The Golden Globes are behind us, and the Oscars are just a few weeks away (Feb. 24). I've looked at the nominations announced last week and done my best to give you a crib sheet for your Oscar pool.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Who will win: Tony Kushner agonized over his Lincoln screenplay for years, eventually crafting a complex look at legislation and the nation's greatest president. Who should win: The story behind Argo is a great idea for a movie. Credit Chris Terrio for taking a terrific idea and running with it. Dark horse: Don't count out Beasts of the Southern Wild and Silver Linings Playbook. Here's where voters can give them some love without giving them Best Picture.
Best Original Screenplay: Who will win: The screenplay for Moonrise Kingdom, by director Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola, is whimsical and clever, taking audiences back to happier times. Who should win: The backlash against Zero Dark Thirty will probably carry over to this category, even though Mark Boal's screenplay is epic, nuanced, intricate and had to be adapted in the midst of shooting, after the real-life killing of Osama bin Laden. Dark horse: Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained is about 20 minutes too long, but his dialogue crackles like no other.
Best Supporting Actress: Who will win: Anne Hathaway is the best part of Les Miserables, and the Academy just loves her. Who should win: This one is totally justified. Hathaway is the only actor whose work in Les Mis transcends the live performance, giving the fairly sterile adaptation a degree of humanity. Dark horse: Helen Hunt has kept a low profile in recent years, but she bares it all in The Sessions.
Best Supporting Actor: Who will win: It's hard to see anyone but Tommy Lee Jones winning. Christoph Waltz won the same award while working with the same director (Tarantino) a few years ago. Who should win: Waltz is even better in Django Unchained than he was in Inglourious Basterds, taking what could have been a caricature and turning it into the movie's heart. Dark horse: There isn't one. Two-horse race.
Best Actress: Who will win: It doesn't get much more appealing than Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook, in which she plays a young widow who puts her emotional money on the mentally ill Bradley Cooper. Who should win: There was no better piece of acting this year than Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty. During the course of a decade, her CIA analyst grows into an angry, insubordinate, socially awkward pit bull whose single-minded dedication to her work leaves her friendless and leads the world to bin Laden's compound in Pakistan. Dark horse: It'd be great to see the award go to Emmanuelle Riva, whose performance in Amour is savagely heartbreaking.
Best Actor: Who will win: This is the slam-dunk of them all. Daniel Day-Lewis brings Lincoln to life and makes him so great that even his political conniving and manipulation makes sense. Who should win: No one else comes close. Dark horse: If the voters are tired of rubber-stamping DD-L, they could look to Bradley Cooper, who does the best work of his career in Silver Linings Playbook.
Best Director: Who will win: Steven Spielberg's biopic hit all the right notes, and he was ably aided by a terrific production design, solid cinematography and Day-Lewis. Who should win: How about Kathryn Bigelow, whose Zero Dark Thirty is hands down the best-directed film of the year? Oh, wait, she didn't get nominated. Dark horse: The biggest upset we're likely to see is if the Academy crowns Benh Zeitlin Best Director for Beasts. And it could happen.
Best Picture: Who will win: Since Bigelow and Ben Affleck weren't even given Best Director nominations, Zero Dark Thirty and Argo probably aren't going to win. And since those would have been Lincoln's main competition, well, you get the idea. Who should win: Sure, the torture sequences in Zero Dark Thirty generated controversy, but it's the best-made film of the year, absolutely enormous in scope, and it's generated real debate about our country's very recent history. Dark horse: Once again, the only film that has a shot of dethroning the anointed king is the little movie that could, Beasts of the Southern Wild.
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