Best Animated Feature:
“The Pirates! Band of Misfits”
“The Pirates!” surprised a lot of people who were expecting “Rise of the Guardians” to appear in this category, but the academy usually throws in an out-of-left-field title. Disney’s got to be elated with the results — three of the nominees are theirs. I’m guessing the race is between “Brave” and “Wreck-It Ralph,” both of which are quality films. I’d be fine with either winning, but my sentimental pick is “Brave.” I’ve probably seen it 100 times now thanks to my two-year-old daughter.
Best Supporting Actor:
Alan Arkin, “Argo”
Robert De Niro, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master”
Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln”
Christoph Waltz, “Django Unchained”
The supporting categories are usually where Oscar shakes up expectations a bit. General consensus has Jones as the frontrunner for his fiery performance in “Lincoln,” but the category is packed with phenomenal actors. That includes Arkin, who surprised everyone a few years ago by winning in this category for “Little Miss Sunshine” when most thought Eddie Murphy was a lock for his career-topping work in “Dreamgirls.” I’d love to see Waltz take home the prize for delivering the best performance in a film full of them. I think Jones still has a slight edge, but I honestly wouldn’t be shocked to see any of these guys win.
Best Supporting Actress:
Amy Adams, “The Master”
Sally Field, “Lincoln”
Anne Hathaway, “Les Miserables”
Helen Hunt, “The Sessions”
Jacki Weaver, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Barring one of the most stunning upsets in Oscar history, Hathaway’s had this one in the bag for months. Even critics who hate “Les Miserables” say she’s amazing in it. Still, anything could happen. I’ve heard chatter suggesting Field has a lot of support for her work as Lincoln’s long-suffering wife. As long shots go, she’s the most likely to make Hathaway throw on her best “it’s an honor just to be nominated” face in the Dolby Theatre next month.
Bradley Cooper, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln”
Hugh Jackman, “Les Miserables”
Joaquin Phoenix, “The Master”
Denzel Washington, “Flight”
Day-Lewis is the other big lock of the evening. Every actor in this category has gotten rave reviews over the last few months (and deservedly so), but the two-time Oscar winner’s performance is on an entirely different level. He completely immerses himself in the character, turning one of America’s most mythical figures into an actual person with hopes, fears and emotions. I’d say the only person with a miniscule shot at an upset is Washington. For some reason, a subset of academy voters love them some “Flight.”
Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty”
Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Emmanuelle Riva, “Amour”
Quvenzhane Wallis, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
Naomi Watts, “The Impossible”
Although the academy broke a couple of records with this category — Riva (at 85) and Wallis (at 9) are now officially the oldest and youngest Best Actress nominees in Oscar history — it’s probably a two-way race. For most of the fall, Chastain and Lawrence have been trading frontrunner status. Both deliver blistering performances: Chastain is incredibly focused and understated, while Lawrence is fierce and ostentatious. Voters tend to frown on subtlety, which would point to Lawrence emerging victorious. However, the academy also appreciates how contenders play the campaign game, which is Chastain’s strong suit. I’ll wager a guess that Lawrence wins since “Silver Linings Playbook” has nominees in all four acting categories. That’s a lot of academy love.
Michael Haneke, “Amour”
Ang Lee, “Life of Pi”
David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln”
Benh Zeitlin, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
Here’s where things gets hazy. This category provided the biggest gasps when nominations were announced. Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow, who helmed presumed Best Picture favorites “Argo” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” failed to hear their names called. Instead, academy members went with surprise nominees Haneke and Zeitlin, dramatically reshaping the playing field for several categories. For the first time in years, I’m legitimately stumped on two of the evening’s biggest prizes. I’m taking a complete shot in the dark, but I’d say it’s now between Spielberg and Russell, simply because they directed the films with the most overall nominations and the most nominations in the creative categories, respectively. If that’s the case, I hope it’s Spielberg since his is the better movie.
“Beasts of the Southern Wild”
“Life of Pi”
“Silver Linings Playbook”
“Zero Dark Thirty”
Before last Thursday I would’ve told you this race was between “Argo” and “Zero Dark Thirty.” I’d love to see either of those win, but history tells us it ain’t happening. Whether it’s true or not, the general consensus is that the real contenders can be found by eliminating any flick without a Best Director nomination. My gut tells me “Amour” and “Beasts” are in the “making the cut is the win” group. That leaves “Lincoln,” “Pi,” and “Playbook.” I could provide a reason why any of these could emerge on top, but I’ll narrow it down to “Lincoln” and “Playbook” for the reasons listed previously. If voters are in a historical mood, Spielberg gets his second-ever Best Picture win. If they go with most entertaining, the cast and crew of “Playbook” are going to have a good night. I loved both flicks, so I’m fine either way.
Watch ABC on Sunday, Feb. 24, at 8 p.m. to see who wins. Seth MacFarlane (“Family Guy,” “Ted”) is an interesting choice for host. We’ll see if he can walk the razor-thin line between honoring Hollywood’s most revered tradition and letting some air out of the overinflated egos in the room. He’s got his work cut out for him after Tina Fey and Amy Poehler made hosting look effortless during last Sunday’s Golden Globes.