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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Oscar Predictions 2012: Round 3

Best Picture:
1. Les Miserables (Previous Ranking: 2)
         Early word has finally arrived, and it's been rapturous. Breakthrough technique, epic scale and scope, a horde of much-loved actors, and a genre that hasn't played with the big kids since Chicago. Toss in director Tom Hooper's BFF status with the Academy, as well as a perfectly-timed Christmas Day release, and you've got the movie to beat.
2. Zero Dark Thirty (Previous Ranking: 6)
         Precursor season began this last Monday with the New York Critics Circle Awards, and continued yesterday with the National Board of Review. What did the two have in common? They both loved Zero Dark Thirty, each naming it their movie of the year among other accolades. Director Kathryn Bigelow's recent win for similar subject matter makes me question its actual chances at the win. Everything else does not.
3. Lincoln (Previous Ranking: 1)
        Given its even-more bombastic, more enthusiastically received competition, Lincoln isn't really looking like the movie to beat anymore, but its nomination is just as assured as the day Day-Lewis signed on to the project. Tough to know just where to slot a movie with little chance of winning, but even less chance of missing the nomination. Number 3 will do.
4. Argo (Previous Ranking: 3)
         Almost everything said about Lincoln applies here, the lesser pedigree costing it exactly one spot in the rankings. Critics and audiences agree; Argo is one of the best movies of the year, which will be more than enough for the nod, but can it really win?
5. Silver-Linings Playbook (Previous Ranking: 4)
        The last seemingly-assured Best Picture nominee, SLP may have peaked too early, racking up film festival acknowledgements through-out the last several months only to open in tepid fashion the weekend before last. Still, the actors and the heart-warming subject matter are esteemed enough to pencil this one in for the big race.
6. Life of Pi (Previous Ranking: 7)
         The, 'Avatar,' slot, so to speak. The expansion of the Best Picture field over the last several years has seen a far greater number of films recognized in the big category on the strength of technical accomplishment. While Pi's emotional resonance varies depending on who you ask, its visuals and effects are entirely irrefutable.
7. Django Unchained (Previous Ranking: 13)
        Fresh off turning a historically irreverent crowd-pleaser into a major awards player, Quentin Tarantino returns with another film that looks counter-intuitive by Oscar standards. Are you willing to bet against one of the world's greatest living film-makers, especially after the NBR gave the movie some major ups?
8. Beasts of the Southern Wild (Previous Ranking: 8)
        Despite feeling fairly confident in this ranking, I go back-and-forth over whether I think Beasts actually has what it takes to secure a nomination (Keep in mind, current Academy rules dictate that anywhere from 5-10 nominees get invited every year). It's summer release date already feels ages ago, and its lack of star-power makes it easy to forget, but Oscar does tend to love a little-movie-that-could.  

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 Master (Previous Ranking: 5)
        A major player up to this point, The Master still has both the pedigree and the performances to crash the big dance, but its early release date, and unregulated eccentricity stand as clear obstacles.
10. The Impossible (Previous Ranking: 9)
        It's already a big hit overseas, it's got a pair of respected actors at its center (Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts), and it fits the bill as both a spectacle and a heart-wrencher. Now let's see how it's received state-side...
11. Promised Land (Previous Ranking: 11)
        I've said it once, and I'll say it again; Promised Land has every reason to be a major player in this year's race, from creative talent, to thespians, to subject matter. So why is the NBR (who loved it) still the only body of voters who've seen it?
12. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Previous Ranking: 12)
        There's every reason to bet against this one, but the fact that director Peter Jackson has yet to visit Middle Earth and not come back with a Best Picture nomination (or less than 6 nominations, for that matter) should be worth something.
13. Flight (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
        A famed director, one of the most celebrated actors in modern history, and solid box office numbers; it's a top-heavy year in many of the major categories, and even if I don't really think that Denzel's latest stands a chance against heavier competition, it certainly deserves a spot on this list.
14. Amour (Previous Ranking: 18)
         I don't care how good you are; being a film in the foreign language category almost assures that you won't be in the big race come Oscar night. That being said, this is an extremely thin year, and Amour is doubtlessly one of the best reviewed films of 2012.
15. Moonrise Kingdom (Previous Ranking: 17)
         Will Anderson ever be invited to the dance? This seems to be the perfect year, given that he offered one of his best efforts to date in a particularly weak season, but that comedy/hipster stigma will be tough to shake.
16. Hitchcock (Previous Ranking: 15)
         Theoretically, Hitchcock has every reason to ascend to the top of this year's Oscar race, but that very fact is why I have it ranked this low: A plethora of people have seen this Oscar-baitty flick, and it's still not near the top of the race. If it was going to make the jump, me thinks it would have already.
17. The Sessions (Previous Ranking: 16)
         An actors' showcase of the highest accord, The Sessions has a clear path to at least 2 acting nominations, if not 3. That ensures a lot of viewership, which will keep this indie in the hunt, but will that be enough?
18. This is 40 (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
         Obviously I'm grasping for straws at this point, but doesn't it stand to reason that Judd Apatow might make an Oscar impact after all of these years? 40 is receiving some best-of-career citations, and this would be a perfect year to capitalize.
19. Looper (Previous Ranking: 20)
         Mind-bending sci-fi isn't usually Oscar's cup of tea, but Looper already has a sterling reputation in some circles, and if the golden man wanted to prove that he's still hip and preceptive, this would be a solid choice.
20. Cloud Atlas (Previous Ranking: 10)
        Tremendously flawed, blush-inducingly earnest, and awe-inspiringly ambitious: There are many reasons to count Cloud Atlas out, but aren't they the very same reasons why The Tree of Life managed to make the final cut? Passion matters.

Best Actor:
1. Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln) (Previous Ranking: 1)
        Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln requires no explanation. At this point, it's up to someone to take the Oscar from him. Entirely possible, but somewhat unlikely.
2. Joaquin Phoenix (The Master) (Previous Ranking: 2)
         Most serious film fans agree that this is the male performance of the year, but the thorniness of both the actor and the film keep The Master's stand-out in second place.
3. John Hawkes (The Sessions) (Previous Ranking: 3)
         A performance that's had buzz behind it for the majority of 2012, Hawkes is just about assured a nomination at this point, but the size of his film will make taking the golden man home a difficult task.
4. Bradley Cooper (Silver-Lingings Playbook) (Previous Ranking: 4)
         A breakthrough performance from a well-loved, previously-unrecognized actor, Cooper seemed nothing more than a likely aspirant before claiming Best Actor honors at the NBR yesterday. As of today, all bets are off.
5. Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables) (Previous Ranking: 6)
         The avalanche of praise that has followed Les Mis of late has been notably slim on Jackman citations. Still, being the primary screen occupant of the year's biggest movie is likely to have its benefits.
6. Denzel Washington (Flight) (Previous Ranking: 8)
         As a former winner, and multi-nominee, Washington needs no introduction to the Academy's voters, but is his Flight performance worth yet another statue.
7. Brad Pitt (Killing Them Softly) (Previous Ranking: 5)
        Even a decent Brad Pitt performance is usually worth a nomination, but as juicy as the mega-star's Softly turn is, the film's abysmal opening weekend performance will make any and all trophy hunting rather difficult.
8. Anthony Hopkins (Hitchcock) (Previous Ranking: 7)
         Copy/Paste everything listed in the Hitchcock Best Picture section: If this is truly a performance to be reckoned with, it would have made its impact on the race by now. Still, counting out any thespian playing Alfred Hitchcock is just plain goofy.
9. Matt Damon (Promised Land) (Previous Ranking: 9)
        A previous nominee, starring in one of the major upset specials of the season (check immediately below for the other), Damon has the cache to serve as a spoiler, but how will his film be received?
10. Tom Holland (The Impossible) (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
        The other big sleeper of 2012, Holland is said to be tremendously effective in The Impossible, but in a year full of known commodities, it'll be particularly difficult for an unknown to breakthrough.

Best Actress:
1. Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
        Despite my previous citation of Chastain in the Supporting Actress race, her NBR win sets the record straight: Jessica is gunning for that lead Actress Oscar, and the size of her movie, paired with her light competition and leftover goodwill from 2011, make her the frontrunner.
2. Jennifer Lawrence (Silver-Linings Playbook) (Previous Ranking: 1)
         As of now, Lawrence is in a dead-heat with Chastain, each head-lining probable Best Picture nominees after year-plus long winning streaks. Truth be told, it's a toss-up at this point, I just like Chastain's track record a tiny bit more.
3. Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild(Previous Ranking: 2)
         The line for the last 3 slots starts here. Wallis' status as both a youngster, and an exciting unknown make her an interesting prospect here. Oh yeah, and she actually deserves it...
4. Marion Cotillard (Rust & Bone) (Previous Ranking: 6)
         An Oscar-baitty role, performed by a semi-recent Academy Award winner; English or not, this feels fairly likely.
5. Emmanuelle Riva (Amour) (Previous Ranking: 8)
         Oscar will likely be looking for a way to congratulate Amour, widely considered to be one of 2012's best. Voters prefer English-language films to win the top-most awards, but a nomination here would show respect for a much-praised flick.
6. Naomi Watts (The Impossible(Previous Ranking: 4)
         Who knows? As with all things The Impossible, no one knows what to expect from this inspirational disaster flick, but Watts' known status keeps her firmly in the hunt.
7. Keira Knightly (Anna Karenina) (Previous Ranking: 3)
         A period piece, and a previously nominated actress, working for the very director who led her to that first nod. Her campaign should have kicked in by now, but that doesn't mean she's out of it.
8. Helen Mirren (Hitchcock) (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
         Another whom I'd considered in the supporting category, Mirren is a world-class actress, performing in a movie with, 'awards season,' written all over it.
9. Meryl Streep (Hope Springs) (Previous Ranking: 7)
          I honestly feel next to no need to explain this one: Streep has received nominations in 4 of the last 6 years, and though HS seems like an unlikely pick, you'd be an idiot to count it out.
10. Michelle Williams (Take This Waltz) (Previous Ranking: 10)
         Similar to Streep, only on a much, much lesser level, Williams' film doesn't really feel like a major Oscar player, but her rare status as a to-be-reckoned-with actress ought to be observed.

Best Supporting Actor:
1. Leonardo DiCaprio (Django Unchained) (Previous Ranking: 2)
          On the strength of the NBR and absolutely nothing else, I'm bumping this guy to the top. Literally everyone in sight is either a previous winner, or an up-and-comer. DiCaprio's status as an, 'overdue,' actor makes him the one to beat.
2. Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln) (Previous Ranking: 3)
         A role practically tailor-made for Oscar recognition, Jones' Thaddeus Stevens is both the humor and the heart of Lincoln. Had he not won in the past, he'd be a shoe-in; as is, he's the next in line.
3. Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master) (Previous Ranking: 1)
        Everything said about Jones applies again here, only that Hoffman's respective movie lacks the support that Lincoln has. Still, this is the most up-for-grabs acting nomination of all, and PSH is still all kinds of in this.
4. Robert DeNiro (Silver-Linings Playbook(Previous Ranking: 4)
         A nod here would represent DeNiro's first such citation in two decades. He's tough, he cries, he's an American icon; introducing your 4th BSA nominee with an actual shot at it.
5. Alan Arkin (Argo) (Previous Ranking: 5)
        The hammiest, funniest, Hollywood-iest performance in a movie full of them, Arkin stands as yet another solid candidate for the win in 2012.
6. Eddie Redmayne (Les Miserables(Previous Ranking: Unranked)
        The biggest beneficiary of the recent wave of Les Mis love, Redmayne is just as likely as any of the 5 I've listed above, only much less recognizable.
7. Ewan McGregor (The Impossible(Previous Ranking: 8)
         As with all things The Impossible, it's a game of wait-and-see at this point. If the movie makes a big splash, McGregor becomes yet another challenger for the prize.
8. John Goodman (Argo(Previous Ranking: 5)
        There's a big drop off in probability between spots 6 and 7, and vote split has a lot to do with it. Love Goodman's 2012 body of work as much as you like, but are you really going to nominate him over Arkin for the same movie.
9. William H. Macy (The Sessions) (Previous Ranking: 6)
        Poor guy. Any other year, and Macy would be right in the thick of things. In 2012's assisting male race, he's just another in a long line of strong performances.
10. Matthew McConaughey (Magic Mike(Previous Ranking: Unranked)
        Notices from some lofty sources have him ranked higher than I do. A punch-line actor in a male stripper movie in an absurdly crowded year? Worth keeping on the radar, but that's about it.
Best Supporting Actress:
1. Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables) (Previous Ranking: 1)
        Perhaps the biggest favorite in any category as of now (major or otherwise). Hathaway makes this a Anne-and-four-other-women category.
2. Sally Field (Lincoln) (Previous Ranking: 3)
        A previous winner in one of the night's biggest heavyweights, not to mention the supportive wife role Oscar loves so much.
3. Helen Hunt (The Sessions) (Previous Ranking: 2)
        Much respected actress, in a highly-touted flick. Never mind that she's great (and often nude, which Oscar respects).
4. Amy Adams (The Master) (Previous Ranking: 4)
        A perennial nominee of late, Adams does rock-solid work in a film that will be viewed by nearly every voter.
5. Kerry Washington (Django Unchained) (Previous Ranking: 9)
        A total shot-in-the-dark at this point, but Django's plot seems to revolve around her character, and this category is wide open.
6. Samantha Barks (Les Miserables) (Previous Ranking: 10)
        2012 is a throw-it-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks kind of year in the Supporting Actress category. Barks has been buzzing lightly of late, and being in Les Mis is a great way to get attention.
7. Amanda Seyfried (Les Miserables) (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
         Rinse and repeat everything listed above, only with an actress who was in Jennifer's Body. Need I say more.
8. Jacki Weaver (Silver-Linings Playbook) (Previous Ranking: 6)
        Silver-Linings is a shoe-in for the SAG Best Ensemble award, and Weaver is a major player in the cast. In this year, why not?
9. Francis McDormand (Promised Land) (Previous Ranking: 8)
        List of things Oscar loves: McDormand, Van Sant, and timely subject matter. Who knows?
10. Maggie Smith (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
        A veteran in a movie that might resonate with older voters. Sure, why not?

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