Unplugged

I’m not sure people are really aware of just how much we rely on technology today.

As a former and future outdoor professional, I already knew how liberating a week without technology could be. After all, you can’t take your iPad on a backpacking trip through the Arizona canyons or Virginia wilderness. You can take your phone, but it won’t work in the backcountry anyway. Even a satellite phone is spotty and expensive. That’s reason enough to only use it for emergencies. Some of my fondest college memories came when I was unplugged in the wilderness. I was alone with my co-leads, my trip mates, and nature. Who needs a movie when you can lay in a sleeping bag on slick rock looking up at stars so bright and vast that it brings you to tears?

Image

Who needs a TV when you have this? (Arizona)

I didn’t make the decision to unplug for a week in a day. It was over the course of several weeks that it dawned on me I was relying FAR too heavily on technology. My main enemy, ironically, was the Olympic Games.

Once every four years (two years, really, but it sounds a lot cooler saying ever four years) I splurge for the outrageous installation fees and first-time payments so that I can have cable and DVR during the two-week-long Olympic Games.

To many people (my parents, probably) that is an absurd reason to spend $200. But for an Olympic hopeful, it’s completely logical. Actors, after all, will attend other shows to fine-tune their craft. Film stars, I assume, go to the movies to support their fellows and to gain knowledge. It’s no different with athletes. The Olympics are our endgame, and so there is nothing that will keep us from watching them. I went so far during London 2012 as to schedule time off of work so I could watch the quarterfinals, semifinals and Olympic final of the women’s soccer tournament. It’s a good thing I did, too. I neglected to take the day off after the women’s skeleton races during Sochi, and I was emotionally affected by it five hours later at the start of my shift that I had trouble concentrating on my tables.

But I digress.

After two straight weeks of almost 24-hour television (seriously, it was on almost straight through the night), I was burnt out. Actually, after only a week and a half of the Games, I realized I just was not enjoying having cable at all. I love the Olympics. I love television (I’m a hard-core fan for a few shows, I’ll admit). But (and I know many of my former English teachers will shudder for my using ‘but’ as the beginning of a sentence) after two years straight of no cable, the sudden intrusion of it in my life was overwhelming. I couldn’t take it.

Image

My last photo before unplugging

The final straw was the Oscars. I’m a big film buff. I didn’t used to be, but I’ve developed some friendships that have lead me to this point. As an intelligent adult, I’m able to see deeper into a film than when I was a child, when my movie-going experiences was pretty much, “Oh! [Insert actor's name] is in it! Shiny colors! Pretty locations! Good story!”]. Now, I enjoy watching the films nominated for the major awards: Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, Supporting, etc, and because I watch a majority of films being honored, I become invested in how they get recognized.

So there I sat, watching the Oscar telecast while scrolling through Twitter on my phone to track what other people were saying about Ellen’s pizza deliveries and John Travolta’s second straight year of butchering a name. At the same time, I was texting two or three different people. I also was on my iPad, browsing through a few websites. All at the same time.

My generation has excellent multi-tasking skills online…but that’s overkill, folks, and I knew it.

A week earlier, I had made a statement on Facebook that I was “…seriously considering a week (at least) away from technology, excepting emergency and personal phone calls, and maybe once-a-day email checks. This will come post-Oscars, but I’m thinking it’s 95% inevitable.” I stuck with that decision, and unplugged first thing Monday morning.

Little did I know how difficult it would be that first few days. As a regular user of the website tumblr, where a person can “track” a tag of something they like (the Olympics, USWNT, Frozen, Jessica Chastain, Veronica Mars are some of my tracked tags), to give up technology the day after the Oscars meant not seeing a million adorable posts, “gifsets”, and pictures from the event itself that make me go “awwwwww!” I do that frequently on tumblr, and to suddenly be stripped of that was difficult.

It is human nature to wonder what it is like to be someone else, and I’m no different. I like tracking celebrities, actors, athletes. It’s a guilty pleasure, and I have no qualms in saying here that I enjoy it (to an extent…I don’t support people or their children being harassed for a paparazzi photo, for instance, and I have been inspired by actress Kristen Bell and her crusade to introduce a No Kids policy with entertainment media). As early as Monday afternoon, I actually caught myself going on Safari and pulling up tumblr (having temporarily deleted the actual app from my phone and iPad to avoid that exact thing). It was ridiculous, and happened so fast that I was actually scrolling the page before I realized I had done it.

That was it. I shut down my iPad and stowed it in a clothes drawer. I switched my phone to airplane mode and shoved it into my purse. I knew I’d bring my phone with me if I drove anywhere, in case of emergencies, but that was all. I didn’t even take it to work.

What happened throughout the following week was rather remarkable, in that it was such an ordinary week that it was extraordinary. It’ll make sense, I promise.

Image

The stack of books that accompanied me through the week. At the time of this blog, I’ve read three of them.

I ended up jotting down some thoughts in a notebook throughout the week, and I’ll share them now, exactly how I wrote them (retyped, because my handwriting was illegible).

Day 1:

Bored, listless. Cheated already.

1 episode of TV

Started and read cover-to-cover The Book Thief

Day 3: Caught myself peeking on FB/Twitter, but found I was actually wholly uninterested in statuses.

Day 4: Caught myself thinking as Facebook statuses & tweets. Literally would shape thoughts to tailor to a Facebook status. Who cares? –>The thoughts were forgotten and deemed unimportant within a few hours.

Day 5: Want to look at headlines.

“Miss” family and friends but knowing how easy it would be to get in touch with family, if I needed to, helps.

Self-importance:

Things that happen in my day aren’t important to broadcast.

Not really looking to get back on FB-Twitter full-time. Maybe 1-a-day scan?

Cleaning out e-mail spam…unsubscribed from at least 12 mailings in the first 3 days (I checked e-mail once a day until about Thursday, when I did it every other day.)

Day 6: Found myself more occupied at work than I am with my phone nearby (shocker)

Spent less $ than when I had internet constantly

Forgot about taking my phone places

Falling asleep earlier, waking up earlier.

Yesterday, when I rejoined the world of technology, I immediately wrote the following Facebook status:

Image

I was immediately hit with seven messages (and two texts) saying that I shouldn’t delete my accounts, that my posts would be missed, and that people are interested in seeing what I’m doing. First off: I’m flattered, you guys, and I understand that in this day and age, technology and social media are how acquaintances, friends, family stay in touch.

After a week of not sharing every detail of my life, however, I realized that I’m actually a private person. I enjoyed having my anonymity for a week, and I could logically see myself phasing myself away from social media; specifically, Facebook. I am by no means a public figure. I don’t have paparazzi following me everywhere, but there are enough people who are interested in how I live my life that I feel the need to protect the private parts of my life. I don’t mind sharing things with my family. Really, though, even my family doesn’t care what I’m eating for breakfast or what my political views are.

I have an unofficial athlete page that I’ve tried to promote. It is my ultimate goal to delete my personal Facebook account and use my athlete page to share my journey towards a possible Olympic bid. I’ll still have a twitter account, as it seems to be the best way to promote my athletic goals and do a tiny bit of fandom gushing, but that’s all I’ll keep public.

I don’t mean to climb up on a soap box or anything. I just had no idea a simple week away would change my opinions of social media so powerfully. I had an idea that I would start to lean towards less social media usage, but I didn’t know it would be so drastic. Perhaps I should have known. The worst part of a backpacking trip (other than the ascent out of a canyon after a week of 10-mile days with a 7- pound pack) is the return to technology. Except showers. The first shower back is the best part of a backpacking trip (am I right, PRM?).

I urge you to try unplugging for a week. Jot down your thoughts throughout the week on a notepad. Be aware of what you think and how you think it. Perhaps you’ll find, as I did, thoughts forming in 140 characters. Perhaps you’ll catch yourself online before you are even aware that you’re doing it.

Hopefully, you’ll find that the new episode of TV you’ve been waiting for really wasn’t as important as you thought it was, or that not knowing how Jennifer Lawrence spent her Oscar night won’t kill you. Maybe you’ll discover, or rediscover, that books are just as engrossing as the Internet (I read four books through the course of the week. Actual books, mind you. Not Kindle books and they were all incredible). You’ll probably find that not being in constant communication with your friends via text will give you more to talk about when you see them face-to-face. You’ll definitely become aware of people around you using technology instead of talking to each other, even at the dinner table.

The most important thing to discover, though, is how important you

That’s the biggest lesson I took from unplugging last week. Yes, I learned that I don’t need technology to survive. But I learned what technology was doing to my self-image, and I learned that, though it’s not a glaring thing, social media and constant electronic use was actually self-destructive. I’m an introvert, and I’m extremely hard on myself, and a major part of that is society-implemented. Cutting off my contact with such stereotypes and societal expectations, I got in touch with my own thoughts again.

I’m important, and I forgot that when I was too busy trying to see what my actor idols or sports heroes were up to. I spend so much time trying to prove myself to other people, trying to impress other people, that I completely forgot that there’s only one person I really need to prove myself to and impress: me.

Support my journey towards the 2018 Olympic Games here!

And the Nominees Are…

20140116-103045.jpg

It’s that time of year! The 2014 Oscar season is upon us, and bright and early this morning (especially for West Coasters) the official nominees for the Academy Awards were announced! This also means that I now have my updated list of films I need to watch in the next two months!

Below is the complete list of nominees! Keep in touch in March for my picks and the winners!

Best Picture of the Year

American Hustle (Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison, and Jonathan Gordon, Producers)
Captain Phillips (Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca, Producers)
Dallas Buyers Club (Robbie Brenner and Rachel Winter, Producers)
Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón and David Heyman, Producers)
Her (Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze and Vincent Landay, Producers)
Nebraska (Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa, Producers)
Philomena (Gabrielle Tana, Steve Coogan and Tracey Seaward, Producers)
12 Years a Slave (Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen and Anthony Katagas, Producers)
The Wolf of Wall Street (Nominees to be determined)

Best Actor in a Leading Role
Christian Bale (American Hustle)
Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
Judi Dench (Philomena)
Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
June Squibb (Nebraska)

Best Animated Feature Film

The Croods (Chris Sanders, Kirk DeMicco and Kristine Belson)
Despicable Me 2 (Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin and Chris Meledandri)
Ernest & Celestine (Benjamin Renner and Didier Brunner)
Frozen (Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Peter Del Vecho)
The Wind Rises (Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki)

Best Cinematography
The Grandmaster (Philippe Le Sourd)
Gravity (Emmanuel Lubezki)
Inside Llewyn Davis (Bruno Delbonnel)
Nebraska (Phedon Papamichael)
Prisoners (Roger A. Deakins)

Costume Design
American Hustle (Michael Wilkinson)
The Grandmaster (William Chang Suk Ping)
The Great Gatsby (Catherine Martin)
The Invisible Woman (Michael O’Connor)
12 Years a Slave (Patricia Norris)

Direction
American Hustle (David O. Russell)
Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)
Nebraska (Alexander Payne)
12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)
The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)

Documentary Feature
The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen)
Cutie and the Boxer (Zachary Heinzerling and Lydia Dean Pilcher)
Dirty Wars (Richard Rowley and Jeremy Scahill)
The Square (Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer)
20 Feet from Stardom (Nominees to be determined)

Documentary Short Subject
CaveDigger (Jeffrey Karoff)
Facing Fear (Jason Cohen)
Karama Has No Walls (Sara Ishaq)
The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life (Malcolm Clarke and Nicholas Reed)
Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall (Edgar Barens)

Film Editing
American Hustle (Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten)
Captain Phillips (Christopher Rouse)
Dallas Buyers Club (John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa)
Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger)
12 Years a Slave (Joe Walker)

Foreign Language Film
The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium)
The Great Beauty (Italy)
The Hunt (Denmark)
The Missing Picture (Cambodia)
Omar (Palestine)

Makeup and Hairstyling
Dallas Buyers Club (Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews)
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (Stephen Prouty)
The Lone Ranger (Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny)

Best Original Score
The Book Thief (John Williams)
Gravity (Steven Price)
Her (William Butler and Owen Pallett)
Philomena (Alexandre Desplat)
Saving Mr. Banks (Thomas Newman)

Best Original Song
“Alone Yet Not Alone” from Alone Yet Not Alone (Music by Bruce Broughton; Lyric by Dennis Spiegel)
“Happy” from Despicable Me 2 (Music and Lyric by Pharrell Williams)
“Let it Go” from Frozen (Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez)
“The Moon Song” from Her (Music by Karen O; Lyric by Karen O and Spike Jonze)
“Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (Music by Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen; Lyric by Paul Hewson)

Production Design
American Hustle (Judy Becker (Production Design); Heather Loeffler (Set Decoration))
Gravity (Andy Nicholson (Production Design); Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard (Set Decoration))
The Great Gatsby (Catherine Martin (Production Design); Beverley Dunn (Set Decoration))
Her (K.K. Barrett (Production Design); Gene Serdena (Set Decoration))
12 Years a Slave (Adam Stockhausen (Production Design); Alice Baker (Set Decoration))

Best Animated Short Film
Feral (Daniel Sousa and Dan Golden)
Get a Horse! (Lauren MacMullan and Dorothy McKim)
Mr. Hublot (Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares)
Possessions (Shuhei Morita)
Room on the Broom (Max Lang and Jan Lachauer)

Best Short Film
Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me) (Esteban Crespo)
Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything) (Xavier Legrand and Alexandre Gavras)
Helium (Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson)
Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?) (Selma Vilhunen and Kirsikka Saari)
The Voorman Problem (Mark Gill and Baldwin Li)

Sound Editing
All Is Lost (Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns)
Captain Phillips (Oliver Tarney)
Gravity (Glenn Freemantle)
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Brent Burge)
Lone Survivor (Wylie Stateman)

Sound Mixing
Captain Phillips (Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro)
Gravity (Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro)
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson)
Inside Llewyn Davis (Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland)
Lone Survivor (Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow)

Visual Effects
Gravity (Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould)
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds)
Iron Man 3 (Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick)
The Lone Ranger (Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier)
Star Trek Into Darkness (Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton)

Best Adapted Screenplay
Before Midnight (Written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke)
Captain Phillips (Screenplay by Billy Ray)
Philomena (Screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope)
12 Years a Slave (Screenplay by John Ridley)
The Wolf of Wall Street (Screenplay by Terence Winter)

Original Screenplay
American Hustle (Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell)
Blue Jasmine (Written by Woody Allen)
Dallas Buyers Club (Written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack)
Her (Written by Spike Jonze)
Nebraska (Written by Bob Nelson)

And the Oscar goes to…

20130223-231332.jpg

I don’t remember the first year I began watching the Academy Awards. For as long as I can recall, my family, a pro-performing arts bunch, have always viewed the famous awards show with interest and, in my case, reverence. I spent a couple years listening to my eldest brother, David, who acted as an Oscar correspondent for the BBC (or something like that).

Over the recent years, my attention has strayed elsewhere during Oscar season. Sure, I knew vaguely which films were nominated for Best Picture, occasionally who was nominated for an acting award (I was always aware of Meryl Streep’s nominations, as my brother and several friends worship her as their deity) but didn’t pay too much attention.

That all changed this year, though I can’t really tell you why. One reason is regular correspondence with a friend in Los Angeles, who has become my film mentor. Thanks to Amber, I’ve seen a whole slew of films I normally would never have seen otherwise, and my interest in the genre has increased even more.

As a result, I have achieved something I never have before, something I always said I would do but never did out of pure laziness: I have seen each of the nine films nominated for Best Picture of the year, and all but two of the films that have nominations in the acting categories.

Through the power of these films, the finesse (or not) of the acting, and constant analysis with Amber and other film buff friends (few, but influential), I’ve an invested interest in this year’s Academy Awards and so, for the first time, I am making my own predictions.

Though I am not entered in any office pool (a pity for me, perhaps a relief for others) I wanted to share my choices for those who care or are interested. If you’re not, you don’t have to read on!
Remember, these are not official. I don’t represent anyone but myself. I could be completely wrong, and you may not agree with me. But that’s the joy of films for me! Different perspectives!

Best Picture of the Year

Will Win: Argo.
It has swept every major award leading to Sunday night, including the Golden Globe, SAG, DGA, PGA and BAFTA. Despite director Ben Affleck’s directorial snub from the Academy, or perhaps because of it, Argo has stormed ahead in the Oscar race and could well be on its way to being only the fourth film in Oscar history to win Best Picture without a Best Director nomination. The film itself is excellent, and worthy of the title should it come.
Could Win: Lincoln
Stephen Spielberg’s latest epic is lengthy, but was the early front-runner for the big award. If the Academy stays true to history, Argo could lose out to Lincoln simply because Affleck was not nominated for Director.
Should Win: Zero Dark Thirty
Of the 30-odd films I’ve seen this year, Zero Dark Thirty was the only one where I left the theatre with any kind of emotional outburst, in this case, an emphatic and uncharacteristic “Holy shit!” Not my usual cinema fare, I was enthralled with the entire film, spellbound by the film editing, impressed with the story, and blown away by the performances of the cast. Unfortunately, the politics and controversies surrounding some of the film’s subject matter (aka the 15 or so minutes of “enhanced interrogation techniques” by American CIA agents) have caused Zero Dark Thirty to slip in the minds of many theatergoers and critics alike, and as such is unlikely to garner the top award. It’s a pity. It is the best film of 2012.

Best Director

Will Win: Steven Spielberg Lincoln
The Best Director category is notably this year for its snubs, most obviously Ben Affleck (Argo) and Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty), both of whom would be front-runners had they been nominated. But they’re not, and that’s something we’ve all had to deal with. This leaves Spielberg and Ang Lee (Life of Pi) as front runners. The legendary status that follows Spielberg films (for good reason) will likely lead to a third Oscar (Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List.)
Could Win: Ang Lee (Life of Pi)
It’s a close race between Lee and Spielberg and if the latter doesn’t get the trophy, expect Lee to.
Should Win: Doesn’t matter. They’re not nominated anyway.

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis Lincoln
There really is no contest. To be fair, I didn’t see Joaquin Phoenix in The Master but Day-Lewis WAS Abraham Lincoln. With no reels or videos or interviews to base a character on, Day-Lewis nevertheless created, molded and portrayed President Lincoln with such conviction that it was impossible to separate actor from character (which is good…as it’s his job!).
Could Win: Joaquin Phoenix The Master(from what I heard)
Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Will Win: Emmanuelle Riva Amour
In September, Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) was already being lauded as the favorite to take the best actress statue (statuette?). In November, Zero Dark Thirty erupted into cinemas, anchored by a phenominal performance by Jessica Chastain, who quickly became a threat. And then Amour picked up nominations for the Academy Awards, including a nod for Riva. She, and I will quote Indiewire contributor Peter Knegt here: “…represents the rare case where she’s both a sentimental choice and the most deserving winner.” Turning 86 on Oscar night makes Riva the oldest nominee for best actress ever. In Amour, she portrays an elderly woman suffering from stroke and declining health to such poignant reality that it REALLY pulled at my heart. Her recent BAFTA win over Lawrence and Chastain seems to have turned the tide in her favor.
Could Win: Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
A SAG award and a Golden Globe for best actress in a muscial/comedy boosts Lawrence’s chances at an Oscar. This her second nomination, her first being for Winter’s Bone, Lawrence’s performance is bold and obvious, and many moviegoers seemed to enjoy it.
Should Win: Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
An unknown to me at the time I saw Zero Dark Thirty, Chastain’s portrayal of CIA agent, Maya, hunting for Osama bin Laden completely blew me away. Never before have I seen such passion and intensity in a role. Chastain conveys more through silence than many actors do with entire scenes of dialogue, which of course makes the rare moments when Maya’s frustration bubbles over even more shocking. But the controversies surrounding Zero Dark Thirty have likely damaged her chances. Fortunately for us, Chastain is young and, as her ten film credits show us, a chameleon when it comes to acting choices. There is no doubt she has many more nominations in her future. She is, as Amber so aptly put it, “Meryl 2.0″.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Will Win: Tommy Lee Jones Lincoln
This category is one of the open races for an Oscar. My money (if I had it) is on Jones, who made the most of his screen time as Thaddeus Stevens. But as I said, this race is pretty wide open as far as who could win it. I was tempted to vote for Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained) but in the end, went with Jones.
Could Win: Anyone really, with Christoph Waltz and Robert Di Nero (Silver Linings Playbook) having the biggest shot.
Should Win: Christoph Waltz Django Unchained
Waltz was the best thing about Django for me. A co-lead role nominated for a supporting actor award could mean he takes it in the end.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Will Win: Anne Hathaway Les Misérables
She’s swept every award leading up to the Oscars, and there is no doubt she’ll take the golden man too. While she’s been criticized for being “too surprised” as her name is called at ceremony after ceremony, Hathaway’s performance as Fantine left a huge impression on me and on Academy. While she has brief screen time, she makes the most of it with a heart-wrenching, single take rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream.”
Could Win: There really is no competition. Sally Field (Lincoln) could be a contender if Hathaway’s performance was weaker. But it wasn’t.
Should Win: Anne Hathaway

Best Original Screenplay

Will Win: Quentin Tarantino Django Unchained
This is a category that appears too close to call between Tarantino’s slavery drama and Mark Boal’s powerful Zero Dark Thirty. With Zero Dark‘s apparent fall from grace with the controversies, this could be Tarantino’s year.
Could Win: Mark Boal Zero Dark Thirty
Perhaps a sympathy nomination for the inevitability of losing Best Picture? He also won the WGA for best original screenplay only a couple weeks ago, which could provide the bump over Tarantino.
Should Win: Mark Boal Zero Dark Thirty
A former investigative journalist, Boal’s research into the CIA’s hunt for Osama bin Laden has drawn controversies and criticism (did he gain his information illegally?). Nevertheless, he has written a powerful screenplay, one that does not shy away from the gritty reality of torture in the pursuit of UBL, nor from the delicacies of politics involved. He also doesn’t sugarcoat the military and intelligence jargon, something I find challenging, but in a good way. He discovered the CIA agent upon which the character of Maya is based, and as such has uncovered a strong woman in the midst of the male-centered profession.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Will Win: Chris Terrio Argo
After winning the USC Scripter and WGA Award only recently, it seems the momentum for Chris Terrio’s screenplay may carry him to the Oscar podium. A film about how Hollywood helped save the lives of six American hostages? Come on…
Could Win: Tony Kushner Lincoln
Tony Kushner’s screenplay was a favorite for quite some time, and his seems the only true threat to Argo. David O. Russell’s Silver Lining’s Playbook is also on the radar…
Should Win: Chris Terrio Argo
I thought Argo was a fantastic movie, and one of two this awards season that really got my juices flowing. The action and suspense kept me guessing (I also didn’t know the basis of the film…shame on me, but I never was a fan of US history) and the script was fluid enough for me to keep up.

Best Animated Feature

Will Win: Wreck-It Ralph
Here’s where it gets sticky: I haven’t seen all the films nominated for this category. In fact, I’ve only seen one. It’s a huge surprise for anyone who knows me and my dedication to all things Disney. But in a year where Pixar’s film (Brave) was more like a Disney feature and Disney’s film (Wreck-It Ralph) was more like a Pixar, I’m going to give the odds to Wreck-It Ralph.
Could Win: Brave
The tale of a Scottish princess fighting to reconnect with her mother is a more traditional film than the hip video-gamer theme of Wreck-It Ralph and could appeal to the Academy voters. Brave also won the Golden Globe and the BAFTA, and while previous awards does not mean it will win at the Oscars, it’s not bad momentum to have going in.
Should Win: Hard to say when I’ve only seen one…so I’ll stick with Wreck-It Ralph

Best Animated Short

Will Win:Paperman
If you don’t believe me, watch it yourself.
Could Win: Adam and Dog
Should Win: Paperman
Did you WATCH? Tell me I wasn’t the only person to “awwww!” through most of the film!

Best Foreign Language Film

Will Win: Amour
In my opinion, there is no other choice. Unlikely to win Best Picture (which it is also nominated for) Academy voters will likely recognize Michael Haneke’s Amour here. No foreign language film nominated both in the category of foreign language film and best picture has ever failed to win the former.
Could Win: No
Granted, I only saw a preview for the other nominees. But No seems the only strong contender.
Should Win: Amour
See above!

Best Documentary Feature

Will Win: Searching for Sugar Man
Pure speculation, as I’ve only seen one of the nominees. It has won the PGA, WGA and DGA and was a popular box office hit. It also has word of mouth (I found out about it through a teammate).
Could Win: Any
It’s a strong category, and new voting rules mean that Academy members were sent screeners of all the documentaries…and everyone can vote on them now. So really, anyone could.
Should Win: The Invisible War
From the standpoint of a woman who has considered a military career, the story and lessons of The Invisible War hit me hard. I was sucked in within the first five minutes, and didn’t stop watching until the end. The message put forth in this film is one I feel needs to be seriously examined, and with an Oscar win, it’ll be hard to overlook.

Best Documentary Short

In the interest of not acting like a Republican, I’m not going to make decisions on something I know nothing about. I haven’t seen any of the documentary shorts, and so I cannot make a qualified decision on the prediction! Thus, I step aside!

Best Original Song

Will Win:SkyfallSkyfall
She’s swept up many, many awards for this, and it would be a huge deal if she didn’t win. Considered to be one of the best Bond songs ever, paired with Adele’s popularity in today’s music culture, “Skyfall” is likely to take the win.
Could Win: “Everybody Needs a Best Friend” from Ted
This is pure speculation…seeing the rest of the nominees, it seems this song from Ted is the main competition for “Skyfall”.
Should Win: “Skyfall”
‘Nuff said. Don’t get me started on the gag-fest that was “Suddenly” from Les Misérables.

Best Original Score

Will Win: Life of Pi Mychael Danna
Danna’s score seems the strongest of the nominees, and it is his first nod. He has some strong competition with heroic composer John Williams’s Lincoln in the mix.
Could Win: Lincoln John Williams
He’s a legend. He’s won five Academy Awards. It’s been 20 years since his last Oscar win. It’s not the most powerful score, especially considering many of his others, but it’s certainly one of his best in recent years.
Should Win: Life of Pi
Normally a favorite of mine and a hands-down win, Williams’ score didn’t quite do it for me. I’m giving the win to Life of Pi.

Best Cinematography

Will Win: Life of Pi
It’s a visual feast in 2D. I can only imagine what it is like in 3D.
Could Win: Skyfall
The 10th nomination for Roger Deakins, and he has never won. Could this be his year? Skyfall is hailed as one of the best Bond films ever, and Deakins’ work is a huge contributing factor.
Should Win: But Life of Pi blends CGI, 3D technology, green screen, and location filming so well that it is hard to distinguish between them…which is kind of the point.

Best Film Editing

Will Win: William Goldenberg Argo
A double nominee for both Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, Goldenberg will likely take home an Oscar. For which film, we won’t know until Sunday, but Argo‘s popularity and almost certain Best Picture win (not to mention the excellent editing in the last quarter of the film) points to a win here.
Could Win: William Goldenberg and Dylan Tichenor Zero Dark Thirty
The intensity-building Abbotabad sequence is brilliantly edited in itself. Zero Dark Thirty held my attention from beginning to end.
Should Win: Zero Dark Thirty

Best Visual Effects

Will Win: Life of Pi
It’s Pi‘s Oscar to lose, really.
Could Win: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
It’s Middle Earth.
The defense rests.
Will Win: Life of Pi
But seriously, it’ll be Life of Pi. Like I said above, it’s a visual feast.

Best Production Design

Will Win: Les Misérables
A period piece, Les Misérables is set in 19th century Paris. The costuming, hairstyling, and set design are something to behold. It won the BAFTA, though it is a British-made film so there could be some bias there…
Could Win: Anna Karenina
Set in 19th century Tsarist Russia, Anna Karenina is beautifully rendered, with some of the best work of the nominees.
Should Win: Lincoln
Civil War-era Washington is recreated exquisitely. Period pieces seem to be a favorite in this category, and Lincoln has an attention to detail that astounds me. I love films like this, and I am one of those weirdos who look at the background of films and live theatre sets to see the details put in. A true “techie” my attitude tends to be, “Screw the actors! I want to see the set!”

Best Costume Design

Another category where I’ve only seen two of the five films nominated. And though I would vote forLincoln over Les Misérables in this category, I’ve heard overwhelming predictions for Anna Karenina, as well as several for Les Misérables (I don’t agree with the latter). I will save my judgement for another category. My pick on Oscars.com is for Lincoln. I’m quite aware this could be wrong.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Will Win: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The Dwarfs alone would win this category. Let’s not forget all the prosthetic Hobbit feet and troll makeup!
Could Win: Les Misérables
Making beautiful actors dirty and 19th century French-y is a difficult job. It takes teeth-yellowing, dirt caking and the act of shaving your own head for your part without being asked.
Should Win: The Hobbit
I think Middle Earth trumps France any day.

Best Sound Editing

Will Win: Zero Dark Thirty
This could be Zero Dark Thirty‘s only Oscar of the evening. From the opening sequence of the film, where we hear panicked cries of actual 911 phone calls from the victims caught in the World Trade Center to the final assult sequence in the Abbotabad compound, Zero Dark Thirty has the technical merit to achieve this award.
Could Win: Skyfall or Life of Pi
Life of Pi may just pick up a slew of awards, and this would be one of them. It very well might beat out Zero Dark Thirty but I wanted to have one risky bet! As for Skyfall, big action-movie types seem to do well in this category.
Should Win: Zero Dark Thirty

Best Sound Mixing

Will Win: Les Misérables
I think this is Les Misérables‘s Oscar to lose. Singing live in a film requires some excellent sound work, and, while not all the actors may have been best for their role, the precise mixing of sound made us even more aware of that fact.
Could Win: Skyfall
Action! Explosions! Trains! Judi Dench blowing things up! Perhaps the Bond film will gain an award in this category.
Should Win: Les Misérables
I think Les Misérables has the edge here.

Watch the Academy Awa…er…I mean “The Oscars” on Sunday, February 24 at 7pm ET/4pm PT on ABC.