Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 22, 2013

Oscar predictions from a local film buff


---- — (Editor’s note: Record-Eagle copy editor and film fan Kate Milewski offers her predictions for who will take home golden statues during this Sunday night’s Academy Awards ceremonies.)

TRAVERSE CITY — For movie buffs, Sunday’s Academy Awards is the Super Bowl after weeks of playoffs where the uniforms are tuxes and couture gowns and the brackets were started months ago when buzz began at early festivals.

The question is, which film will take the top prize this Sunday?

Best picture

In recent years, the Academy has liked to keep even their most ardent fans guessing when it comes to best picture nominees. A few years back, they decided to up the ante by increasing the field of five best picture nominees to 10.

For a while, it was still easy to guess who the true contenders were. Only the films where the director was nominated, too, had any real shot at a win. Everyone else was there for a metaphorical pat on the back. This year changes that.

“Argo” was the word on everyone’s lips when it first came out as an Oscar favorite moths ago. Then, when nominees were announced, it was snubbed when it came to best director and best actor. But after watching this fabulous film about the CIA’s stunt to pull hostages out of Iran using a phony movie (spoiler alert, it works) clean up at major awards shows leading up to Oscar night, it’s starting to seem like the snub was more of a flub.

A combination of brilliant filmmaking, a talented ensemble cast and a director who can still make you be on the edge of your seat even though you know how it ends makes for a darn good piece of cinema and a shoo-in for the win.

What will win: “Argo”

What might win: “Lincoln”

Best director

The aforementioned snub of Ben Affleck makes this category particularly hard to call. In a race without the Affleck front-runner (or the Kathryn Bigelow fallback for her hard-hitting work with “Zero Dark Thirty” or even long shot Quentin Tarantino who’s been robbed more than once of a win), it’s hard to say. The race, however, really only comes down to two directors: Steven Spielberg and David O. Russell.

First, to explain how to narrow it down. Michael Haneke (“Amour”) is a first-time nominee this year, directing a rather depressing (though beautiful) and not extremely widely seen film. He’ll take home a little golden man for best foreign film, but nothing else.

Next, we come to Benh Zeitlin, nominated for his first feature-length film (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”). While the achievement of directing a film with this broad a scope plus the challenges of working with a star who has yet to hit double digits in age is a big deal, the Academy isn’t fond of people who haven’t paid their dues. Finally, there’s Ang Lee, who took a monster of a book (“Life of Pi”) and tamed it for the screen. However, the last time there was a director/picture split, it was Lee who took home best director for “Brokeback Mountain.”

Russell vs. Spielberg is truly a clash of the titans. Spielberg’s telling of the ratification of the 13th amendment has the similar effect to Affleck’s skill of keeping you interested and on the edge of your seat even though (spoiler alert) it passes.

However, it will likely be Russell who takes home the gold on Sunday. “Silver Linings Playbook” is one of those rare films where the characters are likable, you leave the theater with a smile, yet having learned something about the human condition.

Who will win: David O. Russell

Who might win: Steven Spielberg

Best actor

This year’s best actor award is a fairly safe bet. Anyone who’s seen “Lincoln” knows that it’s going to Daniel Day Lewis, hands down. Unfortunately for Bradley Cooper, his turn as the emotionally damaged and mentally ill charmer from “Silver Linings” will go un-awarded at film’s biggest night.

Who will win: Daniel Day Lewis

Who might win: Daniel Day Lewis playing Daniel Day Lewis

Best actress

Again, this year’s win is a relatively easy call. The age gap in nominees this year, though, is worth a mention. “Beasts” star Quvenzhane Wallis is the youngest nominee the category has ever seen, while “Amour’s” Emmanuelle Riva is the oldest. But neither of these history makers will win. Instead, it will be “Silver Lining’s” starlet Jennifer Lawrence. Her performance as the widowed and offbeat dancer Tiffany is subtle and human, showing talent far beyond Lawrence’s 22 years.

Who will win: Jennifer Lawrence

Who might win: Emmanuelle Riva

Best supporting actor

Now things start to get a little sticky again. This year’s best supporting actor nominees are a hard call, though it will likely come down to Tommy Lee Jones for his portrayal of the gruff Representative with a heart of gold, Thaddeus Stevens in “Lincoln,” or Christoph Waltz for the crusading bounty hunter who sees beyond skin color in a pre-Civil War U.S., Dr. King Schultz.

Who will win: Tommy Lee Jones

Who might win: Christoph Waltz

Best supporting actress

Back to the easy to call part of the program. The winner for best supporting actress will almost undoubtedly be Anne Hathaway for her part as a dying prostitute and mother, Fantine, from “Les Miserables.” She may have only been on screen for a few minutes, but her gut-wrenching rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” left tears in the eyes of even the most hardhearted moviegoer. She also played the one character this production couldn’t exist without.

Who will win: Anne Hathaway

Who might win: Amy Adams