use this category to play activist, in which case "5 Broken Cameras," "The Invisible War" or "The Gatekeepers" could take it. ("How to Survive a Plague" is my favorite of the five, but enthusiasm for it doesn't seem to lie within the confines of Academy voters). I actually think "The Invisible War" is a better film than "Sugar Man," and would not be surprised at all if it pulled the upset.
Frontrunner: "Searching for Sugar Man"
Within Striking Distance: "The Invisible War"
Left-Field Spoiler: "The Gatekeepers"
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Nominees: "Brave"; "Frankenweenie"; "ParaNorman"; "The Pirates! Band of Misfits"; "Wreck-It Ralph"
This one's a real toss-up. Nobody seemed at all excited about "Brave" until the Animated race boiled itself down to these five, and suddenly there weren't many movies that voters liked all that much more. It'll be weird to see Pixar win for a movie that's under-rated for once.
Within Striking Distance: "Wreck-It Ralph"
Left-Field Spoiler: "Frankenweenie"
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Nominees: "Inocente"; "Kings Point"; "Mondays at Racine"; "Open Heart"; "Redemption"
Five very issue-heavy movies in contention here, which makes them all a threat. I know that "Mondays at Racine" got the most intense reaction from the audience I saw it with, while "Inocente" is the movie getting the best reaction from my ultra-unscientific survey of the internet.
Frontrunner: "Mondays at Racine"
Within Striking Distance: "Inocente"
Left-Field Spoiler: "Open Hearts"
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT
Nominees: "Asad"; "Buzkashi Boys"; "Curfew"; "Death of a Shadow"; "Henry"
Much to my surprise, "Curfew" is the clear word-of-mouth champion among these five. Far be it from me to mistake my own personal taste for universal (much the opposite is usually true, in fact), but I am NOT GETTING what people are seeing in that one. Alas. It's not like any of the other four is a masterpiece, though "Death of a Shadow" is technically quite impressive, and "Asad" has a cast full of Somali refugees that I would love to see recognized from an Oscar stage.
Within Striking Distance: "Asad"
Left-Field Spoiler: "Death of a Shadow"
BEST ANIMATED SHORT
Nominees: "Adam and Dog"; "Fresh Guacamole"; "Head Over Heels"; "The Longest Daycare"; "Paperman"
This looks like a very tight three-film race. "Adam and Dog" is the artsy (boring) one. "Paperman" is the polished (Disney) one. "Head Over Heels" is GREAT and should win all the awards, including Best Supporting Actress, but I'm learning my lesson about not predicting with my heart.
Within Striking Distance: "Head Over Heels"
Left-Field Spoiler: "Adam and Dog"
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Nominees: "Before My Time" (from "Chasing Ice"); "Everybody Needs a Best Friend" (from "Ted"); "Pi's Lullaby" (from "Life of Pi"); "Skyfall" (from "Skyfall"); "Suddenly" (from "Les Miserables")
"Skyfall"! Adele! Who doesn't like giving awards to Adele? Thus far, nobody. (If "Everybody Needs a Friend" were written by Randy Newman, which the title certainly seems to suggest it SHOULD have been, we might have another discussion, but that's not the case.)
Frontrunner: "Skyfall" (from "Skyfall")
Within Striking Distance: "Pi's Lullaby" (from "Life of Pi")
Left-Field Spoiler: "Suddenly" (from "Les Miserables")
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Nominees: "Anna Karenina"; "Argo"; "Life of Pi"; "Lincoln"; "Skyfall"
Poor Thomas Newman is destined to fall short again, this time for "Skyfall." Here's another category where it's possible for "Argo" to pad its win total and avoid the ignominy of being the Best Picture winner with the fewest trophies since "Crash." Still, I think this one breaks for "Life of Pi," as many of the mid-show categories likely will.
Frontrunner: Mychael Danna, "Life of Pi"
Within Striking Distance: Alexandre Desplat, "Argo"
Left-Field Spoiler: Dario Marianelli, "Anna Karenina"
Nominees: "Anna Karenina"; "Django Unchained"; "Life of Pi"; "Lincoln"; "Skyfall"
You guys? Who knows? WHO KNOWS? Roger Deakins won the American Society of Cinematographers award, but I have a feeling it's just one more instance where he'll be denied the big prize at the end. The competition is pretty tight, though. Robert Richardson has won this category three times (though a fourth for "Django" seems a tad much), and Janusz Kaminski has won twice (both for Spielberg's Best Director-winning films, one should note). But I think ultimately the look of "Life of Pi" will be too dazzling for voters to ignore.
Frontrunner: Claudio Miranda, "Life of Pi"
Within Striking Distance: Janusz Kaminski, "Lincoln"
Left-Field Spoiler: Roger Deakins, "Skyfall"
BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
Nominees: "Hitchcock"; "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"; "Les Miserables"
I'm not a huge fan of any of these. On the old theory of most=best, I'm leaning "Hobbit"-wise.
Frontrunner: "The Hobbit"
Within Striking Distance: "Les Miserables"
Left-Field Spoiler: "Hitchcock"
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Nominees: "Anna Karenina"; "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"; "Les Miserables"; "Life of Pi"; "Lincoln"
The degree to which voters will be able to discern the craft of art direction/production design on a film as CGI-heavy as "Pi" is up for debate. "Anna Karenina" is an incredibly lush movie with a huge spotlight placed on its sets, but I think my theory with predictions in the tech categories is to just ride "Life of Pi" all the way and hedge my bets.
Frontrunner: "Life of Pi"
Within Striking Distance: "Anna Karenina"
Left-Field Spoiler: "Lincoln"
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Nominees: "Anna Karenina"; "Les Miserables"; "Lincoln"; "Mirror Mirror"; "Snow White and the Huntsman"
The temptation to posthumously award the late Ishioka will be a big consideration, but I think Durran should have already won this category for "Atonement." She lost, in 2007, to "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," a Most Costumes win if ever there was one. This time around, Durran has that card to play as well.
Frontrunner: Jacqueline Durran, "Anna Karenina"
Within Striking Distance: Eiko Ishioka, "Mirror Mirror"
Left-Field Spoiler: Colleen Atwood, "Snow White and the Huntsman"
BEST FILM EDITING
Nominees: "Argo"; "Life of Pi"; "Lincoln"; "Silver Linings Playbook"; "Zero Dark Thirty"
Everybody's asking what other categories "Argo" can win besides Best Picture. This one is the no-brainer.
Within Striking Distance: "Life of Pi"
Left-Field Spoiler: "Lincoln"
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Nominees: "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"; "Life of Pi"; "The Avengers"; "Prometheus"; "Snow White and the Huntsman"
Peter Jackson's films have never lost in this category (it helps that "The Lovely Bones" wasn't nominated at all) before. That streak is about to end. "Life of Pi" runs away with this.
Frontrunner: "Life of Pi"
Within Striking Distance: "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
Left-Field Spoiler: "Snow White and the Huntsman"
BEST SOUND EDITING
Nominees: "Argo"; "Django Unchained"; "Life of Pi"; "Skyfall"; "Zero Dark Thirty"
As I said after the nominations, but guess is that "Pi" and Skyfall" split these two awards. I'm flipping a coin for "Pi" here, mostly because ...
Frontrunner: "Life of Pi"
Within Striking Distance: "Skyfall"
Left-Field Spoiler: "Argo"
BEST SOUND MIXING
Nominees: "Argo"; "Les Miserables"; "Life of Pi"; "Lincoln"; "Skyfall"
...By this point, enough voters have to have heard about Greg Russell and his SIXTEEN previous nominations without a win. The sound work on "Skyfall" is more than deserving. Nothing else seems as urgent. This has to happen, right?
Within Striking Distance: "Life of Pi"
Left-Field Spoiler: "Les Miserables"