Oscar Picks by Doug Heller

By Doug Heller

The time has come once again to read the tea leaves of the awards season and attempt to

prognosticate the Oscars. Some years, the choices are no brainers and other times you just throw your

guesses against the wall and see what sticks. This year, there are clear choices that anyone paying

attention cannot deny and there are toss ups that no matter who or what film wins it will be called as an

upset in the reporting. I’ll just say right now, I’m not going to get into the reeds of short films and

production/set design. I haven’t seen any of the doc or live action shorts and only one of the animated

shorts so I cannot make an accurate prediction on them. There are other categories that I will make

guesses on based on frontrunners despite not seeing most of the nominees, like in Foreign Language

Film and Best Documentary. Now, my picks:

Best Picture

Argo, no doubt about it. None. I’ll explain why. Many people seem to think that Best Picture is

a two-way race between Argo and Lincoln with Life of Pi running close behind and Django Unchained as

a dark horse. Django Unchained, great as it is, will not win because the Academy is too afraid to give

their most prestigious award to a film like this. It will likely not go home empty-handed, but I’ll get to

that later. I would not mind Life of Pi or Lincoln winning, but they won’t. My main indicators here are

the amount of awards season trophies Argo has picked up. Argo has won the Producer’s Guild award for

Best Picture, the Screen Actor’s Guild for Best Ensemble (SAG’s Best Picture, basically), the WGA’s Best

Adapted Screenplay and the Director’s Guild award for Best Director. That last one is the main one. The

DGA has accurately predicted Best Director and Best Picture for 58 of their 64 years of giving the award.

That is why Argo will win Best Picture.

Best Director

Steven Spielberg will likely win for Best Director. “Wait” you may be thinking. “I thought you

said the DGA award winner wins Best Picture and Best Director?” That’s right, I did. However, although

Ben Affleck did win the DGA award for Best Director, he was inexplicably not nominated for the Oscar

for Best Achievement in Direction and I do not think a write-in has ever won an Oscar (at least not since

the 30s if it happened). With Affleck removed from the equation, this category becomes a true toss-up

and may be the most exciting award of the night. I think Spielberg will win for various reasons. First

because the Academy loves to nominate the hell out of Spielberg’s films then not give them much of

anything in the way of awards (for reference, see Jaws, E.T., The Color Purple, Saving Private Ryan and

Munich). Michael Haneke will not win simply on the virtue that he directed a film not in the English

Language and the Academy again loves to nominate directors from other countries, but not awarding

them (Fellini, Truffaut, Bergman, Kurosawa, Benigni, Hallstrom and others can attest to this) and Behn

Zietlin won’t win because Beasts of the Southern Wild, amazing as it is, is his debut feature and it was a

shock that he was nominated in the first place. That leaves Ang Lee and David O. Russell as the main

competition to Spielberg. Each has a shot at the trophy, but I don’t think either will take it because of

the way their films are viewed. Life of Pi is seen as a great technical achievement, with most of the

conversation on the cinematography and visual effects and Silver Linings Playbook is seen as an actor’s

showcase with little attention paid to much of anything else in the film. So I think that eliminates both

of them.

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Daniel Day-Lewis- I really don’t think I need to spend much time on this one. Day-Lewis

practically won this award after the first still picture of him in Lincoln make-up was released. I agree

with Stephen Colbert that they should just remake the Oscar in the image of Day-Lewis. I hate to say

this one is ‘in the bag’, but there is little doubt here. As much as I would love to see Joaquin Phoenix to

win for The Master because of his amazing performance, same with Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings

Playbook (Washington in Flight was good, but I don’t want that film to win anything…not a big fan and

Jackman in Les Miserables…I hated Les Mis so much I don’t want to talk about it). What has happened

here is what happened to Leonardo DiCaprio in 2004. The Oscar was his for his amazing portrayal of

Howard Hughes in Scorsese’s The Aviator in any other year, but this one just happened to also have

Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles and all competition faded away. Day-Lewis almost can’t lose.

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Jennifer Lawrence – Lawrence has made quite a splash in the last couple of years. She was

nominated in this category in 2010 for the under-seen Winter’s Bone and since has become something

of a phenomenon. Her role in Silver Linings Playbook was magnificent and will likely be rewarded. If

asked a month ago, I would have said Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty, but the momentum has gone

out of that. She was very good and so was the film, but controversy surrounding the film has dragged

down its chances. The dark horse is Emmanuelle Riva for Amour. Riva is the oldest person ever

nominated in this category and she is spellbinding in Amour. Her brave performance deserves

recognition, but the publicity machine for Silver Linings Playbook may be indomitable. Quvenzhane

Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild is a revelation, but her age is a factor here. The Academy doesn’t

like to reward young performers with its highest honor because of the pressure it places on them for the

rest of their career. Notable exceptions are Tatum O’Neil in Paper Moon (1973) and Anna Paquin for

The Piano (1993), but these were in the Supporting category. Oscar has never bestowed its honor on a

first time actor or actress, and combined with the fact that Wallis is only 9 (6 when the film was shot)

will work against her. That leaves Naomi Watts for The Impossible, a film that was not widely seen (and

missed by me as well) but highly regarded. Watts seems to be in here as a token nomination for the

film, which lessens her chances significantly. I’d love to see Watts win eventually, but this is not her


Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Robert De Niro- This is another tough call. De Niro gave his best performance in nearly fifteen

years in Silver Linings Playbook, since at least Jackie Brown (1997) or Casino (1995). That will be looked

upon favorably for him. His main competition is Tommy Lee Jones who also hasn’t had many good parts

in the last ten or so years. This year, this category is especially difficult because all of the nominees are

previous winners, so there is no one to get the ‘Oh, let’s give one to the guy who hasn’t won yet’ vote.

I’d love to see Phillip Seymour Hoffman win for The Master because I loved the film and want it to win

as much as possible, but his chances are slim. Same with Alan Arkin for Argo and Christoph Waltz for

Django Unchained. As great as those pictures are, Arkin and Waltz are recent winners in this category,

with Arkin taking home the Oscar in 2007 for Little Miss Sunshine and Waltz even more recently in 2009

for Inglorious Basterds. That limits their chances. It’ll be between De Niro and Jones, but I think

because De Niro hasn’t won since 1980, that gives him the edge.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Anne Hathaway- Despite the fact that she’s only in about 20 minutes of a dreadful 158 minutet

film, Hathaway is the frontrunner and will ultimately win here. I’m glad that she’ll pick up an Oscar,

because I think she’s a fantastic actress, I just wish it were for a better film. I think this is her make-up

Oscar because she didn’t win for Rachael Getting Married (2008). I would rather see Amy Adams win for

The Master, because as I’ve said, I’d like to see that film win something and because Adams is one of the

best actresses working today and with three prior nominations I think this should have been her time.

Unfortunately, the tide is against her and The Master was not something easily explained and therefore

feared by Academy voters. Of the rest of the field, Sally Field was her usual amazing self in Lincoln, but

her already having two Oscars virtually eliminates her from the competition. Helen Hunt also has one

and her nomination was a token for The Sessions, like Watts’ for The Impossible. Jacki Weaver is left,

for Silver Linings Playbook and as good as that film is, Weaver is wasted in it and I think that will impact

her chances. If there is a dark horse, though, it is Weaver. There could be a groundswell for Silver

Linings Playbook and her wining could signal that. It is unlikely, though.

Best Original Screenplay

Django Unchained- This is the category that most rewards boldness, and Django Unchained

couldn’t be described as anything but bold. This is where Django will win mostly because the Academy

will want to give Tarantino something for it. As much as I would love to see Wes Anderson pick up the

golden statue for anything, but especially the wonderful Moonrise Kingdom, it won’t happen. Mark Boal

for Zero Dark Thirty likely won’t win for the same reason Jessica Chastain won’t, the controversy, and

because he recently won for The Hurt Locker in 2009. Flight shouldn’t win because there were too

many problems with the script, in my opinion, and shouldn’t have been nominated again in my opinion.

The dark horse is Amour. The film is heavily nominated for one not in English and is not only highly

praised, it’s a great film. It could upset QT’s chances.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Argo- If the other awards shows are to be indicators at all, and they normally are, Chris Terrio

will take this one for Argo, but not without steep competition from Tony Kushner’s unbelievable work

on Lincoln with David O. Russell as the dark horse. Russell has a shot simply because of the building

momentum for Silver Linings Playbook. Outside chances are David Magee for Life of Pi and Lucy Alibar

and Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild. Magee could pull this off simply because Life of Pi was

said to be unfilmable and it turned out to be a pretty fantastic picture, but there is no push for him.

Beasts is amazing, but I think it will go home empty handed. The only chance for it is if people want to

award this as a consolation for not picking up any of the other three awards it was nominated for.

Okay, now for the lightening round. The rest are just my picks for winners.

Best Animated Feature- Wreck-It Ralph

Best Film Editing- Argo

Best Cinematography- Life of Pi

Best Visual Effects- Life of Pi

Best Original Score- Life of PI

Best Original Song- Skyfall

Best Foreign Language Film- Amour

Sr. Staff Film Critic: I believe film occupies a rare place as art, entertainment, historical records and pure joy. I love all films, good and bad, from every time period with an affinity to Classical Hollywood in general, but samurai, sci-fi and noir specifically. My BA is in Film Studies from Pitt and my MA is in Education. My goal is to be able to ignite a love of film in others that is similar to my own.
  • http://www.facebook.com/bryan.murray.33 Bryan Murray

    Your picks were very close , Congrats .