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This year’s Academy Awards could prove tough to predict

Bryan Cranston, left, as Jack O'Donnell and Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez in “Argo,” a rescue thriller about the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. A Best Picture win at the upcoming Oscars could be viewed as righting a wrong after Affleck inexplicably missed out on a Best Director nomination.
Bryan Cranston, left, as Jack O'Donnell and Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez in “Argo,” a rescue thriller about the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. A Best Picture win at the upcoming Oscars could be viewed as righting a wrong after Affleck inexplicably missed out on a Best Director nomination.

Oscar is another word for fickle. I mean, think of the whole process run by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – the promotions, the nominations and certainly the actual awarding of those cute little gold statuettes.

As I say. Fickle.

Oscar’s fickle nature has never been more evident than in 2013. Consider, for example, that Ben Affleck has won directing awards given out by BAFTA (the British Academy of Film and Television Artists), by the Golden Globes and by the Director’s Guild of America – all three of which are normally good indicators of how Oscar voting will go.

Yet Affleck was not even nominated by the Academy for Best Director gold?

How do such things happen?

Intangibles, that’s how. Such as “Argo” being Affleck’s third outing as a director. Such as Affleck being not that far removed from his arrogant youth (which included sharing a Best Original Screenplay with Matt Damon for “Good Will Hunting”). Such as … well, with more than 6,000 members voting in the Academy, reasons for a nomination snub could be due to just about anything.

All this goes to explain why 2013 is so hard to predict. Unlike in past years, the overall field doesn’t include that many favorites. Still, my young friend Nathan Weinbender and I will take our best shots at guessing who we think will walk away with gold. – Dan Webster


Best Actor: Bradley Cooper (“Silver Linings Playbook”), Daniel Day-Lewis (“Lincoln”), Hugh Jackman (“Les Miserables”), Joaquin Phoenix (“The Master”), Denzel Washington (“Flight”).

DW: As one of the best screen actors ever, Day-Lewis should be a favorite to walk away with his third Best Actor Oscar. He won the BAFTA, which comes as no surprise, and the Golden Globe (for drama). But he also took home the Screen Actors Guild award. Meanwhile, poor Jackman won only the GG (for musical or comedy). Prediction: Daniel-Day Lewis

NW: I think it’s safe to say that Day-Lewis will walk away with his third Oscar this year. His portrayal of Lincoln is the type of studied, nuanced work the Academy usually overlooks, but Day-Lewis is the most magnetic actor working today, and this is another in his arsenal of masterful performances. My personal favorite in this category – Phoenix, who made a volatile and completely unguarded comeback in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master.” He doesn’t stand a chance.

Prediction: Daniel Day-Lewis

Best Actress: Jessica Chastain (“Zero Dark Thirty”), Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”), Emmanuelle Riva (“Amour”), Quvenzhane Wallis (“Beast of the Southern Wild”), Naomi Watts (“The Impossible”).

DW: This category is all over the place and maybe the hardest to predict. Veteran Riva won the BAFTA and certainly is deserving. Chastain won the GG (for drama) and was part of SAG’s Outstanding Cast award. Lawrence won the GG (musical or comedy) and SAG. Her SAG win is the best indication that Lawrence should emerge on top. Prediction: Jennifer Lawrence

NW: This one is pretty clearly a toss-up between Chastain in “Zero Dark Thirty” and Lawrence in “Silver Linings Playbook.” They’ve both been nominated once before, they each won Golden Globes this year – Lawrence in the comedy category, Chastain in drama – and both played strong, complex female roles in a year that didn’t have many. That being said, the controversy surrounding Kathryn Bigelow’s terrific “Zero Dark Thirty” seems to have significantly (and unfairly) hurt its chances at any awards, so I’m leaning toward Lawrence on this one. If Chastain does win, however, it certainly won’t be undeserved. Prediction: Jennifer Lawrence

Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin (“Argo”), Robert De Niro (“Silver Linings Playbook”), Philip Seymour Hoffman (“The Master”), Tommy Lee Jones (“Lincoln”), Christoph Waltz (“Django Unchained”).

DW: Waltz, who was one of the best things about Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained,” won the BAFTA and GG. Jones, however, won SAG. That probably means that Jones wins gold. Prediction: Tommy Lee Jones

NW: Here we have another tricky one. We have five veteran actors, all of whom have won Oscars before, and all of whom were tremendous in their respective films. This one’s pretty much a crapshoot, but I’m going with Jones, although I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Waltz or De Niro took the prize. Or could Arkin upset the competition and reign victorious, as he did in 2007 when he won for “Little Miss Sunshine”? It’s anyone’s guess, but Jones is mine. Prediction: Tommy Lee Jones

  Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams (“The Master”), Sally Field (“Lincoln”), Anne Hathaway (“Les Miserables”), Helen Hunt (“The Sessions”), Jacki Weaver (“Silver Linings Playbook”).

DW: If a lock exists, it’s in this category. Though going up against a strong field, Hathaway – who didn’t bare a breast but did shave off her hair – won the BAFTA, Golden Globe and SAG awards. That should ensure her a win in her second supporting actress nomination. Prediction: Anne Hathaway

NW: Of the major categories, this is the only 100 percent sure thing: Hathaway’s got this one in the bag. She’s had Oscar buzz since before “Les Misérables” was even released, and her now-famous rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream,” in all its one-take, extremely close-up glory, is the stuff “for your consideration” reels are made of. Beyond Hathaway, I loved Hunt’s work in “The Sessions,” but she really belongs in the lead actress category, not supporting. Prediction: Anne Hathaway


Best Director: Michael Haneke (“Amour”), Ang Lee (“Life of Pi”), David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”), Steven Spielberg (“Lincoln”), Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”).

DW: BAFTA, DGA and GG winner Affleck was snubbed, so what then? Such a good question. Zeitlin is an unknown and his nomination should be enough. Lee and Spielberg have won previously. Haneke is German, and how many Academy members actually bothered to sit through his film? Russell is a talented filmmaker, though he’s had serious, well-publicized run-ins with the likes of George Clooney and Lily Tomlin. So who will win? The survey says … oh, just give it to Spielberg already. Prediction: Steven Spielberg

NW: Affleck is one of only three directors to ever win the DGA while not even being nominated for an Oscar, the others being Spielberg for “The Color Purple” and Ron Howard for “Apollo 13.” As for the five filmmakers who were nominated, my money’s on Spielberg for “Lincoln.” Prediction: Steven Spielberg

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

DW: Nine nominees? Nine? Seriously? The Academy couldn’t even run the list out to a cool 10? Fickle indeed. As for the winner, “Argo” won the BAFTA, GG (for drama) and Producers Guild Award. Les Miserables won GG (musical or comedy). Bet the mortgage on “Argo,” which will give the producers a chance to thank Affleck oh-so profusely. Prediction: “Argo”

NW: Of this year’s nine nominees, I think it’s safe to pin down the two favorites – “Argo” and “Lincoln.” For a long while, it seemed that “Lincoln” was going to sweep every major category – it was, after all, nominated for a whopping 12 awards – but in the past few weeks, “Argo” has experienced a late-in-the-race surge, taking home both the Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award for Best Picture. Add in the fact that Affleck was snubbed in the Best Director category, and that it’s a tightly made crowd-pleaser, and “Argo” seems to be the underdog that will likely come from behind to take the top prize. That being said, I wouldn’t mind a “Beasts of the Southern Wild” or “Silver Linings Playbook” upset. Prediction: “Argo