It’s the beginning to look a lot like award season leading up to the 85th Annual Academy Awards‘ nominations, which will be announced on January 10th. Until then, critic circles from Toronto, New York, National Board of Review to Los Angeles among others will chime in with their two cents. On December 12th SAG nominations were revealed followed by the Golden Globes the following day. To some degree or another they all have varying influences on what may or may not get nominated at the Oscars. Sadly quality can only take a film so far…. smaller films like Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild and Moonrise Kingdom need lobbyists and campaigns to see them through to the end.
What this article is intended to be is a guide of what is on the circuit. None of these picks necessarily reflect my own personal choices or are absolute shoo-ins just observations from afar; much like an anthropologist studying a culture. I have included the front runner in each category in bold, as well as included some potential spoiler nominations as well as my choice for a nomination. Keeping that in mind let’s move to the first of six major categories: Best Picture.
Commentary: After 2008 when a more populist movie like The Dark Knight didn’t make the cut the Academy expanded the Best Picture category to ten giving bigger and smaller movies a stronger chance of making the list. Then they changed the rules again in 2011 for members to vote between five to ten nominations. I’ll select ten films and rank them from what is most likely to be nominated versus what is least likely. As it stands now, both Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty seem to be the talk of the town earning praise, especially Steven Spielberg’s restrained take on Honest Abe’s last days in office.
Top 10 : Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, The Master, Moonrise Kingdom, Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty
Spoiler Alert: Django Unchained and The Impossible
My Pick: Skyfall
Commentary: When it comes to the directing category four of the five spots seem sewn up: Affleck, Bigelow, Hooper and Spielberg all feeling like good bets. However excluding either David O. Russell or Ang Lee from the top feels wrong but Silver Linings Playbook has fumbled since winning the People’s Choice Award at TIFF and getting a strange platform release in November does not seem to be working in its favour. Therefore Lee is my fifth choice because of the technical aspect and storytelling woven together in Life of Pi. The front runner, Ben Affleck, has not only resurrected his acting career but has made a name for himself behind the camera too. He has won an Oscar previously for co-writing Good Will Hunting alongside bosom buddy Matt Damon. If Zero Dark Thirty continues to heat up in the precursor circuit there could be another trophy handed to The Hurt Locker’s Ms. Bigelow, reminiscent of Oliver Stone’s two director wins for “Platoon” followed by Born on the Fourth of July. Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke might be a good wild card pick as the autuer’s Amour has garnered accaliam and the coveted Palm d’Or at Cannes. No easy feat since he won the same prize back in 2009 for “The White Ribbon“. On a final note the DGA nominations will be announced on January 8th just two days before the Academy.
Top 5: Ben Affleck for Argo, Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty, Tom Hooper for Les Miserables, Ang Lee for Life of Pi, and Steven Spielberg for Lincoln
Spoiler Alert: Paul Thomas Anderson for The Master, Michael Haneke for Amour, David O.Russell for Silver Linings Playbook, and Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained
My Pick: Wes Anderson for Moonrise Kingdom
Actor in a Leading Role
Commentary: Daniel Day-Lewis, one of the greatest living actors, seems to be unstoppable yet again this award season having drilled the competition back in 2007 and 1989 for There Will Be Blood and My Left Foot. If he does win a third golden man, it will be a historical moment creating a narrative that puts him along side four time Oscar Winner Katherine Hepburn and tying him with Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep, although the two latter mentioned have not won every award in the lead category. Joaquin or Leaf (as he was known back in the day) should get in but he may have done damage by calling the awards circuit a bad carrot. At the end of the day though, his performance is memorable even if The Master has faded from the minds of voters. I have a sneaking suspicion that Richard Gere might finally get a nomination for the financial thriller Arbitrage but Hugh Jackman is also duking it out for the fifth spot as well.
Top 5: Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln, Richard Gere in Arbitrage, John Hawkes in The Sessions, Joaquin Phoenix in The Master, and Denzel Washington in Flight
Spoiler Alert: Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook and Hugh Jackman in Les Miserables
My Pick: Denis Lavant in Holy Motors
Actress in a Leading Role
Commentary: After seeing Jennifer Lawrence deliver a star turn in Silver Linings Playbook back at TIFF, she has been on everyone’s mind. However her age is a factor, only 23 years old and still a long career ahead, she may not win. Instead Jessica Chastain and Emmanuelle Riva for Zero Dark Thirty and Amour might slip into the lead. Chastain will be interesting because of being the it girl last year and receiving a nomination in supporting actress for “The Help”, furthering her chances at success this year. Not to mention, Zero Dark Thirty is the topic of conversation getting a limited December release then expanding in January.
Top 5: Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty, Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone, Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook, Emmanuelle Riva in Amour, and Quavenzhane Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild
Spoiler Alert: Helen Mirren in Hitchcock and Naomi Watts in The Impossible
My Pick: Michelle Williams in Take This Waltz
Actor in a Supporting Role
Commentary: My predictions in this category for now have previous winners and nominees duking it out. If Leonardo DiCaprio gets nominated for playing a vile plantation owner in Django Unchained he could be competing against Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln, who he lost to in 1993 when nominated for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Jones won for The Fugitive and although he seems on track for another nomination, there will be internal fighting with James Spader who adds the broad strokes of comedy to a dry presidential bio pic. Default nominee Philip Seymour Hoffman is leading the group but his fading movie could hurt him in the end. Watch out for Matthew McConaughey in Magic Mike. He not only shed his romantic-comedy-leading man image to play male strip club owner Dallas (a bit of a prick) but he also appeared in indies like Bernie, Killer Joe and of course The Paperboy.
Top 5: Robert De Niro in Silver Linings Playbook, Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained, Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master, Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln, and Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained
Spoiler Alert: Alan Arkin in Argo, Javier Bardem in Skyfall, Matthew McConaughey in Magic Mike, and Ewan McGregor in The Impossible
My Pick: Michael Fassbender in Prometheus
Actress in a Supporting Role
Commentary: At this point the undisputed leader of the pack is Anne Hathaway who has been earning much praise for her rendition of I Dreamed a Dream in Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables. Although I wouldn’t count out Sally Field in Lincoln whose been a critical favourite winning NYFCC’s coveted award. I’d like to see Dame Judi Dench make it in the top five as her performance in Skyfall is front and centre. Her biggest detractor is this is a Bond movie and these type of action blockbusters have a difficult time earning momentum as they are not taken seriously. Same goes with Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises. Warner Bros. categorized her performance to lead but it’s a supporting role. The reason, my guess, is so it won’t split with Les Miserables.
Top 5: Amy Adams in The Master, Sally Field in Lincoln, Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables, Helen Hunt in The Sessions, and Maggie Smith in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Spoiler Alert: Judi Dench in Skyfall, Ann Dowd in Compliance, Nicole Kidman in The Paperboy, and Jacki Weaver in Silver Linings Playbook
My Pick: Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises