Last year's Oscars were mostly free of real shocks, but thanks to the Academy painting themselves into a pretty nasty corner in the Best Director category, the 85th Academy Awards is one of the most intriguing we've had in a long time. Not too long ago it was looking like Steven Spielberg's Lincoln was going to be the film to beat in practically every major category, and when it locked down a whopping 12 nominations it was even more certain. But it was the snubbing of Ben Affleck for Director, followed up by an incredible awards run that saw Argo taking major honors at the Golden Globes, DGAs, PGAs, BAFTAs, and WGAs that has the Academy scrambling to save face in the Best Picture category.
But what about the other categories? Is Daniel Day-Lewis the stone cold lock for Best Actor many expect him to be? Or could he be upset by a surging Bradley Cooper? Does anyone stand a chance against Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables? Has the controversy surrounding Zero Dark Thirty and Django Unchained blunted their hopes of winning anything? Will host Seth MacFarlane bring the animated bear on stage if Ted wins for Best Original Song? And if so, will it do something ABC will be forced to censor? Let's hope so.
Ok, enough wasting time. Here are my picks for who will win, the dark horse, who should win, and in some cases what was criminally left out of the discussion. Feel free to come back here when all is said and done to mock my wild misfires.
It's rare that a film wins Best Director without even having its director nominated, the last time being Driving Miss Daisy way back in 1989. It's certainly looking like Argo will be next to earn that distinction, stealing frontrunner status away from Lincoln, Life of Pi, and even the red-hot Silver Linings Playbook. For the second year in a row, nine nominees are up in the category, although most are there just give the producers a warm thrill at having their name called. Michael Haneke's Amour has been on nearly as strong a run as Argo, but the feeling is that not enough people turned out to see such a gloomy picture. Argo's ascendance has had the most detrimental impact on Zero Dark Thirty, which will go down as the third most-recognized political drama of the season.
Who Will Win: Argo
Who Should Win: Zero Dark Thirty
The Dark Horse: Beasts of the Southern Wild
Shoulda Been a Contender: The Master
It's unfortunate, but this category is going to be remembered more for who isn't nominated than who is. Kathryn Bigelow, Tom Hooper, and Ben Affleck were all denied, despite their films being listed amongst the Best Picture favorites. Most surprising are two names in particular that found their way into the shortlist: Michael Haneke and newcomer Benh Zeitlin. Neither stands much of a chance of winning, and Zeitlin's nomination has that sense of the Academy blessing his future endeavors. No, this is a three horse race, and Steven Spielberg has been the leader since day one. Ang Lee, whose skill has never been in greater display with the technically marvelous Life of Pi, could make a last second push, but he seems to be ceding ground to David O. Russell. With Silver Linings Playbook continuing to score big at the box office, we could be looking at an upset in the making.
Who Will Win: Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Who Should Win: Ang Lee, Life of Pi
The Dark Horse: David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Shoulda Been a Contender: Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master
If Daniel Day-Lewis wins this week for Lincoln, it will mark his third Best Actor award, making him the first to ever achieve it. His competition, while significant, simply doesn’t measure up in terms of scope and relevance. The only one that comes close is Joaquin Phoenix in The Master, but that film is mostly an afterthought. Bradley Cooper and Hugh Jackman led a pair of crowd-pleasers, while Denzel Washington is just along for the ride.
Who Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Who Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Shoulda Been a Contender: Bill Murray, Hyde Park on Hudson
Oh, that Emmanuelle Riva. She just had to come and spoil the party, didn't she? What was looking like a Jennifer Lawrence/Jessica Chastain showdown got a little messy when 86-year old Riva entered the picture after a string of high-profile victories for Amour. So now we have the murkiest category of the night, with Riva potentially earning a large sentimental vote that could push her over the top. The box office success of Silver Linings Playbook has given a boost to Lawrence, who perhaps maintains a light edge overall, while the lukewarm response to Zero Dark Thirty has only hurt Chastain. It's possible that all three women could cancel one another out, leaving an opportunity for the youngest nominee, Quvenzhane Wallis, to sneak in for the surprise win. I'm still holding out hope somebody recognizes the error of their ways and slots in Marion Cotillard for Rust and Bone, making all other nominees irrelevant.
Who Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Who Should Win: Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
The Dark Horse: Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Shoulda Been a Contender: Marion Cotillard, Rust and Bone
Best Supporting Actor
So if Best Actress is the cloudiest, Best Supporting Actor is the most competitive. A legit case can be made for all five nominees this year, with all having won the award at one time in their career. Christoph Waltz won the BAFTA and Golden Globe in this category, but his recent win for Inglourious Basterds may be holding him back, strangely enough. Alan Arkin has the benefit of Argo's recent surge, but the same can be said for Robert De Niro for Silver Linings Playbook. The most complete and fiery performance of all was by Philip Seymour Hoffman, but The Master just doesn't have a whole lot of steam right now. Daniel Day-Lewis has overshadowed everybody else involved with Lincoln, so Tommy Lee Jones' SAG award may be all he ends up with.
Who Will Win: Ummmm....Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Who Should Win: Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Shoulda Been a Contender: Dwight Henry, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Best Supporting Actress
Move along, nothing to see here! This award has been Anne Hathaway's since the first Les Miserables put her heartbreaking performance front and center. The film may not amount to much, but her performance is extraordinary and made a heavy impact in a short amount of time. Amy Adams and Helen Hunt are just as deserving, and in Adams' case I would say even more so, but this category's been sewn up for months and that's not likely to change short of some scandal breaking out.
Who Will Win: Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Who Should Win: Amy Adams, The Master
Shoulda Been a Contender: Emma Watson, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Best Animated Feature
Disney pretty much owns it this year, with Frankenweenie, Brave, and Wreck-It Ralph all vying for the golden statue. The animated field has never been stronger, overall, so much so that even an excellent film like Rise of the Guardians couldn't edge a way in. Brave and Wreck-It Ralph combined for nearly $1B, but neither seems like the clear favorite. Frankenweenie and ParaNorman, both stop-motion films that disappointed badly at the box office, are so similar they could cancel one another out. That could leave an opening for The Pirates! to sneak in for the surprise victory. It's a long shot, but not totally out of the question.
Who Will Win: Brave
Who Should Win: ParaNorman
The Dark Horse: The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Shoulda Been a Contender: Rise of the Guardians
Best Adapted Screenplay
Who Will Win: Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell
Who Should Win: Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell
Shoulda Been a Contender: The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky
Best Original Screenplay
Who Will Win: Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino
Who Should Win: Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino
The Dark Horse: Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
Shoulda Been a Contender: How in the world did Flight beat out The Master??
Best Foreign Language Film
Who Will Win: Amour
Who Should Win: No
Shoulda Been a Contender: Rust and Bone
Best Documentary Feature
It should be noted that for the first time, Oscar voters have screeners of all documentary nominees. What that means is predicting a winner based solely on momentum and reach can no longer be counted on.
Who Will Win: 5 Broken Cameras
Who Should Win: The Invisible War
Shoulda Been a Contender: Bully
Who Will Win: Life of Pi, Claudio Miranda
Who Should Win: Life of Pi, Claudio Miranda
Shoulda Been a Contender: The Dark Knight Rises, Wally Pfister
Best Production Design
Who Will Win: Life of Pi, David Gropman and Anna Pinnock
Who Should Win: Life of Pi, David Gropman and Anna Pinnock
Shoulda Been a Contender: Cloud Atlas
Best Costume Design
Who Will Win: Les Miserables, Paco Delgado
Who Should Win: Anna Karenina , Jacqueline Durran
Best Film Editing
Who Will Win: Argo, William Goldenberg
Who Should Win: Zero Dark Thirty, Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg
Best Make-Up & Hairstyling
Who Will Win: Les Misérables, Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell
Best Original Score
Who Will Win: Life of Pi, Mychael Danna
Shoulda Been a Contender: Moonrise Kingdom, Alexandre Desplot
Best Original Song
Who Will Win: Skyfall, Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
Best Sound Editing
Who Will Win: Skyfall, Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers
Best Sound Mixing
Who Will Win: Les Miserables, Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes
Best Visual Effects
Who Will Win: Life of Pi, Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott