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Oscar Watching: SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED for Some of This Year’s Contenders

Each of the top eight races boasts a front-runner or two, but what about the other three or four nominees in each race? It’s both a frustrating change of pace and a welcome one. It makes predicting the Oscars more difficult, but it also makes pinpointing the season a bit more exciting, doesn’t it?

But before delving into this week’s predictions, let’s recap the events of the week that might change the course of the Oscar race:

  • The Indiana Film Journalists Association went against the grain of other regional critics’ groups and the awards season in general, opting to name Safety Not Guaranteed the best film and original screenplay of 2012.
  • The Writers Guild of America disqualified more than a dozen films from awards consideration. While we tend gripe about those each year, it does make sense for the guild to, you know, recognize its own members.
  • Voting for the Oscars began Monday. Voters must have their ballots submitted, either by paper ballot or electronically, by Thursday, Jan. 3 at 5 p.m. This means the WGA, Directors Guild of America, and British Academy of Film and Television Arts nominations, respectively announced on Jan. 4, Jan. 8, and Jan. 9, will have no direct impact on this year’s Oscar nominees, though they will certainly reflect sentiments of the industry.
  • Ann Dowd, whose performance in Compliance won the National Board of Review‘s prize for best supporting actress, paid out of her own pocket to send screeners of the film to the acting branch of the Academy and the nominating committee for this year’s Screen Actors Guild Awards (it’s a randomly selected group each year).
  • The Academy just announced the nine finalists for foreign language film. They are: Austria (Amour), Canada (War Witch), Chile (No), Denmark (A Royal Affair), France (The Intouchables), Iceland (The Deep), Norway (Kon-Tiki), Romania (Beyond the Hills), and Switzerland (Sister).


Best Picture

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln still leads, no?

1. Lincoln

2. Zero Dark Thirty

3. Argo

4. Les Misérables

5. Silver Linings Playbook

6. Life of Pi

7. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

8. Moonrise Kingdom

9. Beasts of the Southern Wild

10. Amour

11. Flight

12. Django Unchained

13. The Master

14. The Impossible


Best Director

Spielberg looks like he’ll take the cake here as well. Kathryn Bigelow and Ben Affleck will have no trouble securing nods, but what about those other two spots? Though he’s no “lock,” I think Ang Lee is in: He won this race for Brokeback Mountain, scored two nods for directing and producing Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and also directed best picture nominee and adapted screenplay winner Sense and Sensibility. He’s a member of “the club” more than contenders like previous winner Tom Hooper, whose Les Misérables admittedly looks to be one of the nomination leaders, and David O. Russell, who went against Hooper in 2010. There’s also Michael Haneke, who I think gets that last spot in the race for Amour.

1. Steven Spielberg for Lincoln

2. Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty

3. Ben Affleck for Argo

4. Ang Lee for Life of Pi

5. Michael Haneke for Amour

6. Tom Hooper for Les Misérables

7. David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook

8. Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained

9. Wes Anderson for Moonrise Kingdom

10. Paul Thomas Anderson for The Master


Best Actress in a Leading Role

It’s still Jennifer Lawrence vs. Jessica Chastain. Zero Dark Thirty breaks records in limited release, but this still feels like the former actress’s prize to lose for her Silver Linings Playbook performance. Upset possibilities? In what’s still an oddly shaped race, who knows? I suspect we haven’t heard the last from Quvenzhané Wallis. A BAFTA nod wouldn’t hurt since Beasts of the Southern Wild isn’t getting the attention it needs. Same goes for Emmanuelle Riva, whose candidacy for Amour has been hindered egregiously in recent weeks.

A ringing endorsement from Reese Witherspoon might help Naomi Watts out for her work in The Impossible. I still have a hunch that Oscar ignores Marion Cotillard this year, but again, who knows? On a final note, while Meryl Streep doesn’t have any buzz for Hope Springs, might voters lazily check her name off once again if they aren’t impressed with the presumed leaders of the race? I doubt it (that’s probably Helen Mirren’s performance in Hitchcock, complete with Globe and SAG nominations, this year), but you never know.

1. Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook

2. Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty

3. Quvenzhané Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild

4. Naomi Watts for The Impossible

5. Emmanuelle Riva for Amour

6. Marion Cotillard for Rust and Bone

7. Helen Mirren for Hitchcock

8. Rachel Weisz for The Deep Blue Sea

9. Judi Dench for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

10. Meryl Streep for Hope Springs

11. Maggie Smith for Quartet


Best Actor in a Leading Role

Is anyone willing to bet against Daniel Day-Lewis? Anyone? Hello? Okay, nothing’s over until it’s over, but seriously, who’s getting in his way?

1. Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln

2. Hugh Jackman for Les Misérables

3. John Hawkes for The Sessions

4. Denzel Washington for Flight

5. Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook

6. Joaquin Phoenix for The Master

7. Richard Gere for Arbitrage

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Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Most still think Anne Hathaway leads with her closest competition miles behind her, but she actually leads this race with Sally Field close on her tail. Expect the former to win a chunk of Oscar gold in February, but don’t be surprised if the latter actress claims her third prize and first in the supporting race.

It’s sad to think Maggie Smith will get an Oscar nod for a merely adequate performance in a rather simple role in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and even worse that she’ll probably be the default winner if Hathaway and Field split votes (a highly unlikely outcome, admittedly). But I don’t write the rules of the season. Helen Hunt’s been talked up as a potential winner since Sundance for The Sessions, but buzz cooled as the precursors began.

That’s four down, so who gets that fifth spot? I’d honestly say forget Judi Dench since she does so little in Skyfall – at least when it comes to deserving any kind of special credit – though BAFTA might throw her a bone (which might mean nothing since they mentioned her for My Week with Marilyn last year). It could be the aforementioned Dowd, but despite getting screeners to the nominating committee at SAG, they still ignored her performance. I imagine Oscar voters will do the same. It might be Nicole Kidman, whose nods with at the Golden Globes proved her SAG mention wasn’t a fluke. But while she’s also working the press, the reviews for The Paperboy are still horrible. There’s also Amy Adams, who missed with SAG but got in with the Globes for The Master.

1. Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables

2. Sally Field in Lincoln

3. Maggie Smith for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

4. Helen Hunt for The Sessions

5. Amy Adams for The Master

6. Ann Dowd for Compliance

7. Nicole Kidman for The Paperboy

8. Judi Dench for Skyfall


Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Arguably the only race of the primary eight lacking form – and a front-runner, though (we think) it’s between Robert De Niro, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Tommy Lee Jones. But before getting into my actual predictions…

As I watched The Guilt Trip earlier this week, I saw a trailer for The Big Wedding, a comedy initially set for release this year but pushed to 2013. De Niro stars in the film, and I’m wondering if promos for that dreadful-looking movie might hinder his chances of winning this year. Granted, it’s not quite as damning as Norbit, which killed Eddie Murphy’s Oscar hopes for Dreamgirls, but it’s a reminder that De Niro’s “comeback” to legitimate filmmaking may have been a fluke.

As for Javier Bardem in Skyfall, I’m still not convinced he’ll be a nominee despite the great performance. I’d love to think Tom Wilkinson can get in for giving the best (and, arguably, the only interesting) performance in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but it’s not meant to be.

Alan Arkin should make the cut for season favorite Argo, while Leonardo DiCaprio could fill out the top five for Django Unchained.

1. Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln

2. Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master

3. Robert De Niro for Silver Linings Playbook

4. Alan Arkin for Argo

5. Leonardo DiCaprio for Django Unchained

6. Javier Bardem for Skyfall

7. Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained

8. Dwight Henry for Beasts of the Southern Wild

9. Matthew McConaughey for Magic Mike

10. Eddie Redmayne for Les Misérables

11. John Goodman for Argo


Best Original Screenplay

By the accounts of most, Amour, The Master, Moonrise Kingdom, and Zero Dark Thirty are secure, leaving room for one film. I’m still not convinced Django Unchained is a full-fledged Oscar contender, and I’m not sure about Looper either.

In the midst of my uncertainty, the Indiana Film Journalists Association’s aforementioned love for Safety Not Guaranteed piques my interest. Could that little indie make the cut here? I feel like taking a risk at the moment, so why not?

1. Mark Boal for Zero Dark Thirty

2. Michael Haneke for Amour

3. Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola for Moonrise Kingdom

4. Paul Thomas Anderson for The Master

5. Derek Connolly for Safety Not Guaranteed

6. Rian Johnson for Looper

7. Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained

8. John Gatins for Flight

9. Matt Damon and John Krasinski for Promised Land

10. Nicholas Jarecki for Arbitrage

11. Ava DuVernay for Middle of Nowhere


Best Adapted Screenplay

Let’s just be honest: Tony Kushner leads for Lincoln. Am I right?

1. Tony Kushner for Lincoln

2. David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook

3. Chris Terrio for Argo

4. David Magee for Life of Pi

5. Benh Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar for Beasts of the Southern Wild

6. Stephen Chbosky for The Perks of Being a Wallflower

7. Ol Parker for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

8. William Nicholson for Les Misérables

9. Ben Lewin for The Sessions

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Donovan Warren

Donovan Warren

Donovan Warren loves the wonderful world of film and all that comes with it. He specifically loves long takes, fabulous actresses, and keeping up with the Oscar season - even when it's far too early to make sense of anything.