The Descendants (Previous Ranking: 2)
This has been the darling of the season so far, which is, more often than not, a curse coming down the home stretch (see: Brokeback Mountain, Up in the Air, The Social Network). Peaking early is something to be weary of, but at this point in the year, with so many big names faltering, and only a handful of big names still slated for release, this kind of has to be the de facto #1.
The Artist (Previous Ranking: 4)
Just like The Descendants, The Artist has been a festival darling for months now. I can't give it first, simply because it's daring aesthetic (A silent film?!? Really?!?), and it's no-name actors. Still, one of only two movies that I would go as far as to call a lock at this point.
War Horse (Previous Ranking: 1)
I had this as my #1 last time, and there is one reason, and one reason alone that it has slipped: No one has seen it yet. A historical, inspirational war epic directed by Steven Spielberg sounds just like the Academy's cup of tea. Even if it's only OK, I say it gets in, I just can't rank it higher than this until some real buzz finally comes through.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Previous Ranking: 5)
David Fincher directing a seedy story to which America has already shown favoritism (by buying bazillions of books), with a cast featuring Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer, Robin Wright, and a potentially career-defining turn by Rooney Mara? Are you really gunna bet against this thing? Have you seen that extended trailer?
Midnight in Paris (Previous Ranking: 6)
Sure, there's a real chance that the often dour Academy might find this one a bit to light-hearted to be considered for the night's top prize, but there's also ample reason to predict that they might not. First and foremost, they love Woody Allen, having nominated the man for a jaw-dropping 21 oscars through-out his prolific career, a number that doesn't even factor in other nods garnered by the film's he's helmed. Plus, the movie is undeniably old-skewing, courting to the exact type of person that will be voting come February.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (Previous Ranking: 3)
Just judging from the trailer, I have some pretty extreme doubts about young thespian Thomas Horn's ability to lead a Best Picture nominee, and old Oscar has yet to really warm up to 9/11 source material. Still, the film is written by a man that the Academy likes (Eric Roth), and Directed by one that they love (Stephen Daldry). Not to just keep repeating this point, but this is the same voting branch that elected The Reader over Wall-e and The Dark Knight. Assuming that there is a limit to their love of Daldry is a fool's gamble.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Previous Ranking: 10)
The trailer plays like gang-busters, the cast is amazing, and the man behind the camera last brought us the frost-bitten classic Let the Right One In. I'm pretty worried about the British Import's ability to gain traction state-side, but with 38 positive reviews against 1 on rottentomatoes at the moment, anything is possible.
The Tree of Life (Previous Ranking: 7)
The more time that passes, the more that I think this one might just be wishful thinking, but there's at least a bit more to it than that. Terrance Malick will likely be invited to the Best Director category, which always puts your film in contention, and there is a school of people (myself included) that champion the flick with fiery passion. Is that enough to snag 5% of the #1 overall votes? We'll see...
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. The Help (Previous Ranking: 11)
I swear, I might be the only one on earth that still doesn't have this as one of their nominees, which, you know, probably means I'm wrong, but I just still can't see it. Sure, the movie has the right subject matter, and was a big hit with audiences, but do you really, really think this is high enough quality to play with the big boys? Chances are I'll bump it into the nominated category next time, but I feel the need to hold out just a little while longer.
10. Moneyball (Previous Ranking: 12)
A movie about baseball, statistics, and multi-million dollar contracts doesn't really sound like a safe bat for the Best Picture mantle, and the flick's September release gives me further pause. Yes, it's winsome entertainment, and it's got a great performance by Academy favorite Brad Pitt, but do you really think there's enough passion behind this one to get it all the way there?
11. The Adventures of Tintin (Previous Ranking: 21)
Easily my biggest upgrade from last post, the ascent of Tintin honestly has more to do with the failings of other movies than it does the motion-capture epic's actual pedigree. Still, the movie is already a sensation over-seas, and Spielberg just isn't a name you want to mess with most of the time.
12. Young Adult (Previous Ranking: 8)
The trailer for this one pretty much put an end to me sighting Young Adult as awards season's biggest sleeper. It's not half-bad, it just doesn't appear to be angling for Oscars to any degree whatsoever. Still, Jason Reitman has proven himself as one of our nation's strongest young film-makers, and that alone is enough to keep this one the list.
13. The Iron Lady (Previous Ranking: 14)
Do you really think there's any chance that Meryl Streep won't get another nomination for playing Margaret Thacher? Her performance will ensure that there are eyes on the film as a whole, so if it's good...
14. The Ides of March (Previous Ranking: 13)
It's got some serious names, and some serious subject matter, which is enough to keep its name involved all the way until announcement morning, but its theatrical release was met with a critical and box office shrug. Seems kind of dead to me.
15. Coriolanus (Previous Ranking: 17)
Shakespeare, as directed by Ralph Fiennes, featuring a much-championed performance by Vanessa Redgrave. That all spells potential spoiler to me.
16. Martha Marcy May Marlene (Previous Ranking: 15)
If old Oscar is looking to dig deep into his indie pockets, my guess (or hope, anyways) is that this is the one he'll pull out. Still, saggy box office ain't doing this one any favors.
17. J. Edgar (Previous Ranking: 9)
Yes, this is letting my own biases affect my rankings, but this one is just plain not good enough. You always have to leave Eastwood's new movie on your rankings somewhere, but if they've passed on his last several films, I'm not thinking they're coming over to this one.
18. Hugo (Previous Ranking: 22)
Who knows, man, who knows? Counting out Scorsese is pretty damn idiotic, but this trip into family-film territory does feel awfully misguided if we're only judging trailers.
19. We Bought a Zoo (Previous Ranking: 20)
It's been a while since Cameron Crowe has made a real impression with voters, but this family-oriented, feel-good drama might be just the thing. Emphasis on might.
20. Drive (Previous Ranking: 25)
Much like The Tree of Life, the people that like this one seem to really love it. That being said, I'm not too sure how much hyper-violence the greying voters can really take.
Supposedly great unknown who headlines one of the buzziest movies of the season, and he doesn't have to deal with the, 'he already has one,' argument like Clooney does.
2. George Clooney (The Descendants) (Previous Ranking: 2)
If gorgeous George didn't already have a little golden man on his mantle, this would already be all locked up. As is, he's looking like a runner-up
3. Gary Oldman (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) (Previous Ranking: 6)
Un under-recognized veteran if ever there was one, Oldman headlines an amazing cast, and his movie has a perfectly timed release date. Both should manage to turn heads.
4. Brad Pitt (Moneyball) (Previous Ranking: 3)
One of the Academy's very most favorite thespians, but is the role showy enough, and did the movie come out too early?
5. Michael Fassbender (Shame) (Previous Ranking: 8)
The performance already has all kinds of support in various circles, and it would be a great way to recognize the phenomenal year that this up-and-comer is having, but that NC-17 rating is going to be hard to push through
6. Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar) (Previous Ranking: 4)
He's easily the best aspect of the movie in which he stars, but does Oscar really want to hand out this important of a nomination to such a not-that-good movie?
7. Michael Shannon (Take Shelter) (Previous Ranking: 5)
Always a long shot for his little indie drama, but now more so considering said little indie drama didn't scare up too much attention in it's limited release.
8. Jeremy Irvine (War Horse) (Previous Ranking: 7)
I have no earthly idea what this performance will even be like, but one thing is certain: It will be central to a film that absolutely every academy voter will see, and that's enough to keep him in the hunt.
1. Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs) (Previous Ranking: 1)
It'll be an uphill battle for Close, who's performance comes from a very small film, and who is, if we're talking statistical commonalities here, a bit old to win the lady's top prize. Still, she earns veteran points, and I just don't see the Streep vrs. Davis battle going down the way everyone else does.
2. Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) (Previous Ranking: 2)
I don't have the slightest inclination one way or the other on whether Streep can win this thing, but do you really think there's a snowball's chance in hell that she won't at least get the nod?
3. Viola Davis (The Help) (Previous Ranking: 6)
Man, oh, man, it huuuurts me to rank her as high as this, but I'm thinking it's about time to stop being stubborn. I still have massive doubts, but if just about everybody close to the industry says she's a lock, I'm might as well try to play by the rules.
4. Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) (Previous Ranking: 4)
Big, splashy role at the center of what's likely to be a big hit. Consider her the, 'it,' girl of the season.
5. Charlize Theron (Young Adult) (Previous Ranking: 3)
Director Jason Reitman has guided the protagonist of each of his three films so far to some major awards recognition. This looks like a nice, juicy part for Theron.
6. Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn) (Previous Ranking: 5)
Early word is very kind to Williams, though decidedly less cheery about the film itself, only time can tell if she can survive a few bad reviews.
7. Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene) (Previous Ranking: 4)
If Mara falters, looks for Olsen to pick up the, 'it,' girl mantel. I had her higher before her film opened and only managed to make a blip on the radar
8. Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin) (Previous Ranking: 9)
A contender for many awards over seas, Swinton is allegedly sensational in the role, but trying subject matter, and meager distribution have her stuck all the way down at #8.
9. Kirsten Dunst (Melancholia) (Previous Ranking: 8)
Winner of Best Actress at the Cannes film festival, Dunst remains in the hunt, though being under the direction of divisive Lars Von Trier will likely prove unsettling for some.
Best Supporting Actor:
1. Christopher Plummer (Beginners) (Previous Ranking: 1)
From the most crowded category of the night to the least, Supporting Actor looks like something of a graveyard this year, which is what makes it a perfect time to reward trusty-old Plummer, and his warm, winning performance.
2. Albert Brooks (Drive) (Previous Ranking: 2)
Both the only other veteran, and the only other lock in the category. More so than any other race of the night, from this far out, Supporting Actor has seemingly already been narrowed down to two.
3. Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close) (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
Highly regarded, statue-less, and old as dirt. In a year like this, that's probably enough.
4. Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn) (Previous Ranking: 5)
What does it tell you about this category that my faith in Branagh has dwindled some, and yet he moves up the ranks?
5. Brad Pitt (The Tree of Life) (Previous Ranking: 5)
ToL is a pretty big unknown at this point, but Pitt's terrific work in the film (not to mention a chance to double-nominate him with Moneyball), should prove too much for the voters to ignore.
Best Supporting Actress:
1. Berenice Bejo (The Artist) (Previous Ranking: 2)
This is a category that specifically loves to recognize fresh faces, and with everyone in town singing the movie's praises, she'll have a lot of attention, and a truly great shot at taking it.
2. Vanessa Redgrave (Coriolanus) (Previous Ranking: 1)
A favorite of prognosticators for a while now, Redgrave might suffer from I-Already-Have-An-Oscar syndrome, but her invite is all but assured.
3. Shailene Woodly (The Descendants) (Previous Ranking: 3)
Playing opposite George Clooney in one of the night's real heavyweights should be enough to get Woodly in.
4. Octavia Spencer (The Help) (Previous Ranking: 4)
This is the only super-hyped potential nomination for The Help that I fully buy in to.
5. Jessica Chastain (The Tree of Life, The Help, The Debt, Take Shelter, or Coriolanus)
The four above seem pretty locked in and ready to roll. Filling out the last slot is difficult, so I'll play it safe and go with an actress having a great year, and with a zillion films to choose from.