By Jeff Labrecque
Updated February 22, 2013 at 08:42 PM EST


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With only 55 hours until the 84th annual Academy Awards, there is a subtle shift that takes place where the event suddenly becomes less about the movies we’re supposed to be celebrating and more about the television show itself. Who’s presenting? How will Seth MacFarlane be received? Will Sean Connery be part of the James Bond tribute? Who will be bleeped for profanity?

For months, I’ve debated the merits of the top films, and my choices for the major awards have been etched in cement that dried long before the Golden Globes were even handed out. Lincoln was and is my favorite (this Oscars is as close as I’ll ever come to voting the straight Republican ticket), but now, I find myself pulled in a different direction. The question isn’t necessarily, “Who deserves to win?” but rather, “Whose victory and subsequent acceptance speech will make for the best television?” As someone who’s watched every Oscar ceremony on television since 1983 — I was a disappointed Right Stuff guy then, even though I’d yet to see it or any of its rival Best Picture nominees that year — I am not immune from these forces.

Click below for my list of who I want to see win the major categories, ignoring the actual on-screen performances and based purely on my existence as a couch-potato and Oscar broadcast nerd. These aren’t the selections to refer to when you’re filling out your Oscar pool, but don’t be surprised if they correspond with ABC’s hopes and dreams.


Every Oscar-watcher loves the I-can’t-believe-I’m-here moments, like when Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová won Best Song for Once in 2008, and Oscar is also fond of rewarding the hot new filmmaker, like Sofia Coppola or Quentin Tarantino. So why not hope that Beasts of the Southern Wild‘s Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin pull off a mammoth upset over the bigger names in the category? They’ve been on a roller-coaster ride since the little indie debuted at Sundance 13 months ago, and this would be an emotional culmination to one of the most wondrous movies of the year.


I’m torn. So torn. Tarantino or Wes Anderson. Anderson or Tarantino. I feel like the Django auteur would have more fun with a mic in front of him, but I take it personally that Anderson doesn’t yet have an Oscar of his own. Ummmmm… Tarantino, it is. His speech will be bonkers and he’s good for at least two bleeps.


While the deserving Anne Hathaway looks like a shoo-in, I feel like I’ve already heard her inevitable acceptance speech after her clean sweep of the major pre-Oscar prizes. So unless she has something really special prepared, I’m leaning towards Lincoln‘s Sally Field, mainly because she delivered one of Oscar’s most famous speeches ever (“You like me! Right now, you like me!”). After nearly 30 years without being “liked” again, I imagine Field’s speech would be another one to remember.


All five nominees have won before, and there’s a part of me that wants Tommy Lee Jones to win, if only because I haven’t seen him smile since he played Two Face in the third Batman movie. But just as Meryl Streep’s victory last year proved to be one of the highlights of the ceremony, a victory for Robert De Niro might be “a moment.” True, he’s famously not the garrulous type, but that’s part of the fun. He’s promoted Silver Linings Playbook more than any other of his recent films and it’s clear this story has a place in his heart. After years of self-parody — his last nod was for Cape Fear in 1992 — De Niro at the podium would get the crowd on its feet.


Conventional wisdom says its Jennifer Lawrence or Jessica Chastain, but anyone who’s seen an interview with 9-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis from Beasts of the Southern Wild has to be pulling for her, if only to see her joyful reaction shot the moment her name is called. Plus, I want to see the poor presenter — methinks Jean Dujardin? — attempt to pronounce her name when he opens the envelope. (For the record, it’s Kwah-VAHN-Jah-Nay.)


Daniel Day-Lewis is practically assured of a third trophy, but I’m also rooting for Joaquin Phoenix to pull off the upset for his role in The Master. Not only did Phoenix vanish from the industry for a brief spell — during which he made a documentary about his dubious attempts to be a rapper — but he famously trashed the Oscar machine just as the awards season was heating up. Who wouldn’t want to see him thanking the Academy with a trophy in his hand?


I want need to see David O. Russell win for Best Director, mainly because a victory will totally vindicate a man that Hollywood had seemingly tossed out of the club — or tried to. Not long ago, Russell was known mostly as the belligerent director who banged heads with George Clooney on Three Kings and screamed at Lily Tomlin in that horribly awesome YouTube video during the making of I Heart Huckabees. Plucked off the heap to direct The Fighter for his pal, Mark Wahlberg, he’s suddenly a genius again. How great would this speech be? Would he play humble or defiant? Would he mention his “pal,” Clooney?


Argo is the smart — it’s heavily favored — and sexy — it’s the Ben & George Show! — pick, and it’s tough to argue with the latter when you’re sitting in your La-Z-Boy at midnight on the east coast. Along with producer Grant Heslov, they’ve won most of the pre-Oscar prizes. But this will be different, especially for Affleck, who was snubbed for Best Director and whose rise and fall and rise is already one of the great Hollywood stories of all time.

Admit it: even if it wrecks your Oscar pool, these selections would make for a pretty memorable Oscar night. Who are you most hoping wins — not necessarily because you loved their film but because their speech would be a highlight?

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