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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Oscar Predictions 2012: Round 2

Best Picture:
1. Lincoln (Previous Ranking: 1)
        I have exactly $0.00 wagered on this one so far, but Spielberg + Day-Lewis + Presidential Biopic kind of has to = Frontrunner, doesn't it? If America's most famed director can guide a trash heap like War Horse to a Best Picture nomination, this one's already a lock.
2. Les Miserables (Previous Ranking: 3)
        The Oscars seem ripe to fall in love with a new movie musical (none have been nominated for the big prize since Chicago absolutely cleaned up a decade ago), and Les Mis, with its familiar subject matter, winning cast, and recently-minted director (The King's Speech's Tom Hooper) seems just the movie to break the ice. Bonus points for, 'live singing.'

3. Argo (Previous Ranking: 8)
        Early word calls this true story a pulse-pounding crowd pleaser. A stacked cast, wild subject matter, and the movie business' favorite subject (itself) don't hurt its odds either. Is the academy ready to embrace Ben Affleck?

4. Silver Linings Playbook (Previous Ranking: 11)
        Another flick that got recent film festivals a-buzzing (taking home the People's Choice Award in Toronto), Silver Linings is said to boast a pair of stellar turns from Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, and is the kind of feel-good story for which the Academy often saves at least one slot.
5. The Master (Previous Ranking: 5)

        The highest-ranked movie here that's actually been seen by audiences already, The Master will likely prove too odd and dangerous to take home the top prize, but the film's staunch advocates, as well as the mammoth turns from Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman that make up the movie's core, more or less ensure an invitation.
6. Zero Dark Thirty (Previous Ranking: 2)
        Still a total crap-shoot, as little is known thus far about the Osama bin Laden tale, but the re-teaming of The Hurt Locker cohorts Katheryn Bigalow and Marc Boal, and a subject closely hewn to their last sterling effort, betting against it remains difficult.
7. Life of Pi (Previous Ranking: 16)
        Again, no real word on the finished product, but festival audiences have been raving about stunning teaser footage. Oh yeah, and it's based on a beloved book, with an Oscar favorite (Ang Lee) behind the camera.
8. Beasts of the Southern Wild (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
        If the Academy Awards were tomorrow, this mid-summer indie darling would be a lock. As is, one wonders if Oscar will have a good enough memory to invite it to the party. Also, it's not the only tsunami-centric film vying for the big one. It shares that mantle with...
9. The Impossible (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
        Like Beasts with a budget, stars, and way less melanin, The Impossible is remaining quite for now, which is often a good bet, lest your campaign succumb to fatigue. Early reviews have been whole-sale positive, and anyone who saw The Orphanage knows that director Juan Antonio Bayona is a real talent.

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. Cloud Atlas (Previous Ranking: 23)

        Reviews have been wildly divergent on this one, some calling it a mess while others praise it as a cinematic accomplishment of a very high order. Anyone who saw The Tree of Life sneak in last year knows how much more valuable a few enthusiastic viewers are than a handful of luke-warm ones.
11. Promised Land (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
        Timely subject matter with a big-name star front-and-center (Matt Damon), and Gus Van Sant at the wheel. The director's experimental fair hasn't done so well with voters thus far (Gerry, Elephant), but his more by-the-numbers stuff (Good Will Hunting, Milk) is right up their alley.
12. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Previous Ranking: 13)
        While the news that The Hobbit will be stretched-out into three feature films is more than a little disheartening, director Peter Jackson has yet to visit Middle Earth and come back without a Best Picture nomination. Count him out at your own risk.
13. Django Unchained (Previous Ranking: 6)
        Simply put, Django doesn't really seem like Oscar material, but this wouldn't be the first time that Quentin Tarantino tricked us with that logic. Plus, having Oscar-winners Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx on hand, as well as an over-due Leonardo DiCaprio, doesn't really hurt.
14. Killing Them Softly (Previous Ranking: 12)
        Anyone who's seen director Andrew Dominik's last effort, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, knows that the guy's got some chops. Pair his skill behind the camera with positive early reviews, and the attention-grabbing inclusion of Brad Pitt, and you've got a flick that you'd be wise not to sleep on.
15. Hitchcock (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
        No one's seen it yet, and details are scarce, but if this late entry into the 2012 Oscar race makes good on the promise of its premise, you can count on nominations a-plenty.
16. The Sessions (Previous Ranking: 18)
        With stellar reviews for Helen Hunt, William H. Macy, and (especially) John Hawkes, this one looks to be more of an actors' showcase than anything else, but it's not inconceivable that the thespians could guide it to a nod for the big prize.
17. Moonrise Kingdom (Previous Ranking: 28)
         Let there be no doubt: Moonrise Kingdom will be near the top of many a year-end list, and will likely be adored by Andersonites for years to come, but as wonderful as his film is, a summer release date, paired with the Academy's take-it-or-leave-it attitude towards old Wes in the past, make this one unlikely.
18. Amour (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
        Yes, Michael Haneke's latest has been rapturously reviewed in some circles, but crashing the big party with subtitles is a nearly impossible thing to do. Pan's Labyrinth, anyone?
19. Anna Karenina (Previous Ranking: 15)
        Joe Wright+Kiera Knightly+Period Drama=Plenty of nominations. AK will doubtlessly be on voters' minds, but I'm not sure it can parley that into a Best Picture shout-out.
20. Looper (Previous Ranking: 24)
        Not really old Oscar's cup of tea, but the action-packed sci-fi flick is widely regarded as one of the year's best thus far, and might crash the party on the strength of its many fans.

Best Actor:
1. Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
        Sure, it's no where near a sure thing, but until we see all the contestants, are you really going to rank anyone above Daniel Day-Lewis playing Abraham Lincoln? Really?
2. Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)
        Even those who don't care for the film can't deny that Phoenix's comeback performance is absolutely amazing. A lock for a nomination, but his character might be a bit off-putting for a win.
3. John Hawkes (The Sessions)
        A festival darling who recently received his first-ever nomination for Winter's Bone, Hawkes is said to be both impressive and heartwarming in a film that will likely see nods for multiple actors.
4. Bradley Cooper (Silver-Linings Playbook)
        I know, I wouldn't think so either, but as more time passes, SLP sounds increasingly like a movie to be reckoned with, reviews repeatedly citing the film as an actor's showcase.
5. Brad Pitt (Killing Them Softly)
        If Brad Pitt does well, Brad Pitt gets an Oscar nomination. It's been as simple as that for the past several years, and with some early reviews calling his KTS performance his best in ages, I like his odds.
6. Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables)
        It seems strange to see Hugh Jackman out of my predicted five, with the Aussie staring in a likely heavyweight, and getting the chance to sing his lungs out. Really, 1-7 feel almost equally likely.
7. Anthony Hopkins (Hitchcock)
         Hitchcock lept into this year's Oscar race from out of nowhere, suddenly moving its release date up into 2012. Given how heavily this film must lean on Hopkins, that's got to be seen as a vote of extreme confidence.
8. Denzel Washington (Flight)
        Yeah, sure, it's a big, buzzy, star-like performance from someone we know can knock it out of the park, but when's the last time Robert Zemeckis made a good movie? In a year this competitive, Flight will have to be a winner for him to contend.
9. Matt Damon (Promised Land)
        A big-name star in a current-everts film made by a celebrated director? The fact that no one's seen it gives one pause, but the pedigree certainly doesn't.
10. Bill Murray (Hyde Park on Hudson)
         The film festivals have not been kind to Hyde Park on Hudson, which once seemed like a contender, and now sounds more like a novelty. Even still, Murray as FDR ought to gain some attention, which is half of the race right there.

Best Actress:
1. Jennifer Lawrence (Silver-Linings Playbook)
         The biggest favorite in any major category, Lawrence has a million things going for her: She's in a sure-fire Best Picture nominee, she's a recent nominee (Winter's Bone), she's in a category that often skews young, she's a ratings lightning rod as the recently-minted Hunger Games star, and she's only got light competition. Oh, and word is she's the highlight of her much-lauded movie.
2. Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
         Her age (all of 5 at the time of filming), and her status as an unknown almost ensure two things: She'll be invited to the show (because she's genuinely great), and she won't take home the prize. Still, almost a lock for a nod.
3. Keira Knightly (Anna Karenina)
        Re-teaming with Joe Wright, the director who the actress to her previous and only Oscar nomination (Pride & Prejudice), Knightly has received high praise for her work in the film, and yet again, it's a weak year for ladies.
4. Naomi Watts (The Impossible)
        The fact that we know next to nothing about the film's level of distribution (or widespread acceptance, for that matter) gets Watts stuck all the way down here. If it's a hit, she shoots straight to second place.
5. Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Smashed)
        Maybe a longshot, but early word is that Winstead is incredible in the powerful picture. She might not be the biggest name, but this is a category where an unknown face with a shining performance can sneak in.

6. Marion Cotillard (Rust & Bone)
         No, the movie is not supposed to be all that good, but Cotillard is always one to watch out for, especially in such a showy performance.
7. Meryl Streep (Love Springs)
        Sure, a mid-summer middling commercial and critical hit doesn't really spell Oscar gold, but if there's one thing we should all know by now, it's to never, ever count out Streep.
8. Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)
        I'll be the first to admit that I might have this festival stand-out ranked a little too low, but I just see the language barrier, along with the Academy's semi-aversion to Michael Haneke, as being too large of obstacles to overcome.
9. Laura Linney (Hyde Park on Hudson)
         Even in negative reviews, word on Linney has been positive. Her clout might just be enough to sneak her in.
10. Michelle Williams (Take This Waltz)

        A seldom-seen indie from earlier this year, the name Williams alone keeps this one on the list. Is it obvious that I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel in this category yet?

Best Supporting Actor:
1. Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
        The Master is such an actor's showcase, and if the Academy doesn't reward Phoenix, it's not hard to imagine them looking towards Hoffman's nearly-as-lauded turn.
2. Leonardo DiCaprio (Django Unchained)
        Kind of crazy to have someone ranked so highly from a completely unseen film, but if Django works, I think Leo shoots right up to the frontrunner spot.
3. Half the cast of Lincoln (Lincoln)
        Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, David Strathairn, Jared Harris, and a handful of others. Take your pick. At least one is making the cut for sure (smart money on Jones).
4. Robert DeNiro (Silver-Linings Playbook)
        Yet again, top-teir competitor for the evening, widely praised for its acting, and in the case of Mr. DeNiro, work that might be seen as a welcome return to form.

5. Half the cast of Argo (Argo)
        Just as with Lincoln, it's a grab bag of likely nominees, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, and more in attendance. Early whispers say Arkin.

6. William H. Macy (The Sessions)
        A celebrated performance from a film with some real advocates, Macy would be a shoe-in during most years, but with Lincoln and Argo likely to hoard a few to themselves, this category looks pretty crowded.
7. Russell Crowe (Les Miserables)
        Well-respected thespian in a movie that will have more than its fair share of viewers, Crowe is a good performance away from being right in the thick of things.
8. Ewan McGregor (The Impossible)
        The movie is one of the biggest mysteries of the whole Oscar season. If it hits, it could carry Ewan and many others in along with it.
9. Dwight Henry (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
        Man, do I want it for the guy, but Beasts, best-case scenario, will be 2012's, 'little movie that could.' Those don't tend to bring along unknown males in the acting categories, even ones as staggering as Henry.
10. Hal Holbrook (Promised Land)
         Oscar wanted to award Holbrook so bad that the golden man invited the wily vet for his 20 seconds of screen time in Into the Wild. If Promised Land is a success story, the Academy might very well come calling once again.

Best Supporting Actress:
1. Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)
        A past nominee and last year's Oscar host, Hathaway obviously has something that the Academy likes, and she's in one of the buzziest flicks of the year. Singing AND de-glamming? How's that for awards bait?
2. Helen Hunt (The Sessions)
        Again, The Sessions will be in the running for a handful of nods, and Oscar loves to invite back a veteran winner (As Good as it Gets). Plus, her movie is a critical success already, which makes this a safer better than many of its still-unseen competition.
3. Sally Field (Lincoln)
        Copy and paste almost everything from the Helen Hunt section, only hold the, 'known quantity,' factor, and add in the, 'Spielberg,' factor.
4. Amy Adams (The Master)
         A three-time nominee in this category, Adams' role in The Master might be relatively small, but the names of both the movie and the actress make this a likely invitee.
5. Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
        No one could tell you a thing about the film just yet, not even about Chastain's level of inclusion (Maybe she's a lead? A minor character, perhaps?), but in a year this weak, it's best to side with recent nominees (The Help).

6. Jacki Weaver (Silver-Linings Playbook)
        Once more, a recent nominee (Animal Kingdom) playing a mother in a film destined for some Oscar love.
7. Helen Mirren (Hitchcock)
        Rinse and repeat: Semi-rectent winner (The Queen) in a film that's sure to gain lots of attention... only no one's seen it yet.
8. Francis McDormand (Promised Land)
        This is getting tiresome. Yeah, she's won before (Fargo), and no, no one's seen her damn movie.
9. Kerry Washington (Django Unchained)
        Hey, at least she's never won before! Tarantino has worked wonders for his actors before, so it's not too far-fetched to see Washington joining the race. But who knows? No one's seen it.
10. Samantha Banks (Les Miserables)
        Because it's a total crap-shoot at this point, and if Oscar really loves Les Mis (which, you know, he's not sure about... because he hasn't seen it yet), nominations aplenty might flood its direction.

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