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Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Actor

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Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Actor
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Actor

The larger-than-life aura that Daniel Day-Lewis breathes into the characters he portrays seems also to have in recent years extended to the actor himself, whose notorious choosiness about selecting roles only buoys the virtually mythical status he carries in the acting world. So when the announcement came in 2010 that Day-Lewis was set to play Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s long-awaited film about our 16th president, few of us doubted that the extolled actor would go on to claim his third Oscar. With the preeminent voice of modern acting playing one of the most revered figures in American history in a film from the world’s most famous filmmaker, the performance was embedded with an air of inevitability long before production photos or clips surfaced. But what’s most intriguing about Day-Lewis’s depiction of Lincoln is how toned down he is in the role. His performance resounds through quieter timbres and softer movements than we’re accustomed to from the actor. Moreover, Day-Lewis reveals a human side of Lincoln that deepens the president’s legendary standing while offering a window into his tortured soul. That his performance is exactly the kind of commanding portrait we’ve come to expect from Day-Lewis, but also acutely nuanced in ways he rarely expresses, only solidifies his imminent victory.

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actor

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Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actor
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actor

All right, all right, all right. We should’ve known. As it turned out, Matthew McConaughey’s still supple ass cheeks in Magic Mike were no match for AMPAS’s preference for saggy old balls in this category. And not just old, but used balls. As was pointed out during this year’s overproduced nominations press conference, all five nominees have already won Oscars. And so in the absence of a swimsuit competition, the narrative this go around shifts onto the question of which person do Academy members feel most deserves another trophy, and which of them is the most overdue?

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actress

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Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actress
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actress

Blergh. Weeks ago I dreamed a dream where all the particulars of my presently contentious relationship with Anne Hathaway, a typically smart and endearing performer who was robbed of an Oscar in 2009 for Rachel Getting Married, were manifest. At the actual Oscar ceremony, which resembled a standing room-only dinner party, I hugged Hathaway, who I referred to as my sister, as she paraded around in her Catwoman outfit, working the room with the same jacked-up excitement she exhibited days earlier opposite Chelsea Handler and Jon Stewart and hinting at all the things she’s going to do to her hubby once she gets home. Someone, probably Christopher Plummer, announces the winner in this category and the award goes to Sally Field, for illuminating through her two excellent meltdowns in Lincoln, one opposite Tommy Lee Jones, the other opposite Daniel Day-Lewis, the essence of the Steven Spielberg film as a study of the conflict between public and private modes of behavior in the arena of American politics. Shock ripples through the room, and while I should be sad for my sister, who puts on a predictably brave face, I can barely sustain my excitement at Oscar turning his beefed-up buttocks to a performance every bit as cloying as Anne’s contrived acceptance speech at the Golden Globes.

Ranking Oscar’s 2013 Nominees

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Ranking Oscar’s 2013 Nominees
Ranking Oscar’s 2013 Nominees

The 85th annual Academy Awards will take place on Sunday, February 24 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Starting tomorrow, check back daily as we predict the winner in every Oscar category. This year, 53 films received nominations in 24 categories, and with the exception of Chasing Ice, which I feel no compulsion to seek out, I’ve seen them all. Below, a ranked list, from best to worst, of those 52 films.

Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Picture

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Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Picture
Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Picture

As is customary at this stage of the game, Oscar’s top quintet of Best Picture hopefuls are sure to land nominations, so much so that every pundit can pat himself on the back, saying proudly that if the Academy still stuck with a five-wide field, final predictions would be forgone conclusions, like the nudie jokes host Seth MacFarlane will make at Helen Hunt’s expense. You know the big five: Argo, Les Misérables, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and Zero Dark Thirty, all of which look poised to score multiple nods beyond the top race. Last year, four additional films joined the chief batch of contenders, for a grand, surprising total of nine nominees—more than most expected from the Academy’s first sliding-scale approach to Best Picture. The consensus seems to be that 2012 was a stronger film year than 2011, and if the weaker year can muster a whopping nine candidates, then surely we’ll see a full crop of 10 this time around. The theory holds water, but it doesn’t really make the rest of the guessing any easier, as there are nine more films with bona fide shots at making the cut.

Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Director

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Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Director
Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Director

When introducing Life of Pi at its New York Film Festival premiere, Ang Lee quipped that there are three things directors are warned to never work with: Children, animals, and water. With his latest, of course, the Taiwanese maestro broke all three rules, helming a high-seas adventure with an adolescent hero, and populating much of it with a part-CG, part-live-action menagerie. For his efforts, and for stepping up to the plate to adapt Yann Martel’s worldwide bestseller (a supposedly insurmountable task previously passed over by M. Night Shyamalan and Alfonso Cuarón), Lee is likely to land on Oscar’s Best Director shortlist, following prior nominations from the Broadcast Critics and the Hollywood Foreign Press. No stranger to the Academy’s affections, the man who won this category in 2006 for Brokeback Mountain is the closest thing to a fourth-place lock this year, tailing behind three shoo-ins whose projects were all far more political.

Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Actor

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Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Actor
Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Actor

Whether the reason boils down to Oscar politics or an overall lack of enthusiasm, it certainly looks like Joaquin Phoenix is about to be snubbed for his work in The Master, despite the mind-boggling excellence of his performance as Freddie Quell. From stature to facial contortions, Phoenix startlingly became someone else while tackling the film’s lead role, in a manner beyond the typical transformative acting that annually courts hyperbole. Without looking all that different beyond considerable weight loss, Phoenix adopted a whole new aura as the spiritually starved WWII vet, and spoke his lines with barks and snarls that seemed uncannily natural, as if a pit bull just happened to don Phoenix’s skin. The actor’s now-infamous dis of the Oscar process couldn’t have helped his chances, but it seems Paul Thomas Anderson’s movie has, in general, lost steam, its lack of a PGA nod being the most recent evidence. The man most likely to benefit from Phoenix’s misfortune is Bradley Cooper, whose turn in Silver Linings Playbook is frothy by comparison, but just the sort of crowd-pleasing lead performance Oscar loves. A likable actor, Cooper’s bound to be seen as triumphant for stretching beyond Hangover territory, and with the Academy increasingly honoring flexible comic stars (think Jonah Hill and Melissa McCarthy), his nomination should in fact be an easy get.

Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actress

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Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actress
Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actress

Boasting enough fine performances to fill a 10-wide field at least, Supporting Actress is this year’s most riches-packed race, and the one with the least room for disappointment. In any season, Sally Field would be a worthy winner for her work in Lincoln, a film she nearly stole with just a few searing scenes, and one she adamantly fought to be a part of. Field was Steven Spielberg’s initial pick to play First Lady Mary Todd, but as the length of delayed production climbed, so too did Field’s age, forcing the actress to re-audition and reconvince her director. The result was surely one of Field’s signature turns, a flawless blend of authoritativeness, maternal zeal, and borderline derangement. A Field victory isn’t implausible, but the two-time Oscar winner falls second to Anne Hathaway, who continues to steamroll the competition for her show-stopping work in Les Misérables. We in these parts are far from agreed on the specialness of Hathaway’s performance, with some of us joining the cheerleading chorus and others thinking it devalues the efforts of actual stage stars, who spend their careers nailing one-take numbers without nearly so much hubbub. Either way, Hathaway has handily won the support of critics, audiences, and, one should think, Oscar voters, and those whose theaters filled with applause at the end of “I Dreamed a Dream” will likely agree that the song alone is poised to win her the statuette.