There are so many awards leading up to the Academy Awards that Oscar night can feel a little anti-climactic when the expected favorites collect their trophies, but this year more races than ever appear to be wide open.
Will Best Actress go to rising star Jennifer Lawrence for “Silver Linings Playbook” or will viewers be in for a shock when 85-year-old Emmanuelle Riva accepts the honor for the little seen but widely respected “Amour”?
Which of five previous Oscar winners will prevail in Best Supporting Actor? And who will win Best Director? (The only thing we know for sure: It won’t be Ben Affleck.)
We take a look at those three races, plus Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Animated Feature Film to asses who’s expected to win and who might surprise.
Nominees: Jessica Chastain (“Zero Dark Thirty”); Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”); Emmanuelle Riva (“Amour”); Quvenzhane Wallis (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”); Naomi Watts (“The Impossible”)
Why it’s close: All five performances are exceptional, but the race has boiled down to two. Hot Hollywood ingenue Lawrence won the SAG award, an important prize, but French legend Riva won the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award. In the past few years when the SAG winner has not gone on to win an Oscar — Viola Davis last year, Meryl Streep in 2008 and Julie Christie in 2007 — the BATFA winner has taken the prize instead.
Who’s the favorite: Since Riva wasn’t in contention at SAG, it’s a tough call, but she may actually have a slight edge over Lawrence. Chastain’s early heat cooled off with criticisms of her movie, and Watts would be a surprise since she’s the only nomination for “The Impossible.” Nine-year-old powerhouse Wallis is the real wild card, since she was ineligible for a SAG nomination and overlooked by both BAFTA and the Golden Globes.
Best Supporting Actor
Nominees: Alan Arkin (“Argo”); Robert De Niro (“Silver Linings Playbook”); Philip Seymour Hoffman (“The Master”); Tommy Lee Jones (“Lincoln”); Christoph Waltz (“Django Unchained”)
Why it’s close: Every one of these nominees is already an Oscar winner — Waltz won in 2010 for “Inglourious Basterds,” Arkin in 2007 for “Little Miss Sunshine,” Hoffman in 2006 for “Capote,” Jones in 1994 for “The Fugitive” and De Niro in 1975 for “The Godfather Part II” and again in 1981 for “Raging Bull.” More recently, Jones won this year’s SAG award, while Waltz took home a Golden Globe and BAFTA.
Who’s the favorite: It’s considered a horse-race between Jones — who has industry support as proven by the SAG win — and De Niro — who has received a sentimental “comeback” campaign making note of the fact his last victory was 32 years ago (back when Hoffman was just 13 years old!). But Waltz has a juicy role, and unless voters think it’s overkill to give him two wins in two nominations for two Tarantino films, he could easily be a spoiler.
Nominees: Michael Haneke (“Amour”); Ang Lee (“Life of Pi”); David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”); Steven Spielberg (“Lincoln”); Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”)
Why it’s close: You probably heard poor little Ben Affleck didn’t get his expected Best Director nomination? His “Argo” is still the heavy favorite to win Best Picture (if anything it got an extra boost from the “snub”), and he took the Directors Guild Award, Golden Globe and BAFTA as Best Director, meaning there is literally no favorite going into Oscar night. Still, Spielberg’s “Lincoln” and Lee’s “Pi” have the most nominations overall, and Russell’s “Silver Linings” scored the impressive and rare feat of nominations in all four acting categories. Those are good things to have in your favor.
Who’s the favorite: Different people will tell you different things, and the truth is no one knows anything. No matter which of these five men win on Sunday night, someone somewhere is bound to say “Toldja!” If we were ranking the nominees in order of likely victory, we’d probably say: Spielberg, Lee, Russell, Haneke, Zeitlin. But honestly, there’s more genuine suspense here than anywhere else.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominees: “Argo”; “Beasts of the Southern Wild”; “Life of Pi”; “Lincoln”; “Silver Linings Playbook”
Why it’s close: At one point it looked like “Lincoln” had this all locked up (because Tony Kushner’s script was so incredibly thoughtful and well written, and the movie is an unexpected runaway hit). But the emergence of “Argo” as the true award season favorite has been undeniable. “Argo” won the Writers Guild prize and also a USC Scripter Award (honoring both an adapted screenplay and its source material). “Silver Linings” scored a minor upset at BAFTA.
Who’s the favorite: Sadly, it appears that “Lincoln” is going down. “Argo” will probably collect this as one of its three Oscar victories (along with Best Picture and Best Editing).
Best Animated Feature Film
Nominees: “Brave”; “Frankenweenie”; “ParaNorman”; “The Pirates! Band of Misfits”; “Wreck-It Ralph”
Why it’s close: This is a relatively new category by Oscar standards and there are few precedents established. Pixar has won six of the 11 trophies given out to date and their only nominees to lose were “Monsters Inc.” (in 2001, the very first year, to “Shrek”) and “Cars” (in 2006, to “Happy Feet”). But while “Brave” was considered a big improvement over the creatively disastrous “Cars 2,” it still had plenty of detractors. Many felt Disney Animation’s funny, creative and moving “Wreck-It Ralph” was actually the more Pixar-y movie.
Who’s the favorite: “Brave” won the Golden Globe and BAFTA, but “Wreck-It Ralph” landed a Producers Guild prize. “Frankenweenie,” meanwhile, was a box
office failure but a critical favorite. It has the highest Rotten Tomatoes score and won Best Animation prizes from the New York and Los Angeles film critics. Although many consider “Ralph” to have the edge, it wouldn’t be surprising for any of the three to win. No matter what takes it, Disney is probably going to be happy. The studio distributed all three movies. (Sony’s clever “Pirates” and Focus’ excellent “ParaNorman” are true long-shots.)