Movies

Nick’s Last-Minute Oscar Nomination Predix

Credit: AMPAS

Credit: AMPAS

Well, Oscar nominations are announced tomorrow morning at 5:30 am PT/8:30 ET on Oscar.com or whichever morning show floats your boat, and I can’t say I’m not excited about how this season has turned out. In all my years of following the Academy Awards, and the manic seasons of campaigning that precede it, I can’t remember a year that was this wide open with regards to who might get nominated, and who might go all the way. It makes for fun viewing, but it’s absolutely hell if you’re actually trying to make predictions.

The nomination announcement comes earlier into the season than at any point in recent memory, as nominations usually drop towards the end of January. This has thrown a considerable wrench into the season, as the guilds probably won’t line up with Oscar to the extent that they have in years past. Which is not to say that all guild nomineees (from the Screen Actors and the Producers Guild, to the Writers and the Directors Guild) have gone on to corresponding Oscar nominations. The Academy very much likes to do its own thing, which results in some quirky, if not random, out-of-nowhere choices – particularly in the acting categories, where precursor support from the guilds could be the difference between attending the ceremony as a nominee, or watching from the sidelines as an also-ran.

So let’s get to it!

Best Picture

Lincoln
Argo
Life of Pi
Les Miserables
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty
Django Unchained
Amour
Skyfall
The Impossible

When the Academy reintroduced its old fashioned “Ten Best Picture nominees” rule for the 2009 season, it had suddenly become a little easier to predict which films would get nominated. But then the Academy altered the rule two years later: between 5-10 films would be nominated. Instead of a hard five or a hard ten, any amount between those two numbers could be nominated, depending on which films got the necessary amount of votes to earn a nomination. That means that to get nominated, a film needs more than simply broad support: it needs a passionate fanbase, willing to mark it at #1 on the ballot. To this end, only six films are locks to get nominations: Lincoln, Les Miserables, Argo, Life of Pi, and Zero Dark Thirty. In the “likely” category, you could probably put Silver Linings Playbook and Django Unchained.

That leaves three available slots, assuming we get ten nominees. Skyfall is resurgent, and has a real shot at becoming the first Bond film ever nominated for Best Picture. Meanwhile, indie favorite Beasts of the Southern Wild is sure to get a lot of #1 votes on the ballot. The same could be said for Amour, the masterpiece about love and death from respected auteur Michael Haneke. Also in contention is Moonrise Kingdom, a film that has had a longer period to establish buzz than many of the films looking for a nomination. It would also be hard to count out Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, which has been lauded by critics organizations across the country over the last several months. I could even see longshots like ensemble comedy The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel or foreign film sensation The Intouchables getting nominated. And if you subscribe to the “Whatever voters saw last” theory of Oscar voting, then The Impossible could score a nod. But ultimately, not everyone can get nominated. That said, I’m predicting we actually will get a full slate of ten nominees. Picking Skyfall over Moonrise Kingdom is probably going to bite me in the ass, but it’s a rare, once in a lifetime chance for the Academy to honor one of film’s most venerable franchises. Riskier still is picking The Impossible, but it just feels like a surprise nominee waiting to happen.

Best Director

Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Ben Affleck, Argo
Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master

This is a tight field, made all the tighter by the DGA nominations choosing to go with the expected Oscar frontrunners Spielberg, Affleck, Bigelow, Hooper and Lee. But since DGA so rarely goes 5-for-5 with Oscar, it’s now just a matter of who misses out on that vulnerable fifth Oscar spot.

Spielberg, Affleck, and Bigelow feel like locks, while Ang Lee strikes me as a pretty safe bet. Although Tom Hooper has been lauded by the Academy before (for 2010’s “The King’s Speech”), I have a feeling he’ll miss out, for two reasons: 1) his directing is one of the things about the movie that people who hate it (hell, even people who love it) seem to single out the most as the reason why the movie wasn’t all that it could have been, and 2) the Academy seems to have this peculiar notion, in recent years, that musicals direct themselves (this dates back to Baz Luhrmann’s criminal snub for Moulin Rouge in 2001). So who gets the fifth slot? I’m going to say Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master) takes the spot many are reserving for Michael Haneke (Amour), since you’d have to go back to 1989 to find a time where Oscar didn’t nominate the winner of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association award for Best Director. So I’m going with Anderson.

Best Actor

Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
John Hawkes, The Sessions
Denzel Washington, Flight

This is one of the more wide open races of the year, as Daniel Day-Lewis is really the only lock. The other four slots could conceivably go to anyone. But Best Picture often helps in whittling down just who those candidates will end up being. And so I’ve given the first three slots to lead actors from Best Picture nominees, while the latter two spots are going to critically-acclaimed performances from well-liked figures, one a well-respected character actor, and the other an international superstar and two-time Oscar winner.

Best Actress

Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Naomi Watts, The Impossible
Helen Mirren, Hitchcock

I feel comfortable with four of these picks, though the last spot has been giving me trouble. If we stick with the long-held theory of the “Best Actress Babe Factor”, in which the Academy treats the category like a beauty pageant, then Marion Cotillard is in for Rust & Bone. But if they decide to stick with safe performances from stars they like, then Helen Mirren gets in for Hitchcock. Yet, if the Academy is feeling bold, they could decide to nominate 9 year-old Quvenzhané Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild, a performance that really sticks after the credits roll. Ultimately, I feel like Cotillard is out, and Mirren is in. It just feels like that kind of year.

Best Supporting Actor

Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Alan Arkin, Argo
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Eddie Redmayne, Les Miserables

What had felt like a year in which the category would be populated with former winners is now…well, it’s still going to be populated with former winners, just not entirely. I had initially suspected past Supporting Actor winner Christoph Waltz would get cited for Django Unchained, but after seeing the film, Leonardo DiCaprio has a showier role, and Samuel L. Jackson damn-near steals the movie. So I’m feeling that the Django guys are going to cancel each other out (though I would lose my s*** if Samuel L. got in. He was just wonderful). That leaves three men in serious competition for that last spot: Matthew McConaughey, who had a spectacular year fronted by his dazzling performance in Magic Mike; Javier Bardem, who landed a SAG nomination for his prickly villain role in Skyfall; and Eddie Redmayne, the underdog looking to be swept up by the love for Les Miserables. He does have one of the film’s best numbers, and in a category like this, sometimes a one-scene wonder is enough to score a spot. I don’t feel confident it’s going to happen, but I’m predicting it anyway, since the voting populace of the Academy is dense with Britons who both know and respect Redmayne’s underappreciated work. Of course, his nod is also going to rely on the Academy getting swept up in their enthusiasm for the film, just nominating everything in sight with the words “Les Miserables” next to it. But this has been known to happen before. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if John Goodman snuck in at the last minute for either Flight or Argo. He’s had a tremendous year. But I feel like his votes will be split between the two performances, canceling him out. I do, somewhat selfishly, hope they get around to nominating him at some point. He’s a favorite of mine.

Best Supporting Actress

Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Sally Field, Lincoln
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Amy Adams, The Master
Maggie Smith, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

This is a really tough category, since only Hathaway and Fields are locks. Helen Hunt is more than likely, but I’m a bit shaky on Adams, and even shakier on Smith. Judi Dench is nipping at the heels of her fellow Dame, while Ann Dowd is gaining considerable traction for her understated role in Compliance, even though she hasn’t mounted any kind of campaign whatsoever. And then there’s Nicole Kidman, who’s a big star in a showy role, yet it’s in a terrible movie. I don’t know if she’ll necessarily get the nod, but if Melissa McCarthy could get nominated for taking a s*** in a sink, then I can easily see Kidman getting a nod for pissing on Zac Efron. There’s also Samantha Barks, who got a lot of showy, weepy scenes as Eponine in Les Miserables, but it just doesn’t feel like an Oscar performance. I’m sticking with Adams and Smith as my last two picks, although the possibility of Dench getting in is going to depend entirely on the Academy being so incurable from Skyfall fever that they can’t resist honoring her. It’s certainly a meaty role, but it’s in a blockbuster genre picture. Can it score?

Best Original Screenplay

Zero Dark Thirty
Amour
Django Unchained
Looper
The Master

Many of the films in this category aren’t really “writers’” movies, but “directors’” movies. And so, in picking this category, I’ve stuck with the films that most relied on a strong script, and less on an auteur’s vision, to become as good as they did. Again, I’ve neglected Moonrise Kingdom, which is probably another silly mistake, but I just don’t feel like it’s an Oscar movie. That said, even when Wes Anderson’s films don’t hit, his screenplays do, so he’s still a threat for a nomination. But I’m just not feeling it.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Lincoln
Argo
Silver Linings Playbook
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Life of Pi

This is a bit of an easier category, in the sense that most of the Best Picture nominees will be in evidence here. It was a big year for film adaptations, and so this is among the strongest categories for sheer quality, I’d argue. The first three choices are safe bets, though Beasts and Pi are vulnerable to being usurped by The Sessions, The Perks of Being A Wallflower, even a longshot like Les Miserables (the only category where the film could be said to be a “longshot”, given that the film isn’t really recognized for its script, since so much of it is its music). But the fans of Beasts and Pi are so passionate about the film that I imagine their #1 votes will be enough to keep them in contention.

Best Animated Feature

Brave
Frankenweenie
ParaNorman
Wreck-It Ralph
The Rabbi’s Cat

Nothing is for certain when it comes to this increasingly random category, but they do seem to love arthouse fare every bit as much as they love blockbusters, so The Painting is a possibility, although I can’t imagine which of the five it would knock out, so I’m keeping my predictions as is.

Best Foreign-Language Film

Amour
The Intouchables
Sister
Kon-Tiki
War Witch

Really strong category this year, but the first two feel like locks for the nomination. From there, it’s anyone’s guess.

Best Documentary Feature

The Gatekeepers
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God
The Imposter
Searching For Sugarman
How To Survive A Plague

Not my best category from year-to-year, but you can occasionally pick this out by the subject matter of the documentaries that have qualified. That means more political activism and social issues.

Best Film Editing

Argo
Lincoln
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Zero Dark Thirty

These days, for a movie to have a hope in hell of winning Best Picture, it needs a corresponding film editing nomination. So my predictions mostly feature those films with a serious shot at winning Best Picture, with the usual lone workhorse nominee.

Best Cinematography

Lincoln
Skyfall
Life of Pi
Anna Karenina
Les Miserables

It’s a bit unlikely, but I’m predicting this category will reflect the ASC nominations five-for-five, which means that Best Picture hopefuls Django Unchained, Argo, and Zero Dark Thirty will be missing out. But over the 26 year history of the ASC, they’ve predicted 101 out of 130 eventual Oscar nominees.

Best Costume Design

Les Miserables
Lincoln
Anna Karenina
Snow White and the Huntsman
Django Unchained

It’s more or less throwing darts at a chart, but the Academy is so beguiled with the work of Colleen Atwood that she’s probably going to get in again for either Snow White and the Huntsman or Dark Shadows. I’m going to say she makes the cut for Snow White, though I’d laugh if Mirror Mirror also got nominated for costumes, as it’s on the radar as a potential threat. Who knows? It could be Battle of the Snow Whites yet again.

Best Art Direction

Les Miserables
Lincoln
Life of Pi
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Anna Karenina

Hmm, I’m only just realizing how many nominations I’m giving to Anna Karenina. The movie wasn’t hated or anything, but it seems strange to me that it’s seriously in the running for three Oscars. Then again, the tech categories often ignore the relative quality or visibility of a film during awards season, and simply goes on the merit of its craft. Which is how it should be anyway.

Best Visual Effects

Life of Pi
The Avengers
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Prometheus
Skyfall

One person’s guess is as good as any other when it comes to this category, but they seem to enjoy blockbusters, so that’s how I’m organizing my list.

Best Makeup

Lincoln
Les Miserables
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Best Original Song

“Skyfall” from Skyfall
“Suddenly” from Les Miserables
“Pi’s Lullaby” from Life of Pi
“Touch the Sky” from Brave
“Learn Me Right” from Brave

This is one of the most notoriously difficult categories to predict from year-to-year since the rules are always changing, and the Music branch is among the most petty and insular branches of the Academy. This is pretty much the only category where a person can actively vote against a finalist, which has resulted in some pretty egregious snubs in the last several years, such as presumed surefire winner Bruce Springsteen (for “The Wrestler”). So not even presumed sure-things “Skyfall” and “Suddenly” are safe. But Diane Warren has helped to amend the rules to make this category less of an embarrassment, as it has been in recent years, so hopefully they have a field that’s as strong as the output from the finalists still in the running for the nomination.

Best Original Score

Lincoln
Argo
Zero Dark Thirty
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Life of Pi

The Academy loves them some Alexandre Desplat, so I’m going out on a limb and predicting he’ll pull a John Williams and become a double nominee for his work on Argo and Zero Dark Thirty.

Best Sound Mixing

Les Miserables
Skyfall
Zero Dark Thirty
The Avengers
Life of Pi

This category usually produces a mixed bag of genre films, but I’m thinking they’ll keep it closer to what they’re used to, with big spectacle films. The louder, the better.

Best Sound Effects Editing

Skyfall
Django Unchained
The Avengers
Life of Pi
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Action-heavy films tend to get a nod here, although an animated film like Brave could spoil.

(The rest of the categories from here on out…Who the hell knows? Some pundits don’t even bother predicting these, since it’s damn-near impossible to know. But I figured I’d take a stab anyway. I figure some of the categories above will do a fine enough job wrecking my accuracy percentage)

Best Animated Short

Adam and Dog
Tram
The Fall of the House of Usher
The Eagleman Stag
Paperman

This category tends to reward visual flair, or at least a unique visual signature. However, they also occasionally reward certain literary sensibilities in a film, hence, I’m going with The Fall of the House of Usher for the fifth slot.

Best Live Action Short

Salar
Asad
The Factory
The Death of a Shadow
Buzkashi Boys

A complete shot in the dark based on each film’s subject matter.

Best Documentary Short

Inocente
The Education of Mohamma Hussein
Kings Point
Paraiso
A Perfect Fit

See: Live Action Short predictions.

Thanks for indulging my absurd fanaticism for awards season! Check back tomorrow morning for the full list of Academy Award nominees, when Oscar host Seth MacFarlane and presenter Emma Stone announce who’s up for the statue!

And don’t forget to sound off in the comments with predictions of your own!

Movies Academy AwardsNominationsOscarspredictions

Got Something to Add?