Oscar night is roughly ten days away and one of the complaints we hear almost every single year from readers and colleagues alike is that “there are no surprises left.” Often that’s because every award in the months leading up to the big show tends to go to the exact same actors and movies so that when they win an Oscar, it’s not nearly as exiting as winning an Oscar should be.
Well guess what? This year is different because this year we have the opportunity to have one of the most entertaining and exciting Oscar nights in quite some time, because there are some real nail-biter horseraces in a couple of categories and a few categories that can really go in many different directions. This means the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences may actually have an award show this year where we don’t automatically know every single winner before the show even starts.
Right now, it’s looking pretty definite that Daniel Day-Lewis will win his third Oscar for Lincoln and Anne Hathaway will win her first for Les Misérables and Ben Affleck’s Argo has created such a huge momentum for itself by winning just about every recent award since Ben Affleck was snubbed for a directing Oscar nomination that it would only be a shocker if it DIDN’T win Best Picture.
But what about all the other categories and which of them offers the closest races and potential for surprises? Read on!
As we already mentioned previously, the directing Oscar can go to anyone, because unlike many recent years, it’s not likely to go to the director of the winning Best Picture if Argo does in fact win. That means this category has the most potential to offer surprises whether they call Steven Spielberg’s name that night or Ang Lee’s or even Michael Haneke. Since so many people assume Spielberg is going to win, when Ang Lee or Haneke are called to the podium that should offer one last surprise towards the end of the night before Argo‘s inevitable Best Picture win.
This race seems to be between Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain, but some pundits seem to think that Amour star Emmanuelle Riva has a chance at pulling out an upset considering how much support the French language drama has received from the Academy. Riva’s name being announced would certainly be a shocker but since everyone else is fairly well split between the two younger ingénues, that could pave the way for an Oscar night surprise. Otherwise, it’s between Lawrence and Chastain and both of them have as good a chance at winning as the other even if Lawrence has the advantage of a recent SAG win.
Of all the races, this one really could go any one of three ways because three of the five nominees have received prior accolades with Christoph Waltz winning both the Golden Globe and BAFTA award, Philip Seymour Hoffman taking the Critics Choice and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) giving their award to Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln. Logic would have it that the Academy would go the same way as their SAG breathren and give it to Jonesthe last six SAG winners have taken home the Oscar. There’ve been a few times where things went differently like when Alan Arkin beat SAG winner Eddie Murphy, and Arkin is back in the mix this year. And then on top of that, The Weinstein Company has been doing a huge print and television push for Robert De Niro’s supporting performance since he hasn’t won an Oscar in over 30 years. Whether or not that will work is still left to be seen. The thing is that all five nominees have already won an Oscar with Waltz and Arkin being the most recent ones, which may give an advantage to vets like Jones or De Niro who haven’t won in a long time. This being Philip Seymour Hoffman’s third supporting nomination after winning in the lead category, we don’t think he’s in the mix. We still think Jones will win, but this could be one of the night’s surprises that goes another way with some hard-working actor walking away with their second (or third) Oscar.
The Screenplay Categories
These are also developing in interesting ways that only the announcing of the Writers Guild (WGA) Awards on Sunday, December 17, might elucidate. In terms of the original screenplay category, Quentin Tarantino’s script for Django Unchained seems to be moving ahead of the pack although there’s no denying the strength of Mark Boal’s screenplay for Zero Dark Thirty, which could pull a surprise win. The only thing possibly holding that back is the fact Boal won an Oscar a few years ago for The Hurt Locker and the controversy over the accuracy of the information. Even so, “Django” wasn’t nominated for a WGA award due to ineligibility, so Boal should win that one.
The adapted screenplay category could offer more surprises. While one might safely assume that the potential Best Picture winner Argo has this in the bag, there’s no denying the strength of Tony Kushner’s screenplay for Spielberg’s Lincoln and David O. Russell’s screenplay for Silver Linings Playbook, the latter which feels like an original screenplay. Since those three movies are the frontrunners for Best Picture, one has to assume that one of those three will win for its screenplay. Every few years a Best Picture wins without having a corresponding screenplay like last year’s The Artist. The time before that was Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby. The fact that this year’s Best Picture winner might not have a corresponding director means that all bets are off and this may be a category in which other movies can get accolades. Silver Linings Playbook‘s screenplay winning over the stronger two options probably would be a big surprise though, and the WGA’s choice may be telling since they often go one for one with the Oscars.
This is a fun year for this relatively new category because this is the second year in a row that DisneyPixar doesn’t have a particularly strong candidate in Brave, although Disney does have two other horses in this race and the video game comedy Wreck-It Ralph has already won a number of early awards including the Critics Choice and five Annie animation awards including Best Animated Feature. That would put it well in front of the race to win an Oscar although who knows whether the Academy members will feel as strongly about a video game movie as critics and regular audiences do? Brave harks back to classic Disney animation which could help it pull out a surprise win on Oscar night much like it did at the Golden Globes and BAFTAs.
The technical awards are always interesting because they’re nominated by members of each respective technical branch, those who actually know what constitutes awards-worthy sound editing or cinematography or visual FX and then the entire Academy membership votes on those nominations, which probably includes thousands of members who know nothing about the categories. This sometimes allows for a lot of surprises such as last year when Hugo won for Visual FX over Rise of the Planet of the Apes and others.
Right now cinematography seems to be heading towards Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, which has an advantage of others due to its use of 3D technology (similar to Hugo last year), but it certainly would be a great surprise if Roger Deakins finally wins his first Oscar for his cinematography on the James Bond movie Skyfall after nine previous nominations.
Besides cinematography, Skyfall has been nominated for four other Oscars and it stands a pretty good chance at winning Original Song since Adele seems to win every award she’s ever up for, but sound mixer Gregg P. Russell has been nominated even more times than Deakins with a whopping 16 nominations, so it would be quite exciting night if he finally won an Oscar, although musicals tend to have an advantage in the Sound Mixing category so it’s more likely to go to Les Misérables.
Sound Editing is a tougher category this year since there are a lot of strong nominees with great sound effects work. It usually goes to the loudest of the movies which would be Skyfall, but it probably won’t go to Argo since this award has been given to the Best Picture winner only once in the past 15 years. (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers won it but then its follow-up, which swept the Oscars the following year, wasn’t even nominated.) This seems like a safe place for Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty to receive an Oscar as well.
Visual FX is another interesting category because one might expect it to go to a big FX movie like Marvel’s The Avengers or The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey which are all about their FX, but right now it looks to be going to Ang Lee’s team for their FX on Life of Pi. Still, it’s another category where viewers might be surprised if the Academy goes a different way.
Either way, the Academy Awards will be announced on Sunday, February 24, and we expect it to be a great night where we’re likely to get more than a few surprises and all of the Oscar punditry that’s been done over the past year probably won’t amount to very much.