John Axford makes his Oscar predictions

MARYVALE, Ariz. -- Milwaukee Brewers closer John Axford isn’t making any predictions on the 2013 National League Central race or the upcoming World Baseball Classic (he’s pitching for his native Canada). But if you’re interested in Academy Award insights from the vantage point of a ballplayer/film aficionado, he’s your man.

Axford, who studied film at the University of Notre Dame, began making Oscar predictions to his friends in 2010 because he was passionate that the Iraq War drama “The Hurt Locker’’ was far superior to the science-fiction epic “Avatar.’’ His instincts were borne out when “The Hurt Locker’’ won the Oscar for best picture and Kathryn Bigelow captured the best director award.

“I really, really wanted ‘The Hurt Locker’ to win and ‘Avatar’ to lose,’’ Axford said. “But ‘Avatar’ was picking up so many other wins, I made sure I watched. I told everybody, ‘No, the "Hurt Locker" is going to win and it better win, and if it doesn’t, I’m going to be really upset.'"

Axford planned to share his Oscar predictions via Twitter on Sunday at @JohnAxford and give his 60,000 followers a chance to see how savvy he is. He will try to improve upon his 11-for-15 success rate last year, when he correctly picked “The Artist’’ for best picture, but whiffed on his choice of Viola Davis over Meryl Streep for best actress.

As of Saturday afternoon, Axford had yet to settle on many of his picks. But he took a few minutes to share some observations on this year’s Oscar field after pitching a scoreless inning for the Brewers against Oakland in the Cactus League opener.

• Axford’s favorite films of 2012 were “Argo’’ and “Django Unchained,’’ with “Silver Linings Playbook’’ next in line. Like many observers, he thinks “Argo’’ will and should win the best picture award.

“It’s the best one I’ve seen,’’ Axford said. “It’s the most put together. It’s suspenseful, it’s dramatic and it pulls you in right away. I remember sitting in the theater watching it, and immediately my wife was grabbing the side of the seat. I said, ‘Do you want to go watch something else?’ And she said, ‘No, I’m committed.’ We had to stay."

• Axford is a big Quentin Tarantino fan and would like to vote for him for best director, but Tarantino wasn’t even nominated for “Django Unchained.’’ Axford is leaning toward picking Tarantino for best original screenplay as a consolation prize.

Axford is even more emphatic in his support for Ben Affleck, who failed to make the list of best director nominees despite widespread praise for his work on “Argo.’’

“He’s been winning every other award so far,’’ Axford said. “Hopefully he’ll get the last laugh at the Academy when he picks up best picture at the end.''

• Axford picks Christoph Waltz of "Django Unchained" for best supporting actor. As of Saturday, he had yet to decide on best supporting actress or best actress, even though he thinks Jessica Chastain is “incredible’’ in “Zero Dark Thirty.’’

In the best actor category, Axford is going with the prohibitive favorite, Daniel Day-Lewis, for his performance in “Lincoln.’’ During his brief tenure as an Oscar prognosticator, he’s found that it usually pays not to fight the inevitable.

“I’ve always had a thing for Daniel Day-Lewis,’’ Axford said. “One of my favorite roles he’s ever played was in 'There Will Be Blood.' It’s unbelievable how mean he was -- what a p---- he was in that movie. His ‘Lincoln’ is far and away the best of anything that’s been done out there this year.’’