Tag Archives: 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
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6 Thoughts on the Oscar Nominations

Life of Pi Life of Pi Life of Pi!!

So wow that’s an interesting group of nominees, huh? Lots of snubs, lots of surprising and a whopping 11 nominations for Double Vision favorite Life of Pi. The Ang Lee film was second only to Lincoln in the total nomination count, the Stephen Speilberg biopic garnering 12 noms. Here are my thoughts:

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Kathryn Bigelow is sad and you should be sad too.

1. It’s a bad time to be Kathryn Bigelow or Ben Affleck. Goodness gracious that Best Director Category! I would have liked to see either Bigelow or Affleck’s reactions to the announcement, and compare their faces to Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s after he lost the Best Actor Tony to a British comedian who hit himself with silver trays. Oi. But in terms of the horserace, this seriously handicaps Zero Dark Thirty and Argo, both considered real Best Picture contenders before today. Not since Driving Miss Daisy back in 1989 has a film won Best Picture without a Best Director nomination. Maybe it’s because Argo has faded over the past few months or because Zero Dark Thirty has only caused more and more political controversy as time went on, but something turned the Academy off. But that was good news for David O. Russell, considered an outlier but possibility for Silver Linings Playbook, Michael Haneke for Amour, also an outlier, and Benh Zeitlen, thirty-year-old first time director of Beasts of the Southern Wild, who nobody thought was a contender yesterday. Also, three cheers for Ang Lee! Oh and I suppose I should mention Tom Hooper being left out. But I think that was a good thing, considering all the problems I and most other critics had with the film were his fault. For the love of God why so much fish eye? Pacing? You cut this but not that? He took the greatest musical of all time and wasted its chance to grace the big screen. He gets no nomination.

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Like you thought anything else would come of Honest Abe playing himself. I mean playing Daniel Day-Lewis. Oh you know what I mean.

2. We now have a Best Picture frontrunner. The two categories that are often the prognosticators for Best Picture are Director (obviously) and Editing, which may seem a bit random, but has been in lockstep with Best Picture for most of the past few decades. The only movies to score nods in all three categories were Lincoln, Life of Pi, and Silver Linings Playbook. Lincoln leads the field with 12 nominations which spread across all categories  acting and technical alike. Silver Linings is lacking in technical nominations and Pi has no acting noms at all. Other Best Picture nominees that were considered to be at the head of the group are now decidedly sitting at the back of the bus (Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, and Les Miserables). If I was making a list right now it would go:

1. Lincoln
2. Life of Pi
3. Silver Linings Playbook
4. Beasts of the Southern Wild
5. Zero Dark Thirty
6. Amour
7. Argo
8. Les Miserables
9. Django Unchained

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Amy Adams and Joaquin Phoenix are as excited about the Oscars as they are about Scientology.

3. The Guilds snub themselves. The SAG and DGA noms were once a pretty good prediction of the Oscars. No more, apparently, as only two directors (Speilberg and Lee) carried over fromt he DGA noms and only 14 (as opposed to the last two years’ 17 and 19 the year before that) from the SAGs. Out with John Hawkes (by far the saddest and worst snub), Marion Cotillard, Helen Mirren, Javier Bardem, Nicole Kidman, and Maggie Smith in favor of Quvenzhané Wallis, Emmanuelle Riva, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Jacki Weaver (?!?!?), and Christoph Waltz. At least this means that there will be no mention of The Paperboy at the Oscars.

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Jacki Weaver is all like “whaaaat?”

4. Silver Linings Playbook goes 4 for 4. Jacki Weaver? What? The character actress from Australia managed to sneak into the race despite pretty much no precursor noms. Her inclusion makes Silver Linings the first movie since 1981’s Reds to score an acting nomination in all four categories. Although, like Reds, Silver Linings will likely only win in one acting category, Best Actress, where Miss Lawrence is the frontrunner. Weaver, Robert De Niro, and Bradley Cooper will have to do a lot to push Anne Hathaway, Tommy Lee Jones, and Daniel Day-Lewis out. But this acting quartet and David O. Russell’s Best Director nod have pushed the romcom up the list of potential Best Picture pics (despite it’s terrible ending, which I will never get over because it kind of ruined the movie for me).

5. Quvenzhané Wallis (9) and Emmanuelle Riva (85) become the youngest and oldest Best Actress nominees ever. At the expense of Marion Cotillard and Rachel Weisz, and proving that the Academy’s voting body is really all old people. They vote for themselves and kids who are as cute as their grandchildren. In other news, let’s check out this adorable photo of the two of them together.

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This still accurately reflects my emotional state.

6. Life of Pi is apparently as good as I said it was! It’s hard out here for a film-buff who spends every year rooting for the underdog (my hope in Hugo last year was, quite frankly, just a little sad).  But maybe this year, the underdog will emerge on top! Eleven nominations is nothing to sneeze at. Only one less than presumed frontrunner, Lincoln. Now I realize Pi is decidedly left out of the acting race, and its many nominations result from its wide range of technical achievements. But I will remind you of another recent film about an Indian adolescent that went on to win Best Picture despite its lack of acting nods. Back in 2008, Slumdog Millionaire was able to grow its buzz after the awards season had already started, vaulting it towards Best Picture. That film did have the advantage of a Best Ensemble SAG nod (and win) but as I said earlier, the guilds are becoming less relevant. And despite what some critics are saying, including Scott Tobias from The AV Club’s assessment that “Life Of Pi quietly hauled in 11 nominations without any of them in the acting categories. That’s enough for bored Oscar prognosticators to pretend it has a chance for an upset bid,” after today, Life of Pi has a real chance. In terms of unseating LincolnPi is the only movie with a shot. Silver Linings Playbook, despite being nominated for directing and editing, doesn’t have the grand, sweeping epic that Pi does. I’m not saying that it will win Best Picture. My best guess is that Ang Lee will experience some deja vu and walk away with the Director’s statuette, but not Best Picture. But you never know. After today, surprises seem to be the Academy’s biggest commodity.

Oscar Predictions and Double Vision Favorites

Because even though the nominations are coming out tomorrow (brought to us by none other than Emma Stone!), we still like to think that we have some kind of say in it or something. And in all honesty it was a great year for film, and even though some categories seem locked up, some are definitely wide open. I’ve also paired these lists with my favorites in each category for the year. It will make you wonder why I’m not an academy voter.

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

Best picture can be anywhere between six and ten this year, and with the field that’s out there, I’m thinking it’s going to be either eight, nine, or ten. Possibly additions/upsets in this category include the fogey-favorite The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Tarantino’s slavery adventure Django Unchained, and possibly even Moonrise Kingdom and Skyfall, although the popcorn crowd already has Les Mis in the mix.

My favorite film of the year: Life of Pi. As I said in my review (which you can find here) Lee made the film work when it never ever should have. I really didn’t like the book. I shouldn’t have liked the movie. But I loved it. When a film that is an intimate portrait of one man’s ability to survive feels more epic than the search for bin Laden or the Iranian Hostage Crisis or even a Paris uprising, that’s an achievement.

Best Director:
Ben Affleck (Argo)
Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty)
Tom Hooper (Les Misérables)
Ang Lee (Life of Pi)
Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)

Expect this list to double the Director’s Guild of America’s nominees, which were announced yesterday. That list, as well as the BAFTA nominees, announced earlier this week, both left Silver Linings Playbook‘s David O. Russell off, previously nominated for The Fighter. It is unlikely he’ll sneak in  tomorrow, but you never know. It’s likely the snub will be him or Life of Pi‘s Ang Lee, despite it being my favorite movie of the year.

My favorite director: Ang Lee. I do believe the reason that Life of Pi achieved so much was that it had Lee behind the wheel. He took the stunning visuals and the liberty afforded by 3D and went far beyond James Cameron or anyone else who has used the medium. And despite it being fantastical everything looked real. The story was larger than life, down to earth, and well, simply breathtaking.

Best Actor:
Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)
Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
John Hawkes (The Sessions)
Hugh Jackman (Les Misérables)
Denzel Washington (Flight)

This category is as locked as locked can be. A while ago Joaquin Pheonix was in the mix for The Master, but the film’s buzz has faded since September, while everything else has pushed on.

My favorite performance: Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook. Say what you will about the ending to this movie (and I’ve said plenty) but it was a great film and it was great because it had Cooper at the center. Jennifer Lawrence may be getting all the attention for her flashy performance, but Cooper’s more understated Manic-Depressive character was a sight to see in the film. It was his story, and he ran with it.

Best Actress:

Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone)
Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)
Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

Chastain and Lawrence are mortal locks in this category, and Cotillard is as close as you can get to a sure thing. The other two spots are up for grabs. Wallis was ineligible for the SAGs and snubbed by the Globes, but the Oscars love a tyke who can really do something. It’s not exaggerating to say that she mad the movie what it was. And while SAG chose to nominate Naomi Watts for The Impossible and Helen Mirren for Hitchcock, those are both low-profile (and not even very well liked) films that really only have a shot in this category. I’m going to go with Riva instead, whose moving performance in Amour is right up the Academy’s alley. It would be something if we had the oldest and youngest performers ever nominated in the same year.

My favorite performance: Quvenzhané Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild. Say what you will about the line between acting and playing yourself as a kid, but if Wallis was playing herself it was a good character. Her performance helped rocket this tiny indie into Best Picture contention, and it is not at all undeserved.

Best Supporting Actor:
Alan Arkin (Argo)
Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)
Christopher Waltz (Django Unchained)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)

Django has a powerhouse three all up for grabs in this category, Waltz plus Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson. I’m giving Waltz the edge because he wheedled into this category despite the role being more a lead. Javier Bardem also has the chance to upset here, with his boundary-pushing villain in crowd-favorite Skyfall, but I fell like the BAFTA nom was his reward.

My favorite performance: Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln. Again, he’s not the actor getting all the buzz, but his performance plays against type, soft, understated, and with a fabulous wig. With Daniel-Day Lewis being larger than life and Sally Field being just this side of whacky, Jones’s Thaddeus Stevens emerged as the heart of the piece, pulling the most emotion from the audience, down to that beautiful home scene near the end.

Best Supporting Actress:
Amy Adams (The Master)
Sally Field (Lincoln)
Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables)
Helen Hunt (The Sessions)
Maggie Smith (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel)

The surprise here could be Nicole Kidman’s trainwreck of a performance in The Paperboy, which, despite being in one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a good long while (read why here),  managed to squeak a SAG and Globe nod. I refuse to entertain this possibility in my mind. Another upset could come in the form of Ann Dowd in Compliance, whose performance has been pushed by the entertainment press.

My favorite performance: Samantha Barks in Les Miserables. Surprise! Not even an underdog in this year’s Oscar race, Barks, a newcomer to film but an old hat in the London theatrical scene, gave a fabulous performance in the musical that has been drowned out by Anne Hathaway’s tears. Sure, Barks’ performance is a much more traditional Broadway-style portrayal of one of the greatest ingénues in history as opposed to Hathaways gritty, realistic, singing bad on purpose method. But in a movie where everything and everyone was trying too hard, it was refreshing to see Barks’ understated, dressed-down take on the musical’s most famous song. It was Eponine’s death, not Fantine’s, that felt more tragic.

Best Original Screenplay:
Mark Boal (Zero Dark Thirty)
Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola (Moonrise Kingdom)
Michael Haneke (Amour)
Rian Johnson (Looper)
Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained) 

This is the category for the little film, the indie, the sci-fi or fantasy flick. Looper is possibly the weakest here just because sci-fi is a harder sell than the whimsical tale or a hard journalistic investigative piece. Flight also has a chance, although, Denzel Washington’s antagonistic journey could be a hard sell.

My favorite story this year: Moonrise Kingdom. In the best film Wes Anderson has put out in awhile, this story of two kids running away from the clueless adults that control their lives was the most endearing story of the year.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Tony Kushner (Lincoln)
David Magee (Life of Pi)
David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)
Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)

Argo is also probably a spoiler here, and if it gets in it will oust Life of Pi or Silver Linings PlaybookThe Perks of Being a Wallflower is almost a sure thing, given that the author of the original novel both adapted the screenplay and directed the film. That’s too much for the Academy to handle.

My favorite adaptation this year: Life of Pi. Probably pretty unsurprising to you all by the end of this post, but I really liked Life of Pi. And I was surprised, because I really didn’t like the novel. That is not only the sign of a good adaptation, but a GREAT adaptation. How is it possible that this film made a kid and a tiger on a boat as dramatic, suspenseful, and also humorous and beautiful as they did? How did they take one of the most introspective novels of the past twenty years and make it so utilitarian? A wonderfully adapted script and directed film, that’s how.