The lead-up to the 2013 Academy Awards has been one of the most suspenseful, intriguing and unpredictable races in recent memory. The confusion started when Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow were snubbed for Best Director for their films “Argo” and “Zero Dark Thirty” respectively, seemingly eliminating any shot these movies had of winning the Best Picture award.
The front-runner then became Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln.” However, since then, David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook” gained an incredible amount of momentum, while “Argo” shockingly racked up a series of awards, including Best Picture at the Golden Globes and the Critic’s Choice Awards, as well as the Best Ensemble award at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Now, the winner is anyone’s guess. “Argo” has since become the front-runner, with “Lincoln” close behind. But there is no reason to believe “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Zero Dark Thirty” are completely out of the race.
“Life of Pi,” while garnering a surplus of nominations and critical praise, seems to be on the outside looking in. Indie darling “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is a cherished film, but sees little chance at victory. “Django Unchained” has been respected more for its acting and writing than as an integrated film. Foreign film “Amour’s” best shot is in the Best Foreign Film category, while the crowd-friendly “Les Misérables” hasn’t made much noise in the race for Best Picture.
So the award for Best Picture seems to be a four-way battle between “Argo,” “Lincoln,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Zero Dark Thirty.” It all depends on whether the Academy wants to award the safer choices of Affleck’s and Spielberg’s films, or the riskier choices of Russell’s and Bigelow’s films.
Josh Johnson: The best film of the year was Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty.” The acting and writing were superb, and the scene of the compound raid was one of the best-directed scenes of the past decade. However, the Academy will stick with the original front-runner and choose Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln.” Despite the film’s shortcomings as a cohesive picture, the Academy will be star-struck by the prestige behind the camera, as well as Daniel Day Lewis’ amazing performance.
Jeremy Grossman: It would be breathtaking to see a victory for “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” a film that manages to be so powerful by doing so little. However, the mere nomination is already a sign that the Academy is making bolder choices, and that is enough of an accomplishment. Against all odds, the Academy will give the award to “Zero Dark Thirty.” Ben Affleck’s snub is too harsh to be ignored, and “Argo” isn’t nearly the film that “Zero Dark Thirty” is.
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Feb. 21 print edition. Jeremy Grossman is film editor. Josh Johnson is arts editor. Email them at email@example.com.