The Oscar update conversation continues with the ladies, probably the most intriguing group to speak of at this point. And not necessarily for good reasons. With such a seemingly weak field, the agents of those first-half gals and the indie darlings need to get the word out – Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress haven’t been this wide open in seven years.
BEST LEAD ACTRESS: As you can tell from my choice of photo representation, I’m not buying into the Jennifer Lawrence FTW rah-rah just yet. I can’t seem to wrap my head around the up-and-comer winning so soon and for a fairly light-hearted looking performance. But Silver-Linings Playbook has clearly cemented her as a top contender. I’m going with Helen Mirren (Hitchcock) for the No. 1 slot today, though, as she just seems like an actress that Oscar wouldn’t be afraid to double-dip for. If she goes lead for playing the wife of the legendary director, I could see her being Lawrence’s biggest competition. And let’s be honest, with a lineup this sparse, if the Silver-Linings folks wanted to, they could pull a Julianne Moore for Lawrence, stick her in supporting and she’d be a feasible possibility for The Hunger Games at this point… who thought that would actually be a possibility by year’s end? It seems to me the women who should be upping their campaign game to pounce on the sickly wildebeest that is Best Actress 2012 are Melanie Lynskey (Hello I Must Be Going), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Smashed), and Rachel Weisz (The Deep Blue Sea), all of whom have turned in lauded performances that would never be discussed period unless the possibility bank was this dry. And really, how much fun would it be to see a wrench like that thrown into the mix? And though Haneke’s leading lady Emanuelle Riva (Amour) should surely be a possible nominee, I think in a weak field the Academy will opt for names over accolades. Honorable mention before running down the Top 10 lineup: Kristen Wiig (Imogene) and Barbra Streisand (The Guilt Trip) both have very different comedies coming up here soon, though I doubt either will gain much traction with Oscar.
Surefire Nominee: At this point, the only clear-cut one is Lawrence for Silver-Linings
Nearly There: I’m thinking Helen Mirren shouldn’t have too much trouble showing up here unless the movie is panned, and Keira Knightley is looking more and more like a solid bet for Anna Karenina
On-Paper…: I’m thinking Marion Cotillard could truly slip in for Rust and Bone, despite it’s not traditionally Oscar-accessible premise
Today’s No. 5: I’m thinking Beasts of the Southern Wild will receive a glorious year-end push, in which case I’m giving the edge to Quvenzhane Wallis at this stage, though…
Nipping at Their Heels: Naomi Watts is looking more and more like a follow-up nod is finally coming for The Impossible, something I never would’ve seen coming even a month ago
It’s a Strange Kind of Year, So: Don’t be surprised to see Judi Dench (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) or Meryl Streep (Hope Springs) enter the conversation as potential spoilers
Rounding Out the 10: Laura Linney (Hyde Park on Hudson) and Maggie Smith (Quartet) will need some assistance with the tepid reception their respective films are receiving, but I’m guessing they’re still among the top qualifiers
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Though the field isn’t quite as empty as in the leading category, the supporting females aren’t looking to certain either. To me, the clear frontrunner is Amy Adams (The Master), who’s been logging away quite the nomination count in her pre-40s. The role is just effective enough that I think she might be able to take this one. I suspect her biggest competition is Helen Hunt (The Sessions), particularly if the movie gains some BP traction, which I would not at all be surprised by. As for those waiting in the wings – i.e., the ones that should consider launching a campaign stat – we have Ann Dowd (Compliance) who’s courting the Animal Kingdom vote with her character-actress-turned-best-in-show performance, Maggie Smith (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), who could ride recent goodwill to a default nomination, Vanessa Redgrave (Song for Marion), whose film may be too feel-good for more serious tastes, and Frances McDormand, who has both Moonrise Kingdom (established success) and This Must Be the Place in play. My guess is that Anne Hathaway has abandoned any Dark Knight Rises potential in favor of her musical turn in Les Miserables, and if the casts are well-received Scarlett Johansson (Hitchcock), Pauline Collins (Quartet), Annette Bening (Imogene) and Kerry Washington (Django Unchained) could capitalize on an opportunity.
Surefire Nominees: Amy Adams, Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables) and Helen Hunt seem like locks at this point, unless the latter two prove less than effective with audiences and critics
Rounding Out the Five: Though beyond the top three it’s not super clear where we stand, my current guesses are Jacki Weaver, who could continue David O. Russell’s recent success with acting nominees, for Silver Linings-Playbook and Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
Close Calls: I’m thinking The Paperboy will play better stateside, particularly with the insurmountable buzz attached to its craziness, so Nicole Kidman is a distinct possibility. And Olivia Williams (Hyde Park on Hudson) and Sally Field (Lincoln) each have famous ladies to play – both are probable bio nods if the films manage to connect come December
And the Rest…: Helena Bonham Carter, I suspect, will have a more difficult time than many assume in gaining this nomination – plus, will Great Expectations be seen stateside in time? My 10th choice is tricky, but I’m going with Doona Bae (Cloud Atlas), who appears to have the most intriguing role in the epic whatever-it-is… and if you’re an unknown to American audiences, this is the category to land in
BEST LEAD ACTOR: First thing’s first – let’s talk about the guys waiting in the wings for the leading actor category. Tommy Lee Jones may ride some goodwill for his co-star in Hope Springs, and Colin Farrell seems like the type of actor who’ll eventually be nominated – perhaps for the so-far-well-received Seven Psychopaths. And why is it that no one seems to be talking about two-time Oscar winner Sean Penn starring in the finally released This Must Be the Place? Maybe his lack of buzz is a bad sign. Some lesser-known, stateside at least, actors might make some waves – Jean-Louis Trigninant has a plum role in Amour, and reportedly Tom Holland turns in a tour de force in the ever-rising The Impossible. His doomed romance efforts last year with Mia Wasikowska fell flat, but perhaps Gus van Sant’s last-minute entry Promised Land could get Matt Damon another nod. Finally, the weekend is proving relatively positive for Looper, though can anyone see leading action star of the flick Joseph Gordon-Levitt scoring a nod here? For me, Hugh Jackman is just outside the top contenders for Les Miserables (I just don’t buy the buzzy chances), leaving 10 men vying for the five spots.
Surefire Nominees: John Hawkes (The Sessions) and Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
Nearly There: Joaquin Phoenix (The Master) and Denzel Washington (Flight)
Today’s No. 5: It’s tough to say – there are a few likely candidates, but I’m going for Anthony Hopkins (Hitchcock) today
Potential Goodwill Coattail Riders: Ben Affleck (Argo) and Bradley Cooper (Silver-Linings Playbook)
Spoilers: Richard Gere (Arbitrage), Brad Pitt (Killing Them Softly) and Bill Murray (Hyde Park on Hudson)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: A lot will depend on the penchant for category misplacement here, as my frontrunner is pictured to the right (and having now seen the film he’s clearly a co-lead… c’est la vie). Waiting in the wings? Dwight Henry has made an impression in Beasts of the Southern Wild, though perhaps not quite as much as his young co-star. Depends on how the film does in other categories, I suspect. Matthew McConaughey came off well with critics thanks to his mentoring role in Magic Mike, and Nate Parker has been getting best in show reviews for the surging Arbitrage. Garret Hedlund is making waves for On the Road, though I suspect he’s too young to stick the landing here, and Russell Crowe could connect for Les Miserables, though his rock style may not jive with the overall feel of the movie. Lincoln‘s Tommy Lee Jones and Joseph Gordon-Levitt may not have the big parts they need to make the final cut, and though the chatter is minimal on the final two mentions here, John Krasinski could muster his big-screen breakthrough in Promised Land, and Ray Liotta is no stranger to awards love, particularly for his usual fare as in Killing Them Softly.
Surefire Nominees: Phillip Seymour Hoffman (The Master) – though it’s still unclear where he’ll be campaigned – and Alan Arkin (Argo)
Nearly There: Robert de Niro (Silver-Linings Playbook) – doesn’t it seem like they’re itching to bring him back into the fold? And when better than with a critically adored ensemble piece? – and David Strathairn (Lincoln)
Today’s No. 5: I’m starting to think that enough love for The Sessions could land William H. Macy here. I’m going out on a limb – thoughts?
Tight Spoilers: Leonardo DiCaprio (Django Unchained) – if he makes it in, he could very easily get that long-gestating win, but I’m thinking the nomination is most of the battle – and Ewan McGregor (The Impossible) – something’s telling me he’s the type that may never see a nomination
Rounding Out the Top 10: Christopher Walken and Woody Harrelson (Seven Psychopaths) and Bryan Cranston (Argo)
It’s been so long since my most recent Oscar post (and I’m sure nobody out there that still reads this silly little blog is at all surprised by that) that so much has changed. So much, in fact, that it’s time for an updated discussion on the big six categories. It’s proving to be an exciting year, it seems (though I won’t get my hopes up, as that always seems to be the case this early in the game, before one or two biggies begin to capture all the glory at the precursors), and perhaps the most exciting categories are the weakest ones. The categories with the most unclear frontrunners seem to be the female acting ones, which makes for an interesting discussion, particularly when early-year releases can now jump at that shaky Best Actress category – ladies, this is your year!
BEST PICTURE: The top category of the bunch seems to boiling down to about 30 films at play, in my eyes. Sure, there are some that are stretches, but you have to account for at least a few potential spoilers in the mix. The frontrunners thus far appear to be Argo and Silver-Linings Playbook, two movies I most certainly didn’t expect to see at the top of the list earlier in the year. Yet, here we are. The obvious big-ticket choices seem to be Lincoln and Les Miserables, two that could easily falter upon release – and the trailers have prognosticators worried. I’m not sold the big-budget musical will have a shot beyond a couple tech categories, but we’ll see. Then there’s The Master, which appears to have settled into a nomination slot despite its semi-obscure themes. It’ll certainly avoid the win, but it’s got a nomination all locked up here. Beyond those five, it’s anyone’s game at this point. Many seem to be jumping on the studio-backing bandwagon with Flight, though it remains to be seen if it can pull of a Blind Side-type crowd pleaser victory. The early releases should still be kept in the conversation, particularly in a seemingly weak year, so Moonrise Kingdom, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Beasts of the Southern Wild are still contenders for the top 5-10 spots. And while we’re at it, we might as well contend with the summer blockbusters, The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, and Brave – all of which have been a part of the discussion at some point. But something tells me some spoilers could occur – I mean, Looper has gotten incredible reviews, and things are looking positive campaign-wise for Arbitrage. And flashy end-of-year epics The Impossible, Cloud Atlas, Anna Karenina and The Hobbit are options here. Plus there’s big talk behind Skyfall‘s proponents. All in all, this is where I stand, prediction-wise:
Surefire Nominees: Argo and Silver-Linings Playbook
Tentative Shoo-Ins: Lincoln and Les Miserables
Nearly There: The Master and Moonrise Kingdom
Gaining Traction: The Impossible and Life of Pi
If There are Nine: Hitchcock