2013 Oscar Predictions

The 2013 Academy Award nominations are just under a week away from being announced. I still have a few films to see that will likely be in the running for many of the top categories yet it seems fairly easy to predict which will resonate most with Academy voters. I have always had a sense about the Oscars that it was more about what you should like rather than what most actually do like. Still, I found 2012 to be an extremely satisfying year in terms of the coherence between genuine crowd pleasers and standard awards bait. Whether it be the seeming accessibility of something like Silver Linings Playbook or the mass appeal of Les Miserables laced with a prestigious director. While certain films like The Dark Knight Rises or even Bernie will be overlooked either because of their more commercial success or comedic elements, which the Academy always seem to overlook, this is not your typical year where everything that wins will be something almost no one has seen. The following are predictions for the main categories in which the majority of audiences tune into to see. I won't dive into such topics as sound mixing, editing, or visual effects here, but if you have predictions for those categories be sure to share them in the comments section as well as what movies you hope to see announced next Thursday.

The 85th Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Thursday, January 10, 2013, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Best Picture

The Oscars are an old mans game and in that we find it somewhat predictable as to what they will be choosing as the front-runners in the race for the golden best picture statue. If you are unaware, the number of films nominated in this category now depend on which films earn 5% of first-place votes during the nomination process. This usually ends up being nine films, but it could be anywhere between five and ten. After the great year that 2012 was it is tough to narrow down exactly which films will be included in this elite group but there are a few locks and several I'm pretty positive about, yet the final slot or two could really go to several options.

If this were a year before the rules were changed and we only had five nominations they would no doubt be Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, Les Miserables, Argo, and Life Of Pi. Those, simply put are the most prestigious-type films and they are more or less the locks this year. Those that have shown heavy favor, but are not absolutes are the likes of Django Unchained, Silver Linings Playbook, and Beasts of the Southern Wild. For SLP and BOTSW things have slipped back and forth. Both started out with such strong word of mouth but have also been out longer than most of the likely nominees. SLP is almost a sure bet as is will also have several acting nominations (I believe in all four categories) but will not see a directing nod for David O. Russell. BOTSW is a bit of a different story. It will likely receive no acting nominations or a directing nod for newcomer Benh Zeitlin though it will likely get some love in the music categories. On the outskirts you could place several films including The Impossible, Flight, The Sessions, maybe even Skyfall, but if there is to be the max amount of nominees I think those spots will go to Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom and Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master.    Moonrise Kingdom is Anderson's best film to date and deserves the recognition while the Academy is usually fond of PTA. Though The Master has been somewhat off the radar in other award races I think the Academy will be unable to avoid the film. I think it stands a chance of a best picture nod but certainly a few acting nominations no matter how much Joaquin Phoenix likes to play it down.

In the category of best director it was once much easier to predict if you were fairly confident what the best picture nominees would be. With the category expanding it is somewhat more of a challenge to decide which of the films will have a director lucky enough to be nominated. While most film buffs and critics will have those five films that are locks as the ones who make the directing list, and I agree for the most part, but I can't bring myself to give the Academy credit enough to give Ben Affleck the nomination. It is certain that Steven Spielberg, Kathryn Bigelow, Ang Lee, and Tom Hooper will receive nominations. The exchange I see happening is between Affleck and Tarantino. I may be completely wrong because Argo has been so loved and lauded by other organizations but Django Unchained is just getting to the party and with the content of the film, the strong love it received at the Golden Globes and the direct influence the director has on his work, the only one on the list comparable to Spielberg, I find it hard to believe the Academy will pass him over. I would like to see Affleck get the nomination over Hooper, but Hooper is the academy's golden boy. Still, for as well made as Les Miserables is, it still seems less of an effort than Argo. While arguments could also be made for the aforementioned David O. Russel and Paul Thomas Anderson it will all matter little as Spielberg and his restrained biopic most likely have things all wrapped up.

On that note, I stated in my most anticipated films of 2012 article that Daniel Day-Lewis would take home the Oscar for best actor and it seems that is how things still intend to play out. Day-Lewis is the clear front runner in this category but he does have a fair amount of competition, just not enough to overcome his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln. In a close second I would place Hugh Jackman for his versatile and committed showing as Jean Valjean. Though the reviews for Les Mis have not been as glowing as I originally expected it is still exactly the type of film that gets Academy Award nominations and it will do so in all major categories except for best actress and best supporting actor. The other three spots are up for a good amount of debate though it seems pretty fair to say that both Denzel Washington and Bradley Cooper will get nods for their portrayals of an alcoholic pilot and a mentally unstable man fresh out of a mental institution. The final spot is what is up for real debate though. Some would place John Hawkes here for his albeit wonderful showing as Mark O'Brien in The Sessions, but I'm betting big on both Amy Adams and Philip Seymour Hoffman getting nominations in supporting categories so I'm giving the final spot to Joaquin Phoenix for his truly breathtaking and disturbing performance as Navy vet Freddie Quell.

It feels odd to not be able to depend on a Meryl Streep nomination this year, but with Mrs. Streep taking the road less traveled (for her, anyway) taking on a role that doesn't require a change in appearance, a vocal change, or anything more than to be the most average of women her age (which she was still wonderful in) it leaves room for a variety of young actresses to take home the leading lady statue this year. Though I have yet to see Zero Dark Thirty as of this writing (it opens in my city in a week), I will have witnessed the rumoured powerhouse performance of Jessica Chastain by the time the Awards are telecast. I genuinely like Chastain and after the overwhelming introduction to her in 2011 she has remained visible and continued to make quality films. She may prove her staying power and pure talent very early in her film career though as she is all but guaranteed a nomination and is likely to win the whole thing. Her strongest competition is another young actress you has already garnered an Oscar nomination for her work in 2010's Winter's Bone. Jennifer Lawrence won the LA Film Critics Association award for best actress for her portrayal as Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook, a woman who is as equally troubled with problems of her own as the films narrator, Bradley Cooper's Pat. It is likely that Lawrence stands a chance of winning should the controversy around ZD30 continue to swell, but I don't see it reaching that point.

Many believe the remainder of the roster will include a nod for young Quvenzhané Wallis for her role as Hushpuppy in BOTSW, but it is hard to see this actually happening. Instead, I'm going with Naomi Watts for The Impossible, Marion Cotillard for Rust and Bone (though Emanuelle Riva could also take this spot for an actress in a foreign film with Amour) and though the final spot could really be given to a number of women I can't help but feel the academy will include Helen Mirren in place of Streep. Mirren is supposedly the best part about Hitchcock which overall has received lackluster reviews, but other possibilities like Rachel Weisz and Kiera Knightley have neither the strongest of films for their performances to stand on or the adoration that Mirren has with the Academy members. I have yet to see either Rust and Bone or Hitchcock and they are the only two I am unsure about as far as viewing before the winners are announced, but Rust and Bone has garnered such strong word of mouth, and Cotillard's performance inparticular, that it cannot be ignored.

Lincoln will more than likely continue its domination in the supporting actor category as well. Having been nominated three times before and winning once in this same category, Tommy Lee Jones nearly stole the show in Steven Spielberg's film as Thaddeus Stevens which is seriously saying something when considering Daniel Day-Lewis is in the lead. Jones is a shoe-in for a nomination and the likely front-runner in the category. He certainly has some stiff competition though. I would like to award both Leonardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz nominations for their different, but equally impressive work in Django, but I think the academy will only give one spot to the film no matter what the Globes did and that spot will go to DiCaprio for his treacherous turn as the despicable plantation owner Calvin J. Candie. Robert DeNiro has also received his best acting praise in over a decade for his role in SLP and that film will continue to get representation in the acting categories with a nod for the legendary actor here.

Like most of the categories, the final two positions are up for serious debate. Like SLP, I believe the performances in The Master will get all-around love and Philip Seymour Hoffman is the most likely to get a nod so his spot here seems close to a lock, but that last slot is the most up in the air. Many critics have it going to Alan Arkin for his comic relief in Argo, but his role feels too small, too safe for a nomination. If it was going to go to a role like that then it should go to John Goodman for his roles in Argo and Flight. Still, these are minimal parts. There are several other actors, with roles more vital to the overall story that deserve the recognition. I believe this is where the academy will throw in its usual curve ball (see Demian Bichir for A Better Life last year). Though this could easily still go to Arkin, possibly Waltz, or maybe even Javier Bardem for Skyfall I'm going to go out on a limb and say Matthew McConaughey will get it. If not for his wonderful, scheming, almost repugnant character of Dallas in Magic Mike but for the wonderful year he had overall.

In the final major category we have what is probably the easiest one to call as far as who will be winning. Since the first screenings it was clear that if the screen adaptation of Les Miserables would be remembered for anything it would be the brief appearance of Anne Hathaway as Fantine. In one scene, one single take, the actress provides the most emotional moment in a nearly three hour film. She will no doubt take home the statue and thus the only major award for Tom Hooper's follow-up to The King's Speech. Still, this is a very strong category. Were it any other year both Sally Field and Helen Hunt would have no competition for the award. Both Hunt and Field giving brave performances in being able to bring humility to a historical figure most believe to be crazy and a woman who some would consider nothing more than a sex object. Hunt bares all in The Sessions as a sex surrogate, but the most impressive thing is how much she bares her soul. She is far and away the best thing about the film, but so is Hathaway. The other two slots will again fall to the films that have nominations in every other acting category. Jacki Weaver is a bit of an underdog here, but with the film getting a best picture nod and the rest of the cast all but guaranteed nominations I doubt the academy will leave out the actual role that is literally the most supporting in a film, especially when played by such a gifted actress. And if you still think of Amy Adams as the cheery, innocent princess from Enchanted then wait until you see her absolutely commanding turn in The Master. While Hoffman and Phoenix get the showy moments, Adams Peggy Dodd is the quiet force of nature that keeps Lancaster Dodd afloat. It is a wonderful if underrated character and performance. Adams is not in this category because the rest of the cast will get recognition, she will be here because she deserves it.

Seth MacFarlane will host the 85th Annual Academy Awards. The telecast will take place Feb. 24 and airs live on ABC.