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by Peter Knegt
November 6, 2012 1:23 PM
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For Your Consideration: An Early November Take On The Major Oscar Races

All the major fall festivals have come and -- save AFI FEST, which is still ongoing -- gone, and the Oscar prognostication has come out in full force. And while there's still just over two months until the nominations are announced, it's finally fair game. Yes, there's a few major films that could still shake things up significantly (as discussed in last week's column), the vast majority of the films that will be nominated have been seen by many, either at festivals or in theatrical release. And it's quite likely we've already seen our best picture winner, too. The last time a film won best picture that hadn't had its world premiere somewhere by the end of October was way back in 2004 with "Million Dollar Baby."

So let's take a look at some of Oscar's major races and see where things stand before the onslaught of precursor awards begin (in a few weeks time there will be announcements basically every day for an entire month). And for full updated charts of all our Oscar predictions, click here.

Ben Affleck's 'Argo'
Best Picture:
If it is indeed true that we've already seen the film that will win the best picture, it's likely to be among these four: Ang Lee's "Life of Pi," Ben Affleck's "Argo," David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook" and Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln." Each have been met with pretty overwhelming critical responses from their festival debuts (even if it was just a "work-in-progress" screening at NYFF for "Lincoln"), and in the case of "Argo" (the only film to be released in theaters among them), strong box office returns. Unless December's big five question marks -- "Les Miserables," "Django Unchained," "Promised Land," "Zero Dark Thirty" and "The Hobbit: A Unexpected Journey" -- each hit it out of the park, it seems likely we have four of our eventual best picture nominees here.

Beyond that, it's incredibly murky. Of the question marks, "Les Miserables" seems like the one most poised to make the cut, but that is speaking from nothing but speculation. And it seems silly to count out the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Kathryn Bigelow, Gus Van Sant and Peter Jackson, but it's also clear that all four of them have hit with Oscar as much as they've missed (or less).

So until we see those films (which in terms of press screenings, could be before November's over), this category seems like the least clear of them all, especially because of those wacky new rules being carried over from last year. Depending on how many #1 votes each film receives on voters' ballots, anywhere from 5 to 10 nominees could wind up in the category, making it very difficult to predict. Currently, our totally uneducated guess is that it's going to be 7 (but last year it was 9).

This system leaves the door open for three films that are sure to be among the year's favorites with critics and cinephiles: Benh Zeitlin's "Beasts of the Southern Wild," Michael Haneke's "Amour," and Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master." Collectively the crown jewels of this year's Sundance, Cannes and Venice Film Festivals, it's hard to imagine critics' groups awards not giving them each considerable accolades. And they might attract the same kind of voter that helped "The Tree of Life" sneak in last year. But can all three make the cut? The #1 vote system could help them all, but it's already so crowded and who knows what the Tarantinos and Bigelows have up their sleeve...

Predicted Nominees (in alphabetical order):

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook

If There's More (in order of likelihood):
The Master
Zero Dark Thirty
Django Unchained

Totally Unwarranted Winner Prediction: Argo

Best Director:
Imagine how crowded the aforementioned best picture race just sounded, and make it so there's definitely only 5 nominees. Add in the fact that the director's branch tends to reward more challenging work than the general Academy (hence recent nominations for Mike Leigh, Pedro Almodovar, Julian Schnabel, etc), and the best director's race seems incredibly crowded. It seems Michael Haneke or Benh Zeitlin or Paul Thomas Anderson would be all but set for the work they directed this year, but they're competing against the likes of Ang Lee, Steven Spielberg, David O. Russell and Ben Affleck, each with films that many are considering among their best. And then there's work from Bigelow, Tarantino, Peter Jackson, Gus Van Sant and Tom Hooper still to come. That's 12 viable contenders. Only Affleck and Spielberg seem truly safe right now, and though it seems strange given his remarkable competition, Affleck actually seems like the overall favorite. Its stellar box office combined with its accessibility makes both him and the film a potentially mighty force (even if in this opinion its far from the year's best film). But then again, it's only early November.

Predicted Nominees (in alphabetical order):
Ben Affleck, Argo
Michael Haneke, Amour

Ang Lee, Life of Pi
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln

Totally Unwarranted Winner Prediction: Ben Affleck, Argo


  • Jack | November 11, 2012 9:20 PMReply

    1. Les Miserables
    2. Argo
    3. Lincoln
    4. Silver Linings Playbook
    5. Life of Pi
    6. The Master
    7. Zero Dark Thirty
    8. Beasts of the Southern Wild

    1. Ben Affleck
    2. Tom Hooper
    3. Steven Spielberg
    4. Ang Lee
    5. Paul Thomas Anderson

    1. Daniel Day Lewis
    2. Joaquin Phoenix
    3. Denzel Washington
    4. John Hawkes
    5. Hugh Jackman

    1. Jennifer Lawrence
    2. Quvenzhane Wallis
    3. Marion Cotillard
    4. Emmanuelle Riva
    5. Helen Mirren

    1. Philip Seymour Hoffman
    2. Tommy Lee Jones
    3. Leonardo DiCaprio
    4. Robert DeNiro
    5. Alan Arkin

    1. Anne Hathaway
    2. Helen Hunt
    3. Sally Field
    4. Amy Adams
    5. Maggie Smith

  • Harris | November 6, 2012 6:48 PMReply

    As someone who saw Amour at NYFF and loved it, I really can't see it in any respect being nominated for best picture. It's almost impossible for a foreign film to be nominated for an Best Picture; when was the last time it happened?

  • clark | November 6, 2012 6:29 PMReply

    Well, I might be the only one here, but don't you guys think The Hobbit can get some acting nods ? I know Sir Ian McKellen was nominated for this role once, but judging from the released material Martin Freeman looks pretty good as Bilbo Baggins

  • Ray | November 6, 2012 5:28 PMReply

    Your comment in Best Actress category about Emmanuelle Riva and Marion Cotillard being the first time two actresses nominated for foreign language films in the same year is incorrect; Jon is correct - but before the two he cited there was

    1966 - Anouk Aimee for A Man and a Woman (and) Ida Kaminska for The Shop on Main Street

    I guess I'm a little older.

  • felipe | November 6, 2012 3:48 PMReply

    Marion deserves the Oscar

  • Jon | November 6, 2012 3:26 PMReply

    There actually have been two foreign language actress performances nominated in the same year ... Marie Christine Barrault for Cousin Cousine and Liv Ullmann for Face to Face in 1977

  • Mark | November 6, 2012 2:44 PMReply

    What's your obsession with Affleck? He's the Peyton Manning and Tim Tebow of the film world. He gets praise for just showing up. The Master and Lincoln are better films hands down. Does Box Office really matter?

  • StevenBall | November 6, 2012 4:11 PM

    Affleck does have a track record. His last movie he directed The Town was pretty good - at least as good as The Fighter which got a lot more award recognition.