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Guessing the Oscars with Author Robert James and I

I’m currently reading author Robert James’ comprehensive history of the Academy Awards entitled Who Won?!?: An Irreverent Look at the Oscars, Volume 1 and it is hilarious and insightful.  With the Oscars airing this evening, I thought it’d be awesome to ask a man who knows so much about the Oscars to give his predictions on tonight’s ceremony….only problem is he hasn’t quite gotten up to the 2013 awards yet.  With that, he was gracious enough to give his predictions anyway, based on past patterns.  To prevent him from feeling too foolish (although I consider him more of an expert than I’ll ever be), I’ve include my picks as well in each category.  Next week, Robert will return to do a post-mortem on his choices.  Feel free to jump into the discussion in the comments section and give your own theories.  I’ll let Robert take it away!

I have a confession to make. I haven’t seen any of the nominees for Best Picture this year. None of them. Not a one. Yes, I’m embarrassed. But not as embarrassed as I’m probably going to be later tomorrow night, after the Academy Awards for 2013 are announced. Why, you ask? Because I’m about to make predictions for all of the major Oscar categories, without having seen a single one of them. But then, I told you that already, didn’t I?So why do I seem to be willing to make a fool of myself? Other than for your entertainment, of course.

I do actually have some basis on which to make these predictions. I’ve spent the better part of the last three years researching and writing a series of books entitled WHO Won?!? An Irreverent Look at the Oscars. Volume One, which covers 1927-1943, was published by Variations on a Theme press, in November. Volume Two, 1944-1952, will be published this coming July. In the process, I’ve watched over two thousand movies (and counting!), read every major book on the history of the Oscars, as well as dozens of film histories and biographies. In these books, I go back over each year of the movies, and open a wide-ranging discussion for all the major Oscar categories: Which movies and actors and directors and writers and cinematographers should have won? Which should have not? I’ve had an enormous amount of fun watching movies which are old friends, finding new movies which I can’t believe I didn’t know, and staring in slack astonishment and disbelief at movies which won Academy Awards, despite being the artistic equivalent of high school dropouts, disease-ridden whores, and that hygiene-challenged cousin you wish would stop showing up at Thanksgiving. So I think I can safely say that while I get some of these predictions wrong, I’m going to be a lot less embarrassed Monday than the Academy should be over some of their past choices.

I would argue certain patterns emerge over the passage of time, which remain remarkably persistent and predictable. Using those, here are my predictions for Oscar gold for this year:

Best Picture:

Robert’s Prediction: I believe this comes down to two movies: Lincoln and Argo. Lincoln is in the tradition of The Great Ziegfeld, The Life of Emile Zola, Lawrence of Arabia, A Man for All Seasons, Patton, Gandhi, Amadeus, The Last Emperor, Schindler’s List, Braveheart, A Beautiful Mind, and The King’s Speech. Lincoln also has a slew of other nominations of some of Hollywood’s favorite people: Spielberg, Day-Lewis, Field, and Jones, among others. Lincoln is also about something Important. Argo, on the other hand, is about the movie-making process, which Hollywood typically nominates out of its persistent narcissism, then doesn’t hand the big awards to because deep down, they don’t think they’re really all that pretty. The one thing Argo has going for it is the anger over Ben Affleck not being nominated for director – but that didn’t exactly help with Barbara Streisand and Yentl, now did it?

I think the most likely winner is Lincoln.

Kristen’s Prediction: Well it’s always fun to disagree, so right out the gate I’m (respectfully) disagreeing with Robert.  Yes, Lincoln is the predictable choice, but I think the Oscars are going for the upset this year.  Argo won the Golden Globe which shocked everyone, and has swept most of the guild and other critics awards.  I know that a movie hasn’t won Best Picture, without a corresponding Best Director nomination since Driving Miss Daisy but considering that the Oscars continue to fight against irrelevancy I think they’ll go for the unconventional choice to get people to tune in and assert that “hey, we can still surprise you.”  Also, Argo also details a time in our history, albeit one that has remained hidden.  Lincoln  tells a 2 hour story about slavery, without actually showing any examples of it.  I think that’s going to hurt it.  There are those that say I’ll be eating a lot of crow on Monday, but I’m standing by this.

I’m hoping, and believe, that Argo will win.

Best Actor

Robert’s Prediction: Daniel Day-Lewis should win, not just because he’s seen as the most gifted actor of his generation, but also because he’s playing Abe Lincoln. Add that to the fact that most of the title characters in the Best Picture biography list above also won for Best Actor (in addition to others, including George Arliss for Disraeli, Charles Laughton for The Private Life of Henry VIII, Spencer Tracy in Boys Town, Gary Cooper in Sergeant York, James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy, Yul Brynner in The King and I, Daniel-Day Lewis in My Left Foot, Geoffrey Rush in Shine, Jamie Foxx in Ray, Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote, Forrest Whittaker in The Last King of Scotland, Sean Penn in Milk, and Colin Firth in The King’s Speech).

The only thing going against him is the fact that no actor has won more than two in this category. I still think Day-Lewis has it.

Kristen’s Prediction: I can’t argue with that logic, at all; not to mention it’s totally right.  Day-Lewis is a national treasure (according to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler he was even E.T.) and he played the national icon of the United States!  You really can’t get more American and wholesome than that!  As much as Lincoln bored me to tears, I can’t deny that Day-Lewis moved Heaven and Earth to make me believe he was the Great Emancipator himself.

I’m going with Day-Lewis all the way.  Expect Hell to freeze over if he doesn’t.

Best Actress

Robert’s Prediction: Whichever actress cries the most. Or drinks the most. Or suffers the most. Or overcomes the most adversity. Even better: any actress who does all four is almost certain to win. Sad, but true. You’ve seen the movies; I haven’t. You tell me who wins.

Kristen’s Prediction: I’ll tell you who win’s Mr. James because I saw all but one of the performances listed here.  There’s an actress I want to win, and an actress who I know will win.  I adore Jessica Chastain and believe she did an extraordinary job in Zero Dark Thirty, but I don’t see her winning.  She won the Golden Globe, but that’s about it.  It doesn’t help that the movie’s chances of winning Best Picture are dwindling by the second.  Nope, I see Jennifer Lawrence continuing her sweep and stealing it for Silver Linings Playbook.

I want Chastain to win, but I see Lawrence taking this one home.

Best Director

Robert’s Prediction: Steven Spielberg. Ever since he was overlooked for The Color Purple, Spielberg’s helming of a serious film (as opposed to his more escapist fare) tends to bring him the Oscar. The Best Picture and Best Director generally go together.

Kristen’s Prediction: I see something akin to the whole Crash/Brokeback Mountain debacle happening here; where one will win Best Picture, and the other wins Best Director as a consolation prize.  Since I don’t believe Lincoln will walk away with Best Picture, I see Spielberg winning something here as an apology (the real apology should go to Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow!).

Robert and I both agree Spielberg will take it, but for different reasons.

Best Supporting Actor

Robert’s Prediction: Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln. Because he’s Tommy Lee Jones, he’s got a bad wig, and he’s in an important role. Plus, he’s Tommy Lee Jones.

Kristen’s Prediction: Similar to my thoughts in the Best Actress category, there’s an actor who I’d love to see win, and an actor I know will win.  I adored Alan Arkin in Argo, but the role might be considered comic relief.  It’s a complete 180 from Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln.  Yeah, I see Jones walking away with this; wig and all!

Robert and I both pick Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln, but I’d do a happy dance for Alan Arkin in Argo.

Best Supporting Actress

Robert’s Prediction: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables. Hathaway has been taking on more and more diverse roles, which the Academy loves. She was in a big hit, The Dark Knight Rises, which the Academy loves, but doesn’t like to reward. Plus, she’s the prettiest, which the Academy loves, but doesn’t like to admit.
My second prediction would be for Sally Field in Lincoln. She had to fight for the role; Hollywood likes scrappy. Plus, they like her. They really like her. And so does my wife, which means I get extra brownie points for suggesting Field might win.

Kristen’s Prediction: Yeah, this is Anne Hathaway’s to lose.  Sally Field would be nice, but the magnamimous power of Day-Lewis really overshadowed Field.  Hathaway will win, but why am I seeing the Best Actress/Actor curse befalling her after this?

Best Writing (Original Screenplay)

Robert’s Prediction: The writer’s branch has often been the most daring and innovative in its nominations (as has been the Art Direction branch, believe it or not – the two areas were the first to reach out to foreign films, for example). Given that writers are the scum at the bottom of Hollywood’s stagnant pool, desperately trying to find light and oxygen, this shouldn’t be surprising. (And if you’re shocked at me saying this, clearly, you know nothing about how writers are treated in Hollywood. I sold a treatment once – the basic effect is the same as being confined to a men’s prison and being forced to bend over and pick up the soap regularly).
My prediction is therefore for Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained. Nobody else on that list is more innovative, or more willing to flip the bird at the studios. That, and Tarantino can get a script filmed. Call me, Quentin. Let’s do lunch.

Kristen’s Prediction: Having just finished reading Mark Boal’s script for Zero Dark Thirty, I realized it’s riveting piece of writing with some exquisite dialogue.  With that being said, Tarantino won the Golden Globe, and his script for Django Unchained is pithy, thought-provoking and fun as hell.  I, too, go with Django Unchained but I’d love to see Zero Dark Thirty eke out a win.

Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Robert’s Prediction: I think it again comes down to Argo and Lincoln. Generally, writers are smartasses (as you can tell from this blog, or my books…)
Argo is therefore the likely winner here, because what little I’ve heard in ads suggest the dialogue is far more smartass than that of Lincoln (this, despite Lincoln being the funniest president we’ve ever had. I’m not kidding. He was often ridiculed by his enemies for loving to tell funny stories).

Kristen’s Prediction: Since Lincoln is 100% with nothing in terms of action, I’d give it the edge.  Really, I see Lincoln taking the smaller categories, such as this one.

Robert picks Argo, but I’m going with Lincoln.

Best Cinematography

Robert’s Prediction: Essentially, the Award in recent years has gone to the best eye candy. Say hello to Life of Pi¸ based on the trailers I’ve seen.

Kristen’s Prediction: I second Life of Pi.  I didn’t care for it, but the images are breathtaking.  I’ll leave Robert to close us out!

As for the other categories, I’ll leave those up to you. What – you expected me to give you all the answers for your bets for your yearly Oscar pool? As for me, look for me Monday morning. I’ll be the guy with egg on my face. And not from being a sloppy eater…
Author Info:
Robert James was born on Skull Island and raised in Freedonia. He played baseball with Gary Cooper, fell in love in Paris with a suspicious Swede, got a pet leopard with a penchant for love songs, raised children in Oz, grew old (slowly) in Shangri-La, was killed by biplanes on the top of the Empire State Building when he was out on a date, and was then brought back from the dead in Dr. Frankenstein’s lab, just in time to be chased by an angry mob.

His book, Who Won?!? An Irreverent Look at the Oscars, V. 1: 1927-1943, is available in Kindle and trade paperback versions at Amazon.com, and in Nook on Barnes & Noble.

Blog: rjameswhowon@wordpress.com

Twitter: @rjameswhowon

A preview chapter of Who Won?!? An Irreverent Look at the Oscars, V. 1: 1927-1943 can be obtained for free from February 21-25 on Amazon, at http://www.amazon.com/WHO-Won-1940-PREVIEW-ebook/dp/B00A1G7F8I/ref=la_B00AAA73SW_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1361648995&sr=1-2

Kristen Lopez View All

A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.

4 thoughts on “Guessing the Oscars with Author Robert James and I Leave a comment

  1. Love this but we are going for the easy options, aren’t we? What about Riva? Could she pull it off on her birthday? (The Academy is a sucker for giving (birthday) presents).

    • Riva not only has the birthday gimmick, but I know that the Academy likes to give those Oscars to the elderly (Christopher Plummer last year springs to mind), but I think Lawrence has made a stronger case. Then again, I could be eating a lot of crow on Monday.

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