For It: Those who love Les Miserables LOVE it more than anything else in the history of the world. You cannot have a logical conversation with them about it and point out its flaws, because they simply do not care. They will vote for it no matter what.
Against It: But those who hate Les Miserables HATE it more than anything else in the history of the world. You cannot have a logical conversation with them about it and point out its merits, because they simply do not care. They will never, ever vote for it no matter what. And without Hooper getting in for director, any slim chance this had of actually winning is gone.
8. Django UnchainedFor It: Tarantino has become somewhat of an Oscar favorite in recent years – with Django marking his second straight film to get into the Best Picture lineup. What makes this impressive is that Django was the last film to be released, and with the tighter deadline the Academy threw into the mix at the last minute, the film was at a disadvantage – but still came through. The film has been liked by critics and audiences alike.
Against It: It would easily be the most violent Best Picture winner in Oscar history. Some absolutely hate it, and think it should never have been made. Plus, with Tarantino being left out of the Director lineup that pretty much dooms its chances of having any hope here.
7. Beasts of the Southern WildFor It: A well-loved indie, which ran the gauntlet from Sundance all the way to Oscar nominations. It also managed to get in from Director, Actress and Screenplay, so it has very wide support – and those who love it, really, really love it and may vote for it no matter what.
Against It: The lack of below the line nominations usually dooms a movie – and this has none (odd considering the great production design, cinematography and score). You need to be able to win a few lesser Oscars to win the big one, and I don’t see Beasts being able to do that. The nomination is the reward.
6. Zero Dark ThirtyFor It: It has become the most talked about, debated film of the year – outside of film circles anyway. It reunites the team of Bigelow and Boal who won just a few years ago for The Hurt Locker, and the pair has made an even better film this time around – one that pushes audiences farther than before. It will also be a more successful film at the box office. If critics were voting, this would most likely be your winner.
Against It: But critics don’t vote – and any chance this film had of winning pretty much disappeared when the directors refused to tow the party line and didn’t nominate Bigelow. All the controversy around the film was already an issue, and now with no director nominated, they have an excuse to make a safer choice.
5. AmourFor It: Michael Haneke’s film is obviously well loved by the Academy, who as an aging body can probably relate to it. This was a tough nomination to get, but it got it plus nods for Director, Actress, Screenplay and Foreign Language Film. Not many foreign films receive this kind of love from the Academy.
Against It: But it’s still a foreign film – and no film not in English has ever won. With Haneke in the Foreign category, that will be where they give him his Oscar this year. It would great to see happen, but it’s not going to.
4. Life of PiFor It: As the season moved along, this looked more and more like it could be an also ran in the Best Picture field – but it came out swinging on nomination day, picking up 11 nominations (good for second overall) and all the more impressive, since it didn’t get any acting nominations. That means the film has perhaps the widest appeal among Academy members based on their voting.
Against It: It is not unheard of for a film to win without having any actors nominated (Slumdog and Return of the King managed the trick recently), but it is rare. The actors are the largest single branch of the Academy, so you have to do well with them to win. Can Life of Pi do enough? I really don’t think so – since nomination day, no one has really talked about the film.
3. Silver Linings PlaybookFor It: Silver Linings Playbook became one of only a handful of films in Oscar history to get nominated in all four acting categories – including a surprising nomination for Jacki Weaver, in what was a pretty nothing role – which means the largest branch in the Academy has its back. The curious decision to hold the film back from wide release until after the nominations came out could prove to be ingenious, as audiences are keeping it near the top of the box office charts. It’s an underdog, but that’s they why it likes it.
Against It: The Academy likes to award “important” films, and Silver Linings Playbook doesn’t really fit that mold. Very few true comedies ever actually win the top prize – you’d have to go back to Annie Hall to find a true forerunner to support a Silver Linings win (Shakespeare was a period piece, which means it automatically becomes “important”). Until the nominations came out, no one really expected this to be a major player for the win, and while it’s in the race, I don’t think it can pull off the upset.
2. LincolnFor It: Sight unseen, Steven Spielberg teaming up with screenwriter Tony Kushner and actor Daniel Day-Lewis to make an Abraham Lincoln biopic was deemed an Oscar frontrunner – this is the type of hype that normally kills a movie chances. But than people saw the movie, and shockingly, it was better than anyone had hoped (except Jeffrey Wells). A HUGE box office hit, a HUGE hit with the critics, and a player on the awards circuit all season long. It also got the most nominations of any film, usually a good sign, and unlike its perceived main competitors, didn’t stumble and got the Best Director nomination it needs to win.
Against It: It must be said, while Lincoln was nominated EVERYWHERE during awards season, most awards groups actually gave its top prize to something else – and down the stretch it was all Argo, and nothing for Lincoln. It’s clear that this may well be the most respected film of the year. But is it the most loved?
1. ArgoFor It: Ben Affleck’s film has become an audience hit, a critical hit and a player at every stage of the Awards season so far. It held off early criticism about its inaccuracy, and stayed at the front of the pack all the way through the season. With seven nominations, it is obviously well loved. Since nomination day, Argo has simply run away with all the awards – and Affleck has suddenly become the most sympathetic person in Hollywood.
Against It: But the director’s threw a monkey wrench in its plans by not nominating Affleck for Best Director. Only Driving Miss Daisy has managed the trick of winning the Best Picture Oscar without a Director being nominated since the early 1930s. Argo probably has a much better chance as any since then to win it. Had Affleck been nominated, this would be a slam dunk for win, but he wasn’t so we’ll have a horse race to the end.
Who Will Win: Argo. If you ignored the precursors and simply look at Oscar history, than Lincoln would be the clear winner. But you cannot ignore the precursors, where it hasn’t been a split at all (like I expected), but has been the Argo show. It wins. Makes no sense to me, but there you have it.Who Should Win: Amour. Michael Haneke’s brilliant depiction of a lifelong relationship sputtering to an end is one of the hardest films of the year to watch, and also one of its great masterpieces. In the absence of my favorite film of the year – The Master – I will gladly say Haneke’s masterpiece deserves to win – even while knowing it has no chance.
Least of the Nominees: This is actually a very respectful lineup this year. But even though I don’t hate it as much as many seem to, I have to say, the weakest link is Les Miserables.