And the Oscar goes to…

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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.

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