Ready to be entertained?
Thats what producers of this years Oscars are promising a show that will feature more production numbers and musical performances.
It will be edgier, thats for sure. Craig Zadan and Neil Meron hired funny, irreverent Seth MacFarlane (TVs Family Guy, Ted) to be the host for Sundays show.
MacFarlane will even sing! That comes as no surprise, given Zadans and Merons history: They produced 2003s best picture, Chicago; TVs Broadway saga Smash; and the recent Broadway revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
So they know a thing or two about pizzazz. Sundays show is said to include a celebration of the James Bond franchise, a tribute to movie musicals, performances by Barbra Streisand and Adele and a special appearance by Daniel Radcliffe, Charlize Theron, Channing Tatum and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The cast of Chicago is even supposed to reunite onstage.
But this is the Oscars, after all, so the focus will still be on the movies and the nominees.
And the winners, of course. It has been an unpredictable year for the Oscars, with some surprising nominations. Outguessing the Academy is almost futile.
But its certainly entertaining. Here are my predictions in major categories.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty
Its still a surprise that Django made the cut, but many believe its Quentin Tarantinos best film yet (I dont agree). And its really nice to see the small indie Beasts recognized it was beautifully transcendent.
Zero was a favorite to win early on but has since lost steam. The real race now seems to be among Argo, Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook. If we follow Oscar tradition, logic would say that Argo is out because Ben Affleck, strangely, didnt get a directing nomination.
Lincoln was the early favorite, racking up the most nominations this year (12).
But Argo has picked up momentum late in the race, earning best picture awards at the BAFTAs (the British Oscar equivalent), the Golden Globes and the top honor at the Screen Actors Guild awards and rightly so. It is the rare best picture contender that tackles a serious subject hostages in Iran but makes it wildly entertaining. Its a tense, thrilling ride that makes us root for the hostages every step of the way. Despite the directing omission, Argo seems to be the one to beat.
My vote: Argo
Oscar guess: Argo
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Denzel Washington, Flight
First-time nominee Cooper gave an amazing performance as an anxiety-riddled man combating mental illness and heartbreak. Its nice to see he had it in him, and this is a deserved nom, but hes not getting any buzz to win.
Neither is two-time Oscar winner Washington (supporting actor for Glory, lead actor for Training Day) for his riveting portrayal of an alcoholic pilot. Its a showy role that he could have gone overboard with, but didnt.
Previous nominee Phoenix (supporting actor for Gladiator, lead actor for Walk the Line) went all out as an animalistic alcoholic trying to understand a new religion and its leader. It was a brilliant, combustible performance, but hes the long shot.
First-time nominee Jackman won the Golden Globe for best actor in a musical or comedy as Jean Valjean. The films long, single takes allowed him to show a full range of emotions in a single song. He might win if this were any other year.
But this is a year that had Lincoln and a beautiful performance by Day-Lewis (previous lead actor wins for My Left Foot and There Will Be Blood). His complete transformation into the president is a marvel to behold.
Day-Lewis has won nearly all the precursor awards and should win again Sunday, joining an elite group of three-time Oscar winners (Jack Nicholson, Walter Brennan, Ingrid Bergman and Meryl Streep).
My vote: Day-Lewis
Oscar guess: Day-Lewis
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts, The Impossible
Nine-year-old Wallis (whose first name is pronounced kwuh-ven-zuh-nay) is the youngest best actress nominee ever with her first acting role. And its an astounding, revelatory performance (when she was just 6), full of rage and wonder. But shes the long shot here.
Previous nominee Watts (lead actress for 21 Grams) gave a wrenching performance as a tsunami survivor trying to reunite with her family. Strong work, but not good enough to win. She also is handicapped with a role that may not seem lead enough.
Riva gave a beautiful, heartbreaking performance as a stroke victim. If she were to win, she would become only the third performer to win an Oscar for a non-English-speaking role (Marion Cotillard did for La Vie En Rose and Sophia Loren did for Two Women). Even though shes my personal favorite, shes somewhat of a long shot.
That puts the real race between Lawrence and Chastain and its a close one. Either is deserving of the Oscar.
Chastain as an obsessive CIA operative was an early favorite she won the Golden Globe for drama lead actress and several critics awards. While she was completely captivating, she seems to have lost a little steam. She could pull an upset, though.
But Lawrence right now seems to have a slight edge. She was fiercely enthralling as a troubled dancer, bouncing between rage and determination. Her youth may hamper her chances, but she won the SAG and Golden Globe awards and seems poised to win here, too.
My vote: Riva
Oscar guess: Lawrence
Alan Arkin, Argo
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
All are previous winners.
Arkin (supporting actor for Little Miss Sunshine) gets a rare nod for a comedic performance as a crusty studio honcho. He made Argo fun, but hes the long shot here.
Hoffman (lead actor for Capote) was charismatic as the leader of a religious cult and typically chameleonlike he has the impressive ability to disappear into a role. A much-deserved nom, but hes not getting any buzz to win.
De Niro (supporting actor for The Godfather, Part II and lead actor for Raging Bull) could be an upset with his strong turn as a gambling-addicted father. Its his best performance in years.
But I think it comes down to Waltz and Jones.
Waltz (supporting actor for Inglourious Basterds) gave a funny and colorful performance that was the best thing about Django. He won the supporting actor Golden Globe. He also won the BAFTA, and he could possibly win here, too.
But Jones (supporting actor for The Fugitive), who won the SAG supporting actor award, gave a wonderfully feisty yet dignified performance as radical Rep. Thaddeus Stevens. In a category thats probably the hardest to call this year, I think Jones will win.
My vote: Jones
Oscar guess: Jones
Amy Adams, The Master
Sally Field, Lincoln
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook
Previous nominee Weaver (supporting actress for Animal Kingdom) was a surprise here, but she made the most of a role that gave her little to do except look concerned all the time. Still, its a solid performance, but shes a long shot.
So is three-time previous nominee Adams (supporting actress for Junebug, Doubt and The Fighter) for her role as a wife who must stand by her husband no matter what. It was a fine performance, but not an Oscar-winning one.
As a sex therapist who helps a paraplegic man lose his virginity, previous winner Hunt (lead actress for As Good As It Gets) bravely bared body and soul. Its a fine return to form and worthy of the nomination, but she wont win.
Two-time previous winner Field (lead actress for Norma Rae and Places in the Heart) gave what I consider the best performance of her career, as a perpetually disturbed first lady so consumed with grief that she can hardly breathe. Stellar work.
But previous nominee Hathaway (lead actress for Rachel Getting Married) gave a performance that was breathtaking, pouring every ounce of herself into her rendition of I Dreamed a Dream. The scene is so heartfelt, so devastating, it practically seeps with heartache. Hathaway won the Golden Globe and SAG awards and will win here, too hands down.
My vote: Hathaway
Oscar guess: Hathaway
Michael Haneke, Amour
Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Without a shoo-in director tied to a best picture nomination, this category is somewhat open.
First-time nominee Zeitlins nom was a nice surprise. He gave Beasts a dreamy, fable-like feel and coaxed a wonderful performance from his young lead. Hes the long shot, though.
So is first-time nominee Haneke (pronounced HA-nuh-kuh), though its great to see his talent recognized. His stark style and sparse use of camera movement added intimacy to the tragic Amour. He could possibly benefit from a best foreign language film win.
Previous winner Lee (Brokeback Mountain) gave a wondrous sense to Pi and managed a broad, sweeping story on two timelines. Its beautiful work, even though his films narrative stumbled in the third act. He probably wont win.
Previous nominee Russell (The Fighter) guided all his key cast members to Oscar nominations in a very character-driven story and deftly balanced comedy and drama. He could get his first Oscar in an upset.
But without Affleck being nominated here for Argo, most signs point to Spielberg, who gave us a sprawling, historical epic that still had heart. He will probably win his third directing Oscar (after Saving Private Ryan and Schindlers List).
My vote: Affleck (not nominated)
Oscar guess: Spielberg