Oscars gear up for a night of record-setting and laughs

The 85th annual Academy Awards will take place on February 24 this year, so here’s The Medium’s rundown of what to look forward to, who will go home with Oscar gold, and who might just make film history.

Let us begin with the good, which (surprisingly) is the Oscar telecast itself. After the incredible financial success of Ted and even a perplexing nomination for Best Original Song at this year’s awards, Seth McFarlane may not be that shocking a choice to host the show, but still, it’s a nice change of pace from recent years. After the James Franco plus Anne Hathaway train wreck and a disappointingly benign Billy Crystal, it should be refreshing to have a host who can actually tell a joke. It remains to be seen whether the jokes will actually be fresh, or if they will be the same “Hey, rich people are giving each other gold statues!” shtick that every host seems obligated to follow. I do, however, trust McFarlane to be edgy enough to keep the audience at home laughing, but also self-aware enough to realize that actually pissing of a theatre full of people there to see the awards get handed out wouldn’t make for the smoothest ceremony, especially when that ceremony is four hours long.

Another good sign is that performances of the Best Original Song nominees are returning after a year without them. The telecast will include performances by Adele, Norah Jones, and the cast of Les Misérables. There have also been a slew of presenters announced, including all seven actors who have portrayed James Bond, as well as the cast of The Avengers, which should entice more mainstream viewers. The Academy has also tried to shorten the running time, another sign that the awards may not be as tiresome as they could be.

As for who will take home the glory, many categories are lacking in suspense. This is especially true for this year’s Best Supporting Actress award, where Anne Hathaway is all but a lock to take home her first Oscar for her role in Les Misérables. There seems to be no chance of an upset, with Sally Field’s Mary Todd Lincoln holding just a sliver of hope. As for my personal pick, it would be wonderful to see four-time nominee Amy Adams win for her nuanced performance in The Master as Peggy Dodd, the woman behind the master, but alas, she will likely have to wait a little bit longer to take the podium.

A much more heated race is that for Best Actress; Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) and Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) have seemed to be neck and neck for the last few months. Recently, though, Lawrence pulled away from the pack when she won the Screen Actors Guild award for Best Actress, and she will probably become one of the youngest to win the Best Actress Oscar at the age of 22.

Oscar history could be made in more than one way in this category: Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) is the youngest-ever Best Actress nominee at the age of nine, while Emmanuelle Riva (Amour) is the oldest—she will celebrate her 86th birthday on Oscar night. Frankly, all five of the nominated actresses, including Naomi Watts in The Impossible, were fantastic, and all of them deserve the honour. But with such a strong field this year, great performances by Helen Mirren and Marion Cottilard were unfortunately snubbed.

In terms of the men, the more contentious of the two acting categories is Best Supporting Actor, with all five nominees being distinguished actors whom the Academy has honoured before. It seems like Tommy Lee Jones will win, though, with his performance as Thaddeus Stevens in Lincoln being an apparent favourite among voters. As for who should win, I’m going to again have to pick The Master, in which Phillip Seymour Hoffman delivered what will be surely remembered as one of his signature performances.

The final acting category is also the easiest to predict; Daniel Day-Lewis is the only actor who has any chance of winning. His turn as Lincoln was not only remarkable, it will become historic. Lewis will almost certainly become the first actor to win an Oscar for portraying a president and the first person to win three Best Actor awards. Even though I am personally inclined to root for Joaquin Phoenix’s performance of Freddie Quell in The Master (again, I know), Lewis is more than deserving for his surprisingly subtle performance.

Now here’s where my predictions get a lot less sure. In terms of Best Picture and Best Director (awards that often go hand in hand), the favourite seems to be Ben Affleck’s Argo. However, after winning seemingly every major award precursor, Affleck didn’t even manage to secure an Oscar nomination for Best Director. This leaves Argo at a major disadvantage, as a film has not won Best Picture without being nominated for Best Director since 1990, when Driving Miss Daisy took home the award. I see Argo following a similar path to Apollo 13, which also won seemingly every award before the Oscars but, after not getting a Best Director nomination, lost Best Picture to Braveheart.

So who will be this year’s Braveheart? Well, it seems like Lincoln is the obvious choice for Best Director, since it’s a feel-good historical film and it currently leads the competition with 12 nominations. Unless Argo can keep up its momentum, Lincoln could win Best Picture as well. Although it would be great to see more experimental films like Beasts of the Southern Wild or gloomier films like Zero Dark Thirty win, over the years it has become apparent that we should just take what we can get. But this year it seems like what we got might not actually be that bad!

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