OSCAR FORECAST: Best Picture 2013

Best Picture Predictions (08/27/12):
Lincoln
Les Miserables
Anna Karenina
Promised Land
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Argo
Life of Pi

We’re on the precipice of another awards season and the system has started to syphon out its usual contenders. You have your period dramas (Anna Karenina + Lincoln), your token musicals (Les Mis), the sometimes accessible auteurs (The Master + To The Wonder), the lovable small project (Beasts of the Southern Wild), the actors turned directors (Argo + Trouble with the Curve), and of course, Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood. The only thing fun about this year is the absence of any bonafide, typical Oscar sponge. That film that just reeks of Oscar love regardless of merit. There’s still time for an A King’s Speech to emerge late in the game, but with the blogsphere’s all-knowing eye out on festivals around the globe, the possibilities for these films to appear has grown less and less.

Beasts of the Southern Wild feels very shaky. It’s place as the Hurt Locker or The Artist of the bunch might be more a testament to prognosticators trying to predict the future, rather than an actual beat on the upcoming praise. Few people in the industry have even seen the film. Now the internet has a way of affected the way people vote and, surely, the film looks to have some serious critical support by year’s end. I just have my reservations about voters going for an ethereal tone poem of a film with an all minority cast. It’s not a film about black people made by white people… well, it is. But it doesn’t feel like that kind of film. The point it, something like The Help feels comfortable and entertaining. Beasts of the Southern Wild is anything but those for most viewers.

In place of Beasts of the Southern Wild, look for the academy to possibly go for Flight or The Master. Anderson’s film will have a tremendous amount of buzz but at the time of this writing, I’m hard-pressed to see it getting support from the Hollywood elite. Many people in Hollywood subscribe to the ideas of Scientology, but more importantly there’s a friendly and accepting openness to this new Hollywood. I believe Anderson’s film will be seen as too artsy and too giddily offensive for liberal Hollywood to go for. Just a hunch. As  a result, I would not be surprised at all to see Flight as this year’s surprise contender. The trailer makes the film look compelling in new ways. Denzel is due for another major role and Zemeckis, much-loved in the past, has been off the live action radar for over a decade. It’s not a huge leap to predict Flight getting in.

The other contenders are pretty safe choices at this point. While all seem like perennial Oscar bait, they also look like they could be dead in the water projects sight unseen. Anna Karenina has the potential to be scattered and snoozy, more The Soloist than Atonement. Atonement actually feels like an aberration, having come in a year that also went for There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men. I have a strange feeling that Joe Wright’s unceasing style will overwhelm conservative voters. Lincoln and Les Miserables are so perfect as Oscar contenders that something could easily go array. When was the last time the favorite that’s dripping in Oscar ooze actually went through all the way until the end? Titanic? Gladiator? The pedigree is too solid to resist, but don’t be shocked if one of these gets knocked off.

Now to the elephant in the room. The last few years of Oscar have been travesties. A King’s Speech was a fine film but nowhere near the artistic quality or textured nuance of contenders like The Social Network or Black Swan. Already the latter two have usurped the Oscar winner in critical memory. To me, few worse films have ever won an Oscar than The Artist. It was a frothy, parodying affair that garnered love from cinema lovers that had either a narrow reference point or hopeful ignorance. Nobody will remember The Artist. In its defense, last year was a weak year overall. All this said, this year has the potential to be one of the most interesting for the Academy, at least since its artsy bow in 2007. If some of the major contenders flop and films like The Master, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Anna Karenina begin to rack up critical awards, we could be looking at another rare year packed with compelling films vying for mainstream awards. I’m not holding my breath, but with the landscape as it is, the possibility certainly exists.

For what it’s worth, here’s how I see this year’s contenders:

Probable
Lincoln
Les Miserables

Shaky
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Anna Karenina
Promised Land
Argo
Life of Pi

Distinct Possibilities
The Master
To The Wonder
Flight
Moonrise Kingdom

Doubt It, But Who Knows
Django Unchained
Silver Linings Playback
Trouble with the Curve
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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