Monday, January 7, 2013

Oscar Predictions, Part 2: Acting and Screenplays

I figure that my version of Oscar blogging is just like Chris Evans wearing bright red, knee-high go-go boots: you didn't know you needed it, but once you got it, you couldn't imagine life without it. It's a burden being me. Ok, snark aside (at least some of it), let's jump into the rest of the major categories today.

Best Actor
This category is kind of wacky this year, in that only one contender is a sure thing, and under him we've got five performances brawling like an 80s boxing movie for the remaining four slots. So out with the obvious: Daniel Day-Lewis makes it (and probably wins) for his take on everyone's favorite president in Lincoln (Ed. note: my favorite president is William Henry Harrison, because he's useless and silly, but I digress.). So who's left?
-Bradley Cooper-Silver Linings Playbook: I know, I know. On the one hand, Academy Award Nominee Bradley Cooper? On the other hand, he's surprisingly fantastic and Silver Linings is that rare thing: a critically successful romantic comedy which only works as a duo. Stranger things have happened (see: Academy Award Nominee Eddie Murphy, Academy Award Winner Cher, Academy Award Winner Jamie Foxx, etc., etc.).
-John Hawkes-The Sessions: I'll never understand why people like this film or this performance, but I can't deny it checks just about every Academy-friendly box: Real life person impersonation, inspirational, endearing disability, former nominee, and so forth. He's probably in.
Hugh Jackman-Les Miserables: If Les Mis is a big (or even mediocre) hit with the Academy, then Wolverine might need to find a tux that accommodates both super-human angst and spontaneous rhyme schemes. Never underestimate the Academy's general distaste for emotionally vulnerable singing leads, however. Then again, never underestimate the Academy's love for a performance that wears its heart on its sleeve, and Les Mis has so. many. emotions.
Joaquin Phoenix-The Master: If only. Phoenix is brilliant and raw and totally crazy, and those adjectives only sometimes work for the Academy. He publicly went on record saying that he thinks awards are stupid, so the Academy might just let him sit this one out.
Denzel Washington-Flight: On the one hand, Washington isn't really stretching himself for this one. On the other hand, we so rarely see straightforward adult-oriented dramas in the theaters, the Academy might reward this film just for existing and not being embarrassing.
(While I said there were only 5 other possibilities, I'd be remiss not to mention Jean-Louis Trintignant in Amour, who could very well be a surprise nominee come Thursday.)
My predictions, in order of likelihood:
Daniel Day-Lewis: Lincoln
John Hawkes-The Sessions
Denzel Washington-Flight
Hugh Jackman-Les Miserables
Bradley Cooper-Silver Linings Playbook
Alternates: Joaquin Phoenix-The Master, Jean-Louis Trintignant-Amour

Best Actress
This category's probably going to kill me. Here's the thing: I feel pretty confident calling four slots. The first two are done deals: Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain are absolutely in for their work in Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty, respectively, and I imagine these two will continue dueling for the win right up to Oscar night. The next two slots aren't quite as set in stone, but I feel confident nonetheless. Though she missed the Screen Actors Guild nomination, I think enough voters will respond to Emmanuelle Riva's work in Amour. Similarly, I think Naomi Watt's determined mom in The Impossible has drawn enough eyes to slide in past other, more hyped candidates. This leaves the last spot, wherein I am truly and utterly screwed. In my head, it's an incredibly tight race between two fantastic performances: Quvenzhane Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild and Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone. Wallis is clearly a star who dominates her film, but the fact that she was six when filming will surely turn off plenty of older voters. Cotillard is also wonderful, but I'm skeptical about the Academy nominating two foreign-language performances in the same category (a feat which hasn't occurred since the 1970s). When the race is this tight, sometimes a surprise, lower-profile nominee can sneak in. If that's the case, watch out for Helen Mirren in Hitchcock (though I don't see that film showing up anywhere), or Rachel Weisz in The Deep Blue Sea (which was probably too small a film to make a big impact.)
My predictions, in order of likelihood:
Jennifer Lawrence-Silver Linings Playbook
Jessica Chastain-Zero Dark Thirty
Naomi Watts-The Impossible
Emmanuelle Riva-Amour
Marion Cotillard-Rust and Bone
Alternates: Quvenzhane Wallis-Beasts of the Southern Wild, Helen Mirren-Hitchcock

Best Supporting Actor
Like Best Actress, I feel confident in calling four out of five slots here. Again, like Best Actress, the first two possibilities are more set in stone than the second two. First things first: Tommy Lee Jones's work in Lincoln  is comfortably situated at the top of the dogpile, while Robert De Niro's role in Silver Linings Playbook sits slightly below. Two other performers--Alan Arkin in Argo and Phillip Seymour Hoffman in The Master--bring up the rear. Though neither nomination is by any means guaranteed, I'd be somewhat surprised to see either fall out. This leaves one slot open, and (as far as I'm concerned) only two options with which to fill it.
Option 1: A Django boy. Tarantino's latest has plenty of awards-grabbing performances that have been making a mad dash toward the Oscar finish line. Though I'd absolutely love to see Samuel L. Jackson make it in for his blackface-inspired grotesquerie, he's not too likely. Dueling banjos Christoph Waltz and Leonardo Dicaprio, however, both stand a very solid chance at a nod. I'd say Waltz has a slight edge, in that his role is bigger (which is important), and his character is likable (which is very important). Note: while I admit that it's possible that two of these men make it into the category, I wouldn't bet on it.
Option 2: Wackiness ensues and Skyfall lands an acting nomination. Though it's never happened for a James Bond movie, Javier Bardem's poorly haired aesthete with breathtaking mommy issues gives the franchise its best chance  in 50 years to break into a major race. I could very easily see this happening, and I almost feel a bit foolish for not predicting it, but I'm just not ready to believe that the Academy loves James Bond the way the Internet does.
Outside of these options, I don't see anything else happening. Had you asked me in the beginning of December, I'd have told you that Matthew McConaughey had a shot for his nutty work in Magic Mike, but now that seems like a fever dream that's far-fetched, at best. Dittyo Eddie Redmayne in Les Miserables, who could surprise, but probably won't.
My predictions, in order of likelihood:
Tommy Lee Jones-Lincoln
Robert De Niro-Silver Linings Playbook
Alan Arkin-Argo
Phillip Seymour Hoffman-The Master
Christoph Waltz-Django Unchained
Alternates: Javier Bardem-Skyfall, Leonardo Dicaprio-Django Unchained

Supporting Actress
Alright, three things we know for sure: Anne Hathaway in Les Mis, Sally Field in Lincoln, and Helen Hunt in The Sessions are all looking gold. Past that? As I see it, there are two easy choices fighting two difficult choices. The easy choices: Amy Adams in The Master and Maggie Smith in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. While it's admittedly somewhat disingenuous to call Amy Adams' Lady MacBeth-esque handjob-dispenser an 'easy choice,' she's still a supportive wife (super popular here) in a critically regarded prestige pic from a well-known director, which all count in her favor. Maggie Smith, on the other hand, is the epitome of voting for someone you like, regardless of role or quality. If she gets in, it's because Academy voters are annoyed that they don't get to vote for Downton Abbey. The difficult choices: Anne Dowd in Compliance and Nicole Kidman in The Paperboy. Dowd may be fantastic in her role, but she's in a tiny indie with no budget, and is financing her own Oscar campaign--no cheap feat. Kidman, on the other hand, is delirious trash incarnate in a giddily sleazy film which certainly won't play well to older voters. Still, the wacky brilliance of her work shouldn't be ignored. All that being said, I just can't bring myself to predict either of the difficult choices. Easy work carries the day this year.
My predictions, in order of likelihood:
Anne Hathaway-Les Miserables
Sally Field-Lincoln
Helen Hunt-The Sessions
Amy Adams-The Master
Maggie Smith-The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Alternates: Nicole Kidman-The Paperboy, Anne Dowd-Compliance

That's it for acting. Next, we've got the categories I intend to fail at during the course of my professional career: screenplays!

Best Original Screenplay
Like Best Actor, what this category has is a bad case of 6 competitors for 5 positions. Of those six, only Zero Dark Thirty and Moonrise Kingdom are safe. Then we've got Best Picture hopefuls Django Unchained and Amour. Tarantino's film is a very obviously *written,* in that even casual film-goers will notice the script pyrotechnics exploding all around them. This might guarantee its spot, but then again, Kill Bill and Jackie Brown had the same thing going for them, yet failed to land. Amour could also miss securing a berth, if only because it's a little-seen foreign film. Still, if any branch of the Academy is adventurous, it's the  Writers' Branch, which may just give Amour a leg up. Speaking of adventurous brings us to the two (assumed) non-Picture nominee possibilities: The Master and Looper. The Master is hardly the year's most well-received film; it's awfully divisive, but might have a large enough passionate fanbase to slide in. Looper, on the other hand, is the kind of film which I figured would have no shot at major category consideration, but this little sci-fi thriller keeps showing up at precursor award after precursor award. Apparently voting bodies just love Looper's screenplay. Really, I see these six as the only feasible options, but I suppose films like Flight, The Intouchables, Magic Mike, and Middle of Nowhere might still manage a nomination in this traditionally surprising category.
My predictions, in order of likelihood:
Zero Dark Thirty
Moonrise Kingdom
Django Unchained
The Master
Alternates: Looper, Flight

Best Adapted Screenplay
Here's a tougher category, which is often stacked to the top with Best Picture heavyweight hopefuls. On that score, check out Lincoln, Argo, and Silver Linings Playbook, which will all find a place here. For the final two spots, it's a battle royale between easy-choice Best Picture hopefuls and the scrappy Davids to their Goliath. On the Goliath front: Life of Pi and The Sessions. I'm not sure how to feel about Pi's chances here: almost every review/comment I've read or heard about this film find room to complain about the film's script/framing device, which many feel as unwieldy and subtle as a bag of hammers. That being said, the degree of difficulty required to bring Yann Martel's allegedly unfilmable novel to the screen must count for something. The Sessions, a film for which I harbor no particular love, could slide in here, but might be perceived as overly reliant on voice-over narration, or more of an actors' piece than a writing achievement. On the little-engine-that-could side of things, we've got Beasts of the Southern Wild and The Perks of Being A Wallflower: both fantastic films, both very deserving, and both perhaps too small to make an impression. Perks might have the edge here: it's shown up repeatedly at precursor awards, and earns cool points for being adapted for the screen by the author of the book. Plus, it's talkier than Beasts, which this branch will respond to. These are your seven real possibilities. I suppose arguments could be made for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Les Mis, but I don't think Best Exotic will be embraced to this extent, nor do I think the writers will ever nominate a screenplay which is composed entirely of songs.
My predictions, in order of likelihood:
Silver Linings Playbook
Life of Pi
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Alternates: Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Sessions

Well, that's it for today (again). Come back tomorrow as I wrap up all the craft categories! Anything you're hoping for?

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