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This Year’s Oscar Choices May Be a Neurotic Mess

By Adam Sandel

Despite occasionally idiosyncratic choices, the Oscar nominations typically follow a pattern of fairly reasonable logic. The most revered films of the year tend to be nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and a handful of acting awards – which makes sense.

But this year’s logic was thrown for a goofy loop when directors Kathryn Bigelow and Ben Affleck were both snubbed for Best Director nods, for the masterful Zero Dark Thirty and the safe but respectable Argo, respectively.

Bigelow’s snub could be chalked up to the political divide caused by her film, a gripping, exhaustively-researched telling of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. Those on the left bristled at the idea that “enhanced interrogation,” ie: torture, produced information that led us to find Bin Laden. Those on the right bristled that CIA ops may have shared sensitive information with the filmmakers.

The snub of golden boy Affleck, whose praises all of Hollywood has been singing since he transitioned from mediocre actor to solidly capable director, remains a mystery. He was certainly a casualty of a last-minute love swell for the intimate Amour and the enigmatic Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Since snubbing Affleck, Hollywood has plunged into a sea of guilt-ridden remorse. The Screen Actors Guild – which comprises the Academy’s largest voting block – awarded Argo the SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Film – which is their equivalent Best Picture award.

The Directors Guild of America, essentially the same group that nominates the Best Director Oscar candidates -- just gave Affleck their Outstanding Direction of a Feature Film award for Argo – while snubbing him for an Oscar nod.Weird? I know.

Because of the Zero Dark Thirty political controversy, and the Affleck-Argo goof-guilt, it’s likely that the major Oscars will defy reasonable logic and may all go to different films.

As I’ve stated in years past, the key to predicting Oscar winners is to set aside your personal favorites and think like Academy voters, whose median age is reportedly 62. Think safe. Think old.

Best Picture: While Lincoln once seemed like a lock, expect a guilt-ridden win for Argo. Although Zero Dark Thirty is a far superior film, Oscar voters are likely to feel more cozy honoring the tale of a CIA mission that saved six Americans in 1980, than the one that killed the world’s number one terrorist less than two years ago.

Best Actor: This category offers the safest bet win for Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln. Hollywood seems permanently in awe of this most methodical of method actors, who’s already won Best Actor Oscars for 2007’s There Will Be Blood and 1989’s My Left Foot. His only real competition is Bradley Cooper’s stunning turn in Silver Linings Playbook, but Lewis’ Golden Globe and SAG wins have made him a Best Actor juggernaut.

Best Actress: In a perfect world, Jessica Chastain’s role of a lifetime as the calm yet fiery CIA agent in Zero Dark Thirty would be a Best Actress shoo-in, and I’m still rooting for her. But political backlash against that film was evident as Jennifer Lawrence won the Best Actress SAG award for Silver Linings Playbook. If Chastain loses, it will be to Lawrence.

In another bizarre twist this year, Academy voters decided that the performance of then-six year old Quvenzhané Wallisin Beasts of the Southern Wild, and the harrowing turn by 44 year old Naomi Watts in The Impossible, were not only comparable, but that Wallis’ was superior.

Weird? I know.

Best Supporting Actor: This showdown between veteran Oscar winners Alan Arkin, Robert DeNiro, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tommy Lee Jones and Christoph Waltz is the toughest one to call. But Tommy Lee Jones’ win for The Fugitive was 20 years ago, which should give his blustery turn in Lincoln the edge over Arkin’s crusty producer in Argo.

Best Supporting Actress: Two-time Best Actress winner Sally Field made a welcome comeback in Lincoln – and they like her! They really like her! But Anne Hathaway really worked for it as theagonized prostitute in Les Miserables. They chopped off her hair! They yanked out her teeth! She sang that song in one take with the camera three inches from her face! They’ll give her an Oscar.

Best Director: Well it won’t beBen Affleck or Kathryn Bigelow because they weren’t nominated. Ang Lee’s transformative Life of Pi will most likely be honored in technical and visual categories, and David O. Russell didn’t even get a Directors Guild nomination for Silver Linings Playbook. So think like a 62 year old and place your bets on the safest bet of all: Steven Spielberg for Lincoln.

Look for Les Miserables to pick up a handful of design awards, and for Best Song to go to the ubiquitous awards show champ Adele for Skyfall.The ceremony itself should be a refreshing departure from years past, hosted by the irreverent Family Guy creatorSeth MacFarlane – with a promised appearance by Barbra Streisand. Like butta!

For complete information on all things Oscar go to: http://oscar.go.com


The 85thAnnual Academy Awards airs Sunday, February 24, 4:00 p.m. PST, 7:00 p.m. EST on ABC.

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