This year’s Academy Awards is one of the few I can remember looking forward to, a result of genuinely not knowing who is going to win in some of the top categories. While Argo, it seems, has sealed the Best Picture deal, other high-profile fields are left open for interpretation: Can Amour’s graceful and vulnerable Emmanuelle Riva overpower the spunk and energy of Silver Linings Playbook’s Jennifer Lawrence for Best Actress? Is Ang Lee really going to win another Best Director Oscar for a non-Best Picture-winning film? Will Christoph Waltz pull off a Quentin Tarantino-penned Best Supporting Actor victory for a second straight time, or may the late-surging momentum of Robert De Niro win out in the end?
It’s possible these questions are on my mind simply because I’m not too enthusiastic about the broadcast itself. As someone who found only about a fourth of Ted funny and entertaining, I’m not exactly chomping at the bit to see how Seth MacFarlane will fare as emcee. I’m more excited to see if someone like Michael Haneke — who has spent his whole career making movies that are as Oscar-friendly as Django Unchained is racially tame — will grace the podium of the Dolby Theatre. I’m excited, too, to see Daniel Day-Lewis give another acceptance speech: his on-stage eloquence over the years at these events has provided sterling examples of the tiny moments that are worth the grind of long commercial-breaks and disposable stand-up routines. Check out my entire list of predictions below, including who will win, who should win and who should have been nominated.
Argo (William Goldenberg)
Life of Pi (Tim Squyres)
Lincoln (Michael Kahn)
Silver Linings Playbook (Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers)
Zero Dark Thirty – Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg
Veteran workhorse William Goldenberg — a frequent Michael Mann collaborator, and a previous nominee for The Insider and Seabiscuit — seems poised to take home his first Oscar this year. A double-nominee for Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, it’ll likely be the former film that will lift him to victory: the situation may have seemed reversed a month or two ago (as with Mark Boal’s original screenplay for Zero Dark Thirty), but the controversy surrounding Kathryn Bigelow’s film has made Argo the much safer choice. This branch pulled an upset last year, giving their trophy to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter (their second trophy in two years, after The Social Network), but I expect them to reward the likely Best Picture winner, Argo, which is often a classic example of how to cut a sequence for sustained suspense and tension.
Who Will Win: Argo (William Goldenberg)
Who Should Win: Zero Dark Thirty (Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg)
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Amour (Nadine Muse and Monika Willi), The Master (Peter McNulty and Leslie Jones), Magic Mike (Steven Soderbergh)
Anna Karenina (Seamus McGarvey)
Django Unchained (Robert Richardson)
Life of Pi (Claudio Miranda)
Lincoln (Janusz Kaminski)
Skyfall (Roger Deakins)
Skyfall’s Roger Deakins, who is still famously without an Oscar, earned some much-needed buzz with his recent citation from the American Society of Cinematographers, but Claudio Miranda’s extravagant visual stylings on Life of Pi still seems the likeliest victor to me. Miranda won at the BAFTAs, and, with a total of 11 nominations, Life of Pi is clearly respected throughout the Academy. This is but one of the below-the-line categories that it has a strong shot at winning. My personal preference here is Janusz Kaminski, Steven Spielberg’s regular cinematographer. The command of Tony Kushner’s verbally intricate script has led many to label Lincoln “stagy” and “talky,” but if you watch the film a second time, the quality of Kaminski’s work — constantly allowing beams of light to pour into the film’s dusty backrooms — becomes instantly obvious. Deakins provides Skyfall with a couple of enormous highs, but his contribution is less consistently informative.
Who Will Win: Life of Pi (Claudio Miranda)
Who Should Win: Lincoln (Janusz Kaminski)
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Beasts of the Southern Wild (Ben Richardson), The Master (Mihai Malaimare Jr.), Zero Dark Thirty (Greig Fraser)
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White)
Life of Pi (Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott)
Marvel’s The Avengers (Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick)
Prometheus (Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill)
Snow White and the Huntsman (Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson)
Above all else, everyone basically agrees that Ang Lee’s Life of Pi is a juggernaut of technical wizardry, and I’m predicting the branch to follow in their footsteps from last year (when they awarded Hugo) and recognize another auteur’s foray into 3D technology. I think my own leanings would favor Prometheus just a tad: it’s been almost a full year since I saw the film, but its electronic glow is still burning in my mind, and the C-section sequence is a next-level feat of body-altering rendering. A nomination for Cloud Atlas, meanwhile, would have been an encouraging thing to see: I’m not crazy about the film, but it certainly paints a more original visual-effects canvas than The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the look of which we’ve all seen three times before.
Who Will Win: Life of Pi (Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott)
Who Should Win: Prometheus (Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill)
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Cloud Atlas
Argo (Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn)
Django Unchained (Wylie Stateman)
Life of Pi (Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton)
Skyfall (Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers)
Zero Dark Thirty (Paul N.J. Ottosson)
This one could go a variety of ways. My reason for picking Life of Pi is that it’s the most technologically pumped-up production of the five, likely to make its presence known in a few below-the-line categories. But the other nominees, starting with Best Picture frontrunner Argo, shouldn’t be counted out in the slightest. Paul N.J. Ottosson, for his part, won two Oscars for The Hurt Locker (including one in this category), and his stirring work in Kathryn Bigelow’s new film is on the same level. Skyfall and Django Unchained, meanwhile, both have their own share of sonic dexterity. It would’ve been neat to see Best Picture nominee Beasts of the Southern Wild show up here — as beautifully photographed as the film is, the sound work is just as crucial in bringing the Bathtub to vibrant life — but perhaps its small-scale nature kept it at arm’s length.
Who Will Win: Life of Pi (Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton)
Who Should Win: Zero Dark Thirty (Paul N.J. Ottosson)
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Grey
Argo (John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia)
Les Misérables (Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes)
Life of Pi (Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin)
Lincoln (Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins)
Skyfall (Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson)
It’d be unwise to bet against Les Misérables here: the film has essentially built an entire campaign around its live-singing approach, and, without a nomination in the Best Sound Editing field, this is the only place for sound-design workers to step up for the film. And, indeed, it’s as deserving as any of the others in this category, effectively mixing the often-fragile voices of its performers with ambient noise. There were times when it grated on me, though, and I can’t say the same for Skyfall, which is sonically crisp and cogent throughout. However, this is yet another category in which the more intriguing contenders were left on the outside: I’m not sure any of these five mixes can hold a candle to the icy-harsh winds of The Grey, the off-kilter rhythms of The Master, or the piercing bullets of Zero Dark Thirty.
Who Will Win: Les Misérables (Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes)
Who Should Win: Skyfall (Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson)
Who Should Have Been Nominated: The Grey, The Master, Zero Dark Thirty
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