5 biggest Oscar surprises

The 85th Annual Academy Awards have come and gone faster than you can say “Argo.”

And what a race it was.

With the earliest nominations ever, first-time electronic voting, and some of the oldest and youngest contenders in history, this has truly been one for the record books.

I always do my best to accurately predict the winners – and let’s face it, this year I blew it on some of the big ones. But as I explained earlier: no guts, no glory.

Here is a look at the night’s five biggest surprises.

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1. Jennifer Lawrence wins Best Actress for “Silver Linings Playbook.” I had confidently written that Ms. Lawrence would not win the Oscar under any circumstance. I really did believe that. And I was really, really wrong. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy her performance. “Silver Linings” was one of my five favorite films of the year and Lawrence played the part well. However, I felt that it was essentially a supporting role and not really that much of a stretch for her. Some of her key dramatic moments seemed just a tad forced to me. Plus, at the age of 22, surely voters felt that they could reward her in the future. That was not the case for rival Emmanuelle Riva in “Amour,” who celebrated her 86th birthday at the Oscar ceremony. Hers was true high-difficulty acting and the finest accomplishment by a female thespian in 2012. Ultimately, the Academy gave their “amour” to hometown gal Lawrence. I do hope that the talented Riva finds her own silver lining after all of this awards madness.

2. Christoph Waltz wins Best Supporting Actor for “Django Unchained.” There’s no question that Waltz was sensational in his role of the dentist-turned-bounty hunter in Quentin Tarantino’s explosive slavery revenge film. His wins at the Golden Globes and British Academy Awards showed strength. Yet with only three years since has previous win for another Tarantino picture, “Inglourious Basterds,” it simply seemed way too early to crown him again – especially considered his esteemed competition. My pick Robert De Niro in “Silver Linings Playbook” gave his finest performance in years. With 32 years since his last win for “Raging Bull,” I detected a desire to reward him again. Apparently not. DeNiro is a legend and a true raging bull – hopefully he, too, will find that silver lining after his latest go at Oscar.

3. “Django Unchained” wins Best Original Screenplay. Tarantino lost this category three years ago for the aforementioned “Basterds,” a film which had much greater support in the Academy. “Django” seemed doomed by its extreme violence, controversy and excessive length. Despite all of its negatives, the film managed to prevail among much tighter and more intimate scripts. Perhaps there was just a desire to give Tarantino another award for this category after his last win for “Pulp Fiction” 18 years ago. As we saw on Oscar night, there’s nothing like seeing Tarantino unchained at Hollywood’s biggest event of the year.

4. “Brave” wins Best Animated Feature. Pixar’s films are almost always terrific, yet the summer-released “Brave” seemed to have been overshadowed by the November debut of “Wreck-It Ralph.” “Ralph” had taken the key Producers Guild and ANNIE trophies, which often foretell of the eventual winner in this category. I’ll admit that I actually preferred “Brave” to “Ralph.” If only I had been brave enough to go with my gut.

5. “Skyfall” and “Zero Dark Thirty” tie for Best Sound Editing. With close to 6,000 voters, ties are statistically a very rare possibility. We saw the first one in nearly 20 years, with two fairly loud movies. It added a nice bit of excitement to what was feeling like a very long evening. But if it had to happen, couldn’t it have been elsewhere? Imagine if it had been for Best Actress, between the oldest and youngest nominees ever. Such an announcement would have called for some real sound editing, in what could have been one of the most thunderous moments in Oscar history.