Anyone who has ever been frustrated by the choices made by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the most prestigious award in film, the Oscar, will tell you that the person or film that deserves to win and the one that actually wins are often not the same. From Rocky’s perhaps fitting upset of Taxi Driver, All the President’s Men, and Network for Best Picture in 1977 to Juliette Binoche’s stunning win over Hollywood legend Lauren Bacall for Best Supporting Actor in 1997, shocking choices have been a staple of the Oscars at nearly every ceremony.
Upsets aside, there are also outright atrocities and favouritism. Pedophile/filmmaker Roman Polanski scored the Best Director Oscar for 2002’s The Pianist over the oft-snubbed Martin Scorsese (Gangs of New York that year but his efforts on Goodfellas and Raging Bull had been denied previously); Meryl Streep took home last year’s Best Actress trophy for The Iron Lady simply because she hadn’t won one in a while. The point in all this is that the Academy voters are nothing if not unpredictable. Having said that, Otwo presents its picks for this year’s crop of the biggest awards, both who should win and who probably will win despite that.
What Should Win: Argo. Ben Affleck’s tale of the Iranian hostage crisis has already snagged the Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice awards for Best Picture. Argo has been praised for being exciting without the usual explosions and gunfights, focusing on narrative over slick action.
What Will Win: Zero Dark Thirty. If the 82nd Academy Awards taught us anything, it’s that the Academy loves films about the Iraq War. There is literally no other plausible explanation for The Hurt Locker’s six victories. By the same token, Zero Dark Thirty takes it home this year.
Who Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln. This is an absolute no-brainer. One of the best actors of all time turns in the performance of a lifetime as one of America’s most-beloved Presidents.
Who Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis. The favouritism I mentioned earlier works for him too in a relatively weak field, aside from Joaquin Phoenix’s remarkable turn in The Master.
Who Should Win: Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook. One of the hottest young actresses around honestly just keeps getting better. Since her nomination for Winter’s Bone in 2011, Lawrence’s star has been on the rise.
Who Will Win: Emmanuelle Riva in Amour. Unfortunately for Jennifer Lawrence, she is competing with one of world cinema’s most respected actresses. While an Oscar is in Lawrence’s future, Riva will win to show the Academy’s respect for the classics. Keep an eye on Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty as well.
Best Supporting Actor
Who Should Win: Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained. Waltz burst into the American consciousness with his excellent performance in Tarantino’s previous picture, Inglorious Basterds (snagging this award in the process), and the reunion of the two has produced more great results.
Who Will Win: Christoph Waltz. This might be the strongest field of any category this year: every nominee has won an Oscar in the past. Waltz will be the one to add to his collection for his work as the bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz.
Best Supporting Actress
Who Should Win: Helen Hunt in The Sessions. Playing a sex therapist working with a paraplegic is a very bold choice in Hunt’s otherwise-bland career. With nothing really outstanding on her resume since a Best Actress win for As Good as It Gets, Hunt has shocked critics and audiences alike with this role.
Who Will Win: Sally Field in Lincoln. Field’s performance in Lincoln was one of the film’s greatest successes. Hunt deserves praise for the risk she took in The Sessions but Field will bring home the Oscar for her truly fantastic portrayal of the famous First Lady.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Who Should Win: David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook. Writer-Director Russell is building on the success of The Fighter and, like his star Jennifer Lawrence, just keeps getting better.
Who Will Win: Silver Linings Playbook. In another somewhat-weak field, David O. Russell brings home his first statuette for coming up with a screenplay that supplied his young stars with believable characters and dialogue. Stacked up against the speech-laden Lincoln and the weak dialogue of Beasts of the Southern Wild, Russell deserves this victory.
Best Original Screenplay
Who Should Win: Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola for Moonrise Kingdom. Anderson’s universe of deadbeat dads and rebellious, damaged kids continues to expand. The dialogue in Moonrise Kingdom, like that of every film Anderson and Coppola have written together, is full of wit and just the right amount of deadpan humour without being full of itself.
Who Will Win: Moonrise Kingdom. This is honestly a toss-up between Moonrise Kingdom and Django Unchained but the heartwarming and depressing combination of Anderson and Coppola’s story and script might have the edge over the razor-sharp, endlessly quotable dialogue we have come to expect from Tarantino.
With the exception of the youngest-ever Best Actress nominee (Quvenzhane Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild), this year’s Oscars doesn’t have the potential to break much new ground. The familiar Hollywood heavyweights will most likely bring home the hardware, but independent and foreign pictures like Beasts of the Southern Wild and Amour also have a chance to pull off an upset or two.