Sometimes it’s easy to predict who will win Oscar gold. Daniel Day-Lewis will most likely win Best Actor for his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln this year, and Anne Hathaway’s performance in “Les Mis?rables” outshines everyone else in the category for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. But there are many categories in the 85th Academy Awards where it’s harder to tell who will win. There are, however, other categories where a clear winner will leave deserving nominees without a title.
Examples of Oscar losers run the gambit all over the award’s history. “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” got screwed out of Best Picture by “Gandhi” in 1983’s Oscars and “Howl’s Moving Castle” lost to claymation crap “Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” a few years ago. While all awards are subjective and a film’s worth is in the eye of the beholder, there are clear distinctions in each category that make some nominees more qualified for a win over others.
Below are four Oscar categories where probable winners will undoubtedly cause rage among fans of deserving candidates come Sunday night’s award ceremony.
Who will win: “Argo”
Not only is “Argo” an outstanding flick, it has everything a nominee should have. Ensemble cast of well-known and respected actors? Check. Acclaimed director? Check. Outstanding production quality? Check. Historical topic that’ll get the older members of the Academy to vote for it because they remember the time period? Check. “Argo” is a package deal for an Oscar, and there’s no denying that it is an excellent film. But “Argo” doesn’t break new ground; it’s a piece that focuses on an interesting topic for sure, but it in no way screams “best movie of the year!” “Argo” focuses on a time when tensions between the U.S. and Iran were higher than ever, which very much relates to circumstances today. But after last year’s “A Separation” gave western audiences a chance to see into the veiled country like never before, why backpedal with perceptions Iran?
The winner for Best Picture should be topical, revolutionary and an in-your-face, obvious best choice. “Argo” has some of the qualities of a winner, but there is a better contender.
Who should win: “Zero Dark Thirty”
“That bin Laden movie” is easily the most talked-about film of the year. Director Kathryn Bigelow already proved her skill with “The Hurt Locker,” and “Zero Dark Thirty” excels with stellar acting, effects and a plot that surprised critics by being more than just the tale of finding the world’s most-wanted man.
But, alas, “Zero Dark Thirty” is unlikely to win Oscar gold. The reason for its likely loss is best explained by a precedent reinforced in the 2010 Oscars, when “The King’s Speech” won Best Picture over “The Social Network.” “The King’s Speech” is a biopic with a great ensemble cast and new spin on an old topic. “The Social Network” is revolutionary in the category: a historical film set just a few years after its events on something so fresh that viewers can go home and completely rethink their interactions with social media. “The Social Network” was too controversial and daunting for voters to safely cast ballots in favor of, and Academy members this year will also take the safe route with “Argo” over “Zero Dark Thirty.”
Who will win: Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Jennifer Lawrence is a powerhouse of an actress. Since her breakout performance and Best Actress nomination for “Winter’s Bone,” Lawrence is arguably today’s most popular actress in the business. She’s incredibly diverse in her acting, showing off her rough exterior in “The Hunger Games” and fantasy side in “X-Men: First Class.”
“Silver Linings Playbook” came out of nowhere to take nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director and more. The film’s rise to fame is similar to that of cult classics, except “Silver Linings Playbook” is clearly mainstream. Lawrence is a cornerstone of the film, and her contention for Best Actress lies deep in her role as the unstable Tiffany Maxwell.
Jessica Chastain is another likely for gold with her brilliant acting in “Zero Dark Thirty,” but having such a young actress being nominated again for Best Actress in such a short amount of time brings considerable attention to Lawrence.
Who should win: Quvenzhan? Wallis, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” is the surprise contender this year, and Quvenzhan? Wallis’ incredible performance is the most surprising thing this Oscar season – besides Ben Affleck being nixed a nomination for Best Director. Wallis does something in “Beasts of the Southern Wild” that few child actors can: envelops herself into the character she’s playing. Audiences aren’t watching a cute little 8-year-old run around the Gulf Coast, they’re watching a daughter suffer, learn and discover life. She interacts with other actors fluidly and comfortably, never breaking character and being true to her role. Wallis is the definition of best actress of the year.
If Wallis wins, she will be the youngest actress ever to win in the category. But Academy members have rarely awarded such a title just because they can. They’re a picky bunch, and the safer choice is almost always the winner.
Who will win: Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln”
“Lincoln” might have disappointed some audiences by focusing too hard on one short segment of the famous president’s life, but its director shines through as a clear choice for this year’s award for Best Director. A veteran Oscar winner and an almost household name, Spielberg has tried for the past few years to win gold again and again with “War Horse,” “Letters from Iwo Jima” and “Munich.” His effort is obvious, and it’s about time his clear devotion to making great films is recognized once more.
But the main reason Spielberg is likely to win is because of who he’s up against. Michael Haneke (“Amour”) and Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”) simply don’t stand out, and “Silver Linings Playbook” lacked direction if anything else. While Ang Lee’s (“Life of Pi”) effort is on par with Spielberg’s, when set against each other, Spielberg is the clear front-runner.
Who should win: Benh Zeitlin, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” came out of nowhere to pick up several nominations this year. The indie flick’s marketing included a cryptic trailer and not much explanation as to what makes the film special. But Zeitlin takes on the topic of non-traditional family structure and unstable locale to another level in the Best Picture nominee. “Beasts of the Southern Wild” never stops to explain itself, opting instead to focus on its main character and the Gulf Coast’s deteriorating state. He successfully guided a movie that would have been a complete disaster given the slightest flaw across a tightrope toward being one of the most spectacular films of 2012.
But reputation goes a long way at the Oscars. “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is Zeitlin’s first full-length feature, and prestige consistently takes votes away from even the most deserving of nominees.
Best Visual Effects
Who will win: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
The effects of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” capture how epic in scale the world of “The Lord of the Rings” is with daunting cinematic feats. Creature battles are incredible, settings are immense and energy drink companies must have made a fortune off the computer wizards that coded and modeled for the film.
So, why shouldn’t “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” win? Because audiences have been through this three times already! All three of “The Lord of the Rings” movies won Best Visual Effects in their respective years, and this is nothing new. Sure, effects always come a long way after several years, but the “Hobbit” series is piggy-backing on that success. There’s little true merit to rewarding a formula that hasn’t been switched up in order to make money and curb demand.
Who should win: “Prometheus”
Known best for its screaming trailer, “Prometheus” had a reasonably low-key premier last summer. Mostly referred to as the “Alien” prequel, the film didn’t receive nearly the amount of credit it deserved. The film overall has many questionable elements, and the plot is rather out there. But there is no denying “Prometheus'” effects make the film.
An entirely new world, previously unseen in cinema, envelops audiences, dragging them through LV-223’s alien structures and consuming viewers’ gasps of terror. What sets “Prometheus'” effects apart is its devotion to atmosphere and mood. Incredible detail was taken in making sure scenes and effects meld into one incredible experience.
Synchronization of film and generated modeling puts “Prometheus” far ahead of the category’s other contenders, but it ultimately lacks prominence as a film. Academy members simply see “Prometheus” as another dark, scary movie instead of as a masterfully crafted piece of art.