5. Helen Hunt, The Sessions
For Her: Her sympathetic performance turned what many people would have seen as a prostitute into a likable, relatable character. She has an Oscar already, so obviously they like her, even if they haven’t seen her in a while. The fact she got in when co-star John Hawkes didn’t, means they really liked her.
Against Her: Was I the only one annoyed by her Boston accent? Doesn’t the performance, like the film itself, seem too simplistic? She has an Oscar, and three of her competitors do not. The nomination is welcome back enough.
4. Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings PlaybookFor Her: She surprised many two years ago by being nominated for her brilliant portrayal of a monster matriarch in Animal Kingdom. Her work in Silver Linings Playbook is pretty much the exact opposite – a saintly matriarch. The film is obviously loved, as is her performance, which got in despite almost no precursor support.
Against Her: But isn’t the role far too simplistic? Weaver plays it well enough to disguise the fact that it really is a nothing role – the least interesting of any of the major characters in the movie. The nomination is tribute to how much the Academy loved the movie itself.
3. Amy Adams, The MasterFor Her: She is well liked in Hollywood, and this is her fourth nomination, and she still doesn’t have an Oscar. That’s getting to Kate Winslet territory there. Her performance in The Master is subtle, yet brilliant and completely opposite of the innocent roles she normally gets. She’s got to win sometime.
Against Her: But not this year. Adams may have fared well with the critics’ awards, but this is the Oscars. They don’t always value subtlety – and The Master is a divisive film. We all know who’s winning this award, and it ain’t Adams.
2. Sally Field, LincolnFor Her: A massive comeback role for Field, who hasn’t been in the Oscar game in nearly 30 years since she won her second Oscar. She had to fight for this role, when Spielberg wasn’t sure she was right for it. She shows the somewhat crazy side of Mary Todd Lincoln, but also makes her a rock of support for her husband – and she steals some scenes.
Against Her: Winning three Oscars is hard. Winning three Oscars when you’ve only been nominated three times is impossible. We all know who’s winning the award this year, and it ain’t Field.
1. Anne Hathaway, Les MisérablesFor Her: Even those who HATE Les Miserables, usually give it up for Hathaway for her show stopping rendition of I Dreamed I Dream, the one time in the movie the incessant close-ups of director Hooper every seems to agrees work wonders. She is liked in Hollywood, a previous nominee and her time has come. We all know she’s winning this.
Against Her: There are some who HATE Les Miserables. If their numbers Have grown…
Who Will Win: Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables. It’s not even close. The least suspenseful race this year.Who Should Win: Amy Adams, The Master. A tough call for me between the unabashed emotions of Hathaway, versus the subtle power of Adams, but I’ll stick with Adams.
Least of the Nominees: Helen Hunt, The Sessions. Instantly forgettable – just like the movie.
Supporting Actor5. Alan Arkin, Argo
For Him: With Argo looking less and less likely to win much of anything on Oscar night, the film’s supporters may throw all of their weight behind Arkin, as this does look like a fairly wide open field. He is a well-liked veteran, in a well-liked film, delivering a performance everyone in Hollywood will recognize – the profane Hollywood producer. The usual knock about being a previous winner doesn’t apply when all your fellow nominees have also won.
Against Him: When looked at next to the other performances nominated, you have to admit that Arkin’s seems rather lightweight by comparison. He’s a more recent winner than three of the other nominees, and when he won for Little Miss Sunshine, it was largely seen as a career honor. No need to do that twice.
4. Philip Seymour Hoffman, The MasterFor Him: Even The Master’s many vocal detractors seem to agree that Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance was masterful – it was the one performance from the film that you could count on to show up everywhere this award’s season. After taking a ridiculously long time to nominate him the first time, he has become an Oscar mainstay. A second win, seven years after his first, wouldn’t seem out of line.
Against Him: He is the one nominee here not from a best picture winner, which suggests weak support for the film as a whole. Hoffman is so good, you know he’s got any number of nominations left in him, so some will not feel the need to give him a second Oscar for a film they are not in love with.
3. Christoph Waltz, Django UnchainedFor Him: Waltz got nominated despite the fact that Django Unchained was the last film screened, and he had two internal competitors (Samuel L. Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio) to fend off, not to mention a strong field of also rans (including Javier Bardem and Matthew McConaghey). Winning an Oscar for this would make a nice bookend to the one he won for Inglorious Basterds – this time playing the Good German. Tarantino’s films has its share of supporters. He has also won a couple of key precursors (the Globe and the BAFTA).
Against Him: Yes, all five nominees have won before, but no one has won as recently as Waltz has. Add in the fact that this is only his second nomination, and the fact that too many in the Academy, Waltz hasn’t done much of anything other than the two Tarantino movies, and you don’t have a recipe for an Oscar win this time around.
2. Tommy Lee Jones, LincolnFor Him: The cast of Lincoln had a difficult job to live up to the towering performance given by Daniel Day-Lewis, but Jones didn’t just do that – he actually stole all the scenes in the movie he’s in (it helped he rarely shared the screen with Day-Lewis). He brought humor and heart to the movie. He is also a well-loved veteran, nearly 20 years past his last Oscar win. Lincoln is a big time player in the Oscars this year, and Jones could easily get swept along with it.
Against Him: The strength of the competition, and the fact that everyone nominated has won before makes this a wide open field. As good as Jones is, Lincoln is undeniably Day-Lewis’ movie, and his presence may be enough to dwarf Jones.
1. Robert De Niro, Silver Linings PlaybookFor Him: DeNiro may be the only TWO time Oscar winner nominated here, but everyone else has one, so it shouldn’t matter much. Besides, he has won an Oscar in over 30 years, hasn’t been nominated in over 20 years, and hasn’t really even been considered in over 10 years. He is the type of legend where three Oscar wins would not seem out of line, and giving it to him would be a nice welcome back gesture. And you know Harvey Weinstein will be pushing for him.
Against Him: There is a reason why DeNiro hasn’t been in the Oscar game for a while – he’s mainly been phoning it in since 1998, so there will be some who won’t want to give him a third Oscar just for trying this time around. It is a tough group of nominees this year, and DeNiro’s role may well not seem quite good enough to some to merit a victory.
Who Will Win: Robert DeNiro. I could see Jones sneaking in, but I think they’ll want to show Silver Linings some love, and considering I’m predicting Riva as actress, this could be it’s only shot.Who Should Win: Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master. As much as I loved Waltz’s performance in Django, this one really is undeniable to me. Hoffman makes the perfect other half to Phoenix’s brilliant performance in The Master, and it may well be the best work of his amazing career.
Least of the Nominees: Alan Arkin plays his role in Argo just about perfectly – but it is easily the weakest of the roles nominated. Not his fault, but he’s just not in the other’s league this year.
Actress5. Naomi Watts, The Impossible
For Her: She somehow survived a rough campaign that saw The Impossible go from underdog to almost completely forgotten and managed to get in ahead of the likes of Marion Cottilard and Helen Mirren. It is a heartbreaking story, and Watts is the centerpiece of the first (and far better) half of the film. She has been nominated before, and is still looking for a win.
Against Her: But in the film’s second half, she does next to nothing. While it’s true she has a longer track record than Chastain or Lawrence, she has the same number of previous nominations (1) and they are in much more liked films. The nomination itself is a huge coup for Watts, so she should be happy she got that.
4. Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild Odds: 25-1For Her: Wallis became the youngest actress ever to be nominated in the lead category when she got her nomination here – and it is richly deserved. A wonderful child performance that makes audiences remember what it was like to be a child – how wonderful and scary it is. She carries the movie – which obviously the Academy liked – on her back.
Against Her: The Academy rarely gives the Oscar to child nominees. She is facing stiff competition from a group of actresses who have years of work behind them. Perhaps her time will come – but it won’t be this year.
3. Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark ThirtyFor Her: Chastain became a star last year with a number of great performances – notably in The Help, The Tree of Life and Take Shelter – and was nominated for one of them (The Help). She fulfilled that promising start with a mesmerizing, driven, tough as nails performance in Zero Dark Thirty. Like her main competitor (Lawrence), she is a young star on the rise – unlike her, she is the center of her movie. Considering the director’s branch snubbed Kathryn Bigelow, the film’s directors, perhaps the rest of the Academy will want to give an Oscar to its tough as nails star as a constellation prize.
Against Her: The Silver Linings Playbook team is going to working hard to ensure that Lawrence wins the awards people were saying she was locked for since September – they want to win Best Picture, so they know they need this one as well. Never underestimate Harvey Weinstein. Plus, Chastain’s character may be seen as too cold by some.
2. Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings PlaybookFor Her: Lawrence became a major movie star this year with her role in The Hunger Games, and fulfilled the promise the Academy saw when they nominated her Winter’s Bone two years ago. Her work in Silver Linings Playbook truly is terrific – sexy, funny, crass – and she holds her own against tough actors like Robert DeNiro (actually, she steamrolls over them). She is a young star on the rise, and they may well want to catch her on the way up.
Against Her: Is giving her an Oscar already too much, too soon? She is already HUGE because of Hunger Games, and know critically acclaimed as well. She has it all, does she really need an Oscar. Plus, what of some of the (somewhat valid) criticism that her character is more of a male fantasy than anything else? Will they want to go with a tougher female character, like Chastain?
1. Emmanuelle Riva, AmourFor Her: Riva became the oldest woman ever nominated when she got in for her heartbreaking work in Michael Haneke’s Amour. There will probably not be another chance to award the great French actress, with 50 years of movie behind her. Her role is perfectly played, and may well speak to the older Academy members in the way the younger actress simply do not.
Against Her: Let’s be honest here – Riva is a terrific actress, but she is not exactly a legend – at least in Hollywood, so people won’t really feel guilty about not giving her an Oscar. The movie is very tough sit for many people, and will likely result in some who simply cannot make it through the film – which doesn’t bode well for her chances. Foreign performances are hard to win for.
Who Will Win: Emmanuelle Riva, Amour. It’s really, really close between her and Lawrence, and could easily go either way. I’m bettering on Riva though, which isn’t really a bad thing for Lawrence – who is only 22 – and the history of great careers for young Oscar winners isn’t good.Who Should Win: Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty. A really tough call for me giving this to Chastain instead of Riva (equally deserving), but Chastain really does carry the movie, and delivers a tough, driven performance of a woman obsessed, so she’d get my vote.
Least of the Nominees: Naomi Watts, The Impossible. Finally, an easy one. She’s very good in The Impossible, but so much of her work is done for her by special effects and makeup, and then she passes out for half the movie. She’s very good. But not Oscar good.
Actor5. Denzel Washington, Flight
For Him: He is a loved actor in Hollywood, who delivered one of his very best performances in Flight. For the first time in a decade, he seems to be interested in playing the Oscar game – at least in terms of doing a movie where his name will be in play. His performance was acclaimed by even those who didn’t think much of the movie itself.
Against Him: But for many, the movie is all about Denzel, and not about much else, as highlighted by the lack of love for the film elsewhere. Like Day-Lewis, he is going for his third Oscar win. Unlike Day-Lewis, his role is not the kind of undeniable Oscar winner that allows him to overcome the multi-win bias.
4. Joaquin Phoenix, The MasterFor Him: Phoenix’s performance is one of the most unforgettable of the year. No matter what you think of his character, Phoenix’s performance stands out – a walking, strutting, laughing, farting id on screen for all to see. He left it on all on the screen. There is no vanity here, and he is a well-respected actor.
Against Him: Well respected actor, yes. Well liked person, not really. Phoenix is an actor first, and then a reluctant celebrity. He doesn’t give a shit about the awards race, and in a year like this where he would need to campaign to win, he ain’t doing it. Some think his performance is unforgettable for all the wrong reasons.
3. Hugh Jackman, Les MisérablesFor Him: He is one of the most well liked actors in Hollywood – a triple threat who can sing, dance and act, and is among the most charming celebrities you ever see interviewed. In Les Miserables, he finally gets a chance to show off his acting AND singing chops on screen, and really does a great job at both. Those who love Les Miserables do so above all reason, so he’ll pull some votes.
Against Him: It is his first nomination, so there really is no feeling that he is overdue for a win. Those who hate the film, really, really hate it so they’ll never vote for him. His time may come, but it’s not this year.
2. Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings PlaybookFor Him: He is the star of one of the most well liked films of the year, who is going to be pushing for the win in the Big category. He is an attractive movie star who showed he is more than just a pretty face with a performance that hits both comedic and serious notes. The whole movie really does revolve around him.
Against Him: His co-stars have reaped most of the praise – especially Lawrence who pretty much steals the movie from him. Until this year, he was just that guy from The Hangover movies, and they won’t want to be so quick to give him an Oscar before The Hangover 3 opens. His time may come, but it’s not this year.
1. Daniel Day-Lewis, LincolnFor Him: The role of Abraham Lincoln is a daunting one – everyone has an idea of what he was like in their head. Day-Lewis managed the monumental task of making him into the great leader everyone has in their head, and also into a more human character than I expected possible. It is a brilliant performance in a movie that is the frontrunner for the Best Picture Oscar. Day-Lewis has completely and totally dominated his competition in the awards season so far – none of the other nominees have been able to grab many prizes away from him.
Against Him: If Day-Lewis won, it would be his third Oscar – putting him in the rarified air of Hepburn, Nicholson, Streep and Walter Brennan (yep, that’s right Walter Brennan won three Oscars). Day-Lewis does not have the nomination totals as those other actors (save for Brennan), so some will be hesitant about giving him a third Oscar. You usually have to wait decades for that one (just ask Streep, who had to wait 30 years between her second and third Oscars).
Who Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln. It isn’t much of a contest. None of the others have been able to mount much of a campaign against him. Day-Lewis will easily win his third Oscar.Who Should Win: Joaquin Phoenix, The Master. The most brilliant, unforgettable, enigmatic performance of the year in the year’s best movie. For me, this is as undeniable as Day-Lewis seems to be for everyone else.
Least of the Nominees: Like the previous two categories, it’s tough to single one out, since all are quite good. If I had to, I’d say Hugh Jackman, simply because it’s my least favorite of the films.