Sorry I missed this one from last year.
Think of it this way, Tengo. Your readers have seen a sky with two moons in it side by side. When you introduce things that most readers have never seen before into a piece of fiction, you have to describe them with as much precision and in as much detail as possible. What you can eliminate from fiction is the description of things that most readers have seen.
— Haruki Murakami, “1Q84”
Found a neat easter egg in the McSweeney’s Internet Tendency app on iOS!
Hey! Look! Oscar predictions!
There is a strong temptation when prognosticating the Academy Awards to look to the past for guidance. After all, the 84 Oscar ceremonies that precede Sunday night’s allow for a significant sample of data from which trends can appear to rise.
For example: Of the 84 films that have won Best Picture, 62 of those were helmed by the Best Director of the same year. Even more damning is the fact that only three films have won Best Picture without a nomination for Best Director and only one of those (“Driving Miss Daisy”) was awarded after 1932.
It’s tempting then to say “Argo” is a long shot for Best Picture. After all, Ben Affleck didn’t earn a nomination! But looking at this year’s crop of nominees and the buzz surrounding them, it’s tough to accept this predictor as true.
I suppose there’s a chance “Silver Linings Playbook” sneaks in on Harvey Weinstein’s coattails. The argument that “SLP” is low stakes doesn’t really hold water when you look at “The Artist” winning last year. Both are crowd pleasing, watchable films. If anything “SLP” easily elevates on “The Artist” by at least tackling a complex subject. If the stakes in “Silver Linings Playbook” are to be called into question, it is only in comparison to the other nominees: Free the slaves! Save the hostages! Kill Bin Laden!
No, that’s not going to happen. It’ll be “Argo”, which is literally a film that portrays the making of a film as a means to save actual lives. And it’s pretty darn terrific! I suppose on a personal level I thought “Lincoln” was the best film of the bunch, but “Argo” was pretty awesome! It deserves to win! If nothing else, the Best Director snubbing may be what ultimately guarantees a win for “Argo”. It’s a praiseworthy film and this is the only means left by which to deliver that praise.
[Insert obligatory introduction talking about how Kathryn Bigelow and Ben Affleck were robbed of their rightful nominations.]
Ang Lee is starting to turn up in a lot of picks and I guess that makes sense! “Life of Pi” is no doubt a technical achievement, a wonderful quilt of visual effects and wonder held together by thread that looks suspiciously like a certain Oscar winning Taiwanese director…
But no, I can’t see that happening. Arguably America’s finest moviemaker directs a masterful film about arguably America’s finest president? How does “Lincoln” not win? How is it we’re even still suggesting it won’t win? I suppose that’s food for thought, but I’m sticking to my guns here: Steven Spielberg will win for “Lincoln”.
Here’s a fun game you can play during the Oscars: Empty a jar and drop a penny inside. Then add another for every four score or five dollar joke you hear on Oscar night. As the award is about to be announced, empty the jar and count up all the pennies. Divide that number by the total number of coins in the jar and multiply that number by 100. Congratulations! You have successfully calculated the odds of Daniel Day-Lewis winning Best Actor for a record breaking third time! Not even a surprise appearance by John Wilkes Booth could derail the inevitability of this fact.
This category has always felt like one of the two J’s to lose. Back in January when the nominations were first announced, Jessica Chastain felt like the safest pick. Critics are enthralled by the picture, but if “buzz” is a credible source in any of this guess-work, it’s safe to assume all that talk of torture has probably soured voters.
But that’s okay! It’s a strong category! Jennifer Lawrence is probably going to take home the award, but we all said that about Viola Davis last year. Instead, we had Hollywood National Treasure Meryl Streep accepting the Best Actress award for a nice-but-by-no-means-exceptional performance in “The Iron Lady,” a terrible film. Harvey Weinstein’s exceptional Oscar campaigning skills could definitely sneak Lawrence’s performance over the top, but I’m calling the young (heh) upstart here and picking Emmanuelle Riva. She’s astonishingly great in “Amour” and the plethora of major nominations for Michael Haneke’s film suggest many agree.
Coincidentally, Ms. Riva will be celebrating her 86th birthday on Oscar night. It’s ludicrous to suggest this is an actual factor in voting, but it does make for a lovely narrative. Plus, how great would it be to see the supremely handsome and French Jean Dujardin present the award to her? Will he translate for her as she accepts her award? I can’t wait. This moment would literally bring tears to my eyes. Don’t disappoint me, Academy!
Best Supporting Actor
Hands down, this is the toughest category of the night. If we accept that Academy Awards ultimately come about as a result of narratives constructed by sophisticated marketing teams, then those very narratives are proceeding out a unique starting point: Every one of these actors has previously won an acting award. That’s impressive!
Of course, you’ve also heard that it’s been 32 years since Robert De Niro won for “Raging Bull” and 21 years since he was last nominated for “Cape Fear”. Let’s be honest, though: why is this even remotely surprising? Have you all seen the movies De Niro has made the past couple of decades? Sure, there are some fun comedies in there, but you’ve got to go back to 1997 and “Jackie Brown” or “Wag the Dog” to get within sniffing distance of something Award worthy. Given the swell of support for “Silver Linings Playbook” it’s tough to imagine it gets shut out of all four acting awards and since I’m picking Riva over Lawrence above, you’ll find Robert De Niro scribbled timidly onto my ballot over a large number of erasures.
Best Supporting Actress
Wait, there are nominees for Supporting Actress this year? I thought we’d already handed this one out. Anne Hathaway, [insert labored joke about dreaming a dream and having it come true, possibly throwing in an ill advised lisped pun about how she “hath a way” with singing]… congratulations! You are now an Academy Awards winner!
(Despite the possibly snarky tenor of the previous paragraph, bear in mind I totally think she deserves it.)
Best Original Screenplay
Oh! Hey there, “Flight”! I didn’t see you there.
I’d like to imagine Quentin Tarantino will pick up his second screenplay Oscar for “Django Unchained”. But I also imagined that would happen in 2009, when “Zero Dark Thirty” scribe Mark Boal put the “Inglorious Basterds” in “The Hurt Locker”. If it came down to these two, Boal’s complex procedural hunt for Bin Laden would most likely put Tarantino’s zesty genregasm back on its chain. That said, I think love will intervene. Unlike the film itself, there would be no tragedy in watching Michael Haneke win for the wonderful “Amour”.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Remember how I said Supporting Actor was the toughest call to make? I lied. Best Adapted Screenplay is a killer. I want to see Tony Kushner win it for “Lincoln” and even before the nominations were announced I would have said it was a shoo-in. It’s still got a good shot, but so do Chris Terrio and David O. Russell for “Argo” and “Silver Linings Playbook”, respectively.
It’ll be a few hours yet before I fill out my ballot for competition. If I’m going to deviate from the picks I’ve outlined here in any category, it’s going to be this one. My gut is going to settle in on Chris Terrio at the moment.
Best Foreign Language Film
If you’re looking to inject a little doubt in this pick, you could probably make the argument that since Academy voters have to attend screenings of all the nominated films, the potential exists for them to deviate outside the obvious. Save that argument and bring it out another year. The Best Picture, Director, Actress and Original Screenplay nominations speak louder than any possible conjecture and you can confidently bubble in your pick for “Amour” with permanent marker.
Best Documentary Feature
I come to this category ill prepared, having only seen one of the five nominated docs. All signs seem to point to “Searching For Sugar Man”, though, so that’s where my vote is going.
Best Animated Feature
When they’re nominated, Pixar usually wins this award. The only two times they haven’t were 2001, when “Shrek” muscled out “Monsters, Inc.”, and 2006, when “Happy Feet” danced all over “Cars”. You could probably argue that those two instances were examples of injustice and that Pixar should have won.
This year, you’d be wrong. If anything, “Brave” might be the weakest film in the bunch (I’ve yet to see “The Pirates!” or “Frankenweenie”). Instead, look for Disney to win this one deservedly with “Wreck-It Ralph”.
It took Susan Lucci 19 Daytime Emmy nominations to finally win Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series for those awards. This year represents Roger Deakins’ 10th nomination for Best Cinematography. It is tempting to suggest a Bond film might be too pedestrian a vehicle in which to finally award the mighty Mr. Deakins, but I say hogwash. It’s time! “Skyfall” was near universally acclaimed and it won’t be the only award Bond wins tonight.
If you’re looking to deviate, you could easily make a compelling case for the visual splendor of Claudio Miranda’s work filming “Life of Pi”, but many voters may find it difficult to figure out where to draw the line between visual effects and cinematography. I’m sticking with Roger Deakins for his work in “Skyfall”.
Best Film Editing
It’s not so much a question of who will win, but of whether or not William Goldenberg will be sharing the award or taking it home all by his lonesome. The clear frontrunners here are “Argo” (edited solely by Mr. Goldenberg) and “Zero Dark Thirty” (which was cut in partnership with Dylan Tichenor).
While it’s folly to assume Best Picture and Best Film Editing must win together (something the past two years have clear), it’s safe to assume we’ll see William Goldenberg accept his award solo, notching another win for “Argo” in the process.
Best Production Design
Hey! They used to call this Art Design! Fun!
You know what usually wins this award when there’s an applicable entry? Big musicals. You know what’s not going to win this year? A big musical. “Les Misérables” is simply too ugly. I suppose one could argue there’s a grotesque beauty to set dressings covered in mud and shit, but I can’t see how the brown and gray palette’s of “Les Mis” outstrip the colorful splendor on display in “Life of Pi”.
Best Costume Design
Also known as the “Holy shit! There were TWO Snow White films this year?!?” category. Neither of those will win and “Lincoln” is probably just a bit too stodgy costume-wise to really threaten here. It’ll come down to the sumptuous gowns of “Anna Karenina” and the bedraggled rags of “Les Misérables”. I’m picking lavishly appointed Anna Karenina to take this one.
Best Original Song
It would take a scenario conceived and successfully carried out by only the most buffoonish Bond villain to alter the inevitable outcome here. After 23 films and half a century, Adele’s masterful ballad “Skyfall”, a terrific addition to a wonderful canon, will finally bring the Academy Award for Original Song to a James Bond film.
Best Original Score
There’s certainly potential for upset, but if you factor in Mychael Danna’s nomination for Original Song, then it becomes a little easier to see a winner. Look for “Life of Pi” to pick this one up, but Alexandre Desplat could sneak in with “Argo” as well.
Best Sound Mixing
In the absence of a musical, I’d pick “Skyfall” with a bullet. Alas, “Les Misérables” is not only an Academy honored picture, but the live singing onscreen will go down as a technical achievement chalked up at the very least to sound mixing.
Best Sound Editing
A mystical category that baffles everyone who isn’t a sound editor. In the absence of knowledge, I can only point out that action films tend to do well here, though I guess “Hugo” flies a bit in the face of that trend. Still, last year’s action movie competition was pretty weak and this year we’ve got “Skyfall”. That’s what I’m picking, though a little voice in my head says maybe “Argo” squeaks it out. Shut up, little voice!
Best Visual Effects
“Life of Pi” visual effects are an absolute masterpiece. Another winner in this category would be an absolute travesty, but I can’t begin to posit how such an outcome would occur. I’m guessing you can’t either. Stay with “Pi”.
Best Makeup & Hairstyling
Who will win? Who cares! An uninspiring set of films. It’ll probably boil down to hobbits vs hungry French people. I’m picking “Les Misérables”.
Best Live Action Short
Pulling a name out of a hat here. “Buzkashi Boys”! Done.
Best Animated Short
While it would be pretty neat to see The Simpsons win an Oscar, I’m putting my vote into the charming “Paperman”, a rare consensus pick among critics in this category.
Best Documentary Short
Oh look! Another hat! It’s got five slips of paper inside it! Let me pull one of these out… it says “Open Heart! Done!