Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Early Bird Oscar Predictions

Some may say it is a frivolous game played only by fools and faux film critics (sorry David Poland and Jeffrey Wells - not really) but even I (one who takes the idea of film history and mise-en-scene and cinephilia quite seriously - well, except for when I don't) must fall prey to those naked little gold men each and every year.  This is how I began my early bird Oscar predix last year, so why not start it out the same this time around.  With nearly three months to go before the Academy names its annual nominations, this is as good a time as any to say just who I think will receive those aforementioned nominations.  Makes sense, right?  No?  Oh well, I'm doing it anyway.  But before that, perhaps you would like to check out the guesses I made back in May.  I'd say about half of these still hold up now, five and a half months later.

When I decided to make my early-bird predictions last year (around the same Bat Time and Bat Channel) they were actually not that far off from my eventual "official" nomination predictions made the evening before the nomination announcement (I made just a few tweaks here and there, some panning out, some not so much) which in turn were pretty close to the actual nominations themselves.  I suppose only time will tell if I do as well this time around.  So, without further ado (well, except for the picture of one of my predictions I have placed just below), here are my (three months in advance) Oscar Nomination Predictions.

The first obstacle we must climb over is the amount of nominees for Best Picture.  After two seasons of a ten film race (up from the previous five of course) and many, myself included, bitching about such a raise (five is a perfectly exclusive number of nominees dammit!) the Academy has now said there will be anywhere between five and ten this time around.  Are they just trying to piss us off now?  Seriously?  Between five and ten!?  Oh well, I suppose one should stop trying to fight city hall as it were, and just get onto the whole nomination prediction thing.  Most Oscar pundits are going with an arbitrary seven nominations guess, so I suppose I will gather in amongst the herd as well and go for seven.  

As opposed to last year, when even at this early juncture, the race was gearing up to be a battle between The Social Network and The King's Speech (with possibly an Inception upset - a thing that would die out rather quickly actually), this year looks like a relatively open field at this point.  There are of course some notable shoo-in nominees shaping up about now, but no real frontrunner(s) as of yet.  The two films I have been hearing the most Oscar buzz about so far are The Descendants, directed by Alexander Payne, who's Sideways was up for BP in 2004, and War Horse from Steven Spielberg, who has about a thousand Oscar nods and wins to his credit already.  At this point I think it is a safe bet to claim one of these two as the eventual winner.  Of course this could change at the drop of the proverbial hat.

The film that could sneak in there and take the top prize from either of these two films is Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris.  Already a BP winner with Annie Hall back in 1977 and a BP nod in 1986 for Hannah and Her Sisters, this very popular (both critically and with audiences) film is considered by many to be Allen's best work in nearly two decades - and they could be right.  Will that be enough to win the Oscar?  Who the Hell knows, but it should be enough for at least a Best Pic nomination.  I think in order to actually win, the film will need a few more nods than the three it is most likely to get - perhaps something in the acting categories - but this is something to be discussed below.  Now none of these three films can be considered an actual frontrunner quite yet, but they are still the most likely to grab nominations come the morning of January 24th.  It is after these three (supposedly) top spots where things begin to get a bit hairy.

Taking the number four spot, or at least who I think will take the number four spot, is very possibly a prediction disaster waiting to happen.  I predicted it as one of the nominees back in May (before seeing it three times in three cities as I did) and I am holding to my guns here at the end of October.  Terrence Malick's brilliant The Tree of Life (one of, if not my favourite film of 2011) is certainly not for everyone's tastes (just look at the divisive audience reactions the film received) and avant-garde certainly doesn't go over well with the Academy, but with the artistic love for Malick and a field that extends (probably) beyond five nominees, I think this is more than a mere pipe dream on my behalf.  I think it will actually get in - even if we end up with just five nominees.

The fifth nominee (in case that is all we have) could very well be yet another of a higher artistic bent.  The black and white, 4:3 aspected, silent film The Artist has been getting a bunch of buzz in recent weeks, and that could be enough to get it a BP nod, despite its obvious, but quite unfair handicap (who in today's Hollywood wants to watch a silent movie!?).  I have not seen the film yet (scheduling conflicts at both New York and Philadelphia festivals dammit) but even sight unseen, I would love to see a silent film get an Oscar nomination.  If the film does pull this off, it will be the first time a silent picture was up for the top prize since the very first year of the Oscar's, way way waaay back in the 1927-28 film year.

Well that should be it for Best Picture, but since I said I am going with seven nominations, I suppose two more need to be added to the list.  My best guesses for these two are Bennett Miller's Moneyball and Stephen Daldry's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  The former may be a sports movie, a genre that has never fared all that well at the Oscars, but it is more than just that, while the latter is not only a film by Stephen Daldry (three films = three BP nominations) but also a film about 9/11, which in Oscar terms may end up becoming the new Holocaust.  Now since we have no certainty that the nominee list will stop at seven (is a set number really all that difficult a thing to come up with?) there could be up to three more nominations.  These, in order of predictable probability, are The Help, The Ides of March and J. Edgar.

There is one other film I should mention here.  It is a dark horse favourite of mine and could very well play spoiler not only in the Best Picture category but in many others as well.  The film is The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and it is directed by David Fincher.  Right now I am keeping it in the number eleven spot, but if it does what I think it may do come December, it may very well make my final predictions.  At this point it is still too much of a wild card to make the grade.  Of course if something like the Daldry picture fails (and Daldry is bound to fail at some point) or The Help is way-laid by its nay-sayers, or Eastwood's Hoover biopic doesn't come on the way it is expected to, then perhaps this dark horse/wild card gets a big boost.  Then again, the film is bound to be a rather disturbing piece of cinema for many Academy members, so all this may just be hot air.

There are of course several other films that could make the grade in the final countdown. These are, in no particular order, A Dangerous Method, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Young Adult, Carnage, The Iron Lady, We Bought A Zoo, Tintin , Martha Marcy May Marlene, Shame and Hugo - even the final Harry Potter could get a surprise Best Picture nomination.  But even so, I still think it will come down to the eleven above, with maybe one or two of these possibles sneaking in most likely candidate being the Scorsese film Hugo) - but only if we have ten nominees.  Well that's it for the commentary part of our program.  Below are my predictions for each of the individual categories. 

1. The Descendants
2. War Horse
3. Midnight In Paris
4. The Tree of Life
5. The Artist
...and if it goes to seven...
6. Moneyball
7. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
...and if it goes even further...
8. The Help
9. The Ides of March
10. J. Edgar

Dark Horse: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

To reiterate, the other possibilities are A Dangerous Method, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Young Adult, Carnage, The Iron Lady, Shame, Martha Marcy May Marlene, We Bought A Zoo, Tintin, Hugo and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2.

1. Steven Spielberg for War Horse
2. Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris
3. Alexander Payne for The Descendants
4. Terrence Malick for The Tree of Life
5. Stephen Daldry for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Dark Horse: Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist 

Like Best Picture, the Director race is an open field as well.  The numbers are pretty much arbitrary here.  I decided to go with Daldry over Hazanavicius (in matching the top five pics with their corresponding director) since he is three for three in past Oscar races, but let's not  count out sch a buzz-worthy film.  I think when all is said and done, Woody Allen could actually be the winner here (I told you the numbers were arbitrary) but that is getting way ahead of ourselves.  Other possibilities include Bennett Miller for Moneyball, Clint Eastwood for J. Edgar (if the film hits big), Roman Polanski for Carnage and/or that aforementioned dark horse David Fincher for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. 

1. George Clooney in The Descendants
2. Brad Pitt in Moneyball
3. Jean Dujardin in The Artist
4. Leonardo DiCaprio in J. Edgar
5. Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy 

Dark Horse: Michael Fassbender in Shame or A Dangerous Method 

These seems like a pretty solid top five here.  Clooney seems to have suddenly become the frontrunner here as well, even without his film being released yet.  In the end though, they may give it to Pitt since he has never won, and Clooney has.  The dark horse is a personal favourite.  Fassbender is one of the hottest actors around today (and one of the best!) and that alone may get him into the final five.  For which film he gets in is another question though.  Other possibilities include Ryan Gosling in The Ides of March (though I personally favour his role in Drive), Michael Shannon in Take Shelter, Matt Damon in We Bought a Zoo and Woody Harrelson in Rampart, but as I said, the top five, or at least the top six, seem pretty solid.  The one odd thing here though is the lack of buzz for Tom Hanks in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  The film has some relatively strong Oscar buzz (which may die out by Oscar time though - definitely the weak link in the BP top seven) but Mr. Oscar himself has been almost totally invisible in any and all Oscar talk about the film.  I'm okay with this though.

1. Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady
2. Viola Davis in The Help
3. Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn
4. Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs
5. Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene 

Dark Horse: Charlize Theron in Young Adult
Dark Horse: Rooney Mara in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo  

I don't think anyone will deny that Meryl Streep will receive her seventeenth Oscar nomination come January for playing Margaret Thatcher, and I also think it is a safe bet (at least as of right now) to say she may very well win her third statuette - and her first since 1982.  The one that could upset is Viola Davis.  She had been considered supporting until the recent FYC ads named her as lead (which helps Jessica Chastain the Supporting Actress category, but more on that below) and therefore she quickly jumps to the number two spot.  After Williams (my celebrity crush so I have to put her in here) the last two on the list are pretty vulnerable.  Even though Close is a popular choice, and she has never won before (think "career" award), Albert Nobbs has yet to prove itself.  As for Olsen, she is young and therefore vulnerable, but if her film pulls off the Indie accolades that Winter's Bone, and thus (equally young) Jennifer Lawrence did, then she should be a lock.  Then again, Theron has a bunch of buzz for Young Adult and could jump in at a moment's notice, and as for Rooney Mara, I have been saying all along, let's not count out The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  As for other possibilities, Tilda Swinton in We Need To Talk About Kevin or Keira Knightley in A Dangerous Method could sneak in.

1. Christopher Plummer in Beginners
2. Albert Brooks in Drive
3. Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Ides of March
4. Kenneth Branagh in My Week With Marilyn
5. Viggo Mortensen in A Dangerous Method 

Dark Horse: Max Von Sydow in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Dark Horse: Ben Kingsley in Hugo 

This category, like most years, is a pretty open field.  Eventually it will probably come down to one can't lose frontrunner, just like it usually does (Christian Bale, Christoph Waltz, Heath Ledger, Javier Bardem etc), but for now it is anybody's guess.  I would really like to see Brooks win this, and the Academy does like villainous turns from non-villainous actors.  If EL&IC does hit it big (which is still pretty debatable) Von Sydow could easily sneak in there.  Other possibilities are John Hawkes in Martha Marcy May Marlene, Jim Broadbent in The Iron Lady, George Clooney in The Ides of March (a double nominee this year?) or even a pair of surprise comic nods in Jonah Hill for Moneyball and/or Patton Oswalt for Young Adult.  The one I would really like to see (even though I have yet to see the film) is  my second dark horse candidate, Ben Kingsley in Hugo.  He plays one of the forefathers of cinema in a Martin Scorsese picture - who could ask for anything more.

1. Octavia Spencer in The Help
2. Berenice Bejo in The Artist
3. Jessica Chastain in The Help
4. Shailene Woodley in The Descendants
5. Marion Cotillard in Midnight in Paris

Dark Horse: Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids 

Again, like Supporting Actor, this seems pretty much anyone's game.  Jessica Chastain is getting nominated for something dammit.  It might have been The Tree of Life at first, but now that The Help costar Viola Davis is being billed as lead, it puts her performance there up for the taking.  I am far from a fan of The Help, but the two strongest performances are definitely Chastain and Octavia Spencer.Bejo has a good chance because this is the category most likely to have unknowns in it.  The big if is Cotillard though.  If Midnight in Paris is to be a big winner come Oscar night (top prize perhaps?) it will need more than just Picture, Director and Screenplay nods, and this is the most likely place for such a thing to happen.  And Woody does have a knack for getting his ladies Oscar gold.  The dark horse may seem a bit too dark horsey (I personally hated the movie) but you never know what will happen.  Other possibilities are Janet McTeer in Albert Nobbs, Carey Mulligan in Shame, Judi Dench in J. Edgar and Vanessa Redgrave in Coriolanus

Well, I am going to stop there.  I will update these predictions come mid December (after many of the critics awards have been announced) and probably even add predictions for all the other categories as well.  My final predictions will be coming on the evening of January 23rd, just before the morning nominations announcement.  Last year those final predictions did not differ that greatly from these early bird ones.  Cannot say if that will be the case this year with a seemingly much more open field.  See ya then.


MP said...

I wish I could argue with you here but I haven't seen much of the films of 2011... I'll have to catch up sometime soon!

Kevyn Knox said...

I have yet to see many of these films as well. But predicting the Oscars has nothing whatsoever to do with how good or bad the films are.