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Oscar predictions: Expect a big night for Argo, Lincoln, and Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook and Django Unchained? Not so much
 
Ben Affleck's Argo: Snubbed for Best Director, but the odds-on favorite to score a Best Picture trophy.
Ben Affleck's Argo: Snubbed for Best Director, but the odds-on favorite to score a Best Picture trophy. Warner Bros. Picture

After months of screenings and speculation, Oscar season will finally come to an end with Sunday night's 85th annual Academy Awards ceremony. So really, there's just one big question left: How can you win your Oscar pool?

The Week is here to help. We've analyzed each of the 24 categories, and come up with our picks for what's going to win and why. Here, The Week's predictions for the 85th annual Academy Awards (and don't forget to come back for our Oscar live blog on Sunday night!):

Best Picture
Amour
Argo
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

And the Oscar goes to… Argo. This is the strangest Best Picture race in recent memory. The surprising (and unjust) snub of Ben Affleck in the Best Director category has actually increased Argo's chances at Best Picture by making the film look like a lovable "underdog" — even as it snatched up the top prize from the Golden Globes, Directors Guild, Producers Guild, and Screen Actors Guild. There are potential spoilers in the mix — LincolnLife of Pi, or Silver Linings Playbook still could earn an unexpected groundswell of support — but you can bet that Ben Affleck's consolation prize for his Director snub will be a Best Picture trophy.

**

Director
Michael Haneke — Amour
Benh Zeitlin — Beasts of the Southern Wild
Ang Lee — Life of Pi
Steven Spielberg — Lincoln
David O. Russell — Silver Linings Playbook

And the Oscar goes to… Steven Spielberg, Lincoln. The snubs of Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) make the Director category seem far more intriguing than it actually is. With Affleck out of the way, it's Spielberg's night to win a third career Oscar, making Lincoln the Maid of Honor to Argo's bride.

**

Actor in a Leading Role
Bradley Cooper — Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis — Lincoln
Hugh Jackman — Les Miserables
Joaquin Phoenix — The Master
Denzel Washington — Flight

And the Oscar goes to… Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln. From the moment Daniel Day-Lewis was announced as the star of Steven Spielberg's Abraham Lincoln biopic, he's been the presumptive frontrunner for the Best Actor trophy, and the past few months have only strengthened his chances. Denzel Washington is great in a movie that's only so-so, Hugh Jackman is good in a movie that's terrible, and Joaquin Phoenix — the most deserving actor in the category this year — shot himself in the foot with his anti-awards show comments last fall.

**

Actress in a Leading Role
Jessica Chastain — Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence — Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva — Amour
Quvenzhané Wallis — Beasts of Southern Wild
Naomi Watts — The Impossible

And the Oscar goes to… Emmanuelle Riva, Amour. Actress is one of the most contentious major categories this year, and I'm gambling that Riva will end up upsetting the favored Jennifer Lawrence. Lawrence certainly has the most momentum going into the evening, but Riva — who is, at 85, the oldest actress ever nominated in the category — offers both a stellar performance in Amour and a decades-long body of work that older members of the Academy might decide to recognize. (And it certainly doesn't hurt that Sunday's ceremony happens to fall on her 86th birthday.)

**

Actor in a Supporting Role
Alan Arkin — Argo
Robert De Niro — Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman — The Master
Tommy Lee Jones — Lincoln
Christoph Waltz — Django Unchained

And the Oscar goes to… Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln. It's another very close race, and this time there are three horses in it: Robert De Niro, Christoph Waltz, and Tommy Lee Jones. De Niro is a sentimental favorite — and it's certainly nice to see him tackling a real character after a decade of dreck — but I'm trusting the Academy not to reward him for what is, in the end, a solid but unremarkable performance. Christoph Waltz is very good in Django Unchained, but he won in this category for another Tarantino movie just three years ago. Jones, like De Niro, is a sentimental favorite — but his performance in Lincoln is better than De Niro's in Silver Linings Playbook, and I'm trusting the Academy to reward it. 

**

Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams — The Master
Sally Field — Lincoln
Anne Hathaway — Les Miserables
Helen Hunt — The Sessions
Jackie Weaver — Silver Linings Playbook

And the Oscar goes to… Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables. Anne Hathaway's name has been unofficially carved on this trophy since her wrenching performance of "I Dreamed a Dream" hit screens in December. The Academy will make it official on Sunday night.

**

Writing — Original Screenplay
Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola — Moonrise Kingdom
Mark Boal — Zero Dark Thirty
John Gatins — Flight
Michael Haneke — Amour
Quentin Tarantino — Django Unchained

And the Oscar goes to… Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained. Mark Boal is the more deserving candidate for his exhaustively researched script for Zero Dark Thirty, but I suspect that the Academy will take the opportunity to give Django Unchained its only win of the evening for Tarantino's characteristically quotable screenplay.

**

Writing — Adapted Screenplay
Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin — Beasts of the Southern Wild
Tony Kushner — Lincoln
David Magee — Life of Pi
David O. Russell — Silver Linings Playbook
Chris Terrio — Argo

And the Oscar goes to… Chris Terrio, Argo. It's a close call, but the wave of goodwill for Argo should manage to hold off competition from the equally deserving scripts for Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook.

**

Music — Original Score
Anna Karenina
Argo
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Skyfall

And the Oscar goes to… Life of Pi. It's between Life of Pi and Lincoln, for which John Williams earned his whopping 43rd nomination — but Lincoln's score is one of Williams' least impressive and memorable, and Pi picked up some late momentum with voters.

**

Music — Original Song
"Before My Time" from Chasing Ice (music and lyrics by J. Ralph)
"Everybody Needs a Best Friend" from Ted (music by Walter Murphy, lyrics by Seth MacFarlane)
"Pi's Lullaby" from Life of Pi (music by Mychael Danna, lyrics by Bombay Jayashri)
"Skyfall" from Skyfall (music and lyrics by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth)
"Suddenly" from Les Miserables (music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil

And the Oscar goes to… "Skyfall." The Academy may have a natural aversion to all things 007, but Adele is unstoppable, and her title theme stands out in a reasonably strong crop of nominees.

**

Foreign Language Film
Amour (Austria)
Kon-Tiki (Norway)
No (Chile)
A Royal Affair (Denmark)
War Witch (Canada)

And the Oscar goes to… Amour. No surprises here — the only foreign-language film nominated for Best Picture is the clear frontrunner in the Foreign Language category.

**

Animated Feature Film
Brave
Frankenweenie
ParaNorman
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Wreck-It Ralph

And the Oscar goes to… Wreck-It Ralph. It wasn't so long ago that this was Pixar's category to lose every year. But Disney out-Pixared Pixar with Wreck-It Ralph, a buoyant charmer that plays like a tech-savvy Toy Story. Brave and Frankenweenie could still mount an upset, but in the end, my gold coins are on Ralph

**

Cinematography
Anna Karenina
Django Unchained
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Skyfall

And the Oscar goes to… Life of Pi. Will the Academy snub 007? That's the question, as Skyfall cinematographer Roger Deakins — earning his 10th nomination — squares off against Claudio Miranda's lesser (but beautiful) work in Life of Pi. It's a close race, but I'm guessing Pi, by a nose.

**

Documentary (Feature)
5 Broken Cameras
The Gatekeepers
How to Survive a Plague
The Invisible War
Searching for Sugar Man 

And the Oscar goes to… Searching for Sugar Man. In an extraordinarily strong year for documentaries — which saw films like The Queen of Versailles, Bully, West of Memphis, and Jiro Dreams of Sushi, which would normally have been locks for nominations, pushed off the short list — the smart money is on Searching for Sugar Man, the most playful and uplifting of this year's nominees.

**

Documentary (Short)
"Inocente"
"Kings Point"
"Mondays at Racine"
"Open Heart"
"Redemption"

And the Oscar goes to… "Inocente." This is a famously difficult category to predict, but "Inocente" — the moving story of a 15-year-old, homeless, undocumented immigrant who plans to become an artist — stands out.

**

Film Editing
Argo
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

And the Oscar goes to… Argo. Intriguingly enough, Argo editor William Goldenberg is competing against himself in the category — he also co-edited Zero Dark Thirty. Argo's overall momentum should push it ahead of the pack in the Editing category.

**

Visual Effects
The Avengers
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Life of Pi
Prometheus
Snow White and the Huntsman

And the Oscar goes to… Life of Pi. Though the Visual Effects category would seem to be a blockbuster's best bet at Oscar gold, the Academy tends to favor the artiest film in the mix, with recent examples including 2011 winner Hugo (which beat Harry Potter and Transformers) and 2008 winner The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (which beat The Dark Knight and Iron Man). This year, that means Life of Pi over The Avengers and Prometheus — and not unjustly, given the incredibly well-realized tiger at the center of its story.

**

Costume Design
Anna Karenina
Les Miserables
Lincoln
Mirror Mirror
Snow White and the Huntsman

And the Oscar goes to… Anna Karenina. Now as ever, this award should just be renamed "Best Period Costumes." This year, that means the race is between Anna Karenina and Les Miserables, with Anna Karenina's lavish dresses the likelier bet. 

**

Makeup And Hairstyling
Hitchcock
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Les Miserables 

And the Oscar goes to… The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. If Les Miserables gets a lot of love from the Academy on Oscar night, this could go its way — but the elaborate makeup required for The Hobbit's many non-human creatures should clinch The Hobbit its only trophy of the evening.

**

Sound Editing
Argo
Django Unchained
Life of Pi
Skyfall
Zero Dark Thirty

And the Oscar goes to… Life of Pi. In some ways, this category resembles Cinematography. If the Academy smiles on 007 for his 50th anniversary, it's Skyfall; if they stick to prestige pictures, as I'm betting they will, it's Pi.

**

Sound Mixing
Argo
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Skyfall

And the Oscar goes to… Les Miserables. The film's PR campaign was built around its "groundbreaking" use of live singing, and Academy voters won't forget it.

**

Production Design
Anna Karenina
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Lincoln

And the Oscar goes to… Anna Karenina. Like Costume Design, this category is between Anna Karenina and Les Miserables; of the two, Anna Karenina is the more striking, and the more deserving.

**

Short Film — Animated
"Adam and Dog"
"Fresh Guacamole"
"Head over Heels"
"Maggie Simpson in: 'The Longest Daycare'"
"Paperman"

And the Oscar goes to… "Paperman." The populist winner doesn't always take the Best Animated Short trophy — in fact, the short films that play before Disney and Pixar's feature-length films almost never end up winning the Oscar — but "Paperman," which screened before Wreck-It Ralph, is both heartwarming and stunningly animated.

**

Short Film — Live Action
"Asad"
"Buzkashi Boys"
"Curfew"
"Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)"
"Henry"

And the Oscar goes to… "Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)." I haven't seen any of the nominees, so I'm forced to judge here by each film's trailer — and based on its impressive, eerie visuals, I'll be checking the box for "Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)" on my Oscar ballot.

 

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