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Oscar Watching: Not Much Time Left

There is not much time left in the Oscar race. The most important awards announcement of the week came on Wednesday when the Producers Guild of America (PGA) revealed its nominees for the Daryl F. Zanuck Award for Producer of the Year in Theatrical Motion Pictures, which are: Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Misérables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Moonrise Kingdom, Silver Linings Playbook, Skyfall, and Zero Dark Thirty. Skyfall makes for the list’s only “surprise,” though it’s hardly a stunning choice since the PGA generally likes to throw at least one audience favorite into its lineup.

Scott Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter points out that the PGA didn’t nominate highly profitable films like Flight, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and The Dark Knight Rises. The fray, regarding the major races, bid farewell to those last two left long ago, I think, but Robert ZemeckisFlight could have used the boost – especially since some are chalking it up for a surprise best picture nominee. The Avengers, less notably, also missed out.

We should also take a look at the screenplays nominated by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) earlier today. The original screenplays nominated are: Flight, Looper, The Master, Moonrise Kingdom, and Zero Dark Thirty. The adapted scripts nominated are: Argo, Life of Pi, Lincoln, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Silver Linings Playbook.

We’re less than a week away from the nominations announcement, and nothing that happens beyond 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT) today can affect the Oscar nominations. I’ll be back on Wednesday – one day before the nominations announcement – to drop some last-minute predictions after the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) and the Directors Guild of America (DGA) reveal their nominees. But for now, my thoughts on how this week’s events have changed the Oscar race

Best Picture

I’ve long held to the idea that Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln leads the best picture race. I still think the film walks away with the top prize, but the Oscar blogsphere’s chatted quite a bit about Ben Affleck’s Argo as of late. HitFix’s Gregory Ellwood suggests this awards season might be a replay of 2006, when Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, a fall release like Argo, crept to the top of the heap to win the big prize.

Still, that was Scorsese, who had never won an Oscar despite his illustrious career, and this is Affleck, who’s only on his third film. Then again, Affleck is an actor-turned-director, an often lethal factor when Oscar is the name of the game. As Nathaniel Rogers of The Film Experience noted about him back in September:

“Affleck has been slowly amassing a deserved reputation as a quality director that will lead him to Best Director nominations in 1…2…3…. If he keeps this up he’ll become as wildly overpraised as all A List actors who acquit themselves as directors (Redford, Gibson, Costner, Eastwood, etcetera)! Critics and audience members think they’re above star worship when it comes to such things but the fever pitch of praise,  Oscar favor, and “AUTEUR! AUTEUR!” mania whenever an actor succeeds behind the camera says otherwise. There’s something about actors, the famous ones anyway, that makes people breathless.”

The PGA love for Skyfall highlights industry support for the film, and while a best picture nomination still feels out of reach, the film likely lingers somewhere in voters’ top 15.

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. Django Unchained

12. The Master

13. Skyfall

14. Flight

15. The Impossible

16. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

17. Hitchcock

Best Director

Spielberg still looks like he’ll take his third in February, but Affleck’s a major threat. Can’t you see him winning even if it loses its other races?

1. Steven Spielberg for Lincoln

2. Ben Affleck for Argo

3. Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty

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

11. Robert Zemeckis for Flight

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Okay, so Jennifer Lawrence made some comments about how acting is “stupid” earlier this week, but those won’t hurt her chances of winning. If anything stands in her way, it’s Jessica Chastain, since Zero Dark Thirty stands higher than Silver Linings Playbook in the best picture race. But perhaps Lawrence wins as a consolation prize.

Who knows? Chastain and Lawrence are the only two actresses I consider “locks” at the moment. So, with three possibly open spots, who gets in? Oscar voters love to mention never-before-nominated performers on their best actress lists, and they’ve done just that for at least one performance each year for the past 17 Oscar races (since 1995), even when the precursors suggest otherwise. Most of these performances come from up-and-coming talents who look to have a bright future in film, so we probably shouldn’t bet against Quvenzhané Wallis.

While Naomi Watts feels locked and loaded for her second best actress nomination, Samuel Coffey brought up something quite interesting on his Twitter account: Will voters really bother watching films likely for just one nomination at this point? The Impossible feels like a one-nomination film at the moment, and I’d argue the same about Rust and Bone, for which Marion Cotillard, like Watts, hopes to earn her second best actress mention, her first since winning for 2007’s La vie en Rose, Helen Mirren in Hitchcock, and Rachel Weisz in The Deep Blue Sea.

But since some Oscar voters likely ditched those films in favor of the films with more hype, what if one or all actresses miss the cut? If one stays, I think it’s Watts since The Impossible is more likely to pick up additional nominations than the other films. In the event that they all miss out, expect Emmanuelle Riva, a never-before-nominated veteran, to get some (deserved) love for Amour.

Such exclusions might also lead to Judi Dench sneaking in for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I’m less than a fan of John Madden’s vapid effort, but think about it: Dench has had a terrific year between that film and Skyfall; she’ll likely get some help from the British voters (let’s see how BAFTA reacts); Maggie Smith should reap a best supporting actress bid for the film; and Marigold Hotel could be a best picture nominee since it’s the kind of film that plays right in Oscar voters’ wheelhouse.

1. Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook

2. Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty

3. Quvenzhané Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild

4. Emmanuelle Riva for Amour

5. Naomi Watts for The Impossible

6. Judi Dench for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

7. Marion Cotillard for Rust and Bone

8. Helen Mirren for Hitchcock

9. Rachel Weisz for The Deep Blue Sea

10. Meryl Streep for Hope Springs

11. Maggie Smith for Quartet

Best Actor in a Leading Role

The best actor race, the way I see it, is Daniel Day-Lewis leading the pack and four others who’ll be lucky to hear their names on nomination morning. The Globes and SAG suggest those actors will be: Bradley Cooper, John Hawkes, Hugh Jackman, and Denzel Washington, but is it so simple? It probably is, but let’s make this difficult have fun with this by ranking who gets left off in the event of an upset.

Jackman sits quite comfortably in the top five, I think, since Les Mis will probably be one of Oscar’s top films – at least when we’re talking about its nomination tally. Also, Cooper should snag a spot since Silver Linings Playbook is a major contender. Additionally, I can’t imagine Washington missing out since, well, he’s Denzel Washington. Flight likely sits in the race as a one-nomination film, but it’s more of a threat for outside attention than other films expected to land only a solitary bid. If there’s a casualty here, it might be Hawkes since The Sessions wasn’t the biggest breakthrough success at the box office. But I still think he’s earning his second nomination, his first in the best actor race.

Last but not least, I’m throwing Jean-Louis Trintignant into the mix on the off chance that Amour shocks for more attention than the precursors have given it.

1. Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln

2. Hugh Jackman for Les Misérables

3. Denzel Washington for Flight

4. John Hawkes for The Sessions

5. Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook

6. Joaquin Phoenix for The Master

7. Richard Gere for Arbitrage

8. Anthony Hopkins for Hitchcock

9. Jean-Louis Trintignant for Amour

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Sure, the haphazard list of contenders here makes this whole process much more enjoyable than one where we can predict the nominees from miles away – like, say, the 2010 best actress list – but it also turns the race into something more frustrating, more confusing to predict. Anne Hathaway wins, and I think the rest of the lineup is as follows.

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

9. Jacki Weaver for Silver Linings Playbook

10. Jennifer Ehle for Zero Dark Thirty

11. Samantha Barks for Les Misérables

12. Helena Bonham Carter for Les Misérables

13. Amanda Seyfried for Les Misérables

14. Kelly Reilly for Flight

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

If you thought supporting actress was a hot mess, you might want to check out its male counterpart. The supporting actor race boasts two arguable front-runners who already have Oscars to their names, two more previous winners who are very likely to return, and one relatively open spot.

That assumed last spot presents some interesting questions given the heat of this race: Do voters pick an actor mostly ignored by the precursors, like Dwight Henry or Matthew McConaughey? Do they align with an embraced performance that might go against their usual grain, like Javier Bardem? Do they go with the flow by nominating either Leonardo DiCaprio or Christoph Waltz? Or do they simply choose a performance from a movie they love, such as Russell Crowe, John Goodman, Eddie Redmayne, or, in the event that voters go hard for Django Unchained, Samuel L. Jackson, who I’ve just added to the list?

Perhaps I’m doing so prematurely – even though there isn’t much time left to be “premature” about anything – but I’m throwing Bardem’s villainous turn in Skyfall into spot number five and ditching DiCaprio’s villainous turn in Django Unchained. (While I’m at it, can someone please – I’m begging – sneak in past Alan Arkin?)

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. Javier Bardem for Skyfall

6. Leonardo DiCaprio for Django Unchained

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

12. Russell Crowe for Les Misérables

13. Samuel L. Jackson for Django Unchained

Best Original Screenplay

My fringe pick of Safety Not Guaranteed, which I thought would make the WGA lineup, probably isn’t happening. The presumed spot number five is between Django Unchained and Looper, with the former being a more likely candidate in my eyes.

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. Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained

6. Rian Johnson for Looper

7. John Gatins for Flight

8. Derek Connolly for Safety Not Guaranteed

9. Nicholas Jarecki for Arbitrage

10. Ava DuVernay for Middle of Nowhere

11. Matt Damon and John Krasinski for Promised Land

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Perks of Being a Wallflower scored with the WGA, but Beasts of the Southern Wild wasn’t eligible there. Expect the latter to bump the former out of Oscar’s lineup. I added the Skyfall script just in case.

1. Tony Kushner for Lincoln

2. Chris Terrio for Argo

3. David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook

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

5. David Magee for Life of Pi

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

10. John Logan, Patrick Marber, Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade for Skyfall



Read previous Oscar Watching columns here.


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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.