Surprises on Oscar night? It’s seemed over weeks ago. But is it?
The 85th annual Academy Awards will go to “Argo,” Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”), Daniel Day-Lewis (“Lincoln”), Anne Hathaway (“Les Miserables”) and Tommy Lee Jones (“Lincoln”), right? All the pre-Oscar hoopla, awards from critics’ groups and guilds, point toward those conclusions.
Not so fast.
Anne Hathaway has had best supporting actress socked away since the day she was cast as Fantine in “Les Miserables.” Cynical critics and heartless pundits claim they didn’t cry when she sang “I Dreamed a Dream.” They’re liars.
Daniel Day-Lewis gave us a once-in-a-lifetime interpretation of Abraham Lincoln, historically accurate and wonderfully human. Best actor belongs to him. Period.
But Jennifer Lawrence, the front-runner for best actress in the somewhat over-rated “Love cures mental illness” dramedy “Silver Linings Playbook” may give way to the sentimental favorite, the legendary Emmanuelle Riva from “Amour.” I’m still pulling for Naomi Watts, who tears your heart out in the under-appreciated “The Impossible.” But Riva will win.
Tommy Lee Jones (“Lincoln”) and Robert DeNiro (“Silver Linings”) are the toss-up choices for best supporting actor, two venerated icons of the silver screen. Because everybody else in the category is, like them, already an Oscar winner, there are no dark horses here. If it’s an “Argo” kind of night, doesn’t Alan Arkin have a shot? Oh, give it to Jones, see if it softens his mood.
“Best directors direct best pictures,” as the Oscar wags know. And since Ben Affleck, who has taken Clint Eastwood’s place on the Warner Brothers backlot – a hitmaker who acts in and directs prestige pictures – can’t win best director because he wasn’t nominated, “Argo” is facing a headwind in pursuit of best picture. Affleck isn’t nominated for best director Oscar, but he and “Argo” have won everything else in sight.
“Zero Dark Thirty” and the hit “Django Unchained” have that same shortcoming: No best director nomination.
People respected “Amour” and “Life of Pi.” But where’s the love? “Beasts of the Southern Wild” would rank with the biggest best picture upsets in history. The “Lincoln” blowback – because of its historical shortcomings and inaccuracies – is severe enough to suggest Spielberg won’t win best director or picture.
So the movie in which Hollywood saves the day and the hostages, “Argo,” will win.
Best director is a tossup. Ang Lee might be the favorite now, for “Life of Pi,” and the venerable bad boy Michael Haneke (“Amour”) may have a bit of buzz. But the mad money has to be on Benh Zeitlin of “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” He will never again make a movie as novel as this one.
“Brave” has won a lot of pre-Oscar guild prizes, but I still figure “Wreck-It Ralph” will win best animated film, “Searching for Sugar Man” best doc, costume and production design prizes for “Anna Karenina” and/or “Les Miserables,” and screenwriting awards for “Argo” and probably “Zero Dark Thirty.”
But big surprises Oscar night? First-time host Seth MacFarlane might have to provide those.