And time for my annual summation of what and who will win this year's Academy Awards
Best Picture: Argo--A pattern has emerged as to how likely winners for the Best Picture Oscar come about. There is a film that seems to be the insurmountable victor in early December (eg, Social Network, Descendants, Avatar), and by the week before the awards another film has all but sent that other movie to the poor house (eg, King's Speech, The Artist, Hurt Locker). This year's contestants in that race were Spielberg's Lincoln and Affleck's Argo. In December, after mountains of critical praise and surprisingly strong box office, it seemed that "Lincoln" would sweep all the award shows, but then Ben Affleck's little movie about the Iranian hostage crisis began to pick up steam, and now has won every single large prize out there, with only the Oscar left. Also, the Academy loves when good-looking actor types turn into critically respected directors (cf. Warren Beatty, Robert Redford, and Clint Eastwood, whose only awards have come as directors).
Best Director: Spielberg, Lincoln. There is a wrench thrown into this race: there is no Affleck nominated. He has won the DGA, the film has won the Golden Globe, BAFTA, PGA and SAG, but Affleck was shut out of the Director race, as was Tarantino, Bigelow, and Tom Hooper. Everyone seems to concur that Spielberg will receive his third award for "Lincoln," but without any other precedents there could still be an upset here. I don't believe Ang Lee or David Russell stand a chance, but there is a possibility that Haneke who directed this year's finest and most depressing film, Amour, could pull it out.
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln. Although he has already won twice, it really is a spectacular performance. He will triumph again.
Best Actress: Emmanuelle Riva, Amour. I think many Americans think this race is pitting Jessica Chastain against Jennifer Lawrence. Although both are quite respected and Lawrence had that little movie called the Hunger Games, I think the Academy will go with the legendary French actress, who first became a star with 1959's Hiroshima, mon amour. She gives a breathtaking performance as a piano teacher felled by a stroke and she is a legend in France. She won the BAFTA two weeks ago, and the British awards have proven to be the clearest indicators of who will take home the Oscar (much more so than the SAG awards: see Marion Cotillard vs. Julie Christie; Meryl Streep vs. Viola Davis).
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained. Prognostications are all over the place for this category. Partly due to the fact that this is (I believe) the first time everyone nominated in an acting category has won before--the closest parallel I can think of was Best Actor of 2002, when everyone had won previously, except Adrien Brody, who ended up winning. Some say DeNiro will win his third, I truly doubt that Academy will give three threefers out in one night (along with Daniel Day and Spielberg). Many believe that part of what made Arkin great in Argo was John Goodman, who yet again failed to be nominated. Tommy Lee Jones hasn't won in twenty years, but his sourpuss face at the Golden Globes probably did not help. I will predict Waltz simply because he is the star of Django. He is in every scene and without him, you would have only had Jamie Foxx in the movie, which would have been painful.
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Miz. Although I would love to see Sally Field deliver some off-color acceptance speech, it will not happen. Hathaway is considered the standout of the almost three-hour epic that is Les Miz, and this will be the film's largest honor on Sunday night.
Best Original Screenplay: Tarantino, Django. I am not completely convinced that this will happen, but Tarantino who was the enfant terrible of 1994 has grown into a bankable and respected director. He has not won since Pulp Fiction and this will be his chance to get some proper respect. He will probably make an insufferable speech, heads up.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Tony Kushner, Lincoln. Although critics are predicting that David Russell will win, I refuse to believe it. I refuse to award Russell (who by all accounts is a jerk of the highest degree) for writing a screenplay that ends like every single Drew Barrymore movie since 1994, especially if he would be beating one of America's most respected playwrights. I refuse to see that happen.
Best Animated Feature: Wreck-It Ralph. Although Brave made more money and won the Golden Globe, the best animated feature of the year (and one of the year's best films, period) was Wreck-It Ralph.
Best Documentary Feature: Searching for Sugar Man. The charming tale of a guitarist forgotten by the world, who somehow gained cult status in South Africa, is the feel-good flick of the year, and has relaunched Rodriguez's career. He just had his fifth tour throughout South Africa and will be appearing at Coachella in April. This category is always a pain because such different films are put up. This year, all are deserving: Kirby Dick's piece on sexual assault in the armed forces is stunning and devastating; The Gatekeepers provides the most incisive view into the world of the Israeli Defense forces; and How to Survive a Plague walks a fine line of incisive critique and a hopeful future.
Best Foreign Film: Amour. Michael Haneke was heavily favored to win in this category three years ago for The White Ribbon, but lost to the Argentinian film, Secrets of their eyes. His critically acclaimed film that won several prizes at the Cannes Film Festival, Cache, failed to be nomianted. This will be Haneke's night to triumph.
Best Cinematography: Life of Pi. I was not particularly enamored with this Ang Lee movie, but I must admit that there is an hour of the movie, which is one of the most beautiful and spectacular films that I have ever seen ever. It deserves this award without any qualifier.
Best Visual Effects: Life of Pi. See above. It is always nice to see a film use its visual effects for something other than blowing stuff up.
Best Editing: Argo. Part of Argo's success comes from its masterful pacing. Although you know the ending, you are on the edge of your seat for the last last half hour. Kathryn Bigelow is also a masterful director who thinks about editing, but Zero Dark Thirty will probably lose here, too.
Best Costume Design: Anna Karenina. I only need to mention one thing: Fur hats with veils.
Best Production Design: Les Miz. The few built sets were keenly aware of historical details, including the famed elephant of the Bastille as Gavroche's hideout.
Best Makeup (and Hairstyling): Les Miz. Everyone looked dirty, even the extras. That takes a lot of time.
Best Score: Life of Pi. I would prefer to see Anna Karenina win here, but Mychael Danna's (God, even his name is pretentious) Orientalist score for Ang Lee's film has been the most predicted, so I suppose that will happen at the Oscars as well. sigh.
Best Song: Skyfall. Let's give an Oscar to Adele! This will be the first Bond theme song to win an Oscar, which is slightly shocking thinking of classics like "Moonraker," "Goldfinger," "Diamonds are Forever," and "Nobody Does it Better."
Best Sound Mixing: Les Miz. Even people who loathe this movie do respect the amount of work to layer the different sound levels required with the amount of live singing done during filming.
Best Sound Editing: Life of Pi, I suppose.
Best Animated Short: Paperman. You can watch all of the shorts on youtube, this year. Disney's charming fable about animated paper, seems to be the clear favorite. I really appreciated the Up-like Head Over Heels, but Adam and Dog is getting attention from others. I have a feeling that its biblical overtone swill put off some Academy voters. It also drags, making its 15 minutes feel much longer.
Best Documentary Short: Innocente. Haven't seen any of them, but this apparently is the front runner.
Best Live Action Short: Curfew. Once again. I have seen none of them, but this is apparently the front runner.