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Friday, October 7, 2011

Oscar Predictions 2011: Round One

        If there's One single thing that I care way too much about, it's the Oscars. Deep down, I of course know that they are arbitrary, over-gloried, and semi-pointless, and yet I wait like a kid for Christmas morning, just to find out who's name gets called. In truth, I do find something valid about joining a list of winners that has existed almost as long as the art form itself, but more than anything, I just like predicting things, and then arguing about them later, Two things that Oscar never fails to prompt. So here I am, way out in October, posting my absurdly early rankings in Five major categories, seeing if this year, I can be the guy who calls some of them from way out. If you don't give a rip about the Oscars, just think of it as a Fall Movies Preview. I myself will look forward to my faulty Christmas morning.

***All categories are ranked according the how I PREDICT things will turn out, not what I would wish.***

***Links to the imdb pages of each of he individual titles, where you can read cast lists and synopses. This is already a lengthy article; Explaining every movie would be pretty rough***

Best Picture:
1. War Horse---At this point, picking a leader in the best picture race is just about impossible. Given that information, Steven Spielberg plus War Drama plus Christmas Day release seems like a pretty safe bet, and that’s why it’s here.
2. The Descendants---Probably the film getting the most buzz of any coming into the season, Alexander Payne’s newest was the talk of both the Venice and Telluride film festivals, and has one of the Academy’s very favorite leading men headlining. I would have it in first if I didn’t think it was peaking early, a la Clooney’s last Best Picture starer, Up in the Air.
3. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close---The academy loves Director Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliott, The Hours), so much so that a few years back they shafted Wall-e, The Dark Knight, Doubt, and The Wrestler just to fit in his controversial The Reader. Chip in writer Eric Roth (another one of oscar’s favorites with Forrest Gump, The Insider, and Benjamin Button), a pair of iconic actors (Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock), and 9/11 subject matter, and you’ve got a real contender.
4. The Artist---A silent film that the world remains largely oblivious to, The Artist has been the talk of the town in some circles for quite some time now, early reviews calling the film magical and hailing Jean Dujardin’s titular turn. It’s hard to think of a non-talkie as a real heavyweight, but if it’s as good as everyone says it is...
5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo---Me thinks people are sleeping on this One pretty hard right now. Yeah, it’s a remake. Yeah, it’s subject matter seems potentially too grisly for the academy. Oh yeah, and it’s directed by David Fincher. Fresh off The Social Network, Benjamin Button, and Zodiac, he’s an awfully hard guy to bet against, so I just won’t.
6. Midnight in Paris---Sure, it’s totally light-hearted, and not a whole lot more than a comedy (Two things Oscar usually shies away from), but boy, do they love the Woodman. The movie is dripping with nostalgia, and may prove extremely appealing to the academy’s older voters.
7. The Tree of Life---There’s no point in hiding the fact that this might just be wishful thinking on my part, but hear me out. Unlike the last several years, wherein Oscar picked Ten best picture candidates, the 2011 ceremony will have anywhere between 5-10 nominees, the number decided by how many film’s receive at least 5% of the group’s number 1 overall votes. The Tree of Life might have some pretty ardanent detractors, and it doesn’t have a chance in hell of actually nabbing the top prize, but it also has some pretty starch advocates, and I think that the magical 5% seems wholly within its reach.
8. Young Adult---Another One that I have ranked higher than most, and for the exact same reason as Dragon Tattoo. Jason Reitman has only directed Three movies thus far, the first of which (Thank You For Smoking) was a critic darling, and the latter Two (Juno, Up in the Air) were both Best Picture nominees. Betting against him just sounds foolish to me.
As of now, I am predicting that these will be the Eight that get nominated (I don't have some crazy math problem that helped me determine the number, these just seem like the ones). The following is where I rank the next movies in line.
9. J. Edgar---I have this One lower than a lot of people. Eastwood’s magic with Oscar has cooled considerably of late (his last Four films have garnered a total of Two nominations in major categories, winning neither), and I personally have to say that I don’t think DiCaprio seems right for the role. That’s why I have it this low. I have it this high because, if it does go well, it will be a shoe-in for just about every award of the night.
10. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy---I was a lot, lot higher on this One a mere month ago, but the same festivals that made The Descendants a near lock have weakened this One a tad. Still, it’s a movie with an outstanding cast and serious subject matter, not to mention the fact that it’s directed by Let the Right One In’s Tomas Alfredson
11. The Help---Everyone and their pet cat wants to call this movie a lock, but I’m just not drinking the Kool-Aid. Part of this obviously comes down to my own feelings on the film, but I also think that it had an awfully early release date, not to mention some pretty mediocre reviews. You can compare it to The Blind Side all you want, but that movie was an exception, not a rule, and to assume that Oscar has a, ‘Blind Side,’ slot reserved for every year is a step too far in my opinion.
12. Moneyball---I know, I know, this is awfully low for a pretty solid Brad Pitt Vehicle, but again I ask, do you really think 5% of the Academy will put this talky baseball drama as their number One of the year?
13. The Ides of March---Early reviews say, ‘good, not great.’ I know it looks strong with its stacked cast and serious subject matter, but, ‘good,’ is just not going to cut it under the new rules.
14. The Iron Lady---The fact that we have no early word so far is unsettling, but the presence of Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher is anything but.
15. Martha Marcy May Marlene---Festival darling will likely have a small release, but, just like The Artist, if it’s as good as people say it is, counting it out this early is just foolish
16. My Week with Marlyn---Much like J. Edgar, if things go well, all kinds of attention will be shown to this Michelle Williams starer. If things don’t, it’ll hardly see the light of day.
17. Coriolanus---Shakespeare adaptation directed by a much-liked actor (Ralph Fiennes), featuring the emerging favorite for Supporting Actress (Vanessa Redgrave). Might be a big spoiler.
18. Take Shelter---Another flick who’s early buzz has been sensational, Take Shelter also has buzzy performances from Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain to keep it on everyone’s minds not.
19. Like Crazy---Like Martha Marcy May Marlene, this was a real hit with festival crowds earlier this year. Can it get enough attention in a small release?
20. We Bought a Zoo---The trailer doesn’t really make it look like Oscar’s cup of tea, but with Cameron Crowe behind the camera, and Matt Damon in front of it... we’ll see.
21. The Adventures of Tintin---Spielberg toying with Motion Capture Technology. It’s a big, big question mark, which is exactly why you shouldn’t take it off your radar just yet.
22. Hugo---See Tintin
23. 50/50---Probably just wishful thinking, but 50/50 did get some of the year’s best reviews, and boasts of truly amazing work from star Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Then again, it also co-stars Seth Rogen... not sure on the Academy’s thoughts about that One.
24. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2---The best reviewed installment of a hugely successful (commercially and artistically) series. Before the Academy changed the rules this year, I would have half expected this to be in the ten, but I don’t see it racking up enough first place votes
25. Drive---A big critic favorite, I don’t really see this One as having much of a chance, but it certainly has its supporters, so who knows?

Best Actor:
1. Jean Dujardin (The Artist)---Supposedly incredible in the film, Dujardin’s unknown status could either help him or hurt him, but it’s too early to tell.
2. George Clooney (The Descendants)---If gorgeous George didn’t already have a statuette, I’d already have some money on him in Vegas somewhere. I just don’t see him beating out so many actors who might be seen as, ‘overdue.’
3. Brad Pitt (Moneyball)---Very popular, iconic, unrewarded actor in a well-regarded movie. My only reservation is that the role might not be showy enough.
4. Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar)---If the movie works, he’ll win it in a walk. I’m just sticking to my Clint-Eastwood-doubting guns.
5. Michael Shannon (Take Shelter)---Allegedly an amazing performance in a terrific movie, if Take Shelter gains some attention, don’t count Shannon out, even for the win.
6. Gary Oldman (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy)---A much-loved actor who has yet to win a golden man. Finally in a leading role (not to mention in a much-anticipated film), Oldman is a certified member of what looks to be something of a Six-Horse race...
7. Jeremy Irvine (War Horse)---...but if anybody can crack the line-up, it’s the unknown lead in the new Spielberg epic. No One has any clue what this guy has to offer the film just yet
8. Michael Fassbender (Shame)---A brilliant actor having a great year, but his film’s NC-17 rating will likely kill his chances.
9. Matt Damon (We Bought a Zoo)---Just as is the case with the film as a whole, it’s tough to judge this One from so far out, but his chances certainly aren’t dead yet.
10. Ryan Gosling (Drive or The Ides of March)---An actor having a huge year, I just don’t see either of his films drumming up enough excitement to get him in.

Best Actress:
1. Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs)---A gender-bending role for a veteran actress who’s been putting in solid work for years and yet never been recognized? Sounds like the One to beat to me.
2. Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)---More so than any other thespian of our generation, the Academy hands Oscar nods to Streep just for showing up. Her playing a divicsive historical figure might just be the biggest lock of the night, even if the movie’s a total wreck.
3. Charlize Theron (Young Adult)---Besides simply crafting good movies, director Jason Reitmen excels at Two things: (1) Getting good performances out of his leads (2) Getting good performances out of his females. A quick look around the internet tells me that not too many agree with ranking her this high. We’ll see come February.
4. Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene)---All kinds of hype surrounds this performance from, ‘the other Olsen sister.’ The Best Actress category LOVES to include an unknown youngster, and if you’re thinking they won’t include One of Olsen, Mara, and Jones, I think you’ll be surprised.
5. Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn)---Just like Leo, a great actor stepping into an iconic role that could prove Oscar gold, or total flame-out. Only time will tell.
6. Viola Davis (The Help)---A lot of folks have her as their number One at the moment. Yet again, we know how America liked The Help, but the academy is totally different. Also, winning a lead acting category is about dominating your respective film, and Davis isn’t even the movie’s protagonist. Still slotting high on my list, but I just can’t be there with everyone until I see some guild recognition.
7. Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)---Terrific in her brief screen time in The Social Network, Mara now graduates to a ballsy lead performance in a David Fincher movie. Need I say more?
8. Felicity Jones (Like Crazy)---As previously stated, Oscar loves his unknown youngsters in this category, and some folks have been singing Jones’ praises for quite some time now.
9. Kirsten Dunst (Melancholia)---Best actress winner at the Cannes Film Festival, Dunst is supposed to be stellar in the role, but Director Lars Von Trier’s aggressive style will likely prove overwhelming to voters.
10. Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin)---Like Dunst, a performance that is supposed to be completely stunning, set in a movie that is likely both too small and too unsettling for the academy’s older members.

Supporting Actor:
1. Christopher Plummer (Beginners)---The grand-daddy of, ‘overdue,’ actors in the specific categoy that loves to validate such thespians, 81-year-old Captain Von Trapp has the biggest lead of anyone in an acting category right now by virtue of career credentials, and lack of category competition.
2. Albert Brooks (Drive)---Here for the same reason as Plummer, though ironically in a villainous turn.
3. Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Ides of March)---Not exactly sure how to rank old Phil, as I simply don’t see the Academy passing on yet another chance to give him a nod, but I’m also of the mind that he has next to no chance to win.
4. Brad Pitt (The Tree of Life)---The academy loves to make headlines, and a double-nomination for Brad Pitt seems a bit irresistible.
5. Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn)---Pretty sick of saying it by now, but as with all things Marilyn, if it’s good, he’s a lock, and if it’s off, count him out completely.

Supporting Actress:
1. Vanessa Redgrave (Coriolanus)---It’s just the buzz right now, and having not seen several of these movies, I won’t go against that.
2. Berenice Bejo (The Artist)---A hailed performance from One of the year’s biggest contenders. Sounds like a lock.
3. Shailene Woodly (The Descendants)---The Descendants seems like a big enough contender to send Two acting nominees, and from here, it sounds like Woodly is most likely.
4. Octavia Spencer (The Help)---A memorable performance in a sentimental favorite seems like a good bet.
5. Jessica Chastain (The Tree of Life, The Help, The Debt, Take Shelter, or Coriolanus)---When you act in about half the oscar-y movies of a given year, chances are you’ll turn up somewhere.

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