Russell’s final Oscar picks

I’m not 100% sure when I first started watching the Academy Awards.  I think it was probably 1990.  I can clearly remember Jessica Tandy and Brenda Fricker taking the stage, so I’m sure I watched that year.  (Looking over the list of 1990’s winners, I think I’m going to have to watch “Glory,” which I’ve never seen.  Denzel Washington is a great actor, but he’d have to have been really fantastic to have been better than Martin Landau in “Crimes and Misdemeanors.”)  I don’t have any clear memories of any winners from 1989 (though vague ones of Geena Davis and Kevin Kline), so 1990 was likely when my love for the show began.

I’ve never missed it since.  I just adore the Oscars.  Though I’ve found that it’s much, much more fun watching with friends (I never miss the company of a certain best friend more than on Oscar night), I still can’t imagine not watching them (assuming they never ask James Franco back to host).  And I am definitely planning to tune in this Sunday night.  (I’m curious to see if Twitter will make viewing more fun.)

One reason it’s a little bit of a bummer to watch the show without a bunch of friends is that there’s no “pick the winners” contest for me to crush.  In lieu of filling out a ballot and pretending I’m not taking winning as seriously as I really am, I am once again offering up my predictions for the winners this Sunday.

I’ve already given one set of picks based solely on my hunches about how the Oscars tend to get doled out.  Nobody had won any of the other, lesser lead-up awards yet.  Now it’s time for my revised list.  (If you must know, my picks are exactly the same as Ebert’s, but with different reasoning behind them.  Boy, did he hate “Les Miz” or what?)

First up, Best Supporting Actress.  I picked Anne Hathaway, and I’m sticking with it.  She’s won all of the other awards this season.  Plus, the Academy probably wants to blot out the memory of her abortive hosting gig with something happier.  (See above re: Oscar host, James Franco as.)  She’s a lock.  Bet your house.

Next we have Best Supporting Actor.  As I mentioned last time, this was a bit harder to predict.  All of the nominees have won before, so the “career achievement” aspect of the award is kind of obviated.  I went with Robert De Niro before, and I’m changing it to Tommy Lee Jones.  It’s been almost two decades since he won for “The Fugitive,” so he’s Due again.  Yet unlike De Niro, he hasn’t cluttered up his IMDB page with a bunch of drek over the past several years, but has continued to appear in high-quality films.  De Niro’s win would have been “hey, remember what it felt like to be a great actor?” message.  Jones will win because it doesn’t seem like he’s forgotten.  Plus, he won the SAG Award, so he’s a pretty safe bet.

Best Actress makes me happy, because I’m switching my bet to the person I was really rooting for anyway.  I had said Jessica Chastain (who I hear is really fantastic in “Zero Dark Thirty”), and I’m changing my guess to Jennifer Lawrence.  I’ve come to agree with commenter Joe that the torture controversy probably put the kibosh on any wins for “Zero Dark Thirty.”  (Don’t let it go to your head.)  Lawrence and Chastain each took home a Golden Globe (always a weak predictor, anyway), and the SAG win for the former cemented her front-runner status.  Which is great, because I really like Jennifer Lawrence and I’m delighted to see her solidifying a career apart from the “Hunger Games” franchise.

Best Actor?  No change.  Daniel Day-Lewis in a walk.  Bet your kidneys.  (Fun piece of Oscar trivia I just learned: Day-Lewis would be the first three-time Best Actor winner.  [I could have figured it out if I’d given it any thought.  Both Jack Nicholson and Walter Brennan have at least one Supporting win in their tally.])

Best Director will probably be Steven Spielberg, so my prediction is unchanged.  It won’t matter, though, because everyone will know Ben Affleck was robbed.  Which brings us to…

Best Picture, which I am also switching.  “Argo” seems like a sure thing now.  Not only has it swept all of the awards (including the very reliable predictor SAG “Best Ensemble” award), but I have no doubt Academy voters will reward the film to make up for the ridiculous snub its director received.

So those are my picks.  Are yours any different?  Will you be watching?  Who are you rooting for?

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. Russell,

    You mention not having a “viewing party” this year which reminded me of a crazy idea I had back reading your first column. What if we exchanged live email responses during the show and publish excerpts here? You’re the expert, I’m the noob with little understanding or appreciation. Could make for a delightful post, but only if it doesn’t detract from your enjoyment. Just a thought… lemme know!

    • I think that would be fun! Let me run it by the Better Half (who may evince irritation if I spend too much time noodling on the computer), but I think it’s a great idea!

        • Certainly a possibility. The premise behind my idea is that you’d have two people viewing the same event from very different perspectives. The possibility of the following exchange would be high:

          Kazzy: Who’s that old lady? What was she in? Was she Mrs. Lincoln?
          Russell: That’s Dame Judy Dench, one of the most accomplished actresses ever. She’s receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award.
          Kazzy: They give out specific awards for Lifetime movies? Those are the worst of the worst!
          Russell: [pours drink]

          Russ, let me know what BH thinks. On my end, Zazzy will either be excited or confused that I’m interested in watching it. More likely than not, she’ll be asleep.

          • I really do think this would be fun. (I worry that it would mean I’d have to agree to do the converse and… *shudders* watch a live sporting event.) I’ll let you know. (I assume e-mailing you at the address you submit with comments would work?)

          • When I initially thought of the idea, I thought of doing it as a duel series with the Super Bowl as the converse. But I realized that I don’t know if *I* was willing to watch it on such terms and didn’t want to ask something of you I couldn’t similarly offer. I wouldn’t insist you do a sporting event, but that would be similarly fun. Perhaps a large one that is a bit less universally understood than the Super Bowl. The NBA Finals would be fun, as basketball fans are increasingly becoming a bit of a niche and the sport has moved out of the mainstream in some ways.

          • I kid a little bit. I don’t mind watching the Super Bowl, and would be quite willing to do so for our little series.

            I have never watched a single televised professional basketball game in my memory. I’m certainly willing to do so, but I’m trying to think of what I might ask in a conversation beyond “What on earth is making this enjoyable for you to watch?” But I fear that would violate the spirit of our dialogue.

          • Oh… not at all. The conversation can oscillate between the trivial and the meta. As someone who does enjoy sport in a broader context, basketball can sometimes be one of the best examples of athleticism at its peak. Watching the Slam-Dunk contest, even when it’s sloppy, can still make me jump out of my seat when someone does something truly amazing. You don’t always get to see that in an NBA game, but should we get Heat/Thunder in the Finals again, I might need to snooker you into this.

            I do think you would have a lot to say about a nationally televised basketball games. Especially if Craig Sager is involved. (I’m tempted to implore you NOT to Google him on the off-chance that we do this and he pops on screen and amazes you in a quite unexpected fashion. However, there is simply too much fun to be had in Googling Craig Sager that I would never feel comfortable discouraging anyone from the practice.)

          • Now imagine that popping on screen in the middle of the NBA Finals?!?!

        • If I were to post about the Oscars, I would never dream of cluttering up the FP with it.

          I just need to figure out if I can do it without making my husband feel like he’s sitting alone on the couch while I type away obliviously beside him.

          • I dunno if I will participate; but if the FP could get “cluttered up” with a Superbowl post/open thread, I see no reason the Oscars couldn’t do the same…it’s a Sunday, what the heck else is going on? Is one event more “important” than the other? (A: No).

            There’s at least an equivalent chance of “wardrobe malfunction”.

  2. On glory it is a fairly space awesome movie. also had Matthew broadrick acting so very rare.

  3. We went to see a program of the animated shirt films last weekend. My pick is Paperman, a cute Disney film that feels like it was made in the 40s.

    • Did they have separate categories: short-sleeve, long-sleve, wife-beater, turtleneck?

  4. If Jennifer Lawrence wins, it’ll be well-deserved. She was amazing.

  5. You haven’t seen Glory?

    I couldn’t get past that part of the post.

    • Glory would’ve won the Oscar almost no matter what year it came out.

      Anyway, I’m also pulling for Jennifer Lawrence.

      I’m also wondering if there will be any thought at all whether giving the nod to Argo will somehow worsen the Iranian situation. I think not, but it might be interesting to speculate whether it would, given the intense scrutiny given to the fake anti-Muhammed film that was blamed for Benghazi.

      • I admire your ability to sneak a polemic in there, George.

        But I’m glad you’re rooting for Ms. Lawrence. It’s always nice when we can all be on the same side.

  6. I like Tommy Lee Jones but he always Tommy Lee Jones. He was good in No Country for Old Men but it wasn’t that distinguishable from Thaddeus Stevens in Lincoln.

    Daniel-Day Lewis simply blew everyone out of the water in that movie and this year in acting.

    Jessica Chastian was okay in Zero Dark Thirty but not amazing. The role was not a nuanced one but someone with tunnel vision.

      • When hasn’t he been Jack Nicholson? The only film that comes to mind is Prizzi’s Honor.

        • I understand he deviated from his usual form in “About Schmidt,” though I didn’t see it.

          There are bits of “Five Easy Pieces” where he seems to be playing a real character, but not consistently.

          • Yes, About Schmidt is another example. I both cases, he’s playing characters somewhat less capable and much less agressive than the usual.

            There’s a scene in About Schmidt that goes perfectly with MikeD’s recent piece about work. At Schmidt’s retirement party (from a job he’s had for decades), his boss and colleagues go on about how much they’ll miss his good judgment and expertise, but somehow they’ll struggle along without him. He takes this at face value and drops by a few weeks later to see how they’re doing. They’re fine, of course, and after a few polite hellos ignore him completely.

          • Jack played a unique character in Five Easy Pieces. Yeah that is going back a bit and before Jack was Jack.

          • Is there a more Jack line in all of Jackdom than “Hold it between your knees”?

    • Yeah, that Tommy Lee Jones can’t really act. He had bags under his eyes in Lincoln, and bags under his eyes in Men in Black. Nice facial hair and all, in Lincoln, but still.

  7. I’d love to see (or even participate in?) a liveblog. Can we swing some software for that on short notice?

    On the merits: I think I agree with you and Ebert on everything, which might indicate what a predictable year this is.

    • (note: not a paid endorsement)
      I’ve seen a lot of sites use this over the years, though I have no idea on which scale they used. The people I’ve seen use it recently (the reason gang) have used it to aggregate their own twitter feeds about an event.

  8. I saw Silver Linings Playlist and didn’t think it was anything special, but I’m cheering for Jen Lawrence anyway for her roles in X-Men: First Class and The Hunger Games. It feels like an honorary geek award, since no actual geek movies were nominated this time around.

    • I thought she was great in “X-Men” and kind of flat for most of “The Hunger Games,” to be honest, but I think that had as much to do with the directing and source material as anything. (She was quite good in the scene where she basically tells her mom to sack up.)

      • The Hunger Games seemed to suffer from Chris Columbus Syndrome to a degree, in being almost a transcript of the book with added visuals. I couldn’t put my finger on anything that was actually wrong with it – the acting was fine, the visuals were good – but it didn’t manage to draw me in emotionally.

        But it wasn’t bad, and it’s an action movie with a female lead that made the third-most money of any film last year, and given Hollywood’s strong assumptions that female leads don’t sell, that’s worth something. And I wanted Lawrence to be Katniss from the moment I heard they were making a Hunger Games movie – I mean, she’d already done a great job of the role of an impoverished Appalachian girl who basically raised her siblings after her father died and her mother had some psychological issues, which is basically Katniss at the start of the series.

    • Am I the only person who did not like X-Men: First Class? I thought Fasbender was good because he always is but the rest of the movie seemed kind of corny. There was also further proof of the acting inability of January Jones.

      • I thought it was fine but very overrated. Fassbender and Kevin Bacon were worth the ticket price, for sure, but the movie itself was incredibly confused about everything that happened that wasn’t Nazi stuff.

        And yeah, January Jones is a fucking blight.

        • Of course not. I went to see mutants wailing on each other with their bad-ass mutant powers. That the acting was generally quite good was a nice plus.

          Oh, but January Jones? Worst acting I’ve seen in ages. She couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag with a road map and a Sherpa guide. Which totally sucked, since Emma Frost is one of my favorite characters.

        • I expect good acting in all my movies. Just because it is a superhero movie does not mean actor’s should be half-assed.

          Largely it was overrated and not as good as X-Men 1 and 2. Both of which had really good acting. I’m looking forward to Days of Future Past.

          • I preferred it to the first two movies because I cared about the characters. Try as I might, I cannot care about Wolverine. He’s invincible, immortal and deadly, and we’re supposed to feel sympathetic for the awfulness that is his life? I also couldn’t buy his whole arc with Jean Gray – seriously, he had maybe three conversations with her and knew her for about two or three days, and we’re supposed to believe that’s love? The marginalization of Cyclops’ character just made it worse – on the one hand, long-lasting committed relationship, on the other hand random guy who has the hots for her and is a continual dick to Cyclops for no reason, and we’re supposed to sympathize with the latter?

      • Fassbender’s acting was good, the characters generally interacted well, the soundtrack was awesome, and in general I found the characters well-drawn. As comic book movies go, the emotional impact was pretty strong, despite some cheesy lines. I agree that January Jones didn’t do well, although I can’t tell whether it was because she’s a bad actress or as a subtle protest against her role basically being one of half-clothed (if that) fanservice.

      • I thought that X-Men: First Class had too many pornographic moments for me to feel anything but weird watching it.

        It’s funny, the first X-Men used the whole “Nazi” thing fairly well. You completely understood where Magneto was coming from when he was opposing those who would make a registry.

        First Class has Mutant Nazi Hunters and a scene in which I watched a mutant kill the ever-living-shit out of two Nazis and I was cheering inside.

        Until I realized that, no, there were Nazis who jumped to South America and there were far, far fewer knife-throwing mutants to deal with this issue than the movie depicted.

        All in all, my id enjoyed the movie but my superego managed to screw everything up the way that my superego always does.

    • I actually Tweeted that, too. I thought it was very fascinating. If nothing else, it clued me in to Jennifer Lawrence’s “SNL” bit. (I don’t watch “SNL.”) While I agreed with the Oscar voter that it made her seem immature, I blamed it less on her and more on just really crappy material. (Though she didn’t deliver it particularly well, either, and somebody [her or one of her “people”] should have demanded something better.)

    • It’s fascinating how many of his votes are based on personalities or irrelevancies.

      • That aspect surprises me not at all. It’s how I was able to take a stab at predictions without having seen any of the films or knowing who’d won any other lead-up awards.

  9. I don’t watch any awards when it comes to the sad sick hollywood clan, well a few are ok such as Clint Eastwood, Jon Voight, Stephen Baldwin and a few others. I decided 3 years ago that pay TV for cable/satellite and pro sporting events was just a waste of money and my precious time, after all hollywood is so sadly two faced and perverted. I would rather visit the elderly in the hospitals and nursing homes and I’ve done plenty of that in my life time. I wish certain Hollywood shows and actors were shut down as they only promote Violence and sexual erotic perversion. Boycott Hollywood.

    [Ed: I decided to let this one stay, just for the hell of it. It’s blatant trolling, but since I pride myself on having the best trolls at the League it seemed amusing to keep it. –RS]

    • [Ed: THIS one, on the other hand, I’m expunging. Protip to “Ron” and “Kayla”: if you’re going to troll and then sock puppet a fawning follow-up comment lavishly agreeing with the first, you should go to the trouble of concocting two different e-mail addresses for the two comments. When you use the same one, it rather tips your hand. Smooches, Russell.]

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