Bad news out of the way first: No Best Picture nomination. No nomination for Javier Bardem for Supporting Actor. No nomination for Judi Dench for Supporting Actress. Many felt they were deserving, Bardem in particular. (Not that anyone should feel too bad for the guy, as he already has an Oscar and sleeps next to Penelope Cruz every night.) The lack of recognition for Best Picture, despite the Academy being able to nominate up to 10 contenders (they only went with nine this year) shouldn't come as too much of a surprise either.
Even though they've been shepherded since their inception by an American family, the Bond films remain very much a British institution, whereas the Oscars prefer to reward homegrown red-white-and-blue talent. I have a feeling that Bond clawing his way into the more "artistic" categories will require a few more films of Skyfall's caliber, to the point where he becomes impossible to ignore. Either that, or a 007 movie set in a single room in a historical period where Bond struggles with a personality disorder while a tiger watches him sing his plan to rescue hostages from an embassy and kill the world's most wanted terrorist.
Anyway, let's look at the five categories where Skyfall did receive a nomination and guess how good its chances are for winning the first 007 Oscar since 1965. A proviso that these predictions are based on my own entirely un-scientific method that results in me usually placing fourth in my office Oscar pool.
1. Best Cinematography
Along with Skyfall's theme song, this was considered the most likely slot for Bond's Oscar hopes. Roger Deakins has been nominated nine times previously without a win - he's becoming the Susan Lucci of cinematographers -- which makes recognition long overdue. He's up against Seamus McGarvey for Anna Karenina, Robert Richardson for Django Unchained, Claudio Miranda for Life of Pi and Janusz Kaminski for Lincoln. (Richardson and Kaminski are both previous winners.) This award will tend to go to whichever movie is sweeping its way through to Best Picture, unless the images are so out there and groundbreaking as to be something never seen before. So as remarkable as Deakins' work on Skyfall was, I think there are a couple of factors working against him: Skyfall was shot digitally, and Academy voters are biased towards old-fashioned film. Also, because Skyfall is not up for any major awards, it will tend to be forgotten amidst the other, more nominated contenders. Unless there is a groundswell sympathy vote for Deakins, I'm guessing here that he makes it an even 0-for-10, with Kaminski or Miranda the more likely choices for the podium.
2. Best Original Score
Thomas Newman, like his more famous cousin Randy, is a perennial Oscar nomination favourite, now on his eleventh waiting for that first win, and I'm not thinking he's likely to get it for Skyfall either, unless, like Deakins, he gets a sympathy vote. His competition includes Dario Marinelli for Anna Karenina, Alexandre Desplat for Argo, Mychael Danna for Life of Pi and the legendary John Williams for Lincoln. I actually wasn't that impressed with Skyfall's score, as it seems to wander without focus and without, disappointingly, the haunting emotional moments Newman has been able to craft in his past work. Simply put -- if Newman didn't win for the vastly superior American Beauty or The Shawshank Redemption, he's not going to win for this. His nomination is much like Marvin Hamlisch's for The Spy Who Loved Me, which is the sparest and weakest of any of Hamlisch's many scores -- an acknowledgement of a highly-respected colleague because he's a good guy rather than for the quality of the specific work. For the winner, I'll guess Dario Marinelli for Anna Karenina, because it's a fancy dress period drama, and the score likely evokes the classical music of the era, which is always a plus for Academy voters.
3. Best Sound Editing
No matter how many times they explain it, no one understands the difference between this category and Best Sound Mixing, in which Skyfall is also nominated. As far as I can tell, sound editing is more about sound effects, like explosions, bullets flying, high-tech doors opening and so on, which is why blockbusters that wouldn't otherwise be anywhere within the Academy's field of view tend to win here. The other nominees are Argo, Django Unchained, Life of Pi and Zero Dark Thirty. Skyfall could get tossed a bone here, but I'm going with Zero Dark Thirty because it's also a high-tech thriller that has the advantage of being based in reality -- and the Academy always goes with reality over fiction. They seem to consider it more of an achievement to be true to a historical event -- creativity within constraints, as it were -- rather than having free reign to make stuff up, no matter how big the explosions are.
4. Best Sound Mixing
Skyfall hasn't a chance here. Like cinematography, this one generally goes to whichever movie is on its way to Best Picture. Of the fellow nominees, Argo, Les Miserables, Life of Pi and Lincoln, I'd favour Les Miz here; because it's a musical and has achieved renown for having the actors sing live instead of lip-synching, viewers (i.e. Oscar voters) are more aware of the sound and thus more likely to propel it over the top.
5. Best Original Song
Get used to saying "Academy Award winner Adele," because when all is said and done, this is Skyfall's one indisputable lock for Oscar night. Adele has already won more awards than any other female singer in recent memory, and the Oscar statuette will be seen as a fitting cap to her meteoric rise. The song isn't the best thing you've ever heard, nor is it Adele's best work, but the Academy will be positively giddy over the possibility of watching her give an acceptance speech in Cockney. In this category the performers aren't nominated, only the songwriters; but because Adele penned "Skyfall's" lyrics, she gets to share in any potential golden glory. As for the other nominees, we have longshots from Ted and Life of Pi, and the trend of awards bait is continued this year with Les Miserables, where a movie based on a decades-old musical has a single new song written for it just so its composers can secure an Oscar nomination. The only serious competition I foresee for "Skyfall" is J. Ralph's "Before My Time" from Chasing Ice, but it shouldn't be enough to deprive Adele of her moment racing through her list of "thank yers" before the orchestra plays her off.
Of course, I could be completely wrong, and as a Bond fan I hope Skyfall merits enough goodwill to rack up more than just the one likely win. It's a testament to the sheer craft of this movie, particularly to those of us who remember the clown show that was A View to a Kill, that we're even talking about James Bond and Academy Awards on the same page. And who would have ever thought that the year's 007 movie not getting a Best Picture nomination would be considered an actual snub?
Anyway, all yours, Academy voters. Prove me wrong!