Weirdly, this year’s Oscar nominees involve snubs in nearly every category, and films, mostly of a certain type, driven by successful marketing campaigns.
Why can’t the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences admit that blockbusters such as “Skyfall,” “The Dark Knight Rises” and “The Avengers,” and comedies including “Bernie” and “Moonrise Kingdom,” were among 2012’s best of the year rather than so-called important dramas?
Still, many good films may win. Here are our predictions and picks in major categories.
- Will win: “Argo”
- Should win: “Zero Dark Thirty”
- Write-in: “Moonrise Kingdom”
- Of the nine nominees, only two really deserve to be here: “Zero Dark Thirty” (the actual best film) and the remarkable “Lincoln,” noted for its length, historical significance and number of nominations. But “Argo” is the front-runner, derailed briefly when Ben Affleck was snubbed for a directing nod, but back on track when it won best film at the Golden Globes. Mistaken for an “important film,” it’s still an excellent popcorn muncher. If it wins, it hardly would be the worst movie to capture the top spot.
- Will win: Daniel Day-Lewis
- Should win: Daniel Day-Lewis
- Write-in: Jack Black, “Bernie”
- With snubs for Jack Black (“Bernie”) and John Hawkes (“The Sessions”), this category is pretty dry. We can safely eliminate two-time winner Denzel Washington (“Flight”), first-time nominee Bradley Cooper (“Silver Linings Playbook”) and third-time nominee Joaquin Phoenix (“The Master”). Hugh Jackman has a shot. He was a perfect Jean Valjean in the flawed “Les Misérables” and everyone seems to like him. But Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln has taken the lion’s share of awards-season glory for the way he disappeared completely into Honest Abe. It would be his third Oscar.
- Will win: Jennifer Lawrence
- Should win: Jessica Chastain
- Write-in: Rachel Weisz, “The Deep Blue Sea”
- The best performance, Rachel Weisz in “The Deep Blue Sea,” was not nominated, while 9-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”) and Naomi Watts for the grueling disaster flick “The Impossible” don’t have a chance. Emmanuelle Riva, 85, has a shot due to her age and status, but how many voters have heard of her or her classic films (“Hiroshima, Mon Amour”)? Front-runners are Jessica Chastain (“Zero Dark Thirty”) and Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”), who both gave strong performances. But Lawrence, the bigger star (“The Hunger Games” made tons of money) and with an unbeatable Weinstein Co. Oscar campaign behind her, will take it.
- Will win: Steven Spielberg
- Should win: Steven Spielberg
- Write-in: Kathryn Bigelow, “Zero Dark Thirty”
- The academy appears to have made a math error in this category. Kathryn Bigelow, Ben Affleck and Paul Thomas Anderson were snubbed, even though they received Directors Guild nominations from roughly the same body of voters. Of the nominees, only Steven Spielberg really deserves to win. “Lincoln” is the highest-grossing of the nominees and has the most nods. Ang Lee has a shot for “Life of Pi,” though the movie seems to be more of a feat of cinematography than directing. David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”) has the Weinsteins behind him, so he can’t be counted out. Michael Haneke (“Amour”) will win best foreign film instead, and Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”) can be eliminated entirely.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
- Will win: Tommy Lee Jones
- Should win: Tommy Lee Jones
- Write-in: Matthew McConaughey, “Magic Mike” or “Bernie”
- All nominees are previous Oscar winners in this category that has no clear front-runner. Philip Seymour Hoffman’s film (“The Master”) seems to have lost its momentum. Alan Arkin (“Argo”) and Christoph Waltz (“Django Unchained”) won in the past six years. Robert De Niro (“Silver Linings Playbook”) hasn’t won since 1980. By a tiny margin, Tommy Lee Jones (“Lincoln”) appears to have the best shot, simply for standing out among an amazing cast of character actors.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
- Will win: Anne Hathaway
- Should win: Anne Hathaway
- Write-in: Shirley MacLaine, “Bernie”
- Anne Hathaway is a great actress who brings an organic, intuitive quality even to her worst movies. By far the best thing in “Les Misérables,” she impressively performed her character’s signature song in one long take (with tears). A prior nominee who has won most of the awards-season accolades, she’s a shoo-in. As for the others, Amy Adams was good in “The Master,” but was better, and ignored, in “Trouble with the Curve.” Helen Hunt (“The Sessions”) and Sally Field (“Lincoln”) already have their Oscars, and Jacki Weaver (“Silver Linings Playbook”) will have to keep hoping for another day.
- Will win: “Wreck-It Ralph”
- Should win: “Frankenweenie”
- Write-in: “The Secret World of Arrietty”
- In the year’s strongest category, even the weakest of the five outstanding nominees is still among the year’s best films. But “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” and “ParaNorman,” which didn’t set the box office afire, probably won’t win. “Brave” has made the most money, but it’s not as well-loved as other Pixar movies. “Frankenweenie” has a tiny chance to earn a first Oscar for the acclaimed Tim Burton, but the front-runner is Disney’s endlessly inventive “Wreck-It Ralph,” which has a nostalgia factor for grown-ups raised on 1980s video games.
- Will win: “Amour”
- Should win: “No”
- Write-in: “The Turin Horse”
- As usual, the weird rules of this category automatically eliminate most of the year’s best choices, including “The Turin Horse” and “Holy Motors.” Michael Haneke’s cold, cruel “Amour” has captured the attention of critics and moviegoers. Its popularity and five nominations make it a certain winner. On the other hand, the clever “No” from Chile is much more enjoyable. The remaining nominees are destined for obscurity, along with the rest of the category’s nominees and winners throughout history.
- Will win: “How to Survive a Plague”
- Should win: “Searching for Sugar Man”
- Write-in: “This Is Not a Film”
- It’s too bad that Jafar Panahi’s “This Is Not a Film,” by far the best documentary of the year, didn’t make the cut, but the nominees aren’t bad. “The Gatekeepers” and “5 Broken Cameras” are easily eliminated, and filmmaker Kirby Dick, who has been nominated before, made “The Invisible War” about an “important subject.” But the equally “important” “How to Survive a Plague” is more critically acclaimed. “Searching for Sugar Man,” the most enjoyable of the bunch, is the anomaly. Will voters go with their hearts or minds?
- Will win: Claudio Miranda, “Life of Pi”
- Should win: Roger Deakins, “Skyfall”
- Write-in: Mihai Milaimare Jr., “The Master”
- Nominated 10 times and never winning (not even for “Fargo” or “No Country for Old Men”), the great English cinematographer Roger Deakins is just about the best in the business. Unfortunately, his nominee this year is “Skyfall,” which, despite how awesome it is, isn’t weighty enough to warrant a win. Not to mention that its main competitor, “Life of Pi,” already has received awards for its spectacular, open-aired imagery. As for “Anna Karenina,” “Django Unchained” and “Lincoln,” it was an honor to be nominated.
BEST SCREENPLAY (original)
- Will win: “Django Unchained”
- Should win: “Moonrise Kingdom”
- Write-in: Rian Johnson, “Looper”
- Sadly, we can eliminate the best nominee, “Moonrise Kingdom,” as well as “Flight,” since neither is nominated for best picture. Inexplicably, people seem to like the depressing “Amour,” but most likely its honor will be reserved for the foreign-language category. The award in this category often goes to the actual best picture of the year, or a somewhat controversial movie, and “Zero Dark Thirty” fits both descriptions. However, everyone loves Quentin Tarantino (“Django Unchained”), and he hasn’t won since 1994, so it could be his year.
BEST SCREENPLAY (adapted)
- Will win: “Lincoln”
- Should win: “Lincoln”
- Write-ins: Tracy Letts, “Killer Joe”; Terence Davies, “The Deep Blue Sea”; David Cronenberg, “Cosmopolis”
- The thing about Oscar voters is that they believe that anything outside the movie industry is inherently better than anything inside — so Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner and his screenplay for “Lincoln” are simply awe-inspiring. It’s also very wordy, which voters find an asset. “Argo,” “Life of Pi” and “Silver Linings Playbook” are in a three-way tie for second. “Beasts of the Southern Wild” brings up the rear.