2013 Oscar Predictions – Ben’s Picks

Best Actor

Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Hugh Jackman, Les Misérables
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Denzel Washington, Flight

Will win: Daniel Day-Lewis

Should win: Joaquin Phoenix

Lincoln 2

Analysis: Daniel Day-Lewis has the Broadcast Critic award, Golden Globe, the SAG, and the BAFTA. He can’t lose.

Personal Bias: I have not seen Denzel Washington, so can’t judge here. Daniel Day-Lewis is very good, but I found him more as a part of the whole of Lincoln and no better or worse than the full cast. Jackman was the best thing about Les Misérables, bringing his singing talent to full use while laying bare the fear and regret of his character’s life. Bradley Cooper brings mental illness to life, never sugarcoating what it is like, while showing that there is still hope. Phoenix, though, embodies his character in so many ways—the way he walks, the way he talks and holds his lips. The deep pain and animal instincts that he embodies at all times makes for one of the deepest characters on screen; even when he appears to be a simple being, this is acting at its finest.

Best Director

Michael Haneke, Amour
Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln

Will win: Steven Spielberg

Should win: Benh Zeitlin

Lincoln 3

Analysis: The precursors are no help, with every directing award and Best Picture award going to Argo when of course the Academy didn’t nominate Argo‘s director, Ben Affleck. So this leaves this award as one of the most wide-open best director fields in a long time. Lincoln has the most nominations as a film and was the frontrunner until Argo started winning everything. With no Affleck, Spielberg can probably make the win here. Though Ang Lee would also not be surprising, since he is credited with filming a supposedly unfilmable book, and Life of Pi does have the second-most nominations. Here is another hard pick, but I am sticking with Spielberg.

Personal Bias: Ang Lee doesn’t belong here as far as I am concerned, making one of the dullest films of the year. Haneke is very good, but it is easier to love the performances than his technique. Spielberg creates a masterful story, but it does get bogged down at times and can be overly long. Russell kept a delicate balance between a romantic story and dealing with mental illness and would be a great win. But Benh Zeitlin’s wonderful vision and style created the best movie of 2012, with strong emotion, a sense of the world that is unknown to so many, and an imagination that shows the wonder of what cinema can still accomplish. His nomination was a great surprise, and a win would be even greater.

Best Picture

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Misérables
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

Will win: Argo

Should win: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Argo 1

Analysis: In a regular year, this would be so easy. Argo has won every precursor: the Broadcast Film Critic Awards, Golden Globe, DGA, SAG, PGA, and the BAFTA. The only thing holding it back is the lack of a director nomination, and the last film to win Best Picture without a director nomination was Driving Miss Daisy in 1989. Still, the love is very clear, and with it being a film about Hollywood saving the day and its creator being a true Hollywood comeback story on a massive scale, plus the urge to make up for lack of director nomination, and the biggest fact that it is a film that no one hates, even if it is not their favorite, it will get a great deal of votes—even if it isn’t everyone’s first choice. All of this leads to Argo having a very good night.

Personal Bias: Life of Pi was a disaster of boring characters and half-baked ideas. Django Unchained never fit all together for me. Les Misérables had moments that I liked, but overall the technique and the focus was muddled. Argo told its story well, but was very simple in scope and didn’t leave as much of an impact. Lincoln was strong in many ways, but had dry moments that took down some of its energy. Amour‘s look at an elderly couple dealing with someone slowly falling apart was realistic, but harder to keep coming back to in my mind. Zero Dark Thirty‘s clinical retelling was beautiful to behold, but being so impersonal—which gave the film its strength—makes it hard to get as involved in it as a piece of art. Silver Linings Playbook accomplished an impossible task in making emotionally unstable characters trying to be happy interesting, while never breaking away from many ugly truths and still being funny at times and emotionally satisfying.

Yet, even with all that, Beasts of the Southern Wild was my favorite film of last year, and its inclusion here is a miracle that I still cannot believe. This wonderful, eclectic story of a girl and her father living in great poverty was a magical experience that has not been duplicated this year, and the shear imagination, style, storytelling, and great acting makes this an easy choice for Best Picture.

This year has been full of surprises, and the ceremony itself is bound to have a few as well. Here’s to hoping they are good ones!

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Benjamin is a film connoisseur and Oscar watcher who lives in Minneapolis and, when not reviewing movies, works at the Hennepin County Library.

You can reach Benjamin via email or on twitter

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