This Sunday the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present the 85th Academy Awards. Listed below in bold are my predictions for the various winners and why each selection was made.
Best Visual Effects
Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott, “Life of Pi”
Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick, “Marvel’s 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”
Billion dollar hits “The Avengers” and “The Hobbit” would seem like good bets in this category but the Academy has a tendency to reward prestige films that don’t receive recognition in the higher profile categories. Also, four of the last six Peter Jackson films have taken the award; it’s time to move out of Middle Earth. Nobody remembers “Snow White” for anything other than the affair between its lead actress and director and poor “Promethues” will have to wait at least a decade before receiving the proper respect.
Best Sound Mixing
Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes, “Les Misérables”
John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia, “Argo”
Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin, “Life of Pi”
Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins, “Lincoln”
Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson, “Skyfall”
The opening siege in “Argo” is the best part of that film and in no small part due to how well its strong sound mix conveys the feeling of being inside of slowly erupting riot. “Skyfall” had great, rousing sound work but it’s too much of a blockbuster to win this award. But “Les Miz” was partially promoted on the strength of its live on set vocal performances. In spite of the film’s flaws, a sound mix of that complexity is an achievement.
Best Sound Editing
Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn, “Argo”
Wylie Stateman, “Django Unchained”
Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton, “Life of Pi”
Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers, “Skyfall”
Paul N.J. Ottosson, “Zero Dark Thirty”
As I wrote above, the tightly controlled chaos of “Argo’s” opening is its strongest element and while I love the sharpness and boom of each of “Django’s” gunshots, “Argo” is the palatable choice. If “Zero Dark Thirty” takes this award, it won’t win anything non-technical.
Best Live Action Short
Tom Van Avermaet and Ellen De Waele, "Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)"
Bryan Buckley and Mino Jarjoura, "Asad"
Sam French and Ariel Nasr, "Buzkashi Boys"
Shawn Christensen, "Curfew"
Yan England, "Henry"
Sadly, I haven’t seen any of these short films but based on their trailers – all of which have been linked to above – I’d say “Death of a Shadow” is the film I’d be most interested in seeing.
Best Animated Short
John Kahrs, "Paperman"
Minkyu Lee, "Adam and Dog"
PES, "Fresh Guacamole"
Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly, "Head over Heels"
David Silverman, "Maggie Simpson in 'The Longest Daycare’”
“Paperman” is going to take the prize. Though “Adam and Dog” is a more sublimely beautiful and “Fresh Guacamole” is more visually inventive, the much-lauded Disney production will win, just as a Disney film has taken six of the last eleven Best Animated Film awards. The hyperlinks above go to each of the shorts, except for “Head over Heels” and “The Longest Daycare” which only have trailers available online.
Best Production Design
Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer, “Anna Karenina”
Dan Hennah, Ra Vincent and Simon Bright, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
Eve Stewart and Anna Lynch-Robinson, “Les Misérables”
David Gropman and Anna Pinnock, “Life of Pi”
Rick Carter and Jim Erickson, “Lincoln”
“Les Miz” is a close second choice that might pull off an upset but production design is one few ways that “Anna Karenina” distinguishes itself. “Life of Pi” looks lovely but mostly in digital environments and the same goes for “The Hobbit.” “Lincoln” has an excellent look but I’d be shocked if it won anything outside of the major categories.
Best Original Score
Alexandre Desplat, “Argo”
Dario Marianelli, “Anna Karenina”
Mychael Danna, “Life of Pi”
John Williams, “Lincoln”
Thomas Newman, “Skyfall”
Since the composers of the two best film scores of the past year – Hans Zimmer for “The Dark Knight Rises” and Jonny Greenwood for “The Master” – weren’t nominated, I believe that the Academy will finally give an award to Desplat even though he did better work on “Zero Dark Thirty.”
Makeup and Hairstyling
Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell, “Les Misérables”
Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel, “Hitchcock”
Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
The “Hitchcock” people probably did the best work in making Anthony Hopkins look like Anthony Hopkins in a fat suit, but “Les Miz” has the most emotional devastating buzz cut ever.
William Goldenberg, “Argo”
Tim Squyres, “Life of Pi”
Michael Kahn, “Lincoln”
Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg, “Zero Dark Thirty”
Tichenor and Goldenberg helped Kathryn Bigelow made a methodical, ten-year manhunt in the year into the most tension filled, exhilarating films in years but because of the political firestorm surrounding the film ,“Argo” will take the statue. In a lesser year “Lincoln” or “Life of Pi” would have won. “Silver Linings Playbook” doesn’t belong in this category.
Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine, "Inocente"
Sari Gilman and Jedd Wider, "Kings Point"
Cynthia Wade and Robin Honan, "Mondays at Racine"
Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern, "Open Heart"
Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill, "Redemption"
Only the trailers to the nominated films have been made available online so I can’t make a pick here.
“Searching for Sugar Man”
“5 Broken Cameras”
“How to Survive a Plague”
“The Invisible War”
The Academy loves a documentary with a happy ending.
Best Costume Design
Jacqueline Durran, “Anna Karenina”
Paco Delgado, “Les Misérables”
Joanna Johnston, “Lincoln”
Eiko Ishioka, “Mirror Mirror”
Colleen Atwood, “Snow White and the Huntsman”
It’s funny that “Mirror Mirror” and “Snow White” were both nominated in this category since they are two different takes on the same story and only “Mirror Mirror” deserved a nomination. “Les Miz” and “Lincoln” are both strong contenders but “Anna Karenina” is all about the costumes.
Roger Deakins, “Skyfall”
Seamus McGarvey, “Anna Karenina”
Robert Richardson, “Django Unchained”
Claudio Miranda, “Life of Pi”
Janusz Kaminski, “Lincoln”
This is an extremely competitive year for this category. There are shots in “Django” that are some of the finest in Richardson’s career, “Lincoln” is Kaminski best work since “Minority Report”, Miranda utilized 3D better than any film since “Jackass 3D”, and McGarvey was so good he almost made “Anna Karenina’s” ridiculous and half committed central conceit work but Roger Deakins is Roger Deakins and the time has come.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Tony Kushner, “Lincoln”
Chris Terrio, “Argo”
Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook”
David Magee, “Life of Pi”
“Argo”, “Southern Wild”, “Silver Linings”, and “Life of Pi” are all fairy tales to varying degrees while “Lincoln” strives for something deeper than contrived affirmation.
Best Original Screenplay
John Gatins, “Flight”
Mark Boal, “Zero Dark Thirty”
Quentin Tarantino, “Django Unchained”
Michael Haneke, “Amour”
Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola, “Moonrise Kingdom”
Another tough category. Up until recently, I would have given it to Tarantino but the tide seems to have turned against him in the past few weeks. “Zero Dark Thirty” has become radioactive and a foreign language film has only received the Original Screenplay award four times in Oscar history so “Amour” is probably out. “Moonrise Kingdom” deserves the award (and many more, frankly) but “Flight” is the safe choice.
Best Foreign Language Film
Canada: “War Witch”
Denmark: “A Royal Affair”
Chilean advertising-as-political-subversion film “No” looks like really interesting but “Amour” is the clear front-runner.
Best Animated Feature Film
Rich Moore, “Wreck-It Ralph”
Tim Burton, “Frankenweenie”
Peter Lord, “Pirates! Band of Misfits”
Sam Fell and Chris Butler, “ParaNorman”
Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman, “Brave”
Odds would suggest that Pixar made “Brave” is the favorite but it was something of a financial and critical disappointment. “Pirates!” was a sweetheart Aardman film but it doesn’t have the profile of the other films on this list. “ParaNorman” and “Frankenweenie” are a bit to left field for this category so I’m giving it to the well liked Disney movie. A bold choice, I know.
Best Original Song
Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth, "Skyfall" from “Skyfall”
Walter Murphy and Seth McFarlane, "Everybody Needs A Best Friend" from “Ted”
J. Ralph ,"Before My Time" from “Chasing Ice”
Mycheal Danna and Bombay Jayashri, "Pi’s Lullaby" from “Life of Pi”
Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer, and Alain Boublil, "Suddenly" from “Les Misérables”
Despite the Academy’s egregious oversight in not nominating the many fantastic songs from the “Django Unchained” soundtrack and thus denying the world the pleasure of seeing Rick Ross bellow “100 Black Coffins” at hundreds of bewildered audience members, Adele owns the category. “Pi’s Lullaby” is a fine but innocuous song, “Before My Time” is from a little seen documentary, and even though “Suddenly” is a new song from a celebrated musical, no body stops Adele. Just ask Taylor Swift.
Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln”
David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Ang Lee, “Life of Pi”
Michael Haneke, “Amour”
Benh Zeitlin, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
Zeitlin was lucky just to be nominated; Russell directed a messy heart warmer that glides by on the strength of its performances, and while Lee’s “Pi” is a phenomenally beautiful film, it’s the kind of movie that rarely wins Best Director. “Amour” is far too harsh to win in a major category so Spielberg will pick his fourth directing Oscar.
Best Supporting Actress
Anne Hathaway, “Les Misérables”
Sally Field, “Lincoln”
Jacki Weaver, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Helen Hunt, “The Sessions”
Amy Adams, “The Master”
Even though Hathaway has the least screen time of any of her fellow nominees, no one else got to sing “I Dreamed a Dream” directly to camera. Amy Adams was incredible in “The Master” but it seemed to be a film that was too difficult for the Academy and Sally Field put in strong work that would have won the award in a different year. Jacki Weaver and Helen Hunt’s nominations were always something of a mystery.
Best Supporting Actor
Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln”
Christoph Waltz, “Django Unchained”
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master”
Robert De Niro, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Alan Arkin, “Argo”
My heart says Hoffman, but my head knows it’ll be Jones. As seen with the film’s many snubs, the Academy just didn’t get “The Master.” Waltz continued to prove that he can be amazing when directed by Tarantino but he won three years ago. De Niro was good in “Silver Linings” but not good enough to offset the near twenty years he took off from acting and Arkin got his lifetime achievement award for “Little Miss Sunshine.”
Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Naomi Watts, “The Impossible”
Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty”
Emmanuelle Riva, “Amour”
Quvenzhané Wallis, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
By all rights, the award should be Chastain’s but the intense political backlash that’s hit “Zero Dark Thirty” and the momentum that Lawrence picked up with her Screen Actors Guild award all but guarantees her the win.
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln”
Denzel Washington, “Flight”
Hugh Jackman, “Les Misérables”
Bradley Cooper, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Joaquin Phoenix, “The Master”
Washington was the best part of “Flight” and Cooper showed new depth in “Playbook” but their performances were hampered by being in less than stellar films. Jackman was better than usual in “Les Miz” but not Best Actor good. Phoenix deserves the award but betting against Daniel Day-Lewis is like betting against getting wet in a thunderstorm.
Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck, and George Clooney, “Argo”
Dan Janvey, Josh Penn, and Michael Gottwald, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
Donna Gigliotti, Bruce Cohen, and Jonathan Gordon, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow, and Megan Ellison,“Zero Dark Thirty”
Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, “Lincoln”
Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, and Cameron Mackintosh, “Les Misérables”
Gil Netter, Ang Lee, and David Womak, “Life of Pi”
Margaret Menegoz, Stefan Arndt, Veit Heiduschka, and Michael Katz, “Amour”
Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin, and Pilar Savone, “Django Unchained”
“Argo” wasn’t even close to being the best film of last year but as seen with most Best Picture winners, the safe film will beat the controversial (“Zero Dark Thirty”, “Django Unchained”), the beautiful (“Life of Pi”, Beasts of the Southern Wild”), the classical (“Lincoln”, “Les Misérables”), and the emotional overwhelming (“Amour”, “Silver Linings Playbook”).
The 85th Academy Awards hosted by Seth McFarlane airs on live on Sunday, February 24, 2013 on ABC.
Mario McKellop has written about film on Examiner for the last three years and can be reached directly at email@example.com