The State Of The Race: 2012

LemonWade’s Oscar guru Rex Okpodu has peered into his crystal ball and come up with the following analysis of just where we are with the (interminable) run-up to the Academy Awards.

Best Picture

With the recent rule change stipulating that a film must garner at least 5 percent of the membership’s support to qualify for a nomination in the top category, we could get anywhere between 5 to 10 contenders for Oscar’s top award.

Somewhere between 5 and 10 possible nominees might come from the the following contenders:

1. The Help

As of Sept 2011, it is the frontrunner based on its electrifying box office and positive reviews. Expect the inevitable “blacklash,” but, for now, The Help is on course to be the year’s best picture.

2. Midnight in Paris

This is Woody Allen’s biggest critical and commercial hit since 1994’s Bullets over Broadway and is expected to show up on several of the year end’s best-film lists, thereby propelling it to an Oscar nomination for the top award.

3. The Ides of March

The word out of the Venice Film Festival was mixed but this is pure Oscar-bait, in a political year, directed by Hollywood’s favorite liberal, George Clooney.

4. The Artist

The reception from Cannes in the spring was very positive and this silent film about Hollywood’s golden era is expected to do well with audiences and the Academy at the end of the year. Whether this propels it to become one of the chosen films for the top award is anyone’s guess.

5. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Any dramatic film centering on the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US and released during the awards season is bound to get Oscar talk. It helps that this is the 10th year anniversary of the attacks and the film is directed by an Oscar favorite, Stephen Daldry, and stars Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock. Downside: Long, hard-to-remember titles rarely win Best Picture Oscars.

6. War Horse

Set during the first big war of the 20th century (WW1), this is Steven Spielberg’s Oscar- friendly offering for 2011 . However in recent years, a preordained front runner status based on high expectations and conjecture have been known to fall flat so it remains to be seen if this will live up to the expectations.

7. J. Edgar

It is never safe to be against the annual film offering from Clint Eastwood. This being a biopic starring Leonardo DiCaprio based on the controversial FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover, it should do well with Academy members — if it’s any good.

8. The Descendants

A rave out of Telluride, this contemporary offering from another frequent Oscar contender, director Alexander Payne, and starring George Clooney, might make this a possibility for a mention on nomination morning.

11. Moneyball

There is usually a sports film that makes buckets loads of money in the fall and this year’s is Moneyball. Added to that are the great reviews from Toronto which might make this Brad Pitt offering a strong contender in several categories including the big one.

10. A Dangerous Method

This dramatic film based of the relationship between Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and their patient played by Kiera Knightly has stellar reviews out of Venice but the Academy has never been known to embrace a Cronenberg film in the past. So fingers are crossed: this needs a major push from the studio, critics and guilds in the lead-up to the Oscar nominations in January.

11. Tree of Life

Well received at Cannes, Terence Mallick’s long awaited film starring Sean Penn, Brad Pitt and this year’s ‘it girl’, Jessica Chastain, did not do well with the public. On the other hand, Mallick’s film A Thin Red Line received the same response but still contended for seven Oscars including Best Picture as well as bids for both helming and scripting.

Best Director

The fact that 5 directors are nominated out of more than 5 best picture contenders means that those nominees automatically elevate their films into top positions on the best picture list, leaving the rest in the second tier.

5 of these 7 directors look like strong possibilities:

George Clooney (The Ides of March)

George is officially the modern day Warren Beatty (multi oscar nominee in various categories for the same year). Beatty did it twice (Heaven Can Wait -1978 and Reds -1981). This year might see Clooney nominated for producing a best picture nominee, for directing, for supporting actor and even for best actor (albeit for another film, The Descendants). If this happens, he will be repeating his record achieved for producing, directing and co-writing 2005’s Good Night And Good Luck. In that year, he won the supporting acting category for another film, Syriana.

Steven Spielberg (War Horse)

Spielberg has 2 oscars for directing and might nominated and possibly win his 3rd for directing the strong contender, War Horse even if the film does not end up winning best picture.

Clint Eastwood (J. Edgar)

Like Spielberg, Eastwood has also won 2 oscars in directing. Can he make 3 before Spielberg?

Stephen Daldry (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)

Since 2000, Daldry has been nominated for all 3 films he directed. For Billy Elliot (2000), The Hours (2003) and The Reader (2008), and he is on record for directing 2 best actress winners from his last 2 films, Nicole Kidman and Kate Winslet respectively.

Tate Taylor (The Help)

Although most Oscar bloggers do not agree, The Help is, at the moment, the strongest contender for best picture and it would make sense for its director to at least make it on this list.

Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)

See Best Picture above

Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)

Frequently on Oscar’s directing list is a maverick director nominated for the sheer audacity of his vision. Hazanavicius could be said to have directed the most innovative of the best picture contenders this year (a silent film).

Best Actor

5 of these 7 actor will hear their names called out on January 24.

George Clooney,The Descendants

See Best Director category above

Jean Dujardin, The Artist

Best actor winner from Cannes. At 39, he is young to win this category but is sure to charm the Academy who have never shied away from giving a young foreigner, best actor but rarely give this to a young American.

Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Edgar

This will be Leo’s 4th nomination (former nominee for supporting actor in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), and lead actor for The Aviator (2004) and Blood Diamond (2006).

Ryan Gosling, The Ides of March or Drive

A previous nominee for Half Nelson (2006), Gosling is having a stellar year having appeared in Crazy Stupid Love as a big money maker, then the Clooney political thriller, The Ides of March, and finally, his daydreaming, romantic lead in Drive.

Michael Fassbender, A Dangerous Method or Shame

Like Gosling (above), Fassbender is having a remarkable year topped by another stellar performances in Shame (for which he recently won best actor at Venice) and this film.

Brad Pitt, Moneyball

A two time previous nominee ( for supporting actor in 12 Monkeys (1995) and lead actor for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button in 2008), Pitt is getting the best reviews of his career as the star of this sports related film.

Gary Oldman, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Oldman has given great performances over the years but has never got the attention of Oscar. It is expected that this performance made famous by the late Alec Guinness on television in 1979 will change all that and give Oldman the first Oscar nomination of his career.

Best Actress

5 actresses will emerge from this list:

Viola Davis,The Help

A frequent star of the New York stage, Davis was a previous nominee her supporting turn opposite Meryl Streep (see below) in Doubt (2008) and is potentially Streep’s strongest competition in the lead category. There has however been some discussion that her performance, though the center focus of the film, is actually a supporting role and should be campaigned for thereto. Either in support or lead, Davis will be a formidable contender for a win on Oscar night.

Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady

If nominated (and this is almost definite), this will be Streep’s 17th nomination and will mark 30 years since her last win for the lead in Sophie’s Choice (1982). She still has a way to go before beating the record of oscar’s all time champ, 4-time winner, Katherine Hepburn, who received Best Actress nominations 48 years apart. Her frequent nominations have overshadowed the fact that (as she has said) Streep is also Oscar biggest loser. Playing the iconic role as the only British woman Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher is definitely the kind of role Oscar likes to reward but the competition from Davis (above), Close, and Williams (below) will be formidable as they have never won Oscar.

Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs

That Close (a five-time previous nominee) has no Oscar after a career on screen covering 30 years is one of the most talked about Oscar slights of the modern era. Albert Nobbs is a decade long labor of love in which she not only stars, but produces and co – writes. Despite the lukewarm critical reception so far, it is the kind of effort the Academy likes to reward.

Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn

Playing the world renowned Hollywood icon Marilyn Munroe cannot hurt Williams’ chances. Michelle (a nominee last year for lead actress for the critically acclaimed Blue Valentine), is slowly building a formidable resume of roles. That plus an incredible life story as the former girlfriend and mother to the late Heath Ledger’s daughter.

Michelle Yeoh, The Lady

Another performance of an iconic political figure getting awards attention, thisis the story of Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi who spent more than a decade under house arrest.

Rooney Mara – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Mara stars as Lisbeth Salander in the upcoming english-language thriller based on the Swedish novel of the same name by Stieg Larsson. This film is directed by last year’s oscar nominee for director and best picture frontrunner, David Fincher (The Social Network).

Best Supporting Actor

The supporting acting categories are notoriously difficult to predict this early in the season but for now it’s safe to say that 5 actors will be nominated from the following list:

Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn

Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Ides of March

George Clooney, Ides of March

Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris

David Thewlis, The Lady

Nick Nolte, Warrior

Best Supporting Actress

This category is as difficult to predict as far in advance as Supporting Actor.

Octavia Spencer, The Help

Vanessa Redgrave, Coriolanus

Janet Mcteer, Albert Nobbs

Shaileen Woodley, The Descendants

Sandra Bullock, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

The Screenplays

5 possibilities will be picked from each of the following lists of screenplays:

Original Screenplays

Tree of Life

The Artist

J. Edgar

Midnight in Paris

Win Win

The Young Adult

Adapted Screenplays

The Help

The Descendants

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

The Ides of March

War Horse

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

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