Predictions for the 85th Academy Awards, Part 2

zero dark thirty11 Predictions for the 85th Academy Awards, Part 2

Zero Dark Thirty: Best Original Screenplay?


This Sunday, February 24th brings the 85th Academy Awards.  Anything can happen this year, when the event, hosted by Seth MacFarlane, is broadcast, live from Hollywood, beginning at 7pm, on ABC.  Yesterday, we looked at the top six categories. Today we continue with the rest of the key nominations —- who will win, who should win, and who should have been nominated. Place your bets!

Original Screenplay


Django Unchained


Moonrise Kingdom

Zero Dark Thirty

Will Win: Back in December, this was Zero Dark Thirty screenwriter Mark Boal’s Oscar to lose.  However, in the wake of the vicious smear campaign against Zero Dark Thirty, Boal’s win now seems highly unlikely.  Quentin Tarantino, having won both the Golden Globe and the BAFTA for his Django Unchained screenplay, has become the favorite.  While Tarantino’s western is a box-office hit, I have a feeling that there are plenty of voters in the Academy, who object to the film’s graphic violence and politically incorrect language.  Therefore, given the universal quality of his screenplay (not to mention the large number of seniors in the Academy), I predict Michael Haneke will win his second Oscar of the night for writing Amour.

Should Win: Mark Boal’s screenplay for Zero Dark Thirty compresses ten years of recent history into a gripping procedural narrative.  Previously a winner for The Hurt Locker (2009), Boal deserves to pick up his second screenwriting Oscar for his latest collaboration with Kathryn Bigelow.

Should Have Been Nominated: Whit Stillman, who was previously nominated in this category for Metropolitan (1990), wrote the year’s best comedy in Damsels in Distress.  Turkish auteur Nuri Bilge Ceylan, working with his wife Ebru Ceylan and Ercan Kesal, crafted a philosophical police procedural in Once Upon A Time In Anatolia.  Bela Tarr and author Laszlo Krasznahorkai created a vision of the apocalypse, worthy of Samuel Beckett in The Turin Horse.

Adapted Screenplay


Beasts of the Southern Wild

Life of Pi


Silver Linings Playbook

Will Win: A three-way race between Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and Argo.  Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Kushner might have the literary pedigree, but his screenplay for Lincoln (based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln) plays like a dull and politically-correct history lesson (though one riddled with inaccuracies, including that problematic Connecticut vote).  The Weinstein Company’s campaign to convince voters that David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook (based on a novel by Matthew Quick) is actually a serious portrait of mental illness, or more specifically a serious portrait of bipolar disorder, could pay off or backfire completely (that Russell and Bradley Cooper photo-op with VP Joe Biden must have been a bad SNL skit in the making).  In the end, though, I predict voters will go with Chris Terrio’s screenplay (based on a Wired article by Joshuah Bearman) for Ben Affleck’s probable Best Picture-winner Argo, because Hollywood loves a story that makes Hollywood look good.

Should Win: The best of the five nominees, Terrio’s work on the Iran hostage crisis thriller Argo was solid and suspenseful throughout.

Should Have Been Nominated: Richard Linklater and Skip Hollandsworth’s screenplay (based on a Texas Monthly article by Hollandsworth) for Bernie  was both a hilarious character study and a carefully observed slice of contemporary small town America.  Terence Davies‘ screenplay for The Deep Blue Sea reshaped Terence Rattigan’s famous play into something more subjective and memory-based.  Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower (adapted from his own epistolary novel) was frequently reminiscent of John Hughes‘ high school coming-of-age films.

Animated Feature




The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Wreck-It Ralph

Will Win: AMPAS will it play it safe and go for Brave, one of Pixar’s lesser offerings.

Should Win: Peter Lord’s Pirates! Band of Misfits, which dared to make both Charles Darwin and Queen Victoria the villains, was a real hoot from start to finish!

Should Have Been Nominated: None.

Animated Short

Adam and Dog

Fresh Guacamole

Head Over Heels

Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”


Will Win: John Kahr’s Paperman, produced by Disney, should have the edge with voters in this category.

Documentary Feature

5 Broken Cameras

The Gatekeepers

How to Survive a Plague

The Invisible War

Searching for Sugar Man

Will Win: The one non-issue-oriented documentary of the bunch, Searching for Sugar Man, is a crowd-pleaser and a box-office hit and will easily win the Oscar.

Should Win: Emad Burnat & Guy Davidi’s 5 Broken Cameras effectively bore witness to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the perspective of one Palestinian family.

Should Have Been Nominated: Jafar Panahi & Mojtaba Mirtahmasb’s This Is Not A Film, smuggled out of Iran for the world to see, was far and away the best non-fiction film of 2012.  Corinna Belz’s Gerhard Richter Painting is an engrossing portrait of the celebrated German artist at work.  Jonathan Demme’s Neil Young Journeys (the third part of his trilogy of concert films with the great Canadian rock star) poignantly depicted Young revisiting his childhood hometown of Omemee, Ontario.  Another music-themed documentary, Mark Meatto’s How to Grow a Band candidly explored the tensions between mandolin prodigy Chris Thile and his Punch Brothers band mates.

Documentary Short


Kings Point

Mondays at Racine

Open Heart


Will Win: Mondays at Racine, Cynthia Wade & Robin Honan’s film about breast cancer survivors on Long Island, will most likely win the Oscar.

Live Action Short


Buzkashi Boys


Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)


Will Win: Shawn Christensen’s Curfew, popular on the festival circuit, is the favorite to take home the Oscar.

Foreign Language Film

Amour (Austria)

Kon-Tiki (Norway)

No (Chile)

A Royal Affair (Denmark)

War Witch (Canada)

Will Win: Michael Haneke’s Amour, nominated for five Academy Awards in total, is a lock to win this category.

Should Win: As much as I enjoyed the old-fashioned adventure of Joachim Ronning & Espen Sandberg’s Kon-Tiki, the unflinching human drama of Amour elevates it above the other films in this category.

Should Have Been Nominated: Of the films that were actually submitted by their home countries for Oscar consideration, Christian Petzold’s Cold War drama Barbara (Germany), Paolo & Vittorio Taviani’s Shakespearean-themed Caesar Must Die (Italy), and Baltasar Kormakur’s survivalist adventure The Deep (Iceland), all would have made worthy candidates.

Film Editing


Life of Pi


Silver Linings Playbook

Zero Dark Thirty

Will Win: William Goldenberg, previously nominated for The Insider and Seabiscuit, will win for cutting together the consistently suspenseful Argo.

Should Win: Goldenberg (along with Dylan Tichenor) also did expert work on Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, particularly in the pulse-pounding sequence, which recreates the Navy SEALs’ raid on the Bin Laden compound.

Should Have Been Nominated: Speaking of intense action sequences, the plane crash early on in Joe Carnahan’s The Grey was one of the very best of the year, thanks in no small part to editors Roger Barton and Jason Hellman.  Lee Smith, who edited all three of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, deserved another nomination for his crosscut-heavy work on The Dark Knight Rises.


Anna Karenina

Django Unchained

Life of Pi



Will Win: Roger Deakins won his third ASC award last week for his lensing of the latest James Bond picture Skyfall, but Claudio Miranda’s vibrant 3D fusion of live-action and CGI on Ang Lee’s Life of Pi is likely to take home the Oscar on Sunday night.

Should Win: Roger Deakins has been nominated nine times before in this category and has never won.  His crisp and surprisingly colorful work on Skyfall should end that losing streak.

Should Have Been Nominated: This past year had a number of cinematographic highlights — Mihai Malaimare, Jr. strikingly employed the high resolution 70mm format in The Master; Greig Fraser captured a unique nighttime look in Zero Dark Thirty; Florian Hoffmeister made postwar London look like a dark, smoky oil painting in The Deep Blue Sea; Darius Khondji subtly orchestrated changes in natural light in a single apartment location over the course of a year in Amour; Fred Kelemen ushered in the apocalypse in austere black-and-white in The Turin Horse.

Production Design

Anna Karenina

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Les Miserables

Life of Pi


Will Win: Production designer David Gropman’s sets for Life of Pi have an exotic, multi-colored, and warm flavor to them that should give Ang Lee’s film the edge over the other nominees.

Should Win: The production design team behind Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey brought viewers back to Tolkien’s Middle Earth with a combination of familiar sites from the first trilogy and some fantastic new sets of massive scale.

Should Have Been Nominated: Jack Fisk and David Crank recreated the American postwar era with great attention to detail in The Master.  Jean-Vincent Puzos made the Parisian apartment set one of the main characters in Amour.  Frequent Ridley Scott collaborator Arthur Max designed spectacular spacecrafts and abandoned alien temples on a far-off moon in Prometheus.

Costume Design

Anna Karenina

Les Miserables


Mirror Mirror

Snow White and the Huntsman

Will Win: Costume designer Jacqueline Durran’s nomination for Anna Karenina is her third for a Joe Wright literary adaptation and will most likely be the one that leads to her first Oscar win.

Should Win: Tarsem Singh’s Mirror Mirror is not a very good film, but the late great Eiko Ishioka’s over-the-top costume design is a ton of fun.  Ishioka previously won in this category for Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992).

Should Have Been Nominated: Mark Bridges‘ costumes for The Master were attuned to both period detail and character development.  The distinct costumes for the 18th century-set period pieces Farewell, My Queen and A Royal Affair deserve recognition too.

Sound Mixing


Les Miserables

Life of Pi



Will Win: Thanks to all of the hype about how all of the singing was recorded live onset, Les Miserables will most likely win this sound category.

Should Win: Skyfall marks Greg P. Russell’s sixteenth nomination.  Together with co-nominees Stuart Wilson and Scott Millan, Russell’s skillful mixing of the various sound levels during the film’s many prolonged action sequences, should bring him his first Oscar win.

Should Have Been Nominated: The sound mixers behind The Dark Knight Rises, Zero Dark Thirty, The Grey, and Prometheus all did great work,  transforming their production sound sources into evocative soundscapes.

Sound Editing


Django Unchained

Life of Pi


Zero Dark Thirty

Will Win: The dramatic sound of the storm and shipwreck sequence, along with the loud periodic roars of the Bengal tiger on the lifeboat adrift at sea, should ensure another victory for Life of Pi.

Should Win: Paul N.J. Ottosson won two Oscars for his sound work on The Hurt Locker.  At once clinical and mood-oriented, his work on Zero Dark Thirty is, arguably, even more accomplished.

Should Have Been Nominated: The sound editors behind The Dark Knight Rises, The Grey, and Prometheus all made stunning use of individual sound effects to enhance their films’ distinct atmospheres.

Makeup & Hairstyling


The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Les Miserables

Will Win: Les Miserables is the only nominee in this category, also nominated for acting and Best Picture, so that should give it a slight edge over the other two.

Should Win: The many faces of dwarves, elves, and orcs in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey would easily get my vote.  Peter Jackson’s team of makeup artists, once again, created a whole array of creatures and monsters to dazzling effect.

Should Have Been Nominated: Leos Carax’s Holy Motors was something of a tribute to the old-fashioned art of movie makeup design, as the mysterious protagonist, played by Denis Lavant, effortlessly transforms his appearance from scene to scene.  Juan Antonio Bayona’s tsunami drama The Impossible featured some convincingly ghastly makeup effects, perhaps none more so than those involving Naomi Watts‘ pierced leg and chest.

Visual Effects

The Avengers

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Life of Pi


Snow White and the Huntsman

Will Win: The Rhythm & Hues VFX team behind Life of Pi will almost certainly take home the trophy for their phenomenal rendering of the Bengal tiger with advanced motion-capture technology.

Should Win: As much as I love the spaceship cutting through frame in Prometheus, I must admit that “Richard Parker” the tiger in Life of Pi was the year’s single best visual effect.

Should Have Been Nominated: Despite the frequent appearance of Batman’s aircraft in a number of major action sequences, The Dark Knight Rises somehow failed to receive a nomination in this category.  On a much smaller scale, VFX technicians seamlessly removed Marion Cotillard’s gorgeous legs in Jacques Audiard’s hard-hitting melodrama Rust and Bone.

Original Score

Anna Karenina


Life of Pi



Will Win: Perhaps best known for his work on Atom Egoyan’s films, Canadian composer Mychael Danna will win for his lush, melodic, and Eastern-flavored score for Life of Pi … unless five-time winner John Williams surprises for his recycled themes in Lincoln.

Should Win: Eleven-time nominee Thomas Newman should win his first Oscar for his John Barry-inflected work on Skyfall.

Should Have Been Nominated: Alexandre Desplat’s score for Zero Dark Thirty was built around heavy percussion and a terrific drone, a primal sound which could have come straight out of a Kurosawa samurai film.  Hans Zimmer composed a rousing choral chant for The Dark Knight Rises.  Mihaly Vig’s minimalist score for Bela Tarr’s The Turin Horse was hypnotic and underlined the repetition of the main characters‘ daily existence.

Original Song

Chasing Ice (“Before My Time”)

Les Miserables (“Suddenly”)

Life of Pi (“Pi’s Lullaby”)

Skyfall (“Skyfall”)

Ted (“Everybody Needs a Best Friend”)

Will Win: Adele and Paul Epworth’s Skyfall theme will become the first song, written and performed for a James Bond movie to win the Oscar.

Should Win: Skyfall is by far the best of the bunch.

Should Have Been Nominated: In what could have been a great year for song nominees, the Academy, once again, disappointed in their choice of nominees (except for “Skyfall”).  The song “Who Were We,” performed by Kylie Minogue and written by Leos Carax and Neil Hannon, expressed the melancholy and metaphysical ideas at the heart of Carax’s Holy Motors.  The rap “Mecca,” performed by K’naan and written by Don DeLillo, was another hilarious satirical component to David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis.  Finally, the soundtrack to John Hillcoat’s bootlegger flick Lawless offered the achingly gorgeous summer swoon “Cosmonaut,” performed by Emmylou Harris and written by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.