This focus of this particular column is not a preview of what's to come, but what we already know from the year's first six months whether via festival screenings or theatrical releases. Last year at this time, we called all of the following:
So we were wrong about Redgrave. But who wasn't? Most folks were predicting her to at least be nominated all the way through December. Her work in Ralph Fiennes' "Corionalus" -- which debuted at the 2011 Berlinale -- puts eventual winner Octavia Spencer's performance in "The Help" to shame. But in all likelihood, too few people ended up seeing "Corionalus" and she managed to lose out to the (deserved) likes of "Bridesmaids" actress Melissa McCarthy, a film we'd also seen by this time last year. McCarthy was noted as a "decent shot" in the best supporting actress category in last year's column, and at the time even that felt ambitious. But let that be a lesson that critically acclaimed summer box office hits should never be counted out (it seems to me another M.McM -- Matthew McConaughey -- could end up this year's Melissa McCarthy for his fantastic work in "Magic Mike").
So with last year's prognosticatory shortcomings in mind, let's turn the conversation to 2012, a year that so far genuinely makes the first half of 2011 look like an Oscar goldmine. Cannes and Sundance -- which often offer quite a few Oscar-nominated films (though last year's Cannes batch was unrivaled in how many Oscar noms they churned out), both appeared to be considerably not-so-Oscar-friendly this year. Though -- as last year made clear -- films can unexpectedly recieve boosts later in the year.
As far as the best picture category goes, each festival offered two genuine possibilities: "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and "The Sessions" (formerly known as "The Surrogate") from Sundance, and "Moonrise Kingdom" and "Amour" from Cannes. Michael Haneke's "Amour" is by far the longest shot of the four, and the idea of two Palme d'Or winners getting noms back-to-back is unprecendented. But people adore "Amour," and its definitely a strong possibility for a few other categories (screenplay, foreign language film and perhaps a lone director slot).