Oscar Eye: Believe It Or Not, There's Still No Best Picture Frontrunner

By Katey Rich 2011-12-06 09:46:48discussion comments
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Oscar Eye: Believe It Or Not, There's Still No Best Picture Frontrunner image
When I first started writing this season's Oscar Eye columns back in September, you'd be forgiven to think it was a little crazy to start talking about awards season. At this point though, prizes and nominations and "For Your Consideration" ads are as commonplace as Christmas lights, with every studio shoveling their best movies into the faces of the critics and voting groups that can consider their films. Only a few groups have announced their winners so far-- that'd be the New York Film Critics Circle, the National Board of Review and the Gotham Independent Film Awards-- but many more will be following in quick succession. By this time next week many more critic's groups will have handed out their awards, and on December 15 next week we'll see the nominations for the Golden Globes, that glitzy and slightly ridiculous group that for some weird reason is still considered a precursor for the Oscars.

So with the award nominations about to go into hyperdrive, let's take a look at where things stand with the films that can now safely be considered frontrunners, whether that came as a surprise or not. I'll tackle a few Best Picture hopefuls in detail up top, and then it will be on to the charts, where there is a lot of changing and culling going on. There will be even more of that happening in the coming weeks, and by the first of the year, it should be relatively clear the handful of people who have what it takes to really make a go of it in each category.

THE BEST PICTURE HOPEFULS MAKING A LOT OF NOISE RIGHT NOW

The Artist. Long pegged as an awards frontrunner by the critics who saw it and loved it as festivals, this French-made love letter to silent movies made good on its potential last week in a big way, winning the top prize from the New York Film Critics Circle, scoring a handful of Independent Spirit Nominations, and opening to strong box office in limited release to boot. It's still a smallish movie, which might make it hard for the Best Picture win to happen, but at this point it would take something very, very strange for The Artist to miss out on Best Picture, and nominations for its director, star and even score seem very likely too.

Hugo. Just two days after the New York Film Critics seemed to ignore the new Scorsese film entirely, and it opened to mediocre box office over Thanksgiving, Hugo surprised a lot of people by winning the top prize from the National Board Of Review. Now, a lot of people will argue that group doesn't mean anything-- and they're probably right-- but the huge wave of love that followed that announcement suggests that Hugo has a lot of support among critics, who may keep it in the conversation even if they don't give it all the prizes. If anything Hugo seems capable of taking a Best Picture spot that might have gone to Harry Potter-- the big-budget, family friendly film that even mean old critics get behind.

The Descendants. A lot of people expected the Alexander Payne film to easily walk away with the New York Film Critics prizes and the Gotham Awards, but it did neither, with just a healthy amount of Independent Spirit Awards to boast for itself. But that's far from devastating to the movie, which has good box office, glowing reviews and plenty of goodwill to carry it a long way. If I had to choose between a black and white silent French film and a slightly sentimental family dramedy to win Best Picture, I'd definitely choose The Descendants-- and if it does start winning critic's prizes soon, that argument will only get stronger.

Beginners. This movie opened way back in the spring and could have easily been forgotten by now, but instead it tied with the more heavyweight Tree of Life to win the Gotham Award for Best Feature, and also snagged a Best Supporting Actor prize for Christopher Plummer, who is indeed the best thing in the movie. Its actual Best Picture chances may be a little gloomier though-- it's a lovely movie but very slight, and against more recent and heavier competition it may falter a bit. But good on distributor Focus for keeping it in the race this long.

Midnight in Paris. It's still Woody Allen's most financially successful films ever, and still a lock for the Best Musical/Comedy category at the Golden Globes. But the film hasn't shown up among critics so far the way we might have expected, and it might not be too long before we start wondering if Beginners can steal its early-summer-comedy fire. But it's early yet. I'm not giving up for a bit.

War Horse. The newest film from Steven Spielberg (except for The Adventures of Tintin, of course, which is also coming soon) has factored in much among critics so far, and probably won't. It's a gorgeously shot and very emotionally affecting movie, but it's also fairly broad and probably a little too straightforward for critic groups. It made the NBR top 10, but I"ll be looking to see if it makes it in with the Golden Globes for the Best Drama category. If it doesn't, expect to hear people wondering if it might not have what it takes. If it does-- and then goes on to do huge box office over Christmas-- it could suddenly be a Best Picture frontrunner. Box office will determine this more than usual.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The noise on this is mostly thanks to The New Yorker's David Denby breaking embargo and posting his review early. Anyone else who has seen it will be kept quiet until December 13. So… hold your horses on this one a bit longer.

OK, now on to the charts, where things are taking shape even without a single real front-runner in any category to latch on to.

oscar winner prediction
BEST PICTURE

I didn't mention The Help above, because it's been kind of a non-factor so far, but I expect that to change with the Golden Globes next week. It's such a big crowdpleaser that it will be hard to leave out entirely. But I've bumped down Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Young Adult, since they're more about phenomenal lead performances and likely won't strike quite right with the Academy. Hugo and The Tree of LIfe get bumps up thanks to their own attention in the last few weeks, while The Iron Lady-- which I haven't seen-- and J. Edgar get relegated to the bottom of the heap, since it seems clear that, performances aside, the films themselves are non-entities right now.

MORTAL LOCK

The Artist
The Descendants
The Help
 
LIKELY CONTENDER

Hugo
Midnight in Paris
Moneyball
The Tree of Life
War Horse
 
STILL IN THE RUNNING

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
The Ides of March
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Young Adult
 
OUTSIDE CHANCE

Beginners
Carnage
Coriolanus
A Dangerous Method
The Iron Lady
J. Edgar
Jane Eyre
Martha Marcy May Marlene
My Week WIth Marilyn
Rampart
Shame
Take Shelter
We Bought A Zoo
Win Win


oscar winner prediction
BEST DIRECTOR

Hazanavicius, despite being relatively unknown amidst all these heavyweights, seems pretty much a lock thanks to the huge success of The Artist. Now it's just up to veterans like Malick, Scorsese, Spielberg and ALlen to fight amongst themselves, while Miller, Fincher and a few other possibilities remain in as spoilers. It'll be a good lineup pretty much no matter what, so really, we all win.
 
MORTAL LOCK

Michel Hazanvicius, The Artist
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
 
LIKELY CONTENDER

Woody Allen, Midnight In Paris
David Fincher, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life
Bennett Miller, Moneyball
Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Steven Spielberg, War Horse
 
STILL IN THE RUNNING

Tomas Alfredson, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
George Clooney, The Ides of March
Stephen Daldry, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Clint Eastwood, J. Edgar
Steve McQueen, Shame
 
OUTSIDE CHANCE

David Cronenberg, A Dangerous Method
Ralph Fiennes, Coriolanus
Tom McCarthy, Win Win
Mike Mills, Beginners
Oren Moverman, Rampart
Jeff Nichols, Take Shelter
Roman Polanski, Carnage
Jason Reitman, Young Adult
Tate Taylor, The Help
 

oscar winner prediction
BEST ACTOR
Despite the many challenges of a silent role and being a French actor on the English-speaking Oscar circuit, Jean Dujardin is emerging as a real contender here. But it's still hard to know who in that second tier will knock each other out, or even if Ryan Gosling might somehow get an Actor nod for Drive. A few more critic's prizes might start clearing this up.

MORTAL LOCK

George Clooney, The Descendants
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
 
LIKELY CONTENDER

Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Edgar
Michael Fassbender, Shame
Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Ryan Gosling, The Ides of March
Brad Pitt, Moneyball
 
STILL IN THE RUNNING

Matt Damon, We Bought A Zoo
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 50/50
Michael Shannon, Take Shelter
 
OUTSIDE CHANCE

Demian Bichir, A Better Life
Asa Butterfield, Hugo
Daniel Craig, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Michael Fassbender, A Dangerous Method
Ralph Fiennes, Coriolanus
Paul Giamatti, Win Win
Woody Harrelson, Rampart
Thomas Horn, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Jeremy Irvine, War Horse
   

oscar winner prediction
BEST ACTRESS
What's fun is that this category doesn't have a ton of contenders in it, but every single one here is an impressive lead turn-- however this shakes out, there will be no filler here. With Meryl Streep winning the Best Actress prize from the New York critics she now seems to be a real contender, but that's coming slightly at the expense of Glenn Close, who isn't gaining much traction for Albert Nobbs. I'm close to deeming both Theron and Williams mortal locks, but I still want to see how a few more awards shake out.

MORTAL LOCK

Viola Davis, The Help
   
LIKELY CONTENDER

Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Rooney Mara, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Charlize Theron, Young Adult
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn
 
STILL IN THE RUNNING

Kirsten Dunst, Melancholia
Felicity Jones, Like Crazy
Tilda Swinton, We Need To Talk About Kevin
 
OUTSIDE CHANCE

Keira Knightley, A Dangerous Method
Michelle Yeoh, The Lady
   

oscar winner prediction
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
What a mess this category still is. Albert Brooks surprised plenty of people when he took Best Supporting Actor from the New York critics, given that Drive had seemed all but forgotten in the race; those critics also clarified nothing by handing Brad Pitt Best Actor for both Tree of Life and Moneyball. I think Pitt's role here might be the weakest in that "Likely Contender" bunch, but beyond that, this category is as fuzzy as can be. At least we've been able to weed out a lot of the contenders near the bottom, as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy doesn't seem to have the legs to get anyone up there, and even Niels Arestrup has such as small role in War Horse that he seems unlikely.

MORTAL LOCK

NONE
 
LIKELY CONTENDER

Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Albert Brooks, Drive
Armie Hammer, J. Edgar
Ben Kingsley, Hugo
Patton Oswalt, Young Adult
Brad Pitt, The Tree of Life
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
 
STILL IN THE RUNNING

John Hawkes, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Nick Nolte, Warrior
 
OUTSIDE CHANCE

Niels Arestrup, War Horse
Jim Broadbent, The Iron Lady
Benedict Cumberbatch, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Robert Forster, The Descendants
Paul Giamatti, The Ides of March
Tom Hanks, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Ides of March
Ezra Miller, We Need To Talk About Kevin
 
 
oscar winner prediction
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Spencer and Woodley at last are bumped up to locks, since the longer this category goes on without real heat for anyone, the more they seem guaranteed. The three women remaining below them also seem like solid choices, though Jessica Chastain still runs a real risk of splitting her own vote and getting knocked out by a real wild card, like Shame's Carey Mulligan. Now that I've seen Albert Nobbs Janet McTeer seems even safer than Glenn Close-- it's a showier, more engaging performance, and also in a category with less competition.
 
MORTAL LOCK

Octavia Spencer, The Help
Shailene Woodley, The Descendants
 
LIKELY CONTENDER

Jessica Chastain, The Help/Tree of Life/Take Shelter
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Vanessa Redgrave, Coriolanus
 
STILL IN THE RUNNING

Sandra Bullock, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Carey Mulligan, Shame
Evan Rachel Wood, The Ides of March
 
OUTSIDE CHANCE

Berenice Bejo, The Artist
Marion Cotillard, Midnight in Paris
Charlotte Gainsbourg, Melancholia
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids

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