Best picture nominees an unimpressive lot, but somebody’s gotta win, so …

As a longtime Oscar watcher (the awards show, not just some guy named Oscar, which would be creepy), let me just say this to start my annual (as in second) Oscar predictions blog: this is the least impressive selection of Oscar best picture nominees in years. Maybe ever.

I’ve seen (courtesy of the kindness of strangers who download movies) most of the best picture nominees, and basically all of the nominees I want to see, and pronounce myself singularly unimpressed. It’s not that there are bad movies on the list; some years, there are legitimately lousy or entirely forgettable movies that sneak in. (The Help? Seriously? And does anyone remember a film called Finding Neverland? Or how about Dead Poets Society? The Towering Inferno? The list goes on.) This year, however, all of the movies are, in my view, either flawed or, worse yet, boring.  Still, this IS the Academy Awards, and it demands attention. And predictions.

BEST PICTURE

Let’s begin with the No Chance category:

• Amour. The French won last year’s Oscar for The Artist, which is better by far than anything on this year’s list. No chance Hollywood would let those Frenchies win two in a row. It will, however, win best foreign language film.

• Beasts of the Southern Wild: Low budget, low box office numbers, low interest. I got about a half-hour into this thing, and quit.

Now, the Remote Chance category:

• Life of Pi. Amazing film technically, but man is it boring. From what I heard, the 3D is wonderful, but a lot of Oscar voters would have seen it on DVD (or, in my case, DL), which would take away the film’s best reason to see it.

• Les Miserables: Critically panned, but it’s a Big Movie, which the academy (predominantly older voters) loves. But the film has so few fans, chances are minimal at best.

Outside chance:

• Django Unchained: Quentin Tarantino not an academy favorite, but if there’s going to be an upset, this is it. But don’t bet on it, although of the nominated films I’ve seen, this was one of the best. Too long, as usual for Tarantino, and it got stupid and typically blood-soaked at the end, but it wasn’t dull.

The winner will come from these four:

• Zero Dark Thirty: Solid war drama, but less-than patriotic with its depiction of U.S. torture. Also, a lot of it is really, really boring, and director Kathryn Bigelow won just a few years ago for The Hurt Locker. Who does she think she is, Stephen Spielberg? Speaking of which …

• Lincoln: Handsome production, historically impeccable, Stephen Spielberg directed… this is Oscar catnip. One problem: it’s incredible dull. Honestly, I didn’t make it through the whole film. I know how it ends, anyway.

• Silver Linings Playbook: Decent film, but awfully small for a best picture winner. Oscar needs something much bigger. Which leads us to our winner, or least objectionable film…

•  Argo: Entertaining as hell, but historically questionable. I liked it, but I hated the way it belittled the Canadian contribution. I hope it loses for that reason alone, but it won’t. In an extremely weak year for Oscar nominees, without a single really outstanding film, Argo will win by default.

BEST ACTOR

Daniel Day Lewis for Lincoln. Don’t even have to run down the other nominees because this one’s a lock. If there’s going to be an upset — and there won’t — it would be Denzel Washington for Flight, another pretty mediocre film. But it’s Daniel Day Lewis for sure. (There was one name missing from this year’s list: Jack Black for Bernie. Seriously, Jack Black. He’s terrific in an sadly overlooked film, and both he and the film deserved Oscar nominations. Check it out.)

BEST ACTRESS

This is the best, most open, most interesting contest of the night. Only Quvenzhane Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild has no chance of winning, mainly because she’s a child who isn’t acting, just reacting to whatever the director says. You can’t possibly give the Oscar for acting to someone who knows zero about acting. Everyone else — Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty, Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook, Emmanuelle Riva for Amour, and Naomi Watts for The Impossible — could win. But, I’ll go with Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook, with the outside chance of the aged Emmanuelle Riva (the academy loves oldsters).

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Also wide open. All the nominees are previous winners, so that takes away the ‘lifetime achievement award’ benefit. I think it will be Robert De Niro for Silver Linings Playbook, because he was a) very good, b) hasn’t won in years, c) he’s not playing someone named Fokker, and d) it’s Robert Freakin’ De Niro. Alternative winner: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who is always nominated.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Another lock. Anne Hathaway, from what I’ve heard, emotes like crazy in Les Miserables. Alternative winner: Sally Field, but I don’t think the academy really, really likes her all that much for Lincoln. Category also contains the worst nomination of the year: Jacki Weaver for Silver Linings Playbook. I had to ask myself if this was actually the woman nominated for the Oscar, the part is so inconsequential.

DIRECTOR

Very strange category. Ben Affleck won the Director’s Guild Award, but wasn’t nominated for an Oscar. So by default, I guess, go with Spielberg for Lincoln. But David O. Russell, director of Silver Linings Playbook, directed FOUR Oscar nominated performances, so that has to count for something, doesn’t it.

FINAL PREDICTION

The show will run long, Seth McFarlane will say something incredibly crude, Skyfall will win for best song, and Best Achievement in Sound Mixing will see the largest collective bathroom break.

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