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Prediction - 2013 Oscars 


I always enjoy playing the Oscar game, even though my predictions are invariably wrong and I’ve long since stopped following the ceremony (partly because it’s on Sky these days, partly because it peaked with David Letterman’s much-maligned stint compering it nearly 20 years ago). I’m in favour of anything that shakes up an occasion that oozes blandness from every pore, but I’d rather it wasn’t the obnoxious Seth MacFarlane doing the shaking (still, better him than Ricky Gervais).

Usually I’ve seen at least half the films up for Best Picture before the big night. This year I can only boast 1 out of 9, which probably doesn’t compare badly with the average Academy voter. The comments about snubs that are usually unfurled in the wake of nominations announcements tend to be from the same quarters that write off the entire Awards generally. Of course the whole thing is silly, unfair, political and skewed. But we still get excited if one of our personal favourites receives attention or, better still, a gong.

This year, I’m already tired of all the Tarantino talk (“He was snubbed!”) and the fanboy critic community raving about his credentials. I may well agree that it’s a fantastic piece of work when I get round to seeing it, but I doubt I’ll be swayed into agreeing that Quentin has anything important to say. He’s strictly “Cool first”, and I can’t take seriously the idea that he is exploring the subject of slavery in anything but the most cynical way.

The other big director snub is Kathryn Bigelow. Does Zero Dark Thirty support torture? Its most voracious (liberal) advocates claim it does exactly the opposite, and that it is a sincere, intelligent and unglamorous piece of journalistic moviemaking. Like Zodiac, but not going ignored by public and critics alike. I’m dubious enough about the whole story we’ve been sold of taking down Bin Laden anyway. More than that, I’m just not that engaged by the material any more than with United 93. But, if it’s a strong film in its own right, I wouldn’t be surprised. Bigelow’s technically a great director. It’s just that she was a much more interesting one before she was taken seriously.

Elsewhere, it appears that Les Miserables is this year’s The Godfather Part III, a film that got nominated because of the prestige attached to it, rather than one that holds any particular merit (the repeated refrain is that it’s horribly directed, which isn’t actually that unusual in Best Picture nominees).  Actually, one might have expected a nomination for The Hobbit if one were to be truly cynical about the process (since all three Lord of the Rings films got nods).

There’s a strong snooze factor in the “worthiness” of some of the names on the list this year. Lincoln has marbled the entire roster, and even the showing of Silver Linings Playbook seems less surprising following David O Russell’s success with The Fighter. Best Supporting Actor (as MacFarlane noted when announcing the nominees) is a dull line-up of previous victors. And the winner is… randomly pick a name out of the hat.

With the pumped-up nominee numbers, a foreign language film slipping through is pretty much a given these days. The only surprise in the main categories is Benh Zeitlin’s director nod for Beasts of the Southern Wild. He’s probably been offered a comic book franchise already. I’m mildly surprised that John Hawkes didn’t get a nod but Helen Hunt did, but then the disability subject matter isn’t the most palatable for Academy members this time. They’re a fickle bunch (as was noted in Tropic Thunder).

It’s nice to see the variety in the Best Animated Feature category, especially as most of the nominees aren’t big hitters. I suspect that the gong will go to one that is, however.

So, without further delay, my picks for the win and the ones I’d like to see get the ticket.

Best Picture

Winner: Lincoln
I’d like to Win: Pass

I’m passing because I haven’t seen enough to warrant a view. Lincoln’s a shoe-in for the win, though. It’s not just that this is a prestige project about one America’s most significant historical figures, it’s that it has received some of the biggest accolades of Spielberg’s career. It’s not just cinematic, it’s literate (how many Spielberg films can you claim that for?) which puts it instantly ahead of previous awards-teaser from the ‘berg (Schindler, Private Ryan). Sure, there’s an argument for Life of Pi but I don’t see it picking up the big prizes. Argo’s Globe upset does nothing to convince me it’s a contender, but it does keep the conversation going a bit longer.

Best Director

Winner: Steven Spielberg
I’d like to Win: Benh Zeitlin

Safe, predictable, and the Academy like repeat successes to cement the status of a darling. Of course, Spielberg wasn’t a darling for a long time but since Schindler he’s been held to their bosom like a beardy wee bairn.

Zeitlin would be my choice, just because it would be a breath of fresh air. I’m a fan of Russell, and I liked Playbook, but it’s just an enjoyable romance that is receiving undeserved awards attention. Haneke, nah.

Best Actor

Winner: Daniel Day-Lewis
I’d like to win: Joaquin Phoenix

Again; safe, predictable. And an encouragement for Daniel to keep making a movie every five years. And quite something if he gets it for going with an authentically high-pitched voice for Abe.

I’d pick Phoenix because it’s the raw performance in an unfriendly film. It’s a fairly good year performers with substance (ab)use issues (taking them or not taking them). I liked Cooper in Playbook, but the “I’m cured!” pay-off plays against his work earlier in the film.

Best Actress

Winner: Jennifer Lawrence
I’d like to win: Jennifer Lawrence

She’s young, she’s talented, and she’s gorgeous and gracious. She’s also had a year where commercial success has put her at the top of the pack. And the Academy likes that kind of thing; a hit in one film but the real Oscar-maker in another. She’s got the young, cute factor (Quvenzhane Wallis) and old, “respect is due” (Emmanuelle Riva) to contend with, but I think she will prevail, and I think she deserves it too; she manages her Playbook character with a skill and sensitivity that isn’t necessarily there on paper, and it’s a much less showy part than Cooper’’s. Chastain has the Zero Dark’s controversy to contend with, and it’s even less of a showy part, and certainly less sympathetic than any of the other contenders.

Best Supporting Actor

Winner: Robert De Niro
I’d like to win: Philip Seymour Hoffman

I’m not sure why I’m coming out like some kind of Paul Thomas Anderson groupie. I don’t even like most of his pictures. But he’s given his actors interesting and distinct parts, which is more than the other contenders, all previous winners, have. De Niro didn’t do much for me in Playbook, but it feels like he might get recognition for two decades of half-arsed performances in half-arsed films. He hasn’t won since Raging Bull, and the Academy like to reheat a soggy cabbage on occasion. Waltz is doing exactly the kind of seductive turn that got him recognition in his last Tarantino movie. Which is why he won’t be rewarded. Arkin’s had his Oscar.

Best Supporting Actress

Winner: Sally Field
I’d like to win: Amy Adams

Yes, I’m betting on a series of triumvirates this year (Spielberg, Day-Lewis, De Niro, Field) and on the desire for a “You really, really, really, love me” speech. Smart money is on Anne Hathaway taking it, but it seems such a lock – particularly post Golden Globe – that I’m looking for an upset. I don’t thinking singing one song with heart and cutting your hair is enough for recognition, but in Hollywood just shorning your locks will get a Lifetime Achievement Award.

I’m glad to see Jacki Weaver in there for Playbook, since it’s a minimalist role that still stood out. But I want Amy Adams to win. Because I love Amy Adams, not because I think PTA’s a genius (see also above).

Best Original Screenplay

Winner: Amour
I’d like to win: (Moonrise Kingdom)

I suspect a steering clear of Tarantino (who grabbed the Globe, and probably wasn’t feigning surprise) and Boal, as it would stoke discussion of the approach of the writers that gave rise to the controversies in their films. Gatins’ script hasn’t met with universal acclaim (although that’s not a preventative). I’m more inclined to think Haneke might get recognition in this category.

As for my personal pick, it’s with reservations as I don’t think Moonrise is quite the undiluted classic that many do. But it’s well written, funny and insightful. And quirky; it’s Wes Anderson, after all.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Winner: Lincoln
I’d like to win: Pass

Either Argo gets no major recognition or it gets it in this category. The script has received praise for juggling competing tones, but also received criticism that the characters are very thin. But I’m teetering towards Lincoln. It’s a strong category, and all of the contenders have received praise, although Playbook is more about the performances than the script and some of the choices in Pi have been much critiqued.

Best Editing

Winner: Zero Dark Thirty
I’d like to win: Pass

Bigelow has form in the editing category. William Goldbeg has dual nominations (Argo also). Lincoln might give Spielberg regular Michael Kahn another win, but a technical category or two seems right for Zero.

Best Cinematography

Winner: Life of Pi
I’d like to win: Skyfall

I wouldn’t rule out Kaminski for Lincoln, but I suspect Lincoln will take the biggies and leave room in some of the lesser categories. Skyfall is a lovely looking film but, while back-to-back wins for Roger Deakins are entirely possible, I think it will go to another that has attracted attention for its visual spendour (and its use of 3D).

Best Art Direction

Winner: Anna Karenina
I’d like to win: Pass

Tim Burton doesn’t have a contender this year, so we can rule out an obvious pick. Art Direction and Cinematography sometimes go hand-in-hand, so Pi might take it if it bags the latter. Again, it might be part of a Lincoln sweep. Or Les Miserables may get to console itself with some beautiful-looking sets. I’m going for a left-field choice, on paper probably the outsider (actually, I think that’s The Hobbit, which doesn’t have a chance).

Best Costume Design

Winner: Anna Karenina
I’d like to win: Pass

Costume Design follows its own path, as long as it’s historical and pretty. Les Mis has half the characters wearing rags, so I’m not sure it’s a favourite.
Mirror Mirror is shiny and “BIG” which has precedent (Alice in Wonderland), and more likely in that sense than Snow White and the Huntsman. Meanwhile Lincoln is precise and painstaking. I’m picking the outsider, again.

Best Make-up

Winner: Les Miserables
I’d like to win: Pass

More a process of elimination. If Hitchcock was the spitting image of the director I might be swayed. And The Hobbit, I’m thinking, will walk away empty-handed. That leaves Les Mis. I’m not convinced it’s showy enough; there’s nary a prosthetic nose in sight. But it’s what I’m stuck with.

Best Visual Effects

Winner: Life of Pi
I’d like to win: Life of Pi

Elements in both Prometheus and The Hobbit are dazzling; others are utterly underwhelming. Snow White has some very good work on the dwarves (better than in Jackson’s film) while The Avengers does big mayhem effectively. But the tiger has to take the prize, really.

Best Sound

Winner: Argo
I’d like to win: Skyfall

I could quite see Argo walking away with diddly, but it’s a movie about movies, so there might be a bit of love in the tech categories. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lincoln take it, but for a Spielberg movie there’s much less focus on the technical aspects than the performances and theme. Skyfall is a possible, but really does the Academy want to fix it some 50th Birthday awards? Maybe.

Best Sound Editing

Winner: Argo
I’d like to win: Skyfall

If Zero Dark had a nomination for Best Sound I’d be more inclined to lock it for Sound Editing. As it is, I’m running with Argo again. But Skyfall might well take it.

Best Original Score

Winner: Skyfall
I’d like to win: Skyfall

I’m quite possibly being my most dismissive here, but all the other scores sound exactly like the most obvious thing a composer could do with the material. Except in John Williams cases, where the score is the most obvious thing John Williams does with any material .  Life of Pi took the Golden Globe, so maybe that’s the tune voters are playing to. But Thomas Newman’s take on a Bond score is fresh and vibrant, possibly the best aspect of the film.

Best Original Song

Winner: Skyfall
I’d like to win: Skyfall

I’m split as to whether Suddenly or the Bond song will waltz away happy. By rights, Adele singing “Skyfor, Crumbor” should win; it’s a better song, better sung (it also took the Globe, although the Best Song category rarely seems to match the Oscar winner). It’s also the first time since the Roger Moore era that a Bond song has been nominated. But Les Miserables won’t get this chance again, and Hugh Jackman is an Oscar darling.

Best Animated Feature

Winner: Brave
I’d like to win: Pass

Brave’s the only one I’ve seen, but I’m basing the win on it being the least idiosyncratic on the list. Both Frankenweenie and Paranorman tend to the darkly comic takes on the horror genre (not something the Academy wants to condone) while The Pirates! probably just doesn’t have the support. Brave may not have been universally lauded, but it’s Pixar back making quality animation (it’s Globe win is probably representative of how this will go).

Best Foreign Language Picture

Winner: Amour
I’d like to win: Pass

Surely Amour will follow other Best Picture-nominated foreign language films and take Best Foreign Language Picture as consolation prize (Life is Beautiful, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon)? Michael Haneke’s work doesn’t necessarily always win me over, but he has critical acclaim on his side. The other options are a Danish historical drama, a Pinochet-era Chilean film, a Norwegian film about Thor Heyerdal and the story of a 14-year old pregnant girl in sub-Sharan Africa telling her unborn child how she became a child soldier.

Best Documentary Feature

Winner: Searching for Sugar Man
I’d like to win: Pass

Sugar Man has met with the best box office, and it’s certainly the most audience-friendly (about a forgotten ‘70s folk singer who became an icon in South Africa). AIDS activism account How to Survive a Plague has received acclaim, and could see the Academy in a receptive mood to big issues. But one could say the same for The Invisible War, about rape of women soldiers in the US military. 5 Broken Cameras concerns a Palestinian farmer’s peaceful resistance against the Israeli army. The third nomination relating to military matters, The Gatekeepers, concerns the Israeli security agency, Shin Bet, interviewing its former heads.

Best Documentary Short

Winner: Kings Point
I’d like to win: Pass

I haven’t the faintest idea, to be honest. A film about a young, homeless, immigrant artist (Inocente), Florida retirees (Kings Point), a hair salon that deals with cancer patients (Mondays at Racine), Rwandan children receiving heart surgery in Sudan (Open Heart), New York canners (Redemption).

Best Animated Short

Winner: Paperman
I’d like to win: Paperman

Paperman, a Disney short about an office worker making paper planes, will likely nab it. The others; Adam and a dog in the Garden of Eden, turning objects into fresh guacamole, a long-married couple that has grown apart, the Simpsons taking the piss out of Ayn Rand.

Best Live Action Short

Winner: Asad
I’d like to win: Pass

No idea. A boy living in war-torn Somalia, a coming-of-age tale in war-torn Afghanistan, an uncle required to look after his niece for a couple of hours, a fantasy about a dead WWI soldier who discovers the woman he loved has found someone else, a pianist who loses the love of his life.


If it goes anything like the above, it will be a very all-embracing ceremony that recognises most of the main players in some capacity. The glaring omission would be Beasts of the Southern Wild, but that has won just by getting nominated. Five wins for Lincoln seems about right; it could go to seven or eight, but it’s a year with a strong line-up of acclaimed pictures so sweeping the board may not feel right. I’d say the pictures I’m most iffy on are Anna Karenina and Les Miserables; the latter could end up with more (Hathaway, Song) and the former nothing at all.

Lincoln – 5
Silver Linings Playbook - 2
Life of Pi – 2
Amour – 2
Argo -2
Anna Karenina – 2
Skyfall – 2
Zero Dark Thirty - 1
Les Miserables - 1


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