And the winners are …

Political contender … Bryan Cranston and Ben Affleck in best-picture favourite<i> Argo</i>.
Political contender … Bryan Cranston and Ben Affleck in best-picture favourite Argo.

For movie fans, the 85th Academy Awards are throwing up some fascinating questions.

Will Argo's awards-season momentum continue all the way to the Oscars? Could best actress go to the oldest-ever winner - or the youngest? And what are the chances of Australia's four nominees - Hugh Jackman, Naomi Watts, Jacki Weaver and make-up and hair stylist Rick Findlater?

Sometimes another nominee deserves the gong ahead of the Academy's choice. Here's how they will play out …


It's not just winning all the key lead-up awards that suggests Argo, Ben Affleck's lively political thriller about an audacious 1980 plan to free Americans trapped in Iran with a fake movie, is hot favourite. It's exactly the type of movie that has appealed to voters in recent Oscars history - set partly in Los Angeles, involving a Hollywood filmmaker and directed by a popular actor who also stars. But voters might recognise the Hollywood genre touches that ramp up the drama - the pursuing cars on the tarmac as the plane takes off, for example. In contrast, Lincoln is a beautifully made, serious-minded biopic of Abraham Lincoln that deals with slavery and politics at a pivotal time in American history. They appear well ahead of Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty, with Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Django Unchained, Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild deserving their nominations but little chance to win.

Likely winner Argo.

Deserves to win Lincoln.


As great as it would be to see Hugh Jackman win for Les Miserables, Daniel Day-Lewis brought Abraham Lincoln to life with exceptional skill in Lincoln - wise, warm, funny, troubled, furious, politically shrewd and statesmanlike in turn - and is a virtual put-the-house-on-it certainty to win his third best-actor Oscar.

Likely winner Daniel Day-Lewis.

Deserves to win Daniel Day-Lewis.


In a category with five strong performances by former Oscar winners, Alan Arkin has the best lines as a Hollywood producer in Argo (''If I'm going to make a fake movie, it's going to be a fake hit!''). But the standouts are Tommy Lee Jones as a radical Republican in Lincoln and Christoph Waltz as a German bounty hunter in Django Unchained, ahead of Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master).

Likely winner Tommy Lee Jones or Christoph Waltz.

Deserves to win Tommy Lee Jones or Christoph Waltz.


The best story would be Quvenzhane Wallis becoming the youngest winner, at nine, for playing a sparky swamp dweller in Beasts of the Southern Wild. Or France's Emmanuelle Riva becoming the oldest winner on her 86th birthday for battling declining health in Amour. But Jennifer Lawrence, who was a troubled young widow in Silver Linings Playbook, is clear favourite, with Naomi Watts (The Impossible) and Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) also in the mix.

Likely winner Jennifer Lawrence.

Deserves to win Emmanuelle Riva.


Another year, Sally Field, who played the president's troubled wife in Lincoln, or Helen Hunt, who was a sex therapist in The Sessions, might win, ahead of Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook) and Amy Adams (The Master). But this year Anne Hathaway is a certainty for her emotional singing role as a single mother forced into prostitution in Les Miserables.

Likely winner Anne Hathaway.

Deserves to win Anne Hathaway.


With Ben Affleck (Argo) and Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) bafflingly overlooked for a nomination, the frontrunners are Steven Spielberg for the epic Lincoln and Ang Lee for the visually stunning Life of Pi, ahead of David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook), Michael Haneke (Amour) and Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild).

Likely winner Steven Spielberg, or Ang Lee.

Deserves to win Steven Spielberg.


With the main competition coming from Les Miserables, Australia's Rick Findlater, along with his team, is a 50:50 chance to win the Oscar for best make-up and hairstyling for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

While Argo is favourite to win best adapted screenplay, Lincoln has a more ambitious and richly satisfying script. In the original-screenplay category, Quentin Tarantino is the likely winner for Django Unchained, despite some questionable twists and turns and the strong claims of the grippingly realistic Zero Dark Thirty and the heart-wrenching and unsentimental Amour.

And while Amour won't win best picture or director, it is clear favourite to win best foreign-language film ahead of Norway's Kon-Tiki.


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This story And the winners are … first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.