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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

When it comes to predicting Oscar winners, Vegas oddsmakers likely will nail it this year

Posted: 02/23/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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Three years ago, the Academy Awards boosted the number of best picture candidates from five to 10.

Practically speaking, it was a dubious move, designed to give the overall industry a boost. Sure, it's all nice that the Oscars have acknowledged small films such as Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild among the nine nominated films for 2012.

But ask the Vegas oddsmakers about who has an actual shot at the trophy. They'll tell you the best picture category is, at best, a three-way race between Argo, Lincoln and The Silver Linings Playbook.

So it goes with the Oscars, the kingpin of awards shows. Even while most categories have five nominees, it usually comes down to two or three important nominations: The one that will likely win, the one that should win, and, here and there, the possibility of an upset.

When the Oscars are presented this Sunday at 7:30 p.m. (on CTV and ABC), here's a forecast of how the hail of Oscars will fall.

Best Supporting Actress

The nominees are: Anne Hathaway -- Les Misérables; Sally Field -- Lincoln; Helen Hunt -- The Sessions; Amy Adams -- The Master; Jacki Weaver -- Silver Linings Playbook.

Will win: According to Vegas, they might as well courier Hathaway the Oscar right now and save her the trouble of lugging the statuette home.

Should win: Hathaway, for turning in a great melodramatic performance pretty much entirely sung.

The Upset Vote: Sally Field has the next best shot odds-wise, but the Academy would really, really, really have to like her.

Best Supporting Actor

The nominees are: Tommy Lee Jones -- Lincoln; Christoph Waltz -- Django Unchained; Robert DeNiro -- Silver Linings Playbook; Phillip Seymour Hoffman -- The Master; Alan Arkin -- Argo.

Will win: Curiously, Jones is the favourite for really stretching and playing a grumpy old politician in Lincoln.

Should win: Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master. Playing a character based on L. Ron Hubbard, Hoffman not only turned in a great multi-layered performance, he provided a counter-balance to Joaquin Phoenix's force-of-nature turn as a troubled would-be acolyte.

The Upset Vote: This could be considered a pretty open race, Vegas odds notwithstanding. Alan Arkin, for example, is considered a longshot for his work as a Hollywood producer in Argo, but I'd bet he has a lot of support, as does Christoph Waltz for his charismatic dentist/bounty hunter in Django Unchained and Robert De Niro for being Robert De Niro.

Best Actress

The nominees are: Jennifer Lawrence -- Silver Linings Playbook; Emannuelle Riva -- Amour; Jessica Chastain -- Zero Dark Thirty; Naomi Watts -- The Impossible; Quvenzhane Wallis -- Beasts Of The Southern Wild.

Will win: Jennifer Lawrence is beautiful, talented and young (but not too young, sorry, Quvenzhane Wallis) and she probably deserved more credit for her great performance in the 2010 film Winter's Bone.

Should win: Silver Linings Playbook is an OK drama but it is undeserving of any Oscars. Jessica Chastain should be a stronger contender for her work as a driven CIA agent in Zero Dark Thirty, but alas, that movie has suffered a misguided liberal backlash that will likely deprive it of any awards.

The Upset Vote: Octogenarian French actress Emannuelle Riva is the one who may give Lawrence a run for her money in this category.

Best Actor

The nominees are: Daniel Day-Lewis -- Lincoln; Hugh Jackman -- Les Misérables; Joaquin Phoenix -- The Master; Denzel Washington -- Flight; Bradley Cooper -- Silver Linings Playbook.

Will win: Just call Daniel Day-Lewis "Mr. President." The Irish actor's performance as the American icon was a blend of exacting technique and unerring instinct.

Should win: You can't fault the logic of giving the award to Day-Lewis. But if you were feeling illogical, you'd have to pay attention to Joaquin Phoenix's great eccentric performance in The Master.

The Upset Vote: Anyone but Day-Lewis.

Best Animated Feature Film

The nominees are: Wreck-It Ralph; Brave; Frankenweenie; ParaNorman; The Pirates! Band of Misfits.

Will win: Wreck-It Ralph, a non-Pixar animated film is likely to win in a gesture designed to pay respect to Disney's animation heritage.

Should win: The stop-motion animated horror-comedy ParaNorman probably expanded the animation medium more than any other film this year, and was hugely entertaining to boot.

The Upset Vote: In a wild departure from the way things usually go, a Pixar victory would actually constitute an upset if their meticulously rendered adventure Brave took the prize.

Best Director

The nominees are: Steven Spielberg -- Lincoln; Ang Lee -- Life of Pi; David O. Russell -- Silver Linings Playbook; Michael Haneke -- Amour; Benh Zeitlin -- Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Will win: Spielberg will take the prize, even if Lincoln may be his most un-Spielbergian film.

Should win: Paul Thomas Anderson for The Master. Oops. He wasn't nominated.

The Upset Vote: If David O. Russell wins, I know I'll be upset.

Best Picture

The nominees are: Argo; Lincoln; The Silver Linings Playbook; Les Misérables; Life of Pi; Django Unchained; Zero Dark Thirty; Amour; Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Will win: Going by the Directors Guild Awards earlier this month, Argo is positioned to take the top prize this year.

Should win: Of the nominees, I would give it up to Zero Dark Thirty not only because it's a good compelling film but because it has a torn-from-the-headlines immediacy not typically ascribed to Hollywood films. Unfortunately, the film became a political hot potato when some narrow-minded circles took the film's depiction of torture as an endorsement of torture.

The Upset Vote: It wouldn't be that much of an upset if Lincoln took the award. If Silver Linings Playbook wins, it will be the most undeserving best picture winner since A Beautiful Mind.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 23, 2013 G1

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