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Oscar Watching: Less Than Two Weeks To Go

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) unsurprisingly handed its best film and best director prizes to Ben Affleck’s Argo this past Sunday. The only major precursor left comes as the Writers Guild of America (WGA) reveals its picks for the best original and adapted screenplays of 2012 on Sunday.

The final voting period for the Oscars began last Friday at 8 a.m. PT and ends on Tuesday at 5 p.m. PT. Oscar Night falls on the following Sunday. I tackle the top eight races once again as we near Oscar Night; be sure to come back next weekend when I reveal my picks for each Oscar race.

Ben Affleck and Bryan Cranston in Argo

Best Picture

Argo takes the top prizes with the important precursors – but nothing else. Lincoln, which boasts more support across the board, might pull off an upset. Silver Linings Playbook, with four acting nods and a major campaign focus on “being an important film,” isn’t completely out of it either. A win for Ang Lee’s Life of Pi would rectify the loss of Brokeback Mountain. Still, Argo losing? Would we not be kidding ourselves with such a thought?

I reordered spots five through nine just for fun (since I honestly doubt numbers two through nine matter at this point).

1. Argo

2. Lincoln

3. Silver Linings Playbook

4. Life of Pi

5. Amour

6. Les Misérables

7. Django Unchained

8. Zero Dark Thirty

9. Beasts of the Southern Wild

stevenspielberg_lincoln-event

Best Director

No major precursor indicates how this race will turn out – they’ve all sided with the Oscar-shunned Affleck. My gut tells me Steven Spielberg wins, but might Lee pull off a surprise? Perhaps it’s David O. Russell who wins as a consolation prize for Silver Linings Playbook.

READ || On the Steven Spielberg Bashing and Backlash

Since I’m exploring the entire list, is it too much to hope for Michael Haneke winning for Amour in a major upset? Might we seriously consider that voters want to honor Beasts of the Southern Wild with a win and hand Benh Zeitlin the prize?

1. Steven Spielberg for Lincoln

2. Ang Lee for Life of Pi

3. David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook

4. Michael Haneke for Amour

5. Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild

emmanuelleriva_amour-event

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Emmanuelle Riva’s BAFTA win cements herself not necessarily as the front-runner in this race but at least as the one who will win if Jennifer Lawrence loses. That’s good enough for me to predict the veteran and not the relative newcomer who might need to spend a few more years in the game before the film industry hands her its top prize.

Sifting through the rest of the category, the buzz for Jessica Chastain cooled significantly, so don’t expect her to win. Quvenzhané Wallis doesn’t have much hype either, but Beasts of the Southern Wild at least landed a spot in the best director category. Finally, I can’t make much of a case for Naomi Watts since her nod marks Oscar’s sole mention of The Impossible.

1. Emmanuelle Riva for Amour

2. Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook

3. Quvenzhané Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild

4. Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty

5. Naomi Watts for The Impossible

danieldaylewis_lincoln-event

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Daniel Day-Lewis won all the important prizes, so the actor snatching up his third Oscar would surprise few if anyone. But only prolific actors have gone on to third Oscar wins. Day-Lewis certainly works hard but certainly not as frequently as his colleagues.

The past few weeks of writing about the Oscars leave little to discuss in the best actor category since we more or less know what will happen. But with the awards season throwing so many twists and turns our way already, let’s entertain the idea of an upset since that makes it more interesting. After all, coming by a third Oscar is no easy task – even for someone as talented as Day-Lewis – so it is in the cards to a certain degree.

Throwing the conversation to the groomsmen, Bradley Cooper leads the pack because Silver Linings Playbook is important all of a sudden – speaking of which, this happened – and the only other film represented here that might take the best picture prize. Sorry, Les Misérables and Hugh Jackman fans, but only three men have ever won this race for work in tuners – that’s only two men if you dismiss James Cagney’s win for Yankee Doodle Dandy since the film doubles as a biopic, and those two performed the same roles on Broadway before taking them to the silver screen.

Joaquin Phoenix gives an exceptional performance, but he’s a lost cause without a SAG nod – when the guild’s nominating committee clearly saw The Master. Denzel Washington picked up precursor nods but no wins, and Flight snagged its only other mention in the original screenplay category.

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

annehathaway_lesmis-event

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

You know, Anne Hathaway: she gave the most widely acclaimed performance of the bunch; she won’t have to overcome the hurdle of already being a two-time winner like Day-Lewis, the only other true acting front-runner, does; and her win will function as a token prize for the picture-nominated Les Mis (the film might also win for sound mixing, by the way). A Sally Field upset? Yeah, it can happen, but she already has two wins like her Lincoln co-star does and comes into the fray with nowhere near as much heat.

Holding my breath for an Amy Adams win (though I can’t complain about Hathaway being the front-runner) would be in vain since she missed out with SAG and Oscar more or less greeted The Master with the cold shoulder. I suppose Jacki Weaver lurks as a possibility for the win – watch out for Silver Linings Playbook to win best picture if some trick of fate results in a Weaver win. Helen Hunt faces the same problem that Watts faces in the best actress race: her film, The Sessions, scored no other nods. That she’s a previous winner with a mostly less-than-enviable post-Oscar career does her no favors.

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

lincoln-2012-tommy-lee-jones

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

The only race of the top eight in which everyone already has at least one Oscar, it’s also the only acting race where each nominee could win without surprising those keeping tabs on the season. I’m not putting too much stock in Philip Seymour Hoffman given the lack of love for The Master, so I’ve finally bumped him to the bottom of the heap.

BAFTA shook this category up by honoring Christoph Waltz, whose Globe win meant little but now sits as one to watch for his Django Unchained performance. He just won three years ago, and it’s an immensely tight race – even when we’re basically one week away from Oscar Night – so Waltz’s second win isn’t a done deal.

Silver Linings Playbook will prevail in at least one race if the so-called logic of the season turns out to be correct, and it can happen in a confusing category like this one. It only helps that Robert De Niro’s fellow nominees won more recently; his last win came in 1981 – more than 30 years ago. Alan Arkin does (very) little in Argo and just won six years ago. But Argo likely wins best picture and might consequently take home a volatile category like this one. Still, I see SAG winner Tommy Lee Jones nabbing this prize – but only by a hair.

1. Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln

2. Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained

3. Robert De Niro for Silver Linings Playbook

4. Alan Arkin for Argo

5. Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master

quentintarantino_djangounchained

Best Original Screenplay

The WGA deemed this race’s arguable front-runners – Haneke for Amour and Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained – ineligible. The latter won with BAFTA and, less importantly, with the Globes, so the season seems to favor a second win for Tarantino. But don’t count out Haneke…

1. Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained

2. Michael Haneke for Amour

3. Mark Boal for Zero Dark Thirty

4. Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola for Moonrise Kingdom

5. John Gatins for Flight

Silver-Linings-Playbook-Jennifer-Lawrence-Bradley-Cooper

Best Adapted Screenplay

Chris Terrio won the USC Scripter Award for Argo and should pick up the WGA’s prize this weekend. I would expect Oscar to vote the same way. However, BAFTA apparently likes Silver Linings Playbook less than Oscar does (three nods compared to eight) and still gave the film its adapted screenplay prize. If the movie really does have to win somewhere, might Russell’s script – an uneven and haphazard blend of comedy and drama – take this honor as a consolation prize?

Tony Kushner looked like the one to beat not long ago, but now he’s an outlier for Lincoln. Is there any hope for Davie Magee’s underrated Life of Pi script? I mentioned in my director rundown that voters might want to honor Beasts of the Southern Wild somewhere. If there’s no clear pick for adapted screenplay, why not throw Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar the win?

1. David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook

2. Chris Terrio for Argo

3. Tony Kushner for Lincoln

4. David Magee for Life of Pi

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

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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.