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« Happy Oscar Day ! | Main | Film Bitch Awards: Best Actor, Best Actress, Medal Ceremony! »
Sunday
Feb242013

Oscar Day: The Key Nail-Biter Categories

I filed my final Oscar predictions on Friday and I'm just horrified looking at them now, certain I'll be wrong. Surveying the landscape of my predictions in chart format (I changed the photo above each category to those final predictions) I realized I was predicting a night that has very little in the way of dominance with 4 Oscars to Life of Pi and 3 each for Lincoln, Les Miz, and Argo. The problem with this prediction is that it doesn't account for the year long Bond Mania (which did end up breaking through AMPAS's historic disinterest in the franchise; they gave Skyfall 5 nominations more than doubling the franchise's previous 49 year tally of nominations) and it doesn't account for the Weinstein factor. Only one Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook feels improbable and foolish as predictions go, given how hard they pushed this last month. And yet the one Oscar I did predict for it (Best Actress) is the one that a lot of other pundits have abandoned in favor of Emmanuelle Riva's late surge for Amour

Here's the categories I change my mind about every five minutes and the ones I think will reveal themselves as "keys" to how the general membership really felt this year once the dust settles. 

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Three Way Race. Though I felt fairly confident predicting this one for Argo, it's not inconceivable that Lincoln could still take it considering the "deserved" factor and Kushner's Pulitzer prestige. But then the current Silver Linings Playbook mania suggests that it's also a likely winner... unless Oscar voters decide that Director is as good a place as any to reward David O. Russell who they finally came around to with The Fighter (2010). The perverse trivia-mad side of me is actually hoping that Argo ONLY wins Best Picture because it would be such a fun statistic to obsess over and reference in future years, don't you think?
Oscars Nominees | My Choices  

PRODUCTION DESIGN
Three Way Race. I predicted Anna Karenina with Life of Pi as a probably spoiler. Now I absolutely wish I had reversed that. My prediction was wishful thinking in that I've become quite uncomfortable with the cinematography & production design categories being so fused so consistently with visual effects. Visual Effects is its own form and ought not to be confused with others. Anyway, they've retitled the category to "Production Design" instead of "Art Direction" and though it's the exact same category it's not unthinkable that the title shift also affects perception for those who aren't well versed in the specifics putting Anna at a disadvantage since it reads more "art" than "design" if that makes sense. And yet... if voters like Lincoln as much as the nomination tally suggests rather than as little as the internet keeps insisting, here's where it picks up its sole statue outside the big eight. A final note on Lincoln: The constant groupthink noise of the internet -- a different pool of thought and a different demographic than the Academy -- makes predicting much harder than it once was rather than easier. If you trusted the internet NO ONE in the Academy would ever dream of voting for "tries hard" Hathaway or "boring" Lincoln. And yet obviously this is not the case. It can be hard to keep your head clear of the noise or at least keep your ears discerning. For, embedded in all the internet noise, is both buzzy truths and bored conjecture falsehoods ... but how to tell the difference?
Oscars Nominees | My Choices  

DIRECTOR
Three Way Race. Whoever wins this, it'll show (I think) that that was the runner-up film for Best Picture... unless it's a shock win for Michael Haneke or Benh Zeitlin in which case the voters felt that Spielberg (Lincoln) & Lee (Pi) had been awarded enough in previous years and they weren't quite ready to hand the once "difficult" Russell (Playbook) the top prize. I thought about changing my prediction to a shock win for Michael Haneke until I remembered that no director of a foreign language film has ever won this prize -- no not even Federico Fellini or Ingmar Bergman, Oscar's indisputable favorites as foreign auteurs go. Neither of them ever won for direction or writing despite multiple nominations in each category. They never took home a competitive Oscar outside of Foreign Film which, semantically speaking, belongs to the country rather than the director.  (Though surely the director keeps the trophy?)
Oscars Nominees | My Choices 

You votin' for me? You votin' for me? Then who else you votin' for?

SUPPORTING ACTOR
Five Way Race. The internet seems to believe that this is now Robert DeNiro's to lose given the Playbook mania, the lack of "narrative" in giving any of them the prize (weak year), and the hard hard push to get the acting legend a third Oscar. I stuck with Tommy Lee Jones on account of I do still think anyone could win and the numbers separating them all will be razor thin. Is it too much to hope for an historic tie? Nevertheless I have trouble imagining that that "hasn't won an Oscar in 30 years" narrative for De Niro will really pay off. Sure, it worked for Streep last year but that was only after several attempts (aka lots of momentum) and a year-long build up with tributes and genuflection. De Niro had no such festive built up and literally zero momentum (outside of this last month) given that he has done nothing Oscar worthy in those 30 years. I think if Jones loses, it'll be Christoph Waltz at the podium. But if Jones loses, I think it's clear that the Lincoln fans in the room weren't very committed to the film despite the hefty nomination tally. 
Oscars Nominees | My Choices  

Which categories are giving you the strongest last-minute anxiety?

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Reader Comments (23)

I just put up my own massive prediction post and reached many of the same conclusions. Director, Actress, both Screenplays, Production Design, and Supporting Actor seem really up in the air. I'm convinced Argo will win best picture but I could see any of the Best Editing nominees taking the top prize, as well.

The biggest nail-biter for me is Foreign Language Film. I know Amour has the most nominations and exposure, but that doesn't mean anything. Never forget Amelie, which didn't win a single award in five nominations, or Pan's Labyrinth, which swept the practical visual categories and failed to win Foreign Language Film. I will not be surprised if Kon-Tiki wins Foreign Language Film and Amour gets shut out completely.

February 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

I'm thinking Original Screenplay is still up in the air-- you've got WGA-winner Zero Dark Thirty but also Amour, which wasn't eligible. I won't even count out Tarantino, particularly with Weinstein behind the film.

Otherwise, the most up-in-the-air categories are the ones you listed above, especially Production Design, Director, and Supporting Actor.

February 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Best Actress- I think I made it clear I'm on Riva's team but since my favorite usually don't win, I'll probably be boring Lawrence (I REALLY like her but I don't think her role was THAT'S special).

My Rating for Best Actress Winner would go like this:

Riva
Chastain-Wallis (I hate ties but I REALLY can choose between those 2)
Lawrence
Watts
...

February 24, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterstjeans

Director has got to be the toughest to predict, right? Affleck has won all the industry awards, and Bigelow won many of the major critics' prizes.

I think Lee is the most likely choice (something tells me he's a more palatable choice, given the perceived Affleck snub, than Speilberg), but it's very tough to determine which way they're headed. I agree that Haneke seems impossible, though, given his film's lack of any tech nods - has a director ever won without any tech nods in the modern era?

February 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Nail biters for me include director, animated feature, original screenplay (Django or Zero?), animated, and production design (Lincoln, Anna or Pi). I always check in with my non-Oscar-obsessed husband about these things. He convinced me that Taratino's script is genius and Lincoln's design is too gloomy. So I'm letting him sway me back to Anna on production design.

February 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

Nat: I'd disagree on that. He wound up not producing even nom worthy work for 13 calendar years ('98-2010), but Brazil and Heat have strong cases for being win worthy and his work in Limitless was pretty good.

February 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I actually think Amour will lose the Best Foreign Film award, but win Director, Actress and Original Screenplay.

I'll be most thrilled if Skyfall wins Cinematography, if PSH wins Supporting Actor, and if Lincoln wins Adapted Screenplay.

And yes, a lot of the categories seem ridiculously up in the air. It's as though everything will either turn out to have been wholly predictable -- or the exact opposite.

February 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJason Cooper

Sure, Streep won in part because it had been 30 years. But she had 17 nominations too. Not the same for DeNiro, circumstances are quite different. Tonight there will be multiple 3-time winners.

February 24, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

Jason -- i think cinematography might happen. It all depends on whether voters have ever noticed the No Oscars for Deakins thing. But have they? It seems a lot of voters just vote on the obvious choice in each technical category

February 24, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

How about a Joaquin Phoenix upset tonight?

February 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

Can i predict a Cooper upset.

February 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMARK

How many times do you cry during The Broadcast? I usually cry once or twice and I'm not kidding.

February 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

1. Given how shaky LINCOLN seems overall, is it not conceivable that Day-Lewis loses?

2. Which is another way of saying that I think all the categories are really in flux, except supporting actress, costume design, and visual effects.

February 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

Side note, Nathaniel. When you go to the Film Bitch Awards, the link for visuals on the acting page leads you to the technical predictions/nominations, and not your own.

February 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

Daniel Day-Lews is not losing. He and Hathaway are the inevitable locks of the evening, and both deserve their prizes.

I actually agree with Nate and think that we are letting the internet buzz conflict what voters go for. Remember the average age for an academy voter is: 62 years old. This could change a lot of the tossup categories.

I am convinced Lincoln is still going to do well tonight. Tommy Lee Jones winning would be a confirmation the movie is not dead; Waltz would also be a great win. De Niro or Arkin winning would be a throwaway and undeserved. Hoffman would also be okay.

Riva seems to me like the one to snatch it from Lawrence, but given again her lack of Globe and SAG nods, it's difficult to say. SAG voters had time to see the film; after all, the critics all were able to give Riva some attention before the industry awards. Jessica Chastain still remains a formidable contender- her Drama Globe,BFCA- and she's a theater actress, will do well with New York voters.

Director is a complete mess. Spileberg seems to have shot himself in the foot with the Affleck snub because now voters will check anyone but him out of spite? Or not. Lee is also a strong choice but again, is Life of Pi really getting anything other then tech awards?

Screenplay is also nuts. Tarantino has won a lot of prizes but people are still saying Amour. I don't know. Maybe these people feel voters won't like Tarantino as much as everyone else, but I think he wins.

Adapted- Argo would be a fine winner, but I can't shake the notion that Kushner still takes this. Or Russell- but have people forgotten what an ass Russell is? Will people want to give him anything with his horrid reputation of being difficult and all?

February 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJason Travis

"no director of a foreign language film has ever won this prize"... what about Michel Hazanavicius?

February 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJosé

Les Miserables not Lincoln could be the surprise production design winner similar to Sweeney Todd's surprise win in this category.

February 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph

José -- i don't think we can count The Artist there since the only dialogue (two words) is in English :)

February 24, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

arkaan -- thanks. i'll fix.

February 24, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

On the off chance that David O. Russell wins Best Director while Emmanuelle Riva wins Best Actress, here's a trivia question: when was the last time a film a sole Oscar for Best Director?

February 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEdwin

*That should read, "When was the last time a film WON a sole Oscar for Best Director," obviously.

February 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEdwin

I hope "Argo" gets best screenplay- "Lincoln " feels like "Ghandi" a film that won a lot of Oscars it as a prestige picture not because it was truly great. Why attack Spielberg who did a fine job of directing because Afleck did not get a nomination?

February 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

I really want Lincoln/Kushner to win best adapted screenplay. Most of the other results I'm resigned to, except Best Picture.

February 24, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteradri

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