Oscar Predictions: 'Zero Dark Thirty' Climbs Best Picture Ladder While 'Les Mis' Remains #1

2013 Best Picture Oscar Predictions
Photo: Columbia Pictures

When it comes to the Oscar Best Picture race, prior to the nomination announcement the question is and always will be going forward How many films will be nominated? By the time the nominations roll around most pundits have a pretty good idea what films will be winning and, for the most part, what films will be nominated. After this weekend it seems quite clear two more films are locked in for nominations and one specifically continues to be the front-runner.

At the end of September, I revealed my first Best Picture predictions and of my initial nine, eight remain in my top nine today with only Anna Karenina falling out of the top slots. Additionally, my #1 remains the same, which is Tom Hooper's Les Miserables, which had everyone talking on Friday and Saturday and now that the holiday weekend is over the chatter continues in some corners today.

The film that takes the place of Anna in the top nine is Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty, which had its coming out party yesterday and is now one of my five locks for a nomination alongside Lincoln, Argo and Silver Linings Playbook. Though, the latter of that bunch is struggling a little in limited release and is going to need a boost from somewhere to maintain that "lock" status, but I'm sure Weinstein will shore it up before turning our attention to one of the two final award season contenders hoping to turn our heads.

All that's left now is Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained and Peter Jackson's return to the ring-obsessed Middle Earth with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Neither of those two films is currently in my top nine for a nomination, as they both lay in waiting of their first screenings. The Hobbit will be screening for the first time on December 2 and Django shortly after on the 5th so expect reactions soon enough.

So all that said, here's the breakdown of my top nine films so far...


  1. Les Miserables
  2. Lincoln (strong box-office keeps it a strong #2)
  3. Argo (steady)
  4. Silver Linings Playbook (wavering)
  5. Zero Dark Thirty (climbing)


  1. Life of Pi


  1. The Master


  1. Beasts of the Southern Wild
  2. Moonrise Kingdom

You can see my full field of predictions right here and stay tuned as plenty of Oscar predictions will be updated today and all week.

  • Paul

    As much as I love both Silver Linings and Life of Pi, I have a gut feeling that those two will miss out in the top five. I think they'll be nominated regardless, but I think Les Miz, Argo, Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, and Django will be the major players (sight unseen on Django, of course). With that being said, that would be a truly exciting race to watch.

    What a damn good year for movies.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/G-Man/ G-Man

    Good list, Brad. After seeing Silver Linings yesterday, I'm rooting for it to be in the mix, as I'm sure you are.

    Interesting you mention Lincoln's box office playing a role. I never thought box office played a role in who got in vs. who didn't.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      Box office matters in that it maintains a film exposure in the headlines, especially for prestige pictures.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/G-Man/ G-Man

        Thanks. Makes sense. I was thinking more along the lines of movies like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows P2 last year where it didn't seem to make a difference

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Orhan94/ Orhan94

          I think a steady presence at the box office at the end of the year is more Oscar-friendly than summer blockbusters. So even though Lincoln won't make Harry Potter money - not even close - being around will help with the Academy's short-term memory.

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

          It's a completely different beast with blockbusters, which is why I made sure to mention "prestige pictures".

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Criterion10/ Criterion10

    Hmm, I really need to see Silver Linings Playbook and Life of Pi...

    Still think The Master will be forgotten. I think that's one that's just too complex for the Academy.

    Also, Brad, didn't you have Flight pretty high on here last time? If you did, then I'm glad to see it's gone, as I don't think that's one that will be a hit with the Academy either.

    Anyways, this top 9 looks pretty legit at the moment. I've really got to get on top of seeing all the films this fall, something difficult as there are many films my friends and family members have no interest in seeing...

    • http://hypethemovies.wordpress.com Jordan B.

      I, too, think that The Master will be forgotten. Given how The Weinstein Company kept switching up release dates, I think their confidence in it has dipped and they won't push it as hard as Django and Silver Linings. It's just not being talked about anymore.

  • Chris

    I'm not believing the Les Misersbles hype yet. It was screened for theater-goers so of course they will love it. But did u hear about the controversy? The Academy President apparently introduced a screening of Les Mis. It was basically an endorsement. I'd love to hear you guys talk about it. I find it really inappropriate as the Academy, especially the President, should not show bias towards a film.

    • DavidG

      Ya, the President did the same thing for a screening of Argo. It was at a small theater of people involved in the movie. No voters were invited, though invitees were allowed to bring guests. My point is that this "controversy" seems to be sensationally exaggerated.

      • Chris

        I actually heard some voters were in attendance. But still all this hype is from a crowd of theater-lovers, so I'll wait till a more diverse crowd sees it.

  • J Ham

    Sounds good! I still haven't seen Silver Linings.. I need to see that
    oh and.. it seems like the right side of your website is really wanting me to date an African man, I keep getting that ad
    just asking if you have any power to switch that to pictures of Columbian women?

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/G-Man/ G-Man

    Am I the only one who is less and less interested in Argo the further I get away from watching it? I liked the movie, but it doesn't really have a lasting impression on me and I could care less about re-watching it. Don't think it would make my top 10 of the year at this point.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Criterion10/ Criterion10

      I completely agree with everything you said, although considering this has been such a terrible year for movies, Argo may still make my top 10 (that is if I even make one).

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

    I feel The Hobbit is a pretty safe bet.

    Good to hear Django will be screening soon.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/G-Man/ G-Man

      AS - what did you think of the original LOTR Trilogy?

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

        I liked them, but I didn't go crazy over them or anything.

  • Winchester

    I have the feel (sight unseen) that the following are locks -

    Les Miserables

    I think the rest remain all open.

    I am starting to wonder if The Master blew it's critical wad too early. Chatter on it seems to have died down, it's virtually over at the box office and unless Weinstein has a plan to bring it back to the foreground it may just have lost momentum.

    Argo, Life of Pi, Silver Linings, Zero Dark Thirty all seem like good potentials but I can't say I'm bursting with personal interest in them apart from Pi. Django seems it could go either way but screenings may clear it up but it's of little interest either to me.

    The question is does The Hobbit take the 'blockbuster' slot that seems to have been long vacated by TDKR..................I reckon it has a good chance at it given the pedigree of it's predecessors.

    Overall, it seems a solid list at this point.

    • Carter

      But what's more important, that it's been forgotten because the Academy or deficient journalists have short attention spans? Or that the art should be based on the quality of the films direction, dp, editing and performances?

      It sounds like people have given up entirely on the supposed point of the award which is supposed to honor excellence.

      If that's the case who cares?

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Aleonardis/ Aleonardis

        Thought the point of the award is to award excellence, the academy never in their long history have any precedent of doing just that. You can campaign all you want and rally all you want, it won't happen. I quite like The Master but it'll never make it. Kubrick only won one Oscar. You might say "but he did win!" It was for visual effects. He's the greatest director to have worked the medium yet he never won one in his category. Citizen Kane losing when there was no big press movements for films or oscar campaigns. It's in the Academy's genes. They like musicals and they like safe dramas. Just as Brad said a couple comments down, just have fun with them. You know what you like, why should an award have to hinder that?

      • Winchester

        I sympathise with the point your making but I feel that when it comes to the Oscars (and indeed almost all Awards processes) that there's the big difference between the theory and the reality.

        The Oscar's are a bit of a race and momentum matters a lot of the time for films competing. Yes, sometimes the quality is there and sometimes it isn't but it's the Oscar game at work.

  • ThePrinceIsOnFire

    Pfffff Brad.... No "Amour" on the list? that's better than any other movie on that list( excluding the ones that are not out yet)... ,I'm sad that you, being an expert in predicting oscars much more than me, (and many others critics actually) think it will get overlooked, because that means you're probably right. I'd be extremly pissed if that actually happened...it's a major robbery!! Is it just because it's a foreign movie? I mean it's completely unfair...

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      Don't get too mad. Remember, Oscars are far from a barometer of quality, it's about buzz, money, begging, campaigning and quality comes in somewhere much later down the line. Look at the Oscars as fun and always remember to talk about your favorite films when given the chance... you'll find you are far less likely to get agitated that way.

  • http://Awardscircuit.com Mark Johnson

    I am a big Wes Anderson fan, but I never have been a believer in its Oscar chances outside a Screenplay nom. The rest I agree with.

  • http://Awardscircuit.com Mark Johnson

    And by "it" I meant Moonrise Kingdom.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/QuantumofSalLis/ QuantumofSalLis

    As one of the lucky few who has seen Django at a limited screening... I will say that the response in my theater was overwhelmingly positive. However, it's no Inglourious Basterds, I'm not sure how it will play to all the old white men in the Academy and I have a feeling it will have trouble getting a BP nomination. The acting, however, was incredible and it should get some nominations there. Christoph Waltz and Leo, in particular, were excellent and I hope they aren't left out come January. Won't say anymore, since I know there's still an embargo...

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

      Well, to be fair, most first screenings are overly enthusiastic and hyperbolic (The Dark Knight Rises & The Master). I don't think that particular audience reaction will be reflective of most audiences, although, it would be great if it was. Tarantino has never made Academy friendly fare and I credit much of the Oscar attention Basterds received to the WWII setting. Oscar loves a war film.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/QuantumofSalLis/ QuantumofSalLis

        Exactly - completely agree. And also - the audience for this screening was about as far off Academy demographics as is humanly possible. Tarantino's films are always creative and he'll likely get some attention in the screenplay category. I greatly enjoyed the film and would put it above several of the other contenders, and I think it will do decent box office... I just don't see the academy agreeing with me. As you said - Basterds is a WWII film with a "happy" ending... Academy fare 101.

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

          Can you confirm that the cut you saw was 3 hours? Or was it more like 2hr. 40 mins?

          • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/QuantumofSalLis/ QuantumofSalLis

            Definitely less than 3 hours - 2:40 is probably pretty close. They made me take my watch off before going in, though. "No electronics of any kind allowed." Seriously.

            • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

              That's what I thought. I'm sure it's between 2 hr. 20 mins - 2 hr. 35 mins. I knew those reports about it being 3 hours were bullshit.

        • Mick

          So Django isn't as good as Inglourious Basterds then? Is it more action-oriented, and tonally-balanced than IB?

          • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/QuantumofSalLis/ QuantumofSalLis

            I didn't think its overall quality was as high as IB. It drags in spots and the characters are less interesting/likeable, in my opinion. That being said - it was very good. More graphic than IB, but not more action-oriented. As for being more tonally-balanced, maybe. There's less going on in the film overall so I suppose the setting/tone doesn't bounce around quite as much as IB.

            • Mick

              Thanks. Well that's interesting...I thought IB dragged like a Basterd. I'm not a big IB fan anyway, and one of the main things I disliked was the constant shift in tone - so it's good to know Django is maybe a little more focused or whatever, and also that's it more graphic.

  • adu

    Brad, I believe The Hobbit world premier is this Wednesday, 11-28.

    As for predictions, I have a feeling Life of Pi will squeeze in in place of Silver Linings.

    Barring Argo, which I felt was good but not at all Award-worthy, the best picture nominess will be quite solid. In fact, we are likely getting the best Best Picture Line-up of all time I believe.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      I was referring to guild and society screenings.

  • Newbourne

    This year feels so surreal. All the big guns have films this year. Peter Jackson, Ang Lee, Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, Lee Daniels, Steven Soderbergh, Steven Spielberg, Kathryn Bigelow, Judd Apatow, Andrew Dominik, Joe Wright, Tom Hooper, Marc Webb, Oliver Stone, Christopher Nolan, Tony Gilroy, Gus Van Sant, David Cronenberg, David O. Russell, Woody Allen, Terrence Malick, Ridley Scott, Fernando Meirelles, Sam Mendes, Tim Burton, Martin McDonaugh, Robert Zemeckis, Roman Polanski, John Madden, Stephen Frears, Michael Radford, Robert Redford, Steven Soderbergh and Ben Affleck.

    This is the most competitive Best Director's race I have ever seen. The only guys missing from this list are Martin Scorsese, James Cameron and Darren Aranofsky.

    • adu

      I would add David Fincher to that missing list as well :)

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Aleonardis/ Aleonardis

      What's even crazier, is that they all have delivered, more or less, something of quality. I don't think we've gotten any bad movies this year the way we got last year. There has been a lot of merit to be found even in the messes of this year. Example: Savages, The Paperboy, Flight, 7 Psychopaths, Prometheus, etc.

      It's easily the strongest year of filmmaking I've been attentive for.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Ian/ Ian

    I agree with Brad's nine films as of right now. I think Les Mis, Lincoln, and Argo are locks. I still need to hear more on Zero Dark Thirty to get an idea of how strong a contender it is, but a nom seems likely now. Silver Linings reminds me a lot of 127 Hours (the main difference being that I love 127 Hours and didn't like Silver Linings). Launched early but a poor release strategy and buzz that ultimately dried up...yet 127 Hours still managed a Best Picture nom. My guess is that's the way Silver Linings goes, but it's probably down towards the bottom of the contenders to win. I agree that The Master seems to be slipping; I've always thought it would be a Tree of Life-style nom, but for now I'd leave it in. Life of Pi seems like the type of feel good film that would appeal to the Academy, and I'd keep Beasts and Moonrise in for now as well.

    I still think Django and The Hobbit will end up out, though it will be interesting to see where the Weinstein marketing dollars go. Do they try to prop up Silver Linings, get noms for The Master, PTA, Phoenix, and Hoffman (only Hoffman stands any chance of winning among those), or do they put all their muscle behind Django? They couldn't secure anything beyond Waltz's win and a bunch of noms for Basterds, so even they may be limited in their reach (every Miramax/TWC winner has been a costume drama; obviously Django and Basterds are period pieces but they're definitely edgier fare).

    I'd rank the films thus:

    1. Les Miserables
    2. Lincoln
    3. Argo
    4. Life of Pi
    5. Zero Dark Thirty
    6. Silver Linings Playbook
    7. The Master
    8. Beasts of the Southern Wild
    9. Moonrise Kingdom

    Honestly unless The Hobbit or Django make waves, I think this is the extent of the potential field. None of the lower down contenders seem capable of making the jump right now.This certainly doesn't look like a very dramatic race.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/QuantumofSalLis/ QuantumofSalLis

      I have a feeling that Weinstein will try to punch up buzz for Silver Linings. I think your 127 hours analogy is interesting. I think Silver Linings will more likely go the way of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: Likeable cast, mental ilness plotline, some people will find it overly sentimental.

      I personally loved the film, but I can see why some don't. However, I really believe that, like ELIC last year, there will be enough people who LOVE it to get it a nod. Won't win, though.

    • Jake17

      I agree that The Master will probably get a Tree Of Life sort of nomination. AMPAS will respect it, but not love it.

  • Stiggy

    I think the big question is what film will get the Inception slot? Hobbit part 1, Dark Knight Rises, Marvels Avengers or Skyfall?

    • Chris138

      Haven't seen The Hobbit obviously, but I know that Disney isn't even campaigning The Avengers for awards. They know it has absolutely no chance of getting anything beyond a few technical nominations. Skyfall and The Dark Knight Rises are the only ones with any kind of chance, however slim, as of now.

    • Jake17

      I don't think there is one this year. Unless The Hobbit blows expectations away, it's not getting in. I was hoping Lopper would get the District 9 type slot, but that's also out of the question.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Aleonardis/ Aleonardis

        Looper would have been an inspired choice. Love that film and hoping for some screenplay and or make-up love for that film.

  • Foggy

    I still think The Master is still a lock, they need just one of those thought provoking films lingering in there.

  • Edd

    This is my first prediction: It will be between Les Mis and Argo.
    Lincoln is too silent and Silver Linings is overrated.
    I don't even understand why Jennifer Lawrence is the front runner for Best Actress! Where's Viola Davis of Help when I need her for this year?

  • Michael

    'The Hobbit' held its first screening last week in CA. A friend of mine who is a student at a certain film school out there went to it. I believe it was held on Tuesday. Other than him saying that it was "good," he wasn't able to reveal anything more about the film. They even took his Facebook and Twitter names for security. Even though I have heard positive things, I would be surprised if it actually gets a nomination for Best Picture.

    • adu

      I dont understand how he saw a Hobbit screening, when the movie's editing was only finished a few days back according to the director, Peter Jackson. It was definitely after last Tuesday, hmmmmm!

  • http://timeforafilm.com Alex Thomas

    I agree with your predictions Brad (except I think ARGO is the frontrunner although it's hard to split the Top 3 at the moment).

    Would love The Master to miss out, but I think it gets enough #1 votes for it to get a nomination. Still crossing fingers that Moonrise Kingdom gets a nomination, assuming The Hobbit won't so it's that vs Django almost!

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/HarryFuertes/ Harry Fuertes

    In my opinion at the moment, I think the final stretch will be between Les Miserables, Lincoln, and Zero Dark Thirty with the winner being Les Mis.

    • http://hypethemovies.wordpress.com Jordan B.

      You and I are of the same opinion here.

  • Travis

    I will post my nominations along side you, Brad, for each post.

    Django Unchained
    Les Miserables
    Life of Pi
    The Master
    Silver Linings Playbook
    Zero Dark Thirty

    The Sessions and Beasts of the Southern Wild sit on the outside looking in

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Aleonardis/ Aleonardis

    Zero Dark Thirty is such an attractive choice I think. With the raves coming out the hype is building substantially. Just from the past day or so, it's become my most anticipated movie, dethroning Les Mis. The fact it's coming out in January is also an attractive quality. It's going to be the film last on the palette of voters and that will go a long way. Saying all this, I think we're in for a Director/Picture split this year finally.

    Best Picture
    Les Miserables (WINNER)
    Zero Dark Thirty
    Life of Pi
    Silver Linings Playbook *

    Best Director
    Kathryn Bigelow (WINNER)
    Tom Hooper
    Ang Lee
    Steven Spielberg
    Michael Haneke

    *Silver Linings right now is just a huge wild card. If it succeeds at the box office then it's sure to be nominated but right now, it might struggle because the other films are quite hard hitting except for Life of Pi but when you're a movie directed by Ang Lee and you're that amazingly crafted, well you have to tip your hat. I must say that I'm loving this year tremendously. Even the missteps feel more proficient than normal.

  • http://www.seensome.com SeenSome

    The amount of possibilities in the Best Picture category this year goes to show just how strong a year it has been for film. It's nice to be getting this close to the nominations and still have something like 10 films vying for the remaining spots alongside Les Mis, Argo, Lincoln and Silver Linings.

    In any other year, The Master, Life of Pi, Zero Dark Thirty, Hitchcock, The Impossible, The Sessions, Flight, Django Unchained, The Hobbit etc. would be shoo ins for a nomination but a few of these films will lose out. It's a pity for them but it's great for us that there is that depth of quality this year.