After months of rumor, speculation and second-guessing, Thursday morning will see Seth MacFarlane (who is, of course, hosting the ceremony itself) and Emma Stone unveil the nominees for the 85th Academy Awards, the biggest and most prestigious moment in the film awards season.
We've been building up to this point since at least September (and realistically, since about February 27th last year. And it's been, for those who follow such things, the most interesting season in memory; a veritable wealth of riches (last year, there was only one Best Picture nominee I liked, this year, I enjoyed almost all of them to one degree or another), and incredibly competitive races, with almost no category that's easily predictable.
But now, it's crunch time, and with a little under 48 hours to go, you can read my final predictions for this year's nominees. I certainly don't feel 100% rock solid about my picks, but it's time to get off the fence, so the below won't change between now and Thursday morning. Make your own picks, and argue with ours in the comments section, and check back here about 8AM EST/ 5AM PST to see how we did, and for plenty of extra analysis.
Best Foreign Language Film
"A Royal Affair"
A strong selection this year on the nine-strong longlist, I don't feel like "Beyond The Hills" or "Sister" will appeal too much, which leaves "Kon-Tiki," "The Deep," "War Witch "and "No" to join the very-likely-to-be-nominated "The Intouchables," "Amour" and "A Royal Affair." It could go any way, but I feel like the Chilean and Canadian entries have the right stuff here.
Best Documentary Feature
"How To Survive A Plague"
"Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House Of God"
"Searching For Sugar Man"
"This Is Not A Film"
Always a tough branch to predict, I feel like "How To Survive A Plague," and "Mea Maxima Culpa," from previous winner Alex Gibney, are fairly safe. Beyond that, the statement value of nominating Jafar Panahi's "This Is Not A Film" seems like a good reason to vote for something, and the popularity of "Searching For Sugar Man," an antidote to the higher-minded competition, will likely see it through. Beyond that, any of "The Gatekeepers," "The House I Live In," "The Invisible War," "The Imposter" or "Chasing Ice" could make the cut, but I'm putting my chips on the former.
Best Animated Feature Film
"A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story Of Monty Python's Graham Chapman"
In a Disney-heavy field, I'm expecting "Brave," "Frankenweenie," and "Wreck-It Ralph" to make it in. "Rise of the Guardians" seemed to make sense, but its box-office failure may taint it even in the eyes of the branch, so "ParaNorman" will likely benefit from that. For the fifth slot, many would point to one of the GKIDS options like 'The Rabbi's Cat" or "The Painting," but I'm still banking on "A Liar's Autobiography," which contains a diverse mix of styles, winning favor.
Best Visual Effects
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
"Life Of Pi"
"Snow White And The Huntsman"
Of the ten-strong bake-off long-list, "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "Skyfall" were always long-shots, while "The Dark Knight Rises" was probably too practical for a field dominated by CGI for the last 20 years ("Inception," which won two years back, had a much bigger computer graphics element to it). Word is that "Cloud Atlas" and "John Carter" didn't impress the branch at the bake-off screening, which I guess leaves "Snow White" to join "The Avengers," "The Hobbit," "LIfe Of Pi" and "Prometheus."
Best Sound Editing
"Zero Dark Thirty"
Best Sound Mixing
"Zero Dark Thirty"
Always the most blockbuster-friendly category (outside of VFX), the two sound categories could see "Skyfall," "The Avengers" and "Prometheus" do well. "Django Unchained" and "Zero Dark Thirty" should fly the flag for the awards-worlds, while "Les Miserables" is going to get into Sound Mixing, thanks to the difficulty of its live-on-set singing.
Best Production Design
Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer – "Anna Karenina"
J. Michael Riva, Leslie A. Pope – "Django Unchained"
Eve Stewart – "Les Miserables"
Rick Carter, Jim Erickson, Peter T Frank – "Lincoln"
Arthur Max, Sonja Klaus – "Prometheus"
Arguably the toughest of the tech categories, the only one I'm 100% certain on here is "Anna Karenina." "Lincoln" and "Les Miserables" are decent bets, but unlikely winners, while "The Master" missed out with the Art Directors' Guild; not a disastrous sign, but certainly an obstacle. "Argo" has the 70s period factor, but isn't super showy (there's a lot of filing cabinets in there, while "Django Unchained" has a lot of exteriors, but was also the final work of designer J. Michael Riva, who passed away in the summer, which could always be a factor. And tentpoles "Skyfall," "Prometheus" and "The Hobbit" are in the running too. I think "Lincoln" and "Les Mis" are fine, and I think "Django" and "Prometheus" will join them.
Best Original Song
Birdy & Mumford & Sons – "Learn Me Right" ("Brave")
Elisa Toffoli – "Ancora Qui" ("Django Unchained")
Neil Finn – "Song of the Lonely Mountain" ("The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey")
Hugh Jackman – "Suddenly" ("Les Miserables")
Adele – "Skyfall" ("Skyfall")
The Academy are keen to not repeat last year's fiasco (only two films nominated, neither one that great), so have shaken up the rules, with 75 songs on the long list. There are two sure things; Adele's "Skyfall" theme (which had eligibility questions, but made the cut) and the new song "Suddenly" from "Les Miserables." The winner will be one of the two. Beyond that, we'd go with one of the two from "Brave" (the one with Mumford & Sons on it…), the Ennio Morricone-penned track from "Django Unchained" (though with four eligible songs, including crackers from John Legend and Rick Ross, the vote may be again split), and the closing credits "Hobbit" song. But we could also be looking at tracks from "Paul Williams: Still Alive," "Life Of Pi," "Frankenweenie," "Lawless" or "This Is 40" in the cut; this category, as ever, it's hard to tell.
Best Original Score
Dario Marianelli – "Anna Karenina"
Dan Romer, Benh Zeitlin – "Beasts Of The Southern Wild"
Mychael Danna – "Life Of Pi"
John Williams – "Lincoln"
Jonny Greenwood – "The Master"
Again, there only seem to be two scores that are totally locked in here; "Anna Karenina" and "Life Of Pi" (happily, also the two best scores of the year). John Williams is enough of a fixture that "Lincoln" should make the cut, but there could always be a surprise there. Beyond that, there's "Beasts of the Southern Wild," a non-traditional kind of score (plus the branch have been resistant to nominating scores by directors), but with the category somewhat thin, I think it'll get there. I'm honestly a bit baffled on the fifth slot, but my gut says the branch will make up for the disqualification of "There Will Be Blood" by nominating Jonny Greenwood for "The Master" over the scores for "Argo" and "Cloud Atlas."
Best Make Up
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
"Men In Black 3"
A pretty wide open category, almost any combination of three from the seven on the short list could make it in. "The Hobbit" and "Men In Black 3" have the most variety, with the criticisms of some for "Looper" and "Hitchcock" possibly putting them at a disadvantage, while "Snow White" isn't as immediately showy as its tentpole competition. I'm leaning with "Les Miserables" over "Lincoln" for the third slot, just because it uses the always-popular aging make-up, but you never know.
Best Film Editing
William Goldenberg – Argo
Tim Squyres – "Life Of Pi"
Michael Kahn – Lincoln
Leslie Jones, Peter McNulty – "The Master"
William Goldenberg, Dylan Tichenor – Zero Dark Thirty
Beyond the two nominations for William Goldenberg (who cut both "Argo" and "Zero Dark Thirty," the latter alongside Dylan Tichenor), this is a tougher one to call. Given its dominance elsewhere, I expect "Lincoln" to make the cut, and I can't see how Tim Squyres' work on "Life Of Pi" gets overlooked, given the impressive transitions (and that it's significantly shorter than the others. The work on "The Master" would be entirely deserving, but is a touch and go: "Les Miserables" or "Skyfall" could make more sense, while the well-publicized languidity of "Django Unchained" probably rules that out. I'm gonna lean "The Master" here, just because I think the branch will recognize the craft, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was the bridesmaid here either.
Best Costume Design
Jacqueline Durran – "Anna Karenina"
Sharen Davis – "Django Unchained"
Paco Delgado – "Les Miserables"
Eiko Ishioka – "Mirror Mirror"
Manon Rasmussen – "A Royal Affair"
As ever, the period pieces are looking good for nominations, and as such, "Anna Karenina," "Les Miserables" and "Django Unchained" should all make the cut. Beyond that, it's trickier to tell. A posthumous nod for Eiko Ishioka and "Mirror Mirror" is a good bet, but far from certain. And then, will the less-than-showy 70s wear of "Argo" get a "Milk"-style nomination? Will "A Royal Affair" be this year's "Young Victoria?" Or will the "Lincoln" ship keep going? Any of those (plus "The Master" and "Snow White & The Huntsman" could sneak in. My money's on "A Royal Affair," but it honestly could be any of them.
Seamus McGarvey – "Anna Karenina"
Claudio Miranda – "Life Of Pi"
Janusz Kaminski – "Lincoln"
Roger Deakins – "Skyfall"
Greig Fraser – "Zero Dark Thirty"
Probably the most high-profile category where the Best Picture contenders aren't necessarily the front-runners. "Life Of PI" might lead the field, even though the film isn't going to mount a real challenge to actually win Best Picture, but just behind are Roger Deakins' work for "Skyfall" and Seamus McGarvey's on "Anna Karenina." Behind them are the three more serious Best Picture films, in the shape of "Django Unchained," "Lincoln" and "Zero Dark Thirty," with "The Master" hanging around the fringes too. Janusz Kaminski and Robert Richardson, as multiple winners, are 'in the club' more than Greig Fraser and Mihai Malamaire Jr, but that's not everything. My gut says that Kaminski and Fraser get in, but any two of the four would make some degree of sense.
Best Original Screenplay
Quentin Tarantino – "Django Unchained"
Rian Johnson – "Looper"
Paul Thomas Anderson – "The Master"
Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola – "Moonrise Kingdom"
Mark Boal – "Zero Dark Thirty"
In contrast to some, this is relatively locked down; Mark Boal, Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino all feel pretty likely to make the cut. Paul Thomas Anderson is less rock solid, but this feels like a category where he gets a consolation nomination to me. That leaves a few competitors for that last slot. It may be that my skepticism that enough Academy members watched "Amour" is my undoing this year, but I don't think that's likely to change in this category. That puts it down between two WGA nominees, "Flight" and "Looper," and I think the originality of Rian Johnson's script will see him through here.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Chris Terrio – "Argo
David Magee – "Life Of Pi"
Tony Kushner – "Lincoln"
Stephen Chbosky – "The Perks Of Being A Wallflower"
David O. Russell – "Silver Linings Playbook"
As with Original Screenplay, there are a few more locked in here than in many of the other categories; "Argo," "Lincoln" and "Silver Linings Playbook" are all certain, and will duke it out for the statuette (we could see it going to any of the three). Beyond that, it's more fluid. As Best Picture contenders, some would favor "Life Of Pi" and "Les Miserables," but the former often got pointed to as the weak link (unfairly I'd say) in reviews, and the latter is dismissed by some as a simple adaptation job. The non-WGA eligible "Beasts Of The Southern Wild" is certainly in the hunt, but may be less as less of a writer's film than some; namely, "Perks of Being A Wallflower," which did get the WGA nod. And "The Sessions," "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" and even "Skyfall" shouldn't be totally dismissed. We think Pi will make the cut, with 'Perks' joining it (a consolation prize for a film that lots of people like, but no one wants to vote for in anything else), but I wouldn't be surprised if 'Beasts' replaced one or the other.
Best Actress In A Supporting Role
Maggie Smith – "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"
Anne Hathaway – "Les Miserables"
Sally Field – "Lincoln"
Amy Adams "The Master"
Helen Hunt – "The Sessions"
God, they're all tough this year. Anne Hathaway and Sally Field are the sure things here, Maggie Smith and Helen Hunt are close behind (but don't rule out an upset here, particularly in the latter case; "The Sessions" has been losing steam over time). As for the fifth, Amy Adams was long thought to be in, but her SAG miss (with Nicole Kidman stepping in instead) threw things for a loop. I think Adams is enough of a favorite that she beats Kidman, but they could flip. And Samantha Barks and Ann Dowd are feasible too.
Best Actor In A Supporting Role
Alan Arkin – "Argo"
Tommy Lee Jones – "Lincoln"
Philip Seymour Hoffman – "The Master"
Robert De Niro – "Silver Linings Playbook"
Javier Bardem – "Skyfall"
Ooh, boy. This is one of the most interesting categories we can remember; there's absolutely no indicator of who's going to win. Tommy Lee Jones is probably the front-runner, and will be joined by Robert De Niro and Alan Arkin (though we're not sure we'd deem either of those two genuinely deserving). Philip Seymour Hoffman is said to be front-runner for some, but will disdain for "The Master" see him slip (or has that disdain been overstated?) And with Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson all challenging in the category, has the "Django Unchained" vote been split enough that Leonardo DiCaprio misses out? Especially with Javier Bardem, Eddie Redmayne and Matthew McConaughey not far behind. I may come to regret it, but as colorful villains go, right now, I'm saying Bardem over DiCaprio, even though I'm less convinced that "Skyfall" will do elsewhere.
Best Actress In A Leading Role
Quvenzhane Wallis – "Beasts Of The Southern Wild"
Naomi Watts – "The Impossible"
Marion Cotillard – "Rust & Bone"
Jennifer Lawrence – "Silver Linings PLaybook"
Jessica Chastain – "Zero Dark Thirty"
A slightly less tight race than Actor, but with just as little locked down. Chastain and Lawrence are safe, and will fight it out for the win (which will probably go to Chastain). Beyond that, Watts is making the cut for "The Impossible" — she's worked hard for it, and has built up a lot of support as a result. I also think that Quvenzhane Wallis is getting in, though it's not the sure thing it looked a few months ago. What I also believe is that Cotillard is getting in over her countryman Emmanuelle Riva — I'm just not sure that enough voters saw "Amour," and all the tributes to Cotillard over the months have made her linger on the mind. That said, we could still see Riva in there, or even SAG nominee Helen Mirren.
Best Actor In A Leading Role
Denzel Washington – "Flight"
Hugh Jackman – "Les Miserables"
Daniel Day-Lewis – "Lincoln"
Bradley Cooper – "Silver Linings Playbook"
John Hawkes – "The Sessions"
To all intents and purposes, this is six people pushing for five slots (the likes of Anthony Hopkins, Jean Louis-Trintignant, Suraj Sharma, etc. are very long-shots). When "The Master" first screened, everyone assumed that Joaquin Phoenix was a dead-cert, but between his apathy for the awards season, and a lack of success in the precursors (most notably the SAG, he's deemed to have slipped. Now, it's possible that he's this year's Gary Oldman (who also missed out at the SAG for a tough, cerebral film), but Oldman had the never-been-nominated narrative on his side, and worked hard for it. If Phoenix does make the cut, it's probably Hawkes or Washington who takes the hit, but Jackman and Cooper aren't 100% rock solid either. But honestly, unless the Academy are much higher on "The Master" than most think, I think Phoenix misses out.
Ben Affleck – "Argo
Ang Lee – "Life Of Pi"
Steven Spielberg – "Lincoln"
David O. Russell – "Silver Linings Playbook"
Kathryn Bigelow – "Zero Dark Thirty"
As tough a category as exists this year, this has all the competitiveness of Best Picture, but with half the available slots. I'd say that Spielberg, Bigelow, Lee and Affleck are all near-certainties. Russell is dicier (comedy-dramas don't always mean the directors get the credit), but given the poor reviews for "Les Miserables," most of which blame the helming, Tom Hooper's very vulnerable, and we suspect he'll slip out. Tarantino's a possibility too, but I think he'll be on the outside here, while Benh Zeitlin is probably in the eighth position, but won't be nominated. All this said, the DGA will likely be a good indicator (I'm writing this before the guild's nominations are announced).
"Beasts Of The Southern Wild"
"Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"
"Life Of Pi"
"Silver Linings Playbook"
"Zero Dark Thirty"
So yeah, I'm going all in and saying that they'll be a full field of ten nominees; there's enough wealth of choice, and it's spread widely enough, that I can easily see ten getting the 5% of first choice votes needed. As for what those ten films will be, most agree that "Argo," "Les Miserables," "Life Of Pi," "Lincoln," "Silver Linings" and "Zero Dark Thirty" are all pretty safe. The huge box office and mostly positive reviews (and decent showing with the guilds) would seem to point to "Django" being in (though it's always possible it's this year's "Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"), and I have a good feeling about both "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and "Moonrise Kingdom," though one of the two may end up slipping out. And for the tenth slot, and you can call me crazy, but we think the SAG ensemble nomination points to "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" as making the cut. But "Skyfall," "The Impossible," "The Intouchables," "Amour" or "The Master" might all sneak in instead.
Best Documentary Short Film
"The Education Of Mohhamad Hussein"
"The Perfect Fit"
AKA the one you always blow your Oscar pool on, there are eight nominees, and I haven't seen any of them. But I've gone with the ones above at semi-random; they deal with a Muslim community in the U.S, an undocumented 15-year-old immigrant, a retirement community, a group of Rwandan children, and a look at ballerinas and the men who make their shoes.
Best Animated Short
"Adam And Dog"
"The Eagleman Stag"
"The Fall Of The House of Usher"
"Head Over Heels"
A ten-strong longlist for the category so far, the biggest name of which is Disney's "Paperman" a sure-fire nominee. The only other famous entrant is a "Simpsons" short, which doesn't feel like it would be the right fit. So, flying mostly blind, I'm going to go with BAFTA winner "The Eagleman Stag," Annie winner "Adam and Dog," "The Fall of the House of Usher" and (picked at random), "Head Over Heels."
Best Live-Action Short Film
"Death Of A Shadow"
"when you find me"
Again a tricky one to predict, but I feel like the safe best here are the Ron Howard-produced, Bryce Dallas Howard-directed "when you find me" (celeb kudos always goes a certain way), and we've heard good things about "Asad" and "Buzkashi Boys." Beyond that, let's go with "Death Of A Shadow" and "Curfew."