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making a comeback…

Yes, promises have been made, broken, made again, broken again even more quickly… and yet, I simply can’t stay away. The film blogosphere is too wonderful and too attractive a mistress to shake. So I’m embarking once more, hopefully for a longer-term future, on Journalistic Skepticism. It’s been far too long, and I need a fix. So blogging, I have returned to you with every intention of sticking around this time… for the kids. But where did we leave off? It’s been many months since my last post, and the Oscar nominations have come and gone. So perhaps a fresh start in 2013 is just the ticket! Here’s what you may be seeing on ye olde blog if you stick around – Valerie is begging you to!

*Madly In Advance Oscar predictions for all the major 2013 races – I’m know clairvoyant, to be sure, as evidenced by my attempt last year that yielded many nominations for The Great Gatsby and Gravity… second time’s a charm?
*2013 reviews – it’s a slow start to the year, but a write-up of the McCarthy/Bateman vehicle Identity Thief is coming your way.
*Continuations of old favorites will ensue – perhaps an addition or two to the Merylfest series (see right-hand column) and some resolution to my top 100 films revamp (see left-hand column).
*And boldly going where this blog hasn’t gone before – Music; namely, an all-time top 100 songs countdown, for whatever that’s worth, entertainment-wise.

oscars 2012: best original song

BEST ORIGINAL SONG: With the frenzy over the new Bond tune, it’s only fitting that my next category set be the music ones. And though I think Adele will have a distinct shot of making it into the category, particularly thanks to the rules overhaul, the series doesn’t exactly have a good track record with their more than 20 original songs through the years. Still, the notion that it shot to No. 1 upon release seems to usher in a hopefully new era for Original Song, a category that I’ve loved through the years despite its many many flaws. Having some legit hits on their hands could make things interesting in a potentially five-wide field of contenders.  But on to the conversation! On paper, the likeliest of nominees is the Hugh Jackman-sung “Suddenly” from Les Miserables, which to me is the film’s best bet at a nomination, whether the movie tanks or not. And with a rich tradition of successes in this category, Disney/Pixar’s efforts could land multiple slots, namely “Into the Open Air” and “Learn Me Right,” both from Brave, with the former the likelier choice. The rules get a bit dodgy for some contenders, though, as Taylor Swift’s number from The Hunger Games, I’m assuming, is out of the running, as it’s the second credit song.  Though I’m not super clear on the rule revisions.  But Arcade Fire’s “Abraham’s Daughter” should have no trouble making it into the conversation for the blockbuster book adaptation.

The hit early release The Lorax has a few options to contend with, most notably “Let it Grow,” as the big group number lends itself best to Oscar’s style. And though it arrived with hardly a whimper, it’s worth noting that the Whitney Houston swan song “Celebrate” from Sparkle is a ballot option. It’ll take branch members remembering the movie at all to get it to the top five, though. Norah Jones is featured on the Ted soundtrack, and this may be the simplest way to honor Oscar’s host this year for his surprise hit. “Everybody Needs a Best Friend” is an accessible big-band-style ditty, though the Academy has skipped over previous opportunities to feature Jones’s soundtrack vocals. And though Lawless will likely miss any kind of attention during awards season this year, there’s a chance the legendary Willie Nelson could net it a slot in Original Song with “Midnight Run.” Finally, there are some options yet to come – Disney’s Wreck-it-Ralph has a handful of original works, with Owl City’s “When Can I See You Again?” seeming the most plausible choice.  But to the rundown; here’s where things stand, in my opinion:

The Locks: Though the category is so unpredictable, it’s tough to legitimately call anything a true lock, my guess is “Suddenly” (Les Miserables) and “Skyfall” seem the strongest – and with the revamp, Oscar just wouldn’t be able to resist having Jackman and Adele perform at the ceremony.
Strong Options: “Into the Open Air” (Brave) and “Midnight Run” (Lawless)
My Current No. 5: I think the current lovefest toward Arcade Fire may nab The Hunger Games one of its nominations here for “Abraham’s Daughter.”
Rounding Out the 10: “Let it Grow” (The Lorax), “Learn Me Right” (Brave), “When Can I See You Again?” (Wreck-It Ralph), “Celebrate” (Sparkle) and “Everybody Needs a Best Friend” (Ted)
Just Outside the Ranks: “Touch the Sky” (Brave), “Open Up” (This Must Be the Place), “From Here to the Moon and Back” (Joyful Noise), Karen O’s “Strange Love” (Frankenweenie), “Still Allive” (Paul Williams Still Alive), and Beck’s “Looking for a Sign” (Jeff Who Lives at Home)
And the Rest (In No Particular Order): “Arietty’s Song” (The Secret World of Arrietty), “Deep in the Meadow” (The Hunger Games), “Rise” (Chimpanzee), Soundgarden’s “Live to Rise” (The Avengers), “This is the Place” and “Nobody Needs a Thneed” (The Lorax), Florence + The Machine’s “Breath of Life” (Snow White and the Huntsman), “Big Machine” (Safety Not Guaranteed), “We Are” (Ice Age: Continental Drift), “I’m a Man” and “Love Will” (Sparkle), “The Sword is Yours” (This Must Be the Place), “Wreck-It, Wreck-It Ralph” (Wreck-It Ralph), Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah’s “Not Enough” (Joyful Noise), “Wide Awake” (Katy Perry: Part of Me) and “Love Always Comes as a Surprise” (Madagascar 3)

oscars 2012: directors, screenwriters

BEST DIRECTOR: With the Best Picture race all over the place, the directors’ club is lining up its top contenders in the category.  The easiest route is to assume the top BP frontrunners will line up with the BD counterparts, which I’m thinking is a good assumption at this stage.  With Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master), David O. Russell (Silver-Linings Playbook) and Ben Affleck (Argo) cementing themselves as near-locks, it seems the final two slots are still up for grabs. And a lot depends on how their respective films land.  Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom) and John Madden’s (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) films have arrived and are proportionate successes, though they’d need BP nods to make it here.  And Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild) may have an uphill battle with the recent SAG announcement to do with his film.  Other possibilities hanging ’round are the major leaguers – Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises), Joss Whedon (The Avengers), Peter Jackson (The Hobbit) and Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained) – the latecomers – Juan Antonio Bayona (The Impossible), Sacha Gervasi (Hitchcock) and Gus Van Sant (Promised Land) – and the foreign helmers – Michael Haneke (Amour), Martin McDonagh (Seven Psychopaths) and Ben Lewin (The Sessions).  But here’s where I see it as of now.
All Locked Up: Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master) and David O. Russell (Silver-Linings Playbook)
So Close: Ben Affleck feels like a mighty wise prediction at this point, but I’m holding out to make certain the movie is a hit with audiences as well
Current Final Two Slots: Steven Spielberg (Lincoln) – though I’m thinking this is a thin margin between nominated and just-miss – and Robert Zemeckis (Flight)
Only If the Movie Doesn’t Flop: Tom Hooper – he’s a recent winner with a possibly juggernaut awardsbait in Les Miserables – and Ang Lee – Life of Pi has had some detractors on the festival circuit, but it still looks to land some nominations somewhere
The Rest of the 10: Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty), Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild) and Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: While PTA’s The Master is tops on the list of many predictions, I’m sitting pretty solid with the Wes Anderson/Roman Coppola-written Moonrise Kingdom as frontrunner, for a nomination at least.  This is the category that has honored such surprise hit comedies as My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Bridesmaids – seems only fitting that Moonrise leads the likelihood pack.  Coming up quickly in the buzz fest are Ben Lewin’s The Sessions, John Gatins’s Flight, and Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths.  Aside from the most obvious choices, what of the quiet forces that could play a role with the right campaigns – such as Nicholas Jarecki (Arbitrage), Craig Zobel (Compliance) and Seth MacFarlane/Alec Sulkin/Wellesley Wild (Ted)? Perhaps voters are looking to honor their newest host. Plus commercial successes on several scales abound – Andrews/Purcell/Chapman/Mecchi (Brave), Reid Carolin (Magic Mike) and Rian Johnson (Looper).  But here’s where I think the predictions line up at the moment.
The Locks: The Master and Moonrise Kingdom
Feeling Right for Now: The Sessions, Django Unchained and Flight
The Near-Misses: Seven Psychopaths, Amour, Arbitrage and Zero Dark Thirty
Current No. 10: Hyde Park on Hudson

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Like most other categories, Silver-Linings Playbook is leading the crowd rather handily here.  But with Argo looking to make a solid category sweep as well, it’ll maybe be a two-way race for the win.  But what of the fellow nominees? Big-namers Tony Kushner (Lincoln), Tom Stoppard (Anna Karenina), Walsh/Boyens (The Hobbit), the Nolans (The Dark Knight Rises), Penn/Whedon (The Avengers) and John Krasinski and Matt Damon (Promised Land) could prove forces in the race.  Plus hit films lauded for their writing, including Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild and Michael Bacall and Jonah Hill’s 21 Jump Street, could fare all right – though both seem like they’d be more likely prospects in the original counterpart of this category.
The Locks: Silver-Linings Playbook and Argo
Feeling Right for Now: Lincoln, Life of Pi and The Avengers
The Near-Misses: Cloud Atlas, The Dark Knight Rises, Promised Land and Beasts of the Southern Wild
Current No. 10: Anna Karenina

oscars 2012: a blight of females / an opportunity for others

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

oscars 2012: those men and their acting…

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)

oscars 2012: where best picture stands

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

More to come this weekend!

oscars 2012: best supporting actress – so many options, so little oscars…

Sure, it’s been a while since my last Oscar post, so call it cheating, but some things have been shaken up since.  In fact, I’m feeling with the onset of Flight mania, my Best Picture and Best Lead Actor posts are probably obsolete.  Though at least I have my Best Lead Actress post to keep me comfortable – though there’s probably some obvious misstep in there too.  Luckily I took a look at the early reviews for Lawless this morning, and things aren’t looking good – methinks the lovely ladies of that movie won’t be making this conversation any longer.  But I digress!

The Returning Winners: In this very mixed-bag field of 2012, there are several returning winners at play, including Annette Be – oh wait… wishful thinking I suppose.  But in all seriousness, we have a few professional Oscar gals in the competition.  For starters, there are the already-released Maggie Smith as the ornery wheelchair-bound senior in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Frances McDormand as the kooky mother and secret paramour in Moonrise Kingdom.  Neither lady has caused a major stir, per se, but neither can ever be counted out and both were a part of sleeper hits.

Then there are a few coming up rather quickly down the pipe.  Last year’s champ Octavia Spencer may have a questionably small role in the addiction drama Smashed, but the move has gotten some positive festival feedback and Sony Pictures backing, so who knows?  Then there’s Holly Hunter, who based on the trailer probably has a plum little role as an administrator in the education drama Won’t Back Down.  She hasn’t really been in the conversation for about 10 years, but let’s be real – she’s definitely due.  And yes, The Paperboy has received a lot of outlandish attention, but attention nonetheless.  And Nicole Kidman reportedly goes for it – will the movie have any camp fans out there in voters, though?

And then there are those that will likely see a later release this year – will they have the attention to gain traction, or will their co-stars take all the glory?  Vanessa Redgrave takes the title role in the British senior citizen choir flick Song for Marion, though it might be too light of fare for voters, and she couldn’t seem to buy herself a nomination for Coriolanus.  Still, British comedy seems to connect a little more easily.  Sally Field has an obviously key role in Lincoln, though she hasn’t really come close to a nomination since 1984’s Places in the Heart – it seems far-fetched that she’ll make a return trip.  Finally, Rachel Weisz has a supporting part in Terrence Malick’s latest, but will To the Wonder be too much, too soon after Tree of Life amassed so much love last year?

Those Facing Internal Competition: Though it’s been said – I’m pretty sure – that this category is the easiest to find a double nomination from the same movie, it’s still a tough battle for any.  Those ladies facing competition from within their own casts include the duo from Silver Linings Playbook, Jacki Weaver and Jennifer Lawrence, the former of which seems to have a nice role based on the trailer and the latter of whom could be a stretch in this particular love interest role.  Weaver probably has the edge in this battle.  Then there are the ladies from Anna Karenina, Olivia Williams and Kelly Macdonald, both of whom have had close calls with Oscars but have just missed.  A lot will depend on the overall feeling about the film.

Much will definitely depend on Laura Linney’s placement, but the big biopic roles in Hyde Park on Hudson include Olivia Williams as Eleanor Roosevelt and Olivia Colman as the Queen of England.  On its face, these should be easy gets for nominations, but the former Olivia seems to be catnip for Oscar voters despite several baity roles through the years in Oscar-hailed films.  Perhaps the likeliest of double power players comes from the buzzy Paul Thomas Anderson flick The Master, which boasts a shoo-in nod for perennial favorite Amy Adams and a fuzzy role for previous nominees Laura Dern, though her being missing from most of the promotional material is worrisome.

Those Ladies and Their Major Motion Pictures: They aren’t plentiful, but there are a few potential contenders amongst the big budget epics and the like.  Donna Bae may not be name-recognizable, but what looks like a key role in the mysterious Cloud Atlas could pay off.  And Anne Hathaway looks like she could possibly walk away with the show in Les Miserables. And speaking of scene-stealing, that same Anne Hathaway pulled off the unthinkable and put her own successful spin on Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises – but are voters really as eager to nominate her for it as Heath Ledger’s slam dunk in 2008?  And I can’t count her out just yet – though Sparkle hasn’t exactly had glowing reviews, most critics are willing to confess that Whitney Houston is the highlight.  Could a Globe nomination be possible for the late chanteuse?

And the Rest…: As I’m running out of ways to categorize these actresses, I’m going to pile in the rest of the crop here.  Jessica Chastain has made quite a wave in the past year-and-a-half, and from the looks of the teaser she might have a great performance in her in Zero Dark Thirty.  But Bigelow didn’t really rake in the acting nominations for her cast in 2009, so who knows… Quvenzhane Wallis is clearly a lead for Beasts of the Southern Wild, but her age deficiency will likely tempt the studio to push her here.  Pauline Collins hasn’t been around in earnest since Shirley Valentine, but a nice supporting turn in Albert Nobbs helped put her back on the map – will she be one of the Weinsteins’ pushes for Quartet? And my beloved Annette Bening must be mentioned – playing girl-of-the-moment Kristen Wiig’s mom in Imogene could be just the move she needs to make real progress toward that long-awaited Oscar.

And the current barrage of buzz is unavoidable – Ann Dowd is clearly making some surprising waves as a woman with ill intentions in indie drama Compliance.  Whether or not she’ll have the support to make it to the red carpet is still up in the air, but it’s hard to deny her web support.  Helena Bonham Carter does well with Oscar when it comes to costume drama, and the most notable role in Great Expectations certainly shouldn’t hurt.  Kerry Washington has what seems to be the sole female role in Tarantino’s Django Unchained (unusual when you think about it), and the director has a history of doing well with female thespians.  Isabelle Huppert rounds out a cast of foreign lovelies in Amour, and Carey Mulligan guns for her second nod in the Coens’ music pic Inside Llewyn Davis.  Kristin Scott Thomas has been itching for her second as well, this time with the Refn Drive follow-up Only God Forgives. And, sure, a strange way to end this, but if Take This Waltz gets any kind of attention elsewhere, Sarah Silverman must be mentioned – her critical response has been generally positive, and the move could have some good home video surge late in the year.

So here’s where I’m at currently: Amy Adams (The Master), Helena Bonham Carter (Great Expectations), Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables), Olivia Williams (Hyde Park on Hudson)

oscars 2012: the ladies’ competition heats up

Now that the big Best Picture update is out of the way, let’s move on to the lead actresses.  Though there are far less obvious contenders in the works in this category compared to the top prize, there are plentiful possibilities in the mix.  But will Oscar go traditional, opting for the many costume drama options, or will it step away for more indie love than the typical one-slot-for-ingenue-in-Sundance-favorite trajectory?  There are certainly no clear front-runners here, nor are there any surefire first-half contenders, but let’s muse nonetheless…

What We’ve Got So Far: Though there aren’t any clear options in the first six months, there are a handful of ladies who have turned in buzz-worthy performances.  But how likely is it any of them can last through to February?  For starters, we have some Academy favorites – Michelle Williams has a decent shot for Take This Waltz.  Though the long-delayed film seems to have arrived with a soft response, the reviews were positive, and Michelle is on a hot streak.  Plus damaged relationships propelled her to a nod for Blue Valentine.  Speaking of Academy populars, Judi Dench should never be counted out, and the sleeper hit status of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel could get her some traction, particularly with a well-timed DVD release.

It was virtually invisible upon release, but The Deep Blue Sea could very well get Rachel Weisz on some shortlists.  It’s certainly a long shot, but she’s one of the handful of moderate contenders from early releases.  A much more hot-button choice would be Jennifer Lawrence, whose adept turn in the popular The Hunger Games is certainly not Oscar’s typical cup of tea, but the web is feeling pretty insistent about this one.  Don’t count her out just yet.  Resting in the long-gestating camp, Rachael Harris won raves last year for quirky drama Natural Selection, but her lack of celebrite in an increasingly competitive indie sect could dash her chances.  Finally, the clearest contender from those films released thus far has to be pint-sized powerhouse Quvenzhane Wallis, whose star turn in Beasts of the Southern Wild should have no trouble finding its way onto year-end “Best of” lists.  But will she be wrongfully thrust into supporting due to her age?

Will Lighter, Popcorn Fare Play a Role?: Sure, Meryl Streep has made her way onto the list with comedies before.  I mean, Devil Wears Prada was very nearly a win for the actress.  But will Hope Springs connect in the same way?  It has the elements of a potential Streep nomination, but methinks this will go by way of It’s Complicated and suffer a near-miss.  And though “light” may not be the right attribution, Won’t Back Down‘s Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal may have to ascend the hurdle of “feel-good” for their teacher drama.  The trailer doesn’t look very Oscary, but who knows what could happen with Davis’s recent hot streak?  And then there’s Cameron Diaz, who is seemingly out to prove why she’s a movie star by teaming up with Colin Firth and the Coen brothers for Gambit.  But will an action comedy ever have decent traction in a category populated by tragic PYTs?  If the reviews are right, it’s definitely possible.

But what of the indie comedies?  It can be a tough sell, but with proper studio push, anything’s possible.  First off is Melanie Lynskey, who has been quietly assembling a long filmography on the sidelines and finally has a leading role in Hello I Must Be Going.  The film has some detractors, but she likely has a lot of friends in the industry.  (Let me also take this opportunity to say that Emayatzy Corinealdi could find a place in the conversation for Middle of Nowhere.) Then there’s Helen Hunt, who hasn’t been in the conversation at all since her ’97 win in this category.  Has her ill will post-Oscar ruined her shot at being nominated for The Sessions, or will John Hawkes’s recent cred push her through?  Rounding out the comedic ladies, Barbra Streisand is making another return to the big screen in The Guilt Trip opposite Seth Rogen.  A mother-son road trip is a bit untested, save for Transamerica I suppose, but Dan Fogelman has done some great things with Crazy Stupid Love and Tangled, so who knows?

Prestige Gals – Where the Contenders Are: Now to the serious options.  The biggies and the obvious predictable choices. Not that they’re bad, necessarily, just that they’re clearly the odds-on favorites.  Academy favorite Amy Adams could have a fourth nomination on her hands for father-daughter sports flick Trouble with the Curve, but voters have been hot and cold with Eastwood lately.  Keira Knightley isn’t everyone’s favorite in critics’ circles, but her muse status under Joe Wright has yielded some cache.  Will Anna Karenina pull off a hit, though?  Laura Linney has shamefully never won, but Hyde Park on Hudson is looking mighty probably for another shot at the gold.  Will she command enough presence when sharing the screen with Bill Murray though?  With Cannes backing and Haneke’s stamp, Emmanuelle Riva could be a viable option for Amour.  But will the Academy do what they do with many European auteurs and recognize direction and writing above acting?

No one seems to have the respected actor/beautiful movie star combination on point these days like Marion Cotillard, whose Rust and Bone performance is a definite shot at her first leading nomination since her win in ’07.  And will Carey Mulligan ever find herself in the nomination pool again?  She’s landed several plum roles since An Education, and what better return route than to star in The Great Gatsby?  Sure, Halle Berry hasn’t connected much since Monster’s Ball, but with the insane buzz around Cloud Atlas, perhaps she can finally return to the fold of the few and the proud.  Maggie Smith has stayed relevant through the years, but Oscar has eluded her since 2001.  Perhaps a seemingly lead role in the opera singer drama Quartet will appeal to voters.  I mean, have you seen the trailer?  It’s pretty clear we’ll be hearing its name at least once come nomination morning.

That’s All Well and Good, But Will it Even Release?: In every year there are the crop of serious candidates that have a giant question mark over their heads until the bitter end (See: Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs), but some of these are bound to be released in time.  Kristen Wiig is fresh off of Bridesmaids heat, and the Oscars may see a chance to honor her for acting in Imogene.  And if it sees the light of 2012 day, Dakota Fanning could have her coming-of-age coming out party in costume drama Effie, though a ’13 release seems more and more likely.  Nicole Kidman will surely be a contender for biopic My Wild Life whenever it happens to be released, but the animal conservationist drama is taking its sweet time to finish up.  Helen Mirren is always a strong possibility, and The Door could hit if it finds a distributor in time, and Rachel McAdams could perhaps break her rom-com mold thanks to fave director Terrence Malick’s tutelage in To the Wonder – and that festival scheduling makes a late-2012 release all the more likely.

So here’s where I’m at as of now, in order of likelihood of a nomination:

(1) Laura Linney, (2) Amy Adams, (3) Marion Cotillard, (4) Maggie Smith, (5) Quvenzhane Wallis

But what do you think, eh?

merritt wever, emmy nominee

I’m LOVing the sound of that.  At last!  Well done Emmy.


By now, you film buffs out there have likely already heard the news.  The delectable, devilish classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is getting the remake treatment.  And while I’m generally against touching the classics – this one oddly enough being a childhood favorite of mine – I must say: It’s a fun notion to think about which two screen divas could potentially get cast in this.  I’m told the director in question is hoping to get “high-pedigree” actresses to fill the shoes of legends Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, and I certainly hope he makes good on it.  I also hope that they don’t cast some late-30s, early-40s “hot for now” actresses to take on the parts.  But who could take on these distinctive roles – the bitter former child star whose penchant for drinking led to her downfall and the now-wheelchair-bound actress sister who becomes Baby Jane’s object of torture… hopefully the fates will be kind.  

My brother John was quick to insert his ideal casting choice – with Glenn Close in the Bette Davis role and Meryl Streep in the Joan Crawford role, and I’m inclined to agree with him.  Then again, half the fun of the original was that the real-life stars hated each other with a passion – too bad everyone’s so nice in Hollywood these days… (I kid, of course.)  I’d like to step out and nominate Close (is there any more Bette Davis-like personality than Close a la 101 Dalmatians and Stepford Wives?), but I’m thinking the Crawford role could be played nicely by Anne Archer… I mean, how much perfection would it be if that infamous parakeet scene was tweaked to involve a certain pet rabbit?  What are your thoughts on the matter?