Picking an Academy Award winner requires a combination of confidence, cunning and, occasionally, a little cynicism. It’s a tricky task, especially when one’s reputation as a film lover is on the line. That’s why The Tribune sought professional help this year.
We asked a few Central Coast residents with Hollywood connections to help us predict this year’s Oscar winners.
The following people volunteered to serve on our panel of judges:
• Pamela Alch of Paso Robles: A retired script supervisor, she worked on “The Big Chill,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Mr. and Mrs Smith,” among other films.
• Wendy Eidson of San Luis Obispo: She worked as an assistant film and television director for 20 years before becoming executive director of the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival.
• Michael Nowak of Los Osos: He divides his time between serving as music director of the San Luis Obispo Symphony and working as a Hollywood conductor and musician.
• Tony Peckham of Morro Bay: He’s a screenwriter whose credits include “Invictus,” “Sherlock Holmes” and the upcoming “Jack Ryan.”
They mulled over the choices, then filled out surveys specifying their favorites. Below are the results.
With nine films to choose from, our Hollywood heavyweights had their work cut out for them.
“Argo,” about the real-life rescue mission to save six American diplomats during the Iran hostage crisis, led the pack, followed by the dreamy Hurricane Katrina drama “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” the peril-packed adventure epic “Life of Pi” and the soul-stirring biopic “Lincoln.”
After expressing outrage over the snubbing of “Argo” director Ben Affleck, the judges said their sympathies were split between Ang Lee (“Life of Pi”), David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”) and Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”).
However, they agreed that “Lincoln” director Steven Spielberg is a shoo-in for the Best Director award. Expect him to add yet another statuette to a mantelpiece that’s already groaning with gold.
Daniel Day-Lewis was the clear frontrunner in this category, despite strong competition from the likes of Joaquin Phoenix (“The Master”) and Denzel Washington (“Flight”). For our panelists, the two-time Oscar winner’s virtuoso performance as President Abraham Lincoln — a shrewd politician who used his skills as an orator and scholar to bring an end of slavery — simply rang true.
In a category full of young, fresh faces — “Amour” star Emmanuelle Riva is the only nominee older than 45 — 22-year-old Jennifer Lawrence dominated the competition as a young widow dealing with depression who befriends an older bipolar man in “Silver Linings Playbook.” Displaying a combination of smarts, sass, strength and smoldering sensuality, she gave Jessica Chastain’s driven CIA agent in “Zero Dark Thirty” a run for her money.
Best Supporting Actor
Although Alan Arkin and Tommy Lee Jones garnered individual votes as an irascible movie producer in “Argo” and a congressional firebrand in “Lincoln,” respectively, it was the elegant, articulate Christoph Waltz who ultimately won over our panelists as the German bounty hunter who helps a freed slave wreak revenge on his former masters in “Django Unchained.”
In the words of his “Inglorious Basterds” character, Col. Hans Landa: “Oooh, that’s a bingo!”
Best Supporting Actress
In selecting the winner of this category, the judges were divided between two-time Oscar winner Sally Field, who added a new dimension to first lady Mary Todd Lincoln in “Lincoln,” and Anne Hathaway, whose emotional performance as the unfortunate Fantine in “Les Misérables” brought tears to everyone’s eyes.
Meanwhile, “The Sessions” actress Helen Hunt earned praise for her portrayal of a sex surrogate hired by a polio-stricken poet.
In other categories
Best Cinematography: “Life of Pi”
Best Adapted Screenplay: “Lincoln”
Best Original Screenplay: “Django Unchained”
Best Documentary Feature: “How to Survive a Plague” or “Searching for Sugar Man”
Best Animated Feature: “Brave” or “Frankenweenie”
Best Foreign Language Film: “Amour” or “War Witch”
Best Original Score: “Life of Pi”
How did our experts do?
Watch the 85th annual Academy Awards this Sunday, starting at 4 p.m. on ABC, and find out.