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Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables.


Best Picture

Will win Argo. Certainly not the best of the bunch but apparently, judged by Argo's domination of the run-up, better able than its betters to attract a consensus.

Should win Life of Pi. Two reasons: It's a visually stunning and thematically rich fable, and it's precisely the sort of movie Hollywood longs to make – a big-budget, 3-D experience that's entirely unique to the medium and earns big bucks globally.

Best Director

Will win Steven Spielberg for Lincoln. Ironically, he'll win for not being Steve Spielberg, for (with a few exceptions) wisely keeping his sentimental streak out of Tony Kushner's cerebral script.

Should win Ang Lee for Life of Pi. Filming a novel that was thought unfilmable, he's made an epic on a postage stamp, using all the high-tech tools to glorious visual effect while staying true to very personal concerns that recur through his entire canon.

Best Actor

Will win Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln. At the still centre of Lincoln, Day-Lewis is a marvel of quiet containment and a walking, talking paradox – solid steel tempered with gentleness, sad even when happy, measured in anger and triumph alike.

Should win Daniel Day-Lewis. Ditto.

Best Actress

Will win Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook. Because she elevates the character in what is essentially just an over-reaching rom-com, and because she's a young actress who's built an awfully impressive resumé in a very short time.

Should win Emmanuelle Riva in Amour. She acts out a woman's precipitous physical decline while still registering a full spectrum of emotions, even when reduced to communicating with her eyes alone – hers is, in every sense of the phrase, a nakedly honest performance.

Best Supporting Actor

Will win Robert De Niro in Silver Linings Playbook. Taking a flyer here, since Tommy Lee Jones remains the favourite, but Oscar just might feel De Niro is due a lifetime achievement award.

Should win Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master. Robert Mitchum, Burt Lancaster, now PSH – conniving evangelists have given rise to some great performances, but none better than Hoffman's strange yet beguiling mix of opportunism and vulnerability.

Best Supporting Actress

Will win Anne Hathaway in Les Misérables. Cut off your hair, sing a sad song, win yourself an Oscar.

Should win Either Amy Adams in The Master or Helen Hunt in The Sessions. One bares her soul, the other everything else, both are worthy divas of divestiture.


Best picture

Will win Argo. Ben Affleck's comic thriller's sweep through the pre-Oscar awards establishes this crowd-pleaser as the consensus favourite.

Should win Amour, because Michael Haneke's drama about an elderly Parisian couple struggling with disability and mortality is economically written and directed, and impeccably acted by Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva.

Best director

Will win Steven Spielberg for Lincoln. With Kathryn Bigelow, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson and Ben Affleck out of the running, Spielberg's only competition is Ang Lee, and if the Academy wants to give the award to a film they admire but don't adore, Lincoln will probably be it.

Should win Michael Haneke for Amour, because, although small in its scale, his film is directed with a clear-eyed discipline that, like classical tragedy, makes it both awful and exhilarating.

Best actor

Will win Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln. Whatever else you can question about Lincoln, everyone agrees Day-Lewis does a terrific job, making the Great Emancipator seem like a larger-than-life, but real human being.

Should win Day-Lewis's Lincoln conforms to the historical facts – the tenor voice, the self-deprecating humour, the oratorical flair and melancholic turns – and brings Lincoln to life by adding the light of a restless intelligence to a character who often seems to struggle with himself as much as his adversaries.

Best supporting actor

Will win Tommy Lee Jones, for Lincoln. This is a wide-open category of only previous Oscar winners as contenders, but Jones's portrayal of Thaddeus Stevens, a comical curmudgeon with a deeply principled soul, is Oscar catnip.

Should win Philip Seymour Hoffman for Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master. Hoffman's brilliant performance as the sad, hammy, grandiloquent religious huckster Lancaster Dodd is the most bizarrely memorable film performance of the year, though as irreducibly strange as the movie that it inhabits.

Best actress

Will win Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook. Oscar has a history of picking ingenues, and Lawrence's cheeky performance as a Goth window with a big heart and unnerving manner evokes screwball stars from another era.

Should win Lawrence, because she's the real deal: Dealt an absurdly written character, she owns it and goes head-to-head with veterans like Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper as if she owned the screen.

Best supporting actress

Will win Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables. It comes down to a couple of minutes of looking like a drowned baby chick, emoting directly into the camera as she sobs through the song, I Dreamed a Dream, and making everyone cry.

Should win Helen Hunt for The Sessions. Hunt plays a sex surrogate to Mark O'Brien (John Hawkes), a poet and journalist immobilized by childhood polio. While the movie plays it safe, Hunt doesn't, making this kind of extreme caregiving feel like a metaphor for honest acting: The love isn't real but at the same time, it is.