A few years ago, I unofficially retired from making Academy Award predictions for The Daily World.
That was partly because I lacked the time to see a majority of the nominees and partly because the wealth of pre-Oscar awards established a consensus that made predictions less than challenging. Correctly forecasting five out of the six major categories sounds good until you realize that other Oscar prognosticators had batted 6-for-6.
In part, however, I blame Ed Harris.
An actor so versatile he could convincingly portray such diverse characters as John Glenn, Jackson Pollock, John McCain and Ludwig van Beethoven, Harris has received four Academy Award nominations. He has yet to win, however, and I’ve gone down in flames with him on at least three of those occasions — simply because I believed he was due for one of those “career” Oscars, in which the body of the actor’s work is honored as much as the specific performance.
By happy accident, I was able to see most of major Oscar contenders last year. I’m still not comfortable, however, with getting back into the prediction business.
Instead, I’ll provide my mythical Oscar ballot — a film and individuals I’d support if I had a vote. Despite a memorable encounter with actress Diana Muldaur when she was filming the 1974 John Wayne cop flick “McQ” on Grays Harbor (I accidentally got in her way while she was exiting a location, prompting her to say, “Pardon me”), I’ve yet to receive overtures regarding Academy membership.
I’ll also offer some opinions on the likely winners. But this isn’t one of those “Who Should Win-Who Will Win” columns. Since I haven’t seen all the nominees, I don’t consider myself qualified to pull that off.
And if the non-nominated Ed Harris suddenly surfaces as a write-in candidate for his sole 2012 theatrical movie, something called “Man on a Ledge,” all bets are canceled.
If I had a ballot, my vote would go to … “Argo.”
Star-director Ben Affleck’s truth-is-stranger-than-fiction suspense saga of how the CIA improbably adopted the cover of a film-making troupe to rescue hostages from Iran was easily the best movie I saw last year.
Well-acted, well-paced and surprisingly funny, it even managed to wring dramatic tension from a situation in which the majority of the audience knew the ending.
Despite the conventional wisdom that a Best Picture candidate is doomed without an accompanying Best Director nomination, “Argo” has claimed most of the pre-Oscar awards and is the front-runner for the big prize. “Lincoln” and “Silver Linings Playbook” are its chief rivals.
My vote would go to … none of the nominees.
Affleck would have been my clear choice. Despite receiving the Director’s Guild Award (normally an accurate barometer of Oscar success), he unaccountably wasn’t nominated. Nor was Tom Hooper, who made the fascinating but flawed stage musical “Les Miserables” visually striking.
Steven Spielberg for “Lincoln” and David O. Russell for “Silver Linings Playbook” are probably the favorites. But “Lincoln” didn’t represent Spielberg’s best work and the romantic comedy “Silver Linings Playbook,” a decent enough movie if you’re not expecting a lot of laughs — or romance, for that matter — is overrated, in my estimation. Ang Lee could be a darkhorse contender for “Life of Pi.”
My vote would go to … Daniel Day-Lewis for “Lincoln.”
Although I generally dislike the practice of hiring foreign actors to portray American historical figures (such as Anthony Hopkins playing Richard Nixon), Day-Lewis nailed his Abraham Lincoln characterization so thoroughly that this award is a foregone conclusion.
Denzel Washington’s performance as a self-destructive airline pilot in “Flight” ranks among the best of his brilliant career. He simply picked the wrong year to deliver it.
My vote would go to … Jessica Chastain for “Zero Dark Thirty.”
Chastain’s portrayal of a fiercely focused CIA operative obsessed with snaring Osama bin Laden in “Zero Dark Thirty” was so stunning — and so unlike her previous Oscar-nominated role as a ditzy housewife shunned by Southern society in “The Help” — that it’s a shock to realize that she probably won’t win.
Jennifer Lawrence has taken most of the early awards as the tough-talking widow who makes a connection with emotionally damaged Bradley Cooper in “Silver Linings Playbook.” An Oscar for her would be a miscarriage of justice, but there have been worse in Academy history.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
My vote would go to … Anne Hathaway for “Les Miserables.”
Hathaway could have began composing her Oscar acceptance speech as soon as she completed her role as a doomed seamstress-turned-prostitute in “Les Miserables.”
Although I haven’t seen all the nominated performances in this category, she would receive my vote as well for the emotional range she brings to her relatively small role.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
My vote would go to … Alan Arkin for “Argo.”
This is my Ed Harris moment of the year. Although he steals every scene he’s in as a salty Hollywood producer who helps front the rescue operation in “Argo,” Arkin has been shut out of the early season supporting actor awards. Oscar Sunday would seem to be an unlikely time to end that drought.
In a race entirely populated by past Oscar winners, this shapes up as a tight three-way battle between Tommy Lee Jones for “Lincoln,” Christoph Waltz for “Django Unchained” and Robert De Niro for “Silver Linings Playbook.” The first two would be legitimate choices, but De Niro is apparently being rewarded for taking on a slightly more challenging part than the ones he coasted through in such comedies as “Analyze This” and “Meet the Fockers.”
It’s hard to justify him winning for this undemanding performance, particularly since he lost for “Taxi Driver” and “Awakenings.”
Rick Anderson, The Daily World’s sports editor and resident movie fanatic, can be reached at 537-3924, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.