(Note: I fully realize that not all of the pictures included are from the movie in question, or even produced by the company behind the film. That's what happens when you write about flicks 9 months in advance.)
Last year, my earliest early predictions had Steven Spielberg's War Horse at the top of the ranks. When it came out, people by and large sort of shrugged it off, and it still managed a Best Picture nomination. Case in point: Spielberg makes an Oscar-Friendly movie, it automatically shoots to the top of the class. And, yeah, the story of Abraham Lincoln, as performed by Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, and others... sounds pretty Oscar-Friendly to me.
Zero Dark Thirty
Movies about recent world events can be hit and miss with the Academy, and this story of 6 Navy Seals on a mission to take down Osama Bin Laden might have, 'too soon,' written all over it. Then again, it also has Oscar written all over it, with Kathyn Bigalow and Mark Boal, the director and screenwriter that brought us The Hurt Locker, re-teaming for another dance with the golden man.
Oscar loves a good-old-fashioned musical, especially one as highly-regarded, and serious-minded as Les Misérables. What's more, there hasn't been a singing flick listed among the year's best since Chicago took home the big win, so voters might be hungry for the genre. The film serves as Director Tom Hooper's follow-up to The King's Speech, and boasts of a star-studded cast of thespians drooling for Oscars (Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, so on...).
The Dark Knight Rises
Go ahead, expect the Academy to snub this movie the same way that they snubbed The Dark Knight in 2008, but prepare to be surprised. The expansion of the Best Picture roster is viewed by many (including this writer) to be a result of the last Batman flick's omission, so Rises not only has the immediate attention of voters, but even a handicap in its favor. Now it just needs to be good.
Any movie with the likes of Paul Thomas Anderson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Harvey Weinstein behind it has a damn good chance at having its name up in lights on Oscar night. The subject, rumored to be, 'not based,' on the origins of Scientology, gives me pause, but everything else about it doesn't.
This is the year where we find out if the name Tarantino has become synonyms with Oscar love. His slave-epic throw-back to the westerns of the 70's might not be up the Academy's alley, with characters named Broomhilda and so-forth, but having DiCaprio and recent winner Christoph Waltz on board sure helps.
Not many have their eyes on this one as intently as I do, which almost makes me want to predict it even more. A mysterious sci-fi project starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, I wouldn't be so high on this if it didn't come from the Director and Cinematographer of Children of Men, one of the most criminally over-looked movies to come out in my life time. Sure, the Academy ignored them last go-around, but if they return with similarly staggering results, I don't think they'll pass twice.
Can Ben Affleck sit at the big-kids table? That's the question at hand as he prepares to unveil Argo, a sprawling CIA epic that follows closely on the heels of his almost-nominated The Town. With a cast including Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Gooman, and Alan Arkin, there's a lot of reason to keep hopes high.
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.
10. Rust and Bone
15. Anna Karenina
16. The Life of Pi
18. The Surrogate
19. To Rome With Love
23. Cloud Atlas
26. Wettest County
28. Moonrise Kingdom