By Rafer Guzman
This year’s Oscar nominations arrive about two weeks earlier than last year’s, which means one thing is certain: As Newsday’s official Oscar predictor, I’ll be wrong a little sooner.
Last year, I predicted nods for Charlize Theron in “Young Adult,” Bryce Dallas Howard in “The Help” and Andy Serkis in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” - and struck out on all of them. (I admit that Serkis, playing a computer-animated simian, was a long shot.) But for me, the whole point of predicting the Oscars isn’t to get them right, it’s to cheer on my favorite underdogs, harrumph at the heavyweights and point out the performances and achievements that moviegoers might have missed.
For instance: Why isn’t anyone talking about Jude Law’s strong performance as a dull, doughy husband in “Anna Karenina?” Did he play the role so well that no one recognized him? Or take the forgotten horror-spoof “The Cabin in the Woods” - it mashed up gore and comedy just as cleverly as Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained,” but it’s unlikely to get a single nomination (except from me). As for Zoe Kazan’s bittersweet comedic turn as a fantasy girlfriend in “Ruby Sparks,” which she co-wrote, it’s at least worth a nod. Right?
We’ll find out Thursday morning. Until then, here’s what I’m hoping the list of Oscar contenders looks like.
“Zero Dark Thirty”
“Silver Linings Playbook”
“Beasts of the Southern Wild”
DREAM PICK: “The Master.” I really loved this movie, as you will see. The other contenders may be more topical, more fun or more accessible, but they don’t hold a candle to “The Master.”
BEST LEAD ACTOR
Hugh Jackman, “Les Misirables”
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln”
Bill Murray, “Hyde Park on Hudson”
Joaquin Phoenix, “The Master”
Denzel Washington, “Flight”
DREAM PICK: Phoenix, as a war veteran whose emotional injuries ooze from his cracked face and crooked body. It’s an astoundingly physical performance.
BEST LEAD ACTRESS
Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty”
Judi Dench, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”
Zoe Kazan, “Ruby Sparks”
Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Quvenzhani Wallis, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
DREAM PICK: Wallis, heartbreaking as a feral 9-year-old who learns what love is and prepares to live without it.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Dwight Henry, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master”
Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln”
Jude Law, “Anna Karenina”
Matthew McConaughey, “Magic Mike”
DREAM PICK: Hoffman, as a dubious spiritual guru. Rarely has one role encompassed so many contradictions - savior, huckster, angel, devil, man, beast - and Hoffman pulls it off flawlessly.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams, “The Master”
Sally Field, “Lincoln”
Anne Hathaway, “Les Misirables”
Helen Hunt, “The Sessions”
Penelope Wilton, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”
DREAM PICK: Wilton. I’m going way off the map by choosing this 66-year-old actress (familiar to Yanks from television’s “Downton Abbey”), but she’s wonderful as an aging woman trapped by her own unhappiness. In reality, this Oscar seems destined for Field or Adams.
BEST ANIMATED FILM
“The Pirates! Band of Misfits”
“Rise of the Guardians”
DREAM PICK: “Pirates!” This Python-esque spoof (Hugh Grant gives voice to a stumbling swashbuckler) was cheeky good fun and cleverly claymated.
Ben Affleck, “Argo”
Paul Thomas Anderson, “The Master”
Kathryn Bigelow, “Zero Dark Thirty”
David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln”
DREAM PICK: Anderson, who outclasses the competition on nearly every level, though the battle will ultimately come down to Spielberg and Bigelow.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
“The Cabin in the Woods”
“Zero Dark Thirty”
DREAM PICK: “Flight.” Writer John Gatins combined his two worst fears - dying in a plane crash and drinking himself to death - into one funny, harrowing and sneakily profound film.