The narrative seems to be that because of a voter backlash to Ben Affleck's Best Director snub and his string of wins at other ceremonies, the underdog Argo is going to beat the titanic Lincoln—which I'm all for. I always like when movies that seem to have been conceived for the very purpose of winning Best Picture go down in flames, and Argo was clever and entertaining, if perhaps a bit too fond of itself. My vote is for Silver Linings Playbook, because it tells a love story in a way I'd never seen a love story told before. And also, I'm a sap.
I'm sorry, but Kathryn Bigelow isn't nominated, and Benh Zeitlin is? For that farcical piece of white-liberal-baiting Cajun-poverty porn? I'm sure Zeitlin is a nice, young man and his mom is very proud, but come on. You almost get the feeling that Bigelow's and Affleck's snubs are going to hurt Steven Spielberg. If you're going to vote for Argo over Lincoln, why vote for Spielberg? If you're already passing over U.S. Steel in one category, why not pass it over in the other? Meanwhile, Ang Lee did craft another dazzling technological achivement that expanded the boundaries of what's possible in cinema, yadda yadda yadda. And I actually think David O. Russell is a stealth candidate here, because Academy voters also loved The Fighter and Russell met with Joe Biden about mental-health issues and it's been a really long time now since his shoving match with George Clooney.
Will win: Ang Lee, The Life of Pi (pictured, left)
Should win: David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook (pictured, right)
I'll be honest, I totally thought Jessica Chastain was a mortal lock to win this category, until I read some of the prognosticators' prognostications before writing this. That's when I discovered that Jennifer Lawrence had become the frontrunner for a while, only to fall a step behind Emanuelle Riva—the oldest candidate ever, who'll turn 86 on Oscar night. I'm a big fan of both the Js, and I've enjoyed watching their respective meteoric ascents over the past two years, but if Riva wins, it'll be amazing for obvious sentimental reasons and the right choice, because it must take some ungodly strength to play an octogenarian with a terminal disease in the final days of a lifelong love affair. Still, I can't help thinking that Meryl Streep is going to find a way to win this award again somehow.
Will win: Emanuelle Riva, Amour
Should win: Emanuelle Riva, Amour
Even though there is a 100 percent chance that Daniel Day-Lewis will win this category and a 0 percent chance that Denzel Washington will, their performances were kind of similar. Think about it: What other actor could have played either of those parts? All five performances are quite commendable, actually. I was bored to tears by Les Mis (and I had the poster in middle school!), but it still warmed the cockles to see Hugh Jackman in the role he was obviously born to play. And Bradley Cooper and Joaquin Phoenix, two actors I've always thought could do a little more, did a little more. But believe it or not, I actually have to go with Denzel. Something about the arrogance and desperation he brought to that pilot really got to me.
Best Supporting Actress
Everybody knows Academy voters love a pretty girl willing to look ugly on camera—just ask Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron—which is why Anne Hathaway sewed it up with that snotty solo. Personally, I was blown away by Silver Linings Playbook's Jacki Weaver and her beautiful portrayal of the loving, peace-making mom trying to manage the looney-tunes dudes in her life. It was the very definition of a great supporting role.
Will win: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables (pictured, left)
Should win: Jacki Weaver, The Silver Linings Playbook (pictured, right)
Best Supporting Actor
Tommy Lee Jones has won before (for The Fugitive), but I still think this will feel like a Lifetime Achievement Award, with the crowd loving him and him loving it right back—sort of a replay of Jeff Bridges in 2010. But I'd vote for Robert De Niro for fusing his post-Meet the Parents grumpy-old-guy persona with the weird tics and pathological vibe of his younger self.
Will Win: Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln (pictured, left)
Should Win: Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook (pictured, right)
Best Adapted Screenplay
Obviously, I am a fan of Silver Linings Playbook—and I like the way it turned Philadelphia into a character—but this award will obviously go to Argo (though I guess Tony Kushner could be a dark horse for Lincoln). Argo was really well done, even if it got pretty ridiculous in the third act.
Will Win: Chris Terrio, Argo (pictured, left)
Should Win: David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook (pictured, right)
Best Original Screenplay
Three years ago, Mark Boal won for a military thriller about the American boondoggle in the Middle East (The Hurt Locker) and Quentin Tarantino came in second for an insanely violent historical revenge fantasy (Inglourious Basterds). It's the same top two again this time, only with the winners reversed.
—Jesse Ashlock, deputy editor at Details