This year’s Oscar nominations produced as many surprise nominations as anticipated celebrations. In fact, this will likely prove to be one of the strangest years for the Academy Awards, especially since there are at least three major categories that might turn out to be close races between two exceptional candidates in each pool. With only one month until the big event, let’s analyze each of the eight major categories to determine the potential outcome of the 85th Academy Awards.
Best Picture: What a clusterfuck. No, but really. Back in 2009 after “The Dark Knight” was robbed of a deserved nomination for Best Picture, the Academy decided to expand the category to 10 nominations, which was just plain stupid. Every year since it has let in one or two subpar films that makes everyone wonder what the hell voters were thinking. This year, any film that received at least five percent of the votes for Best Picture was nominated. So instead of 10, this year we have nine. And even without “The Master” making the cut, “Les Misérables” was still nominated! What a travesty of a film. As someone who immensely respects and admires the stage version, Hollywood completely butchered this. That’s right, I’m calling “Les Misérables” this year’s “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” Sue me. All right, back to the real discussion. There’s no contest in this category, unfortunately. “Argo” will take the cake. It’s won every major award thus far, and the Academy won’t be backing down on the general consensus this year. If I were there, I’d vote for either “Zero Dark Thirty” or “Silver Linings Playbook,” with a slight leaning towards the latter. But Hollywood rarely ever lets a comedy win, so there goes that hope.
Best Director: The big surprise, of course, was the lack of a nomination for Ben Affleck, who has won just about every major directing award of the season thus far. Add Paul Thomas Anderson and Kathryn Bigelow to the list of those who didn’t make the cut. The most likely candidate is Steven Spielberg for “Lincoln.” And while Spielberg is certainly a fine choice, it would be nice to see some fresh blood in the category. My choice for most likely to win would be David O. Russell, but the obvious personal favorite would be Wesleyan’s Benh Zeitlin ’04 for the imaginative “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” That said, put your money on Spielberg for his third Oscar.
Best Actor: This one is the most clear cut choice. Daniel Day-Lewis has been the fan favorite since the original news broke that he was cast. He was destined to win his third Oscar for his portrayal of the former President. The only close call would be Joaquin Phoenix for “The Master,” but since he publicly criticized the entire concept of awards in Hollywood, no one would dare give him this one. Expect Day-Lewis’ record-setting third.
Best Actress: Here we are presented with a much more interesting category. For most of the early season, Jessica Chastain seemed to have the award locked down. But once more buzz began circulating for “Silver Linings Playbook,” Jennifer Lawrence emerged as the new likely victor, taking both the Golden Globe and the Screen Actor’s Guild. This one could realistically go either way, and while my gut screams Lawrence, something tells me the Oscars will straighten out with their original decision and give it to the more seasoned of the two. Lawrence has plenty of years to come and will likely receive more nominations in the near future.
Best Supporting Actor: Another close call, but Tommy Lee Jones will likely push ahead to take the prize come awards night. It’s been a close race between him and Christoph Waltz up until now, but the real contender who should be getting more attention is Philip Seymour Hoffman for “The Master.” It’d really be nice to see this gorgeous film receive an award, especially since it was robbed of Best Picture and Cinematography. The only way that would happen is if Jones and Waltz split the votes, but it’ll likely just go to the “Lincoln” cast member instead.
Best Supporting Actress: While “Les Miserables” was a trainwreck of a film, it did get one thing right: Anne Hathaway. That single take of her crying herself to death while singing “I Dreamed A Dream” screams Oscar gold and really does elevate Hathaway above every other contender. Sally Field is possible but not that likely at this point. And her performance was a bit overrated, don’t you think?
Best Original Screenplay: Not a film I was particularly fond of, but “Django Unchained” did have some merits. One being the script by Quentin Tarantino, who always manages to shine the most in his writing and directing. The only main competition comes from Mark Boal’s “Zero Dark Thirty,” but all the politics surrounding the film make it seem less than likely. Expect Django’s only major award to go to its writing.
Best Adapted Screenplay: While “Argo” appears to have an advantage due to its high chances at taking Best Picture, “Lincoln” is more likely to take the award for two main reasons. One being that, since it won’t win Picture, another major award will go to the biopic as a consolation for the loss. The second being that playwright Tony Kushner is already such a big name in the theater world that he will have the support of all the writers who have praised and idolized his work for years.