Films large, small vie for the elusive golden statuette

February 22, 2013

While it looked like Honest Abe was a shoo-in for a sweep just over a month ago, it now looks like the former president - and even more amazingly, directing legend Steven Spielberg - may be upstaged by the star of “Gigli,” Ben Affleck. “Argo,” the third film directed by Affleck, has been picking up steam (and awards) over the past month and if you follow the odds, is now the favorite to take home the top honor of the night at the Academy Awards, set for Sunday, Feb. 24, on ABC.

Below is the list of the top categories for this year’s ceremony, as well as what and who I think will and should win.

Best Picture

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

Will win: "Argo." Affleck has certainly earned his stripes as a director, and “Argo” is his most confident film to date. It’s as solid a mainstream Hollywood blockbuster as you’re likely to find.

Should win: "Django Unchained." Quentin Tarantino’s latest master stroke was criminally underserved by the academy this year, and stands head and shoulders above the others listed.

Best Supporting Actor

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

Will win: Tommy Lee Jones. Jones does what Jones does, this time in a hideous wig.

Should win: Christoph Waltz. As appealing here as he was appalling in “Inglourious Basterds,” Waltz deserves to dance away with it.

Best Supporting Actress

Sally Field, "Lincoln"
Anne Hathaway, "Les Miserables"
Jacki Weaver, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Helen Hunt, "The Sessions"
Amy Adams, "The Master"

Will win: Hathaway. She’s been gobbling up statues just about every week since “Les Miserables” was released. It won’t stop tonight.

Should win: Hunt made a much-welcomed return and elevated “The Sessions” from its made-for-cable trappings.

Best Director

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

Will and should win: Spielberg. While this list is noticeably absent two names (Affleck and Tarantino), Spielberg ranks as the best of the rest.

Best Actor

Daniel Day-Lewis, "Lincoln"
Denzel Washington, "Flight"
Hugh Jackman, "Les Miserables"
Bradley Cooper, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Joaquin Phoenix, "The Master"

Will win: Day-Lewis. It was an amazing impersonation, in a career marked by many. There is little question in this category.

Should win: Joaquin Phoenix. While I have no love for the film itself, Phoenix’s performance was absolutely mesmerizing.

Best Actress

Naomi Watts, "The Impossible"
Jessica Chastain, "Zero Dark Thirty"
Jennifer Lawrence, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Emmanuelle Riva, "Amour"
Quvenzhané Wallis, "Beasts of the Southern Wild"

Will and should win: Emmanuelle Riva. She offered a master class in mental decay.

Best Original Screenplay

"Zero Dark Thirty"
"Django Unchained"
"Moonrise Kingdom"

Will and should win: "Django Unchained.” This is one of the few places that the academy will bestow love on the flick. My question is, why the hell is “Zero Dark Thirty” on here if it was based on a true story?

Best Adapted Screenplay

"Silver Linings Playbook"
"Life of Pi"
"Beasts of the Southern Wild"

Will and should win: "Lincoln." This may be one of the tighter races of the night. “Lincoln” was the favorite until “Silver Linings” and “Argo” recently walked off with trophies in this category. Still, Tony Kushner deserves the gold for the historical epic here.

Best Animated Feature

“The Pirates! Band of Misfits”
“Wreck-It Ralph”

Will win: “Wreck-It Ralph.” This is another tight one, with “Ralph” and “Brave” essentially neck-and-neck. If the vote splits, look for “Frankenweenie” to slip in.

Should win: “”Frankenweenie.”
After taking a critical drubbing for his live-action films, Tim Burton went back to the beginning, revisiting his first film, which was originally a live-action short, and created another dark animated classic that would be a great companion to “A Nightmare Before Christmas.”