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For Your Consideration: An Early November Take On The Major Oscar Races

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire November 6, 2012 at 1:23PM

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."
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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):
Amour
Argo

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Lincoln
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

Best Actress:
This year's best actress race is definitely unique.  There's an 85-year old (Emmanuelle Riva for "Amour") and a 9-year old (Quvenzhane Wallis for "Beasts of the Southern Wild") both in definite contention, who together would give this category both its oldest and youngest nominees ever at the very same time. Riva could also be joined by "Rust and Bone" star Marion Cotillard, giving this race two foreign language performances in the same category -- the first time since Christine Barrault for "Cousin Cousine" and Liv Ullmann for "Face to Face "in 1977. But while until September the three of them seemed like this category's only real contenders, they have a lot of newly discovered competition: Jennifer Lawrence seems like the category's definite frontrunner for her work in David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook," earning best-in-show notices for a film that's been receiving great reviews for all its actors. And then there's Helen Mirren, who has also been getting raves for her work in "Hitchcock" after it premiered at AFI FEST last week (though the film itself is nowhere near the Oscar slamdunk "Silver Linings" seems to be). For now, we're predicting the two of them join the three aforementioned actresses, but watch out for two other late-breakers. Naomi Watts' work in Toronto premiere "The Impossible" is very impressive, and seems like the film's best bet at a major nomination. And then there's Jessica Chastain, who just recently was announced as the lead of Kathryn Bigelow's big question mark "Zero Dark Thirty." It seems either of them could easily end up replacing one or two of the predicted five, though it seems safe to say our best actress nominees will come from these seven women.

Predicted Nominees (in alphabetical order):
Marion Cotillard, Rust and Bone
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

Helen Mirren, Hitchcock
Emmanuelle Riva
, Amour
Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild 

Totally Unwarranted Winner Prediction: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

READ MORE: 2013 Oscar Predictions

Denzel Washington in "Flight"
Best Actor:
The best actor race is much more stacked than its female counterpart, many of them previous winners (and two-time winners): Denzel Washington, Daniel Day-Lewis and Anthony Hopkins all seemed poised to add another nomination to their counts with performances many are calling major career achievements in "Flight," "Lincoln" and "Hitchcock" respectively. And the one man that seemed like he could beat all three of them recently threw a wrench in his own campaign by calling the Oscars "total bullshit." And while Joaquin Phoenix's comments definitely don't help him, he's still very much in this race even if his once significant chances of winning have lessened (but he probably couldn't care less). He has a lot of competition in keeping his slot though. John Hawkes has been buzzed about as likely nominee since "The Sessions" debuted at Sundance, while Bradley Cooper got fantastic reviews for "Silver Linings Playbook" (even if they were a bit overshadowed by his aforementioned co-star). And then there's Hugh Jackman's sight unseen work in "Les Miserables." Jackman's never been nominated, and because of Phoenix's comments and the fact that giving Day-Lewis or Washington a third Oscar seems a little premature, the race is wide open for someone to sweep in and take the lead. Though that said, the last man to win in this category for a musical was Rex Harrison in "My Fair Lady."  For now, we're gonna wager giving Day-Lewis a third Oscar isn't that unreasonable given what he pulled off in "Lincoln," but it's our most unwarranted "totally unwarranted winner prediction" so far.

Predicted Nominees (in alphabetical order):
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
John Hawkes, The Sessions
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Denzel Washington, Flight

Totally Unwarranted Winner Prediction: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

Anne Hathaway in "Les Miserables"
Best Supporting Actress:
By far the weakest of all the acting races is best supporting actress (so far at least, though there's few options waiting in the wings). Three women have essentially locked up nominations: former winners Sally Field ("Lincoln") and Helen Hunt ("The Sessions") and three time nominee Amy Adams ("The Master"). But none of them feel like winners. Which leaves everyone's eyes on the woman indeed waiting in the wings: Anne Hathaway. Her role as Fantine in "Les Miserables" could easily put her into frontrunner status here, if she and the film are indeed good. But that's a big "if." Interestingly enough, if Hathaway does indeed end up leading the race, both her and best actress contender (and current frontrunner) Jennifer Lawrence will have starred in a huge $400 million+ blockbuster earlier in the year (appropriately as Catwoman "The Dark Knight Rises" and Katniss in "The Hunger Games"), and then followed them up with an Oscar bait (winning?) performance at year's end.

Predicted Nominees (in alphabetical order):
Amy Adams, The Master
Sally Field, Lincoln 
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
 Maggie Smith,  The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Totally Unwarranted Winner Prediction: Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables

READ MORE: 2013 Oscar Predictions

Best Supporting Actor:
Like supporting actress, this race seems to all be waiting for one sight unseen performance to show itself: Leonardo diCaprio's in Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained." The actor has never won, and looks like he has a very meaty role as the villian in the film (though two Tarantino villains winning in this category in just three years?). But unlike Hathaway, he has a lot more competition to deal with: Alan Arkin ("Argo"), Robert DeNiro ("Silver Linings Playbook"), Tommy Lee Jones ("Lincoln"), Phillip Seymour Hoffman ("The Master"), William H. Macy ("The Sessions"), Matthew McConaughey ("Magic Mike") and Ewan McGregor ("The Impossible") are all -- to varying degrees -- in contention this year. Of them, Hoffman is probably the safest bet for a nomination and diCaprio's biggest competition for a win, if "Django Unchained" ended up being any good. It's a much bigger question mark than "Les Miserables," which seems like a standard big Oscar-bait musical. Quentin Tarantino, clearly, is much less predictable.

Predicted Nominees (in alphabetical order):
Alan Arkin, Argo
Robert DeNiro, Silver Linings Playbook
Leonardo diCaprio, Django Unchained
Phillip Seymour Hoffman
, The Master
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln

Totally Unwarranted Winner Prediction: Leonardo diCaprio, Django Unchained


This article is related to: Academy Awards, Argo, Silver Linings Playbook, The Master, Life Of Pi, Lincoln