Hello again, everyone, and welcome to another edition of a weary old 24LAS regular feature. I have to put my hand up and confess that this year, as ever, the Academy Awards have snuck up on me, which is why you're almost certainly reading my predictions as to who's going to win them after the actual Oscars have been handed out. If nothing else this means I will look out-of-touch and foolish from the get-go rather than having to hang around waiting for the ceremony.
In past years I have usually prefaced my actual tips with a brief polemic dismissing the Oscars as being biased, political, self-serving and unrepresentative; I've done this so often, in fact, that I can't bring myself to rehash my issues yet again here. Check out back issues of the column if you really want to know (or need your memory refreshing).
As usual I will limit myself to attempting to predicting only the Oscars that anyone outside the film industry actually cares about, with one possible exception which we will shortly come to. This year it's much harder than usual to call these things with any conviction, by the way; it's not as if there's a single movie accumulating an enormous buzz about it like there was with The Artist or The King's Speech in recent years. I run a much greater risk of looking awfully silly than usual, but never mind. Let the prophesying begin...
Best Documentary: 2012 was such a strong year for documentaries I am moved to have a go at calling the Oscar for this category (my favourite movie of last year was a documentary, in fact). Now, my perception of the buzz in this field means that what I'd like to see win and what actually looks like winning are quite different, but we'll see. Should Win: Searching for Sugar Man. Will Win: The Imposter.
The Anne Hathaway Award for Best Supporting Anne Hathaway: A tough call this year with no single outstanding candidate in this field. However, I'm prepared to stick my neck out. Should Win: Anne Hathaway. Will Win: Anne Hathaway.
Best Supporting Actor: This year otherwise known as the 'I've Grown Accustomed To His Face' category, as everyone involved has form as a previous winner. Fairly wide-open this year, despite some nomination-juggling resulting in Philip Seymour Hoffman being here rather than in Best Actor solely because the makers of The Master don't want both their leading performers in the same category. Should Win: Philip Seymour Hoffman. Will Win: Actually, this is really tough to call. I suspect Hoffman may actually sneak it.
Best Actress: This is an extraordinarily diverse category this year, as everyone has been saying, mainly because the youngest nominee in it is nine and the oldest 85. I bet they would normally have moved the kid whose name I can't bothered to look up the spelling of into the Best Supporting Actress category (which ordinarily she'd have more chance of winning), even though she's in practically every scene of Poor People in a Swamp – they did the same thing to Hailee Steinfeld two years ago. I can't believe they'd actually give an Oscar to an under-ten, and I'm doubtful about it going to an over-80, too, so those two are just about ruled out. I suspect the nature of the films and the performers involved will swing this one. Should Win: Marion Cotillard for Rust and Bone – it's inexplicable that she isn't even nominated, she would be in a sensible world. Will Win: I don't see Zero Dark Thirty winning another major award, so Jessica Chastain may pick one up here as a sort of consolation prize.
Best Actor: This being the Oscars, the fact I haven't seen one of the leading contenders isn't necessarily a problem when it comes to calling the winner. Deciding who should win is a trickier proposition, and depends on how you define great screen acting – is it meticulously excavating a character's psyche and bringing it to the screen with enormous subtlety, or just singing really well in an impressive wig? I tend to go for the former. Should Win: Possibly Denzel Washington, but I haven't seen Lincoln yet. Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis.
Best Director: Slightly baffling that Tom Hooper isn't even nominated for Les Mis, nor indeed Sam Mendes for Skyfall. The usual snobbery has excluded the possibility of nominations for the likes of Mr Whedon and Mr Nolan (as though orchestrating an enormous machine of a film like The Avengers or The Dark Knight Rises isn't as much of a challenge as any other kind of filmmaking). None of the nominated films (that I've seen, anyway) were particularly impressive in terms of their visual style – well, Life of Pi had all the whistles and bells but as usual with an Ang Lee film I couldn't quite warm up to it. Also as usual, I am moved to ask how you are supposed to separate Best Film from Best Director? Isn't the best film always going to be the best directed one? I think they're separate awards just so the Academy can split its plaudits sometimes (an old grumble). Should Win: Hell, I'm going to say Joss Whedon, so there. Or possibly that guy who did The Raid. Will Win: I'm going to say Ang Lee, but with very little confidence.
Best Film: I'm going to trot out my usual complaint about the expansion of the Best Picture shortlist from 5 to 10 nominees: apparently this was done to increase audience increase and allow the Academy to grant recognition to a wider range of movies. All that's really happened is that more of the same gets a nomination – unless a genre movie does exceedingly well at the box office, in which case it earns one of the five new slots. In the usual run of events, comedies, SF, and horror movies still have no chance of even getting a nomination, let alone winning. (I suppose being the issue of one of the academy's darlings – Peter Jackson, say, or Tarantino – definitely helps to smooth the way somewhat. As I've previously commented, this year there's a lot of earnestly patriotic drama, two updates of much-loved classic genres (the western and the musical), a dab of magical realism and a lone foreign movie inserted as a bit of a fig leaf for the whole undertaking. Should Win: The Expendables 2. (Only joking.) Of the nominees – Argo. Will Win: Ooh, er... based solely on the impetus it picked up from the Baftas, Argo. But I'm almost certain to be wrong...