2012 Oscar Predictions: Why I picked what I picked

When you cover awards season every year for months on end it would be disingenuous to be extremely excited on Oscar Sunday.  Sure, every few years there is a major horse race and potential upsets at stake, but 2012 is going to be about as predictable as you can get. At this point in the season the winners of all the major categories are pretty much known and this year we weren’t even provided a silly scandal (“Hurt Locker” producer’s E-mails, Melissa Leo’s own trade ads, etc.) to tempt us to change our picks. Instead, we’ve had more publicity about whether Sacha Baron Cohen is going to dress up as “The Dictator” on the red carpet than whether the show will be any good (yeah, we know Billy Crystal’s back but…).

Still, it’s been a busy week and while I made my final predictions on Friday along with In Contention’s Kris Tapley and Guy Lodge, I didn’t have time to post my justifications for said picks. So, before you fill out your own ballot or participate in HitFIx’s free prediction pool take a few minutes and read up on some (hopefully) spot on analysis. I’ll certainly be eating crow for what I get wrong.

Also, check out these Oscar reports the HitFix team worked on for Hulu.  Good stuff.

Best Picture
Prediction: “The Artist”
Why: It been sweeping all the key indicator awards it’s been eligible to win and the one it didn’t – best ensemble at SAG – was made up by Jean Dujardin shocking as best actor the same night. Any other picture winning would be a colossal upset at this point.  It’s just not gonna happen.

Best Director
Prediction: Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
Why: He won the DGA. He won the BAFTA.  After I predicted Oscar he won the Spirit Award. Sorry Marty, but this is gonna happen.

Best Actor

Prediction: Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
Why: He won SAG. He won the BAFTA (again, he won the BAFTA – British people picked a Frenchman after their own countrymen). After I predicted Oscar he shockingly even won the Spirit Award.  This is a lock people.

Best Actress
Prediction: Viola Davis, “The Help”
Why: Did you see that standing ovation at the SAG Awards when Davis went to get her statue? ‘Nuff said.

Best Supporting Actor
Prediction: Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”
Why: He’s won every conceivable honor in this category for the past two months.  For him to lose now isn’t just unthinkable, but would be incredibly cruel. Lock.

Best Supporting Actress
Prediction: Octavia Spencer, “The Help”
Why: See Plummer.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Prediction: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, “The Descendants”
Why: The WGA win solidified it, but I just can’t believe the Academy doesn’t want to reward “Descendants” in some way.  This seems the best solution.

Best Original Screenplay
Prediction: Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris”
Why: Woody’s biggest commercial and critical in years (although I am partial to “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” myself). He won the WGA. “Paris” has three major nods including picture and director.  It’s easy and deserved for Allen to win here.

Best Art Direction
Prediction: “The Artist”
Why: The checkbox theory.  The Academy has shown so much love for “The Artist” that a majority of the members will just check off categories they think it should win. This happens often with pictures that end up sweeping a show. The last time it happened dramatically was “Slumdog Millionaire.”  “Hugo” has a shot, but the checkbox theory makes “The Artist” the pick here.

Best Cinematography
Predictions: Emmanuel Lubezki, “The Tree of Life”
Why: This is one category where I am deferring from the checkbox theory and I may pay the price.  I mean, “The Artist” won cinematography at the Spirits. However,this is Lubezki’s fifth nomination and you could argue he should have won the four previous times. Gut here, but I’d say the Academy makes up for its prior mistakes.

Best Costume Design
Prediction: “The Artist”
Why: Originally I was going with the frilly and very period “Anonymous.”  Yes, it was a bomb and if Academy members saw it it was on screener, but it’s the sort of nominee the Academy falls for most of the time. I may come to regret not going with my original hunch, but I think the Academy goes “checkbox” with “The Artist” instead.  Not that the film’s costumes aren’t fine, but there is little among those period frocks that screams out as Oscar worthy.  Still, another win for the silent wonder.

Best Film Editing
Predictions: Anne-Sophie Bion, Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
Why: Best picture usually wins editing (last year “The Social Network” won instead of “The King’s Speech”). Considering the silent nature of “The Artist” and so much of it is determined by the cutting and the actor in order to tell the story it is a justifiable vote for any Academy member.  Even if they want to give it to Thelma Schoonmaker for “Hugo” too.

Best Makeup
Predictions: “The Iron Lady”
Why: Meryl Streep aged almost 40 years in this biopic and for the most part it was because of superb makeup. Academy loves transformations and this one is better than fellow nominee “Albert Nobbs.”  “Harry Potter” could surprise here though, but I stubbornly stuck with the “Iron Lady.”

Best Music (Original Score)
Predictions: Ludovic Bource, “The Artist”
Why: How important is the score to a silent film? It makes or breaks it.  Bource is just as much responsible for the success of “The Artist” creatively as Michel Hazanavicius. It would be shocking for Bource not to win.

Best Music (Original Song)
Predictions: “Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets”
Why: Uum, it’s the Muppets and it was the song everyone remembered from the movie the most.  Plus, do you even remember the tune of the “Rio” song?  I rest my case.

Best Sound Editing

Predictions: “War Horse”
Why: The sound categories can be unpredictable, but war movies and epics tend to do very well here. It’s also just happens to be great work.

Best Sound Mixing

Predictions: “War Horse”
Why: Most of the time the same film wins both categories. It might split with “Hugo,” but we’re covering our bets with “War Horse” here again.

Best Visual Effects
Predictions: “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”
Why: Well received motion capture CG performances do very well in this category. “Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “King Kong,” “Avatar” and all three “Lord of the Rings” won here. Should be enough to give “Rise” the win.

Best Foreign Language Film
Predictions: “A Separation” – Iran
Why: It’s not that the Academy adores the Iranian drama. That wasn’t the word from the large screenings of members who are participating in voting for this category.  However, the rest of the field have too many other issues to overcome the critically acclaimed standout. And because of the current relationship between the West and Iran, a win would mean something. 

Best Animated Feature
Prediction: “Rango”
Why: You’re kidding right? Ain’t no way “Kung Fu Panda 2,” “Chico and Rita” and “Puss in Boots” is beating “Rango.”

Best Documentary Feature
Predictions: “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory”
Why: This is a tough one.  Some members may be moved by “Undefeated” (although we’re assuming they never watched similar reports on ESPN over the past 20 years) or by the riveting work of “Hell and Back Again,” but my gut is they reward “Paradise Lost” for its achievement in helping free three men who were likely falsely convicted of murder. This is one of the hardest picks of the year, however. 

Best Documentary Short

Prediction: “Saving Face”
Why: It’s the most startling and moving doc of the five.

Best Short Film (Animated)
Prediction: “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore”
Why: It’s the most impressive artistic achievement of all the nominees that also has an emotional component to it. It’s also just pretty damn great.

Best Short Film (Live Action)
Prediction: “The Shore”
Why: Many other pundits are picking “Tuba Atlantic,” but I think “The Shore” will appeal more to the older set picking the winners. It’s the most cinematic and features recognizable actors (Ciaran Hinds).

Enjoy the Oscars everyone.  Both Dan Fienberg (@HitFixDaniel) and Kris Tapley (@KrisTapley) will be providing live blogs of the show and I’ll be tweeting from what should be the winners party @HitFixGregory. I’ll also be back post-show with some thoughts on what actually went down and some soul searching on my own predictions.

Moreover, look for complete top to bottom coverage of this year’s awards all day and night long on HitFix.