Apologies for the lack of a new column last week. Between Election Day and a nasty fever that suddenly took over my life, I didn't have it in me last Tuesday-- and I got the feeling you guys had other things on your mind as well. Plus, what we're talking about this week is the same thing we would have been talking about last week: Lincoln and Skyfall, and the handful of mysteries still waiting for us down the line.

And after seeing last weekend's box office, it's actually much easier to suss out the Oscar prospects of the two new releases. I was genuinely expected a more muted reaction to Lincoln, after catching it at the New York Film Festival and finding it admirable but choppy, and hearing similarly mixed reviews from others who saw it. But then it opened last weekend with a sterling 91% Rotten Tomatoes score and killer box office in limited release, and suddenly Spielberg's big historical film looks a lot stronger than I ever would have expected. On the heels of last week's election it's suddenly got all the modern relevance in the world-- a drama about a President re-elected to a second term despite a bitterly divided country, trying to work with a squabbling House of Representatives to get history made. We will see how Lincoln fares with the louder, more audience-pleasing films to come, but it's already a much stronger bet than I imagined a few weeks ago.

Skyfall, the new James Bond film, is an even bigger hit, but as outlined a few weeks ago, it faces far more hurdles on its way to Oscar recognition. As a big fan of the film I think I'm more optimistic than most about its awards chances. Nominations for cinematographer Roger Deakins's stunning work and Adele's hit title song seem guaranteed, and Thomas Newman's score and the sound design could easily get mentioned as well. From there it depends on critic's groups to raise the film's awards profile-- both Judi Dench and Javier Bardem seem like strong possibilities in their respective Supporting categories, especially Dench, who is competing in a weak Best Supporting Actress field. And with no other huge blockbusters receiving the same kind of critical praise, Skyfall could fit into that expanded Best Picture field as a way of closing that loop of apology to The Dark Knight, a movie that deeply influenced Skyfall and which inspired the expanded Best Picture category when it was snubbed in 2008.

But before we get too busy talking about the two newest releases, there are a lot more on their way for the Thanksgiving holiday. First up this weekend is Anna Karenina, Joe Wright's swooning, spectacular adaptation of the Russian classic that's been curiously sluggish in its awards potential, partly thanks to its disappointing box office in the UK. I think the movie is a marvel, and I've been encouraged by the number of critics who are right there with me, giving me hope that some critical push during their awards next month could bring Keira Knightley to the forefront of Best Actress, and maybe even Jude Law for his amazing and subtle Best Supporting Actor work. At the same time, I'm trying not to get my hopes up too much. Every year there are films seemingly tailor-made for awards attention that fail, and while they're rarely as great as Anna Karenina it does happen. But even if the movie fails to catch fire in the next few weeks, I'll likely continue stumping for it here anyway. Hey, I had to give up on Cloud Atlas! Let me have this!

Next week we'll be able to get a good look at some of the heavy hitting Thanksgiving releases like Life of Pi and Silver Linings Playbook, and then not long after that it's time for the first awards to start rolling out. Yes, already! It's all a downhill rush to the end of the year at this point, then the nominations coming earlier than usual on January 10. The hard part will be the six weeks or so that come after, when we know what's nominated by not what will win. But hey, let's not get ahead of ourselves.

On to the charts, where we've started winnowing down the contenders, and I continue to bang my head against the wall begging for a Best Supporting Actress contender to shake that whole pitiful category up.

oscar winner prediction

I've tightened up the bottom of this category a bit-- sorry, Cloud Atlas and End of Watch-- just to highlight the limited number of options we really have at this point. And I'm still hesitating on adding Lincoln to Mortal Lock, because it still feels a little small in its support to me-- if it expands to more theaters and continues being a sizable hit, then you can all tell me I'm silly and wrong. It's still possible for Zero Dark Thirty, Les Miserables and Django Unchained to all be good enough to drown it out-- though Argo remains safe as can be.



Beasts of the Southern Wild
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook

Anna Karenina
Django Unchained
The Impossible
Les Miserables
Moonrise Kingdom
Promised Land
Zero Dark Thirty

The Avengers
Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Killing Them Softly
The Master
Not Fade Away
Rust and Bone
The Sessions
This Is 40

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