Managing Executive Editor
This year’s crop of films showed off some magnificent performances, great stories, fantastic screenwriting, and some amazing editing, more so than last year’s batch of Oscar-worthy films. While “The Artist” was a critic darling and an amazing film, the rest of the films in 2011 nominated for Oscars lacked the “The Artist’s” luster.
Between Steven Spielberg’s epic “Lincoln” on one of America’s favorite presidents, Kathryn Bigelow’s Bin Laden manhunt film “Zero Dark Thirty,” the surprising success of “Silver Linings Playbook” and the obvious frontrunner, Ben Affleck’s superbly made “Argo,” this year’s films are all equally strong and all could easily have won the big awards if it weren’t for the strength in this year’s line up. The following are my personal predictions for this year’s Oscar winners, and what will win in contrast to what I thought should have won, respectively. We’ll start with Best Picture.
Will win: The clear and obvious winner here is “Argo.” Ben Affleck’s film chronicles the tense Iran hostage crisis, when a Canadian diplomat sheltered Americans working at the U.S. embassy during the early ‘80s in Iran. Affleck’s role as director and actor has proved to be highly effective, like in 2010’s “The Town” and 2007’s “Gone Baby Gone.” At this point in the Oscar season, there isn’t too much of a contest. “Argo” has basically won every major award prior to the Oscar, including the Golden Globes, Critics Choice Awards, Directors Guild Awards, and Screen Actors’ Guild. The industry has spoken. “Argo” will take home Oscar gold.
Should win: While its timing and editing was masterfully done in a way that built up to a tension-filled climax, in my opinion, “Argo” was not the best film of the year. Instead, Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty” deserves the top prize. Bigelow’s cinematography and editing is fantastic. “Zero Dark Thirty” covers the ten-year-long manhunt for Osama Bin Laden and undertaken by one CIA agent, Maya, played beautifully by Jessica Chastain. The enormous emotional power the film holds is in its final frame, when after Bin Laden is killed, Maya boards a plane for home after ten years of searching for Al-Qaeda’s leader. She begins crying, and her dilemma now parallels the dilemma the U.S. as a whole faces. Now that Bin Laden is killed and Maya’s work is done, the major question is, “Now what?” Bigelow’s deft directing coupled with amazing cinematography makes this film stand out amongst the others.
Will win: Steven Spielberg for “Lincoln.” This is one of the closest races, seemingly. However, the odd thing about this category is that the two best films of the year that had the best direction, “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Argo,” weren’t even nominated in this category, proving to be unbelievable snubs. I would have loved to see Affleck or Bigelow take home the statuette. In most of the major directors awards (the SAGs, Golden Globes, BAFTAs, Director’s Guild), Affleck is the frontrunner. That being said, the next best bet is Spielberg. Oscar has never been shy about its eternal love for Spielberg, and “Lincoln” has all the hallmarks of a Spielberg-directed vehicle. The other option in this category is Ang Lee for the visually sumptuous “Life of Pi.” This could be one major upset of the night, but my bet is Spielberg.
Should win: Kathryn Bigelow or Ben Affleck (my own write-in ballot). Bigelow’s directing is flawless in “Zero Dark Thirty.” Even if Bigelow had been snubbed, Affleck deserves to win the Oscar gold for “Argo.” Both of them crafted a film that reached a suspenseful climax and a satisfying denouement, while also being able to direct their actors and coax the best performances out of them. Either of these two fine directors could and should win Oscar gold.
Will win: Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln.” Once again, this category has a clear frontrunner, while all the other nominees have quickly faded into the background. Day-Lewis’s performance in “Lincoln” was a powerhouse example of method acting. Reportedly on set, Spielberg addressed Day-Lewis as “Mr. President” because he was so far ingrained in the character, from his natural charisma and grace, his sense of humor, his tendency to tell stories, and his ability to parcel out his anger only when necessary. Day-Lewis once again proves he’s one of the best actors of this generation because he always seems to wear his characters like a second skin. He becomes them in ways other actors can’t.
Should win: Day-Lewis, by a landslide. Day-Lewis won the Best Actor Oscar in 2007 for his venomous portrayal of an oil tycoon in “There Will Be Blood” and he will win again for his role as one of America’s most beloved historical figures.
Will win: Jennifer Lawrence in “Silver Linings Playbook.” Lawrence has made a name for herself after gaining Oscar recognition for her performance in “Winter’s Bone” and more recently for starring in the adaptation of the best-selling “Hunger Games” series. Lawrence gives a dark and comedic turn in “Silver Linings Playbook,” opposite Bradley Cooper. The two play people dealing with some serious mental illnesses brought on by some serious tragedy in their lives. Lawrence’s turn in “Silver Linings” never delves into a clichéd romantic comedy stereotype, instead going well beyond that stigma and creating a realistic character with real feelings and believable unstable behavior.
Should win: As much as I love Jennifer Lawrence, I would have taken Jessica Chastain in “Zero Dark Thirty.” Her nuanced performance, especially in the last scene was what breathed life into the film.
Best Supporting Actor
Will win: While this category is not as clear-cut in it’s frontrunner, Christoph Waltz, fresh off his BAFTA win, is looking like the best bet in this category. Waltz has become an Oscar darling, with his win a few years ago for playing Hans Landa in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds.” Once again, Waltz paired up with Tarantino for “Django Unchained” playing a German bounty hunter who helps the title character seek revenge on his white slavemasters while also collecting his bounty. Waltz turns in another great performance. Waltz is great at playing roles that require him to pretend to be the nice, hospitable gentleman, masking an underlying menace. In “Django,” however, Waltz plays the menace to the hateful white slavemasters.
Should win: Christoph Waltz. While I would have made the argument that the best performances in “Django Unchained” were provided by Leonardo DiCaprio, playing Calvin Candie, the privileged, flamboyant and terrifyingly violent plantation owner, or Samuel L. Jackson as the head house slave in “Django,” neither were nominated. Of the rest of the nominees, Tommy Lee Jones, while good in “Lincoln” doesn’t put in his very best work.
Best Supporting Actress
Will win: Anne Hathaway in “Les Miserables.” Overall, “Les Miserables” proved to be an overly bloated, messily directed film by Tom Hooper. I’m never a fan of the “Oscar bait” films—those ones where you’re sure the director has tried to check off every single stereotype that the Academy loves. Hooper managed to do that successfully when he triumphed with “The King’s Speech” in 2010, but he doesn’t pull it off here. Hathaway will probably be the only one of “Les Miserables” wins. Her performance, while good, seems more like too much of an effort to be the crying, screaming, tragic wretch of Fantine. I like subtlety in acting, this wasn’t it.
Should win: Sally Field for “Lincoln.” I feel as though this category doesn’t have as much depth as it had in previous years, even with the big names in the category, but Hathaway’s performance is just too much. I feel her acting is unauthentic in this role, whereas she was much more natural and electric in “Rachel Getting Married” for which she received an Oscar nomination for back in 2008. Field has a great performance as Mrs. Lincoln, and I would have liked to see her get recognized for her work over Hathaway.
Oscar night shouldn’t be filled with too many surprises, but I would love to see an upset in Best Supporting Actress or for Best Picture. However, in a year with many categories stacked with major talent, any could have taken home the Academy Award. However, a few golden performances and films will certainly shine on Oscar night, with my bet being “Argo” coming out as the big winner.
Whitney Cyr can be contacted at