At this very early point in a very long Oscar race, buzz can be especially tricky, mostly because there's so little of it. Especially for the people who run sites that write daily about the awards race, there's a temptation to make trends out of thin air or talk in circles, like claiming the Gone With The Wind-esque poster for Steven Spielberg's War Horse cause the movie to lose "a lot of heat", or in the Oscar roundtable I participate in at Awards Daily, hash out whether or not it was a good idea to go from 5 Best Picture nominees to 10 and then now to the sliding scale. With everything so early, and really no giant contenders due for another month, it feels a little like twiddling our thumbs.

But there's a lot happening, and that ephemeral buzz really is shifting, whether we can quantify it or not. Here are a few doings in the Oscar sphere in the last week worth keeping an eye on:

-- I caught Carnage at the New York Film Festival and greatly enjoyed myself. It's a very straightforward adaptation of a play that takes place entirely in one apartment, and thus doesn't feel terribly cinematic, but director Roman Polanski does a good job moving the camera around in the space and emphasizing all four lead performances, which are uniformly terrific. It's hard to guess how this might shake out Oscar wise, but I think they could get a strong Supporting Actor campaign for Christoph Waltz, who is once again a great combination of villainy and charm. Jodie Foster is also really excellent as a hippy-dippy type committed to non-violence but with some rough tendencies of her own. The movie should get fairly strong reviews, but for some reason it doesn't seem like a Best Picture possibility the way, say, Doubt or Frost/Nixon did. It's cruel and funny and very short and maybe a little slight, but the performances carry it, and they seem like the best Oscar hope.

-- Eric and I got together for a Great Debate, about this weekend's release 50/50 and the fact that it's a great movie that has a minimal shot at getting nominated for anything. This happens every year, with great, critically beloved movies getting ignored by the Academy, but every now and then something like There Will Be Blood gets in the race and suddenly you start getting hope again. I think 50/50 has a very good shot at a nomination for Best Original Screenplay, and that they'd be smart to campaign hard for Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Best Actor, since that field is crowded but very flexible. Beyond that, though, it's too young-skewing, too funny and a little too vulgar to make the impact it ought to.

-- Yesterday we got a look at the first trailer for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, one of the big late-season question marks that could become a huge contender when it opens on Christmas Day. While the trailer pulled heatrstrings and touted its big names exactly the way we could have expected, it did clear up a few things-- Tom Hanks is clearly playing a small supporting role as the dead father, Thomas Horn is being touted as a huge new talent along the lines of Jamie Bell in Billy Elliott, and with U2 playing in just the trailer, they're pulling out all the stops to make everybody love this. It'll be a long time before we get a look at the actual movie but Extremely Loud will very much be part of the conversation until then.

--Thought it got beat out at the box office by Lion King, Moneyball opened last weekend to both good numbers and exceptionally strong reviews, which has a lot of people suddenly thinking it could be a much bigger Best Picture, and especially Best Actor, contender than we previously thought. There's still a long way to go on both, and Moneyball seems like exactly the kind of well-liked movie that can be easily forgotten as the season goes on, but it got a big boost over the weekend. Some are even predicting it might be #1 in its second weekend, which would give it even more staying power.

-- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a huge hit in the UK, and with a lot of Academy voters being British, that means a lot. But a handful of critics have been seeing it here, and the response-- particularly on the In Contention Oscar Talk podcast-- is a little more muted and respectful than enthusiastic. Of course, something being a little dullsville and aimed at adults has never hurt a movie, but I do wonder if Tinker will wind up being buzzy enough to start getting in on its own merits, or if it will be in the conversation for the performances only.

-- Earlier this week we premiered the new poster for Oranges & Sunshine, the new drama starring Emily Watson as a British social worker who uncovers a giant scandal in the adoption system. It's a small movie with grim subject matter, but Watson has managed two surprising nominations in the past for gritty work, and it seems silly to underestimate her. She's added to the charts below.

And speaking of the charts, let's get on to them.
oscar winner prediction

No real changes here, beyond the aforementioned new strength of Moneyball and the fact that War Horse still seems to be a giant gorilla waiting for us down the stretch. Aside from 50/50 and what I've already said about it, the next thing to keep an eye on here is The Ides of March, which seems to be me to be losing steam the closer it comes to its release date. We'll talk more about that next week, though.



The Artist
The Descendants
The Help
Midnight in Paris
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Ides of March
The Iron Lady
J. Edgar
The Tree of Life
War Horse
Young Adult

A Dangerous Method
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Jane Eyre
Like Crazy
Martha Marcy May Marlene
My Week WIth Marilyn
Take Shelter
We Bought A Zoo
Win Win

oscar winner prediction

No changes here again this week, but this category is looking stranger and stranger the more I think about it. Last year we had the exciting fact of two very good directors-- David O. Russell and Darren Aronofsky-- getting their first nominations, then seeing it all swiped out from under them by the new kid, Tom Hooper. There are even more new kids in the mix this time, from foreigners Hazanavicius and Alfredson to young bucks like Miller, Refn and, who knows, maybe even Sean Durkin. But I start getting the feeling that with so much fresh meat, a lot of the veterans are going to swoop in with their late season efforts-- it's nothing but a hunch, but I feel like a category that's all Spielberg, Fincher, Eastwood, Daldry and Scorsese is very possible, and very boring.


Tomas Alfredson, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Woody Allen, Midnight In Paris
Michel Hazanvicius, The Artist
Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life
Bennett Miller, Moneyball
Alexander Payne, The Descendants

George Clooney, The Ides of March
Stephen Daldry, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Clint Eastwood, J. Edgar
David Fincher, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Roman Polanski, Carnage
Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive
Steven Spielberg, War Horse

David Cronenberg, A Dangerous Method
Cameron Crowe, We Bought A Zoo
Drake Doremus, Like Crazy
Sean Durkin, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Roland Emmerich, Anonymous
Ralph Fiennes, Coriolanus
Jonathan Levine, 50/50
Phyllida Lloyd, The Iron Lady
Tom McCarthy, Win Win
Steve McQueen, Shame
Mike Mills, Beginners
Oren Moverman, Rampart
Jeff Nichols, Take Shelter
Jason Reitman, Young Adult
Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Tate Taylor, The Help

oscar winner prediction
Ryan Gosling just isn't going to get a nomination for Drive-- that much I can admit to myself, and that's the one change here, along with bumping Brad Pitt up given Moneyball's success and adding Thomas Horn here thanks to the Extremely Loud trailer. But like I mentioned above, i'm keeping an eye on The Ides of March. If that movie stumbles, Gosling will really be struggling for a nomination, which seems insane after the banner year he's had. And if Gosling gets knocked out, who does that leave to compete against Dujardin, Clooney and Oldman, who all seem like such sure things? They make the category top heavy, but there's real potential for interesting stuff a little lower down.



George Clooney, The Descendants
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Ryan Gosling, The Ides of March
Brad Pitt, Moneyball

Matt Damon, We Bought A Zoo
Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Edgar
Michael Fassbender, Shame
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 50/50

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
Rhys Ifans, Anonymous
Jeremy Irvine, War Horse
Christopher Plummer, Barrymore
John C. Reilly, Carnage
Michael Shannon, Take Shelter
Christoph Waltz, Carnage
Anton Yelchin, Like Crazy

oscar winner prediction
Kate Winslet and Jodie Foster are still listed here for Carnage, but I wouldn't be surprised to see either knocked down to Supporting Actress-- that will probably happen next week. Otherwise, no change. A lot of the big female performances, as mentioned last time, are still a long way off from being seen.



Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis, The Help
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Charlize Theron, Young Adult
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn

Kirsten Dunst, Melancholia
Felicity Jones, Like Crazy
Rooney Mara, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Tilda Swinton, We Need To Talk About Kevin
Michelle Yeoh, The Lady

Jodie Foster, Carnage
Emily Watson, Oranges & Sunshine
Mia Wasikowska, Jane Eyre
Rachel Weisz, The Deep Blue Sea
Kate Winslet, Carnage

oscar winner prediction
So many questions still in this category, and so little of it cleared up right now. Thomas Horn has been moved to Best Actor, where I think he belongs, and other than that… wait and see. Tinker Tailor still seems like the force to watch here.



Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Albert Brooks, Drive
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Brad Pitt, The Tree of Life

Paul Giamatti, The Ides of March
Armie Hammer, J. Edgar
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Ides of March
David Thewlis, The Lady

Niels Arestrup, War Horse
Jim Broadbent, The Iron Lady
Benedict Cumberbatch, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Colin Firth, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Robert Forster, The Descendants
Tom Hanks, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Tom Hardy, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
John Hawkes, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Tom Hiddleston, War Horse
Ezra Miller, We Need To Talk About Kevin
Viggo Mortensen, A Dangerous Method
Patton Oswalt, Young Adult
Seth Rogen, 50/50
Mark Strong, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

oscar winner prediction
All anyone really ever wants to talk about in this category is whether Melissa McCarthy could get in for Bridesmaids, which shows how little there is to really discuss right now. I'd love to see it happen but I have my doubts, so she's listed as an outside chance for now. With Take Shelter opening this weekend, though, I start wondering if maybe that could be Jessica Chastain's nomination, provided enough people see it. Her presence on this list is pretty much just a placeholder for all her movies given her total ubiquity this year-- it's still hard to know which movie might wind up being her nomination, if any.


Jessica Chastain, The Help/Tree of Life
Keira Knightley, A Dangerous Method
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Vanessa Redgrave, Coriolanus
Octavia Spencer, The Help
Shailene Woodley, The Descendants

Sandra Bullock, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Judi Dench, J. Edgar
Carey Mulligan, Shame
Naomi Watts, J. Edgar
Evan Rachel Wood, The Ides of March

Berenice Bejo, The Artist
Marion Cotillard, Midnight in Paris
Elle Fanning, We Bought A Zoo
Charlotte Gainsbourg, Melancholia
Bryce Dallas Howard, The Help
Anjelica Huston, 50/50
Scarlett Johansson, We Bought A Zoo
Anna Kendrick, 50/50
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Marisa Tomei, The Ides of March

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