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Oscar Watching: The Eleventh Hour

It’s the eleventh hour of Oscar Watching. After countless Twitter discussions and blog posts, the Oscar nominations finally arrive tomorrow. Seth MacFarlane, who will host the ceremony next month, and Emma Stone, who presented at the ceremony last year, will announce the nominees at 5:30 a.m. PT. But before delving into the final predictions before the nomination announcement, let’s briefly examine two events crucial to understanding the season.

Yesterday, the Directors Guild of America (DGA) nominated Ben Affleck for Argo, Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty, Tom Hooper for Les Misérables, Ang Lee for Life of Pi, and Steven Spielberg for Lincoln.

Earlier today, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) unveiled its 2012 picks. Lincoln leads with 10 nominations despite missing out in the director category. Just behind it are Les Mis, also ignored in directing, and Life of Pi with nine bids. Skyfall, expected by many to be the favorite at the ceremony, snagged eight nominations but failed to score a best film mention. Argo and Anna Karenina boast six nods each, while Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty both reap five nominations. You can check out the whole list of nominees at BAFTA’s official site.

Of course, neither announcement directly affects the Oscar nominations since voting closed on Friday. However, both reflect the tastes of the individuals in the industry who filled out ballots. So, what can we expect to happen tomorrow?

Best Picture

After finally getting around to Lincoln (I know, I know), I can see why so many are wary of its Oscar hopes – at least in the best picture race. It’s well-made and (mostly) well-acted, but much of the film moves rather slowly. Likewise, I understand why the blogosphere’s returned to early front-runner Argo. I’d argue it’s the lesser film of the two, but it’s an easier sit, which probably means more for its chances with Oscar than its inherent worth as a film.

Zero Dark Thirty likely comes in third, while usual suspects Life of Pi and Les Misérables fill out the expected top five. Harvey Weinstein should thank his lucky stars for Oscar’s more inclusive lineup because Silver Linings Playbook, once thought to be a potential front-runner, probably wouldn’t make it in a year of five. Meanwhile, Moonrise Kingdom, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Amour take up the next three spots as far as I’m seeing it.

Of course, there can be anywhere from five to 10 nominees. Nine nominees sounds right for this year, which means Django Unchained would sit out of the race despite the recent surge. But let’s just call the picture category for an even 10 nods.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Master, Skyfall, and perhaps even The Intouchables, a last-minute addition thanks to this In Contention post from Kristopher Tapley, certainly threaten the four films ahead of them. Still, I’m wary of each film for a variety of reasons: Marigold Hotel failed to score the BAFTA attention it needed; The Master missed out in quite a few places; Skyfall might be too genre; and voters might pull for Amour instead of The Intouchables since it’d be quite the milestone if two foreign-language films made the cut.

Below them, I think, are Flight, The Impossible, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and Hitchcock, films that may have registered enough with voters for bids elsewhere but probably won’t join the best picture lineup.

1. Argo

2. Lincoln

3. Zero Dark Thirty

4. Les Misérables

5. Life of Pi

6. Silver Linings Playbook

7. Moonrise Kingdom

8. Beasts of the Southern Wild

9. Amour

10. Django Unchained

11. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

12. The Master

13. Skyfall

14. The Intouchables

15. Flight

16. The Impossible

17. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

18. Hitchcock

Best Director

Affleck, Spielberg, and Bigelow fight for the win, with the first two being the primary contenders. Their DGA nods just proved what we already knew, but Lee’s mention likely means he’s in. One might say the same about Hooper, but his direction is the reason Les Mis doesn’t work – according to some, at least. His lack of mentions from the Globes and BAFTA don’t exactly inspire confidence. I still see Michael Haneke getting in for Amour, and that BAFTA nod certainly helps his cause. Or perhaps Quentin Tarantino gets the mention.

1. Ben Affleck for Argo

2. Steven Spielberg for Lincoln

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. Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained

8. Paul Thomas Anderson for The Master

9. David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook

10. Wes Anderson for Moonrise Kingdom

11. Robert Zemeckis for Flight

Best Actress in a Leading Role

A two-way race between Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence, expect the unexpected when it comes to those last three nominees. I feel like Quvenzhané Wallis is quite safe, and Emmanuelle Riva’s BAFTA bid showcases support. In any case, at least one should make it because it’s been 17 years since the category didn’t include a performer new to the Oscar scene.

But if Wallis and Riva get in, who gets the last spot? Just yesterday, I pictured Judi Dench making it in for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. However, she missed out with BAFTA for that performance, so it’s missing with Oscar as well.

Perhaps Helen Mirren pops up since Globe, SAG, and BAFTA recognized her, but the buzz for her performance in Hitchcock has cooled significantly, hasn’t it? Expect Oscar to throw Naomi Watts a mention for The Impossible or (maybe) give Marion Cotillard a shout-out for Rust and Bone.

Lastly, I’ve thrown Emayatzy Corinealdi into the rundown for Middle of Nowhere in the admittedly unlikely event that Ava DuVernay’s film gets some recognition.

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. Marion Cotillard for Rust and Bone

7. Helen Mirren for Hitchcock

8. Judi Dench for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

9. Rachel Weisz for The Deep Blue Sea

10. Meryl Streep for Hope Springs

11. Maggie Smith for Quartet

12. Emayatzy Corinealdi for Middle of Nowhere

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Again, this is all about Daniel Day-Lewis, who’s exceptional in Lincoln, though I very much prefer Hugh Jackman, who seems rather safe for a nod unless Les Mis snags a disappointing nomination tally (unlikely), and Joaquin Phoenix, who might bump John Hawkes out with his BAFTA-nominated performance.

Still, this is a race with Day-Lewis and four others lucky to get their bids. Expect Bradley Cooper and Denzel Washington to join Day-Lewis, Jackman, and Phoenix. In light of his out-of-nowhere BAFTA nod for best actor, I threw Affleck, who many once considered a nonfactor outside of best director, into the rundown.

1. Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln

2. Hugh Jackman for Les Misérables

3. Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook

4. Denzel Washington for Flight

5. Joaquin Phoenix for The Master

6. John Hawkes for The Sessions

7. Ben Affleck for Argo

8. Jean-Louis Trintignant for Amour

9. Richard Gere for Arbitrage

10. Anthony Hopkins for Hitchcock

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Anne Hathaway still leads this race for what should go down in history as one of the greatest performances in a musical film, but she’s not without competition. Sally Field’s turn in Lincoln might be all over the place, showing true greatness in some scenes and playing it far too broadly in others, but it’s the biggest threat to what many deem Hathaway’s inevitable win if enough voters feel like handing the veteran a third trophy or, especially, if they love Lincoln more than Les Mis.

Let’s go ahead and chalk up Helen Hunt and Amy Adams for nods while we’re at it, though the former stands on solid ground while the latter missed out big time when SAG didn’t call her name. That fifth spot, like the other acting races this year, presents a mystery, but I say Maggie Smith gets in. Still, Nicole Kidman and Ann Dowd aggressively vie for that seemingly open spot alongside her.

After Dench, who I think misses despite her BAFTA bid, I’ve listed the performances that seem like long-shots but could surprise given the volatility of this race and support for their films.

1. Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables

2. Sally Field in Lincoln

3. Helen Hunt for The Sessions

4. Amy Adams for The Master

5. Maggie Smith for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

6. Nicole Kidman for The Paperboy

7. Ann Dowd for Compliance

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

Tommy Lee Jones looks to win a second Oscar for his great work in Lincoln, but he might face some obstacles along the way. Right on his tail, it seems, is Philip Seymour Hoffman, even if the film’s support among Oscar voters is difficult to determine. Alan Arkin and Robert De Niro take up the next two spots, though I doubt they’re possibilities for an upset. I’m still banking on Javier Bardem for that last spot, but watch out for the Globe- and BAFTA-nominated Christoph Waltz. To be fair, it could go to anyone listed below them.

1. Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln

2. Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master

3. Alan Arkin for Argo

4. Robert De Niro for Silver Linings Playbook

5. Javier Bardem for Skyfall

6. Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained

7. Leonardo DiCaprio 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

This category doesn’t boast obvious front-runners as the past few years have, but Mark Boal leads since Zero Dark Thirty is the only film in the lineup with any shot at winning best picture. Expected contenders like Moonrise Kingdom and The Master should appear, and Django Unchained probably makes the cut. Amour scored with BAFTA, so it might happen here as well. On a final note, let’s throw Seven Psychopaths into the rundown given its BAFTA mention for best British film.

1. Mark Boal for Zero Dark Thirty

2. Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola for Moonrise Kingdom

3. Paul Thomas Anderson for The Master

4. Michael Haneke for Amour

5. Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained

6. Rian Johnson for Looper

7. John Gatins for Flight

8. Nicholas Jarecki for Arbitrage

9. Ava DuVernay for Middle of Nowhere

10. Matt Damon and John Krasinski for Promised Land

11. Martin McDonagh for Seven Psychopaths

12. Derek Connolly for Safety Not Guaranteed

Best Adapted Screenplay

Tony Kushner wins for Lincoln, I expect. I’ve been saying that for weeks, but maybe I’ve been underestimating Chris Terrio, whose film might go all the way on Oscar night.

To focus on something a little more interesting, this race often gives way for one obscure film – or at least one that isn’t a typical contender – to call itself an Oscar nominee, and many think Stephen Chbosky will get that citation for The Perks of Being a Wallflower. However, I think there’s enough support for the expected nominees that the writer-director misses out this year.

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. William Nicholson for Les Misérables

8. Ol Parker for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

9. Ben Lewin for The Sessions

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

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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.