And the 2013 Oscars Should Go To…

WritingI like movies. I don’t know what it is about them that enchants people so much, but every year I take on a personal project of watching all the Oscar-nominated movies. The Academy Awards are about the only awards show that I pay any attention to. Not just in the Best Picture category, but every movie, including documentaries and foreign language films. This year I’ve succeeded in seeing all the movies except the documentary “The Gatekeepers” and a bunch of the short subjects. If you follow me on Facebook or Google+, you will know that I’ve been providing mini-reviews for all of them up to now. So in the tradition of Siskel and Ebert, I present to you my Oscar picks, followed by the ones I think will actually win, and a short reason why.

A reminder that I’ll be live tweeting (likely snarkily) the Oscars tomorrow night. You can follow me on my Twitter page.

Best Picture
My pick: “Life of Pi”
What will probably win: “Argo”
Why: The big three contenders in this category seem to be “Argo,” “Life of Pi,” and “Lincoln.” “Lincoln” is probably not going to take the award because there are enough issues with it to make it a really viable contender, and it’s a Spielberg film which, with few exception, tend to get snubbed. “Argo” is a historic film that ties closely to recent current events and is very will made. It’s a close tie with me between “Argo” and “Life of Pi,” but “Life of Pi” gets an edge because it’s a little more timeless and conveys a deeper meaning about life and the nature of story.

Actor in a Leading Role
My pick: Daniel Day-Lewis for “Lincoln”
Who will probably win: Daniel Day-Lewis for “Lincoln”
Why: Daniel Day-Lewis is easily one of the greatest living actors around today. He loses himself in roles and plays so many of them so differently that, even with the same face, he is a totally different person in each movie, and I think the Academy recognizes this. Close seconds are Bradley Cooper, who was a total surprise at how good he was in “Silver Linings Playbook,” and Joaquin Phoenix for “The Master.”

Actress in a Leading Role
My pick: Emmanuelle Riva for “Amour”
Who will probably win: Jessica Chastain for “Zero Dark Thirty” or Naomi Watts for “The Impossible”
Why: Emmanuelle Riva’s role in “Amour,” while personally difficult to watch due to recently seeing my grandfather degrade before he finally passed, was so spot on that she really deserves the award. However, her portrayal may be a little too on-the-nose for some, and Jessica Chastain has already been recognized for “Zero Dark Thirty.” Due to my lack of faith in the Academy’s decision-making, though, Naomi Watts is likely a serious contender because she’s an attractive woman who’s made to look very sick and unattractive, which has swayed the Academy in the past.

Actor in a Supporting Role
My pick: Robert De Niro for “Silver Linings Playbook”
Who will probably win: Alan Arkin for “Argo”
Why: Robert De Niro was really, really good as a gambling addicted father with a bipolar son, who has no idea how to handle the situation but tries the best he can while dealing with his own issues. It’s an onion of a performance, with the obvious on the surface but more layers as you peel it back. Granted, Alan Arkin is not a bad choice, but the thing is that we’ve seen him in this role before. It’s kind of like watching Alan Arkin play Alan Arkin.

Actress in a Supporting Role
My pick: Anne Hathaway for “Les Misérables”
Who will probably win: Anne Hathaway for “Les Misérables”
Why: While there’s been some minor buzz about the other candidates in this category, no one has been able to shut up about Anne Hathaway, but not without good reason. She really is so good in her small role in “Les Misérables” that you practically forget that anyone else has been nominated in this category.

My pick: David O. Russell for “Silver Linings Playbook”
Who will probably win: Ang Lee for “Life of Pi”
Why: “Silver Linings Playbook” is a really good movie, and Russell manages to get great performances out of every actor in the movie, and it’s not that easy a feat to get that level of quality out of so many people in one film. Ang Lee is again not a bad choice, but it’s much more limited in scope in that it’s far more dependent on visual effects, which is why that one is not a personal pick.

Best Original Screenplay
My pick: “Moonrise Kingdom”
What will probably win: “Zero Dark Thirty”
Why: “Moonrise Kingdom” is an adorable movie with a crisp screenplay of slightly different tightly-related plot thread which tie together really well. Plus, I just really like Wes Anderson’s movies. “Zero Dark Thirty” will probably take it for writing the depiction of an actual and significant event that has potential global ramifications. It will be awarded more for taking on the task of telling this story rather than the actual storytelling itself.

Best Adapted Screenplay
My pick: “Life of Pi”
What will probably win: “Life of Pi”
Why: “Life of Pi” plays out and tells its story very well. It’s also a movie that people have been waiting to be made for quite some time because the book is cherished by so many. This one is a shoe-in, and I’ll be very surprised to see another movie take this award.

Animated Feature Film
My pick: “Paranorman”
What will probably win: Either “Brave” or “Wreck-It Ralph”
Why: “Paranorman” has a dangerous script. It’s not one of those animated movies that plays it safe. It also has a very interesting art style when it comes to character design and settings. It’s more challenging but worth the reward. However, this award is probably going to something Disney-based, like “Brave,” which has stunning visuals but very uneven plot and characters, or “Wreck-It Ralph,” which is getting a lot more buzz than I expected and wasn’t bad but was very dependent on the nostalgia factor for classic video games. Take that nostalgia away, and it’s a supremely average movie.

Foreign Language Film
My pick: “No”
What will probably win: “Amour”
Why: “No” was a surprisingly compelling film and based on actual events. “Kon-Tiki” was as well, but “No” edges it out personally for genuine tension as opposed to melodrama. However, give the number of “mainstream” nominations it’s gotten, “Amour” is likely a lock for this category.

My pick: “Life of Pi”
What will probably win: “Life of Pi”
Why: The cinematography award tends to get closely tied to the other awards, but “Life of Pi” really does have some great camerawork. Filming in difficult conditions, which in this case is mostly on or underwater, is a tough thing to do. Of the bunch, it really is the best in this category.

My pick: “Argo”
What will probably win: “Argo”
Why: Editing is a hard thing to judge unless you know what goes into it. Argo is edited and cut so sublimely that it builds some great tension, especially in the final moments of the film. The quick cuts are at just the right moments and really add to the experience in this movie.

Production Design
My pick: “Anna Karenina”
What will probably win: “Les Misérables”
Why: The production set for “Anna Karenina” was truly brilliant. The whole movie essentially plays out in the world’s largest transforming theater which was a strange design choice but also makes it fascinating to watch. The award will probably go to “Les Misérables,” which won’t be disappointing because the production design was also quite good, but was also a little more normal and didn’t quite reach the artistic level that “Anna Karenina” had.

Costume Design
My pick: “Anna Karenina”
What will probably win: “Anna Karenina”
Why: Like the production design, the costuming is very good. It fits the time period nicely and reflects a flashy real-world grandeur of a noble class. Most of the other nominees, while the costuming was appropriate to the film, used more drab and average costumes, with the exception of “Mirror Mirror” which is so over-the-top that it’s distracting.

Makeup and Hairstyling
My pick: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
What will probably win: “Les Misérables”
Why: “The Hobbit” is much more of an achievement, per se, than the other films in this category. It goes more extreme but is still loosely believable. The award will probably go to something a little more mainstream like “Les Misérables” which has decent hair and makeup but not much transformation except for some aging of characters or for Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter.

Original Score
My pick: “Anna Karenina”
What will probably win: “Anna Karenina”
Why: The music in “Anna Karenina” is character unto itself, both grandiose and subtle in different scenes. I can say that it will probably win because the music is so much more obvious in this movie than in the others, and I actually had to think rather hard to remember the music from the other nominees.

Original Song
My pick: “Life of Pi”
What will probably win: “Life of Pi”
Why: Again, this one is a bit unpredictable. “Life of Pi” seems obvious, but when you put it up against “Les Misérables,” it’s hard to tell. However, I give “Life of Pi” the edge just because most of the music has been heard from the play before, and what was added was frankly unnecessary.

Sound Mixing
My pick: “Life of Pi”
What will probably win: “Life of Pi”
Why: The sound in “Life of Pi” is something that is very necessary to tell the story, especially with proper animal sounds, weather sounds, and the like, and it’s done extremely well and adds enormously to the experience. I think it has the edge in this category because this movie depends so heavily on its technical aspects to achieve it’s goal, and it does so quite well.

Sound Editing
My pick: “Argo”
What will probably win: “Argo”
Why: It’s hard to tell if “Life of Pi” has a shot, but I think “Argo” is the better movie in this category and will probably be recognized for it. The ability to edit through multiple conversation at the same time help the audience to focus, and is a necessary component to the story in “Argo.” Plus, I anticipate the Editing award to go to “Argo” as well.

Visual Effects
My pick: “The Avengers”
What will probably win: “Life of Pi”
Why: “The Avengers” was just plain cool and had some great visual effects, even though it’s cartoony when necessary. “Life of Pi” will probably take this award because it’s more mainstream. Don’t get me wrong. The visuals in “Life of Pi” are very good, even with some mistakes. But a personal favorite is still “The Avengers.”

Documentary Feature Film
My pick: “Searching for Sugar Man”
What will probably win: “Searching for Sugar Man”
Why: Again, I didn’t see “The Gatekeepers” so I could be wrong here, but “Searching for Sugar Man” is unique among the nominees for being a more uplifting and feel-good documentary rather than telling of tragedy and suffering. It’s also the only one in this category that achieved some actual financial success, which means it was popular and gives it an edge.

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