See August predictions here.
The Ides of March
Midnight in Paris
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Tree of Life
I'm upgrading Midnight to a sure-thing, since it's buzz has only gotten stronger as people are now saying that director Woody Allen could find his way into the Best Director category. The Descendants and The Ides of March both impressed at film festivals, particularly the former, so I still see them playing well. The first J. Edgar trailer didn't exactly inspire confidence in me (post coming soon) in terms of quality, but it did look right up the Academy's alley, so we'll leave it in the sure-things for now. Though we've seen very little from War Horse and nothing from Extremely Loud, they still seem like strong possibilities at this point. The Artist's noise has quieted some, but it played well at Toronto and when it's released here in November, the buzz will be deafening. With it's huge-hit status and strong performances, I'd be surprised if The Help doesn't stay in the conversation all the way up to nominations morning; the only thing that keeps me from making it a sure-thing is it's many detractors. Drive is the kind of film that will polarize audiences, but it's also the kind of film that will get first-place votes, which is what matters most now (same goes for Shame, but I'm not sure it will get as many thanks to its very-difficult subject matter). Carnage wasn't greeted with ecstatic raves, so I'm thinking it's going to miss the cut, and though Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is still a strong possibility - it's been described as have a "cold center," something that Oscar sometimes loves and sometimes doesn't - I'm going with The Tree of Life, though it's chances seem less likely than earlier this summer.
Clint Eastwood, J. Edgar
Steven Spielberg, War Horse
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive
Refn is a wild choice, I know, but he's a true rising talent, and if the directing branch chooses to go for that, he seems like the best candidate. But they could also prefer Steve McQueen (Shame) or Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), or the could even consider Hazanavicius to fill that spot. There's a lot of competition there, which means someone else, such as Stephen Daldry (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close), Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris), or David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) could take the spot. Though Terrence Malick has plenty of fans, the more Tree of Life fades, the less likely his nomination seems. And though I'm still counting George Clooney (The Ides of March) in, he didn't receive many notices for his direction, and with the competition heating up, he'll likely be dropped.
George Clooney, The Descendants
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Edgar
Ryan Gosling, The Ides of March
Brad Pitt, Moneyball
Following the Odd-Numbered-Year Rule of Clooney and the great reviews of The Descendants at Telluride, I'm convinced that he will be nominated. I also can't see Dujardin or DiCaprio being excluded yet either, since their buzz has never really faded. Gosling's buzz has faded somewhat, following somewhat-middling reviews of his performance in The Ides of March; however, his raves for Drive can only help him overall, though they ignore him for worthy work anyway. Similarly, Michael Fassbender will end up on plenty of year-end lists for Shame, but A Dangerous Method seems like his most Oscar-friendly role; however, even though he's having a breakout year, he will likely be ignored. I'm dropping Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) in favor of Pitt, who's getting "best of his career" reviews for this performance. Sadly, it seems to me, right now, that Oldman will get to keep his chair as President of the Overdue Club.
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Viola Davis, The Help
There's still nothing new in terms of Streep, but it's La Streep, so it'd be foolish to cast her out at this point. Close received great reviews for Albert Nobbs, but many commented on what a restrained turn it was, and restrained is not always recongnized by the Academy, especially in this category (where "best" means "most," generally speaking). Olsen's buzz will heat up once her film is released next month, and Mara still seems like a good fit unless her film tanks/we collectively decide we're no longer in love with this franchise. However, the biggest development in the past month is that Davis not only made a case to be nominated, but gave a performance that makes her the frontrunner to win (in my opinion, at least). There's still a possibility that Disney could botch her campaign and try to push her as supporting (like I originally predicted), but that would be incredibly foolish. I dropped Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin) because her film and performance just aren't picking up the kind of white-hot buzz they need to became major players at this point, but never count her out. Nor, in a heated race such as this, should you count out Charlize Theron (Young Adult), Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn, though I fear this might be a misstep for her), Felicity Jones (Like Crazy) or Kate Winslet (if she's campaigned as lead for Carnage).
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Albert Brooks, Drive
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Armie Hammer, J. Edgar
Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn
Viggo Mortensen, A Dangerous Method
This category is still near-impossible to predict, since there's no real front-runner and lots of confusion about who's a lead and who's supporting. Plummer still has plenty of heat, as does Brooks, so I imagine they'll still make the cut. Mortensen seems a little less likely now, since his film is getting a great-but-not-excellent reception. And Branagh is still something of a wild card choice here, since we've only recently seen our first image of him from the movie. After the news broke that Jim Broadbent's character in The Iron Lady is mostly meant to be silly, I don't have much faith that he can get nominated this year (yes, the Academy does have bias against comedy, but if you ask me The Iron Lady still has potential to be an absolute train wreck). So I'm including Hammer, who earned raves last year for The Social Network and has the juicy part of Clyde Tolson, Hoover's gay lover.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Octavia Spencer, The Help
Vanessa Redgrave, Coriolanus
Sandra Bullock, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Keira Knightley, A Dangerous Method
Shailene Woodley, The Descendants
This field looks strangely sparse this year, perhaps because we don't know yet who's campaigning for what or who the breakout scene-stealers are. The one thing that is certain is that The Help's success will get Spencer to the ceremony, and even though the film didn't excite many, Redgrave still earned great raves and will likely be nominated. It seems silly that I didn't include Bullock in my first predictions, since everything about the statement "Sandra Bullock in a 9/11 movie based on a best-selling novel" practically screams "Oscar nomination." Though we still haven't seen anything from that movie, it seems like a good bet. Knightley earned great reviews from festival audiences for her turn as a sexually awakened Russian immigrant, but she could choose to go for lead instead (a mistake, since one, its a supporting role and two, the lead race is extremely crowded right now). And yes, ladies and gentleman, the star of the god-awful Juno-ripoff/teen soap The Secret Life of the American Teenager is likely to be an Oscar nominee, thanks to excellent reviews for Woodley's performance in the film. Plus, it never hurts to be the female supporting role in a film starring George Clooney (see: Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton; Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air).
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
War Horse; screenplay by Richard Curtis and Lee Hall (based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo)
The Descendants; screenplay by Nat Faxon, Alexander Payne and Jim Rash (based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings)
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close; screenplay by Eric Roth (based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer)
The Ides of March; screenplay by George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon (based on the play Farragut North by Beau Willimon)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; screenplay by Bridget O'Connor & Peter Strong (based on the novel by John le Carre)
The Descendants seems like the safest bet of all of these, since it's the most well-regarded films so far. War Horse still looks like a safe bet, but there's still a chance voters could decide it's the work of the director. If Oscar sinks its teeth into The Ides of March as a political parable (and I suspect they will), this should definitely make the cut. I'm a still skeptical about Extremely Loud, since barely anything's known about it, but if it does any good it'll pick this up. I dropped A Dangerous Method after the reviews didn't really proclaim greatness. Oscar voters do love twisty works, though, which makes me think Tinker is right up its alley. That said, Carnage, A Dangerous Method, Moneyball, and even The Help could make the cut, but time will tell.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Midnight in Paris; written by Woody Allen
J. Edgar; written by Dustin Lance Black
Like Crazy; written by Drake Doremus & Ben York Jones
Bridesmaids; written by Kristen Wiig & Annie Mumulo
Young Adult; written by Diablo Cody
Midnight's huge success means that it's a lock for this category, to the point where Allen is probably the odds-on favorite to win right now. J. Edgar has the biopic angle, and Black is generally a respected writer (he won three years ago for Milk, which was also a biopic). I'm starting to think it might be risky sticking with Like Crazy, but I'm thinking it's going to be the indie breakout that lands a nomination this year. With Bridesmaids on DVD and Melissa McCarthy's recent Emmy win for her role in the movie, it seems likely that they'll honor the film with a nomination here. I've lost faith in The Iron Lady, so instead I'm going with Young Adult, which seems to be picking up a lot of good buzz lately (plus, how awesome is that poster design?). I wish I could believe that Shame could get in here, but I just don't think it's going to get enough people to see it. And I do think The Artist has a real chance, but I also see it being difficult to nominate a silent film here (but not impossible).