Tim Burton attends the 85th Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles, California, Monday, February 4, 2013.
2. Best Animated Feature
In the new Golden Age of Animation, this has become one of the Oscars’ most exciting categories. With a full boat of five films up for the top prize this year, you’d be hard-pressed to find a category with more exciting, solid, and cinematically daring work being done all around.
Pirates: Band of Misfits
Wreck It Ralph
Should win: This is a category where you have to be happy any way it turns out. All five of the nominated films are imaginative, thrilling, and completely memorable, and in a less strong year, any one of these films could conceivably be an Oscar winner. Of the five, however, the one which ultimately is the most original and unique piece of work, the one which seems most likely to be watched over and over for generations to come, is the stop-motion zombie thriller ParaNorman.
Will win: As good as the race is, it’s also a tough one to predict. Pixar has utterly dominated this category for the past decade, winning six of the last ten prizes. However, its reign was broken last year and expectations for the studio are so high at this point that anything less than a masterpiece seems like a disappointment. By that standard, the still very fine Brave does seem a lesser Pixar film and thus could give the Academy an opportunity to let someone else take home the trophy. Guided by Tim Burton, Frankenweenie has a lot of friends in the Academy and could be regarded as the sentimental favorite. When all is said and done, however, we think the crowd-pleasing fun of Wreck It Ralph is what will stay in the Academy’s head and earn it the prize.
3. Best Makeup and Hairstyling
This category has traditionally been won by two types of films: sci-fi/fantasy and films that make actors look old. The two genres are not as different as they might seem, with both calling for lots of prosthetic noses and drooping skin. That is why Best Makeup is like the Olympics of Oscar categories; it’s the one place where Meryl Streep’s The Iron Lady goes head-to-head with Harry Potter, as it did last year (The Iron Lady won), or where The Wolfman can face off against the Paul Giamatti–starring adaptation of Mordecai Richler novel Barney’s Version (Wolfman took it).
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Should win: There’s a lot to be said for making someone look old or overweight, both of which were the claims to glory of Hitchcock. And the makeup glories of creating Middle Earth creatures were immense, but now that this category includes hairstyling, the team’s acheivements in creating the many complex and varied hobbit beards is not to be sneezed at. However, as impressive as those works are, we find ourselves blown away by a subtler achievement: No screen actor has ever looked as hungry as Anne Hathaway did in Les Misérables. It wasn’t just crash dieting that made it seem as though she was about to implode on herself. That feeling of deep, consumptive ill health owes much to the makeup professionals.
Will win: Hunger is no match for hobbit beards. Peter Jackson’s team owned this category when LOTR came around the first time. In all likelihood, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will reclaim it this year.
4. Best Costume Design
The costume prize is not about sublety. Big, flowing hoopskirts and period garb rule the field. No film set in contemporary times has won since 1994’s Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Fortunately for voters, this year’s nominees are a cornucopia of old-timey getups and fantastical fantasy creations.
Snow White and the Huntsman
Should win: Lots of hoopskirts to choose from here, but Anna Karenina, made with minimal deconstructist sets, created the world of Leo Tolstoy pretty much with the costumes alone.
Will win: It’s Jacqueline Durran’s third consecutive nomination, and she is due the prize. Anna is the definition of a great costume film.
5. Other category predictions:
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Original Screenplay
Best Foreign Language Film
Best Feature Documentary
Best Original Song
Best Original Score
Best Sound Editing
Best Sound Mixing
Best Visual Effects
Best Animated Short
Best Live Action Short
Best Documentary Short