Pete Hammond

Oscar predictions are always a risky business. Problem is, too many pundits make the mistake of picking whom they want to win instead of who will actually win. Because the only choices that matter are Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences official ballots. Understanding those votes involves a mix of psychic hunches, historical patterns, and heartfelt favorites. Throw in conversations with actual members, results from precursor Hollywood Guilds’ awards shows, and a little showbiz logic, as well as luck — and the contents of those Oscar envelopes opening on the night of February 27th suddenly aren’t such a mystery. Now with all the ballots officially in to Price Waterhouse Coopers,  here are my category by category predictions (not necessarily my own choices) for what names will be in those newly-designed  envelopes at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards:

BEST PICTURE

The Nominees: Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone.

Who Will Win: The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Company) – Although this race was looking like a runaway for The Social Network after it swept most of the marquee critics’ honors and Golden Globe awards, it was stopped fast in its tracks once the industry began its own ceremonies. The King’s Speech reigned at the Screen Actors, Directors, and Producers Guilds and immediately became the frontrunner. Now it’s poised to win based on its inspiring story and triumphant spirit. The Social Network has been making a bit of a comeback in the last few days winning at the ACE Eddies and some key awards at BAFTA including Best Director and Editing but it’s probably not enough to stop The King’s Speech. Possible spoiler is The Fighter, which has late-breaking support among voters and has been the most aggressive campaigner in the last couple of weeks.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

The Nominees: Javier Bardem, Biutiful; Jeff Bridges, True Grit; Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network; Colin Firth, The King’s Speech; James Franco, 127 Hours.

Who Will Win: Colin Firth, The King’s Speech - This one is a lock and has been all season long. Firth has swept most of the major precursor acting honors, including Critics’ Choice, SAG, Golden Globes and BAFTA, there doesn’t seem to be a chance he can lose. There is a groundswell inside the actors’ branch for Javier Bardem, but foreign language film performances rarely take this category. It’s doubtful anyone at this point can make up enough ground to overcome Firth’s large lead.

Oscar Predictions 2012 — Hammond’s Academy Award Predictions

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

The Nominees: Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right; Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole; Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone; Natalie Portman, Black Swan; Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine.

Who Will Win: Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right - This could end in a photo finish upset even though Portman is the smart bet according to most pundits. I agree, but I’m also getting a vibe within the Academy that it’s Bening’s turn despite Portman’s recent SAG and BAFTA wins. Interestingly I am picking up some significant support for Williams, Kidman and especially, Lawrence too which says to me it is no runaway for Portman as some pundits seem to think. Bening lost Best Actress twice to Hilary Swank and may be poised to lose again to another young actress in a transformative role. But I have a hunch the veteran squeaks out a win on her 4th try. She has been very visible on the campaign trail since nominations came out. Still, just a hunch. Don’t bet your life savings in the office pool on this one.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

The Nominees: Christian Bale, The Fighter; John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone; Jeremy Renner, The Town; Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right; Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech.

Who Will Win: Christian Bale, The Fighter - Unless Rush is carried in with a King’s Speech sweep, which is very possible, this award will go to Bale who has been winning what essentially came down to just a two-man contest from the start of awards season. His loss to Rush at BAFTA was the only hiccup.  The general popularity of The Fighter among Academy voters won’t hurt, either, and this is a way to reward the film. Plus, Bale’s transformation is what insiders admire when leading men take juicy, supporting character roles.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

The Nominees: Amy Adams, The Fighter; Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech; Melissa Leo, The Fighter; Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit; Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

Who Will Win: Melissa Leo, The Fighter - Weaver’s film was little seen, which spoils her chances, while Bonham Carter’s role was probably too small (unless a King’s Speech sweep happens). Steinfeld is a genuine threat with a bonafide leading role, which gives her an advantage even if her youth does not. Adams lost to co-star Leo at most of the precursor awards although it was she , not Leo who got a BAFTA nomination in this category. But Leo is the kind of vet whom Oscar voters love to reward despite her controversial, late-inning personal ad campaign which may have hurt a little, but not enough to deny her the prize. Still this category remains fluid.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING

The Nominees: Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan; Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, True Grit;  David Fincher, The Social Network; Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech; David O. Russell, The Fighter

Who Will Win: David Fincher, The Social Network - While Fincher has been away shooting on location, Hooper has been a constant presence on the awards circuit. Though common Oscar history and his recent DGA award (a very reliable indicator)  might indicate he will be swept in on the coattails of The King’s Speech, voters may still want to spread the wealth and reward Fincher (or even David O. Russell if The Fighter can mount an upset but that’s less likely). Overall results will probably be very close and I have been vacillating , but conversations with voters now lead me to think they will make a split and use this category to reward The Social Network  and its director.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

The Nominees: 127 Hours, Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy; The Social Network, Aaron Sorkin; Toy Story 3, Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich; True Grit,  Joel Coen and Ethan Coen; Winter’s Bone, Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini

Who Will WinAaron Sorkin, The Social Network. If there is one certain win for The Social Network, it is in this category. The film’s screenplay recently won the same award from the Writers Guild, BAFTA and several other groups. It has been a lock here since it opened at the beginning of October. Although I said the same thing about this category last year before Precious pulled off a stunning upset over Up In The Air, I don’t see that kind of recent Oscar Screenplay history repeating itself here. The other nominees should just enjoy the show.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

The NomineesAnother Year, Mike Leigh; The Fighter, Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson. Story by Keith Dorrington and Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson; Inception, Christopher Nolan; The Kids Are All Right, Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg; The King’s Speech, David Seidler.

Who Will Win: David Seidler, The King’s Speech – Although Nolan’s Inception won the WGA award for Original Screenplay, Seidler’s The King’s Speech was ineligible but he did win at BAFTA the next week.  So this will be their real showdown, with Seidler riding a wave of Academy goodwill for his movie.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

The Nominees: Biutiful (Mexico); Dogtooth (Greece); In A Better World (Denmark); Incendies (Canada); Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi) (Algeria)

Who Will Win: In a Better World (Denmark) – This is always a tough category to predict since Academy members must prove they have seen all five films in a theater to vote. The best known title is Biutiful, but the complex film may be too intense for some. Canada’s Incendies and Denmark’s Golden Globe winner  In A Better World make it a strong race, but the latter, beautifully directed by Susanne Bier, seems the most ‘Academy accessible.’ Among voters I have been talking to Biutiful is actually most oft-mentioned so it all comes down to who actually voted here.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

The Nominees: How to Train Your Dragon; The Illusionist; Toy Story 3

Who Will Win: Toy Story 3 - Disney/Pixar – It has dominated this category for the last three years and will definitely make it four with this Best Picture nominee that also happens to be the highest-grossing and best reviewed film of the year. You can bet the farm on this one.

THE OTHER CATEGORIES:

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

The NomineesExit Through The Gift Shop; Gasland; Inside Job; Restrepo; Waste Land

Who Will Win: Inside Job – Already a much-honored documentary about the Wall Street meltdown, Charles Ferguson’s film benefits from the omission of presumed pre-nominations favorite, Waiting for ‘Superman’Exit Through the Gift Shop could be a spoiler.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN ART DIRECTION

The Nominees: Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I; Inception; The King’s Speech; True Grit

Who Will Win: The King’s Speech – Far from a sure thing, but voters may embrace its regal, period look over its strongest competition, Inception and Alice In Wonderland.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY

The Nominees: Black Swan, Inception, The King’s Speech, The Social Network, True Grit

Who Will Win: True Grit – Outdoor movies with sweeping vistas often have an advantage here, and Roger Deakins is overdue, even if Black Swan and Inception provided unique challenges.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN

The Nominees: Alice In Wonderland; I Am Love; The King’s Speech; The Tempest; True Grit

Who Will Win: Alice In Wonderland – This category almost always goes to period films. But with four to choose from, Oscar voters are likely to pick the one that screams costume design and that’s certainly this nominee, if only for the Red Queen’s frocks.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING

The Nominees: Black Swan, The Fighter, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network

Who Will Win: The Social Network - Inexplicably, the presumed shoo-in Inception wasn’t even nominated. A look at Oscar history reveals that movies about boxers like Champion (1949), Rocky (1976), and Raging Bull (1980) have triumphed in this category but The Social Network’s recent wins in Editing at the ACE Eddies and BAFTA indicate Oscar will follow suit.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP

The Nominees: Barney’s Version, The Way Back, The Wolfman

Who Will Win: The Wolfman – I think if Alice In Wonderland had made the final cut, it would have won. The make-up branch has some explaining to do!  Among the nominees only Universal’s bomb, The Wolfman, was a major makeup achievement, so expect veteran Rick Baker to grab his 7th Oscar in this category.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)

The Nominees: How to Train Your Dragon, Inception, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network

Who Will Win: The Social Network – Trent Reznor’s and Atticus Ross’ haunting score has been used in all of Sony’s TV spots for the film, giving it a familiarity advantage over Inception and The King’s Speech,which also are strong contenders.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)

The Nominees: “Coming Home” (Country Strong); “I See the Light” (Tangled); “If I Rise”(127 Hours); “We Belong Together” (Toy Story 3)

Who Will Win: “We Belong Together” (Toy Story 3) – Randy Newman’s catchy tune is one reason why people loved the movie so TS3 fans may carry the day although there does seem to be growing support for A.R. Rahman and Dido’s haunting If I Rise.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND EDITING

The Nominees: Inception, Toy Story 3, Tron: Legacy; True Grit, Unstoppable

Who Will Win: Inception – Since the film is considered the technical triumph of the year, its sound team will benefit from the association.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND MIXING

The Nominees: Inception, The King’s Speech, Salt, The Social Network, True Grit

Who Will WinInception - Although True Grit won at CAS and The King’s Speech could win here as part of a sweep).

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS

The Nominees: Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Hereafter, Inception, Iron Man 2

Who Will Win: Inception – The heavy favorite after winning four awards from the Visual Effects Society.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

The Nominees: Killing in the Name, Poster Girl, Strangers No More, Sun Come Up, The Warriors of Quigang

Who Will Win: Strangers No More From what I hear out of the screenings where voting takes place this was the most enthusiastically received although the filmmakers behind The Warriors of Quigang won in 2006 and lightning could strike twice for this follow-up.

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

The Nominees: The Confession, The Crush, God of Love, Na Wewe, Wish 143

Who Will Win: God Of Love – It will win because it’s the best of an only okay bunch.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM

The Nominees: Day & Night; The Gruffalo; Let’s Pollute; The Lost Thing; Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)

Who Will Win: The Gruffalo – This charmer could be eclipsed by Pixar’s Day & Night, which voters at the special screenings saw in 3D. Let’s Pollute is also drawing votes.

Awards Columnist Pete Hammond - tip him here.

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