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The Oscars: predictions and party planning

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"Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane will host the 85th annual Academy Awards tonight at 7:30 p.m. on ABC. (The Hollywood Reporter)
For as long as I can remember, I've watched the annual Oscars telecast with a giddy excitement akin to opening presents on Christmas Day. In fact, I can say with absolute confidence (and not one drop of shame, I might add) that Oscar Sunday is my Super Bowl. 

As a geeky kid already determined to become the next great film critic, I devoured every moment: the parade of impeccably-dressed directors, auteurs, studio heads and stars; the thrilling spectacle of an old Hollywood theatre, lit up by a stage of living legends passing the torch of classic cinema on to the next generation; and of course, the momentous anticipation of who would win a golden statuette and who would shockingly go home empty-handed.
Almost two decades later, I still watch the Oscars with the same wide-eyed wonder and reverance for quality filmmaking that so captivated me as a child. I appreciate the Academy Awards because they continue to celebrate cinema as an art form, honoring true talent and innovation over silly tabloid fodder. This year, film students will be passing out the awards instead of models--a positive step in the right direction for a show that has often stooped to superficial celebrity worship in years past. 
Dedicated cinephiles like myself agree: the magic of the Oscars lies not in "who wore it best?" on the red carpet, but who made us laugh, cry and reexamine the depths of the human condition with the very best films of the year.
Here are my predictions for the big winners of 2012:
Best Supporting Actor
Who will win: Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained 
Who should win: Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master (this man can do no wrong in my eyes)
Best Supporting Actress
Who will win: Anne Hathway in Les Miserables
Who should win: Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables (terrible film, undeniably Oscar-worthy performance)
Best Director
Who will win: Ang Lee for Life of Pi
Who should win: Benh Zeitlan for Beasts of the Southern Wild (this young director came out of nowhere to deliver one of the most moving films I've seen in years)
Best Actor
Who will win: Daniel Day-Lewis, majestically playing the title role in Spielberg's Lincoln 
Who should win: Joaquin Phoenix in The Master (a riveting performance in a film that was occasionally relevatory, but mostly mediocre)
Best Actress
Who will win: Jessica Chastain (or as I like to call her, the new Meryl Streep) in Zero Dark Thirty
Who should win: Quevenzhanè Wallis (She was only six years old during the filming of Beasts of the Southern Wild, making her the youngest Best Actress nominee in history. As the brave heroine Hushpuppy, her performance is nothing short of spectacular)
Best Picture
Who will win: Argo (dark horse: Silver Linings Playbook)
Who should win: Argo (Since the Academy snubbed Ben Affleck for Best Director, his superbly-made film about Hollywood's involvement in the Iranian Hostage Crisis deserves top honors) 
And if you'd like to experience the Oscars outside the confines of your living room this year, head out to one of these lively Chicago viewing parties before 6 p.m. on Sunday:
Rockit Bar & Grill
Oscars Viewing Party (hosted by Richard Roeper and Billy Dec)
Center on Halsted
2013 Oscar Party (with silent auction and raffle!)
Sidetrack Chicago, The Video Bar
Siskel Film Center
Oscar Experience: Chicago 2013 (Chicago's only Academy-sanctioned event, sold out)
Follow Leah on Twitter @leahkpickett, where she will certainly be live-tweeting the Oscars on February 24.

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