Best Picture and Director Oscar Winner Predictions: FINAL

Well, my friends, we have arrived at my FINAL Oscar Winner Predictions for the two FINAL categories I’ve yet to predict and they’re the big ones: Best Picture and Best Director. I made an editorial decision to combine these together because explaining my pick on each race go hand-in-hand.

Additionally, these two categories have historically matched up. Explanation: of the 85 titles that have won Best Picture in Academy history, 62 of those film’s directors won Best Director. From a more recent historical perspective, the last 25 Best Picture winners have seen their directors honored 21 times. That’s 84% of the time over the last quarter century, math fans!

Based on those numbers, it would stand to reason that whomever wins Best Director will see their movie win Best Picture, right?

… Not so fast. 2012 has been anything but typical, especially in the Best Director category. When the nominations were announced a few weeks ago, the five nominees sent shock waves through Hollywood and with Oscar prognosticators, such as yours truly.

Why? While Steven Spielberg (Lincoln), Ang Lee (Life of Pi), and David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) were not surprising, the inclusion of Benh Zietlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild was. To a lesser degree, so was Michael Haneke for Amour.

But, it wasn’t necessarily who was nominated, but who wasn’t that confounded everyone. Especially in the case of Ben Affleck, who was seen as a surefire nominee for Argo. And while not totally surefire, it was widely expected that Kathryn Bigelow would be nominated for her work in Zero Dark Thirty. 

Since the nominations came out, Affleck has pretty much won everything else, including the Director’s Guild of America Award and the Golden Globe. Argo itself has been cleaning up, winning Best Ensemble at the SAG Awards and winning Best Picture at the Golden Globes and Critic’s Choice Awards.

Let me put it to you this way: if Affleck had been nominated for Best Director, I would pick him to win. Yet he’s not. This leaves Spielberg, Lee, Russell, Zietlin, and Haneke. Let’s cross off Zietlin and Haneke right now. They don’t really stand a chance.

So we’re left with Spielberg, Lee, and Russell. And this is a truly difficult pick among the three. Spielberg is obviously one of the biggest directors of all time (probably the biggest) and he’s won Best Director twice, in 1993 for Schindler’s List and in 1998 for Saving Private Ryan. Lee is also a past winner for 2005’s Brokeback Mountain. Russell has yet to win, but he’s a critically acclaimed auteur with credits such as Three Kings and The Fighter. It could come down to current momentum of the pictures they directed. Lincoln has seemed to be losing it; Silver Linings Playbook has seemed to be gaining it. This would make it more likely that Mr. Russell wins than Mr. Spielberg. I’m not sure if I buy this argument, however. Silver Linings Playbook is one of the films with major momentum at the right time, but it may be seen as more of an actors showcase than a directorial achievement. And Lincoln could certainly have enough good will to propel Spielberg to the win. At the end of the day, however, it doesn’t matter when it comes to my final prediction. Life of Pi is a dark horse candidate to win Best Picture, but I believe the Director category will recognize its significance for what Ang Lee was able to accomplish. With Affleck out of the race, it is a three person competition and any one of them could win. A pick must be made and, for the reasons given, I will go with:

Best Director Prediction: Ang Lee, Life of Pi

Which brings us to Best Picture and its nine nominees.

First things first: Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Django Unchained are not going to win. Period.

We have two titles that at one time seemed strong contenders: Les Miserables and Zero Dark Thirty. Since that time, neither has won any significant precursors and their buzz has faded greatly. Neither Les Mis or Zero Dark will win Best Picture.

This creates a legitimate race between four titles: Argo, Life of Pi, Lincoln, and Silver Linings Playbook. Let’s look at each:

Argo, upon its release in October, immediately vaulted to the top of the list for Best Picture contenders. It was critically acclaimed and was a huge box office success. It ended up losing some momentum when Lincoln, Les Mis, Zero Dark Thirty, Life of Pi, and Silver Linings came out after it. Then a strange thing happened. Some of the movies ended up losing their momentum. The film won the Golden Globe for Best Drama and the Critic’s Choice Award for Best Picture, as well as the SAG Award for Best Ensemble. Affleck started winning all the Best Director awards at other ceremonies, even though Oscar snubbed him.

Life of Pi was also a critical and commercial from very well-respected director Ang Lee. Fans of the novel were nervous that it would be a tough one to adapt for the screen, but it ended up being a success. This is indeed a movie where those who love it really love it.

Lincoln was a front runner for the award since the moment it was announced to start filming. Spielberg + Day-Lewis + Lincoln? I mean, come on! It also earned great reviews and terrific box office. However, other than Day-Lewis winning Actor constantly, the film itself has under performed big time at precursor awards shows. Still, that doesn’t mean the Academy wouldn’t honor it.

Silver Linings Playbook is the hot movie of the moment. Keep in mind that voting for the Oscars ended just on Tuesday. So whatever is carrying the momentum now could be the victor. The film is the first picture in 31 years to see four performers nominated in all four acting categories. Like Life of Pi, those who love it love it. Like the other three likely winners, it also received fantastic reviews and audiences loved it.

So where does that leave us? Well, it leaves me with having to make a prediction and this is one of the most competitive and unpredictable Best Picture races in history. It really is. Of the four titles that I believe have a shot, I put Life of Pi fourth, even though I’m predicting Ang Lee will win Best Director.

The absence of Lincoln winning any well-known precursors has to say something, right? While a Day-Lewis victory is near certain and I’m predicting Tommy Lee Jones will win Supporting Actor (something I’m much less certain of), I am not predicting Lincoln wins Best Picture.

This leaves Argo and Silver Linings Playbook, the two movies with the right buzz at the right time. If Argo were to win, it would only the fourth time in 85 years that a movie won and its director wasn’t even nominated. It would be only the second time that’s happened in (get this) 81 years. That historical fact alone should be enough to warrant against picking Argo for the win.

However, 2012 has been a strange year for nominations and I will predict the strangeness continues. While Silver Linings Playbook has a solid shot, my FINAL prediction is:

Best Picture Prediction: Argo

And there you have it! My FINAL predictions in all feature film related categories are officially complete. I will certainly have a post late Sunday or Monday with my reaction to what went down. Enjoy the Oscars on Sunday, my friends! I know I will.

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