Thursday, February 14, 2013

2013 Oscar Predictions

If I had posted my Oscar predictions a mere week or two ago, I probably would have recommended a straight-ticket vote for Lincoln in your office pool.  But things have changed in what is shaping up to be an exciting awards season.

This was a pretty excellent year for movies overall.  The blockbusters were smart, and the smart movies were blockbusters.  (I was genuinely shocked when Lincoln was sold out the first time I tried to see it.) With so many great movies, there wasn't a clear frontrunner as awards season began.  When the Oscar nominees were announced, there was a little bit of clarity: Lincoln had the most nominations, and so became the default front-runner.  Argo, an early favorite from October, was looking to be on the outs with Ben Affleck snubbed in the directing category.  But when it started winning top prizes from the DGA, the PGA, SAG, BAFTA, the AFI, and numerous critics' awards, the race became complicated again.

This year is all about Lincoln v. Argo.  Who will win on Oscar night?  (I mean, other than the fact that everyone is a winner, and it's an honor just to be nominated.)  Let's take a closer look...

  • Argo - Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn
  • Django Unchained - Wylie Stateman
  • Life of Pi - Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton
  • Skyfall - Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers
  • Zero Dark Thirty - Paul N.J. Ottosson
  • Argo - John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia
  • Les Misérables - Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes
  • Life of Pi - Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin
  • Lincoln - Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins
  • Skyfall - Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson
Sound Editing is the creation of the audio texture of a movie.  Think of it as production design for the ears.  Sound Mixing is the recording and blending of the audio, ultimately what you hear and how you hear it in the finished movie.

With its blend of action and exotic locations each requiring their own distinct feel, I think Skyfall will win in Sound Editing.  And with its unique approach to on-set singing, I think Les Misérables will take Sound Mixing.

  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White
  • Life of Pi - Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott
  • Marvel's The Avengers - Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick
  • Prometheus - Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill
  • Snow White and the Huntsman - Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson
This is a jaded point-of-view perhaps, but no less true for it: we've been at critical mass for what digital special effects can accomplish for a long time now.  Scary, writhing alien monsters, epic explosions, superhuman stunts - we've seen it all countless times before.  Standing out from the pack this year are the earthly animals in Life of Pi.  They're imperfect, clearly fake in many scenes.  But I actually think that may be to its benefit, as it raises voter awareness of how much sweat went into making these effects as great as possible.  It's an immense challenge trying to realistically recreate an animal that the human eye is so familiar with.  The CGI artists on this movie did an excellent job.  Expect Pi to win.

  • Anna Karenina - Jacqueline Durran
  • Les Misérables - Paco Delgado
  • Lincoln - Joanna Johnston
  • Mirror Mirror - Eiko Ishioka
  • Snow White and the Huntsman - Colleen Atwood
The period accuracy and large scale of Lincoln, as well as the landmark importance of the movie overall, will bring the award to Joanna Johnston.

  • "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
A really good crop of movies this year.  I loved the originality and execution of "Death of a Shadow," and was moved by the end-of-life drama of "Henry."  But, with it's blend of pathos, dark humor, and character growth and redemption, I expect "Curfew" to win the statue.

  • "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
There's a lot of enthusiasm for "Paperman," and I fully expect it to win.  There's a lot that's great about that movie.  It's beautiful, and full of charm and sweetness.  The drawback for me is that, when the paper airplanes gain sentience and bring the young lovers together, the movie robs these wonderful characters of the victory they deserve to earn by their own agency.

If I had a vote to cast, it would go to the clever, challenging and bittersweet late-stage marriage metaphor of "Head Over Heels."  "Paperman" will win, but do yourself a favor and look up "Head Over Heels."

  • Argo - William Goldenberg
  • Life of Pi - Tim Squyres
  • Lincoln - Michael Kahn
  • Silver Linings Playbook - Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers
  • Zero Dark Thirty - Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg
Veteran editor and longtime Spielberg collaborator Michael Kahn should win this one.

  • "Before My Time" from Chasing Ice - Music and Lyric by J. Ralph
  • "Everybody Needs A Best Friend" from Ted - Music by Walter Murphy; Lyric by Seth MacFarlane
  • "Pi's Lullaby" from Life of Pi - Music by Mychael Danna; Lyric by Bombay Jayashri
  • "Skyfall" from Skyfall - Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
  • "Suddenly" from Les Misérables - Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; Lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil
It's so obvious!  Of the songs listed above, which one can you start humming right now, and at the drop of a hat on any given day?  Skyfall isn't going to win too many awards on Oscar night; it's just not that kind of movie.  But everybody loved it, and everybody loves Adele.  Solid win.

  • Anna Karenina - Dario Marianelli
  • Argo - Alexandre Desplat
  • Life of Pi - Mychael Danna
  • Lincoln - John Williams
  • Skyfall - Thomas Newman
I gotta admit, this is a tough call.  The stately nature of John Williams' Lincoln score could win the day. And the Skyfall score hit all the right drama and action chords.  But I'm looking at five-time nominee Alexandre Desplat to ride the Argo wave to his first Oscar win.

  • Anna Karenina - Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Production Design: Dan Hennah; Set Decoration: Ra Vincent and Simon Bright
  • Les Misérables - Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Anna Lynch-Robinson
  • Life of Pi - Production Design: David Gropman; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
  • Lincoln - Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson
Strong competition in this category. There's a lot of goodwill for Les Misérables.  Life of Pi would be a personal preference for me.  But I think we'll have another win for Lincoln here.  Again, the period accuracy, the scale, and the aura of importance surrounding this film will go a long way.

  • Anna Karenina - Seamus McGarvey
  • Django Unchained - Robert Richardson
  • Life of Pi - Claudio Miranda
  • Lincoln - Janusz Kaminski
  • Skyfall - Roger Deakins
Roger Deakins is great, and it's been acknowledged that he's probably shot the most beautiful Bond film ever.  Speaking of beautiful: Life of Pi.  But I'm looking at this to be another win for Lincoln, and a well-deserved award for the also-great Janusz Kaminski.

  • Brave - Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman
  • Frankenweenie - Tim Burton
  • ParaNorman - Sam Fell and Chris Butler
  • The Pirates! Band of Misfits - Peter Lord
  • Wreck-It Ralph - Rich Moore
2012 was a great year for animation.  A lot of strong stories and innovative visions.  While Frankenweenie and ParaNorman were personal favorites of mine, they're unlikely to win.  Wreck-It Ralph is all charm, heart, humor, and adventure.  It's unusually structured, and the rare movie that's full of surprises.  It took the top prize at the Annie Awards, and it will here too.  (And, hey, what has two thumbs and made a bullseye prediction way back on November 2nd?  This guy!)

  • Amour (Austria)
  • Kon-Tiki (Norway)
  • No (Chile)
  • A Royal Affair (Denmark)
  • War Witch (Canada)
Let's put it this way: only one of these movies is also nominated for Best Picture.  If it's big enough to swim in the ocean with the rest of the Best Pictures, it's a safe bet that it's the biggest fish in this smaller pond.  Amour will win.

  • 5 Broken Cameras
  • The Gatekeepers
  • How to Survive a Plague
  • The Invisible War
  • Searching for Sugar Man
The front-runner here is Searching for Sugar Man.  It's a character piece, it's a mystery, it's an affirmation of the perseverance of art.  But most of all, it's a crowd-pleaser.  The Invisible War could gain traction for its disturbing topic and for being an "activist movie" that has successfully led to reform.  But I think Sugar Man's got it.

  • Amour - Written by Michael Haneke
  • Django Unchained - Written by Quentin Tarantino
  • Flight - Written by John Gatins
  • Moonrise Kingdom - Written by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
  • Zero Dark Thirty - Written by Mark Boal
Man, I'd love to see Moonrise Kingdom take this.  But that seems unlikely, as do Django Unchained and Flight, despite their largely positive critical receptions.  Zero Dark Thirty is strong in the running.  But I'm thinking Amour will be the winner here, coupling with its likely Best Foreign Language Film win.

  • Argo - Screenplay by Chris Terrio
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild - Screenplay by Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin
  • Life of Pi - Screenplay by David Magee
  • Lincoln - Screenplay by Tony Kushner
  • Silver Linings Playbook - Screenplay by David O. Russell
This is another strong category.  Beasts of the Southern Wild was a surprise Best Picture nominee.  It won't win that, but could win this on the strength of that nomination.  Silver Linings is the only movie this year nominated for all the top awards (every acting category, directing, picture).  Argo, as alluded to above, has a lot of momentum from the ancillary awards organizations.  And then, of course, there's Lincoln.  The overall momentum of this film could push it to win in this category, as could the bright, shining name of its writer Tony Kushner.  I'm going to say the best bet is Lincoln.  But don't be surprised if Argo or Silver Linings take it instead.

  • Alan Arkin in Argo
  • Robert De Niro in Silver Linings Playbook
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master
  • Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln
  • Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained
Awesome list of performances here, and each a previous Oscar winner.  It's been a long time since Robert De Niro won, and this role has been widely lauded as his best in decades.  (Full disclosure: I haven't seen it yet.)  But it's been a while for Tommy Lee Jones, too, and he's a standout in a movie full of standout performances.  I think it's his.

  • Amy Adams in The Master
  • Sally Field in Lincoln
  • Anne Hathaway in Les Misérables
  • Helen Hunt in The Sessions
  • Jacki Weaver in Silver Linings Playbook
The story of Les Misérables has been interesting, if not uncommon.  It was highly anticipated.  When it emerged, it was mostly seen as delivering on the hype.  Then the backlash started.  Then there was the backlash against the backlash.  Through it all, one thing has persevered: Anne Hathaway's performance of "I Dreamed a Dream" and, by extension, of Fantine as a whole.  (I understand there's some Hathaway hate going around the internet.  That's the internet for ya.  But I don't think there's any Hathaway hate coming from Academy voters, nor is it affecting their decision-making.)  It's a truly devastating performance.  As time has passed, the buzz has died down.  But when the voters have their ballots in front of them, I'm sure they'll remember how moved they were and vote for Hathaway.

  • Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook
  • Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln
  • Hugh Jackman in Les Misérables
  • Joaquin Phoenix in The Master
  • Denzel Washington in Flight
Again, all great performances here.  But Daniel Day-Lewis is beyond extraordinary.  He absolutely is Abraham Lincoln.  The voice, the look, the physicality - Daniel Day-Lewis constructed his version of Lincoln from the ground up.  I suppose that's nothing new for Day-Lewis, but that doesn't make it any less amazing.  If he doesn't win, there will be riots in the streets.  Or maybe I'll just be a riot of one, quickly suppressed by the most basic of police tactics.  But still, the riot will happen.

  • Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty
  • Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook
  • Emmanuelle Riva in Amour
  • Quvenzhané Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Naomi Watts in The Impossible
This comes down to Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence, both of whom carry their respective movies.  Jennifer Lawrence was nominated for Winter's Bone before most people knew who she was, and her return to the nomination pool bodes well for her.  But Jessica Chastain has been a constant presence in award-winning movies for the past few years, and I think this is the role that will cement her status as a power player.

  • Amour - Michael Haneke
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild - Benh Zeitlin
  • Life of Pi - Ang Lee
  • Lincoln - Steven Spielberg
  • Silver Linings Playbook - David O. Russell
Spielberg will likely win this award.  Because...

  • Amour - Nominees to be determined
  • Argo - Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck and George Clooney, Producers
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild - Dan Janvey, Josh Penn and Michael Gottwald, Producers
  • Django Unchained - Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin and Pilar Savone, Producers
  • Les Misérables - Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward and Cameron Mackintosh, Producers
  • Life of Pi - Gil Netter, Ang Lee and David Womark, Producers
  • Lincoln - Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers
  • Silver Linings Playbook - Donna Gigliotti, Bruce Cohen and Jonathan Gordon, Producers
  • Zero Dark Thirty - Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow and Megan Ellison, Producers
...Argo will win this one.  I barely believe I'm saying it; and that's not a criticism of Argo, it's a criticism of the awards process.

It stands to reason that whoever directed the Best Picture ought to win Best Director.  And that's what happens most years.  But it's not unprecedented for there to be a split between Best Director and Best Picture.  It's happened before.  In fact, it's happened to Steven Spielberg before.  And I think that's what we're in for again this year.

However the nominations are tabulated, Ben Affleck was left out of the Best Director category.  Seemingly as a direct response to that snub, every other major awards organization decided to throw its full weight behind Affleck and Argo.  And as we head into the big show, there's no indication of that trend stopping.  Spielberg will win Best Director, and Argo will win Best Picture.

At least that's the way I see it.  Agree?  Disagree?  Tell me all about it in the comments below.

On Oscar night, I'll be live tweeting during the ceremony @yourdailyjoe.  The 85th Academy Awards will air on February 24, 2013 at 8 eastern/5 pacific on ABC.

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