Oscar Predictions Post, 2013

Every year when the Academy Award nominations are announced, I reach back into my store of knowledge as a former full time film critic (and current, continuing film enthusiast) and give my immediate thoughts on the nominations for the six major Oscar categories, and which, off the top of my head, I think are likely to walk off with the statuette at the actual ceremony. Ready? Off we go.


Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Life of Pi
Les Miserables
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

A few years ago the Academy instituted new rules that allowed more than five films a year to be nominated for Best Picture. I generally think it’s a nice gesture that allows the Academy to make a nod toward inclusiveness and is handy discussion fodder for the several weeks until the ceremony. As a practical matter, however, films that are nominated for best picture whose directors are not also nominated in their category have, until this year, been bystanders to the actual Best Picture race. Since the rule change expanding the field the director and best picture Oscars have gone in lock step, and it’s been more than two decades since a film won Best Picture without having the director at least nominated (Driving Miss Daisy).

While it still seems probable that this director/best picture association will continue, this is the first year in a long time where it’s at least possible that a film with an unnominated director might sneak off with Best Picture. That’s because the films with unnominated directors this year — Argo, Django Unchained, Les Miserables and Zero Dark Thirty — have generally been doing well both critically and commercially, with Zero Dark Thirty in particular doing very well in the critic awards running up to Oscar, and the other three films each topping $100 million in domestic box office.

On the flip side, with the exception of Lincoln, the films with nominated directors (Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Life of Pi, Silver Linings Playbook) have are cruising under the $100 million mark (although at $91 million, it’s now likely that Pi will cross that milestone), and all of them are quirky in their way, which is not necessarily to their overall advantage. Box office has not been a reliable indicator of Oscar wins in recent years, but this year the distribution of critical plaudits across all nominees is pretty even, which to my eye at least means it could be a more significant factor than it might be in other years.

As a general comment, in terms of quality and variety of films, this is probably one of the best Oscar slates in decades; it’s not 1939, but it’s as good as it gets otherwise. It’s the first year since the expansion of the Best Picture field where I don’t feel comfortable just tossing half the nominees over the side simply because the director isn’t nominated.

But we do have to start tossing films over the side, so let’s start with Argo, which I think had its moment and unfortunately that moment was a few months ago. The film has been great for Ben Affleck, who one may now call an A-list director without any ironic reference to the tragic crappiness of his film choices as an actor; Affleck got a DGA nomination, which is fantastic recognition for him. And he’s nominated as a producer here. So in a sense, Argo’s work is already done.

Next out of the boat: Amour, which will likely settle, if you want to call it that, for Best Foreign Language film, in which it is also nominated. The fact it’s nominated there means Academy members don’t have to feel bad about not voting for it here; Michael Haneke will get to clutch an Oscar no matter what. Next: Zero Dark Thirty, in part because its creative team of Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal are very recent Oscar winners, so the need to reward their output again is less urgent, especially in a year with so many other viable options (disclosure: Chris Boal, who is currently working on the Old Man’s War script, is brother to Mark Boal, screenwriter of ZDT, so as a matter of team spirit I’d be pleased if Mark Boal and/or ZDT got something this year).

Next: Django Unchained, because again there’s too much other competition this year; Tarantino is like Orson Welles — he’s got his Oscar for writing, so his other, more mercurial talent for directing is likely to be passed over for more, er, reliable choices, shall we say. Next out, I rather suspect, is Beasts of the Southern Wild, but HOLY COW BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD. I don’t know if anyone saw this one coming (much less its several other nominations). I think it’s spectacular that it’s been nominated, and it’s my official dark horse candidate if the Academy goes all Hurt Locker this year — but I don’t think the Academy will go Hurt Locker this year, otherwise, you know, Zero Dark Thirty. Next off the boat: Silver Linings Playbook, because to be blunt, small-focus difficult comedy about damaged people? Not the Oscar’s bread and butter at the moment. Les Miserables I think is more likely to be compensated in the acting categories than here.

Which takes us to the final two, Life of Pi and Lincoln, and I think at this point it could fall either way. Eventually I give the edge to Lincoln because, you know what? It’s goddamn Abe Lincoln. Also, it’s a widely praised film with a widely praised (and nominated) central performance, it’s done well at the box office, and it’s a historical film about historical people doing historical things, plus Spielberg. These sorts of films do well even when they’re the safe, mediocre choice (see: Gandhi, Out of Africa, The Last Emperor). Lincoln is a safe choice, but not mediocre. Things could still fall to Pi if Academy voters decide to reward the (relative) risk of pulling off a nearly unfilmable book. But it’s hard to vote against Abe.

Will win: Lincoln
Should win: Open field, but I would love for Beasts to sneak up on everyone.


Michael Haneke (“Amour”)
Ang Lee (“Life of Pi”)
David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”)
Steven Spielberg (“Lincoln”)
Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”)

Zeitlin out because it’s his first nomination and there are other people here in line before him (see Haneke and Russell), but if this kid’s arms are not bruised his morning from him pinching himself to see if it’s all real, he’s doing something wrong. Russell is more likely (but by no means a lock) to win a screenwriting Oscar, for which he is also nominated. Haneke I already suspect will be serviced by the Best Foreign Film award. So we’re down to Lee and Spielberg. Lee probably deserves it more because Pi was as unconventional a studio film as you’re going to get this year and he made it work, but if Lincoln, which is nominated for 12 awards, starts sweeping, it’s hard to suggest Spielberg of all people is not going get his.

Will win: Spielberg
Should win: Lee


Bradley Cooper (“Silver Linings Playbook”)
Daniel Day-Lewis (“Lincoln”)
Hugh Jackman (“Les Miserables”)
Joaquin Phoenix (“The Master”)
Denzel Washington (“Flight”)

Good for Bradley Cooper that he’s nominated; it’s nice for him to be able to let people know he’s not just a dude cranking out flicks like The A-Team. Denzel Washington is probably my favorite actor working today, but Flight doesn’t have that much juice going for it, other than reminding people that Robert Zemeckis can still direct live humans reasonably well. Joaquin Phoenix will get an Oscar someday but this year seems unlikely to me. It’s down to Day-Lewis and Jackman, and you know what? I have a good feeling about Jackman. Day-Lewis has won recently, Lincoln is going to be otherwise compensated, Jackman’s well liked, has paid his dues in a wide series of roles, didn’t screw up his Oscar hosting gig, and if Jackman can’t win for playing friggin’ Jean ValJean, then there’s probably something wrong with the world. Gonna be close, though.

Will win: Jackman
Should win: Jackman


Jessica Chastain (“Zero Dark Thirty”)
Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”)
Emmanuelle Riva (“Amour”)
Naomi Watts (“The Impossible”)
Quvenzhane Wallis (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”)

It would rock if Quvenzhane Wallis won, and no matter what she’s the youngest person ever nominated for the Best Actress award, so keep being perfectly awesome, Quvenzhane Wallis. I do think she’s unlikely to win, however (if she does, Beast’s stock in both the Director and Best Picture category go waaaay up). Naomi Watts is here in the Meryl Streep slot (“Damn it I could only think of four people to nominate… oh, look, Naomi Watts, she’s good. I’ll nominate her”), and while it’s possible she’ll win as a career award thing I wouldn’t count on it. Riva is older (the oldest nominee ever in this category — records all around!) and legendary, but she’s legendary in France, and I don’t know if that’ll be enough for the win. We’re down to Chastain and Lawrence, both of whom are having excellent years, with Lawrence possibly having the edge because she smashed the box office to bits with The Hunger Games. You can flip a coin between the two of them. My coin flip landed with Lawrence’s side up.

Will win: Lawrence
Should win: I’m a sucker for Wallis


Amy Adams (“The Master”)
Sally Field (“Lincoln”)
Anne Hathaway (“Les Miserables”)
Helen Hunt (“The Sessions”)
Jacki Weaver (“Silver Linings Playbook”)

Jacki Weaver gets to keep working! Good for her. Hunt and Field have Oscars in the main Actress category so I don’t see the Academy folks thinking they need one in the supporting category, although it’s nice to see Hunt back in it. This is another coin toss, between Adams and Hathaway; I get the feeling people might feel Adams is due, but again, it’s hard to fight against doe-eyed Hathaway wasting away so tragically, singing all the while. It’s the sort of role that is hard core designed for this category, and I suspect it will win.

Will win: Hathaway
Should win: Adams


Alan Arkin (“Argo”)
Robert De Niro (“Silver Linings Playbook”)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (“The Master”),
Tommy Lee Jones (“Lincoln”)
Christoph Waltz (“Django Unchained”)

Fun fact: everyone in this category already has an Oscar! De Niro has two! So, honestly, who knows what’s going to happen here. My guess? They’ll give it to De Niro, possibly as a bribe, as if to say “See? If you stop slumming with all those crappy films you’ve been in recently we’ll still love you. Hint, hint.” But honestly: No idea here. No idea at all.

Will win: De Niro
Should win: Meh

I’ll check in again near the ceremony with additional thoughts and any emendations to these predictions. Otherwise, tell me your thoughts in the comments.

56 Comments on “Oscar Predictions Post, 2013”

  1. I loved your De Niro comment, it made me laugh out loud. So true, though! I really want Emmanuelle Riva to win the Actress oscar, she deserves it.

    (Sorry for the double post. WordPress strange sign up in combo with crappy internet connection ate half my comment.)

  2. If there’s anybody that deserves an Oscar from DU, it’s Samuel L. Jackson. That role still gives me shivers.

  3. I hope you are wrong about Life of Pi in the Best Pic&Director category, it is the first film since Avatar that really used 3D to enhance the movie instead of just enhance the explosions and ticket prices. It deserves to win for that alone. I’m sure you aren’t wrong though, even from the UK I can feel Lincoln has got that All-American buzz about it.

    I think that it will sweep the field in virtually every field too, so Tommy Lee Jones will probably get the statue in the supporting field.

    Unless the CIA puts the fix in then Argo will win, obviously. Nah, just joking, the CIA fix was just to get it on the nominations slate, they wouldn’t over-play their hand by fixing it to win (note:joke, not a real conspiracy theorist).

  4. This is interesting. The slate for all of the categories is so competitive that there are no obvious winners. It’s entirely plausible that you could go 0 for 6. I really think Daniel Day-Lewis is going to win for “Lincoln;” talk about an Oscar-bait role. Other than that, I don’t have any grounds to disagree with your guesses.

  5. Yes, this is all well and good, but who wins for Best Animated Feature? Most competitive field in years!

  6. ^I’m not trying to derail the thread into a discussion on race in Lincoln…just mentioning the unease I feel about the nominations this year.

  7. We saw Zero Dark Thirty a couple of weeks ago. I don’t see too many films these days — but wow! What an amazing piece of filmmaking! I realize the film stars with the screenplay, but Director Bigelow should have been at least nominated for an award. She masterfully presented the question, “Do the ends justify the means?” and, unlike other directors I could name, let the audience answer it in their own minds. She did not try to ram her point of view down anybody’s throat.

    Walking that tightrope of moral ambiguity took a master. It’s too bad the Academy didn’t recognize her for it.

  8. I just don’t get the enthusiasm for BotSW. It was a slow, meandering film with an abusive father-daughter relationship at its core. I thought it was boring and had a hard time to connecting to any of the characters including Hushpuppy. What kills me is that “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” was shut out. It was a brilliant film written and directed by the same man who wrote the book with a terrific cast. Did you see “Amour”? Emmanuelle Riva was brilliant.

  9. My favorite category is Best Animated Feature. I’m torn because I usually root for the Pixar film, but I thought Wreck-it-Ralph was the better movie. I didn’t see ParaNorman or Frankenweenie.

  10. Reblogged this on Reverie Control and commented:
    My mad dash to catch up on the year in film has fallen a bit short of Oscar Prediction day. However, John Scalzi has my back with this article. The list of major awards is here, and the writing is interesting at the very least, and overall intelligent as well.

    I can’t make my own picks with any confidence at this point, but I do have my predictions. I expect Daniel Day Lewis to pull out the Best Actor award (maybe with a bit of bias). Also, with best supporting actor so up in the air, I’m going to take Philip Seymour Hoffman. Why not?

  11. Gandhi was a mediocre choice? I’d argue that it was the best choice there. ET was popular, but I’d argue it didn’t belong there. I know nothing about ‘Missing’, a movie that must have been underdog then, too. The Verdict? Meh, not Newman’s best, IMHO. Tootsie, maybe…that was a good film.
    Honestly, 1983 highlighted mostly how the Academy got it wrong that year, IMHO. Blade Runner, World According to Garp, Officer and a Gentleman, Victor/Victoria, Diner, Das Boot, Sophie’s Choice? A lot of great movies that year…and Oscar missed a lot of them, except in technical categories.

    This year? I’ve actually seen two (and soon likely three) of the nominated movies. I thought Argo was fantastic and Silver Linings Playbook, which I kind of got dragged to, impressed me highly. The most important category to ME is animated feature film: I almost always see most of the films in that category every year. It’s a tough category, but at least THIS year they managed to nominate five films and they were all deserving. As much as I loved Wreck-It-Ralph, though, it loses focus about the half-way mark for a little while…Brave, on the other hand, not only delivers a great story (that I enjoyed more the second time through) but totally subverts the ‘princess’ genre. Brave is impressive for what is NOT as much as what it IS.

  12. I’m sorry that Cloud Atlas didn’t get nominated for directors(s), or screenplay or acting. One of the better scifi movies of late, and a noble effort to film the unfilmable.

  13. Russell was actually nominated for adapted screenplay, not original. And I could actually see Jacki Weaver winning SA, given the right push. She just became a Hollywood actor in her mid-sixties, so she’s on some kind of crazy roll.

  14. Things I don’t understand: No director nomination for Wes or Paul Thomas Anderson. No nomination for “Holy Motors” for best foreign language film. No nomination of “Lincoln” for hairstyling, goddamit.

  15. “Waltz should win Best Supporting Actor, he was by far the best thing about Django Unchained.”

    Um no, that would be Leonardo DiCaprio, who shockingly (notice my sarcasm here) was snubbed yet again. Is it me or does the Academy have some kind of grudge against DiCaprio? The man constantly puts out great performances but has been consistently snubbed by the Oscars for a large majority of them. Oh well, hopefully he’ll get one for Martin Scorcese’s Wolf On Wall Street next year. Don’t get me wrong, I like Waltz, but I honestly thought his was one of the weaker performances of the film. I feel like he only got nominated because he’s already a favorite of the Academy due to winning for Inglorious Basterds and was the “safer” of the choices compared to DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson (who I also thought had a better performance than Waltz). I feel the same way about Alan Arkin, who I thought was one of the weaker performances from Argo and felt that Bryan Cranston and John Goodman got snubbed in favor or Arkin being the “safer” choice due to his past Oscar love.

    Anyways, I hated to see Ben Affleck get snubbed for Best Director and John Hawkes get snubbed for Best Actor though I’m glad Cooper and Jackman got it. Honestly, I would have put Hawkes over Denzel Washington (nothing against Denzel, just thought Hawkes had a better performance). I also wish Jack Black had gotten a nomination for Bernie, as it was by far his best performance to date but I definitely wasn’t expecting it.

    Honestly though, I see either Lincoln or Zero Dark Thirty getting Best Picture. Spielberg is my clear choice for Best Director since Bigelow didn’t get the nomination. Somehow I’m just not expecting Life of Pi being a threat for either of those categories, but I could be wrong. As much as I would love to see Jackman pull off the upset for Best Actor, how can you bet against Daniel Day-Lewis? The man had the award locked the moment he was announced in the role (bet Liam Neeson wishes he hadn’t have dropped out now). I’m thinking either Tommy Lee Jones or Philip Seymour Hoffman will win Best Supporting Actor, though I wouldn’t be mad at all if Robert de Niro came away with it. I’m also thinking either Chastain or Lawrence for Best Actress, though it would be great if Riva or Wallis came away with it. Best Supporting Actress will go to Anne Hathaway, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Probably the only other category (Besides Best Actor) that I’m completely confident in my pick.

    Overall, this year had a very strong nomination list, and besides a few snubs that I mentioned earlier, I was pleased with most of the choices.

  16. I believe that the current normal number on Best Picture nominees is ten. Has there been any explanation or discussion of why there were only 9?

  17. rochrist:

    Loved Moonrise Kingdom but it was showing on like 3 screens nationwide. Most people have written Wes Anderson off as an indie auteur in his own twee little world, which is a shame. Plus you could smell the statue polish in Lincoln’s first trailer. It’s Spielberg doing hagiography, which Hollywood loves even more than movies about itself.

  18. For best picture nominations, the list is to be be at least five and no more than ten nominees. A movie cannot be nominated if it receives fewer than five percent of the ballots. (Members may choose up to five movies for their nomination ballots.) Apparently this year, only nine movies received the necessary five percent to be nominated.

  19. Beasts of the Southern Wild should win over Life of Pi which should win the rest and the others … yawn.

  20. htom: I’ve not seen, nor even heard of until today, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”. Can you tell me why it’s wonderful? Or would that be a spoiler?

  21. Are there enough Academy voters who for … um… religious reasons might vote either strongly against (or for) Phoenix and Adams?

    Historical stuff always does well, so Lincoln and Les Miz are going to be tough to beat. DDL would be a lock if not for the fact that he’s won recently, so indeed Jackman may have a chance, with the emoting and the singing and his general likability.

    Les Miz is going to clean up in costumes and sets.

  22. @Keith:

    Loved Moonrise Kingdom but it was showing on like 3 screens nationwide.

    As far as I’m aware, Moonrise Kingdom got a ‘limited’ US release that was still significantly wider than Beasts of the Southern Wild but if I could come up with a foolproof algorithm for Oscar-bait I’d be richer than God. :) Still, I don’t think Wes Anderson should be losing any sleep. Kingdom has been both critically well-received AND solidly profitable — not a trick he’s pulled off that often.

  23. @ Cally:

    “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is great because Quvenzhane Wallis. Other reasons, too, but Quvenzhane Wallis. The movie is raw and harsh and painful and very beautiful.

  24. Simon S., AMPAS rules now allow for at least five, and no more than 10, best picture nominees. Voters can nominate several films, but they also rank their choices. Movies have to clear a bar of both nominations and rankings in order to be added to the list. Only 9 films made the cut this year. It’s somehow even more esoteric than the BBWA’s rules for the Hall of Fame.

  25. Moonrise Kingdom’s widest release in the U.S. was 924 theaters. (For comparison, Les Misérables is in 2928 theaters.) Beasts of the Southern Wilds’s widest U.S. release was 318 theaters.

    All info from boxofficemojo.com

  26. I was hopeful a genre film was going to make it into the Best Picture list*. I thought Avengers had a good chance, and was even holding out hope for Skyfall. But, alas.

    I’m vacillating between “Hugh Jackman has a real chance to beat out Daniel Day-Lewis, of all people” and “Hugh Jackman should repeat to himself, ‘It’s an honor just to be nominated'”.

    I think, John, you may be short-selling Anne Hathaway. Yes, the role of Fantine is ever-so-tragic, “I Dreamed a Dream” is a calculated tear-jerker, and some heavy hitters have sung it over the years (Neil Diamond notwithstanding). But few, if any, of them have ever won an award for it, i think because, as award bait goes, it’s a little too on the nose. What Hathaway did, in that one, 4-minute take, really transcended the history of the role and the song. It was nothing short of brilliant.

    * No, Django Unchained is not a genre film, it’s a Quentin Tarantino film, who is a genre unto himself. Actually, Tarantino is many things unto himself, but that’s another thread…

  27. Respectfully, I think Lincoln is going to sweep the Oscars, and win in every major category it has been nominated for, especially Best Film and Best Director. It’s what is in the air, and and it’s got the right–for lack of a less cheesy word–“momentum”, and is going to win because of popularity, politics, and timeliness.

    *Note: I haven’t yet seen the film, but I am an unabashed fan of President Lincoln himself. Furthermore, to the extent to which politics favor this movie and its message, I concur. But this movie still has blatant Oscar-bait written all over it.

  28. @keith

    Loved Moonrise Kingdom but it was showing on like 3 screens nationwide. Most people have written Wes Anderson off as an indie auteur in his own twee little world, which is a shame

    While it’s true that it diddn’t have the widest release, it was in 942 theaters at one point and did 65 million in boxoffice. Beasts of the Southern Wilds on the other hand was in only 318 theaters and did only 11 million in boxoffice. So I don’t think it’s a matter simply of exposure. Not that I didn’t love Beasts or think it pretty worthy. But Les Mis? Really? Starring Von Helsing?

  29. The best thing about Django Unchained was Django Unchained: the very first grindhaxploitaghetti-western movie ever made, and so far as I know, the ONLY movie about slavery made by white people, for white people, explicitly for the purpose of brutally mocking white people who got into a pearl-clutching, knicker-twisted spasm about OMG we can’t let (incredibly offensive racial slur) have guns or they’ll go on a rampage and kill us all!!!!!!!!!! instead of, you know, what actually happened. It was the satire that District 9 wanted to be and just didn’t quite get there.

    Christopher Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Samuel L. Jackson should all share the Best Supporting for that film. Jamie Foxx may have been the lead character, but there’s no way the movie could have been pulled off without the back three.

    Hathaway will probably get a best actress nod for Fantine, but…..meh. The whole of Les Mis felt very contrived, didn’t survive the transition from stage to screen IMO.

  30. As for the animated feature nominees, last year’s winner Rango is orders of magnitude better than anything on this year’s list, so they could have dropped the category altogether without anyone missing anything :-) (there’s some really great work among the shorts, though).

  31. Hathaway lost weight, chopped her hair off, sang and played a hooker with a heart of gold. It’s like she’s lining up squares on oscar winning role bingo. If she doesn’t win Kanye West will get up on stage and yell at whoever does win on her behalf.

    I pick Chastain over Lawrence since Jessica was in a drama, and Jen was in a comedy.

    I also liked beasts of southern wild. It was such an unusual film and clearly made with vision and love.

    As for the poster who said Perks got snubbed, I think it was a good movie but not a great movie.

  32. I pick Chastain over Lawrence since Jessica was in a drama, and Jen was in a comedy.

    Booo! BOOO! BOOOOOOO!!!! (Speaking as a comedy writer and producer).

    But, character wise, Chastain was very, very good….but Lawrence hit it on the nose, dead center, for both comedy and character.

  33. I was having a good time reading this article by John Scalzi until I got to his Best Actor prediction of Hugh Jackman. I laughed so hard and so long at John and how he is passing his feelings off as objective that it actually hurt.

    Do yourself a favor. Don’t take John Scalzi seriously.

  34. This is the hardest year since a long time. Here are my votes:

    Best picture:
    In my opinion there are two contenders: Lincoln and Argo and the dark horse is: Amour and Beast of Southern Wild. Please do not forget the last one. I think it will be Argo and it deserve to win.

    Best Actor:

    Daniel Day Lewis, he is just the Meryl Streep under the guys. I love this man.

    Best Actress:

    The USA wanted to win their new star Jennifer Lawrence. I think there are only two actresses who deserve this price: The youngest and the oldest: Quvenzhane Wallis and Emmanuelle Riva and dark horse Jessica Chastain. One of these three but I hope for Emmanuelle Riva.

    Best supporting actress and actor:
    USA hopes Anne Hathaway, should win Sally Field

    Best supporting actor:
    Only winners in this competition, too good and even some of them should be in the leading role:
    Alain Arkin (no) Robert de Niro (no) Philip Seymour Hoffman ( no) Tommy Lee Jones (YES) and Christoph Waltz (yes)…….

    Best director: Ang Lee



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