Oscar Predictions – State of the Race and Peaking at Oscar Ballots

120501_oscars-257x300The Oscars are less than two weeks away. It seems everyone and his mother is choosing Argo to take it all in the end, which is perfectly sound since the film did pick up Producers Guild, Directors Guild, SAG Ensemble, Golden Globe, Critics Choice, and – a bit surprisingly – BAFTA. If Ben Affleck had been nominated for Best Director, there would be no argument that the film would be taking it on Oscar night, but Affleck was snubbed, and 2012 was an amazing year for cinema. I suspect Oscar is going to want to spread their love in a lot of areas for different films.

Argo is nominated for seven Oscars, with two of them being in Sound Mixing and Sound Editing – two categories I wouldn’t name as Argo‘s strong points. Terence said it best on this week’s Power HourArgo winning Best Picture is an expected achievement, but there are some problems with the thinking that the film could pull in a sweep in categories like Sound Mixing, Original Score, and Adapted Screenplay. The LA Times article that cited the votes of four Academy members had some scratching their heads, as they went for their favorite film in every single category in which it was nominated.

Coming from someone who votes at an awards show every year and releases his personal ballots to the public, I have never had a “sweep”, so to speak, for a film in every single category on my personal ballot. That is a perfect storm of cinematic perfection that I have yet to witness. Even my favorite films of all-time, like Dead Poets Society – a film that means more than most people know – would never have gotten my vote for Robin Williams for Best Actor next to the likes of Tom Cruise in Oliver Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July.

Robert Zemeckis’s Forrest Gump is a masterpiece of epic proportions, but I’d never argue that Gary Sinise delivered a braver or more endearing performance than Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction or Martin Landau in Ed Wood . What is even more ironic is that, in 2006, I named Emilio Estevez’s film Bobby as my #1 film of the year, but the only award I would have given it was Best Picture without citing Emilio Estevez as Best Director . I’ve found it easy, in my years of criticism and prognosticating, to separate a film’s encapsulation of greatness from a director’s signature style and interpretation.

The-Silver-Linings-Playbook-2It is generally believed that Argo’s momentum and success is thanks, in part, to the preferential ballot system – where it likely stands as numbers 2, 3, and 4 on many ballots, while juggernauts like LincolnSilver Linings PlaybookZero Dark Thirty, and Life of Pi will be put in spots number 8 and 9 on many ballots due to their very vocal detractors. This isn’t to say that Affleck’s film doesn’t make a fine candidate for Best Picture winner. It’s inoffensive, well-made, and beautifully edited. But I wonder if there are voters that are scratching their heads asking, “Am I really supposed to vote for that?”  Hmmm….

Lincoln’s buzz and showing at award shows deflates by the second, it seems, and I wonder if Daniel Day-Lewis will end up being the sole representation of a twelve times nominated film?  Although Steven Spielberg sits on his seventh directing nomination after winning twice for Schindler’s List (1993) and Saving Private Ryan (1999), his films have only been recognized with the big award one time. If Spielberg wins his third directing Oscar, he will have tied with William Wyler and Frank Capra as the second most rewarded Director in Oscar history behind John Ford.

Wyler won his Oscars for Mrs. Miniver (1942), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), and Ben-Hur (1959). All three films won Best Picture. Capra won Oscars for It Happened One Night (1934), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), and You Can’t Take It With You (1938). Two of those three won Best Picture. If Spielberg wins Director but loses Picture, he’d be the most rewarded Director with the fewest number of Best Picture winners.

There’s no real need to talk about Daniel Day-Lewis or Anne Hathaway anymore, as their Oscars seem as assured as any I’ve ever seen. They’ve won at every televised award show of the season, and that momentum is likely to continue. The viral video released by the USC student delivering a parody of “I Dreamed a Dream” – while amusing, is actually more telling than some might think. I wonder if Hathaway is getting on anyone else’s nerves, despite giving one of the year’s best turns.

I went on record this week stating that I believe Emmanuelle Riva will win the Oscar for her heartbreaking performance in Michael Haneke’s Amour. Her win at the BAFTA awards – though a bit expected – was still very surprising, and I imagine that same voting bloc that pulled together to get Amour and Haneke in Picture and Director will stick with, in my opinion, the best performance by any female this year .

Sure, the same argument can be made for the groups that pushed Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty in, and they could easily stick with Jennifer Lawrence, who won SAG, and Jessica Chastain, who won Critics Choice. The average age of a Best Actress winner these days is about 30 years old, and while that’s right in between Chastain’s and Lawrence’s ages, the story about Riva turning 86 on Oscar night and a big push from Sony Pictures Classics could push that actress to the top of the big star category . Also, with preferential balloting helping Argo, it’s got to be doing something for Riva. I imagine she’s at least #3 on a whole lot of ballots. The Lawrence lovers might see Chastain as her competition and throw her #5 and vice-versa for the Chastain lovers, leaving an opening for our quiet and commanding lady from Austria’s Foreign Language nominee.

Mark Johnson said on the podcast that Supporting Actor is the deciding factor for whether you win or lose an Oscar pool. This race is completely wide-open, and I’m officially feeling that no actor in the category is out of the running. With five previous winners, for the first time in Oscar history, in this category, the edge seems slightly in Tommy Lee Jones’s favor since he won the Screen Actors Guild Award. What may not have helped his cause was that he wasn’t present to deliver a speech, and that is something that doesn’t give him any much needed momentum since he was caught “snarling” at the Golden Globe awards .

christoph-waltz-muppets-sequelChristoph Waltz has done himself plenty of favors after giving heartfelt and sentimental acceptance speeches following his wins at the Golden Globes and BAFTA awards. Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained seemed to lose momentum after the nominations, but with Waltz and Tarantino both winning the British award, perhaps the Weinsteins are doing something right in the film’s favor.

The Weinsteins are also in the middle of a Meryl Streep-type campaign for Robert DeNiro regarding his work in Silver Linings Playbook. The commercials haven’t stopped since the nomination announcement. “It’s been 31 years since DeNiro’s won an Oscar…” is playing on television and Internet screens everywhere we look. And let’s not forget the fact that Argo is believed to be on a sweep train that can pull right into the Oscars on February 24. Alan Arkin could find himself an easy beneficiary of that train. And then there’s the great Philip Seymour Hoffman, whose Critics Choice win was one of the most deserved of the night. Ironically, he wasn’t there to accept either. Maybe those two eloquent speeches will push Waltz over the finish line.

The two screenplay categories are more confusing than ever. The BAFTA Awards showed two Weinstein films winning Original and Adapted Screenplay. With Tarantino and David O. Russell taking the award in a British environment for their very “American” films are, that shows great power. After some talks with anonymous voting members of the Academy – six to be exact – Silver Linings Playbook was their pick for Adapted on five of the ballots. The other ballot had Life of Pi. I’m thinking David O. Russell will be the one to top the early, presumed frontrunner Tony Kushner, and not Chris Terrio, as some are starting to believe.

Like I said earlier, I polled six Academy voting members and asked them what they were voting for in the upcoming Academy Awards.  To keep the sources as tightly secretive as possible, I’ll only be revealing if they are MALE or FEMALE.  Some did give reasoning for their choices and some will be included.

VOTER #1 – MALE

Best Picture (Full Preferential Ballot)

  1. Argo
  2. Silver Linings Playbook
  3. Beasts of the Southern Wild
  4. Life of Pi
  5. Lincoln
  6. Django Unchained
  7. Amour
  8. Les Miserables
  9. Zero Dark Thirty

I am so upset that I cannot vote for Ben Affleck in Director.  I think it’s incredibly stupid that if a film wins Best Picture and loses Director, that the Director is not on that ticket.  I know that Ben is listed as a Producer but I’m thinking when Gladiator won Best Picture.  How can Ridley Scott sit there while these guys go up there and collect Oscars for MY movie.  Doesn’t make sense.

Best Director – David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook

Only because I can’t vote for Ben Affleck, David O. Russell is the next best thing of any director this year.

Best Actor – Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln

He IS Lincoln.  How can you not pick him?

Best Actress – Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook

Jennifer was just terrific.  Everything about Silver Linings Playbook that works is because of her.

Best Supporting Actor – Alan Arkin for Argo

I picked Alan Arkin…I thought he was absolutely hilarious.

Best Supporting Actress – Sally Field for Lincoln

I have a hard time with the Hathaway thing.  I thought she wasn’t in it long enough to warrant an Oscar.  What Sally had with Daniel was very special…

Best Original Screenplay – John Latins for Flight

No comment.

Best Adapted Screenplay – David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook

David O. Russell for sure.

Best Film Editing – William Goldenberg for Argo

Simply the best.

Best Original Score – Thomas Newman for Skyfall

I thought his work was superb.  Stuck out and was one of his best music compositions yet.

VOTER #2 – MALE (didn’t want to give any reasoning to protect identity.)

Best Picture – Life of Pi

Best Director – Ang Lee for Life of Pi

Best Actor – Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln

Best Actress – Emmanuelle Riva for Amour

Best Supporting Actor – Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained

Best Supporting Actress – Amy Adams for The Master

Best Original Screenplay – Michael Haneke for Amour

Best Adapted Screenplay – Benh Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar for Beasts of the Southern Wild

Best Film Editing – Life of Pi

Best Original Score – Mychael Danna for Life of Pi

VOTER #3 – FEMALE

Best Picture (Preferential ballot order)

  1. Silver Linings Playbook
  2. Django Unchained
  3. Argo
  4. Life of Pi
  5. Beasts of the Southern Wild
  6. Amour
  7. Zero Dark Thirty
  8. Les Miserables
  9. Lincoln

Is it going to be bad if I say I still haven’t made it through Lincoln yet? (laughs)  It’s soooo boring and soooo long and Day-Lewis’ voice bothered me.

Best Director – David O. Russell

How funny was that movie?  Wait…nevermind, how sad was that movie?  I cried like a baby…

(when I asked what does Russell have to do with it)

He directed the movie.  Gotta give the guy some credit.

Best Actor – Bradley Cooper

He was so good.  How could you not give it to him?

Best Actress – Jennifer Lawrence

That scene in the diner (in a shrieky voice) oh my god!

Best Supporting Actor – Robert DeNiro

He’s my favorite guy of all-time and I’ve never been able to vote for him before because I wasn’t a voter when he won last time.  No contest.

Best Supporting Actress – Jacki Weaver

“I hated Les Miz so there ain’t no way I’m voting for Hathaway so she’s out.  Sally’s in a boring movie so she’s out.  And you know what, I wasn’t really impressed with Helen Hunt or Amy Adams.  Jacki Weaver’s in my favorite movie so I’m going to throw it her way.”

(asked if there’s someone else she would have put in the lineup that she would vote for over Jacki Weaver)

Oh my God! YES! I absolutely loved Judi Dench in the Best Exotic movie.  I wanted her to win.

Best Original Screenplay – Moonrise Kingdom

So cute and I love Wes Anderson.

Best Adapted Screenplay – Silver Linings Playbook

Are you really surprised Clayton?  Haha…Come on.  How weird would it be if here I was like ‘oh no let me give it to someone else.

Best Film Editing – Silver Linings Playbook

Are you really asking?  You know what it is.

Best Original Score – Anna Karenina

I loved Anna Karenina.  I couldn’t believe it didn’t get nominated for Best Picture.  I had to give it a little love somewhere.

VOTER #4 – MALE

Best Picture – Silver Linings Playbook

I don’t remember what I put #2 but I think it was Argo if I’m not mistaken.

Best Director – Michael Haneke

Best Actor – Daniel Day-Lewis

Best Actress – Jennifer Lawrence

Best Supporting Actor – Robert DeNiro

Best Supporting Actress – Jacki Weaver

Best Original Screenplay – Amour

Best Adapted Screenplay – Silver Linings Playbook

(on why SLP was on so many of his categories)

It was the feel good movie of the year.  I loved every second of it and if it wasn’t for Daniel Day-Lewis becoming Lincoln the way he did then Bradley Cooper would have had my vote too.

VOTER #5 – FEMALE (no reasons given, just the major categories and what was last on her ballot)

Best Picture – Silver Linings Playbook (Beasts of the Southern Wild was #9)

Best Director – David O. Russell

Best Actor – Bradley Cooper

Best Actress – Jennifer Lawrence

Best Supporting Actor – Robert DeNiro

Best Supporting Actress – Jacki Weaver

Best Original Screenplay – Django Unchained

Best Adapted Screenplay – Silver Linings Playbook

VOTER #6 – MALE (off the bat, she HATED Argo)

Best Picture

  1. Django Unchained
  2. Silver Linings Playbook
  3. Zero Dark Thirty
  4. Beasts of the Southern Wild
  5. Amour
  6. Les Miserables
  7. Lincoln
  8. Life of Pi
  9. Argo

Best Director – David O. Russell

Best Actor – Bradley Cooper

Best Actress – Jennifer Lawrence

Best Supporting Actor – Christoph Waltz

Best Supporting Actress – Sally Field

She was so funny.  I think it’s great she’s doing things like this again.

Best Original Screenplay – Django Unchained

Best Adapted Screenplay – Silver Linings Playbook

Best Film Editing – Silver Linings Playbook

Best Original Score – Skyfall

Best Cinematography – Skyfall

(asked him if he knew who Roger Deakins was)

Yeah.  Doesn’t everybody?