Oscar picks and predictions

By Cinema Scoop columnist Rene Gross

Greetings fellow cinephiles, this Sunday marks the 85th Annual Academy Awards ceremony and I'm here to break it all down and offer my picks for the big evening. I'll give you my predictions on who I think will take home the coveted statues as well as my wishes for who I'd like to see take home the prize. Ok, without further adieu:

Best Picture

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

My Wish: In a perfect world, I would love to finally see a Quentin Tarantino film win Best Picture. Django Unchained was my favourite film of 2012 and it would be awesome to see them announce it as the winner. Tarantino's brilliant homage to the spaghetti western genre is a blood-soaked masterpiece and a heck of a fun ride at the movies. Django Unchained is filled with wonderfully written characters and dialogue, superb performances from an amazing cast, rousing action sequences, gorgeous cinematography, a great soundtrack, loads of humour, tension, and drama, and all around masterful direction by a filmmaker on top of his game. What's not to love? Sadly, it has virtually no chance of winning whatsoever. Oh well!

My Prediction: Leading the pack with 12 nominations, it would seem that Lincoln is the clear frontrunner to snag the top prize this year. But I have a sneaky feeling that it is going to be Argo that walks away with the big prize come this Sunday. There has been a real groundswell of support recently amongst industry insiders towards Argo with the film snagging Best Picture wins at the Golden Globes, AFI and BAFTA, just to name a few. Even though Ben Affleck was snubbed of a Best Director nomination, and it's rare that a film wins without the director also being nominated, it has happened 3 times before, the last of which was 23 years ago when Driving Miss Daisy won Best Picture. I think we are going to see Argo become the fourth film to do it and I am totally cool with that. I personally think Argo is far more deserving of the honour than Lincoln is. Argo was a tremendous film!

Best Actor

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

My Wish: Four years ago, a heavily bearded and disheveled looking Joaquin Phoenix appeared on the David Letterman show to announce he was quitting acting to become a rapper and everyone thought that he had gone somewhat insane. It turned out to be a ruse of course as he was filming a documentary at the time called I'm Still Here and this was some kind of performance art I guess. His return to film in Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master is arguably one of the best performances of his career and one that I would love to see get acknowledged by the Academy. He is simply brilliant as a severely damaged individual who gets drawn into a religious cult by its charismatic leader played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. I would like to see him win if for no other reason than to see how he reacts and whether he would pull off another weird stunt up at the podium. I know it won't happen, but it sure would be entertaining right?

My Prediction: This one is a no-brainer as Daniel Day-Lewis is an absolute lock to capture his third trophy as Best Actor for his incredible performance as Abraham Lincoln. The five time nominee and two time winner is definitely deserving of the honour as I think he is probably the greatest actor working in film right now. He completely inhabits the role of Lincoln, portraying him as a dignified man with grace, humility and tremendous resolve. Daniel Day-Lewis chooses his roles very carefully and I have the utmost respect for this man who continuously seeks out quality material. He is what acting is all about. I would be absolutely shocked if anyone else walks away with this award.

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain - Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence - Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva - Amour
Quvenzhané Wallis - Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts - The Impossible

My Wish: I have been a big fan of Jennifer Lawrence ever since I saw her breakout performance in 2010's Winter's Bone. At only 22 years of age she is already establishing herself as one of the next great leading ladies in Hollywood, and if she continues to choose her roles wisely she could have an amazing career. Her second Oscar nomination already is for a film that I simply adored. I loved everything about Silver Linings Playbook and found it to be a pure joy to watch, thanks in large part to Jennifer Lawrence's wonderful performance. She demonstrates a maturity beyond her years while at the same time striking a fine balance between crazy quirkiness and sweet vulnerability. I am definitely rooting for her this year. Go Jennifer!

My Prediction: Much like the really close race last year between Meryl Streep and Viola Davis, I think that this one may go right down to the wire, with Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence as the obvious frontrunners. Also, don't count out 85-year-old French actress Emmanuelle Riva for her heartwrenching role in Amour. Even though this is a hard category to put money on again this year, I am going to go with Jennifer Lawrence as my pick, not just because I'm rooting for her, but because Silver Linings Playbook is produced by Harvey Weinstein, and it's a known fact that he has major pull with Academy voting members. The Oscars being political? Oh shock! There has also been a bit of a backlash towards Zero Dark Thirty with some of liberal Hollywood turned off by its depictions of torture, so that may work against Jessica. I'm sticking with Jennifer in a tight one.

Best Supporting Actor

Alan Arkin - Argo
Robert De Niro - Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman - The Master
Tommy Lee Jones - Lincoln
Christoph Waltz - Django Unchained

My Wish: One of my favourite aspects of Django Unchained is the wonderful performance by Christoph Waltz as Dr. King Schultz, the dentist turned bounty hunter. He exudes such an eloquent charm and likable demeanor, and his chemistry with Jamie Foxx is superb. I'm rooting for him, but I won't be the least bit upset if someone else wins as all five of the nominees in this category are totally deserving. They are all great performances in excellent films, so may the best man win.

My Prediction: This has to be the closest race of the night and I think it will come down to a photo finish between Tommy Lee Jones and Christoph Waltz. Both men have won this award before with Waltz's coming more recently for his last collaboration with Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds. It's been 19 years since Tommy won for The Fugitive, so on that basis alone I'm going to give the nod to him. His performance in Lincoln is definitely one of his best in many years and I think the Academy will want to justify its 12 nominations for the film that will likely get upset for Best Picture. I wouldn't bet too much on this one though.

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams - The Master
Sally Field - Lincoln
Anne Hathaway - Les Misérables
Helen Hunt - The Sessions
Jacki Weaver - Silver Linings Playbook

My Wish: I know she has no chance to win, but I would pick Helen Hunt for her beautiful role as a sex surrogate in The Sessions. I would love to see a larger spotlight shone on this tender and touching film about compassion, humanity and the longing need for physical affection and intimacy. It's a shame that John Hawkes didn't receive a nomination for his role as a severely disabled man who just wants to experience sex for the first time. Hunt did a fabulous job and I would reward her work here.

My Prediction: This one won't be close folks. Anne Hathaway is the clear favourite to walk away with the prize for her role as Fantine in the musical Les Misérables. I can't really argue with the choice as her rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" is heartbreaking to watch and she definitely poured her soul into this one. Les Mis was a fabulous production and this will be a well earned award.

Best Director

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

My Wish: This is the category that really annoys me this year since the two directors who I would choose to win, and who deserve to be nominated the most aren't even here. Ben Affleck and Quentin Tarantino were snubbed by the Academy in a move that I'm sure has many scratching their heads in bewilderment. I have no idea why Behn Zeitlin was nominated for the strange and at times incoherent Beasts of the Southern Wild. That film didn't really resonate with me at all. Amour was an excellent, albeit very sad and depressing film, but the fact that Michael Haneke is nominated for a film that has a singular location set inside an apartment the entire time is ridiculous. It has no visual scope to it whatsoever and for him to be given a nomination over the technical wonders of Argo and Django makes no sense at all. So I guess, given the choices here, I'll root for David O. Russell and his wonderful Silver Linings Playbook.

My Prediction: Steven Spielberg will win for Lincoln. With this film, Spielberg has traded in his usual visual bombast to make a more muted and understated film that truly showcases the reverent power of the spoken word, and how one individual with dogged determination and tremendous fortitude can achieve so much and affect so many. I respect his obvious passion for this material, and it clearly shines through with this film. Even though it is very slow paced, the superb performances from the incredible cast make it a compelling film to watch, especially for history buffs. This is Spielberg's 7th nomination for directing and it will likely be his 3rd win following Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan.

Bonus Predictions

Best Adapted Screenplay will go to Chris Terrio for Argo.

Best Original Screenplay will go to Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained (although don't be surprised if Mark Boal wins for Zero Dark Thirty).

In the spirit of awards season I will leave you with my top ten list of the best films I saw in 2012. Enjoy the Academy Awards this Sunday everyone!

10. Life of Pi - stunning achievement in the art of visual storytelling by Ang Lee.

  9. Zero Dark Thirty - masterful and riveting procedural about the hunt for Bin Laden.

  8. The Sessions - a real gem full of heart and charm will make you laugh and cry.

  7. The Dark Knight Rises & The Avengers - couldn't choose between my favourite comic book films of the year so they are tied - both were awesome shows!      

  6. Moonrise Kingdom - whimsical coming-of-age tale by quirky Wes Anderson.

  5. Skyfall - one of the top 3 best Bond films ever - simply spectacular!

  4. Argo - gripping, edge-of-your-seat drama that is just top notch - fabulous film!

  3. Silver Linings Playbook - this pure joy made my heart swell - love love love it!

  2. Cloud Atlas - ambitious, visionary film that soars to spectacular heights - wow!

  1. Django Unchained - Tarantino's bloody masterpiece is ridiculously entertaining.

Honourable mentions: Searching for Sugar Man, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Les Misérables, The Master, Looper, The Raid Redemption, Bernie, Headhunters, Lincoln, The Impossible, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

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