Oscars predictions: Argo to win – and Amour to provide the poundage | Tom Shone

Ben Affleck’s nifty caper will win best picture, and Day-Lewis best actor – and I’m predicting a big night for Michael Haneke

History be damned. A pox on precedent. A poke in gravitas’s eye. This year it looks very much as if Argo, the nifty Iranian caper conjured up by Ben Affleck and George Clooney, will speed off with best picture, making it the first film to do so without a best director nomination since Driving Miss Daisy in 1989.

To those who say this riderless horse lacks the poundage of a typical best picture winner, just look at the light lifting the academy has preferred to do of late: The King’s Speech, The Artist, and now Argo, just one letter away from an inert gas. In a year of passionate favorites and flash-fire controversies, Affleck’s film has emerged as the clear consensus winner – the film that rubs the least number of people up the wrong way.

You’ll soon know which way the evening is headed by that old bellwether, best editing, and best adapted screenplay. Lincoln’s Tony Kushner has been the frontrunner in the latter category all season, but he stubbed his toe at the Writers’ Guild Awards last weekend, where Argo’s Chris Terrio walked away with the prize. Expect Terrio to do the same at the Dolby Theatre. The Academy will be looking to big up their best picture champ any way they can.

Only a fool would bet against Daniel Day-Lewis to lift his third best actor statuette, but Emmanuelle Riva’s win at the Baftas has re-energised the best actress race. Jennifer Lawrence has been the frontrunner all season, but Riva wasn’t nominated by SAG, nor for a Globe, so Lawrence has only won in Riva-less races. Lawrence is only 23, and – the reasoning goes – has many more nominations to look forward to. On the other hand, Riva, who will turn 86 on the night of the awards, has become the de rigueur choice for those in Hollywood who wish to signal their discernment, even if they hadn’t heard of the actress before last Tuesday. All the conditions for a possible upset. If you want to pick up compliments for your daring, pick Riva. Otherwise, Lawrence.

I think it will turn out to be a big night for Amour, which could win not just best foreign film (which is expected), but best original screenplay as well. Most have that award as a two-way tussle between Quentin Tarantino (who won at the Globes and the Baftas) and Mark Boal (who won the WGA equivalent) but Boal’s unyielding, clich -disdaining script faced an uphill climb with the Academy even before the whole torture controversy blew up, and Tarantino remains something of an Oscar anomaly, to my way of thinking. Inglourious Basterds proved lucky for Christoph Waltz in 2010, but only because it stood downwind of the Academy’s obsession with the Holocaust. I think Haneke could just sneak it from both men, particularly with Argo triumphant. The Austrian auteur would give the evening some much-needed weight.

Anna Hathaway has been a lock for best supporting actress ever since the trailer for Les Mis rables, long before Sally Field gave Tommy Lee Jones that dressing down in Lincoln (was there some earlier version of the script in which Thaddeus Stevens was the bad guy?). The best supporting actor race, on the other hand, is wide open. Every nominee has won before so it’s nobody’s “turn”. And none have so far come face to face in the precursors: the Globe went to Tommy Lee Jones, while the Bafta went for Christoph Waltz but Harvey Weinstein has been tirelessly waging the same campaign he ran for Meryl Streep last year – it’s been 32 years since he won! Poor man is wasting away!

I must admit to bias here: I thought De Niro’s performance the best by a very long mile, technically precise and unusually heartfelt, where Waltz was merely self-pleasuring and Jones on auto-grump. But then they said the same thing about Nicholson. To find oneself in possession of an actual aesthetic preference is a dangerous thing at the Oscars; such things rarely go unpunished.

The other big nail-biter is best director, which with Affleck out of the race, it boils down to a two-man race between Spielberg and Ang Lee. And that boils down to one question: how many points did Spielberg earn with the acting branch – the biggest voting bloc of the academy – for shaping Lincoln as a vehicle for Day-Lewis’s talents rather than his own? No Spielberg film has ever won for acting before. Did the director go too far in the opposite direction, and sacrifice too much of himself? Then we have Lee’s dazzling, if flawed, transformation of Yann Martel’s ‘unfilmable’ novel into a 3D blockbuster that has now made well over half a billion dollars around the world. Spielberg strikes the nobler pose, but Lee wins on pizzazz.

Life of Pi will probably be the evening’s biggest winner, at least in terms of its Oscar haul, which could end up something like this: Life of Pi (5), Les Mis rables (3), Argo (2), Amour (2), Silver Linings Playbook (1), Lincoln (1). In which case, the biggest losers would be the same three films – Lincoln, Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty – that most excited commentators about the movies’ ability to drive the national conversation and which showed Hollywood, in the words of New York magazine’s Frank Rich, delving into “the domestic and foreign conflicts that roil Americans: gun violence, government dysfunction, and the dark side of the national-security state, along with the hardy perennial of race.”

Nope. It’ll be the one about the fake movie and the Mullahs from the cute producers in beards.

BEST PICTURE

Will win: Argo
Could win: Lincoln
Should win: Amour

BEST DIRECTOR

Will win: Ang Lee
Could win: Steven Spielberg
Should win: Michael Haneke

BEST ACTOR

Will win: Daniel Day-Lewis
Could win: surely you jest
Should win: Daniel Day-Lewis

BEST ACTRESS

Will win: Jennifer Lawrence
Could win: Emmanuelle Riva
Should win: Jennifer Lawrence

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Will win: Robert De Niro
Could win: Tommy Lee Jones
Should win: Robert De Niro

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Will win: Anne Hathaway
Could win: Sally Field
Should win: Anne Hathaway

BEST EDITING

Will win: Argo
Could win: Zero Dark Thirty
Should win: Silver Linings Playbook

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Will win: Life of Pi
Could win: Skyfall
Should win: Life of Pi

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Will win: Amour
Could win: Django Unchained
Should win: Amour

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Will win: Argo
Could win: Lincoln
Should win: Silver Linings Playbook

BEST SCORE

Will win: Life of Pi
Could win: Lincoln
Should win: Lincoln

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Will win: Anna Karenina
Could win: Les Mis rables
Should win: Mirror, Mirror

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIR

Will win: Les Mis rables
Could win: The Hobbit
Should win: The Hobbit

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

Will win: Life of Pi
Could win: Les Mis rables
Should win: Lincoln

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Will win: Life of Pi
Could win: The Hobbit
Should win: Life of Pi

BEST FOREIGN FILM

Will Win: Amour
Could Win: A Royal Affair
Should win: Amour

BEST SONG

Will Win: Adele
Could Win: Les Miserables
Should Win: Ted

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Will Win: Wreck-it Ralph
Could Win: Frankenweenie
Should Win: Wreck-It Ralph

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Will Win: Searching for Sugarman
Could Win: The Gatekeepers
Should Win: Searching for Sugarman

BEST SOUND EDITING

Will Win: Life of Pi
Could Win: Skyfall
Should Win: Zero Dark Thirty

BEST SOUND MIXING

Will Win: Les Mis rables
Could Win: Skyfall
Should Win: Zero Dark Thirty

BEST ANIMATED SHORT

Will Win: Paperman
Could Win: Adam and Dog
Should Win: Paperman

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT

Will Win: Open Heart
Could Win: Mondays At Racine
Should Win: Inocente

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT

Will Win: Curfew
Could Win: Buzkashi Boys
Should Win: Buzkashi Boys