Why The Academy Awards this Sunday will be the highlight of your weekend

Written by Andreas Babiolakis

The Academy Awards are this Sunday and you should absolutely pay attention, whether you are a film fan or not. Now how can I say such a thing? What gives me the right to command what you do on your humble, peaceful Sunday night? I have no authority, really, but I'm advising that you watch because these awards are, perhaps, the most interest, thrilling, and what may surely be the most memorable of the Academy Awards in many years. We've had years of many great winners, such as 2010's great line up of 127 Hours, Social Network, Inception, Black Swan, and the eventual winner The King's Speech. We've had great hosts in the past. So what is so important about this year? Here are my reasons why this Sunday's awards will be the best in many years, and my predictions of who will win the big prizes will follow.

The Academy Awards, and just film awards in general, are opening up to many different styles that many other awards shows are afraid to. They are opening up to independent films, to foreign films, to small named films and to artistic films. Years ago, when films like Shakespeare in Love would win, and films like Trainspotting would't get a break, things were much more different. Would you expect a foreign film as depressing and poetic as Amour to make such a huge impact on the awards years ago? I certainly wouldn't. What about a first time success like Beasts of the Southern Wild? Sure, Sam Mendes struck gold with his first big movie American Beauty, but that movie wasn't nearly as far from normality as Beasts, where a storm that mimics Hurricane Katrina strikes a fictional town and leaves a sick father and an imaginative daughter scrambling as large monsters embark on a stampede straight towards them. 

See, The Master surely could have fit at the bottom there!

But here's the thing. What was the starting point for awards shows to take notice of such different movies? Was it possibly American Beauty, that opened the world to millions of rose petals, the risky nature of young lust, and the ability to finally face human perversion and/or desire unlike we may have before this movie? When exactly did the Academy take notice of David Lynch as a director, Gary Oldman as an actor, and animated films as a leading contender for the year? You can probably pin point all of these examples, but that's not what I am asking. I am asking when it was that the Academy began to open up, and I ask this because there is still such a thing as Oscar bait; there are still movies that may be complete garbage that grab the Oscar's attention because of how they are made. Last year's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was a huge example, where even the prestigious actors and filmmakers in the audience didn't know how to properly react when its name was read for its nomination. That example is especially big, because this was apparently when the Oscars were advancing, right? When they were thinking outside of the box. Suddenly, we weren't so sure anymore.

Even this guy was moving further ahead!

This year we don't have upsets in that nature, where things that don't truly deserve a nomination get one. Instead we have exclusions that we cannot ignore, but in this case, it's because too many good candidates were out this year, and at least the Academy are acknowledging some interesting and well deserving people and films, right? But what makes this year even more special is its host. Now, I'm not a huge Seth McFarlane fan or anything, but I think it's terrific that he is hosting. Why? Why would it matter so much?

This move is smart, because people will surely tune in to see Seth McFarlane, and they will be exposed to such a huge palate of movies they may never have been introduced to before. This is a huge breakthrough to the huge general populace of the world. How many people will know Amour now? How many people will check out Beasts of the Southern Wild? How many will be intrigued by The Master? By Life of Pi? By so many films they may not have watched otherwise? How many new names and faces will these people finally be introduced to? 

"Now I have so many more references to use in Family Guy that my viewers can get!"

That is what makes this Sunday's ceremonies interesting. Will people hate these new films? Maybe. Maybe not. The fact that they are being exposed to them, at least, is something great. When Bon Iver won a grammy over Skrillex years ago, many were furious because they had never heard of Bon Iver before, and because of how out of place it seemed, when most of the other winners were mainstream top 40 familiar faces. With the Academy Awards this year, many of the nominations are unfamiliar to the casual movie goer. And how can one be mad when, for once, so many of the categories are absolutely unpredictable?

That's the one final thing that will make this year's awards a rush. So many years, now, have the winners, for the most part, been easy to identify. Ah yes, last year The Artist would sweep many awards. The King's Speech overtook The Social Network the year before, and we all saw it coming. This year, do you honestly know what to expect? Will Argo squeak through, or will Lincoln take over? Will Amour take the win by surprise? Will Zero Dark Thirty be the underdog that somehow prevails? We have no idea. I can only think of three categories that are absolute lock ins (have a look at my predictions), and everything else is very open. For Best Supporting Actor and Best Actress, I have not even the slightest inkling of who will win, but for arguments sake, I predicted anyways. 

Others, on the other hand, already know their victories well in advance.

So we have a host to engage many casual movie goers, a huge variety of films relatively known and unknown to them, and many possible winners in the most unpredictable Academy Awards ceremony in years. Strap in!

Who I think will win=in bold

Who I think should win=in italics


 

Actor in a Leading Role

  • Bradley Cooper in "Silver Linings Playbook"
  • Daniel Day-Lewis in "Lincoln"
  • Hugh Jackman in "Les Misérables"
  • Joaquin Phoenix in "The Master"
  • Denzel Washington in "Flight"

Day-Lewis has it in the bag at this point, and he deserves it. It is possible that history will be made, where an actor will have won the "Actor in a Leading Role" award three times, and no one is worthy of it quite like Daniel Day-Lewis (Jack Nicholson has won three times as well, but one was for a supporting role. Nicholson and Day-Lewis will be tied in amount of wins nonetheless).

Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Alan Arkin in "Argo"
  • Robert De Niro in "Silver Linings Playbook"
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman in "The Master"
  • Tommy Lee Jones in "Lincoln"
  • Christoph Waltz in "Django Unchained"

I truly think Seymour Hoffman deserves another win for his brilliant performance as the leader of a brainwashing cult, but it looks like Waltz will take this win, judging from the wins he's had so far. A possible winner could be Lee Jones, who has also won quite a few awards this season, but it appears that Waltz is grabbing the bigger prizes. I assume this is because of the late release of Django Unchained, and the hilarious performance Waltz delivers, and good for him if he wins in all honesty. He's a brilliant actor. I just feel that Seymour Hoffman deserves it a little bit more.

Actress in a Leading Role

  • Jessica Chastain in "Zero Dark Thirty"
  • Jennifer Lawrence in "Silver Linings Playbook"
  • Emmanuelle Riva in "Amour"
  • Quvenzhané Wallis in "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
  • Naomi Watts in "The Impossible"

This one is impossible to predict. Sadly, my choice of Chastain may not happen, but in reality it may very well happen (please let her win, oh Gods of the Academy). If I had to pick, I'd pick Lawrence's performance as the winner for a few reasons. 1) Silver Linings Playbook is doing well right now. So is Zero Dark Thirty, but not as well. 2) Controversy struck Zero Dark Thirty, while praise for Silver Linings Playbook's ability to represent mental illness with care is still buzzing around, and 3) the Weinsteins are behind Lawrence, and they know damn well how to promote someone! In all fairness, Chastain's gotten a huge amount of promotions as well, and a ton of praise. It seems to be between these two women and, as a possible sneak in from first base, Emmanuelle Riva, who just won the BAFTA and is now being opened up to a much wider audience. 

Actress in a Supporting Role

  • Amy Adams in "The Master"
  • Sally Field in "Lincoln"
  • Anne Hathaway in "Les Misérables"
  • Helen Hunt in "The Sessions"
  • Jacki Weaver in "Silver Linings Playbook"

The only other absolute lock in this year's Academy Awards. There's a reason why the trailers featured her for the most part and she's barely even in the movie. 

Animated Feature Film

  • "Brave" Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman
  • "Frankenweenie" Tim Burton
  • "ParaNorman" Sam Fell and Chris Butler
  • "The Pirates! Band of Misfits" Peter Lord
  • "Wreck-It Ralph" Rich Moore

Frankenweenie was my favorite animated film of last year, and it deserves any form of praise it gets. Sadly, it doesn't seem to be winning much, does it? Somehow Brave is grabbing a few awards here and there, and it's grabbing the big awards that count. Does it truly deserve them? I don't believe so, but it's still a good movie; just a disappointing one. Oh well. 

Cinematography

  • "Anna Karenina" Seamus McGarvey
  • "Django Unchained" Robert Richardson
  • "Life of Pi" Claudio Miranda
  • "Lincoln" Janusz Kaminski
  • "Skyfall" Roger Deakins

Life of Pi has been sweeping most of these categories throughout the awards season, and you can see why. Don't even take into account that you can see it in 3D. The scenery and backdrops are gorgeous. The other four movies do have great cinematography, but Life of Pi excels with scenes where you get lost within the scenery and the world surrounding Pi.

Costume Design

  • "Anna Karenina" Jacqueline Durran
  • "Les Misérables" Paco Delgado
  • "Lincoln" Joanna Johnston
  • "Mirror Mirror" Eiko Ishioka
  • "Snow White and the Huntsman" Colleen Atwood

Lincoln accurately portrays the clothes worn back during those times, as photographs of the past come to life. They don't stand out obnoxiously like most of the other movies (save for Anna Karenina), and I don't think Anna Karenina will beat a carbon copy clone of the president's wardrobe.

Directing

  • "Amour" Michael Haneke
  • "Beasts of the Southern Wild" Benh Zeitlin
  • "Life of Pi" Ang Lee
  • "Lincoln" Steven Spielberg
  • "Silver Linings Playbook" David O. Russell

With Ben Affleck out of the picture, this could be one of those rare years where a director doesn't win the big prize. Ang Lee crafts a nearly impossible movie so effortlessly and with such passion, but I have a feeling this one's going to Spielberg for a few reasons. 1) It's the best Spielberg film in years, 2) It's a movie many voters can probably get behind, and 3) where the directors this year truly are voted for their abilities to direct and not just for the movies they made being great, Spielberg has the most experience and the most connectivity with movie goers, even though Haneke and Lee have been working hard for years, O. Russell is no new name to the awards show, and Zeitlin is a fresh new talent who is blowing audiences away already. To be brutally honest, I love Lincoln and I love Spielberg, but if I had to swap anybody to get Affleck or Bigelow their rightful nomination, it'd be him. All are deserving, though.

Documentary Feature

  • "5 Broken Cameras" 
    Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi
  • "The Gatekeepers" 
    Dror Moreh, Philippa Kowarsky and Estelle Fialon
  • "How to Survive a Plague" 
    David France and Howard Gertler
  • "The Invisible War" 
    Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering
  • "Searching for Sugar Man" 
    Malik Bendjelloul and Simon Chinn

This documentary has been taking the world by storm. It's moving. It's accessible. It's for everyone. Easy pick.

Documentary Short Subject

  • "Inocente" 
    Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine
  • "Kings Point" 
    Sari Gilman and Jedd Wider
  • "Mondays at Racine" 
    Cynthia Wade and Robin Honan
  • "Open Heart" 
    Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern
  • "Redemption" 
    Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill

I haven't seen any of these, so I'm picking blindly. I'm your reliable source, clearly!

Film Editing

  • "Argo" William Goldenberg
  • "Life of Pi" Tim Squyres
  • "Lincoln" Michael Kahn
  • "Silver Linings Playbook" Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers
  • "Zero Dark Thirty" Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg

Both Zero Dark Thirty and Argo had fantastic editing, and while I do prefer the editing in Zero Dark Thirty, particularly how different the editing is during the climactic scene, I have no problem with Argo taking the trophy for its editing, of which is as fast as its escape.

Foreign Language Film

  • "Amour" Austria
  • "Kon-Tiki" Norway
  • "No" Chile
  • "A Royal Affair" Denmark
  • "War Witch" Canada

Do I even have to explain?

Makeup and Hairstyling

  • "Hitchcock"
    Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel
  • "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" 
    Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane
  • "Les Misérables" 
    Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell

There was a lot going on in Les Mis, and let's face it. If a movie is nominated for many other fashion-based categories, let alone for Best Picture, it will most likely overpower movies that aren't nearly as praised.

Music (Original Score)

  • "Anna Karenina" Dario Marianelli
  • "Argo" Alexandre Desplat
  • "Life of Pi" Mychael Danna
  • "Lincoln" John Williams
  • "Skyfall" Thomas Newman

This could be anybody's game, especially Danna's, Williams' and Newman's. Danna seems to be winning the most, though, so my vote is with him. Williams may steal the prize, though, but so far the odds are in Danna's favor. That doesn't mean anything, though.

Music (Original Song)

  • "Before My Time" from "Chasing Ice"
    Music and Lyric by J. Ralph
  • "Everybody Needs A Best Friend" from "Ted"
    Music by Walter Murphy; Lyric by Seth MacFarlane
  • "Pi's Lullaby" from "Life of Pi"
    Music by Mychael Danna; Lyric by Bombay Jayashri
  • "Skyfall" from "Skyfall"
    Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
  • "Suddenly" from "Les Misérables"
    Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; Lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil

The original song for Les Mis, that was so necessary that it camouflaged amongst the other songs, is my pick for the winner, but Adele's song that reached almost meme status even long before Skyfall was even released will most likely take the prize. 

Best Picture

  • "Amour" Margaret Menegoz, Stefan Arndt, Veit Heiduschka and Michael Katz, Producers
  • "Argo" Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck and George Clooney, Producers
  • "Beasts of the Southern Wild" Dan Janvey, Josh Penn and Michael Gottwald, Producers
  • "Django Unchained" Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin and Pilar Savone, Producers
  • "Les Misérables" Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward and Cameron Mackintosh, Producers
  • "Life of Pi" Gil Netter, Ang Lee and David Womark, Producers
  • "Lincoln" Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers
  • "Silver Linings Playbook" Donna Gigliotti, Bruce Cohen and Jonathan Gordon, Producers
  • "Zero Dark Thirty" Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow and Megan Ellison, Producers

There are many winners here, really. Apart from the missing nominations for The Master and Moonrise Kingdom, most of these are worth it. My personal pick, since The Master isn't there, is Zero Dark Thirty, and you never know, it may even win. The controversy seems to be adding a positive effect now that those ignorantly blasting the apparent promotion of torture are being put in their place. Realistically, it won't win though, and it seems to be between Lincoln and Argo. Now, Affleck hasn't been nominated, but Spielberg has. This could easily be a repeat of Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan year, where he wins Best Director but not Best Picture, and Argo can win seeing that it's won so many other awards. Then again, we can have a Crash year where the big leads don't win and someone sneaks in from behind (Amour or Life of Pi, anyone?). But the safest bets are either Argo or Lincoln, and had Affleck been nominated, the win would be clear as crystal. I'm still sticking with Argo though.

Production Design

  • "Anna Karenina" 
    Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
  • "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" 
    Production Design: Dan Hennah; Set Decoration: Ra Vincent and Simon Bright
  • "Les Misérables" 
    Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Anna Lynch-Robinson
  • "Life of Pi" 
    Production Design: David Gropman; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
  • "Lincoln" 
    Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson 

It's between Les Mis and Lincoln, and I have a feeling Les Mis will grab the prize because of how varied its sets and designs are.

Short Film (Animated)

  • "Adam and Dog" Minkyu Lee
  • "Fresh Guacamole" PES
  • "Head over Heels" Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O'Reilly
  • "Maggie Simpson in "The Longest Daycare"" David Silverman
  • "Paperman" John Kahrs

Kind of like Adele's original song, Paperman is approaching internet celebrity status with its constant sharing on social media sites, and for good reason. It's very relatable, very easy to get, to the point, and absolutely charming. What sets it ahead of the other nominees is its breathtaking combination of 2D and 3D animation, so that will probably push it ahead.

Short Film (Live Action)

  • "Asad" Bryan Buckley and Mino Jarjoura
  • "Buzkashi Boys" Sam French and Ariel Nasr
  • "Curfew" Shawn Christensen
  • "Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)" Tom Van Avermaet and Ellen De Waele
  • "Henry" Yan England

I have only seen this film, so I'm going with that. Sorry.

Sound Editing

  • "Argo" Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn
  • "Django Unchained" Wylie Stateman
  • "Life of Pi" Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton
  • "Skyfall" Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers
  • "Zero Dark Thirty" Paul N.J. Ottosson

Zero Dark Thirty was brilliant in this department, and sadly I feel like Argo, who is a close second here, will take the prize. Every nominee here is deserving, though. 

Sound Mixing

  • "Argo" 
    John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia
  • "Les Misérables" 
    Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes
  • "Life of Pi" 
    Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin
  • "Lincoln" 
    Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins
  • "Skyfall" 
    Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson

This one seems a bit more clear, however. The combination of live singing and orchestrated music, plus the many sound effects surrounding the music, cannot be ignored.

Visual Effects

  • "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" 
    Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White
  • "Life of Pi" 
    Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott
  • "Marvel's The Avengers" 
    Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick
  • "Prometheus" 
    Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill
  • "Snow White and the Huntsman" 
    Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson

So you have a return to Middle Earth that underwhelmed people, a team of super heroes that blew casual movie goers away, a distant planet that confused people, and a movie that people hated apart for its visuals. Or you have a moving movie that got to everyone and had people believe a tiger was trained to do everything on screen. Also meerkats. Yeah, Life of Pi's got this.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

  • "Argo" Screenplay by Chris Terrio
  • "Beasts of the Southern Wild" Screenplay by Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin
  • "Life of Pi" Screenplay by David Magee
  • "Lincoln" Screenplay by Tony Kushner
  • "Silver Linings Playbook" Screenplay by David O. Russell

Argo may win, but compared to Silver Linings Playbook, it may not. I only have a feeling it might because of its recent Writers Guild Award win, but the screenplay that sticks out the most here is O. Russell's, because his movie is the only one here that feels absolutely literary. Every movie here has fantastic writing, don't get me wrong, but his felt like a script coming to life, kind of like the ability writers like Tarantino and Chayefsky have.

Writing (Original Screenplay)

  • "Amour" Written by Michael Haneke
  • "Django Unchained" Written by Quentin Tarantino
  • "Flight" Written by John Gatins
  • "Moonrise Kingdom" Written by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
  • "Zero Dark Thirty" Written by Mark Boal

Boal's second triumph deserves a win for his impeccable ability to compress ten years into two and a half hours, and its great balance of pacing and connecting tons of dialogue and some scenes of long pauses and making something truly nerve wracking through out. Tarantino's script for Django Unchained seems to be getting a lot of notice, though, and it is a terrific script (all of these nominated are, though). Boal did win the Writer's Guild Award, though, but Tarantino won the BAFTA. In terms of last minute clues as to who will win, it's really not so clear anymore, but it could very well be either man, unless Haneke sneaks in another win with the recent boost Amour's gotten.

oscar 2013 predictions

Andreas Babiolakis

Film Editor & Music Writer at Live in Limbo. Co-host of the Capsule Podcast. A Greek/South African film enthusiast. He has recently earned a BFA honours degree in Cinema Studies at York University. He is also heavily into music, as he can play a number of instruments and was even in a few bands. He writes about both films and music constantly. You should follow him on Twitter @Andreasbabs.

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