This year is frustrating, because it forces me to go to war with my two favorite rules of Oscar predicting: Never bet on the split--they're always surprising, never expected; Never bet against the Director's Guild.
Of course, since the Director's Guild went with Affleck, we're now in a position where most of us are betting on the split. A few things: Unsettled years sometimes have results that look pretty settled. See 2006, 1995, 1985. All of those were years where no one was sure what would happen, and yet the Director winner ended up pulling the film with him in each case. Splits generally happen in years where support for the frontrunner goes soft: See 2005, and 1998 for years where the frontrunner fell short in Picture; 2002 for a year where the frontrunner fell short in Director but held onto picture. Of course, there's also the multi-film train wreck type of split that happened in 2000 (and 1981). The interesting thing about the 2000 split is that yes, we got a Picture/Director split, but it wasn't the split that most people thought. Far more people thought it would be Lee/Gladiator, but I also saw some predictions for Lee/Traffic, Soderbergh/Crouching Tiger, Lee/Crouching Tiger, Soderbergh/Traffic. About the only thing I never saw was a prediction that involved Ridley Scott winning.
Director gives me the most pause this year. Spielberg feels like the typical winner in some ways: Longtime, respected veteran, box-office hit, big critical hit, nominations leader. But he's also won nothing for Lincoln the entire awards season. No one is giving it much of a chance for Best Picture, which is a key--a Best Director winner needs to be from a movie that is at least seen as a potential Best Picture winner. (See Martin Scorsese not winning in 2002.) But does that really matter? It seems like no one is giving anything but Argo a chance in Best Picture. THAT is what makes Director such a crap shot. Normally if you're going for a split, you can at least look for a runner-up. But this year we have Argo out front, followed by a free-for-all.
I'm reluctantly going with Spielberg. I don't feel confident about it at all, but I can't see any of the competitors making it over the hump. Zeitlin is a first-time filmmaker who made a film that some people dislike pretty strongly; Haneke has the subtitled thing, plus the fact that this isn't exactly a warm, easy-to-embrace foreign film. Lee and Russell are possibilities, I guess. It may be my own dislike of the film coming in, but I never got the feeling that Life of Pi was widely loved as much as it is respected as a technical achievement. Russell...well, the thing to look at would be earlier in the evening to see if Silver Linings pulls off anything like Supporting Actor or Adapted Screenplay. If not, you'd have to put him as a very deep long shot.
Supporting Actor is another tough one: Tommy Lee Jones has the SAG, Waltz has the Globe (and BAFTA, but I don't put much stock into them), Hoffman has the Broadcasters Award (plus several other critics awards), Arkin and DeNiro have nothing. And yet...many of us--myself included--are gravitating towards DeNiro. Why? I don't know. This is one category where I really have no clue what to expect. I guess the thing that put me over the top was some of those "Voter Interviews". Several of those voted for DeNiro, noting that it had been 20+ years since his last nomination, and they hadn't gotten a chance to vote for him before, and he was "a legend". Never mind that much of his past twenty years have been dedicated to actively tarnishing that legacy--some voters seem to think his time has come again. Plus, he's been playing the campaign trail more than anyone else. I'm more reluctant about him than Spielberg. Anyone want to talk me out of this?
For the films of 2012
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