Friday, February 22, 2013

The Projector: Oscar's Big Six

It's a buildup as painfully protracted as Cloud Atlas itself. After months and months of Oscar speculation - who'll get nominated, who'll get the shaft - the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will finally dole out their 2012 cache of chiseled-chinned, stone-faced statues Sunday night.

In case you've been off on a hunting expedition in Siberia, the headline is clearer than Ethanol: Ben Affleck got screwed. Make no mistake about is, his outlandish non-nomination for Best Director is the most preposterous omission in Oscar's 85-year history. More on that to follow.

While there are 24 televised categories, the focus is on the "Big Six": Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and the two supporting acting Oscars. And as has been the case virtually every year, several of the trophies are all but settled but the top two prizes are far from done deals. Here come my picks:

(Nominees listed in order of strength of winning award)

Best Picture

1. Argo
2. Lincoln
3. Life of Pi
4. Silver Linings Playbook
5. Les Misérables
6. Zero Dark Thirty
7. Django Unchained
8. Beasts of the Southern Wild
9. Amour

And the Oscar goes to: Argo
Don't be shocked if: Lincoln, Life of Pi, Silver Linings Playbook
Final Cut fave: The Master
Got jobbed: The Master
Have no business in the building: Silver Linings Playbook, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Amour

Erick's analysis: With wins at the: Critics' Choice, Golden Globes, PGA (Producers Guild), SAG, DGA (Directors Guild), BAFTA (British film awards) and WGA (Writers Guild), is there any conceivable way Argo doesn't win this? Couple that boot-to-the-throat sweep with Affleck's egregious snub in the Best Director category and you have a situation where there's just one way out of this PR nightmare for the 5,800-ish members of the Academy: Award Argo Best Picture. That's not a sympathy vote, that's the right vote. God forbid if Silver Linings Playbook wins, it would instantly own the title of: "Worst Best Picture Ever".

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Best Director

1. Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)
2. Ang Lee (Life of Pi)
3. Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
4. David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)
5. Michael Haneke (Amour)

The Oscar goes to: Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)
Don't be shocked if: Ang Lee (Life of Pi), Ben Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
Final Cut fave: Ben Affleck (Argo)
Got jobbed: Ben Affleck (Argo), Tom Hooper (Les Misérables), Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty)
Have no business in the building: David O. Russell, Ben Zeitlin, Michael Haneke

Erick's analysis: Whoever wins Best Director is going to have to live with the fact the award carries a gargantuan asterisk with it thanks to Affleck's snubbing. So what's happened since the side-splitting shunning? The Boston native brought home every available best director trophy on the road to Oscar including the Directors Guild's Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film award, a massive medallion handed out by a guild comprised solely of folks who make the movies we see – the ultimate redemption. As it is, Steven Spielberg is the favorite to win his third Best Director Oscar but don't count out Ang Lee or even Benh Zeitlin for his artistic - and nauseating - portrait of post-Katrina Louisiana. If David O. Russell wins, my faith in humanity will cease to exist.

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Best Actor

1. Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
2. Hugh Jackman (Les Misérables)
3. Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)
4. Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)
5. Denzel Washington (Flight)

And the Oscar goes to: Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
Don't be shocked if: Hugh Jackman (Les Misérables)
Final Cut fave: Hugh Jackman (Les Misérables)
Got jobbed: Richard Gere (Arbitrage)
Has no business in the building: None

Erick's analysis: This is as close as we come to a mortal lock at the Oscars. While Lincoln the film has whiffed on the road to Oscar, its 16th president hasn't. Like Affleck, Day-Lewis has swept all the major awards and his winning streak won't be coming to an end Sunday night. Only Jackman has an outside shot of winning, the Aussie's beloved in Hollywood and he killed it hosting the Oscars in '08. After all, when is Jackman going to be in another film worthy of an Oscar?

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Best Actress

1. Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
2. Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
3. Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)
4. Naomi Watts (The Impossible)
5. Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

And the Oscar goes to: Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
Don't be shocked if: Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)
Final Cut fave: Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)
Got jobbed: Helen Mirren (Hitchcock), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Smashed)
Has no business in the building: None

Erick's analysis: Right behind Best Supporting Actor as the most in-question category. While she's by no means my fave, Lawrence has emerged as the slight frontrunner. But Chastain is right there with Katniss Everdeen as both starlets shoot for the first of what may likely be multiple Oscars in their sure-to-be-lengthy film careers. Don't sleep on Riva though, she's Amour's centerpiece and my pick for the finest female performance of 2012.

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Best Supporting Actor

1. Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)
2. Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)
3. Alan Arkin (Argo)
4. Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)
5. Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)

And the Oscar goes to: Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)
Don't be shocked if: Any of the other four
Final Cut fave: (Tie) Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
Got jobbed: Leonardo DiCaprio (Django Unchained), Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty), Michael Fassbender (Prometheus)
Has no business in the building: None

Erick's analysis: This could go to any of the five nominees – it's that wide open. To give you some idea of the strength of field, each of the quintet has an Oscar to his name. While my best guess is to go with SAG Award-winner Jones, the sentimental vote may flow De Niro or even Arkin's way. Then again, Waltz won the Golden Globe and Hoffman the Critics' Choice. Bottom line: Don't bet the house on any of the five.

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Best Supporting Actress

1. Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables)
2. Sally Field (Lincoln)
3. Helen Hunt (The Sessions)
4. Amy Adams (The Master)
5. Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook)

And the Oscar goes to: Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables)
Don't be shocked if: Sally Field (Lincoln)
Final Cut fave: Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables)
Got jobbed: Judi Dench (Skyfall)
Has no business in the building: Jacki Weaver

Erick's analysis: Second biggest lock of the night. While Hathaway's stream of semi-scatterbrained speeches - specifically her BAFTA's acceptance - have been razzed, this is Fantine's to lose. Though Field could score the upset with the Academy's prevalence of older voters.