(This is a preview of the PopRox column in Sunday’s Pocono Record. One quick programming note: It looks like there won’t be a Weekend Fun Guide for the second straight week. Sorry. Friday is the only time I have that I can post my top 20 movies for 2012 before Sunday’s Oscars. I’ll try to get back to it for March 1. Also, I’ll try to live Tweet the Oscars, so make sure you’re following along Sunday @poprox1. Why? I’m funny, that’s why.)
You can look at the recent Academy Awards one of three ways:
1. Academy Awards voters are much happier spreading around the wealth when it comes to handing out statues lately.
2. There is a much greater depth of good movies, scripts and performances to choose from.
3. There hasn’t been one dominating movie when it comes to the eight big Academy Awards since Silence of the Lambs won five of the eight in 1991.
One way or another, gone are the days when one movie just comes in and kicks butt in the top eight Oscar categories.
More movies get included in the process — inadvertently or not — giving more people a chance to put “Oscar winner” in front of their name to help promote a direct-to-DVD movie (looking at you, Adrian Brody and Forest Whitaker).
It also makes picking Oscar winners harder than it used to be:
The favorite for this category has ebbed and flowed more than a rowboat lost at sea in a hurricane. First it was Argo, but we said it was too early to decide back in October. Then it was Lincoln because we just figured it would be. Then it was Zero Dark Thirty when it dominated the early December awards scene. Soon it was Les Miserables, because, well, we hadn’t had a good musical in a while. We went back to Lincoln when the nominations came out, because we always anoint the movie with the most nominations as the best picture winner. Now? We’ve kinda settled on Argo. Which kind of makes the last four months feel like a waste.
Should win: Silver Linings Playbook
Will win: Argo
It was tough enough deciding between Bradley Cooper and Daniel Day-Lewis before I saw Flight, now I have no choice but to include Denzel Washington in the discussion. Thanks a bunch, Denzel.
Should win: Day-Lewis, Lincoln, but it feels like a coin flip.
Will win: Day-Lewis
The tradition at the Academy Awards is for the best actor winner from last year to present the best actress award for this year. That means Jean Dujardin, who won best actor for The Artist last year and speaks very limited English, should be presenting this year’s best actress award. That also means that there’s an outside chance, on live TV, that he’ll have to pronounce Quvenzhané Wallis. Guess who I’m pulling for?
Should win: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook but very close over Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty.
Will win: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Whoa! Do you realize that of the 10 nominees for the two supporting actor categories, EIGHT of them already have won at least one Oscar? Has that ever happened before? It reeks a little bit of the Old Boy Network, but I’m not sure who you cut in the supporting actor category to infuse new blood.
Should win: Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Will win: Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln, at which point I will likely throw my shoe at the TV because that’s the one nominee that doesn’t compare with the other four. Maybe Bobby DeNiro can sneak in there.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
To whom it may concern in charge of the Oscars broadcast:
While I’m a huge fan of the Academy Awards telecast, it seems like there is one major category every year that bores me to tears. This year, it’s best supporting actress. As a coincidence, I’ll be watching Walking Dead from 9 to 10 p.m. Can you see your way clear to give out this award during that hour? Please and thank you.
Should win: Amy Adams, The Master, I guess.
Will win: Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
What a bummer. The Academy had a chance to make this the most heavyweight directing category maybe ever, and blew it by excluding some combination of Ben Affleck, Quentin Tarantino and Kathryn Bigelow. Now we’re headed for a stroll down Awkward Lane when Argo becomes the first best picture winner in forever whose director, Affleck, wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar.
Should win: Affleck, which would be an incredible upset seeing as he wasn’t even nominated.
Will win: Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
The screenplay categories are often used to give some recognition to the indie movies that couldn’t crack the best picture category. But of the 10 writing nominees, eight of them are repeats from best picture. And don’t think for a second that either Flight or Moonrise Kingdom stands a chance at winning for their original scripts.
Should win: Zero Dark Thirty
Will win: Zero Dark Thirty
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
If Beasts of the Southern Wild is the sentimental favorite to win some kind of hardware, then this is probably the only realistic shot it has at get something. Not happening.
Should win: Silver Linings Playbook
Will win: Argo