Though the time has come to join the fray on handicapping this Sunday’s Academy Awards, it must be stated right off the bat that my Oscar losing streak is almost as long as Martin Scorsese’s. I haven’t won a single betting pool for this show since I first anted up my piggy bank with family during the 1991 telecast (when I was dead certain that Bugsy would beat Silence of the Lambs for Best Picture).
Some years my Oscar hopes were dashed by an unpredictable dark horse – Marissa Tomei’s surprise My Cousin Vinny win or Shakespeare in Love besting shoo-in Saving Private Ryan. For sweep years like Titanic, where every participant had the same picks, it all came down to the lucky guesser of an obscure category like Best Documentary Short. And then sometimes I just get an idea in my head about what I think Academy members respect and become blind to reason. Just ask Arnie… he made $100 off me after I foolishly gambled on Burt Reynolds’ Boogie Nights performance trouncing Robin Williams’ Oscar-baiting work in Good Will Hunting. (In my defense, the man was coming off Flubber!)
So don’t take anything you’re about to read as a proven formula for predicting winners. My method is to break each of the 24 major categories into three possible outcomes: Losers (no need for these folks to prepare a speech… it just ain’t happening this year), Outliers (unlikely dark horses that could sneak out a win), and The Real Race (those that have the best shot at the Gold Guy). I’m usually pretty good at this stuff. It’s when I have to narrow the field to one Winner that I choke. My tendency is to use my head and not my heart – I never think my personal favorites are going to be victorious. It’s the person who throws out cynical ideas about the Academy’s tastes, and banks on the undeniable appeal of some movie or performance that doesn’t have frontrunner status, who usually takes home the winnings.
Academy members’ tastes may be a bit stodgy – they tend to shun works that are too artsy, gutsy, or violent. And they hate giving Spielberg anything that isn’t connected to WWII. But that may all change this weekend. The history of the Oscars is not the history of the best films ever made, but it is a compelling Hollywood self-portrait that always has the potential to surprise and delight. And if Scorsese now has a statue, maybe this is the year where I turn my fortune around. Here’s hoping the 2013 Winners are….
Losers: Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild & Django Unchained
Outliers: Life of Pi, Silver Linings Playbook & Zero Dark 30
The Real Race: Argo vs. Lincoln
The Winner: Argo is a crowd pleasing, multi-award winning celebration of Hollywood saving the Iranian hostages. How could Tinseltown resist?
Losers: Ben Zeitlin (Beasts Of The Southern Wild)
Outliers: David O Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) & Michael Haneke (Amour)
The Real Race: Steven Spielberg (Lincoln) vs Ang Lee (Life of Pi)
The Winner: Spielberg. But Ben Affleck would easily take any of these names if he were on the ballot
Losers: Everyone else
The Winner: Daniel Day Lewis. This is the only race I’d bet $100 on.
Losers: Naomi Watts (The Impossible) & the little girl with the unpronounceable name from Beasts of the Southern Wild
Outlier: Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
The Real Race: Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) vs. Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)
The Winner: Lawrence had a big year with this and Hunger Games. Plus Silver Linings probably won’t win anything else.
Best Supporting Actor:
Losers: Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master) & Alan Arkin (Argo)
Outlier: Christoph Waltz (Django)
The Real Race: Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln) vs. Robert DeNiro (Silver Linings Playbook)
The Winner: Jones stole scenes from Daniel Day Lewis.
Best Supporting Actress:
Losers: Amy Adams (The Master), Helen Hunt (The Sessions), & Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook)
The Real Race: Anne Hathaway vs. Sally Field
The Winner: Hathaway. Ask Jennifer Hudson if one big song can get you this statue. Plus Sally already has two of these.
Best Original Script:
Losers: Moonrise Kingdom & Flight
The Real Race: Django Unchained vs. Zero Dark 30
The Winner: Zero Dark 30. As controversial as the torture was in this film, it pales next to Q’s irreverent slant on slavery.
Best Adapted Script:
Losers: Beasts of the Southern Wild
Outliers: Silver Linings Playbook & Life of Pi
The Real Race: Argo vs Lincoln
The Winner: Lincoln. Both movies fudged history to contrive drama… but Tony Kushner had the harder job because there were no firsthand accounts to model.
Losers: Life of Pi & Silver Linings Playbook
The Real Race: Argo vs Zero Dark 30
The Winner: Argo. The Best Picture winner typically takes this trophy.
Losers: Anna Karenina & Django Unchained
The Real Race: Life of Pi vs. Skyfall
The Winner: Skyfall. Roger Deakins must win one year… and this may be his best looking film.
Best Production Design
The Real Race: Anna Karenina vs. Lincoln vs. Les Miz vs. Life of Pi
The Winner: Lincoln. This category is really up for grabs, but I’ll go with the film with the most nominations.
Losers: Snow White and the Huntsman & Mirror, Mirror
The Real Race: Anna Karenina vs. Les Miz
The Winner: Les Miz. All I know is that Snow White will be going home empty handed.
Loser: Les Miz (I couldn’t stand looking at all those rotten teeth and wigs in close up!)
Best Visual Effects
Loser: Snow White And The Huntsman
The Real Race: The Avengers vs. The Hobbit vs. Life of Pi
The Winner: Life of Pi. All deserve it, but Pi’s SFX were pivotal to the drama.
Best Sound Editing:
Outliers: Argo, Django Unchained, Life of Pi
The Real Race: Skyfall vs Zero Dark 30 (lot of noises in this one)
The Winner: Skyfall. I’m feeling like this will be 007’s year to get 004 Oscars.
Best Sound Mixing
Outliers: Argo, Life of Pi, Lincoln
The Real Race: Skyfall vs. Les Miz (they did the singing live on set)
The Winner: Skyfall. If it wins one sound award, it will win the other.
Losers: Anna Karenina & Skyfall
The Real Race: Lincoln vs Life of Pi
The Winner: Life of Pi. John Williams doesn’t have shelf space to display another Oscar.
Loser: Chasing Ice
Outliers: Life of Pi & Ted (hey, Seth is hosting. He’d have an opportunity to stuff the ballot)
The Real Race: Skyfall vs. Les Miz
The Winner: Skyfall. Adele is nearly unstoppable.
Best Animated Feature
Loser: The Pirates!
Outliers: Frankenweinie & Para-Norman
The Real Race: Brave vs. Wreck-It Ralph
The Winner: Wreck-It Ralph. Didn’t see any of them. Pixar usually wins, but Ralph nabbed the Annie.
Best Animated Short
Loser: Fresh Guacamole
Outliers: Head over Heels & The Longest Daycare (could the Simpsons ever win an Oscar?)
The Real Race: Adam and Dog vs Paperman
The Winner: Paperman. It won the Annie
Best Live Action Short
Losers: Buzkashi Boys & Henry
The Real Race: Curfew vs. Death of a Shadow
The Winner: Curfew. I’ll be honest… I Googled a bunch of other Oscar handicappers and this was consistently voted the best.
Best Foreign Language Film
Loser: A Royal Affair & War Witch
Outliers: Kon Tiki & No
The Winner: Amour. If it’s up for Best Picture, winning this category should be a ake walk.
Best Documentary Feature
Loser: 5 Broken Cameras
Outliers: How To Survive A Plague & Invisible War
The Real Race: The Gatekeepers vs Searching For Sugar Man
The Winner: Gatekeepers. Sugar Man is the sentimental favorite… but docs tend to win for subject matter. Gatekeepers’ provocative interviews about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict widen more eyes.
Best Documentary Short
I NEVER know what wins in this category. Let’s make a guess based on the subject matter:
Rwandan children getting heart surgery (Open Heart) beats homeless Mexican teen (Inocente) beats women with cancer at a hair salon (Mondays at Racine) beats senior citizens retired in Florida (Kings Point) beats people who recycle bottles and cans (Redemption).
The Winner: Open Heart. Are you really going to deny sick African kids an Oscar?!!!