The 85th annual Academy Awards will be presented this Sunday, and that means that there are a lot of very nervous people both in and outside of Hollywood.
The nominees, the presenters, the performers, and most of all, the pundits.
Why do the pundits top the list for Oscar anxiety? Let’s put it this way. The nominees are generally only worried about their own categories. The presenters and performers have only a few minutes on stage to humiliate themselves if their sequences go terribly wrong. But for the pundits who make predictions in all 24 categories, there are three hours of sheer agony as the envelopes are slowly opened one by one. Will we get sound editing right? What about documentary short subject? And how about live action short picture?
You get the picture.
But there’s one pundit who is especially nervous this year: yours truly, Fox’s Dr. Oscar. last year, I correctly predicted winners in Oscar’s nine major categories, including the far-from-certain wins by Best Actor Jean Dujardin in “The Artist” and Best Actress Meryl Streep in “The Iron Lady.” In fact, FOX 411 was one of the only major entertainment news entities to get the big ones all right.
This year, I’m determined to make sure that we do it again. And I’m going to try and call a number of surprises. No guts, no glory.
So whether you’re taking part in a fiercely competitive office Oscar pool or just want to impress your family and friends while you watch the show, allow me to give you what I hope will be the most accurate predictions in the cybersphere for the nine major award categories. As Bette Davis so accurately put it in 1950’s “All About Eve,” fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.
1. Best Picture: "Argo"
Nominated: “Amour,” “Argo,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” Django Unchained,” “Les Miserables,” “Life of Pi,” “Lincoln,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Zero Dark Thirty”
When the nominations were announced last month and Ben Affleck was excluded from the Best Director lineup, it looked like “Argo” might suddenly be dead in the water. That’s because over the past 75 years, only one film (1989’s “Driving Miss Daisy”) has won the top Oscar without reaping a bid for directing. Amazingly enough, Affleck’s snub seemingly turned his film into this year’s awards sensation. “Argo” has thus far won virtually every major pre-Oscar prize: the Critics Choice, Golden Globe, Producers Guild, Screen Actors Guild, Directors Guild and British Academy trophies have gone its way. The film is well-liked in the industry and has done remarkably well at the box office. The Academy knows that an “Argo” victory means that Affleck still goes on stage and accepts the Oscar as a producer (alongside fellow producer George Clooney, no less.) It’s just unfathomable that it could lose. Earlier in the season, it appeared that “Lincoln” might be the film to beat. With a leading twelve nominations including that key directing citation, it seemed to have the edge. However, as much as the film is generally respected, it just isn’t loved. It’s been criticized for being too long, too boring, and perhaps even a bit hokey at times. It’s performed rather poorly at the precursor award ceremonies. In short, “Lincoln” won’t survive in Oscar’s Dolby Theatre on Sunday, thanks to an “assassin” by the name of “Argo.”
2. Best Director: Ang Lee for “Life of Pi”
Nominated: Michael Haneke for “Amour,” Benh Zeitlin for “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” Ang Lee for “Life of Pi,” Steven Spielberg for “Lincoln,” David O. Russell for “Silver Linings Playbook”
This is truly one of the strangest directing competitions in Oscar history. Normally, the Directors Guild of America winner also takes the Oscar. And usually, the Best Picture champion also claims the directing award. But with Ben Affleck shamefully out of the running for helming “Argo,” the race is completely wide open. I had written earlier on FOX 411 that this was Spielberg’s race to lose. With “Lincoln” extremely unlikely to win the top Oscar, this is a logical place to give him some serious recognition. The film is up for more awards than any other, including three acting categories and most of the major technical fields. Spielberg is seen as Hollywood’s most prominent director and it’s been 14 years since his second and last win for “Saving Private Ryan.” So why do I see him losing? As I explained earlier, there’s little excitement behind “Lincoln” and the biopic has its detractors. While the film is certainly an impressive accomplishment, it doesn’t really break any new ground for modern movies. That’s unlike Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi,” based on a novel which many people considered impossible to film. Lee cast an unknown non-professional actor in the lead role, worked with water, animals and visual effects, and ultimately created the most visually stunning and intellectually stimulating cinematic experience of the year. It’s true that “Pi” failed to earn any acting nominations, but it was never expected to. The Academy’s technical branches recognized it in almost every category, giving it a surprisingly strong 11 bids. I have a hunch that when most members are looking at their ballots, they’ll realize that Lee’s vision was unquestionably the year’s greatest achievement in directing. That means that “Life of Pi” gets Lee the slice of Oscar over Spielberg’s “Lincoln.”
3. Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln”
Nominated: Bradley Cooper in “Silver Linings Playbook,” Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln,” Hugh Jackman in “Les Miserables,” Joaquin Phoenix in “The Master,” Denzel Washington in “Flight”
There’s really little that needs to be said here. Ever since “Lincoln” was first screened back in the fall, the general consensus has been that Day-Lewis would earn his unprecedented third Best Actor Oscar. (He previously won for both 1989’s “My Left Foot” and 2007’s “There Will Be Blood.”) Widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest living actors, he completely disappears into his role of President Abraham Lincoln. Every word, every mannerism and every expression seems to capture the giant historical figure so perfectly. It’s almost frightening to watch. Day-Lewis has been given all of the major precursor awards as expected, and delivered the same gracious acceptance speeches as always. The other nominees are all superb; in another year any one of them could probably prevail. But this is kind of like an election year, and it’s Day-Lewis’ portrayal in “Lincoln” that gets inaugurated as Best Actor.