Oscar Predictions PART II: FILMS & SCREENPLAYS

The most prestigious film awards of the year are just six days away, which means Cadenza is cranking out its second set of predictions. For part two of our three-part coverage, we’re tackling the screenplays, documentary and foreign language films and more technology categories.

The Academy Awards air on ABC on Sunday, Feb. 24 at 6 p.m. CST.

Best Costume Design
“Anna Karenina”
“Les Misérables”
“Lincoln”
“Mirror Mirror”
“Snow White and the Huntsman”

Period pieces and Best Picture nominees usually make for solid bets for Costume Design, yet both the tattered French dresses of “Les Mis” and the Civil War-era suits of “Lincoln” are not expected to get to the podium for this award. The runaway favorite is “Anna Karenina,” whose designer, Jacqueline Durran, somehow didn’t win for “Atonement” despite that legendary green dress. Her costumes for “Anna Karenina” inspired a Banana Republic clothing line, which is more than can be said for any other nominee. Sentiment might carry “Mirror Mirror” to the finish line, since designer Eiko Ishioka passed away of cancer last January, but the movie flopped both critically and at the box office. Missing from the category are the obnoxious but sublime threads of “Django Unchained.” –Georgie Morvis

Favorite: “Anna Karenina”
Spoiler: “Les Mis”
Should have been there: “Django Unchained”

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
“Hitchcock”
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
“Les Misérables”

While the Best Makeup category has taken significant hairstyling effects into consideration since 1993, the award title was changed this year to more officially welcome hairstyling to the competition. But it appears the Academy still refuses to take hairstyling seriously, as the incredible hair of “Anna Karenina” somehow lost to the baldness of “Hitchcock.” Usually, Best Makeup goes to the production with the most makeup. For that reason, “Les Mis” and “The Hobbit” are running neck-in-neck for their depictions of diseased French peasants and dwarves, respectively. In a weaker year, “Looper” would have made the category for the team’s job in making Joseph Gordon-Levitt look like a young Bruce Willis. That feat aside, “Looper” is a movie that has been seriously underrated by awards shows. –Georgie Morvis

Favorite: “Les Mis”
Spoiler: “The Hobbit”
Should have been there: “Looper”

Production Design
“Anna Karenina”
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
“Les Misérables”
“Life of Pi”
“Lincoln”

The award for production design is presented to the film with the best overall “look.” This can be difficult to define and leads to some hard comparisons, like how to decide whether the historical accuracy in “Lincoln” or the beautiful computer-generated imaging in “Life of Pi” is more deserving of the award. The third film with a shot this year is “Anna Karenina,” and the other two nominees are “Les Mis” and “The Hobbit.” Period pieces tend to do very well in this category, and “Lincoln” is unsurprisingly the favorite for that reason. “Anna Karenina” has been lauded for its production quality, and while this is by far the strongest aspect of the movie, it may not be strong enough in other categories to get the honor here. –Trevor Leuzinger

Favorite: “Lincoln”
Spoiler: “Anna Karenina”
Should have been there: “Django Unchained”

Foreign Language Film:
“Amour”
“Kon-Tiki”
“No”
“A Royal Affair”
“War Witch”

In what is the easiest category to predict by far this year, one film stands out as the obvious choice. Michael Haneke’s “Amour” is up for this award and has nominations for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress as well. Needless to say, the Austrian auteur will be winning his first award, finally. The other nominees are “Kon-Tiki” from Norway, “No” from Chile, “A Royal Affair” from Denmark and “War Witch” from Canada. While the other nominees are all strong movies, if any of them beat “Amour” it will be a huge upset. –Trevor Leuzinger

Favorite: “Amour”
Spoiler: “War Witch”
Should have been there: “The Intouchables”

Documentary
“5 Broken Cameras”
“The Gatekeepers”
“How to Survive a Plague”
“The Invisible War”
“Searching For Sugar Man”

One of the deepest categories this year, these documentaries cover a wide range of topics. “Searching for Sugar Man” is about two fans’ search for the ’70s musician Sixto Rodriguez. It was the biggest hit out of the nominees this year and has won a couple of awards already. It is by far the least serious of the nominees. An Israeli and a Palestinian co-directed “5 Broken Cameras,” which covers Palestinian resistance to the Israeli military. For “The Gatekeepers,” the director interviewed every surviving head of Shin Bet, the Israeli security agency. “The Invisible War” is about rape within the U.S. military. Finally, “How to Survive a Plague” is about the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the U.S. and how two groups, ACT UP and TAG, worked to stop an AIDS diagnosis from being a death sentence. “How to Survive a Plague” is the other favorite, but all of the films deserved their nominations. –Trevor Leuzinger

Favorite: “Searching for Sugar Man”
Spoiler: “How to Survive a Plague”
Should have been there: “Bully”

Original Screenplay
Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola, “Moonrise Kingdom”
Mark Boal, “Zero Dark Thirty”
John Gatins, “Flight”
Michael Haneke, “Amour”
Quentin Tarantino, “Django Unchained”

Quentin Tarantino has made a name for himself as one of the most idiosyncratic writers in Hollywood. A master of making heightened, self-aware dialogue feel completely organic, Tarantino has created more iconic scenes and cultural touchstones than the vast majority of his peers. His last two films, “Inglourious Basterds” and “Django Unchained,” have tackled historical revisionism with the kind of carefree, shoot-from-the-hip panache only he can pull off. Despite seeming like a lock when the nominations were announced, scribe Mark Boal of “Zero Dark Thirty” saw his stock fall during the film’s disappointing award circuit run. While Boal’s script is admirable in its deliberate avoidance of action and war film cliches, it ultimately focuses too heavily on procedure rather than character, sapping some of the film’s potential emotional resonance. The absence of Rian Johnson, writer and director of “Looper,” is disappointing, as his screenplay struck a particularly deft balance between concept, character and plot. –Mark Matousek

Favorite: Quentin Tarantino, “Django Unchained”
Spoiler: Mark Boal, “Zero Dark Thirty”
Should Have Been There: Rian Johnson, “Looper”

Best Adapted Screenplay
Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
Tony Kushner, “Lincoln”
David Magee, “Life of Pi”
David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Chris Terrio, “Argo”

Though it seemed likely to dominate the Oscars not too long ago, “Lincoln” has since been usurped by current Best Picture favorite “Argo.” But “Lincoln” screenwriter Tony Kushner’s (relative) star power has allowed him to hang on as the front-runner for Best Adapted Screenplay. Kushner’s ability to make legislative machinery come alive on screen is certainly a remarkable feat, and while a win would not be completely unwarranted, I’d argue for the merits of “Argo.” A master-class in tension and pacing, Chris Terrio’s script succeeds where many of his historical drama contemporaries have failed by making the film about the people rather than the history. By allowing us to care deeply for both the potential hostages and those tasked with saving them, Terrio raises the stakes to almost unbearable levels. It may not have had a chance to begin with, but I would have liked to see Skip Hollandsworth and Richard Linklater’s screenplay for “Bernie” get the recognition it deserves. Linklater once again proves that no filmmaker can waste time quite like him, and his unconventional comic sensibilities allow him to give the film’s murder storyline an ingenious mixture of tragedy and dark comedy. –Mark Matousek

Favorite: Tony Kushner, “Lincoln”
Spoiler: Chris Terrio, “Argo”
Should Have Been There: Skip Hollandsworth and Richard Linklater, “Bernie”