The Oscars 2013: Best Picture – Who Will Win?

The 85th annual Academy Awards will see nine completely different films battling for Best Picture. We break down which movie has the best odds at nabbing the highly coveted Oscar

Which movie will win Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards? We handicap the nine contenders for Hollywood’s Top Prize

From contemporary tales about love’s trials to fantasies populated by CGI creatures to historical stories in dramatic, seriocomic and musical form, the nine movies nominated for Academy Awards this year couldn’t be more different.

Featuring a mix of popular box-office hits (Lincoln, Argo, Les Misérables and Django Unchained), stellar-reviewed solid performers (Zero Dark Thirty, Life of Pi and Silver Linings Playbook) and two obscure art-house films (Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild), the category is divided between frontrunners, slim chances and long shots.

Hosted by first-time Oscar emcee Seth MacFarlane, best known for his animated TV series but possessing solid live comedy and song-and-dance cred, the 85th annual Academy Awards will be telecast live from Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre this Sunday.

Before you mark your Oscar pool ballot, read on for an in-depth analysis of the nine Best Picture nominees.

Credit: Disney

Lincoln — Odds: 1 to 2

Landing the most nominations this year with 12 and the top box-office grosser at US$170.8 million, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln is an absorbing portrait of America’s 16th president and the political storms he faced during and after the Civil War.

The type of prestige picture that Oscar-voters typically love, Lincoln is ranked first at 1 to 2 by oddsmakers. But whether or not it wins, handicappers, insiders and just about everyone else agree that star Daniel Day-Lewis will take home his third Oscar for his indelibly immersive performance as the war-weary, noble title character.

Tommy Lee Jones is favoured at 4 to 5 in the Best Supporting Actor race, his fourth Oscar nomination (he won for The Fugitive), and Sally Field may repeat her Norma Rae win if the Academy chooses her over Anne Hathaway (who scored a Best Supporting Actress nom for Les Mis).

Credit: Sony Pictures

Zero Dark Thirty — Odds: 5 to 1

Chronicling the pursuit and ultimate capture of elusive terrorist Osama Bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty is told from the point of view of a female CIA operative (Jessica Chastain) with a relentlessly dogged focus on the task at hand.

It scored five nominations including nods for Chastain, film and sound editing, and original screenplay, and has earned US$77.8 million to date.

Given 5-to-1 odds, it has lost some momentum due to controversy over its depiction of prisoner interrogations and the fact that director Kathryn Bigelow was left out of the running.

Credit: Warner Bros.

Argo — Odds: 6 to 1

The true story about how a fake movie got real hostages out of Iran in 1979 is no less a nail-biter because we know the outcome in advance. Scoring seven Oscar nominations, Argo has already grossed US$120.4 million and, some believe, has moved into the lead spot based on its other recent wins.

Early on, Las Vegas oddsmakers ranked it third at 6 to 1, but that didn’t take into account the Screen Actors Guild cast award, Golden Globes for Best Picture and Best Director, Producers Guild Award for Best Picture and Directors Guild honours that the movie and director/star Ben Affleck have collected.

Although no film since 1990’s Driving Miss Daisy has won Best Picture without a director nomination, Argo may ride the momentum of its other accolades and benefit from both admiration for Affleck and a desire to see justice for his being shut out.

Credit: Universal Pictures

Les Misérables — Odds: 15 to 1

The screen adaptation of the hit Broadway musical based on Victor Hugo’s classic French Revolution novel about a redeemed thief and the man who pursues him has earned US$141.6 million so far and received eight nominations.

The all-sung epic has the tragedy and triumph the Academy loves, but at 15-to-1 odds, it may fare better in the costume, makeup and sound categories.

While Hugh Jackman faces tough competition in Day-Lewis, Anne Hathaway is favoured to win Best Supporting Actress for her brief but memorable performance as the tragic Fantine and tearful rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream.”

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Silver Linings Playbook — Odds: 25 to 1

A dramedy about a recently released psychiatric patient and how he handles relationships romantic and familial, Silver Linings Playbook is the first movie since Reds in 1981 to score nominations in picture, director and adapted screenplay (David O. Russell) and all four acting categories, honouring Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Jennifer Lawrence and Jacki Weaver.

It has earned US$80.3 million so far, but in the face of stiff competition, it’s ranked fifth at 25-to-1 odds. Lawrence stands the best chance of beating Jessica Chastain, evidenced by the former’s Golden Globe and SAG wins.

Credit: Mongrel Media

Amour — Odds: 35 to 1

This heartbreaking Austrian film about an elderly couple facing their last days together when the wife suffers a debilitating decline has garnered five nominations, including nods for Michael Haneke’s script and direction, and a Best Actress nod for Emmanuelle Riva, who turns 86 on Oscar day (making her the oldest nominee ever in the category).

The fact that it’s a French-language art-house film has its odds at 35 to 1 for Best Picture, but it probably won’t go home empty-handed, as Amour is also nominated for Best Foreign Film.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Life of Pi — Odds: 60 to 1

Based on Yann Martel’s bestseller, director Ang Lee’s stunning, fantastical allegory about a young shipwreck survivor and his transformational spiritual journey at sea with a tiger named Richard Parker has earned US$106 million to date and is nominated for 11 Oscars.

But its lack of acting nominations have it at 60-to-1 odds and make it a safer bet to win in the technical categories for which it is nominated, including cinematography, production design and visual effects.

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Django Unchained — Odds: 85 to 1

Quentin Tarantino’s bloody (and often funny) revenge fantasy is a US$150.9-million hit, but while its slavery payback may be satisfying for some, it may be too sanguine and shocking for some Academy voters.

Coupled with Tarantino’s snub in the director category, that gives it 85-to-1 odds. Its best bet for gold may be Best Supporting Actor nominee (and Oscar-winner for Inglourious Basterds) Christoph Waltz, who already picked up the Golden Globe in the category.

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Beasts of the Southern Wild — Odds: 100 to 1

A little-seen gem of a fable about a six-year-old girl with a vivid imagination and an optimistic outlook despite the fact that her father is dying and her home is sinking into the Louisiana bayou, Beasts is a long shot to win at 100 to 1.

But its inclusion here and its three other nominations — first-time feature helmer Benh Zeitlin for his direction and screenplay co-adaptation, and a Best Actress nod for nine-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis — the youngest nominee ever — underscore the fact that an indie made for less than US$2 million can compete with the blockbusters, an achievement in itself.

Originally published in TVW. For daily programming updates and on-screen Entertainment news, subscribe to the free TVW e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.