With the big show only a few days away, I’ve compiled a list of predictions to give you an edge in the bets against your friends. Of course, these are just my best guesses, so don’t come looking to me for reimbursement if you lose twenty bucks.
The Artist is undoubtedly the frontrunner this year, having won almost every Best Picture award it has been nominated for. There isn’t much else to say about this category. Hugo has the tiniest fraction of a snowball’s chance in Hell because Martin Scorsese is so well-respected and it is the film with the most nominations. The only other film that is worth putting on the ballot, in terms of probability, is The Descendants, which won the Best Drama at the Golden Globes.
Best Bet: The Artist
An Oh-So Distant Second: Hugo
If Something Crazy Happens: The Descendants
My Personal Pick: The Help
In keeping with this year’s theme, the directing race is another battle between The Artist, the brain-child of Michel Hazanavicius, and Hugo, helmed by Martin Scorsese. The advantage clearly goes to Hazanavicius, however, simply due to the overwhelming historical correlation between Best Picture and Best Director winners. If The Artist is the Best Picture heavyweight, Hazanavicius is, by default, the directing favorite.
Best Bet: Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Possible Surprise Upset: Martin Scorsese (Hugo)
If Something Crazy Happens: Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
This one is going to come down to the wire. Both George Clooney (The Descendants) and Jean Dujardin (The Artist) have won a number of awards this year. Each of them went home with a Golden Globe, Dujardin nabbed the SAG and BAFTA awards, and Clooney snatched The National Board of Review and Critic’s Choice awards. Dujardin’s wins are more recent, which, together with the overall awards power of The Artist, gives him a slight edge. Still, I won’t be surprised if Clooney walks away with his second acting Oscar on Sunday night.
Best Bet: Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
Close Second: George Clooney (The Descendants)
If the Votes Split and a Surprise 3rd Grabs the Gold: Brad Pitt (Moneyball)
Like the Best Actor category, Best Actress has turned into a two-horse race that is hard to predict. In one corner we have the most esteemed living actress, Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady), who has an astonishing 17 Oscar nominations in total. In the other corner we have Viola Davis who received her second nomination in three years for The Help. Fun fact: Davis’s first nod came for her work in Doubt, in which she only had one scene, which she shared with none other than Meryl Streep, who was also nominated that year. Early on, Davis looked like the one to beat, but it seems as though voters suddenly recalled that, while Streep receives a staggering number of nominations, she hasn’t won an Oscar in almost thirty years—not since she won for Sophie’s Choice way back in 1983. The factor that tips the odds towards Davis is The Help’s box office and critical success, compared to the flop that is The Iron Lady.
Best Bet: Viola Davis (The Help)
Close Second: Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)
Best Supporting Actor
Christopher Plummer (Beginners) had better be practicing his acceptance speech. Like Christoph Walz (Inglorious Basterds), Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight), and Christian Bale (The Fighter) before him, Plummer is as close as you can get to a lock.
Best Bet: Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
Mind-Blowing Surprise: Max Von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)
Best Supporting Actress
Like the Supporting Actor category, this one is all but sewn up. Octavia Spencer (The Help) has cleaned up the awards season this year. The Academy Award will almost certainly be another trophy she has to make room for.
Best Bet: Octavia Spencer (The Help)
Shocking Spoiler: Berenice Bejo (The Artist)
Best Documentary Feature
This category is often difficult to predict, as documentaries are rarely as popular or as circulated as features. Without the presence of a Bowling for Columbine or The March of Penguins, it’s hard to confidently pick out a frontrunner. With that in mind, I’m leaning toward Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, which documents the West Memphis Three, a trio of teenagers convicted of the murders of three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, and who were recently released due to new forensic evidence that indicates they may be innocent. Paradise Lost 3 is, as the title suggests, the third in a trilogy which has been documenting the investigation, trials, and media surrounding the West Memphis Three for over a decade. Because of the role these movies have played in the high profile case, and the number of celebrities and musicians who have publicly supported the West Memphis Three, it seems reasonable that Paradise Lost 3 could take home the statuette. That being said, any of the five nominees has a reasonable chance, as many critics have noted.
Best Bet: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Another Safe Bet: Undefeated
Best Animated Feature
Without The Adventures of Tintin or a Pixar candidate, this category is suddenly much more open-ended. Either of the two European nominees, A Cat in Paris and Chico & Rita, could shake things up, but the Johnny Depp-voiced Rango is the likeliest winner in such a lackluster group.
Best Bet: Rango
Surprise Upset: Chico & Rita
If All the Academy Voters are Secretly Cat Lovers: Puss in Boots or A Cat in Paris.
Best Foreign Language Film
Iran’s A Separation has consistently taken home this award all season long. However, this category has a history of seeing the favorite fall to an underdog. If that were to happen, Poland’s In Darkness is most likely to be the film that revels in Oscar glory.
Best Bet: A Separation
Underdog: In Darkness
Because I’m Canadian I’m Cheering For: Monsieur Lazhar
Best Visual Effects
There wasn’t an Inception or Avatar that took visual effects to a shocking new level this year, but there was Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which made audiences forget that the titular apes were not, in fact, real. Transformers: Dark of the Moon is making a last-minute bid for the visual effects prize by releasing some behind-the-scenes videos online. You can see those here. Of course, it would be silly to count out the beloved Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, if for no other reason than the franchise hasn’t managed to garner a single Oscar win, despite several nominations, and this year is its last chance.
Best Bet: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Possible Monkey-Killer: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
But Don’t Count Out: Transformers: Dark of the Moon
There are several very strong nominees in this category. Steven Spielberg has received much critical acclaim for the aesthetic and cinematographic aspects of War Horse; and while half of audiences wanted their money back after viewing The Tree of Life, the other half has been shouting Malick’s praises ever since, demanding Oscar recognition in this category; finally, the two heaviest hitters of this year’s awards, Hugo and The Artist, have each been consistent nominees cinematography nominees all season long, with The Artist picking up a BAFTA a couple weeks ago. This is definitely one of the hardest categories to call, as there seems to be very little consensus among critics as to who will win. My guess is that Hugo’s technologically advanced yet conventional style will appeal to Academy voters, but with The Tree of Life taking home top honors from the American Society of Cinematographers, it’s far from a sure thing.
Best Bet: Hugo
Strong Contender: The Tree of Life
Possible Spoiler: The Artist
Best Adapted Screenplay
My personal wish is that The Ides of March, written by George Clooney, Beau Willimon & Grant Heslove, would finally get some love and win the only category it managed to get a nomination in, but I’m not getting my hopes up. Instead, George Clooney’s other big film, The Descendants, written by Nat Faxon, Alexander Payne & Jim Rash, is the one to place money on. It has five nominations, but almost zero chance at winning anything except this category, which gives it that much more clout. It has some serious competition, however, from Aaron Sorkin, Steve Zaillian & Stan Chervin, the writers of Moneyball.
Best Bet: Nat Faxon, Alexander Payne & Jim Rash (The Descendants)
Strong Contender: Aaron Sorkin, Steve Zaillian & Stan Chervin (Moneyball)
Possible Surprise Upset: Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
Best Original Screenplay
This is yet another category too close to call with any real certainty. Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris) is the marginal favorite, but Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist) could very well swoop in and steal this one away from him. I’m also not completely writing off Kristen Wiig & Annie Mumolo (Bridesmaids), and am not-so-secretly crossing my fingers for them to surprise everyone with a win.
Best Bet: Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
Strong Contender: Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Possible Surprise Upset: Kristen Wiig & Annie Mumolo (Bridesmaids)
Best Original Score
Part of me thinks that voters will make up for snubbing The Adventures of Tintin from the Animated Feature category by rewarding John Williams’ score with a statuette, but that’s not likely to be the case. Rather, I’d look at Ludovic Bource’s work in The Artist. Since The Artist is a silent film, it relied much more heavily on the score than its competitors, which gives Bource a distinct advantage. Critics are split over who the potential spoiler could be, but I have a hunch that Howard Shore (Hugo) may walk away with his fourth Oscar.
Best Bet: Ludovic Bource (The Artist)
Potential Spoiler: Howard Shore (Hugo)
Out-of-left-field Upset: Alberto Iglesias (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
Best Original Song
There is very little to say about a category that only has two nominees, other than complaining about the fact that there should have been more songs to choose from. Deservedly, “Man or Muppet” from The Muppets by Bret McKenzie has almost certainly got this one in the bag.
Best Bet: “Man or Muppet” (The Muppets)
The Only Other Nominee: “Real in Rio” (Rio)
With only three nominees, the makeup battle seems to have filtered itself down to fight between The Iron Lady, which did a freaky job of making Meryl Streep look like Margaret Thatcher, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, which is looking to get some recognition for all those years of making Ralph Fiennes’ nose disappear. The uncanny man-makeup on Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs doesn’t seem to be in contention.
Best Bet: The Iron Lady
Possible Upset: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Best Art Direction
If any category offers HP 7.5 a reasonable chance at its long-absent Oscar victory, it’s this one. This is the franchise’s fourth nomination in the Art Direction category, and with its extremely large fan base already pissed that the final film was snubbed from the Best Picture race, if Harry Potter goes eight movies without a single Oscar win, Potterphiles may lose their collective mind. Even still, it’d be a big stretch to call it the frontrunner, especially when it is up against four Best Picture nominees, including Hugo and The Artist.
Best Bet: Hugo
Strong Contender: The Artist
An Offering to Appease the Masses: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Hello, period pieces. This is the category where the past reigns, and 2012 is no different. All five nominees are period pieces. The two films fighting it out this year for the top spot are Jane Eyre and The Artist, both which impeccably replicated their respective eras.
Best Bet: Jane Eyre
Strong Contender: The Artist
Best Film Editing
When it comes to some of these technical categories that are paid less attention to, it is often safest to go with the most technically spectacular of the big hitters, which in this case is Hugo. However, this year The Artist throws a curveball in the Film Editing department. For, while it doesn’t have to deal with the incredible CGI that Hugo does or the baseball scenes in Moneyball, it beautifully replicates the style of the 1920’s silent films. This makes it not just a technical skill, but also an art.
Best Bet: The Artist
Don’t Count Out: Hugo
Best Sound Mixing
Keeping in mind the statement above, Hugo appears to be the frontrunner for Sound Mixing and Editing, as it combines the technical proficiency of a box office blockbuster with the critical acclaim of a Best Picture nominee. That being said, you can’t ignore the complicated monstrosity of Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Whether or not you liked the story or the acting, you cannot deny the massive complexity of the sound design.
Best Bet: Hugo
Strong Contender: Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Keep an Eye On: War Horse
Best Sound Editing
Best Bet: Hugo
Strong Contender: Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Might Surprise Everyone: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Best Short Documentary
Saving Face, which follows a cosmetic surgeon who repairs the faces of Pakistani women disfigured by acid, is the likely winner here. The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom, also has a good shot at taking home the trophy.
Best Bet: Saving Face
Strong Contender: The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom
Surprise Upset: God is Bigger Than Elvis
Best Animated Short
In a year fuelled by the nostalgia of The Artist, a silent short that pays homage to Buster Keaton seems like a surefire win. Such is the force behind The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. Of course, the power of Pixar should not be scoffed at, which makes La Luna a viable candidate for the award.
Best Bet: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Strong Contender: La Luna
Best Live Short
There is very little agreement on the frontrunner in this category. The Shore has popped up on a number of critics’ lists and is the flashiest of the five shorts. But Tuba Atlantic has a guy trying to blow of seagulls, so…
Best Bet: The Shore
Possible Spoiler: Raju
Has My Vote: Tuba Atlantic
And that does it. Sound off in the comments below with your own predictions.