Oscar analysis: Bad day for 'Argo,' 'Les Mis' and 'Zero Dark Thirty'

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Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams, The Master
Sally Field, Lincoln
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

Hathaway is out ahead, an award season juggernaut who seems to win every competition. But Field is close on her heels and has a 2-for-2 record of winning her Academy Award nominations. Even if Academy affection for Les Mis seems to be wanting, there is near universal acclaim for Hathaway’s performance. She’ll be tough to beat, but if anything, this is a two-way race between them.

Prize Fighter Score: Ugh. Only three for five. (All right, have the gummi bears back … I have lost my taste for them.) Instead of The Master‘s Amy Adams and Silver Linings Playbook‘s Jacki Weaver, I had Maggie Smith for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and ultra-underdog Ann Dowd for Compliance. Some voters I spoke to felt Weaver and Adams had underwritten roles, but Weaver has been an active campaigner and actors’ branch affection for both Silver Linings and The Master runs deeper than I expected.

Lesson Learned: There’s a fundamental question about the job of an Oscar writer: Is it our job to merely repeat what’s in the echo chamber, or should we occasionally shout a name out into it, and hope others hear? If you perpetually go shooting your mouth off for advocacy’s sake, you have no credibility. But if you never take a stand, never spend a little of that credibility to champion a deserving contender who doesn’t have a lot of campaign resources … what good are you?

Dowd gave a stellar performance in Compliance, as a fast-food manager who gets duped into doing some terrible things by a man pretending to be a cop. It’s a tough movie because it strikes at something ugly about human nature — our fealty toward authority. If I had to be wrong about something, I’m happy to have been wrong about her. A little rebellion is good for the soul.

However, I should have at least seen Adams coming instead of Smith. I’ll take a knuckle smack over that.

Next Page: The Best Director category …

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