Love trumps admiration at the Academy, which argues for Argo over Lincoln. My preference: Beasts of the Southern Wild, which just edges out Life of Pi as the year's most visionary film.
Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Misérables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty
Argo seems like a winner, and it's a glorious blast. But my vote would go to Lincoln; even with multiple endings, it slayed me.
Argo's Ben Affleck isn't a finalist, which leaves Lee and Spielberg as front runners. I predict Spielberg, but my choice is Lee, for wrangling a CGI tiger and bringing the impossible to rapturous life.
Michael Haneke (Amour), Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild), Ang Lee (Life of Pi), David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook), Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)
Both Spielberg and Lee triumphed this year, but I give the edge to Spielberg; he made history feel immediate, and voters will likely feel the same.
Day-Lewis is a lock. This race ended months ago. But I'd prefer Washington, pouring his considerable strength into a portrait of a belligerent weakling.
Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln), Hugh Jackman (Les Misérables), Joaquin Phoenix (The Master), Denzel Washington (Flight)
The transcendent Day-Lewis was the ghost that walked among us. His is a once-in-a-generation performance.
Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild), Naomi Watts (The Impossible)
A win for Lawrence would also recognize her achievement in The Hunger Games, but I'd prefer Riva, who turns 86 on Oscar night and who distills the acting craft into a pearl of pained love.
It's not sentiment that tips my vote to Riva; it's respect. My theory is that the rom-com trappings of Silver Linings Playbook cost Lawrence the win, and it goes instead to the fierce, focused Chastain.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Hoffman should win in a heartbeat, but Waltz will take the stage. Voters will get to feel edgy for voting for the controversial, ultraviolent Django.
Jones has a slight advantage for his work as Thaddeus Stevens, the fuming moral force behind Lincoln. If it were up to me, I'd go with Waltz, the gunslinger as chatty coquet--really a leading role.
Alan Arkin (Argo), Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook), Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master), Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln), Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
One song, one scene, one shot and a win for Hathaway. The dream she dreamed comes true on Feb. 24.