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Locals share Oscar predictions
Who will take home the awards?

By LaReeca Rucker

The Clarion-Ledger

The 85th Annual Academy Awards will be held Sunday. Will you be hosting an Oscar party to watch the winners? We asked a mix of theater and film professors, as well as working writers, actors and producers about their Oscar predictions. Most seem to agree that Daniel Day-Lewis will be hard to beat this year and Ben Affleck was robbed of a Best Director nomination for "Argo." Here are more of their thoughts.

Chris Offutt

Chris Offutt is an assistant professor of English and screenwriting at the University of Mississippi, who earned a master's degree in fine arts from the University of Iowa in 1990. He has written for HBO's "True Blood" and Showtime's "Weeds."

Q. Which film or performance impressed you the most?

A. The two movies that I most liked were not nominated: "Moonrise Kingdom," directed by Wes Anderson, and "Seven Psycopaths," written and directed by Martin McDonaugh.

Best performance the scenes between Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in "Silver Linings Playbook."

Q. What are your predictions for Best Picture?

A. I predict "Argo" because Hollywood likes movies about itself.

Q. Best Actress?

A. Emmanuelle Riva deserves the award for "Amour." However, I predict Jennifer Lawrence, my fellow Kentuckian, for "Silver Linings Playbook." Anne Hathaway for Best Supporting Actress in "Les Miserable."

Q. Best Actor?

A. Daniel Day-Lewis is hard to beat. He's just such a terrific actor. He's already won two Oscars, which can cut both ways. Everyone knows he is deserving or (it's time to) get out of the way for someone else. If not him, Hugh Jackman gave his best performance ever in "Les Miserables." Not bad for Wolverine.

Alan Arrivée

Alan Arrivée is a filmmaker and writer who joined the Department of Theatre Arts at the University of Mississippi as an assistant professor of cinema in 2010. He is also a professional actor who earned both his bachelor's degree in communication/theatre and his MFA in writing for the screen and stage from Northwestern University.

Q. What are your predictions for Best Picture?

A. I predict that "Lincoln" will take Best Picture. It's a well-crafted film with some great performances, but it has also been extremely well-promoted. ... "Amour" ... is a consistently better film, in my opinion. But American filmgoers and the Academy are much more interested in events important to American history than the disturbing aspects of aging within a French context. They're also more interested in films with a positive message.

Q. Best Actress?

A. Jessica Chastain. Why? Because she deserves it as much as anyone else nominated in this category, she's somewhat new to many filmgoers, and she's got buzz.

Q. Best Actor?

A. Daniel Day-Lewis. An impressive performance and one made very visible through sophisticated promotion. And people revere this actor at this point both those in the general public and those in the Academy, I think. People like to believe that there are geniuses among us, that they're consistently geniuses. Think about Meryl Streep.

Orian Williams

Mississippi native Orian Williams is a Hollywood film producer whose film "Big Sur," about the life of Jack Kerouac, was just shown at the Sundance Film Festival. He graduated from Baylor University with a degree in telecommunications. Williams helped produce "Shadow of the Vampire." The film received two Academy Award nominations Best Supporting Actor and Best Makeup.

Q. Which film or performance impressed you the most?

A. I loved the performance by Daniel Day-Lewis. He's always good. "Argo" stood out for me. It was unexpected, a great story, and (interesting) to see what people will do when facing death.

Q. What are your predictions for Best Picture?

A. I would say "Argo" will win Best Picture, mostly because it's a great story with international appeal with a good ensemble of actors. "Argo" has won most major awards leading up to the Oscars, however it's quite possible "Lincoln" could slip through the cracks and surprise everyone, which I doubt.

Q. Best Actress?

A. I would say Jennifer Lawrence or Jessica Chastain will win. I would like to see Jessica win, even though "Zero Dark Thirty" wasn't my favorite of the bunch.

Q. Best Actor?

A. I would have to say Best Actor will go to Daniel Day-Lewis. He took an iconic figure, someone almost unreal, and gave him life, with voice, a smile and compassion in a way that made us love and respect this former president who changed the world.

Van Roberts

Van Roberts, an associate professor of communication at Mississippi University for Women, has been teaching at MUW since 1988. His movie reviews are published regionally, and he recently helped edit "Movies in American History" a three volume Encyclopedia.

Q. Which film or performance impressed you the most?

A. Every performance in "Beasts of the Southern Wild" stands out. Quvenzhané Wallis is my choice for Best Actress in a category that contains several strong performances.

I loved Joaquin Phoenix in "The Master." He radiates spontaneity. You never know what he was going to do. He is like a live wire twitching.

If anybody deserved to clinch a second Oscar, Daniel Day-Lewis should. He makes "Lincoln" worth watching. Everybody has their own idea about what the real Lincoln was like, but Lewis has the courage, the fortitude and the chops to create anew, despite what we know and don't know about Lincoln. This could arguably be his best performance ever.

It is great to see the Academy recognize Hugh Jackson, and it would be genuine surprise if they gave it to the Wolverine.

Q. Any other Oscar thoughts you can share?

A. As a seasoned James Bond fan, I'd like to see "Skyfall" nab the Best Cinematography Oscar because Roger Deakins is a cinematic genius. He usually shoots all the Cohen Brothers' movies.

All of the movies, with the exception of "Django Unchained," are unquestionably fine works of art. The polished professionalism of a Spielberg, a Daniel Day-Lewis, and a Joaquin Phoenix is that they have performed before but manage to recreate themselves anew. The brilliance of an amateur like Quvenzhané Wallis is that she has never done it before, but does it so vividly. Literally, "Beasts of the Southern Wild" is our own "Les Miserables," and I think the Academy should recognize the originality in this underdog film that is lacking even in "Lincoln" and "Life of Pi."

Jonathan Howard

Jonathan Howard is a member of the University of Mississippi's Theater Department. He earned a bachelor of fine arts in musical theater and has spent the last eight years in the entertainment industry in New York City.

Q. Which film or performance impressed you the most?

A. Of all the films I have seen this year, I was most impressed with "Argo." The detail was fantastic. The way director Ben Affleck used archived photos from the Iran Hostage Crisis and created scenes around them was a stroke of genius. It gave the movie an authenticity that even overtook the beautifully shot "Lincoln." The cast was fantastic, Alan Arkin being my personal favorite.

Q. What are your predictions for Best Picture?

A. It has to be "Argo" for all the things I said already.

Q. Best Actress?

A. I am going to go with Jessica Chastain for her work in "Zero Dark Thirty," though Jennifer Lawrence was also great in "Silver Linings Playbook." Chastain was such a cold-blooded, unrelenting force, and honestly, she had the luxury of having the strongest character to pull from out of all the women we have nominated this year.

Q. Best Actor?

A. Daniel Day-Lewis. He just embodies characters. From the way he stands, gestures, walks. It's a type of transformation few actors can make these days. I especially appreciated the way he handled our former president's speech. He took great care in dialect and speech pattern. I even went back and listened to some old footage of President Lincoln and was floored with how precise it was.

Edward Saint Pe

Edward Saint Pe is director and founder of Mississippi Film Institute.

He offered the following predictions:

Best Picture: "Zero Dark Thirty"

Best Actor: Joaquin Phoenix

Best Supporting Actor: Robert De Niro

Best Actress: Quvenzhane' Wallis

Best Supporting Actress: Helen Hunt

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