Friday, January 20, 2012

Oscar Predictions: January 2012

There's only four days left until this year's Oscar nominees are announced. In other words, Christmas Eve is almost here (Christmas Day would be the Oscar ceremony, you see)! This also means that these are my final predictions. Do I feel comfortable with them? Some more than others. This year has been wonderfully difficult to predict, with a certain degree of variety among the various awards bodies that's much more interesting than last year's "we love these and these only" work. So here we go.

BEST PICTURE
The Descendants

The Artist

Hugo

The Help

Midnight in Paris

War Horse

The Tree of Life

Moneyball

Drive

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

As you can see, I bolded some of the titles. I'm predicting that there will be eight nominees this year, and those are the films I'm guessing will be among them. The Artist is the current frontrunner, and there's a massive backlash coming against it, but you'd be foolish to think that will prevent it from being nominated. The Descendants, Hugo, The Help, Midnight in Paris, and even War Horse are pretty much assured spots as well; they'll only be excluded if there's some sort of massive swing in momentum for, well, anything else. I refuse to give up the idea that The Tree of Life has a large enough and passionate enough fan base to score a nomination. Moneyball is the sketchiest of the eight I'm predicting; there's a lot of support for the film, but is it first-place vote support? I believe that Drive is in the same position as The Tree of Life, but the former probably doesn't have enough support to actually get in. Meanwhile, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has suddenly come through with a vengeance, scoring surprising nominations from both the PGAs and the DGAs. It could be too late, but this is also the time for such support, so don't be surprised to see it squeeze in. And after the poor reviews for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, its going to need a virtual coupe d'tat to get a nomination here.

BEST DIRECTOR
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris

Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist

Martin Scorsese, Hugo

Alexander Payne, The Descendants

Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life

Hazanavicius and Scorsese have won virtually every precursor so far, so they're definitely in. So is Payne, who's been riding on the precursor success of his film. The DGA nominations included two surprising directors, along with an equally surprising exclusion. Allen managed a nomination, as did David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), at the expense of Steven Spielberg (War Horse). Allen seems like a fairly good bet, especially since they'll want to recognize him for having his biggest hit ever in Midnight. But he hasn't been nominated in this category since 1994, and could the Best Picture nomination and screenplay be enough? Spielberg has bared the burden of War Horse's most prominent complaints, which could prevent him from making the cut. And though Dragon Tattoo has done remarkably lately on the campaign trail, I doubt it has enough momentum to get Fincher a nomination, especially when its far from a sure thing for Best Picture. I still think there's enough Malick admiration among the directors' branch to get him a nomination for his magnum opus, so he gets my last spot.

BEST ACTOR
George Clooney, The Descendants

Brad Pitt, Moneyball

Jean Dujardin, The Artist

Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Edgar

Michael Fassbender, Shame

This category hasn't actually seen much change over the past month, with Clooney and Dujardin as the frontrunners. I'd say DiCaprio and Fassbender are the most vulnerable, and it wouldn't surprise me all that much to see Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Demian Bichir (A Better Life), or Michael Shannon (Take Shelter) take their place come Tuesday morning.

BEST ACTRESS
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady

Viola Davis, The Help

Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn

Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk about Kevin

Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs

In my perfect world, Charlize Theron (Young Adult), Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids), and Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene) would all be sure-thing nominees. Mara could still sneak in, especially with the weak notices that Close got for her extremely-reserved performance, but I doubt that its going to happen. The precursors have mostly stuck with these five women, and it'll likely stay that way. But let's all agree that this year was phenomenal for great actress performances.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Albert Brooks, Drive

Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn

Jonah Hill, Moneyball

Nick Nolte, Warrior

Plummer has emerged as the clear frontrunner, with Brooks and Branagh following behind (the latter was far and away the best part of his film). The last two spots are trickier to figure out. Hill out to ride the Moneyball momentum into a nomination for his surprisingly restrained turn. The last spot will either go to Nolte or to Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close), both legends of the screen. My guess is that voters will respond more to Nolte's father-searching-for-redemption than they will Sydow's mute tenant.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Octavia Spencer, The Help

Jessica Chastain, The Help

Berenice Bejo, The Artist

Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs

Shailene Woodley, The Descendants

I may be really foolish for this, but I just don't think that Melissa McCarthy is going to get a nomination for Bridesmaids as everyone else is predicting. For one, I think Wiig's performance is actually better in the film. And voters usually like to throw support behind breakout performances from young actresses here, and Woodley was nothing short of astonishing in The Descendants. My guess is she'll find her way into the ceremony. Bejo, too, will likely ride The Artist wave to her first nomination.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Moneyball; screenplay by Steve Zallian and Aaron Sorkin (based on the nonfiction book by Michael Lewis)

The Descendants; screenplay by Nat Faxon, Alexander Payne & Jim Rash (based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings)

The Help; screenplay by Tate Taylor (based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett)

Hugo; screenplay by John Logan (based on the graphic novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick)

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; screenplay by Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughn (based on the novel by John le Carre)

I suppose there still is a chance that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo could score here (earning Zallian double nominations!), but I really don't think it will. My guess is that Tinker Tailor's taut, complex screenplay will be more favored by the writers' branch. The other four up there are pretty much shoo-ins at this point, now that War Horse has pretty much vanished from this race.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Midnight in Paris; written by Woody Allen

Bridesmaids; written by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumulo

Margin Call; written by JC Chandor

The Artist; written by Michel Hazanavichius

Win Win; screenplay by Tom McCarthy, story by Tom McCarthy and Joe Tiboni

Similar to Best Actress, there are way too many good works in this category for just five nominations. I still hope and pray that the writers will recognize Young Adult's Diablo Cody again, but it just doesn't seem like they'll go completely comedic this year. That is perhaps the most surprising thing about this category this year: most of the strongest contenders are indeed comedies, a rarity for Oscar. That's why I'm convinced that Margin Call is still in the running for this: its timely and more dramatic, something that I'm sure they'll respond to well. With the exception of The Artist and Midnight in Paris, no one is guaranteed a spot here.

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