The time has come to make picks and predictions for the Academy awards. So a few ground rules:

  1. In order to pick a nominee (my selection, not my prediction for who will actually win) I have to have seen the movie in question. All nominees which I have seen in each category will appear in bold.
  2. I must make one and only one selection in each category, although my personal pick may differ from my predicted winner in a given category.
  3. I will not be making picks or predictions in any categories in which I haven’t seen any of the nominees.

So here goes nothing. Oh, and if you want to skip to a particular category, click the link below:

Best Picture
Actor in a Leading Role
Actress in a Leading Role
Supporting Actor
Supporting Actress
Best Animated Feature
Best Director
Original Screenplay
Adapted Screenplay
Original Song
Foreign Language Film
Cinematography
Costume Design
Editing
Hair and Makeup
Original Score
Production Design
Animated Short Film
Visual Effects

Best Picture

The Nominees:

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

I have no idea what “Life of Pi” or “Les Miserables” are doing on this list. That said, there were a bunch of strong films. I think it probably comes down to “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Argo,” and maybe “Amour” or “Lincoln.”

Pick: “Zero Dark Thirty” – My favorite of all the nominees for it’s unflinching, smart portrayal of the hunt for Osama bin Laden

Prediction “Argo” – Until recently I would have said it would have gone to “Zero Dark Thirty,” but the extended run of success “Argo” has had in every other major awards night finally has me convinced that’s where the academy is going

Actor in a Leading Role

Bradley Cooper – “Silver Linings Playbook”
Daniel Day-Lewis – “Lincoln”
Hugh Jackman – “Les Miserables”
Joaquin Phoenix – “The Master”
Denzel Washington – “Flight”

It seems like Daniel Day-Lewis has been the front runner since before “Lincoln” even premiered, and Jackman gets serious consideration for carrying large sections of “Les Miserables.” I don’t think Jackman’s performance was strong enough to win it, and likely it’ll end up with Day-Lewis by default. Bradley Cooper is the spoiler, here, and I actually think he deserves the win.

Pick: Bradley Cooper – More than any other of these nominees, he became his character to me

Prediction: Daniel Day-Lewis – The Academy loves him too much, and his performance was strong

Actress in a Leading Role

Jessica Chastain – “Zero Dark Thirty”
Jennifer Lawrence – “Silver Linings Playbook”
Emmanuelle Riva – “Amour”
Quvenzhané Wallis – “Beasts of Southern Wild”
Naomi Watts – “The Impossible”

This is going to be one of the toughest awards to give, and with respect to Wallis’s performance (and I assume Watts’s as well) this is a three woman race. Chastain had the early momentum, but Lawrence’s wins give it to her coming down the stretch. I didn’t think quite as highly of Lawrence’s performance as most, but it was still very good. Watch out for Riva, though. Say what you will about “Amour,” but playing someone half-paralyzed by a stroke cannot be easy.

Pick: Jessica Chastain – A brilliant lead performance in my favorite movie of this awards season

Prediction: Jessica Chastain – This is a bit of an upset pick. There’s a very good chance that Lawrence or Riva walks away with this one, but I thin Chastain does bring home the hardware in the end.

Supporting Actor

Alan Arkin – “Argo”
Robert De Niro – “Silver Linings Playbook”
Philip Seymour Hoffman – “The Master”
Tommy Lee Jones – “Lincoln”
Christolph Waltz – “Django Unchained”

In my humble opinion Tommy Lee Jones should run away with this award, and that’s in no way an indictment of the other nominees. Alan Arkin was fine, but he didn’t see enough screen time to garner a win, which means this is really a two man race between Christoph Waltz and Robert De Niro. It’s hard to argue with either one, although I’ll be much happier if Waltz wins.

Pick: Tommy Lee Jones – It may have been a role quite similar to others we’ve seen him in before, but it doesn’t mean he didn’t absolutely nail this role.

Prediction: Robert De Niro – It’s a very tight one, but I’m going to say the Academy goes with the somewhat more familiar De Niro in a film that’s easier for most members to wrap their heads around. Tarantino works against Waltz here.

Supporting Actress

Amy Adams – “The Master”
Sally Field – “Lincoln”
Anne Hathaway – “Les Miserables”
Helen Hunt – “The Sessions”
Jackie Weaver – “Silver Linings Playbook”

It’s hard to imagine Anne Hathaway not winning this one, and she’d certainly deserve the win if it does fall that way. Sally Field turned in a strong performance, but it’s Jackie Weaver that presents the real challenge here.

Pick: Anne Hathaway – She was, perhaps, the brightest spot in “Les Miserables” and her vocal performance was more than just a surprise in terms of quality.

Prediction: Anne Hathaway – The grassroots movement for Weaver isn’t strong enough to dethrone Hathaway

Best Animated Feature

“Brave”
“Frankenweenie”
“ParaNorman”
“The Pirates! Band of Misfits”
“Wreck-It Ralph”

Hard for me to say much about this one, obviously, other than the fact that “Wreck-It Ralph” was very good.

Pick: “Wreck-It Ralph” – Beyond this being default, “Wreck-It Ralph” is a deserving winner.

Prediction: “ParaNorman” – This comes simply by virtue of the fact that I don’t think the Academy is going to respond to “Wreck-It Ralph”s video game humor. “Brave” wasn’t great, at least by reputation, and I have no idea what “Pirates” is. Shot in the dark.

Best Director

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

As much as I didn’t like “Life of Pi” I thought it Ang Lee did a good job with it. Ben Zeitlin is the newcomer, and I think he gets some love for that. Really, this is probably the most wide open major category, but it’s the omissions of Katheryn Bigelow and, particularly given his success in other awards, Ben Affleck which mark this list of nominees most strongly.

Pick: Steven Spielberg – Lincoln had its flaws, but Spielberg was as adept as ever at juggling its many pieces

Prediction: Steven Spielberg – Sort of by default. Lee and Zeitlin will get some consideration, but I think Spielberg walks away with the hardware.

Original Screenplay

“Amour” – Michael Haneke
“Django Unchained” – Quentin Tarantino
“Flight” – John Gatins
“Moonrise Kingdom” – Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
“Zero Dark Thirty” – Mark Boal

This is an incredibly hard category to judge given that I haven’t read the screenplays myself. That said, there are things you can look for in a film that are the work of the writer alone. I don’t think flight should have been nominated. There were some really strong parts to it, but it lacked the subtlety it needed.

Pick: “Django Unchained” – Quentin Tarantino –  There was so much that annoyed me in “Django” as I’ve said previously, but there was also so much it got right, and a lot of that has to be attributed to Tarantino’s screenplay. Sharper dialogue, for one, was not written this past year.

Prediction: “Django Unchained” – Quentin Tarantino – I’d say Boal challenges, but buzz hasn’t been strong for “Zero Dark” and it’s torture hiccup in the media may have taken it down a peg. The Academy gives Tarantino the love.

Adapted Screenplay

“Argo” – Chris Terrio
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” – Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin
“Life of Pi” – David Magee
“Lincoln” – Tony Kushner
“Silver Linings Playbook” – David O. Russell

Once again, “Life of Pi” has no place being nominated. That was an abysmal hackjob of an adaptation (with due appreciation for the challenges it posed in the first place). Kushner’s going to get some love for “Lincoln” and while he’s a good writer it’s one of the weaker points of the film in my opinion. I see it as a race among the other three nominees. Oh, and “The Hobbit” should have gotten a nomination.

Pick: “Beasts of the Southern Wild” – Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin – I was tempted to give this to “Silver Linings” but I just did not like the way that film ended. Again, difficult category to judge having not read the scripts myself.

Prediction: “Argo” – Chris Terrio – “Lincoln” and “Beasts” both have outside spoiler chances, but I really can’t see this one not going “Argo”s way.

Original Song

“Before My Time” from “Chasing Ice,” music and lyrics by J. Ralph
“Everybody Needs a Best Friend” from “Ted,” music by Walter Murphy, lyrics by Seth MacFarlane
“Pi’s Lullaby” from “Life of Pi,” music by Mychael Danna, lyrics by Bombay Jayashri
“Skyfall” from “Skyfall,” music and lyrics by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
“Suddenly” from “Les Miserables,” music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil

The cool part about this category is that they all get performed during the Oscar ceremony, so everyone can form a reasonable opinion about the actual quality of the song. The bad part is that “Suddenly” is going to be revealed for just how bad it is out of context. Why did they feel the need to add a song to the classic musical? Oh yeah, this category.

Pick: “Skyfall” – This is the only song I remember other than suddenly. It was good.

Prediction: “Skyfall” – Does anyone actually believe this won’t win?

Foreign Language Film

“Amour” (Austria)
“Kon-Tiki” (Norway)
“No” (Chile)
“A Royal Affair” (Denmark)
“War Witch” (Canada)

While I realize it’s technically correct (and that it may well be in French) it remains somewhat comical to me that Canadian films can win in this category. You never see a Spanish language U.S. film in this category, for instance. It’s also funny that “Amour” is technically from Austria even though it’s in French and takes place in Paris.

Pick: “Amour” – By default, but it was a very good movie with an exceptional leading performance. Even if the camera was weird at times.

Prediction: “Amour” – Let’s look at the score sheet: of the five nominees, one was also nominated for Best Picture. Hmmm…

Cinematography

“Anna Karenina”
“Django Unchained”
“Life of Pi”
“Lincoln”
“Skyfall”

This isn’t a category I usually pay that much attention to because I tend only to notice the extremes when it comes to cinematography. If cinematography across film is a bell curve, I only take special notes a few standard deviations in either direction.

Pick: “Django Unchained” – This was one of the places I noticed the cinematography. I loved the was so many shots in this movie were framed.

Prediction: “Skyfall” – I think it’s got the grassroots support, and it was a very pretty movie.

Costume Design

“Anna Karenina”
“Les Miserables”
“Lincoln”
“Mirror Mirror”
“Snow White and the Huntsman”

I cannot believe “The Hobbit” didn’t get nominated. Really, I can’t understand that. I’m not sure I would have picked it over either of the 19th century period pieces I did see, but still. It seems like “Anna Karenina” could come up with something here just because it’s nominated in several of these types of categories.

Pick: “Lincoln” – It just looked sharper than “Les Miserables” to me.

Prediction: “Lincoln” – I think this will probably come down to “Lincoln” and “Anna Karenina” and could go either way.

Editing

“Argo”
“Life of Pi”
“Lincoln”
“Silver Linings Playbook”
“Zero Dark Thirty”

Even more so than the screenplay categories, this one’s hard to judge (well, at least for me).

Pick: “Zero Dark Thirty” – This is as much me tossing my favorite nominee another award for good filmmaking as much as it is anything else.

Prediction: “Argo” – But “Argo” seems to be the award season’s critical darling, so it probably wins.

Hair and Makeup

“Hitchcock”
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
“Les Miserables”

Can “The Hobbit” not win this one after turning thirteen people into dwarves of Middle Earth?

Pick: “The Hobbit” – With all the prostheses that went into this film I can’t imagine it not winning.

Prediction: “The Hobbit”See above.

Original Score

“Anna Karenina”
“Argo”
“Life of Pi”
“Lincoln”
“Skyfall”

It seems funny to see a movie like “Skyfall” in this category. Yes, I get that it’s an original score, but it also has to be building on past Bond themes.

Pick: “Skyfall” – If I went back through and listened to the scores of all the films I’m not sure this would be my choice, but I’m not doing that so this wins by being the most memorable.

Prediction: “Skyfall” – I wouldn’t be shocked to see “Life of Pi,” or really any of the nominees, win but I think this stays a 007 affair.

Production Design

“Anna Karenina”
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
“Les Miserables”
“Life of Pi”
“Lincoln”

With the exception of “Life of Pi” (yes, I know I sound like a broken record. I can’t help it if the Academy was ridiculous in its nominations!) any of these would be deserving.

Pick: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” – I loved this movie, and a big part of that was the production design. It nailed the tonal difference between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Prediction: “Les Miserables” – The production design for “Les Mis” was very cool, and I think particularly given its theatrical underpinnings the Academy tosses this award their direction. Anna Karenina could be a spoiler.

Animated Short Film

“Adam and Dog”
“Fresh Guacamole”
“Head over Heels”
“Maggie Simpson in ‘The Longest Daycare’”
“Paperman”

“Paperman” showed before “Wreck-It Ralph” and was absolutely phenomenal.

Pick: “Paperman” – If you haven’t seen it, it’s now online here.

Prediction: “Paperman” – I know nothing about any of the other nominees, but they’d have to be pretty good to take down “Paperman.”

Visual Effects

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
“Life of Pi”
“Marvel’s The Avengers”
“Prometheus”
“Snow White and the Huntsman”

The thing that’s always funny to me in this category is that most of the effects from the original Star Wars look at least as good to me as anything on this list. The difference, of course, is computers. “The Avengers” would have never been possible in the ’70s and ’80s. All of these movies did have some fantastic visual effects, though.

Pick: “Marvel’s The Avengers” – Let’s show ILM the love for making Iron Man, the Hulk, and the rest look fantastic.

Prediction: “Marvel’s The Avengers” – “Life of Pi” is going to get serious consideration because of the tiger, and that was pretty incredible. In the end, though, I think this goes to the popular choice.

And that’s the list! Yes, I’ve left several categories off, but whereas I can fake an informed opinion in some of these categories, stuff like sound mixing and editing would have required me to go back and watch every nominee over again. Not that I’d be sorry to, in most cases, but I have neither the time nor the financial resources to do that.

Check back after the Oscars for an update with my score on the predictions!

Advertisements