It happens so quickly. One day the heavy hitters of awards season are just a glint in your eye, with so much left to be determined and so many mysteries to unfold. The next, Clint Eastwood's new movie is finally being seen by critics and it feels like the jig is up. In the two weeks since the last Oscar Eye column, a few more contenders have started peeking out of their fortresses of solitude, lending a little more clarity to the race that now just has a few titles-- Girl with the Dragon Tattoo being the big one-- hiding out entirely. Here's a few films we know a lot more about now.

J. Edgar. I won't be seeing this film until next week, thanks to a bizarrely late-scheduled press screening for the movie next Tuesday (a day before the movie opens!) But it's part of the AFI Festival in Los Angeles and is screening for junket press, and the general word is that… it's fine. Fine in the way most people thought Hereafter, Gran Torino, Changeling and most Eastwood movies since Million Dollar Baby were fine-- and we know how much impact Eastwood has had on the Oscar race since then. In other words, except for a possible Best Actor nod for Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Edgar doesn't seem like too big a factor in the race. Fine by me-- I'm no real fan of most of what Eastwood has done the last few years, and J. Edgar always looked like a stiff and vaguely meaningless biopic. You never know what kind of legs an Eastwood movie might have, but for now I think we can put this one on the back burner at least.

Young Adult. After a relentless and ultimately harmful press tour for Up in the Air, director Jason Reitman is keeping this film on a very low profile, scheduling pop-up screenings in Toronto, Minneapolis, Chicago and other cities before finally showing up in Los Angeles earlier this week as a "secret screening." So even though only a handful of writer types, and even fewer Academy voters, have seen the movie, word is that Charlize Theron's brittle, fearless performance is just as good as we hoped, and Patton Oswalt might not just be a Supporting Actor contender, but a possible winner, playing her friend. It's hard to tell if the film's black heart might keep it out of the Best Picture contention-- Juno was edgy, but also extremely sweet-- but it's very much in the race for now. Needless to say, I'm dying to see it.

War Horse. The early buzz on this is as ephemeral as it could possibly be-- there have been some test screenings in smaller cities, and Twitter buzz ranges from "one of Spielberg's best" to " sappy Oscar bait." In other words, we still don't really know anything, though you could choose to read into the fact that test screening audiences weren't breaking Twitter with their enthusiasm. I still would consider this a very real Best Picture threat, but it sounds like it could also be a little more shallow and simple than some people expected, so that might hurt it. Then again, there's Crash. Yeah, we still don't really know much.

Like Crazy. Distributed by Paramount, it opened in limited release last weekend to…. silence. Clanging, lousy silence. It's a good movie but a small one, and small enough that they don't seem to be trying too hard to push it. It's still possible that it will show up in indie and critic's awards, but the incredibly low profile makes me think they're not even going to try that hard for an Oscar push. Very strange after the big splash it made at Sundance.

Martha Marcy May Marlene. Quickly on this movie, which has been at so many different festivals that its release last week felt anti-climactic. But it got all the good reviews we expected, with everyone especially focusing on Elizabeth Olsen, who now has a very real shot at a Best Actress nomination. It's hard to see a movie this chilly and small making a real play for Best Picture, but she's at least in the running, as is the screenplay. Not bad at all for a first feature.

Elsewhere, The Artist continues its run through festivals large and small, picking up nearly every Audience Award along its way, practically cementing its status as a Best Picture nominee. It's still going to take me a while to believe that a French silent film can win Best Picture, but we've got a ways to go to figure that out. And taking a totally different path, The Iron Lady, with Meryl Streep's presumably impressive performance as Margaret Thatcher, continues to hide entirely-- and the longer it waits, the more I wonder if it matters at all.

Anyway, more on that and everything else in the charts!

oscar winner prediction

Yes, the time has come-- I'm moving a few titles up to Mortal Lock. It's still really hard to put anything in that category given the fuzziness of the 5-10 sliding scale of Best Picture nominees, but I feel confident enough about those three that they'll make up any Best Picture lineup. I also bumped up War Horse and Young Adult, since a slight amount of positive chatter is enough for me. Beyond that, everything is pretty much staying in place, with some housecleaning down in the lower categories-- sorry, 50/50, Anonymous, Like Crazy and Drive, it's just not going to happen for you.


The Artist
The Descendants
The Help

Midnight in Paris
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
War Horse
Young Adult

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

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

oscar winner prediction

The same confidence I have about The Descendants as a film applies to Alexander Payne, who is both a veteran and a director of a beloved movie, which is about as much of a sure thing as you can get. It's unclear right now if he can win it-- X factors like Spielberg, Fincher and even Reitman still might come into play-- but I feel confident putting him in the top spot. I also did the same housecleaning in the lower categories-- maybe next year, Nicolas Winding Refn.

Alexander Payne, The Descendants

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

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
Steve McQueen, Shame
Steven Spielberg, War Horse

David Cronenberg, A Dangerous Method
Cameron Crowe, We Bought A Zoo
Sean Durkin, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Ralph Fiennes, Coriolanus
Phyllida Lloyd, The Iron Lady
Tom McCarthy, Win Win
Mike Mills, Beginners
Oren Moverman, Rampart
Jeff Nichols, Take Shelter
Roman Polanski, Carnage
Jason Reitman, Young Adult
Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Tate Taylor, The Help

oscar winner prediction
With Clooney bumped up to Mortal Lock, DiCaprio also gets a boost to Likely Contender, because he's bound to be the one thing everyone talks about from J. Edgar. There's a little bit of housecleaning in the lower categories-- Anton Yelchin seems out of contention, not like he was ever a strong contender to begin with-- but otherwise everything is steady. It seems to me we could knock Ryan Gosling out of the Likely Contenders, add Clooney to the mix and have our lineup of five, barring anything unexpected coming from Matt Damon or Daniel Craig.


George Clooney, The Descendants

Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Edgar
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
Michael Fassbender, Shame
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 50/50
Michael Shannon, Take Shelter

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
Rhys Ifans, Anonymous
Jeremy Irvine, War Horse
John C. Reilly, Carnage
Christoph Waltz, Carnage

oscar winner prediction
Steady as we go in this category, with a long-overdue bump up for Viola Davis in Mortal Lock, as no one seems capable of knocking her out of the frontrunner status. A lot of strong performances here, but not a particularly wide field-- what else is new?


Viola Davis, The Help

Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
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

oscar winner prediction
What a strange, strange category-- plenty of talent to choose from, but no one actually emerging as a frontrunner and no clear selection of five actors to choose from. I've bumped up Oswalt considering all the praise for him in Young Adult, and John Hawkes similarly for his role in Martha Marcy May Marlene, but other than that it's really hard to see a picture emerging here. Is Albert Brooks really going to hang on here despite the general fade of Drive? Is Brad Pitt really a contender as both Supporting and Lead Actor? I really don't know. Come back to me in a week.



Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Albert Brooks, Drive
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Patton Oswalt, Young Adult
Brad Pitt, The Tree of Life
Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Paul Giamatti, The Ides of March
Armie Hammer, J. Edgar
John Hawkes, Martha Marcy May Marlene
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
Tom Hiddleston, War Horse
Ezra Miller, We Need To Talk About Kevin
Viggo Mortensen, A Dangerous Method
Mark Strong, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

oscar winner prediction
Word isn't good for the ladies of J. Edgar, which further prunes down this already small category. The clearest shots seem to be for Vanessa Redgrave and Shailene Woodley, though there's so little attention being paid to this race that it seems hard to call anything just yet. We'll sit tight for a while longer for now.


Jessica Chastain, The Help/Tree of Life/Take Shelter
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
Kate Winslet, Carnage
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
Scarlett Johansson, We Bought A Zoo
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
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