by gaRis

> It’s been a rough three months concerning the Oscar race. Those who follow me on Twitter (@TakisGaris) have the sad privilege to suffer along with my end of the year awards ruminations. Before I begin with my preliminary findings/observations/prognostications I strongly urge you to tweet me about all things Oscars. An answer is more than guaranteed. Let me cut quickly to the race now, bearing in mind that the list of contenders at the end of this article is a result of perplexed argumentation and stats analysis. You won’t find much theory or hypotheses here, only my thoughts’ funnel. It feels a bit tedious to draw any conclusions without having seen Les Miserables, Zero Dark Thirty, The Hobbit and Django Unchained, however, the buzz is strong to speculate to a certain degree. You can expect an update pretty soon, no later than a month. Less than a dozen weeks before the Academy Awards Ceremony on February 24th, a week before critics associations start revealing their preferences (New York Critics come out first on Dec 3rd), it’s high time to lay the chart(s) on the oscar roundtable and, so it begins:

> My hunch already a year ago was that this year’s showdown would be between Lincoln and The Master  Daniel Day Lewis third (record) leading actor oscar was an almost certainty. Spielberg’s also third directing win appeared a strong possibility. Lincoln proved out to be Tony Kushner’s film than The Beard’s. In fairness, a directing nod is not well deserved. The film is a history lesson; brilliantly acted by DDL-Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field and superbly scripted (some would equally argue overwrought) by Kushner. Spielberg is almost invisible and the plotline is poorly edited and ghastly lit. Regarding The Master I just want to state this: It’s insane for TWC, and Harvey Weinstein personally, to win consecutive Best Picture trophies with The King Speech and The Artist and still not being able to pull it off this year despite being the studio behind three film marvels: The Master - Silver Linings Playbook - Django Unchained. Paul Thomas Anderson – David O’ Russell – Quentin Tarantino; Names at least mouth-watering for every respectable cineaste’s mouth.

> I was here at TIFF2012, present at the people’s choice awards closing ceremony in Toronto. O’Russell was not present, neither a major star to receive the same award that brought The Artist to Oscars’ throne last year. Harvey was still ecstatic about the Venetian near-triumph for The Master  while pundits here were roaring about two films that would dominate 2012 awards; Argo and Silver Linings Playbook  The former being the definition of the infamous “overrated” aphorism. Quite good, impressive for Affleck-the director-standards, but…come on! Seriously? Affleck is not the new Clint, not even the new Clooney (the director) yet. Hopefully the balloon is going to deflate soon, handing the frontrunner status to SLP. Silver Linings Playbook is super fun, wonderfully acted by J-Law and Bobby De Niro, elevating the Academy’s least liked genre (comedy that is) to award consideration standards. Crow-pleaser without particularly eye-popping box office so far. The same TWC distribution mistake that virtually killed The Master s chances for Best Picture. So while SLP is stumbling upon its all-ends-well third act, The Master  a film beyond anything screened this year, the unparalleled achievement in directing, scripting, acting, cinematography and original score, has too many critic heads scratched and even more viewers eyes turned away. Harvey made the fatal mistake to throw the film all too early in the race, instead of releasing it during the final days of the year. We would discuss another race now had he opted for the latter.

> Who is going to give Tom Hooper (Les Miserables) or Kathryn Bigelow a second oscar back-to-back? Besides their themes (non- stop singing musical and the Bin Laden movie respectively) is somewhat prohibitive for even entertaining this thought. The Hobbit is another trilogy hence the only possibility is a mere nomination, whereas with Django Unchained, Tarantino’s universe is a well admired but not remotely close to Academy’s degustation. Ang Lee’s majestic comeback with hard-to-film best-selling novel Life of Pi is a spectacle to behold, with breath taking visuals and inspired direction; however it falls flat in the scripting and acting departments. Which drives us directly to the aforementioned (see title) conclusion that, as we speak, Lincoln is the most serious, cerebral, classic Hollywood style contender that wins it all. UNLESS…The Master snaps every critic associations’ award which in fact is a tough game due to the Beasts of the southern Wild factor. A small art-house film of enormous (justified) appeal, more accessible than Anderson’s operatic (yet ingenious) absurdity. In addition, Moonrise Kingdom and Amour are waiting in the wings to snatch the usually singular spot for *independent* films at the Oscars (and which most of the time are given best director and/or screenplay nominations as consolation prizes).

> The Best Actor category is a three- horse race between DDL and Joaquin Phoenix, followed by Denzel Washington. Phoenix should win, given his performance is uniquely primitive; the kind that rarely if ever has ever been witnessed on screen. Coming from a similar place to DDL’s There Will Be Blood master class in acting. Denzel is solid as ever, the difference being that he hasn’t worked for a top tier director for many years and his collaboration with Zemeckis really paid off. In the Best Actress group Jennifer Lawrence is SLP’s salt ‘n’ pepa. So young, so beautiful, so talented. Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) has just emerged as her main opponent, taking the lead for the first time in her supporting actress career. Marion Cotillard is marvellous in Rust and Bone, as much as Emmanuelle Riva in Amour, however, my heart belongs to now nine year old – then just six year old Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the southern Wild) that carries her film on her tiny shoulders with unprecedented power and charisma.

> So fellas, without further ado, let’s proceed with my first 2012 Oscar predictions in the big 8 categories:

Best Picture
Front -runners
Silver Linings Playbook
Les Miserables
The Master
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Dark Horses
Life of Pi
Beasts of the southern Wild
Django Unchained
Zero Dark Thirty

Best Director
Front- Runners
Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)
Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master)
David O’ Russel (Silver Linings Playbook)
Ang Lee (Life of Pi)
Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the southern Wild)
Major Threats
Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained)
Tom Hooper (Les Miserables)
Ben Affleck (Argo)
Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom)
Michael Haneke (Amour)

Best Actor
Daniel Day Lewis (Lincoln)
Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)
Denzel Washington (Flight)
John Hawkes (The Sessions)
Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)
Bill Murray (Hyde Park on Hudson)
Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables)
Anthony Hopkins (Hitchcock)
Richard Gere (Arbitrage)
Jack Black (Bernie)

Best Actress
Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the southern Wild)
Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone)
Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)
Naomi Wats (The Impossible)
Helen Mirren (Hitchcock)

Best Supporting Actor
Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
Leonardo DiCaprio (Django Unchained)
Alan Arkin (Argo)
Robert DeNiro (Silver Linings Playbook)
Matthew McConaughey (Magic Mike)
John Goodman (Argo / Flight)

Best Supporting Actress
Ann Hathaway (Les Miserables)
Sally Field (Lincoln)
Helen Hunt (The Sessions)
Amy Adams (The Master)
Ann Dowd (Compliance)
Maggie Smith (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel)
Samantha Barks (Les Miserables)
Judi Dench (Skyfall)
Nicole Kidman (Paperboy)

Best Original Screenplay
The Master
Zero Dark Thirty
Django Unchained
Moonrise Kingdom
Seven Psychopaths
Middle of Nowhere

Best Adapted Screenplay
Silver Linings Playbook
Beasts of the southern Wild
The Sessions
The Dark Knight Rises
The Hobbit (An Unexpected Journey)
Les Miserables
Anna Karenina
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

CLICK HERE for Episode 2