BY GENE TRIPLETT
There are moviegoers who still remember Steve McQueen’s shocked and anguished cry at the tragic end of “The Sand Pebbles” — “What the hell happened?”
That’s probably the question that shot through the befuddled minds of Ben Affleck, Kathryn Bigelow, Tom Hooper and Quentin Tarantino when the films they helmed (“Argo,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Les Miserables,” “Django Unchained,” respectively) received best picture Oscar nominations while the filmmakers themselves all were
snubbed for best director honors. (At least McQueen got the best actor nod way back when, even if he didn’t win.)
But there are nine best pic contenders this year while the director category is still limited to five choices, which, by the way, would seem to weaken the old theory that only
a movie with a nominated director has a good shot at the top prize. And while “Lincoln” leads the Academy Awards competition with 12 nominations including best picture and best director (Steven Spielberg), there are strong indications of another in a series of “Argo” upsets. Could Honest Abe lose big the election? Here’s how I’m calling this and all the other big Oscar races.
The prizewinning chances of the brilliant “Zero Dark Thirty” seem to have been irreparably damaged by politics surrounding the
depiction of torture in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. But with “Argo,” we have a true story about movie people pulling off something heroic, helping the CIA spirit fugitive American diplomatic personnel out of Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis, and Hollywood loves to see itself look good up there on the screen. Besides, it appears that a lot of people want to right the wrong done to Ben Affleck by the voters in the directors’ wing of the Academy. Spielberg’s masterful “Lincoln” could be defeated, at least on this part of the ticket.
Should win: “Lincoln” … or maybe “Zero Dark Thirty.” Damn.
Will win: “Argo.”
Daniel Day-Lewis worked his acting alchemy once again, transforming himself into the 16th president of the United States like no otheractor before him, including Henry Fonda and Raymond Massey, bless ‘em. This is where “Lincoln” should win a big one and Day-Lewis should become the first male to win three career Best Actor Oscars. No one else in this category is as worthy.
Should and will win: Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln.”
Quvenzhane Wallis, 9, was the year’s smallest miracle in “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” Emmanuelle Riva, 85, broke hearts in “Amour,” and Naomi Watts’ portrayal of maternal might in the face of natural cataclysm in “The Impossible” would have been hard to beat in any other year, but all are overshadowed by Jennifer Lawrence’s smart, needy, foul-mouthed young widow in “Silver Linings Playbook” and Jessica Chastain’s driven, single-minded, strong-willed bin Laden hunter in “Zero Dark Thirty.” It’s a hard-call contest between these two, although Lawrence may have an advantage with her “Hunger Games” success.
Should win: Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty.”
Will win: Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook.”
Best Supporting Actor
One of the most baffling questions in this year’s contest is why Philip Seymour Hoffman was stuck in the supporting category for his genius turn as “The Master.” This misplacement could hurt his chances. Alan Arkin’s “Argo (bleep) yourself” Hollywood producer was hilarious, we couldn’t take our eyes off Christoph Waltz as a German dentist-turned-bounty hunter in “Django Unchained” and Tommy Lee Jones’ abolitionist congressman could be a real vote-getter in “Lincoln,” but Robert De Niro gave his best performance in years as the football junkie dad in “Silver Linings Playbook,” and it’s been more than 20 years since his last Oscar win. Plus, Bob is well-liked within the industry. Call him a sentimental favorite.
Should and will win: Robert De Niro, “Silver Linings Playbook.”
Best Supporting Actress
Daniel Day-Lewis couldn’t have asked for a better match than Sally Field for his Lincoln’s first lady. Her emotionally tormented Mary Todd Lincoln brought fire to her every scene. But Anne Hathaway’s wrenching, live-on-camera performance of the ballad “I Dreamed a Dream” in “Les Miserables” — after having her hair hacked off, her teeth pulled and her body violated — is bound to make her Oscar dreams come true.
Should win: Sally Field, “Lincoln.”
Will Win: Anne Hathaway, “Les Miserables.”
Steven Spielberg brought back to vivid life the strife-torn world that surrounded the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, framing the brilliant and powerful performances of an incredible cast (Day-Lewis, Field, Jones, David Strathairn, James Spader, Tim Blake Nelson, Hal Holbrook, Jackie Earle Haley, John Hawkes, Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in authentic atmosphere and setting. True, Affleck deserved at least a nod, and Ang Lee created a moving and technically/visually groundbreaking work or art, but Spielberg still does the old fashioned movie magic better than anyone.
Should and will win: Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln.”
Best Original Screenplay
Mark Boal, “Zero Dark Thirty.”
Best Adapted Screenplay
Chris Terrio, “Argo.”
Best Animated Feature
Best Documentary Feature
“Searching for Sugar Man.”
Best Foreign Language Film