Steve’s Oscar Predictions, Part 6: Best Picture

The Oscars are less than two days away, so let’s get to the big one: Best Picture. If you have read my predictions in the other categories, you should have a fairly clear sense of where I stand and the relative merits of the nominated movies, so let’s get to it.

Best Picture Nominations (odds of winning):
Argo (2 to 1)
Lincoln (3 to 1)
Silver Linings Playbook (7 to 2)
Zero Dark Thirty (9 to 1)
Life of Pi (10 to 1)
Les Miserables (15 to 1)
Amour (20 to 1)
Beasts of the Southern Wild (29 to 1)
Django Unchained (30 to 1)

The nominees in the order I would rank them, from first to last. (I left out Amour because I have not yet had the pleasure of seeing it.)

beastsdjango2slpargozeropilincolnles mis

Will Win: Argo
Should Win of Those Nominated: Beasts of the Southern Wild
Should Have Been There: Moonrise Kingdom

This is shaping up to be one of the most interesting best picture races in years. When the nominations were announced it seemed that Lincoln was the clear favorite, but that’s no longer the case. Argo has the momentum now after winning best drama at the Golden Globes and overall cast performance from the Screen Actors Guild. However, following that up with an Oscar requires going against historical precedence since Ben Affleck is not nominated for best director. Only three movies have won best picture when the director wasn’t nominated, but this seems to be a year when something unlikely is likely to happen and Argo is the movie that is most likely to do the unlikely. Early on, it seemed that Zero Dark Thirty may have had a shot, but not anymore. Of the movies nominated, Django Unchained has the most panache, but it is too violent and controversial to garner the Academy’s top honor. Les Miserables is the weakest of the movies here, but the fact that it was nominated and also won a Golden Globe means that it has its supporters, although surely not enough to win this (I hope.)

Since the connection between Best Director and Best Picture is historically so strong, let’s look at the various possible scenarios based on who wins the Oscar for directing, beginning with the least likely. If either Haneke or Zeitlin pulls off a miracle win, then you could say that all bets are off for Best Picture. The odds of their movies (Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild) winning would suddenly jump up into a tie with Argo. I say a tie because in these scenarios I still think Argo would have strong shot at winning. If Lee wins, then Life of Pi would pull slightly ahead of Argo as the favorite, but Lee could tell you it would be no sure thing (think Brokeback Mountain at the 2006 Oscars…yes, Ang’s been there before.) If Russell wins, then I would say that Silver Linings Playbook is almost a lock for Best Picture. If Spielberg wins, again I would say it would be about 50/50 between Lincoln and Argo. It’s going to be fun!

As I indicated in the directing category, my vote would go to Beasts of the Southern Wild. Every other movie on the list is a variation on things we have seen before, but Beasts is a unique artistic vision brought to fruition in a most astounding way. Admittedly, when I first saw it, I was impressed, but not deeply moved. However, viewing it a second time I literally sobbed at the end. It is beautiful, despite showing much that is ugly. It is mythic, yet grounded in reality. It is thought-provoking and tear-inducing. In the future, people will know that there was a Hushpuppy!

In Conclusion, A Dream Scenario: Imagine if you will that the Academy did not screw up so royally at the 2011 Oscars. Imagine that Tom Hooper and The King’s Speech did not win those Oscars. In my dream David Fincher won the directing Oscar he so deserved and The Social Network won Best Picture. After his rightful win, Fincher becomes the director of Les Miserables, rather than Hooper, and he gives us the great movie that it should have been. On Sunday night you would hear the people sing (me included) in celebration of Les Mis’ victory at the Oscars. Yes, I had a dream that Les Mis would be so different from the hell that Tom gave us, but now life has killed the dream I dreamed. Hey, Anne, could you sing that for me? But, please wear your Catwoman costume as you do.

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