During awards season, most film critics include a list of Oscar-nominated movies that they think are going to win. However, the list I have compiled here consists of films, which I think should win in their respective categories. In other words, if you happen to read this before Oscar night, don’t be surprised if I get most of them wrong. Then again, winning isn’t everything.
Best Picture: Argo. This is Ben Affleck’s foot in the door as far as being considered a serious filmmaker is concerned. There’s also the fact that he isn’t nominated in the best director category, something which might count in his favor this year. Argo is about Hollywood, which never hurts, and how that globally recognized name saved the lives of six Americans during the Tehran hostage crisis.
Best Actor: Joaquin Phoenix in The Master. Freddie Quell, a character created ex nihilo, Phoenix embodies someone so disturbing yet vulnerable that the audience cannot be sure if they hate or sympathize with him—even at the film’s end. The Master is also Phoenix’s return to film after taking time off, and the effort put into constructing such an original and powerful character should be recognized by the Academy.
Best Actress: Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty. She should’ve been nominated (and won) for The Tree of Life at last year’s Oscars. But if Zero Dark Thirty is the film she wins an Oscar for, then at least she’s finally been recognized as not only a rising star in Hollywood, but an actress who can make a myriad of films in only a few years.
Best Supporting Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master. No surprise, I know, but Hoffman as Lancaster Dodd in The Master is equally important to the success of the film. In contrast to Phoenix’s seething and reactionary disciple, Hoffman is the cunning and manipulative master—using the terror of the post-WWII world to amass fortune and followers. If Dodd can be labeled a villain, then he is the best one of 2012.
Best Supporting Actress: Sally Field in Lincoln. Mary Todd Lincoln has been given a bad reputation in many history books, but in Lincoln, Field gives her historical figure depth. The audience understands the reasons behind her descent into irreparable despair and the loneliness of being the first lady. Everyone going to see Lincoln knows of the president’s courage, but few could guess at the bravery required of his wife during those dark days of the Union.
Best Directing: Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. There were a million different ways a movie about Abraham Lincoln could’ve gone wrong. Somehow, though, Spielberg’s Lincoln escaped essentially untouched, giving audiences a truly great film about a truly great American.
Best Original Screenplay: Moonrise Kingdom. Wes Anderson has yet to make a bad film, and Moonrise deserves more nominations. However, this category does fit with the uniqueness of Anderson’s films. True, the concept of young lovers running away from home isn’t new, but this film approaches the narrative like its young stars approach their romantic adventure—full of potential and wonderful new things.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Lincoln. If Spielberg should win for directing, then Tony Kushner should win for his screenplay for Lincoln. Lincoln, a man written about nearly as much as Jesus Christ, cannot be an easy subject to shed new light upon. But this is exactly what Kushner’s screenplay does: the president is strong and weak, inspiring and flawed, playing to Washington’s bureaucratic system while maintaining his own ideals and a general belief in humankind.
Best Animated Film: The Pirates! Band of Misfits. Come on, people have got to be getting tired of Pixar winning this award every year. Brave may be slightly different than other Pixar films, but can also be called another Disney attempt at updating the “princess” concept. Pirates not only gives us a new story, but the animation is incredible—much more detailed and painstaking than your basic CGI animation.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. So maybe it wasn’t as good as The Lord of the Rings films. Still, though, Peter Jackson’s first Hobbit film deserves this Oscar. The characters, new and old, look fantastic: especially the dwarves, each receiving his own distinguishable look. It’s good to know that more than a decade after the first trilogy, Tolkien’s characters can still come alive on the big screen.