EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 24, 2013

He says, they say: Our critic makes his picks for Oscars

Vellante's View
Greg Vellante

— Pop the popcorn, roll out the red carpet, and get ready to watch the 85th Annual Academy Awards. With a great year in a film, it’s a tough race this year in numerous categories despite many unfortunate snubs and nominations with which I disagree. (My relationship with the Oscars is quite complicated.)

If I were voting, the show would certainly be quite different. But like most years, I’ll be watching the TV and shouting at the screen when the Academy manages to get it all wrong again.

While I’ve enjoyed the past string of Best Picture winners (“The Hurt Locker,” “The King’s Speech,” “The Artist”), never has the winner actually felt like the “best” film of the year, but rather the most likely to win.

Hence, predictions are born, and every year I get about 70 percent correct of the 24 categories. As with most years, I’ll be completely satisfied if my following predictions end up being wrong, because that just means a more deserving title or actor likely took the prize.

So, without further ado, here are my predictions for the big six categories of the 85th Annual Academy Awards.

BEST PICTURE

Nominees:

* “Amour”

* “Argo”

* “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

* “Django Unchained”

* “Les Misérables”

* “Life of Pi”

* “Lincoln”

* “Silver Linings Playbook”

* “Zero Dark Thirty”

WILL WIN:

“Lincoln”

SHOULD WIN:

“Django Unchained.”

SHOULDN’T BE HERE: “Silver Linings Playbook.”

LEFT OUT: “The Master”

While recent Best Picture winners are likely to fade from audience’s memory shortly after they nab the top prize, this year’s (likely) winner will forever live on since it will be shown in 8th grade history classes for the rest of eternity. Steven Spielberg’s well-made, superbly written and masterfully acted “Lincoln” is a fine, prestigious, political biopic that Oscar voters love and will probably find best suited to win big at the awards.

For me, the alternative historical film from that era of atrocious slavery is Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained,” which would indubitably take the cake if I were giving the awards. “Silver Linings Playbook” was a well-marketed, well-acted crowd-pleaser that seemed to isolate me from this crowd, since I really don’t understand the film’s appeal and find its awards-darling status confusing. Especially when a masterpiece like Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master” is shut out from the category completely, probably because the Oscar voters didn’t “get it.”

BEST DIRECTOR

Michael Haneke, “Amour”

Ang Lee, “Life of Pi”

David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook”

Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln”

Benh Zeitlin, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

WILL WIN:@text1: Steven Spielberg

SHOULD WIN:@text1: Benh Zeitlin

SHOULDN’T BE HERE:@text1: Ang Lee

LEFT OUT:@text1: Quentin Tarantino

I give major kudos to the Academy for recognizing the young, unique talent of director Benh Zeitlin, whose fantastic “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is easily one of the most inventively captured and told stories of the year (and Zeitlin just turned 30, so I anticipate a great career ahead of him). I also give them credit for recognizing the brilliant direction of Austria’s Michael Haneke and his heartbreaking “Amour.”

Regardless, the voters will likely choose the obvious choice and award Spielberg for his quality and control of “Lincoln,” a fair but predictably safe choice. Not sure what Ang Lee is doing here, since the majority of “Life of Pi” takes place in a computer and honestly, the narrative structure of the film knocks it down quite a few notches. And Tarantino’s absence here for the daringly directed “Django Unchained” simply baffles me. Don’t even get me started on why Paul Thomas Anderson isn’t here for “The Master.”

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

LEFT OUT: Jamie Foxx

Essentially this is a pointless category, because Daniel Day-Lewis played a U.S. president pretty much flawlessly and will become the first man in history to win three Oscars for Best Actor. So an advanced congratulations to him and to Joaquin Phoenix, who notoriously called the Oscars “bull----” in an interview from last year. This means he will probably be thrilled not to be a part of the Oscar’s pony show, even though he indubitably gave the most daring, unhinged, and complex performance of this year and of recent years.

I don’t disagree with any of these nominations, but I would have loved to see Jamie Foxx’s name up there for his understated performance as the titular hero of “Django Unchained.”

BEST ACTRESS

Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty”

Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook”

Emmanuelle Riva, “Amour”

Quvenzhane Wallis, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

Naomi Watts, “The Impossible”

WILL/SHOULD WIN: Emmanuelle Riva

Another acting category I don’t have too many problems with, except for the fact that Oscar buzz has been incessantly promoting the fact that Emmanuelle Riva is the oldest Best Actress nominee ever for “Amour” at age 85, and “Beasts of the Southern Wild’s” Wallis was only 6 when the film was shot, making her the youngest. So either win would be a history-making one, and I’m guessing a well-deserved will go to the remarkably moving performance of Riva as an elderly woman slowly dying as her loving husband cares for her. Another bonus? Her 86th birthday is the day of the Oscars. That would be quite the gift.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Alan Arkin, “Argo”

Robert De Niro, “Silver Linings Playbook”

Phillip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master”

Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln”

Christoph Waltz, “Django Unchained”

WILL WIN: Robert De Niro

SHOULD WIN: Christoph Waltz

LEFT OUT: The rest of “Django Unchained”

Everyone’s raving about De Niro’s “comeback” performance in “Silver Linings Playbook.” And it is a very, very good performance that I think is enhanced by the fact De Niro hasn’t done anything remotely close to this in over a decade. Therefore, he’ll probably win. And yet, he’s no match to the brilliant performances of Phillip Seymour Hoffman in “The Master,” nor Christoph Waltz in “Django Unchained,” both of whom I think would be more fitting in the lead actor category. Oscar politics wouldn’t dare do that, however.

Speaking of which, where are the actual supporting performances from “Django,” most notably the evil turns of Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson as a ruthless plantation owner and his sycophantic right-hand man? Masterful performances unfortunately overlooked, but does it matter? De Niro made a comeback!

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Amy Adams, “The Master”

Sally Field, “Lincoln”

Anne Hathaway, “Les Misérables”

Helen Hunt, “The Sessions”

Jacki Weaver, “Silver Linings Playbook”

WILL WIN: Anne Hathaway

SHOULD WIN: Amy Adams

SHOULDN’T BE HERE: Helen Hunt

LEFT OUT: Kerry Washington

So I still haven’t gotten around to seeing that movie about the singing, miserable people; but from what I’ve heard, Anne Hathaway really nails her big musical number. The Oscars love big theatrics and will probably award Hathaway the trophy, even though she deserved it years ago for her moving turn in “Rachel Getting Married.” But Oscars will pay their dues, giving Hathaway the trophy and shutting out another actress who has been nominated many times without a win, Amy Adams.

Oh well, does it even matter in a category where Helen Hunt’s bland performance in the even blander “The Sessions” gets priority over Kerry Washington’s always on key, emotional, oftentimes devastating performance as the love of Django, Broomhilda, in “Django Unchained?”

AND THE REST…

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Quentin Tarantino, “Django Unchained”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Tony Kushner, “Lincoln”

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: “Frankenweenie”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: “Amour”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: “The Mast…” what? It isn’t nominated? Oh. It’ll go to “Lincoln” then. And again, it was designed in a computer, so the nomination for “Life of Pi” is a joke.

BEST EDITING: “The Mast…” what? It isn’t nominated? Oh. “Cloud Atlas” then…that isn’t nominated either? Should we go with “Lincoln” again? I guess so, but seriously, who does these nominations? Do you understand editing? You shut out some of the absolute best.

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: Here’s where “Life of Pi” will finally get something.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN: “Anna Karenina”

BEST MAKEUP: For making the gorgeous Anne Hathaway look so decrepit, “Les Misérables” will get it here. I’m STILL laughing at the nomination for “Hitchcock.”

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: No nomination for the most unique score of the year in “Beasts of the Southern Wild?” Oh well, I’m sure John Williams will nab another trophy for his score in “Lincoln.”

BEST ORIGINAL SONG: The “Skyfall” theme by Adele (oh, I hope she performs)

BEST SOUND MIXING: “Skyfall”

BEST SOUND EDITING: “Zero Dark Thirty” (it’s all in that opening scene)

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: “Life of Pi” was created in a computer, yes, but it’s downright gorgeous to look at. Should win here.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: “How to Survive a Plague”

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT: “Inocente” (shot in the dark)

BEST ANIMATED SHORT: “Paperman” (slightly more educated shot in the dark)

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT: “Curfew” (less educated shot in the dark)