With Academy Awards nominations out in the open at last--thanks for waking up early to share them, Seth MacFarlane and Emma Stone--the first wave of speculation has ended and the race for the most prestigious awards in Hollywood has officially begun. While much can, and likely will, change in the weeks between the nominations announcement and the actual ceremony, boldly declaring at the outset of the race rather than the eleventh hour seems a fun measure of instinct.
The full list of nominees can be seen here.
Our picks for the biggest snubs (beyond the one bound to be most talked about, Kathryn Bigelow's exclusion from the Best Director race) can be seen here.
Now on to our picks for the winners.
Best Picture: “Zero Dark Thirty”
For weeks the presumed frontrunners in the Best Picture race have been “Lincoln”, a historical drama documenting the most trying hour of Honest Abe’s presidency, and “Zero Dark Thirty”, a taut thriller about the world’s most infamous manhunt. The nominations have not given either of these productions cause for concern, but the quiet surprise here is “Silver Linings Playbook” racking up acting nods in every category, as well as helmer David O. Russell snagging a Best Director nomination, while Kathryn Bigelow (“Zero Dark Thirty”) was shut out. Let’s be honest, no one should be surprised to see any of these films walk away with Oscar gold; "Silver Linings Playbook” has the distinct disadvantage being a dark comedy, but the nomination love from the Academy shows it could have the support to pull off an upset. Still, the edge has to go to Kathryn Bigelow’s unflinching look at the hunt for Osama bin Laden, “Zero Dark Thirty” is a once in a lifetime story. Films of a historical nature have taken the top honors the past two years, meaning the voters may be primed to once again bestow the night’s biggest prize on a less traditional choice. The last out-and-out comedy to win Best Picture was “Annie Hall” (1977) while “The Hurt Locker” (2009), another suspenseful drama from Bigelow took the big prize a few years back.
Best Director: Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln”
Historically speaking, Best Picture and Best Director tend to go hand-in-hand, but every so often--usually in years with two strong frontrunners for Best Picture--the two categories will not correspond. In fact, Spielberg’s most recent Best Director win came about in such a manner. In 1998 he won for “Saving Private Ryan” although “Shakespeare in Love” was ultimately named Best Picture (much to the chagrin of almost every non-Academy member). However the Best Picture heavyweight battle between ends up, expect to see Steven Spielberg take the stage.
Best Actress: Jessica Chastain “Zero Dark Thirty”
Likely the tightest competition in the stretch to Oscar night, the Best Actress race comes down to two of the hottest actresses to explode onto the screen in the past few years, Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence. Given its 8 total nominations, “Silver Linings Playbook has emerged as a genuine contender for Best Picture, despite initially being seen as a long shot because of it’s comedic nature. Now, it seems that Best Picture could very well go the way of Best Actress. Jennifer Lawrence capped an incredible year with a return to her indie roots in “Silver Linings Playbook”. She seemed unreachably in the lead until the earliest screenings of “Zero Dark Thirty” revealed not only that Chastain was the lead, but that she delivered a searing performance. This category comes down to two women who are consistently spectacular, Lawrence was brilliant, but Chastain had the added challenge of trying to faithfully portray a real woman she knew she could never meet. If that gives her steam enough to best Lawrence, expect to see the top honor follow suit, and vice-versa.
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln”
Bradley Cooper demonstrated an as yet unseen flair for the dramatic and Hugh Jackman braved performing a musical without the luxury of studio polishing. Despite those efforts, Daniel Day-Lewis’ remarkable transformation into Abraham Lincoln makes him a veritable lock for his third Best Actor win.
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, “Les Miserables”
Aside from Daniel Day-Lewis’ inevitable Best Actor win, Anne Hathaway carrying the Best Supporting Actress prize away on the strength of her performance of “I Dreamed A Dream” is the surest bet in this year’s awards season. One needs only see the clips of her take on Fantine in the “Les Miserables” trailer to know that the performance is a homerun, but the most impressive bit to see in theaters is the lasting impression Hathaway leaves with so little screen time to her name.
Best Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln”
As Thaddeus Stevens, Tommy Lee Jones manages to steal every scene in which he appears, and that is saying something considering he is working alongside a host of other nominees. Philip Seymour Hoffman has long been an Academy darling and his performance in “The Master” will not give voters any reason to start doubting him now. To see Hoffman walk away with the win wouldn’t come as a surprise, but Jones is the more likely victor coming off what may be the best performance of his career.
Best Original Screenplay: Mark Boal, “Zero Dark Thirty”
When Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino both come out with new features it’s a given that it is going to be a great year in the realm of original screenplays, but this is one year when it seems unlikely that the cult favorite writer-directors will walk away with Oscar gold. “Zero Dark Thirty” has proved to be the late-breaking force to be reckoned with and screenwriter Mark Boal is wholly deserving of the award he is poised to win. Cramming the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden into a single feature is impressive enough, but cobbling it together from interviews, press clippings and what (presumably redacted) documents he could find makes the work all the more impressive.
Best Adapted Screenplay: David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook”
David O. Russell may not be a long-shot to wrest the title of Best Director from Steven Spielberg but he should ultimately get recognition for his gem of a film, “Silver Linings Playbook” in the form of a Best Adapted Screenplay win. In his adaptation, David O. Russell accomplished the rare feat of improving upon the source material and translating the more abstract concepts of the novel flawlessly to the screen--though he may owe some thanks to his cast for that last. In that same vein, Mr. Spielberg should also be singing praises for Tony Kushner for his marvelous rendering of “Lincoln”.
Best Original Song: “Skyfall” from “Skyfall”
Yes, Tom Hooper’s adaptation of “Les Miserables” added a brand new original song to the mix. And, yes, it was lovely, but it didn’t wind up seeing radio playtime and Adele wasn’t involved. We’re going to go out on a limb here and say the queen of the Grammys will likely be the recipient of an Academy Award as well--and if she isn’t...well, she really should be.