Oscar predictions: The best of the best

On Sunday evening 24 February 2013 (Monday early afternoon, Sydney time), the annual Oscars ceremony takes place. I asked three film experts for their views on which films should win and probably will win in each the main categories.  Their answers (along with my own) are listed below.  Just to re-cap the nominees:

Category
Best Picture (nominees)

Amour

Argo

Beast of the Southern Wild

Django Unchained

Les Miserables

Life of Pi

Lincoln

Silver Linings Playbook

Zero Dark Thirty

Best Director

Michael Haneke (Amour)

Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

Ang Lee (Life of Pi)

Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)

David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)

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)

Actor in a Supporting Role

Alan Arkin (Argo)

Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)

Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)

Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)

Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)

Actress in a Leading Role

Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)

Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)

Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)

Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

Naomi Watts (The Impossible)

Actress in a Supporting Role

Amy Adams (The Master)

Sally Field (Lincoln)

Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)

Helen Hunt (The Sessions)

Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook)

Cinematography

Anna Karenina (Seamus McGarvey)

Django Unchained (Robert Richardson)

Life of Pi (Claudio Miranda)

Lincoln (Janusz Kaminski)

Skyfall (Roger Deakins)

Adapted Screenplay

Argo (Chris Terrio)

Beasts of the Southern Wild (Luch Alibar & Benh Zeitlin)

Life of Pi (David Magee)

Lincoln (Tony Kushner)

Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell)

Original Screenplay

Amour (Michael Haneke)

Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino)

Flight (John Gatins)

Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola)

Zero Dark Thirty (Mark Boal)

So have a look at our picks below.  Some are consistent – but remarkably few, and in fact I don’t think that there is even one category we four all agree on.  That means we may still have some excitement and uncertainty on the awards night itself.

ARGO

Don Perlgut’s picks

(Don Perlgut is a film critic and media analyst living in Sydney, Australia.)

Category Should win Probably will win Comments
Best film Life of Pi Argo It was a strong year for films, but I can’t believe that Argo will win.  The betting says it will.  A nice film, but probably something of a “revenge fantasy” about Americans and Iran – or perhaps I am not being generous.  Both the Directors Guild and the Producers Guild have selected it.  Lincoln is strong, but not one of Spielberg’s best efforts, also too talky and too full of dark, smoky rooms).  Django certainly was the most entertaining film of the year, but not the best.  Zero Dark Thirty is superbly well-done, and in another year might have grabbed the votes; however the controversy over representation of torture surely has hurt it with some more left-leaning Academy voters.
Best director Ang Lee Ang Lee For my money, Life of Pi was truly the most accomplished film of the year, and Ang Lee should win best director.  He might – or may get pipped by Spielberg.  Ironically neither Ben Affleck (Argo) nor Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) were nominated; both would have been strong contenders.
Best actor Daniel Day-Lewis Daniel Day-Lewis There is no doubt on this one.  It’s a memorable performance.  The others are good, but simply not in this league.  And in this year of Obama – who so models himself on Lincoln – a Lincoln winner seems poetically right.  The New York Times calls Day-Lewis “the male Meryl Streep, synonymous with exemplary acting.”
Best supporting actor Christoph Waltz Tommy Lee Jones Don’t get me wrong:  I love Tommy Lee Jones’ performance in Lincoln, but the most unusual and engaging performance of these five is surely Christoph Waltz (Django).  The problem is his role was not really a supporting role:  his screen time was almost as much as his co-star Jamie Foxx, and surely he had more actual dialogue than most of the “best actor” nominees.
Best actress Jennifer Lawrence Jessica Chastain I liked Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook, a lot.  But there was a stillness and a self of strong emotional core to Chastain’s character which made it so memorable.  She could still win, but the betting seems against her – perhaps fall-out from the torture controversies.
Best supporting actress Anne Hathaway Anne Hathaway No contest here. Adams and Field were strong (Hunt and Weaver not really contenders in my view), but not close.  Only problem:  Hathaway should have had lots more screen time, but that’s the way the role was written.
Best cinema-tography Life of Pi Life of Pi Many people may be confused between the truly delightful special effects in Life of Pi and the actual cinematography, but the seamless blending of the two of them just shows how good that cinematography actually is.  The Los Angeles Times agrees with me.
Best adapted screenplay Argo Lincoln Chris Terrio won the Writers Guild award; surely he will win the Oscar. It’s a good screenplay, but Lincoln (despite its wordiness) was the unusual achievement.
Best original screenplay Zero Dark Thirty Zero Dark Thirty Django Unchained has a possibility here, but it’s a mess in the final third.  All of the nominees are fascinating.  Zero Dark Thirty may run the risk of the torture controversy mentioned above.  Moonrise Kingdom was delightful but too small.  Amour is very good, but not beloved enough by Academy voters to win.  (By the way, the Los Angeles Times disagrees with me on this last point and believes Haneke will win for Amour, given its five nominations.)

Life of Pi

Mark Lazarus picks

(Mark is a jaded film producer, transplanted from the USA to Australia by love. He currently works at Screen Australia helping to make dreams come true.)

Category Should win Probably will win Comments
Best film Beasts of the Southern Wild Argo Everyone’s stunned Affleck has a brain in his head.  Responding to discovery with too much enthusiasm.
Best director Michael Haneke Steven Spielberg Finally he gets one.  Haneke is a genius.
Best actor Bradley Cooper Daniel Day-Lewis Awesome bearding.
Best supporting actor Robert De Niro Robert De Niro When he cries, you’re like, “where the hell’s he been for the last ten years?”
Best actress Jennifer Lawrence Jennifer Lawrence Jessica too new, Quvenzhane too young, Naomi in too cloying a pic about rich people.
Best cinema-tography Django Unchained Lincoln Looks like a civil war photo… or a Ken Burns doc… or one of those pics you take with a costume at a theme park…
Best adapted screenplay Silver Linings Playbook Silver Linings Playbook J. Law dancing in a midriff top is great writing in MY book…
Best original screenplay Amour Moonrise Kingdom Wes Anderson finally plucks the heartstrings.

Zero Dark Thirty

Tal Kra-Oz

(Tal Kra-Oz is a writer and law student living in Jerusalem.)

Category Should win Probably will win Comments
Best film Lincoln Lincoln This has been a remarkably solid year. At least half of the films could have easily taken the Oscar if the others weren’t as strong. I think Lincoln is head and shoulders above the rest, though.
Best director Steven Spielberg Steven Spielberg An Ang Lee coup wouldn’t surprise me, though.
Best actor Daniel Day-Lewis Daniel Day-Lewis No real dilemma here.
Best supporting actor Philip Seymour Hoffman Christoph Waltz, or possibly Tommy Lee Jones This category is pretty wide open, but I think Academy members will go the way of the HFPA and honour Waltz.
Best actress Quvenzhane Wallis Jennifer Lawrence or Jessica Chastain Wallis is too young to win, but her performance was definitely this year’s most remarkable.
Best supporting actress Anne Hathaway Anne Hathaway Probably the only win one can be completely sure of.
Best cinema-tography Life of Pi Life of Pi
Best adapted screenplay Lincoln Lincoln
Best original screenplay Moonrise Kingdom Django Unchained ZD30 is a remarkable piece of writing, but its controversial depiction of torture will probably doom it.
Best Document-ary Searching for Sugar Man Searching for Sugar Man The two Israeli contenders (The Gatekeepers and Five Broken Cameras) are both really powerful and important. But Searching for Sugar Man is the better movie.

Les Miserables

Rod Freedman

(Rod Freedman is an independent director, producer and executive producer whose documentaries have won many Australian and international awards and screened in dozens of film festivals. Rod and his partner, Lesley Seebold, run Change Focus Media – producing television documentaries and educational programs. Rod is particularly interested in stories about people and their life’s journeys.)

Category Should win Probably will win
Best film Lincoln Zero Dark Thirty
Best director Ang Lee Steven Spielberg
Best actor Daniel Day-Lewis Daniel Day-Lewis
Best supporting actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman Christoph Waltz
Best actress Quvenzhane Wallis Jessica Chastain
Best supporting actress Helen Hunt Anne Hathaway
Best cinematography Kaminski (Lincoln) Claudio Miranda (Life of Pi)
Best adapted screenplay Luch Alibar & Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild) Tony Kushner (Lincoln)
Best original screenplay Quentin Tarantino(Django Unchained) Quentin Tarantino(Django Unchained)

Django Unchained Foxx and Waltz

A number of people have also asked me, “What about the nominees for best foreign language film?”  Good question, I say.  The problem with those predictions is that only two of those nominees (Amour and A Royal Affair) have opened or even previewed here in Australia, so I cannot analyse the “who should win”.  My prediction there:  “Amour” will win, even though my heart is longing for Kon-Tiki.  (And what happened to the French film The Intouchables?  Amazing that film has missed out on being in the final shortlist.)

Final note on Oscar predictions:  If you are interested in the statistical analysis of who will win by noted American political pollster (538.com) Nate Silver, go to his 22 February 2013 post in the New York Times here.  This is the guy who correctly predicts almost every US Federal election in the last five years, and kept telling us that Obama was going to win, when the rest of the world doubted that.  He gives his predictions (based on his usual statistical and objective analysis) in a straightforward and most convincing way.

Interested in how successful my picks were?  Click here to see the results.

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