Tag Archives: Jennifer Lawrence

An Oscars Wrap Up

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And that’s it folks! The Oscars are over and done with, awards have been presented and Jennifer Lawrence tripped again. Now we have maybe two or three weeks before the inevitable buzz starts around 2014’s crop of prestige films. The ceremony itself was significantly better this year than in many years past, not just for the entertainment the telecast provided but the recipients of the awards (I only missed 3 in my predictions). So here are some final thoughts on Hollywood’s biggest night before we start this all over again next year.

For Once, the Academy Voters Get it Mostly Right 

Director Steve McQueen may have jumped for joy but I was breathing a sigh of relief when Will Smith said “12 Years a Slave.” Last night the most deserving film actually won, both when it comes to cinematic quality, and “importance.” But that’s not to say that Gravity, a stunning achievement, didn’t deserve its seven awards, including Alfonso Cuaron’s historic win as the first Latino to ever take the Best Director prize. McQueen made history too, becoming the first black man to actually take home one of the Best Picture trophies (given to the producers of the winning film). It was actually a good night (at least, by the Academy’s standards) for diversity, with Lupita Nyong’o taking Best Supporting Actress, John Ridley taking Adapted Screenplay and Mexican-born Emmanuel Lubezki taking Cinematography for Gravity. The big win was, of course, 12 Years‘ big win. One can only hope that in future years, the Academy will start picking the right movies when it comes to LGBT stories, too.

The Hostess with the Mostess

It turns out Ellen was the perfect Oscar host. Safe enough that when she was announced, the focus was on how she would be the anti-Seth MacFarlane, not ruffle any feathers, and not turn the show into a sexist rampage. Leading up to the show, there was some murmuring about how, with such a broad choice as Ellen, the show could end up a little ho hum and boring, like her 2007 outing. That turned out to be definitively wrong. Apparently nice Ellen took a vacation and brutal Ellen took her place. Her monologue had zing after zing, going after everyone in the audience from June Squib to Liza Minelli to the general white guilt of the audience. (“Possibility number one: 12 Years a Slave wins Best Picture. Possibility number two: You’re all racists.”) The Academy got its daring, edgy comedy, but it came in a package much easier for audience (in the room and at home) to swallow, for after she was done poking fun at movie stars she ordered them pizza and took a record-breaking selfie. She wasn’t necessarily my favorite host but she certainly got the job done in a way that it hasn’t for awhile.

Your New Best Friend Lupita Nyong’o is Amazing

If last night belonged to anyone, it was Nyong’o, who took home Best Supporting Actress for her very first film role, dazzled us with her dress and her speech, gave Ellen lip gloss instead of money, danced with Pharrell and was all around the best part of the Oscars. Also she brought her endlessly entertaining brother, who you’ll remember forever since he’s in the most retweeted selfie of all time. May Lupita long be attending the ceremonies and making them better for us all.

And the Best (and Worst) of the Rest…

Of course no Oscar ceremony is complete without its share of slipups and odd moments, it being live television and all. Some unscripted moments were nice, like when Bill Murray gave a quick shout out to the late Harold Ramis. Some were less than nice, like when John Travolta garbled Idina Menzel’s name when introducing her performance of “Let it Go.” The internet is not very forgiving, John. Speaking of “Let it Go,” co-writer Robert Lopez is now a member of the EGOT club (Tracy Jordan would be so proud). Lopez and his wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez also win for most exciting speech, delivered in alternating verse and featuring a snippet of Happy Birthday.

The Lopezes’ speech was short and sweet, so it made it all the way to the end before the orchestra started to play them off, but unless you are a Matthew McConaughey-sized star, you better be sure that you stay under the time limit. Here’s an idea for how to cut back on time, stop with the montages! Jim Carrey spent five minutes introducing a clip reel of “animated heroes” for goodness sakes. Everyone complains about the length of the ceremony, but clearly ABC wants the commercials all the way through midnight. So instead of padding the telecast with pointless montages around an arbitrary/shameless marketing theme (wasn’t it handy that Captain America himself was around to introduce one, when his sequel is coming out in May?), it would be nice to let below-the-line winners get their due.

 

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And the Oscar Will/Could/Should Go To…

Another Oscar season has come and gone, peppered by an intriguing scandal and an actual horse race in the night’s top prize. One thing this season has shown is that the competition is always going, and being the frontrunner too early or too late is not always a good thing. When the nominations were announced I said the race was down to American HustleGravity and 12 Years a Slave. Not so anymore. Despite it’s 10 nominations, I’m predicting American Hustle goes home empty-handed, despite the fact I think it should win a few things. The Gravity folks, meanwhile, should probably start clearing some mantle space. My favorite (and obviously the best film of the year) 12 Years a Slave is no sure thing for any win, but it’s got good chances in a bunch of places, although I’m only actually predicting that it will win two (hey, Argo only won 3). So here are my predictions, presented in “will win, could win, should win” form. We’ll see how it all goes down on Sunday.

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Best Picture

Will Win: 12 Years a Slave
Could Win: Gravity
Should Win: 12 Years a Slave

It’s pretty rare at this point in the game not to have a real front runner in the Best Picture race. Despite early hyperbolic sentiments that 12 Years a Slave had it in the bag,  Gravity (and briefly, American Hustle) has been on its heels during the entirety of the season, splitting the precursor awards. Most notably the Producer’s Guild, which picks the Best Picture winner about 70% of the time and every time since the Academy changed its voting rules four years ago, had a straight up tie between the two films.

I have had a tendency, in years past, to fall in love with the also-ran film, one that is bound to be nominated for Best Picture but not really in competition to win (Life of PiHugo, The Social Network, etc). Prognosticators are tending toward Gravity, but, perhaps in a bout of wishful thinking, I’m putting my money not on the stylistic technical wonder, but on the deep substantive narrative that is the most affective movie I’ve seen, in years, possibly ever. It absolutely, positively should win, and I’m desperately hoping it will. But to be honest, anything could happen. Which should make for a night with some actual suspense.

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Best Director

Will Win: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Could Win: Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Should Win: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

Gravity is a visual marvel. I don’t disagree about that in any way, shape or form, despite the fact that I thought the script was terrible. And after receiving the Golden Globe, the DGA and the BAFTA, this prize has become Cuaron’s to lose.   A Cuaron win here doesn’t really change anything about Gravity‘s chances for Best Picture, however. The Picture/Director split is only becoming more common. An increasingly likely scenario is that Cuaron will take this statue and lose Best Picturewhich happened just last year to Ang Lee and his similar CGI-spectacular Life of Pi. A win for Steve McQueen, however, would be a big indicator that 12 Years has broader support. Don’t count him out just yet. And it’s worth noting that of the many winners of this category over the past 85 years, all have been white males, save for Kathryn Bigelow and Ang Lee. Cuaron would be the first Latino winner and McQueen would be the first black winner. It’s likely history will be made on Sunday.

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Best Actor

Will Win: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Could Win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Should Win: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave

Very soon we will be living in a world where this man has an Oscar. Dallas Buyers Club hits nearly every box on the Academy’s checklist for a win. Weight loss, white messiah (or this time, straight messiah), social message, based on a true story, terminal illness. Even before he took the Globe and the SAG, he had this in the bag. If anyone has the chance to upset, it’s DiCaprio or Ejiofor, with Leo the more likely. The Wolf of Wall Street, after many missteps at the beginning of its campaign, finished out strongly, nabbing a few more nominations than you might have predicted. DiCaprio might be able to ride that goodwill up to the podium. Maybe the fifth time might be the charm? As far as who should actually win, it’s no contest. 12 Years a Slave was entirely dependent on Ejiofor’s performance, and his commitment to the role plays a big hand in making the film what it is.

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Best Actress

Will Win: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Could Win: Amy Adams, American Hustle (but not really)
Should Win: Amy Adams, American Hustle

Not even the ever-increasing controversy surrounding Woody Allen can stop Cate Blanchett, who was destined for this award from the moment she picked up her Blanche DuBois-inspired character’s first Stoli martini. Even in a field comprised of all former nominees and four former winners, there’s basically no contest here. Sure, there’s a lot of deserved, albeit late, love for Amy Adams’ turn in American Hustle, but it’s incredibly unlikely she’ll actually upset Blanchett. Which is a shame, because Adams is brilliant in Hustle, hands down the best part of the film. Her layered turn as a con woman who has basically lost herself in her own cons would have, in any other year, been the early favorite.

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Best Supporting Actor

Will Win: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club 
Could Win: Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips (but not really)
Should Win: Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave

Jared Leto’s hold on this category is almost as tight as Cate Blanchett’s is over Best Actress. Leto may have said some less than tactful things about portraying a transgender woman but other than that he’s had a golden campaign season. He’s got the Globe and the SAG and only lost the BAFTA to Abdi by virtue of not being nominated, but the Brits weren’t crazy about Dallas Buyers Club in general. I wasn’t crazy about the film either, and though Leto did an admirable job, his performance does not hold a candle, for me, to Michael Fassbender’s in 12 Years. His cruel and repugnant slave owner could have ended up a cartoon villain, but in Fassbender’s hands, even the worst of the worst has layers. 

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Best Supporting Actress

Will Win: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Could Win: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Should Win: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

It’s Lawrence vs. Nyong’o. This is the only acting category that isn’t sewn up. Nyong’o took the SAG and the Critic’s Choice and Lawrence took the BAFTA and the Globe. But just like American Hustle‘s Best Picture chances, Lawrence has been fading recently. It might be because she’s not really campaigning at all (she didn’t even go to the BAFTAs) while Nyong’o is out charming everyone everywhere and looking damn good doing it. But there has also been quite a bit of press about how Lawrence was not quite mature enough to portray a jilted housewife, occupying a role that was clearly meant for an older woman. Plus it’s a bit of a hard sell to give her another Oscar when she won just last year. It’s a bunch of little things that are pushing the race in Nyong’o’s favor. Which is only good news because of all the performances this year in any category, hers was far and above the best (sorry Cate). The word devastating doesn’t seem strong enough to describe her.

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Best Adapted Screenplay

Will Win: Philomena
Could Win: 12 Years a Slave
Should Win: Before Midnight

There’s no fun in making predictions if you can’t swing for the fences a little bit, so here’s my big swing. The writing categories are a little bonkers this year, I’ll admit. So many films are ineligible for the WGA awards that they are little help as a precursor. Captain Phillips triumphed there, and while it can’t be counted out, it has too much to fight against this time. The smart money would be on 12 Years a Slave, a movie so relient on its source material and so driven by its adaptation.

But there’s this little British-movie-that-could, that now boasts a BAFTA. Writer Steve Coogan has Oscar juggernaut Harvey Weinstein behind a campaign that has gone all the way to the Vatican. The film had enough support to give it a slightly surprising Best Picture nod, and that might push it all the way in this category. The real absurdity of the category is that Before Midnight is forced to compete here, the writing category most often dominated by Best Picture contenders, the Academy having decreed that all sequels are “adapted” from existing characters. And as much as I love 12 Years, it’s hard to deny the achievement made by Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Eighteen years after Jesse and Celine met in Before Sunrise, their relationship has finally come full circle, in the beautifully crafted final chapter.

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Best Original Screenplay

Will Win: Her
Could Win: American Hustle
Should Win: Her

What was that I just said about Best Picture nominees in the adapted category? Things have changed, mostly due to the expanded Best Picture field, and it’s harder for scrappy contenders to break into even those categories that were once targeting them. This year the only nominee without a Best Picture nod, Blue Jasmine, has absolutely positively zero chance at winning. The category instead comes down to two Best Picture also-rans, Her and Hustle. This is the best chance for both of them to take an award home, and while the goodwill that brought Hustle ten nominations is not to be discounted, the more topical, more obviously “original” sci-fi romance has the slight edge. It’s an edge well-earned, a tale of man and machine that’s both classic and groundbreaking, hitting on our contemporary worries and hopes about technology.  And really, a win for Her is pretty status quo for the category that once recognized Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

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Best Foreign Film

Will Win: The Great Beauty (Italy)
Could Win: The Hunt (Denmark), The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium)
Should Win: The Great Beauty (Italy)

Blue is the Warmest Color, Palme d’Or winner and critical favorite, was not eligible this year, but it wasn’t the only glaring absence from the category, which passed over Asghar Farhadi’s The Past only two years after giving the prize to his A Separation, as well as the first film ever produced in Saudi Arabia. But still, there are plenty of great films nominated. The Fellini-inspired The Great Beauty is the frontrunner, with The Hunt and The Broken Circle Breakdown trailing not far behind. But barring upset, the award should go to the lyrical and moving tour through the excess of contemporary Rome.

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Best Film Editing

Will Win: Captain Phillips 
Could Win: Gravity
Should Win: 12 Years a Slave

Since 1981, every single Best Picture winner has had a Best Editing nomination and about 2/3 of them have taken home both statuettes. So it’s worth noting that the five Best Picture noms recognized here are likely the ones that would have still been nominated in the old five movie field, and also leads to an actually competitive category, which is nice. The guild rewarded Captain Phillips for drama and American Hustle for musical/comedy, which surprised many who were expecting Gravity to continue its sweep of the technical awards. So it really comes down to the Gravity and Phillips, the former potentially riding its Best Picture coattails and the latter with the potential to ride on its own merit, much like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo did two years ago. I’m going with Captain Phillips, but you might as well flip a coin. My personal preference would be for the seamless passage of time and slow rhythms in 12 Years a Slave.

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Best Cinematography

Will Win: Gravity
Could Win: Prisoners (but not really)
Should Win: Gravity

The sixth time will be the charm for Gravity‘s Emmanuel Lubezki, who, like last year’s winner for Life of Pi, worked with the real and digital worlds to create a masterpiece. It’s only bad news for this category’s other perennial bridesmaid, Roger Deakins (11 nominations and counting), whose work in Prisoners was among his best, but just not quite enough to unseat Lubezki.

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Best Production Design

Will Win: The Great Gatsby
Could Win: 12 Years a Slave
Should Win: Her

The Great Gatsby was pretty much all production design, recreating iconic landmarks from the novel, straying away from historical accuracy and heading for something close to fantasy. It’s polar opposite, the minimalist, futuristic and sleek Her is an achievement of a different sort, creating a world you could see yourself living in. While Gatsby is the favorite, if the voters are looking for a more somber, less anachronistic choice (like Lincoln last year) they may go with 12 Years.

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Best Costume Design

Will Win: The Great Gatsby
Could Win: American Hustle
Should Win: American Hustle

Most times this category goes hand in hand with production design, rewarding lavish period pieces with a lot of flash. So here again, I’m going with Gatsby and all its attendant sparkles, feathers and flashes. But don’t discount the sparkle and flash of American Hustle, where the costumes were so integral to the characterizations, despite how horrendous the wide lapels were to actually look at.

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Best Original Score

Will Win: Gravity
Could Win: Her
Should Win: Her

That Hans Zimmer’s haunting 12 Years a Slave score was snubbed here in favor of John Williams just because he’s John Williams is still egregious, and I’m clearly not over it. But looking at the actual nominees, it would be amazing for the fuzzy Arcade Fire score to win over the established composers, but don’t count on it. Expect Gravity to add one more award to its shelf for the music that filled the silence in space.

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Best Original Song

Will Win: “Let it Go,” Frozen
Could Win: “Ordinary Love,” Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (but not really)
Should Win: “Let it Go,” Frozen

Come on folks. This one is easy. “Let it Go” is a cultural touchstone, a Disney anthem that would give the classics a run for their money. U2 can do as many spontaneous acoustic renditions of “Ordinary Love” on talks shows as they want, but the snow queen has this one locked up.

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Best Sound Mixing

Will Win: Gravity
Could Win: Captain Phillips
Should Win: Gravity

The distinction between the sound categories is best described as how the sounds come together (mixing) and the sounds themselves (editing). One film often sweeps both categories, and they tend to go in for action films and musicals, so here’s another for Gravity.

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Best Sound Editing

Will Win: Gravity
Could Win: Captain Phillips
Should Win: All is Lost

All is Lost is pretty much all sound, with sole star Robert Redford not saying very much. That’d mean something if voters weren’t just likely to continue checking the Gravity box on all the below-the-line categories.

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Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Will Win: Dallas Buyers Club
Could Win: Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
Should Win: Dallas Buyers Club

Do you really think Jackass or The Lone Ranger is going to win an Oscar? Me neither, but there is an outside chance, given that Johnny Knoxville’s age makeup is a genuine achievement. Such a shame Explosion at the Wig Factory wasn’t nominated here. But Dallas Buyers Club created fading AIDS patients on a budget not much more than what I used in school theater productions, and it’s obviously the prestige pick.

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Best Visual Effects

Will Win: Gravity
Could Win: Gravity
Should Win: Gravity

Do I really need to write anything here? Gravity is a stunning visual effects achievement for the ages. And in fact, those effects are buoying it all the way to a potential Best Picture win.

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Best Animated Feature

Will Win: Frozen
Could Win: The Wind Rises
Should Win: Frozen

In the few years that this category has existed, a Disney feature has never won that didn’t also have “Pixar” in the credits. It’s only fitting that the honor should go to the best film the Mouse House has created in nearly twenty years, a film that crosses age barriers, features two female protagonists and just can’t get out of your head. Legendary animation director Hayao Miyazaki’s maybe final film, The Wind Rises, has huge critical support (I haven’t seen it yet so I can’t make a judgment), but the mature cartoon might be a tough sell.

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Best Documentary Feature

Will Win: 20 Feet From Stardom
Could Win: The Square
Should Win: The Act of Killing

The Academy changed the rules last year, allowing all members to vote for this category by virtue of sending out screeners rather than forcing a small segment to prove they’ve seen the films at certain screenings. This change is only good news for the crowd pleasing feel good docs like 20 Feet From Stardom, which gives much deserved due to back up singers. (It was also good news for last year’s musical winner, Searching for Sugarman.) It’s bad news for a film as out there as The Act of Killing, where director Joshua Oppenheimer had Indonesian mass murderers renact their crimes on film. A spoiler could come in the form of The Square, a document of the uprisings in Egypt since 2011, one of the more “important” films nominated.

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Best Animated Short

Will Win: Get a Horse! (That short you saw before Frozen)
Could Win: Mr. Hublot
Should Win: Get a Horse! 

I’m thinking it will be a good year for Disney Animation Studios.

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Best Documentary Short

Will Win: The Lady in Number 6
Could Win: Facing Fear

The Lady in Number 6 is an emotional heavyweight that follows the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor, a Czech concert pianist, who died just last week at 110.

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Best Live Action Short

Will Win: The Voorman Problem 
Could Win: Helium

The Voorman Problem, the first effort from a few British film school grads, managed to grab Martin Freeman as a psychiatrist and Tom Hollander as an inmate who claims he is God.

So there you have it. Here’s to hoping that the Academy makes the right decision on a lot of these. I wouldn’t mind being wrong if it meant they were going to spread the love a little. But you never actually know what’s going to happen. Which is kind of the fun.

2014 Oscar Nomination Predictions

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It’s that time of year again. The silliness of the Golden Globes is behind us (I only got 3 out of 9 of my wishes!) and now it’s time to get down to some serious awards business. (Well as serious as we can be about rich people handing each other golden trophies.) The Oscar nominations are coming tomorrow and so I am here to bring you my tried and true predictions for the big categories. Overall I think I stayed pretty safe with my predictions, but I also tried to predict any wild and crazy upsets. There are pundits and precursor noms and all that, but in the end you never really know what will happen.

Best Picture:
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
Nebraska
Philomena
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

The weighted Best Picture voting means that there an be anywhere from six to ten nominees. I’m going for nine with the caveat that Blue Jasmine and/or Saving Mr. Banks could sneak in if there’s a tenth spot. The race has actually had quite a few twists and turns so far this season, what with Inside Llewyn Davis fading almost entirely from guild consideration and American Hustle getting boosts just about everywhere. The Wolf of Wall Street is super divisive (I myself was not a fan) but I’m giving it last year’s Django Unchained wildcard spot for divisive films. Philomena is perhaps my boldest choice but it has a lot of British enthusiasm and the new voting system favors small groups of fervent support over large swaths of general support.  And this is all despite the fact that the real race is still between 12 Years a Slave, Gravity and American Hustle. Expect those three titles to come up without a doubt.

Best Director:
Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)
Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips)
Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)
Alexander Payne (Nebraska)
David O. Russell (American Hustle)

The Director’s Guild may have nominated Martin Scorcese over Payne, but if the past few years are any roadmap, the Academy’s director’s branch likes to make its own choices. Last year’s category was a little bonkers and Ben Affleck’s snub was actually the beginning of the groundswell for Argo’s eventual Best Picture win. So you never know what could happen and whether it’s actually a bad thing. Cuarón, McQueen and Russell are Affleck-style locks, so expect Affleck-like backlash if any are snubbed. Greengrass and Payne are kind of safe choices for the last two spots, I’ll admit. They’re both former nominees in this category, while Spike Jonze would be a bolder choice, but Her is still a quirky genre film, and the Academy has never been a huge fan of sci-fi.

Best Actor:
Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips)
Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

Dern, Ejiofor, Hanks and McConaughey are dead locks for the first four spots (if any of them are left out, that’s where the big shocking snub will be). As far as the fifth nomination goes, there are four guys with a really decent chance at claiming it: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street) Forest Whitaker (The Butler), Robert Redford (All is Lost) and Christian Bale (American Hustle). Redford had the early momentum but that has mostly dried up. Whitaker got a big boost from the SAGs but hasn’t really been heard from since. Bale got a late boost from BAFTA, but it may not have been enough. I’m going with Leo as part of the general groundswell for Wolf of late. But really, I might as well have picked at random.

Best Actress:

Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
Judi Dench (Philomena)
Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)

I thought when I picked Adams over Meryl Streep for this category, I might be swinging for the fences. But it seems that lots of pundits are picking this particular swap, and that’s probably due to general antipathy towards August: Osage, the seemingly non-stop power of American Hustle and Adams taking Streep’s spot at the BAFTAs, where there is quite a bit of voter crossover with the Academy. When it comes to personal taste, I think Adams is the most deserving of all the Hustle hopefuls, even more so than Jennifer Lawrence (more on her later), and I would be ecstatic if she took the fifth spot.

Best Supporting Actor:

Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
Daniel Bruhl (Rush)
Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
James Gandolfini (Enough Said)
Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

Despite the fact that Jordan Catalano– I mean Jared Leto has the actual win all but guaranteed, this is actually the most fluid category. Leto is a surefire nominee, and Abdi and Fassbender are the next surest things. As far as the last two spots go, well, take your pick. Bruhl has the SAG and BAFTA noms, something he only shares with Abdi and Fassbender (Dallas Buyers Club was completely shut out by the BAFTAs), so I’d say he’s a good bet. The last spot? Well it seems to be down to Bradley Cooper in American Hustle and Gandolfini. I’m going with Gandolfini, if only because it is the last chance to reward a beloved actor for a lifetime of great work.

Best Supporting Actress:

Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
June Squibb (Nebraska)
Oprah Winfrey (Lee Daniels’ The Butler)

Despite the fact that I think Lawrence’s performance is being overpraised (she was fine, but Adams was better), she’s pretty much in a three-way contest with Nyong’o and Squibb for the win (one guess who I’m rooting for). Then there’s Oprah, and whatever you thought of The Butler, there’s no denying that Oprah really went for it. Plus she’s Oprah. The last spot will most likely go to Roberts for her turn in August: Osage, but lately there’s been a swell of support for Sally Hawkins in Blue Jasmine, who took Squibb’s spot at the BAFTAs. If she does get nominated over Roberts it would be indicative of two things: Meryl Streep will almost certainly miss out on a Best Actress nom and Blue Jasmine might sneak in a Best Picture nom. It’s not super likely but it definitely could happen.

Best Original Screenplay:

American Hustle
Blue Jasmine
Her
Inside Llewyn Davis
Nebraska

Original Screenplay is the category where the Academy allows itself to get the quirkiest (think Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). That said, this year it’s dominated by heavyweights and is more competitive than Adapted Screenplay. Inside Llewyn Davis was left out by the WGA, but I feel like this nomination is the consolation prize the Academy might throw the Coens.

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Before Midnight
Captain Phillips
Philomena
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

Philomena and 12 Years were ineligible for the WGAs, which will count for a big departure here since 12 Years is currently tipped to win. I’d say this category is pretty much all sewn up (even if you, like me, think it’s super weird that Before Midnight is being called adapted) but there might be a possibility for a spoiler from Osage‘s Tracy Letts, who adapted his own Tony and Pulitzer-winning play, two large precursor awards in themselves.

‘Catching Fire’ Was Always Going to Be a Better Movie

Reviews of the Hunger Games sequel have been nothing short of rapturous when it comes to comparing the new film’s director (Francis Lawrence) to his predecessor (Gary Ross). Critics are crediting Lawrence with taking Suzanne Collins’ unwieldy second novel and turning it into a tight, suspense-filled thriller all the while judging the shaky cam snooze fest that (apparently) was the first movie.

While I will categorically agree that Catching Fire has surpassed the original movie in terms of cinematic scope and quality, I will say that there’s more going on than just a change in the man behind the camera. Although I’m not sad to see the shaky cam go — in fact when I watched the original last week, I actually got a little nauseous —  Ross didn’t do all that bad a job, given what he had to work with. And that’s really the crux of the issue here: with Catching Fire, Lawrence was definitely dealt a much better hand of cards. It was inevitably going to turn out into a better movie.

There’s No Way to Spin Kids Killing Kids 

Trying to keep the rating PG-13, the first film tripped all over itself to gloss over this important factoid, with shaky cam, a lack of blood and an emotional distance that leeched anything that might have been considered “stakes” out of it. By trying to smooth over the idea of kids killing kids, the first movie also sanitized the emotional import of a society in which kids are forced to kill kids. And this decision, whatever the motivation behind it, definitely hurt the movie.

The second time around, there are no kids in the arena. There’s no problem with a teenaged Katniss Everdeen taking out a forty-something hulking dude coming at her with a spear. Nothing particular of emotional import there. Just self-defense. And so Katniss can finally fight, a little blood can be shown, and she can be genuinely scared of these hulking monsters who are genuine threats to her and Peeta’s survival. And it’s no different than any superhero taking out the minions of the super villain.

Home Is Where the Backstory Is 

The Hunger Games had so much to cover in so little time there’s very little wasted on Katniss’s home town of District 12 besides some brief shaky cam shots of dirty children looking Appalachian. But just like JRR Tolkein made sure to introduce us to Hobbiton before he sent Frodo off to Mordor, Collins spends a lot of time in the first book introducing us to District 12. Unfortunately she does it in flashbacks that are hard to translate into the flow of an action film. So it’s not till Catching Fire that we really get to see what Katniss is fighting for. The film gets to spend nearly a whole hour of its time with Katniss’s friends and family, establishing relationships merely hinted at the first time around (Gale it’s nice to finally meet you!).

Love You J.Law, But I Can’t Read Your Mind

Almost as problematic as the whole children murdering each other thing is the fact that wide swaths of the first novel are first person narration without Katniss speaking to another living soul. And even when she’s talking to Peeta once they team up, she’s constantly reminding the reader that her relationship with him was an act for the cameras. In the first movie, for someone who’s never read the books, that subtext is almost entirely lost. Jennifer Lawrence does her level best at it, but it would help if she could talk.

Catching Fire has ample opportunity for the Girl on Fire to speak her mind. After spending a significant portion back in District 12 the book takes her back to the Capitol and the arena, but instead of sending her off in search of water and climbing trees, she is immediately thrust into an alliance full of relationships and dysfunction and all sorts of good stuff. Beyond actually getting at characterization, it’s simply more interesting to have her in a group and interacting with people than to have her tied up in a tree by herself.

The Clock is Cooler Than a Forest

The arena in the first novel is your pretty standard forest. Barring CGI fire and CGI dogs, there wasn’t much threat besides the other kids. Not so in the sequel. The arena itself is a much more hazardous place. Tidal waves, lightning, killer baboons, rain of blood. It’s not just more eventful, it’s more visual. A panning shot of the the clock jungle is just a better picture than a plain forest. Plus when there are threats that aren’t people, Katniss is allowed to fight and shoot with reckless abandon. Who cares how many rabbid monkeys she kills? At least they’re not kids.

Just Like Oreos, the Best Bit is in the Middle

Call it The Empire Strikes Back or The Two Towers rule. Without being bogged down with lengthy exposition or a conclusion that ties everything up in a bow, the middle chapters of series have an undeniable advantage over the beginnings and endings. They get to just tell a story in an already established world without anything that even resembles an ending. In fact, the more of a cliffhanger, the better. More people will line up to buy tickets to the midnight showing of the last movie (or, er, the last two movies).

Lawrence (Francis, not Jennifer) undoubtedly brought a fresh take and a better eye to the series. He certainly brought fresh new faces to the franchise, and achieved near perfect casting when it came to Sam Claflin as Finnick and Jena Malone as Johanna. The manic arrogance Malone has and the twinkling bravado that Claflin brings to the table are exactly how the characters were portrayed in the book, and exactly what the movie needed. Characters almost as intriguing as Katniss to (maybe) root for. And yeah, it was really good to get rid of all that shaky cam. But really, Gary Ross didn’t do all that bad. And he did cast Jennifer Lawrence, and the internet shall be forever in his debt for that.

None of this is to say that Mockingjay is going to turn into a good movie. As has already been noted, there are some really big problems with that novel that are going to be hard to turn into an exciting film. So we’ll just have to wait and see what Francis Lawrence gives us.

Full List of Oscar Winners

I hope y’all enjoyed my live-tweeting of the ceremony. Now that I’ve cleaned up my apartment, here’s the full list of winners. And can I just say, LIFE OF PI LIFE OF PI LIFE OF PI!!! 

Best Picture
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty
Lincoln
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Amour
Django Unchained
Argo

Best Director
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Michael Haneke, Amour
Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Best Actor
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Denzel Washington, Flight
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master

Best Actress
Naomi Watts, The Impossible
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Best Supporting Actress
Sally Field, Lincoln
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Amy Adams, The Master

Best Supporting Actor
Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Alan Arkin, Argo
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln

 

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

Best Adapted Screenplay
Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Chris Terrio, Argo
Tony Kushner, Lincoln
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
David Magee, Life of Pi

Best Documentary Feature
5 Broken Cameras
The Gatekeepers,
How to Survive a Plague
The Invisible War
Searching for Sugar Man

Best Animated Feature Film
Frankenweenie
Pirates! Band of Misfits
Wreck-It Ralph
Paranorman
Brave

 

Best Cinematography
Seamus McGarvey, Anna Karenina
Robert Richardson, Django Unchained
Claudio Miranda, Life of Pi
Janusz Kaminski, Lincoln
Roger Deakins, Skyfall

Best Original Score
Dario Marianelli, Anna Karenina
Alexandre Desplat, Argo
Mychael Danna, Life of Pi
John Williams, Lincoln
Thomas Newman, Skyfall

 

Best Original Song
“Before My Time,” Chasing Ice
“Pi’s Lullaby,” Life of Pi
“Suddenly,” Les Miserables
“Everybody Needs A Best Friend,” Ted
“Skyfall,” Skyfall

Best Foreign Language Film
Austria: Amour
Chile: No
Canada: War Witch
Denmark: A Royal Affair
Norway: Kontiki

Best Documentary Short
“Inocente,” Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine

“Kings Point,” Sari Gilman and Jedd Wider
“Mondays at Racine,” Cynthia Wade and Robin Honan
“Open Heart,” Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern

 

Best Animated Short
“Adam and Dog,” Minkyu Lee
“Fresh Guacamole,” PES
“Head over Heels,” Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly
“Maggie Simpson in ‘The Longest Daycare,'” David Silverman
“Paperman,” John Kahrs

 

Best Live Action Short
“Asad,” Bryan Buckley and Mino Jarjoura
“Buzkashi Boys,” Sam French and Ariel Nasr
“Curfew,” Shawn Christensen
“Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw),” Tom Van Avermaet and Ellen De Waele
“Henry,” Yan England

Best Film Editing
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

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel, Hitchcock
Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell, Les Miserables

 

Best 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. Elliott, Life of Pi
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

Best Sound Mixing
John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia, Argo
Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes, Les Misérables
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

Best Sound Editing (two-way tie)
Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn, Argo
Unchained 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

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 Miserables
David Gropman and Anna Pinnock, Life of Pi
Rick Carter and Jim Erickson, Lincoln

Double Vision Oscar Predictions

Argo

Goodness gracious what an Oscar season. After a rocky nominations period followed by some pretty big snubs and we get Ben Affleck, Comeback Kid. All told it gives us an eclectic list of nominees and will probably lead to an eclectic list of winners. The moral of this year’s season is that there were a lot of really great movies this year, something that the Academy and the general public can agree on. Six of the nine Best Picture nominees have crossed the $100 million mark domestically, and a seventh is over $88 million. Life of Pi has become quite the international hit with over $576 million in international grosses while Django Unchained and Les Miserables have have each clocked in over $350 million worldwide.

Back in 2009 when the the Best Picture field was first expanded beyond five films, there were definitely five films being seriously considered and five also-rans, just in the mix to fill the quota. It felt a lot like that for these past few years, but I think this year we finally have expanded both the field and the race beyond just five films. Zero Dark Thirty, Les MiserablesLincolnSilver Linings PlaybookLife of Pi, and Argo were all considered real threats at some point during the season. My biggest prediction is that no film will sweep anything. Life of Pi has a real chance to take a slew of technical awards, but when I say a “slew” I mean 5. I’m predicting that Argo walks away with 3, Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty with only 1, Silver Linings Playbook with 2 and Les Mis of all things, with 3. Not exactly a sweeping mandate for any Best Picture contender. My guess is that this year, films are getting symbolic Oscars, one or two as representative for the achievement of the whole movie, with Best Picture so sewn up. But even then, most of the races are a bit up in the air.  I’ve decided to present you with “Will Win, Could Win, Should Win.” I needed “Could Win” because some of these races are so tight anything could happen on Sunday.

Best Picture

Will Win: Argo
Could Win: LincolnSilver Linings Playbook (maybe? perhaps? I guess?)
Should Win: Life of Pi 

At this point a loss for Argo would be a HUGE upset, given its Golden Globes, SAG, PGA, DGA, WGA, and BAFTA precursor wins, all in spite of that nasty Best Director snub. To be quite honest, back when the nominations came out, I found Kathryn Bigelow’s snub far worse than Affleck’s. I have nothing personal against Argo (like some trendy critics do), I enjoyed the movie. I just didn’t think it was as good as some of the other contenders. I didn’t think it was as artful as Lincoln or as weighty as Zero Dark Thirty or as amazing/magical/majestic/breathtaking/other-really-good-adjectives as Life of Pi. But now, in my opinion fueled by Ben’s snub, Argo has all the so-called “momentum” and will likely take the top prize home. I would love to have seen what had happened to the Best Picture race had Ben been nominated for Best Director. I think the race would be much closer if it had. But either way, there was never really much hope for Life of Pi, with no nominated performances (the only one of the nine contenders with no acting noms) and only Ang Lee as its star-face. It was never a movie made for campaigning.

Best Director

Will Win: Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Could Win: Steven Spieberg, Lincoln
Should Win: Ang Lee, Life of Pi

Back when the nominations were announced and Kathryn Bigelow and Ben Affleck were shut out of the director’s category, I predicted that Ang Lee would pull, well, an Ang Lee, and walk away with Best Director but not Best Picture. But back in January Lincoln was the frontrunner, logically meaning that Spielberg was the Director frontrunner as well, and my prediction was a little hairbrained. No more! Now many pundits and prognosticators (including EW, Hitfix, Deadline and others) are predicting just that! This goes to my theory about symbolic, or representational Oscars. Lee took over Pi after three other directors quaked in fear at the task of an unfilmmable book. They say you’re never supposed to work with kids, water, or animals, and Lee worked with all of them, plus a whole slew of CGI, and that whole part of the movie where it’s just a boy and a tiger. Like I said in my original review, it absolutely never should have worked. It should have crashed and burned. But instead it turned into something profound, entertaining, and breathtaking. No lesser director could have done that. Lee does not, however, have it locked up. Spielberg is a real threat, as those who want to honor the movie after it quickly dropped down in the Best Picture race may check his box. He is, you know, Steven Spielberg. He can’t do too much wrong. But I have a feeling the symbolic vote for Lincoln will come with…

Best Actor

Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Could Win: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

The thing about Lincoln is that Daniel Day-Lewis is the movie and the movie is Daniel Day-Lewis. The movie is contingent on his performance and for good reason. Moments of Congressional deliberations and back room dealing and wheeling could be pretty boring if it weren’t for the towering figure that many could confuse with Honest Abe himself. The award for Day-Lewis here is the award for the whole movie, because he is the movie. And despite the fact that he’s not my favorite performance of the year, he’s well deserving of his record third Best Actor Oscar. In any year when Day-Lewis wasn’t in the category, I could see all four of his fellow nominees making a decent play. Hugh Jackman, Bradley Cooper, and Joaquin Phoenix all had career-best performances and Denzel was reliably brilliant. But they all had the misfortune of doing their best at the same time that Day-Lewis did. They never had a chance.

Best Actress

Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Could Win: Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Should Win: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

This category has turned into quite the horse race over the past few weeks. Back in November, there weren’t a whole lot of performances to be found even worthy of talking about. Then when Silver Linings premiered it appeared that Jennifer Lawrence was on the fast track in a weak field. Then it was JLaw versus JChas after Zero Dark Thirty finally opened. But the eleventh hour story is that of Emmanuelle Riva, the 85 (86 on Oscar night!) year-old actress who gave an absolutely devastating performance in Amour. Taking the BAFTA home last week seriously increased her chances, as the voting bodies of BAFTA and the Academy overlap considerably. Last year Meryl Streep took the BAFTA over Viola Davis and went on to take the Oscar as well. It’s hard being the front-runner, and JLaw has been out there on her own for months. I’d put their odds pretty much equal at this point, but I’m going with Lawrence, because Riva might just be too little too late. I personally disliked Amour while appreciating Riva, but it’s hard to get behind a movie that made you feel like killing yourself. JLaw was the best thing Playbook had going for it, and what can I say? I cannot resist her charms. Like this. Or this. Ooh, or all these. But especially this

Best Supporting Actor

Will Win: Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Could Win: Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln or Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Should Win: Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln

This is perhaps the most open category of the big ones. I have heard strong cases for each De Niro, Jones, and Waltz and I wouldn’t be surprised if any of the three of them won. Two weeks ago I would have sworn that Jones had it wrapped up, last week I would have guessed Waltz but after everything, I’m going with De Niro to squeak by to win. He has Oscar campaigner extraordinaire Harvey Weinstein at his back, and the bonus, in a category full of previous winners, to have gone a good 32 years without winning, while Waltz won three years ago, playing a similar part in another Tarantino film. In my opinion Jones has the best performance here, so against type, so understated and admirable, but he lost the BAFTA and has a reportedly surly demeanor about the whole campaigning process. That can put people off. But who knows. Expect this race to be an actual nail biter.

Best Supporting Actress

Will Win: Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Could Win: Sally Field, Lincoln (but no, no she can’t)
Should Win: Helen Hunt, The Sessions 

In any other year the Best Supporting Actress story would have bene of Helen Hunt’s triumphant comeback with this lovable dramedy about a man with polio and the woman who helped him have sex (and John Hawkes would have been nominated too!). But not in the same year when Anne Hathaway starved herself, chopped her hair off, and sang bad on purpose. It was over as soon as she dreamed that God would be forgiving. Even people who disliked the movie rave about Hathaway, indeed some consider her the only good thing about it. Sally Field has been campaigning hard and is considered number two by most pundits, but she’s propped up by the scope of the movie, not by her own performance, which was forgettable. No locks are as mortal as Daniel Day-Lewis, but Hathaway comes pretty damn close.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Will Win: Chris Terrio, Argo
Could Win: David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Should Win: David Magee, Life of Pi

A long time ago Tony Kushner, tony-award winning playwright, was the lockiest of locks for taking a portion of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s behemoth book A Team of Rivals and turning it into Lincoln. When the nominations were announced, David O. Russell’s director nom made some think that he would actually take this award home as a consolation prize. But then the Argo  resurgence happened. This is one of only two categories I think that will benefit from Argo’s coattails. It seems ludicrous to award a film Best Picture without giving it an award that speaks to the film holistically, and Best Director is not an option. If Argo loses this (or editing, which I discuss below), then all bets are off. Which would be kind of great, because it would lead to one of the first unpredictable ceremonies in a long time. As for what should win, Ang Lee can’t take all the credit for Life of Pi, his was a huge directorial achievement, but he was working off an exceptional adaptation.

Best Original Screenplay

Will Win: Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty
Could Win: Michael Haneke, Amour or Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchianed
Should Win: Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola, Moonrise Kingdom

This one is another genuine horserace. This used to be the category where independent, quirky, sci-fi, or fantasy movies stood a chance of winning against the Best Picture faire. Now that Best Picture has expanded though, it’s harder and harder for something not nominated to even get in. This year the odd man out is Flight, for reasons passing understanding. The three way race between Boal, Haneke and Tarantino has split prognosticators and pundits. I’m going with Boal for the win, taking home the symbolic Oscar for Zero Dark Thirty, which had a hard downfall from Best Picture contender because of the torture controversy and Bigelow’s snub. But again, I would not be at all surprised to see Haneke or Tarantino on the stage. Although, I think that Amour is a hard sell, both because it’s in another language (can you really appreciate a script in subtitles? If you like the subtitles, shouldn’t the award go to whoever wrote them?) and because the story is just so damn depressing and pretty gratuitous. If the Academy is as old as everyone says they are, wouldn’t something that so harshly depicts the end of life be upsetting to them? It was to me. And although Django is has the flash and flair in its back pocket, it’s come under fire for its portrayal of slavery and race. Plus, it’s so Tarantino-y, it might remind voters of things he has already won for.

Best Foreign Film

Will Win: Amour
Could Win: Amour
Should Win: Amour

I may not have loved it but with Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay nods, how could it lose? If the academy liked any of the other nominated films better than Amour, why aren’t they nominated for Best Picture? So I’d say this lock is of Day-Lewis proportions. And though it wasn’t my favorite, I recognize a good film when I see one. Unfortunately, Michael Haneke may have to contend with this one and only win. In the other categories, it feels as though the nominations were the award.

Best Film Editing

Will Win: Argo
Could Win: Zero Dark Thirty
Should Win: Life of Pi

Since 1981, every single Best Picture winner has had a Best Editing nomination and about 2/3 of them have taken home both statuettes. Last year The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo took home the prize in a big shocker, since the film wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture. But this year, all five nominees are also nominated for the big one. The race seems to be between William Goldenberg and himself, being nominated for both Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, the latter most pundits find more deserving. Keep a watch on this category during the ceremony. If Argo loses this it could be a sign, but it is probably no big deal. If it loses this and adapted screenplay, be very very wary. Argo isn’t tipped to win really any other technical awards. It would be quite unheard of to win Best Picture and no other awards. If that starts to happen during the ceremony, maybe quietly change your Best Picture bets during your party.

Best Cinematography

Will Win: Life of Pi
Could Win: Skyfall
Should Win: Life of Pi

Getting into the technical awards we are in Life of Pi‘s territory. Expect Claudio Miranda to take home the prize for his outstanding blend of reality and CGI, all while walking on water (pretty literally in some cases). A possible upset could be for Roger Deakins, ten-time nominee  without ever having won, to win for his great work on Skyfall. But even being called one of the best Bond movies of all time, Bond movies are still at a disadvantage.

Best Production Design

Will Win: Anna Karenina
Could Win: Life of Pi
Should Win: Anna Karenina

Even a Life of Pi devotee such as myself must recognize the beauty and logistical mastery of the sets in Anna Karenina. Whatever you thought about putting the story on a stage, you can’t deny that it looked fabulous. The set weaved without a hiccup between a stage, backstage, the audience, the real world, and all manner in between. I mean, they put a horse race inside for crying out loud. But the movie was really hated by many, so that could vault Life of Pi to a victory (which I wouldn’t mind either).

Best Original Score

Will Win: Life of Pi
Could Win: Lincoln
Should Win: Life of Pi

This award is Life of Pi composer Mychael Danna’s to lose. Praised for blending Indian instruments and style with a Western new-age-y feel, he’s the favorite. John Williams could upset and take the prize for some John Williamsy music in Lincoln, but at this point, I think the Academy is ripe for first time nominee Danna.

Best Original Song

Will Win: “Skyfall” from Skyfall
Could Win: “Pi’s Lullaby” from Life of Pi
Should Win: “Skyfall” from Skyfall

This is perhaps the most boring category this year, perhaps because Adele has it pretty sewn up. Although, it is worth noting that no Bond song has ever won an Oscar, and that the old-fogey academy is less likely to reward young and popular artists. But I think this time Adele’s magnetism, Skyfall‘s critical success, and the weak category are the perfect storm for 007.

Best Sound Mixing

Will Win: Les Miserables
Could Win: Skyfall
Should Win: Les Miserables

This sound award is for sound recording during the shoot, not during post-production. Whatever you think about the vocal quality of Les Mis’s live singing, the technical quality was great. It’s the Best Picture nominee with the most impressive feat here. Skyfall could surprise, as the only action movie in the mix, but probably not.

Best Sound Editing

Will Win: Life of Pi
Could Win: Skyfall or Zero Dark Thirty
Should Win: Life of Pi

This award is for sound edited and inserted in post-production, and so expect it to go to technical juggernaut Life of Pi, with a possible Bond or bin Laden upset.

Best Costume Design

Will Win: Anna Karenina
Could Win: Mirror, Mirror
Should Win: Anna Karenina

A prize for period pieces and fantasy epics, expect it to head to Jacqueline Durran for the flashy gowns in Anna Karenenia. It is also possible that the Academy might deliver a posthumous Oscar to Eiko Ishioka for Mirror, Mirror. 

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Will Win: Les Miserables
Could Win: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Should Win: Les Miserables 

Les Mis will probably take this Oscar home for ugly teeth, aging Hugh Jackman, and beating the crap out of Anne Hathaway. This also happens to be the only category that The Hobbit installment is competitive in. The Academy was not won over by the prequel the way it was by the original trilogy, which dominated the technical awards three years in a row.

Best Visual Effects

Will Win: Life of Pi
Could Win: Life of Pi
Should Win: Life of Pi

I think Anthony Breznican said it best in Entertainment Weekly: “Anyone who doesn’t think Life of Pi deserves this prize should be forced to sit in a lifeboat with a real Bengal tiger.”

Best Animated Feature

Will Win: Wreck-it-Ralph
Could Win: Brave
Should Win: Frankenweenie

At this point it’s Disney versus Disney Pixar, with Disney having the slight edge in the precursor awards. However, older voters seem more drawn to Brave, perhaps because they just don’t get video games. But Pixar’s latest is nowhere as acclaimed as many of its former Oscar winners. The animation giant has only lost (when nominated, Cars 2 was not nominated) twice, Shrek taking the award over Monsters, Inc., and Happy Feet beating Cars. This might be the third. On the other hand, I’m pulling for Frankenweenie, which I was happily surprised by this October. It would be nice for Tim Burton to finally take home an Oscar, especially for a project as dear to him as this one.

Best Documentary Feature

Will Win: Searching for Sugarman
Could Win: How to Survive a Plague or The Gatekeepers
Should Win: How to Survive a Plague

Searching for Sugarman is the frontrunner, being the most lighthearted as opposed to its heavy hitting fellow nominees, and the biggest box office hit. But this is the first year all academy members are being sent screeners, which could throw off the vote. I personally was very moved by How to Survive a Plague. But you never know what could happen.

Best Animated Short

Will Win: The Paperman
Could Win: Adam and Dog

Best Documentary Short

Will Win: Mondays at Racine
Could Win: Inocente

Best Live Action Short

Will Win: Curfew
Could Win: Death of a Shadow

And for your viewing pleasure, here’s a gif of Ang Lee’s adorable wave from the Golden Globes.

Awwwwww