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Oscar Watching: Kicking into High Gear

Two new posters for the upcoming Oscar ceremony came our way earlier today. The Oscar race lacks a true front-runner even though it is that time of the awards season, but that might change as the Producers Guild of America (PGA) reveals its winners – including its best picture equivalent, the Daryl F. Zanuck award for outstanding producer of theatrical motion pictures on Saturday – on Saturday and the Screen Actors Guild Awards (SAG) unveils its picks on Sunday. The unpredictability of this Oscar season makes it more fun to follow, but it’s still more aggravating to throw it all together and reach some kind of conclusion.

The awards season perplexes me now as it always does up to that moment when you know how it all turns out. But will we awards watchers even get that singular instant this time around before Seth MacFarlane takes to the Oscar stage on Feb. 24? It’s quite possible the season will hold Oscar obsessives in suspense until Oscar Night itself, but just for fun, I suppose, let’s look at the top eight races once again.

Best Picture

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Zero Dark Thirty is already Kathryn Bigelow’s highest-grossing film in the States, but will that give it an edge in the best picture race? It’s doubtful since this seems to be a race between Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and Life of Pi. Steven Spielberg’s take on Abraham Lincoln and his quest to get the Thirteenth Amendment passed looks like the winner, but might the actors push David O. Russell’s dramedy past it, or perhaps craftspeople take Ang Lee’s epic adventure-drama to the top? It’s all fluid – even Ben Affleck’s Argo, which quite infamously missed out in the best director race, poses a threat.

The PGA announces its pick of the year on Saturday. Remember, the nominees there are: Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Misérables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty, Moonrise Kingdom, and Skyfall. Those last two missed the cut in Oscar’s top race, so either winning would throw this already hazy race out of focus once again. I’m thinking Lincoln gets it, but perhaps Harvey Weinstein works his magic once again and nabs the win for his Oscar pony, Silver Linings Playbook.

SAG could also present an interesting situation. Just as a reminder, the nominees for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture – the guild’s closest equivalent to a best picture category –are: Argo, Lincoln, Les Misérables, Silver Linings Playbook, and Oscar-shunned The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Oscar’s best picture winner earned recognition in this race 16 times in its 17-year history (we’re obviously excluding this year in that tally since we don’t know the winners yet). The only year without an overlap was 1995, when Mel Gibson’s Braveheart took the Oscar without any SAG recognition. So, does that kill Life of Pi in the best picture race? It’s quite likely.

I’m expecting Silver Linings Playbook – or maybe Lincoln – to prevail there, but anything can happen in a race as open as this one. But what if Les Mis pulls off the win? Five out of the six times that the Globe winners for best motion picture (in either genre) and SAG winners for ensemble overlap, that film took the top prize with Oscar. Without a director bid, it probably isn’t happening, but again, you never know in a year like this.

1. Lincoln

2. Silver Linings Playbook

3. Life of Pi

4. Argo

5. Beasts of the Southern Wild

6. Zero Dark Thirty

7. Les Misérables

8. Amour

9. Django Unchained

stevenspielberg_lincoln-press

Best Director

For the time being, I have to go with Spielberg. SAG will clearly fail to provide a window into this category – at least directly – but what if Lee wins the top prize with the Directors Guild of America (DGA)?

1. Steven Spielberg for Lincoln

2. Ang Lee for Life of Pi

3. David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook

4. Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild

5. Michael Haneke for Amour

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Best Actress in a Leading Role

While hosting Saturday Night Live, Jennifer Lawrence poked fun at her fellow best actress nominees. Some suggest it might hinder her chances if voters found her monologue less than humorous – she lacked the timing necessary to pull off the jokes, and her subsequent praise of her competitors felt awkward. Still, she delivers great work in Silver Linings Playbook, Hollywood loves her, and she’s going to get an Oscar at some point, right? Her win was seemingly written in the stars as early as the Toronto International Film Festival, but I can’t shake the feeling that Emmanuelle Riva comes out of nowhere – or veteran status, if you prefer – and upset for her riveting work in Amour.

1. Emmanuelle Riva for Amour

2. Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook

3. Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty

4. Quvenzhané Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild

5. Naomi Watts for The Impossible

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Best Actor in a Leading Role

Daniel Day-Lewis remains at the top of the race uncontested. Expect him to snatch the SAG on his way to the third Oscar for which Meryl Streep waited almost 30 years.

1. Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln

2. Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook

3. Hugh Jackman for Les Misérables

4. Joaquin Phoenix for The Master

5. Denzel Washington for Flight

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Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Anne Hathaway likely wins SAG, BAFTA, and Oscar – it’s quite easy to see at this point, isn’t it? But watch out for Sally Field at SAG, and if that happens…

1. Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables

2. Sally Field for Lincoln

3. Amy Adams for The Master

4. Jacki Weaver for Silver Linings Playbook

5. Helen Hunt for The Sessions

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Best Actor in a Supporting Role

I suppose anyone can win here – even Alan Arkin if Oscar voters want to “compensate” for Argo without handing it the biggest honor possible – but Robert De Niro might have the upper hand with SAG since this season marks his first individual nomination there (he was nominated as part of the cast of the 1996 film Marvin’s Room) and his first Oscar bid since 1991’s Cape Fear. I’m wary of Christoph Waltz still, but he might win with Oscar as he did with the Globes. Tommy Lee Jones remains my pick for the Oscar, but expect that to change if I’m right about De Niro taking SAG.

1. Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln

2. Robert De Niro for Silver Linings Playbook

3. Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master

4. Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained

5. Alan Arkin for Argo

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Best Original Screenplay

Oscar threw Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty into its best picture lineup, but I don’t see either Quentin Tarantino or Mark Boal winning here. Maybe that changes if either surprises for the PGA win this weekend, but I still see Michael Haneke taking this prize for Amour.

1. Michael Haneke for Amour

2. Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained

3. Mark Boal for Zero Dark Thirty

4. Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola for Moonrise Kingdom

5. John Gatins for Flight

 tonykushner

Best Adapted Screenplay

This looks like Tony Kushner’s race to lose, but Weinstein sits in David O. Russell’s corner, so don’t count him out.

1. Tony Kushner for Lincoln

2. David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook

3. Chris Terrio for Argo

4. David Magee for Life of Pi

5. Benh Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar for Beasts of the Southern Wild

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The Author

Donovan Warren

Donovan Warren

Donovan Warren loves the wonderful world of film and all that comes with it. He specifically loves long takes, fabulous actresses, and keeping up with the Oscar season - even when it's far too early to make sense of anything.