Handicapping the craziest Oscar race in recent memory

academy-awardsThe last couple years I’ve actually done fairly well with my handicapping, but this year I am not at all confident in my picks. Too many races are too close, but there’s also a wide disparity between the movies that will win versus the ones that should win. I enjoyed Argo, I like Ben Affleck as a filmmaker and I think he’s developing into one of the most consistent and entertaining American directors, but Argo was not the best movie of 2012. It won’t even go down as the best movie of Affleck’s career. But the politics, they matter this year, even more than usual. With no clear masterpiece to lead the field and critical tastes too evenly spread over too many movies (primarily Argo, Lincoln and Life of Pi) and with Harvey Weinstein shoving Silver Linings Playbook down our throats like it’s something other than a rote, if well-acted, romantic comedy, the Oscar race turned into a dog fight. But it’s almost over. The Oscars are on Sunday, so it’s time for final predictions.

As per usual, who will win/who should win are two different things and are denoted as such.

Best Picture

Who will win: Argo

Who should win: Amour

You could make a case for Django Unchained as the most deserving winner, and I would not argue with you. I loved that movie. It has a watchability none of the other nominees do. But Quentin Tarantino is still searching for his masterpiece and ultimately, I think Django will be seen as a stepping stone to something greater, while Michael Haneke’s Amour is a virtuosic study of love at the end of life. It’s a director and actors nearing the end of their careers throwing everything they have on the table and the result is emotionally, and at times physically, harrowing. Haneke’s lens has rarely been so unsparing and yet so sensitive at the same time.

Best Director

Who will win: Stephen Spielberg (Lincoln)

Who should win: Michael Haneke (Amour)

Spielberg should be disqualified just because the lighting in Lincoln was so garbage. It shouldn’t be possible to fuck up such a basic element of filmmaking that badly and still be considered for awards like this. And maybe the Academy agrees as there’s been a late shift toward Life of Pi’s Ang Lee, who previously won Best Director but not Best Picture for Brokeback Mountain. I tend to think that it’s too little, too late, though, for Lee. The “should win” is obvious in this category—Haneke not only set the stage for a pair of tremendous performances from his lead actors but his uncompromising eye lead to some of the best framing and composition of 2012.

Best Actor

Who will win: Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)

Who should win: Joaquin Phoenix (The Master), or DDL, I mean, that’s perfectly fine, too.

This category has pretty much been in the bag for DDL since it was announced he was going to play America’s most beloved president, but for a minute there it looked like Hugh Jackman might mount a surprise insurgency based on the good will of his peers. But DDL has been cleaning up at every award show prior, so the Oscars is basically his victory lap. Phoenix is, on a technical level, a viable alternative for his fiery performance in The Master, but he won’t come close to pulling off an upset.

Best Actress

Who will win: Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)

Who should win: Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)

Unlike Best Actor, this category is impossibly close heading into Oscar weekend. I’m going with Riva, though, not only because she flat-out deserves this over everyone else but because I have never been sold that the old farts in the Academy are going to be down with giving the big prize to, essentially, a girl. There is a contingent in the Academy that has a real issue with age and the idea of being “too young” for Oscar. Lawrence has, to date, navigated her second Oscar campaign very well and she has all the might of Harvey Weinstein behind her, so if she comes through for the win I won’t be surprised, but I’ve never been comfortable calling her a lock.

Best Supporting Actor

Who will win: Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)

Who should win: Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)

Another super-close category where I am totally making up my prediction based on vague intuition and general likeability of the actor. Everyone loves Christoph Waltz. And he’s so humble and lovely about winning, so genuinely appreciative and grateful—things the Academy really likes to see—which gives him an edge over crusty grumps like DeNiro and Tommy Lee Jones. Still, this is very, very close. I say Christoph Waltz, but I’m not entirely convinced Christoph Waltz.

Best Supporting Actress

Who will win: Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)

Who should win: Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)

I’m totally okay with Hathaway taking this category. She was phenomenal as Fantine, one of the real highlights of Les Miserables. And she wants it so bad I feel like not giving it to her would just be mean. Like kicking a puppy.

Best Original Screenplay

Who will win: Zero Dark Thirty

Who should win: Django Unchained

I’m basing this largely on ZDT’s recent WGA win and nothing else. This category is too close to call.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Who will win: Argo

Who should win: The Pirates!: Band of Misfits (not nominated)

I dislike every option in this category, especially Argo, for its laughable, “bullshit, that never happened” third act. The Pirates! not only captured the spirit of Gideon Defoe’s silly, spirited books (he adapted the screenplay himself), but Defoe wrote a script that also stood on its own. To me, the true test of a great adapted screenplay is one that can exist independently of the source material yet still communicate the same spirit. The Pirates! did this better than anyone else last year and didn’t even get noticed for it.

Best Cinematography

Who will win: Life of Pi

Who should win: Skyfall

Skyfall was gorgeous and rich and detailed and a landmark coming-out moment for digital cinematography crafted by master-at-work Roger Deakins. Life of Pi has moments of great visual beauty but it didn’t blow me out of the water, and ultimately the CGI animals got the better of the camera. Still, God forbid we give an action movie anything other than a sound/VFX Oscar, am I right?

Best Film Editing

Who will win: Argo

Who should win: Zero Dark Thirty

Django Unchained and Skyfall got screwed out of this category, but ZDT was sharply edited and would be a deserving win. Argo’s editing wasn’t bad—it’s easily Affleck’s best-paced film to date—but that final raid scene in ZDT would justify the win in and of itself. That scene was aces top to bottom.

Best Foreign Language Film

Who will win: Amour

Who should win: Amour

This is Michael Haneke’s consolation prize. It’s a lock.

Best Animated Feature Film

Who will win: Wreck-It Ralph

Who should win: The Pirates!: Band of Misfits

I guess I should be glad The Pirates! got nominated at all, and really, it was very surprising, given how it’s been passed over by everyone else. The race is actually tight between Wreck-It Ralph, a very enjoyable film from Disney Animation, and Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie. I think it’ll go to Ralph based mostly on the belief that the Old Fart Brigade hasn’t seen anything from this category and will vote for The Mouse because OLD.

Best Documentary Feature

Who will win: Searching for Sugar Man

Who should win: The Invisible War

Sugar Man has been gaining momentum all season long and is poised to peak at the right moment. It’s a very good doc, and really, and of the nominees would be a satisfactory win. 2012 was a phenomenal year for documentaries. But The Invisible War shook me in a way none other did. I’d give it the award on impact alone, never mind its technical proficiencies or many narrative graces.

Best Production Design

Who will win: Anna Karenina

Who should win: Anna Karenina

You could make a strong case for Les Miserables, or the un-nominated A Royal Affair and Skyfall, but one of the few joys of Anna Karenina was the rich visual detail of the sets and costumes. It’s an incredibly lavish, grandiose production. It’s a fairly close category, though, between Anna and Les Miserables.

Best Costume Design

Who will win: Anna Karenina

Who should win: Anna Karenina

This category is not close. Anna has it pretty well sewn up. Ba-dum-ching.

Best Makeup & Hair Styling

Who will win: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Who should win: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Also not a close one. The Hobbit’s elaborate prosthetics and wiggery ensure the win. Of interest: These are the kinds of minor categories that the original LOTR trilogy tended to win before they went on to dominate in 2004 with Return of the King. Will The Hobbit follow the same trend? I don’t know, but it’s worth noting.

Best Original Score

Who will win: Life of Pi

Who should win: Skyfall

Stupid Life of Pi’s stupid, emotionally manipulative score is going to win. It’s nearly as heavy-handed and FEEL THESE FEELINGS NOW as Lincoln. Gross.

Best Original Song

Who will win: “Skyfall” (Adele and Paul Epworth, Skyfall)

Who should win: Anything from Django Unchained

I love Adele, and I like her Skyfall theme, and this is one of the very few “no shit, Sherlock” categories of the night, but let’s be honest. Adele’s song, even with her voice and Midas touch, does not stack up against anything on the Django soundtrack. This entire category could have (should have) been filled with nothing but Django songs.

Best Visual Effects

Who will win: Life of Pi

Who should win: The Avengers

This one is pretty much a done deal, too. I discount Pi, though, because those CGI animals really started to creep me the fuck out about halfway through the movie.

Best Sound Editing

Who will win: Skyfall

Who should win: The Avengers

Man, The Avengers got rogered in the sound categories. Absolutely stellar sound design and they didn’t even get a nod. Still, Skyfall also had a really great soundscape. I’m totally okay with them winning. This is a tight race, though, with a lot of pundits going for Zero Dark Thirty, which would also be an acceptable win. I’m much less okay with the prospect of an Argo win, but the category is a three-way split between it, ZDT and Skyfall. It could go to any one of them.

Best Sound Mixing

Who will win: Les Miserables

Who should win: Skyfall or The Avengers (not nominated)

Les Miserables is a strong favorite because of the “livesinging” trick—the sound mixers were working with live sound-stage recordings of the actors singing in all their imperfect glory, and they came up with a scratch sound mix. I don’t begrudge them the win. But again, The Avengers had the best mix of the year, with Skyfall running a close second.

Best Live Action Short

Who will win: Curfew

Who should win: Who knows?

These are the categories that always screw the pooch on your Oscar pool, but with even the major categories so contentious, you’ll probably be fucked anyway by the time we get around to the shorts.

Best Animated Short

Who will win: Paperman

Who should win: Paperman, I guess

I actually did see all the animated shorts, and I liked them all. I think Disney has the edge, because, again, The Mouse has the Old Fart Brigade in his buttoned pocket.

Best Documentary Short

Who will win: Open Heart

Who should win: Inocente

This category seems closest between Open Heart, which has a slight statistical advantage, and Inocente, so let’s call it less a “should win” and more a “could probably win”.

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9 thoughts on “Handicapping the craziest Oscar race in recent memory

  1. I had shwarema on Friday and it totally made me think of The Avengers. I need to see that again.

    I still want Watts to win Supporting Actress and I need there to be a tie between DDL and HJ. Speaking of, what happens in the case of a tie?

  2. Rachel

    I agree with most of these. Wow I can’t remember the last time the best actress race was this close, anything could really happen in that category. Agreed that Phoenix SHOULD win but has zero chance beating DDL. I think the best supp actor category is so boring this year. Argo will win best picture most likely (although it really shouldn’t).

  3. Laura

    I hope Riva wins too. She was outstanding, heartbreaking and had me in tears. Lawrence did not give an Oscar winning performance and the ridiculous hyping up of her is making her wear on me, which is unfair as she seems like a nice girl with some talent. I haven’t seen ZD30 but Chastain has given great performances over the last few years.

  4. JN

    I think Brave is going to take the animation category. Disney Princess + Pixar factor = a win. (Even though I think Wreck-It Ralph was better than Brave.)

    1. You kind of want to default to Brave, right? Because of the track record? But Brave had serious behind the scenes issues for years that everyone in town knew about, and also it’s widely acknowledged to be one of Pixar’s weaker films. The vibe for animation in 2012 was very much “Pixar dropped the ball”. I’d be really surprised if they pulled out a win.

      1. JN

        I normally love Pixar’s movies, but Brave was not up to par and shouldn’t have won, I’m sad that I was right. 😦

  5. Pingback: Handicapping the Oscars: Too close to call | Cinesnark

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