With days left to go until the Academy Awards, some things seem more sure than ever-- Adele will perform "Skyfall" and then take home an Oscar for it, Daniel Day-Lewis will humbly accept Best Actor, and it will take a shock of huge proportions to take Best Picture away from Argo. But this year is chock full of categories with potential to surprise, and if you wind up watching Sunday's awards with any kind of Oscar fanatic, you might catch them screaming at the television even in seemingly innocuous categories like Best Sound Mixing or Production Design.

It's just been that kind of year. And that makes the process of making my actual Oscar predictions nearly impossible, since there are so many different ways to change my mind to equally believable scenarios. Before you go calling me a terrible predictor, I promise I"m not the only one-- this year's race is widely considered one of the tightest and wiliest ever. So with all of that in mind, here are my final predictions for the 2013 Oscars. Take a look, use them if you like, and feel free to come back Monday to tell me how many I got wrong.



BEST PICTURE

Amour
Argo
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Lincoln
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty
And the winner is: Argo. Much as I like to believe in a contest, this prize belongs to Argo, and honestly has from the moment the film premiered. Yes, we've flirted with a lot of other Best Picture frontrunners this year, and for a few moments on nomination morning it looked like Argo was dead in the water. But its remarkable comeback in previous weeks could have been predicted by a simple fact: this is a movie about Hollywood saving lives. And there is nothing the Academy likes voting for more than themselves.

BEST DIRECTOR

Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Michael Haneke, Amour
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
And the winner is: Steven Spielberg. This hasn't looked like a wild category over the last two months of awards shows, since Ben Affleck has been winning pretty much every prize available. But without him in this crop of nominees there's a serious power vacuum, and really anyone's guess is valid as to which of the five the Academy will rally behind. I go with Spielberg because he's had the best shot for this all long, and as a beloved industry veteran who still hasn't won as many Oscars as he deserves, he'll get to take another victory lap for Lincoln-- especially since everyone knows by now that film probably won't win Best Picture. If you're looking for an upset, though, Ang Lee is a favorite among plenty of other pundits.


BEST ACTOR

Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Denzel Washington, Flight
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
And the winner is: Daniel Day-Lewis. After being underwhelmed by the film at the New York Film Festival premiere, I bet a friend $10 that Day-Lewis wouldn't win Best Actor. It's among the dumbest bets I've ever made. He's walking away with this, and even his competition can probably admit he deserves it.

BEST ACTRESS

Naomi Watts, The Impossible
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
And the winner is: Jennifer Lawrence. Since Zero Dark Thirty's mysterious tumble in Oscar buzz, Lawrence has been front and center in this category, and though some are predicting a shocker from Amour's Emmanuelle Riva (she did win the BAFTA, after all), Lawrence just has too much lining up for her to lose this one.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Alan Arkin, Argo
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
And the winner is: Robert De Niro. As soon as the lineup was announced, with every single one of them a previous winner, it was clear this would be a tough category to predict. And though I've stuck with Tommy Lee Jones all season, for some reason it feels now like Robert DeNiro-- who has been campaigning hard-- can take this, making it his third Oscar. It's a tight race for sure, and Christoph Waltz is also very much in the mix. But my gut feeling goes to De Niro as I write this. That might change tomorrow.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Sally Field, Lincoln
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Amy Adams, The Master
And the winner is: Anne Hathaway. When you saw your performance for yourself, you knew it as well as everyone else-- Hathaway drops the mic in "I Dreamed A Dream" and double-dares anybody else to pick it up. Nobody did. She sang and cried and snotted her way to this well-deserved statue.


ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Argo
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Silver Linings Playbook
And the winner is: Lincoln. As part of my continued faith that Lincoln is a stronger contender than most believe, I'm bucking the recent trend of wins for Argo's Chris Terrio and sticking with Lincoln's Tony Kushner, a playwriting giant who really ought to have an Oscar to add to his collection of accolades. Lincoln is exquisitely written, and hopefully the many people who still like the film will want to reward that.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Amour
Django Unchained
Flight
Moonrise Kingdom
Zero Dark Thirty
And the winner is: Zero Dark Thirty. On the other hand, Mark Boal's handful of precursor wins indicates strength for his film that it doesn't have pretty much anywhere else. This category has a lot of potential to surprise, though-- if Quentin Tarantino wins instead, for example, you might be able to expect a Best Supporting Actor statue for Christoph Waltz. There are a lot of split affections this year, and this is one place where it could really shake things up.

ANIMATED FEATURE

Brave
Frankenweenie
ParaNorman
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Wreck-It Ralph
And the winner is: Wreck-It Ralph. Taking home a huge stack of Annie Awards earlier this month seemed to seal the deal for Ralph, which had been a favorite all along. But there's still some competition from its fellow DIsney effort Brave, and an upset win for that Pixar film wouldn't be impossible.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Amour
Kon-Tiki
No
A Royal Affair
War Witch
And the winner is: Amour. The last two times a foreign-language film nominee has also been nominated for Best Picture, it has won the Foreign Language category. The buzz surrounding Michael Haneke's Amour indicates this year will be no different.

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

5 Broken Cameras
The Gatekeepers
The Invisible War
How To Survive A Plague
Searching for Sugar Man
And the winner is: Searching for Sugar Man. I was all set to choose the Israeli doc The Gatekeepers for this, until this piece reminded me of how the voting works: everyone in the Academy picks, and they don't have to prove they've seen the film. So why would you pick anything over the massively promoted, feel-good Sugar Man? You wouldn't.


CINEMATOGRAPHY

Anna Karenina
Django Unchained
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Skyfall
And the winner is: Skyfall. As one of the most gorgeous films to ever be shot all-digitally, and with master Roger Deakins still without a single Oscar, Skyfall's win would be a symbolic nod toward the future as well as recognition for the long-overdue Deakins. Then again, Life of Pi is equally forward-thinking, and it has a ton of support in technical categories. Yet another call that feels almost impossible to make.

COSTUME DESIGN

Anna Karenina
Les Miserables
Lincoln
Mirror Mirror
Snow White and the Huntsman
And the winner is: Anna Karenina. This is a category where under-seen films can often triumph on the power of their amazing dresses-- see The Duchess, The Young Victoria and Elizabeth: The Golden Age-- and with no clear other frontrunner, Anna Karenina and its amazing corsets should take it. I've got a sentimental hope, though, for Mirror Mirror's completely nutsy dresses made by the late Eiko Ishioka.

FILM EDITING

Argo
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty
And the winner is: Argo. There's a historically close association between Best Picture and Best Editing-- it's nigh-on impossible to win the former without the latter-- and this is a good place to put all those good feelings toward Argo of late. No, this prize won't actually go to Ben Affleck, but you get the idea.

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

Hitchcock
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Les Miserables
And the winner is: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. It is, frankly, an uninspiring set of nominees, with no opportunity to reward the incredible transformation at the center of Lincoln. But if we're thinking "most makeup" I suppose we have to go with hobbits, and I imagine that will be the logic of most of those voting too.

PRODUCTION DESIGN

Anna Karenina
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Lincoln
And the winner is: Lincoln. The production design in Anna Karenina is fairly miraculous, but I worry for the sake of this little-seen movie. Instead I think, again, affection for Lincoln-- and its incredible recreations of Civil War-era Washington-- can win out here. But honestly, it doesn't seem safe to rule out a single one of these contenders.


ORIGINAL SCORE

Anna Karenina
Argo
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Skyfall
And the winner is: Life of Pi. It bums me out that the most exciting choices on this list-- Anna Karenina and Skyfall-- don't seem to stand a chance, and that John Williams is in here at all instead of Cloud Atlas. But enough about me. Life of Pi is a moving and elegantly crafted film, and Mychael Danna's score does wonders to make that happen. He'll be a perfectly deserving winner.

ORIGINAL SONG

"Before My Time," Chasing Ice
"Everybody Needs A Best Friend," Ted
"Pi's Lullaby," Life of Pi
"Skyfall," Skyfall
"Suddenly," Les Miserables
And the winner is: "Skyfall." Between Adele's performance of this song and what will hopefully be an incredible acceptance speech, I suspect we'll be finding a way to nominate her every year from now on.

SOUND EDITING

Argo
Django Unchained
Life of Pi
Skyfall
Zero Dark Thirty
And the winner is: Skyfall Big effects-heavy movies tend to do well in this category, and while that might make Life of Pi a strong contender, I think Skyfall deserves at least a few statues aside from Adele, and this would be a great place to reward it.

SOUND MIXING

Argo
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Skyfall
And the winner is: Les Miserables Effects movies also tend to do well in this category… but so do musicals. And with its much-publicized live singing gambit, Les Miserables represents a huge sound challenge, which I think gives it the edge.

VISUAL EFFECTS

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Life of Pi
The Avengers
Prometheus
Snow White and the Huntsman<
And the winner is: Life of Pi This CGI effects spectacular has stiff competition in nearly every other category, but not here. It would be a real shock to see it lose this prize.


ANIMATED SHORT

Adam and Dog
Fresh Guacamole
Head Over Heels
Maggie Simpson in "The Longest Daycare"
Paperman
And the winner is: "Paperman." You can actually watch all of the nominees online to pick your favorite-- I'm partial to the witty and incredibly short "Fresh Guacamole." But all the momentum is behind Disney's "Paperman," and there seems no reason not to back this frontrunner.

LIVE ACTION SHORT

Asad
Buzkashi Boys
Curfew
Death of a Shadow
Henry
And the winner is: "Curfew." This is going entirely off the word of others, and specifically the very smart Anne Thompson and Kris Tapley on their Oscar Talk podcast. They say this is the best one. I'm going with them.

DOCUMENTARY SHORT

Inocente
Kings Point
Open Heart
Redemption
Mondays at Racine
And the winner is: "Open Heart." Not all of the Oscar categories automatically go for the most heartstring-tugging film, but this one generally does, which is why a documentary short about heart surgeries provided for Rwandan child refugees in Sudan seems like a perfect winner.

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