Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Oscar 2013 Predictions

On 24 February, the winners of the 85th annual Academy Awards will be announced. With every everyone and their uncle getting in on the action, I've decided to throw my own predictions into the ring for the major categories (Best Picture, Director, Actor / Actress, Supporting Actor / Actress, and Original and Adapted Screenplay), and a few of the minor categories. There are probably a dozen methods to predict the outcomes, so for my soothsaying, I'm going to use a highly sophisticated combination of history, Academy voting patterns, gut instinct and very subjective reasoning to determine without question this year's winners. Feel free to add your own predictions in the comments section.

Best Picture
The most important category at the Oscars, this year sees nine films nominated for Best Picture. These are:
  • Amour
  • Argo
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Django Unchained
  • Les Miserables
  • Lincoln
  • Life of Pi
  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • Zero Dark Thirty
There are some very strong contenders this year, especially with heavyweights Lincoln, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty in the running. Personally I would love to see Michael Haneke's tender yet uncompromising Amour win, but, given that only nine non-English language films have ever been nominated for Best Picture in the Academy's history, and that Oscars rarely go to films with such dark subject matter, it's very unlikely that Haneke's film will win in this category. ArgoLincoln, or Les Mis are my favourites. Argo and Les Mis have been critically and commercially successful, with Lincoln promising the same, and all three tick the boxes of big, sweeping stories, historical settings and scenery chewing, big name actors, all of which are favoured by the Academy. Silver Linings Playback has been tipped by some, but comedies are rarely, if ever, given the gong, so I think SLB will have to be content with a nod. The rest are too controversial (Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained) or strange (Beasts of the Southern Wild), to win. Then again, neither Argo nor Les Miserables has been nominated for Best Director, which almost always means a no-win for Best Picture, and Les Mis' director Tom Hooper, already won the Director and Picture Oscars for his last film, The King's Speech. With its recent BAFTA win, Argo is now tipped in favour of Lincoln to win, with the received wisdom that one win usually follows the other. However, this isn't always the case: in fact in the last ten years, BAFTA and Oscar awarded different films best picture in 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008.
To Win: Lincoln. Second choice: Argo. Outside chance: Les Miserables

Best Director
My favourite category, in that Best Director often produces interesting winners, such as Kathryn Bigelow 2009's The Hurt Locker, and the opportunity for the Academy to put right what once went wrong, as with Martin Scorsese for The Departed, in a win clearly awarded for his overall body of work rather than the film that won. The nominees are:
  • Michael Haneke - Amour
  • Ang Lee - Life of Pi
  • David O Russell - Silver Linings Playbook
  • Steven Spielberg - Lincoln
  • Behn Zeitlin - Beasts of the Southern Wild
This has been by far the hardest category for me to call, with five very strong contenders this year. Most pundits are backing Steven Spielberg as this year's winner, with The Huffington Post giving him an 88.7% of winning. According to the HP, Ang Lee is in very distant second place with only an 8% chance of beating Spielberg. Indiewire and Rope of Silicon make similar predictions. It seems like a no-brainer, but the Academy have a history of of dangling a win in front of Spielberg before giving it to someone else, with six nominations (excluding this year) and only two wins. In contrast, Lee's ratio is much better one win out of two nominations. Complicating things further, Lee's Brokeback Mountain and Spielberg's Munich were both nominated for Best Picture in 2005, but lost out to Paul Haggis' Crash, a retrospectively baffling decision, and one which might make the Academy want to appease both Spielberg and Lee. To wit: if Lincoln wins best picture, which it will, Lee could win Best Director. That said, last time the directors were in contention, Lee beat Spielberg with Brokeback Mountain. Despite the HP's odds in favour of Lincoln, I think this is a close call, and until this time I've been saying Lee would get it, but dammit, I can't deny it any longer: Spielberg will get it this year.

To Win: Steven SpielbergSecond choice: Ang Lee. Outside chance: David O Russell.

 Best Actress
  • Jessica Chastain - Zero Dark Thirty
  • Jennifer Lawrence - Silver Linings Playbook
  • Emmanuelle Riva - Amour
  • Quvenzhane Wallis - Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Naomi Watts - The Impossible
If there was any justice in the world, Quvenzhane Wallis would win Best Actress for a performance that was by turns natural, affecting and strange in Beasts of the Southern Wild, but rarely do child actors win Oscars; True Grit's Hailie Steinfield lost out to Melissa Leo in The Fighter as Supporting Actress in 2010, which was doubly surprising, given that Steinfield was the lead character in her film, and had she been nominated in that category, deserved to win over Natalie Portman in Black SwanQue sera. This year, Best Actress will undoubtedly go to Jennifer Lawrence, a remarkably talented and attractive young actor in the ascendant. Lawrence has the golden quality of having success in smaller arthouse fare such as Winter's Bone, which also earned her an Oscar nod, as well as proven commercial bankability, first with a supporting role in the well-received X Men: First Class, and to a much greater extent in last year's The Hunger Games. It's possible that Jessica Chastain, another bankable, talented actor on her way up, could snatch a win, but really, Lawrence is a shoo-in.

To Win: Jennifer Lawrence. Second choice: Jessica Chastain. Outside chance: Quvenzhane Wallis.

Best Actor
  • Daniel Day Lewis - Lincoln
  • Bradley Cooper - Silver Linings Playbook
  • Hugh Jackman - Les Miserables
  • Joaquin Phoenix - The Master
  • Denzel Washington - Flight
Daniel Day Lewis will win. Hugh Jackman could have won were it not for the milkshake-drinking juggernaut of Lewis, and Joaquin Phoenix deserves a gong for his dark turn in The Master, which regrettably looks set to win nothing this year. Denzel Washington is a solid actor but doesn't stand a cat in hell's chance, Bradley Cooper even less so.

To Win: Daniel Day Lewis. Second choice: Hugh Jackman. Outside chance: Joaquin Phoenix

Best Supporting Actress
  • Amy Adams - The Master
  • Sally Field - Lincoln
  • Anne Hathaway - Les Miserables
  • Helen Hunt - The Sessions
  • Jacki Weaver - Silver Linings Playbook
There are three very strong contenders amongst this year's nominees - Amy Adams, Anne Hathaway and Helen Hunt - but there is little doubt that Hathaway will be the one to walk away with Best Supporting Actress. Hunt gave a fantastic performance in The Sessions, and Adams was indispensable in The Master, but in less than fifteen minutes of screentime, Hathaway completely stole Les Miserables from under the noses of stars Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe. Hathaway deserves to win, and she will.

To Win: Anne Hathaway. Second choice: Amy Adams. Outside chance: Helen Hunt.

Best Supporting Actor
  • Alan Arkin - Argo
  • Robert De Niro - Silver Linings Playbook
  • Tommy Lee Jones - Lincoln
  • Christoph Waltz - Django Unchained
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman - The Master
Philip Seymour Hoffman really should win this one, but it's Tommy Lee Jones that's tipped for the win. If he gets it, and Spielberg does get Best Director in the end, Lincoln could sweep the major categories, a grand gesture that the Academy are increasingly fond of granting. But despite others' predictions, I'm not convinced that Spielberg is guaranteed to win Best Director, so here is what I think will happen: if Spielberg wins, so will Jones for Best Supporting Actor. But if Ang Lee wins for Best Director, the floor will be open for Hofffman to take home his second statuette. I'm betting against the odds here, but it'll be interesting to see how the dominoes fall.

To Win: Phillip Seymour Hoffman (only if Lee wins Best Director). Second choice: Tommy Lee Jones. Outside chance: Alan Arkin.

Best Original Screenplay
  • Amour  - Michael Haneke
  • Django Unchained - Quentin Tarantino
  • Flight - John Gatins
  • Moonrise Kingdom - Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
  • Zero Dark Thirty  - Mark Boal
This one's potentially tricky, as there is a diverse nominee list here. We can eliminate Amour and Zero Dark Thirty for the same reasons that they won't win in their other nominated categories. That leaves Flight, which few people have seen yet and has received good, but not great, reviews, and Moonrise Kingdom, which came out very early in 2012, which usually kills any hopes of a win dead in the water. Plus neither of these really feel like Oscar winners. So I'm going to go with Django Unchained, which despite controversy, has achieved critical and commercial success, and has for many been seen as a return to form by Quentin Tarantino. Most importantly, it won at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs.

To Win: Django Unchained. Second choice: Zero Dark Thirty. Outside chance: Moonrise Kingdom.

Best Adapted Screenplay
  • Argo - Chris Terrio
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild - Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin
  • Life of Pi - David Magge
  • Lincoln - Tony Kushner
  • Silver Linings Playbook - David O Russell
It would be nice to see Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin win for Beasts of the Southern Wild, but that's never going to happen. Life of Pi might seem an easy win in this category, and Lincoln is a strong contender, but it will be Argo that wins Best Adapted Screenplay on the bases that it will lose to Lincoln for Best Picture, and that Affleck was snubbed for Best Director. Plus, like big winner Lincoln, Argo's period wartime setting, 'based on true events' story, and emotive subject matter are all natural Academy bedfellows, and so Chris Terrio will take away Argo's only statuette.

To Win: Argo. Second choice: Life of Pi. Outside chance: Lincoln

Best Foreign Language Film
  • Amour
  • No
  • War witch
  • A Royal Affair
  • Kon-Tiki
Given that out of these I've only seen Amour, I'm going to have to go on gut instinct on this one, but it does seem to me that Michael Haneke's film is the only one that can win this, given that most US and British audiences will have only been able to catch Amour before the nominations were announced. More importantly, Amour has been nominated but will lose in the Best Picture and Best Director categories, the Academy will have to give it Best Foreign Film so they don't look like complete jackasses.

To Win: Amour. Second Choice: No. Outside Chance: A Royal Affair.

 Best Animated Film
  • Brave
  • Frankenweenie
  • Paranorman
  • Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists
  • Wreck-it Ralph
The two serious contenders in this race are Pixar's Brave and Tim Burton's Frankenweenie. Given that I've only seen Brave on this list, it's a tricky one to call. That said, it's difficult to see any other film than Pixar's taking away Best Animated Film, even it it wasn't received quite as well as some of its other masterpieces. I'd really hate to see Burton get the award, given that he hasn't made anything approaching interesting or original in about fifteen years.
To Win: Brave. Second Choice: Frankenweenie. Outside Chance: Pirates!

Music (Original Song)

  • 'Before My Time', By J. Ralph, Chasing Ice
  • 'Everybody Needs a Best Friend', by Walter Murphy and Seth MacFarlane, Ted
  • 'Pi's Lullaby', by Mychael Danne and Bombay Jayashri, Life of Pi
  • 'Skyfall', by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth, Skyfall
  • 'Suddenly', by Claude-Michel Schonberg, Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boulbill, Les Miserables
With her win at the BAFTAs for the superb 'Skyfall', this one's in the bag for Adele. 'Suddenly' is a terrific song, and in any other year could probably win, but there really isn't any other competition for Adele.

To Win: 'Skyfall'. Second Choice: 'Suddenly'. Outside Chance: 'Pi's Lullaby'.

Music (Original Score)

  • Dario Marianelli, Anna Karenina
  • Alexandre Desplat, Argo
  • Mychael Dann, Life of Pi
  • John Williams, Lincoln
  • Thomas Newman, Skyfall
It's a pretty uninspiring list this year, leaving out Johnny Greenwood's fantastic score for The Master, amongst others. This one could really be anyone's game, so I'm going to take a punt and say:

To Win: Mychael Danna. Second Choice: Alexandre Desplat. Outside Chance: Thomas Newman.


  • Seamus McGarvey, Anna Karenina
  • Robert Richardson, Django Unchained
  • Claudio Miranda, Life of Pi
  • Janusz Kaminski, Lincoln
  • Roger Deakins, Skyfall
This year's cinematography category has thrown up some very strong contenders, with Miranda, Kaminski and Deakins particularly deserving to win. Personally, I would like to see Deakins get the award for his beautifully crisp, neon-infused work on Skyfall, but the sepia tones of Lincoln just drip with Academy bait, as does the admittedly very pretty colour palette of Miranda's work on Life of Pi. I think what will clinch it is  whether the Academy are ready to accept the 3D presentation of Life of Pi. With recent cinematography wins for Hugo and Avatar, it's clear that they are, and so:

To Win: Claudio Miranda. Second Choice: Janusz Kaminski. Outside Chance: Roger Deakins. 

Visual Effects

  • Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  • Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliot, Life of Pi
  • Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick, The Avengers
  • Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill, Prometheus
  • Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson, Snow White and the Huntsman

One of the few things that the disappointing and altogether baffling Prometheus had going for it was its beautiful visual effects, both in techinal craftsmanship and artistic vision. Indeed, the rather trite and sentimental Life of Pi offered some of the most accomplished and fitfully beautiful 3D visuals yet, and managed that rare feat of allowing the special effects work to service the story, and not the other way around. Plus, the tiger Richard Parker must surely rank as a landmark in photorealism. On the other hand, the Academy love a good Peter Jackson CGI romp, even if that CGI seems to have hardly advanced since 2003's Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Also worth mentioning is the special effects work on the terrific Avengers, which seamlessly blended in real actors with computer-generated spectacle.

To Win: Life of Pi. Second Choice: Prometheus. Outside Chance: Avengers.

So there you have it: my predictions for the 85th Annual Oscars. I've left out the Documentary category, as not only have I seen none of the nominated films, but I really don't know enough about documentaries to make any kind of intelligent prediction. The same goes for the handful of technical categories I've missed. The award ceremony takes place on Sunday 24th February, so be sure to check in and see how many I've got right.

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