2013 Oscars: Who will win and who should win
This has got to be one of the most unpredictable and nuttiest years in recent Oscar history.
Because of the shuffling of the voting deadlines this year, the nominations for the 85th Academy Awards featured a lot of surprises and snubs. Because the nomination ballots for members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) were due before many of the guild award nominations and other award show winners were announced, the Academy didn't have the luxury of letting other people narrow down what they thought was award-worthy this year.
Instead, they had to rely on their own instincts and the passion they had for 2012's best films. As a result, movies that people were passionate about like "Amour" and "Beasts of the Southern Wild" received surprise nominations for Best Director (not to mention Best Picture, Adapted and Original Screenplay) while directors like Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow were left out in the cold.
The Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globes ignored both films, but their lead actresses were nominated for Oscars, and one has a very good chance of actually winning.
With that in mind, here are my predictions in the major categories with some additional comments about who should win tomorrow night. It turns out that 2012 was a very good year for movies, and the Academy did a pretty slam-bang job honoring many of the year's best contributions.
Best Picture: "Amour," "Argo," "Beasts of the Southern Wild," "Django Unchained," "Les Misérables," "Life of Pi," "Lincoln," "Silver Linings Playbook," "Zero Dark Thirty"
Ben Affleck's snub in the Best Director category meant something when it first was announced because the last movie to win Best Picture without a director nomination was 1989's "Driving Miss Daisy." But that was before "Argo" had swept every single major film award of the season. Following early wins at the Critics' Choice Awards and the Golden Globes, "Argo" won the Producers Guild Awards, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTAs), and the Directors Guild Awards (DGA). In any other year, we wouldn't even be talking about anything else as a possibility. "Amour," the masterful story of an elderly French couple dealing with the debilitating physical cruelties of multiple strokes, is the most authentic and precise movie of the year, but it's too angry and real to win.
Will win: "Argo" Should win: "Amour"
Best Director: Michael Haneke, "Amour" Benh Zeitlin, "Beasts of the Southern Wild" Ang Lee, "Life of Pi" Steven Spielberg, "Lincoln" David O. Russell, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Since Affleck isn't nominated and his movie will win Best Picture, this entire category is thrown into chaos. Ang Lee and Steven Spielberg have to be considered favorites since they were the only two in this category to be nominated for the DGA, which Affleck already won. Confused yet? The only outside chance in this category is Russell, whose "Silver Linings Playbook" is the first movie since 2004's "Million Dollar Baby" to get nominated in the Big Five categories of picture, actor, actress, director and screenplay. Add to that both supporting actor nominations and "Silver Linings" looks like a juggernaut. The only problem is it's a romantic comedy with serious undertones, and those rarely have the dramatic heft to win picture or director. Despite the 12 nominations for "Lincoln," people don't seem to be as excited about it. "Lincoln" is a very even-tempered film about political maneuverings, while "Life of Pi" is a stirring, emotional drama that speaks to why we tell stories in the first place.
Will win: Ang Lee Should win: Michael Haneke
Best Actor: Bradley Cooper, "Silver Linings Playbook" Daniel Day-Lewis, "Lincoln" Hugh Jackman, "Les Misérables" Joaquin Phoenix, "The Master" Denzel Washington, "Flight"
Daniel Day-Lewis disappears into the role of Abraham Lincoln and comes out embodying a person, not a legend. He made the most famous figure in American history a frail human being with a fierce will, as well as a completely believable intellectual who was capable of understanding great complexity. On the other hand, Phoenix played the most puzzling and intriguing lead character in recent memory: an emotionally scarred WWII vet looking for answers but scared of what he might find.
Will win: Daniel Day-Lewis Should win: Joaquin Phoenix
Best Actress: Jessica Chastain, "Zero Dark Thirty" Jennifer Lawrence, "Silver Linings Playbook" Emmanuelle Riva, "Amour" Quvenzhané Wallis, "Beasts of the Southern Wild" Naomi Watts, "The Impossible"
Every single performance in this category is a thing of beauty, from the physically demanding roles of Watts and Riva, who played severe bodily harm and emotional terror, to the raw, honest performances of Wallis and Lawrence. In "Zero Dark Thirty," Chastain seemingly never blinks or shows vulnerability until the last scene. But who will win? Well, Chastain and Lawrence each have a Golden Globe and Critics' Choice win (one in comedy, the other in drama), but Lawrence has the edge because of her SAG win. But Riva is the upset winner here, and that's exactly what she did at the BAFTAs, which also correctly predicted last year's Meryl Streep upset over Viola Davis and Marion Cotillard's win the year before. And who could argue? At 85, Riva is the category's oldest nominee and her performance is absolutely devastating.
Will win: Emmanuelle Riva Should win: Emmanuelle Riva
Best Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin, "Argo" Robert De Niro, "Silver Linings Playbook" Philip Seymour Hoffman, "The Master" Tommy Lee Jones, "Lincoln" Christoph Waltz, "Django Unchained"
This is one of the most fascinating races of the night. Every nominee is a previous winner, and Hoffman's magnetic performance in "The Master" is just brilliant. The film entirely relies on him and without his affecting portrayal, the movie doesn't work at all. Of course, like Waltz, it is a lead role, so neither of them should even be in this category. Regardless, Waltz has the Golden Globe and a recent BAFTA win, Jones has the SAG, and Hoffman has the Critics' Choice. Arkin doesn't stand a chance because his role was strictly comic relief and he was on screen about 10 minutes total. De Niro has the opportunity to upset big here despite no previous wins because he has the legendary campaigning power of The Weinstein Company behind him (recent Best Picture winners for "The Artist" and "The King's Speech," neither of which were actually the best movies of their respective years). In addition to crying recently in a Katie Couric interview, the man whom many people consider to be one of the greatest contemporary actors around hasn't won an Oscar since 1980's "Raging Bull." Also, he showed a vulnerability and depth in "Silver Linings Playbook" we haven't seen in years.
Will win: Robert De Niro Should win: Philip Seymour Hoffman
Best Supporting Actress Amy Adams, "The Master" Sally Field, "Lincoln" Anne Hathaway in "Les Misérables" Helen Hunt, "The Sessions" Jacki Weaver, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Like Day-Lewis, Hathaway has swept every single movie award leading up to the Academy Awards, so the only hope for her losing on Oscar night will be if voters are sick of seeing her up on the acceptance podium. Either that or they realize that her "I Dreamed a Dream" was a melodramatic one-note joke that revels in the worst tendencies of "actorly" acting without an ounce of authenticity. All of the other performances here are stirring, even Weaver, who makes the most of having very little actual dialogue. Adams, however, showed a subtle and powerful side of her we've never seen in "The Master."
Will win: Anne Hathaway Should win: Amy Adams