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Eleanor Ringel Cater

Predicting Sunday’s Oscar winners — who should win and who will win

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

I don’t even watch the whole Oscar show anymore (Feb. 24). Yet, as I wrote in the Atlanta Business Chronicle, I can’t break my addiction to trying to predict the top 6 categories.

I once had a boss/colleague who was either so obsessed with the Academy Awards or so competitive that he would insist on predicting every single category. Sorry, I just have no idea who deserves best sound editing. Nor, I’m afraid, do I much care.

Yeah, I’m a shallow Philistine who much prefers to stick to the top six groups, i.e., Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, and Supporting Actress.

If you’re involved in an Office Betting Pool, this might help. But I didn’t think an Affenpinscher would win Best In Show at Westminster, either.

Since I wrote about the Oscar for the Chronicle, I’ve had a few shifts in opinion. But just a few. I stand by my analyses of Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Actress, Best Actor and Best Picture.

So, as I said in the ABC, Best Supporting Actress is a lock.

The nominees are:  Sally Field, “Lincoln;” Anne Hathaway, “Les Miserables;” Helen Hunt, “The Sessions;” Amy Adams, “The Master;”

Jacki Weaver, “Silver Linings Playbook.”

The Winner: Hathaway. She deserves the award just for co-hosting last year’s event with a cranky and comatose James Franco. She’s also really good.

Field would be a fine alternative, but she doesn’t have enough to do in “Lincoln.” It’s the same problem with Amy Adams, though she gets a little more screen time than Field. Hunt? She’s got an Oscar already and the movie is small.  And Weaver, a superb Aussie actress, is reduced to such a painful ‘50s-housewife stereotype that even her mere nomination puts me in a murderous mood.

My Choice: Hathaway

Oscar’s Choice: Hathaway

I’m sticking with my Best Supporting Actor, too. This category is interesting because every nominee already has an Oscar. I’m not certain that’s ever happened before.

So, who needs some encouragement?

The Nominees are: Robert De Niro, “Silver Linings Playbook;” Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln;” Alan Arkin, “Argo;” Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master;” Christoph Waltz, “Django Unchained.”

As the ads keep reminding us, it’s been years since Bobby De Niro got an Oscar. So….?

Well, It’s been almost that long since he’s given an Oscar-worthy performance. Well, I take that back. He’s excellent in “The King of Comedy,” “Once Upon A Time in America,” “Goodfellas,” “Casino” and, my favorite, “Awakenings” (see it).  So, actually, it’s ok if he wins, even if it’s for a pretty embarrassing version of an Old School Dad. But at least he wants an Oscar. He’s shown up at the awards ceremonies. He even went on “Katie.” What else can he do?

Conversely, Tommy Lee won the SAG and didn’t even show up to accept it. But Jones does nothing in “Lincoln” that James Spader, who has a slightly smaller role, couldn’t do better. It’s exactly the performance people expect from him and when they gush about it, I tell them to watch his really great work in “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.”

Arkin is so good he should have two or three Oscars already. He’s very appealing in “Argo.” He’s a stand-in, in a sense, for a lot of Academy voters — or someone a lot of Academy voters know. It’d be ok by me if he won, but the role’s a bit lightweight.

Hoffman has done much better work in much better movies. That said, what would you do if you were stuck acting with (against?) Joaquin “Wacko” Phoenix?

Finally, Christoph Waltz. I can’t imagine “Django Unchained” without him. He’s the best thing to happen to Quentin Tarantino since blood squibs. He’s won most recently (“Inglorious Bastards”), but he gives the liveliest, most unpredictable performance.

My Choice: Waltz

Oscar’s Choice: De Niro.  I mean, he did “Katie,” for crying out loud.

Best Actor?  I could’ve written this last December. It’s a gimme, as they say: Daniel Day-Lincoln…I mean, Day-Lewis. Deserves it. End of discussion. Apologies to the other nominees who are:  Bradley Cooper, “Silver Linings Playbook;” Denzel Washington, “Flight;” Hugh Jackman, “Les Miz;” Joaquin Phoenix, “The Master.”

My Choice: Jackman, not because he’s best, but because Day-Lewis already has two.

Oscar’s Choice: Day-Lewis

Best Actress is more complicated. As David Letterman might say, Jennifer, Jessica; Jessica, Jennifer.

I hope somebody out there remembers Letterman’s disastrous (wonderfully so, I always thought) turn as Oscar host in 1995. One of his more memorable jokes (or not) was when he introduced Oprah Winfrey to Uma Thurman. Uma, Oprah, Oprah, Uma. Or some such.

Anyway, there’s a slight chance the two J’s may cancel each other out. But I don’t think it’ll happen.

The nominees are: Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty;” Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook;” Naomi Watts, “The Impossible;” Quvenzhane Wallis, “Beasts of the Southern Wild;” Emmanuelle Riva, “Amour.”

Wallis is a baby-phenom (six when she made the movie; nine now). Oscar doesn’t mind baby-phenoms. Think Tatum O’Neal, Patty Duke and, most recently, Anna Paquin. I just don’t see Academy voters going for a little kid from the South.

Jessica has the best role. She actually gets to play someone worthwhile. But what some of us saw as wariness, others perceived as flat and one-note. Plus, SAG didn’t go for her.

SAG did go for Lawrence, but I just can’t get my head around a sexy widow whose wounds will be healed if she can compete in a dance contest with a really really  handsome mental patient. It’s more preposterous than anything in “The Hunger Games” (the movie she should’ve been nominated for). She’s got the acting chops. I just wish I liked her part and her movie (feel-good slop) better.

Naomi Watts is so very good and she hasn’t had a decent role since her debut in David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive.” However, there’s so much Wild Nature going on in the movie, she can barely keep her head above water. Literally at times.

Most people won’t have seen “Amour” which is, by far, the best picture of the year. It makes the rest look like kid stuff. However, while that won’t necessarily translate into Best Picture, Academy voters floating between Jessica and Jennifer, may go for Riva. It is the best work of the year.

My Choice: Riva

Oscar’s Choice: Lawrence

Best Director is worth going into mostly because, for the first time since 1989 (when “Driving Miss Daisy” was Best Picture and Bruce Beresford wasn’t even nominated as Best Director), there may be a similar instance of a Best Picture That Directed Itself. But once Oscar decided to expand the number of Best Picture nominees and not do the same for directors, it’s probably going to happen more and more.

And the nominees are: Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln;” David O. Russell, “Silver Lining Playbook;” Ang Lee, “The Life of Pi;” Michael Haneke, “Amour;” Benh Zeitlin, “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”

Frankly, I have no idea. Nor do I have a favorite since the work I admired the most was Tom Hooper’s on “Les Miz.”

So, is it going to be a generational battle between Old School Spielberg and Sorta Young Turk Russell? Will they cancel each other out, leaving the way clear for Lee? “Pi” is an amazing piece of work with a life-affirming message. But then, so is “Amour,” though its message is as cold as death and twice as relentless. Zeitlin? Sometimes outsider art can be a little too outsider. Especially for Oscar.

So, remember last year?  “The Artist” took home Picture, Director and Actor. But then, remember last year? Will Hollywood be so willing to admit the best work is being done in abroad? Two years in a row?

A few days ago, I thought the Academy might avoid the whole “Affleck snub” aspect by giving it to Haneke.

Now I’m not certain many of the members will even attempt to watch it.

My Choice: Haneke

Oscar’s Choice: Spielberg

Finally, for Best Picture, I’ll give you the names, but no way I’m going to go into any intricate reasoning behind what will or won’t win. I haven’t got all day and neither do you.

The nominees: “Argo,” “Lincoln,” “Les Miserables,” “Amour,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Django Unchained,” “Life of Pi,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”

And the winner?  Why not “Argo?” Almost everyone I’ve talked with likes it, though they didn’t get around to seeing it until two months after it opened. “Argo” is fairly family-friendly (a promising afterlife on smaller screens).  And that way, Oscar shares the wealth: “Lincoln” gets Actor and Director, “Silver Linings” gets Actress, “Amour” gets Foreign Language and “Argo” gets The Big One.

Plus, “Argo” is about How Hollywood Saved America. More or less. Close enough.  Anyway, it puts a very good face on an industry that can always use a good face.

Oscar’s Choice: “Argo”

My Choice: “Les Miserables”

I’ll be posting some reactions to the show and the winners early next week. If you have any thoughts, please feel free to send ‘em along: [email protected]

I even welcome comments on who wore what…Or is that who?

Eleanor Ringel

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.


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