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For Your Consideration: Sundance and Next Year's Oscars

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire January 30, 2013 at 1:40PM

Now that it's all over, let's take an Oscar-specific look at this year's Sundance Film Festival, which could very well work as a partial crystal ball into what will be happening in the awards race a year from now. 
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"Ain't Them Bodies Saints."
"Ain't Them Bodies Saints."
Best Actress: This category is generally very kind to Sundance lately (or maybe Sundance is just been a very welcoming place for great female performances), with six of the last 20 best-actress nominees debuting their work at the Sundance Film Festival (Quvenzhane Wallis, Gabourey Sidibe, Carey Mulligan, Michelle Williams, Annette Bening and Jennifer Lawrence). This year could definitely give us at least one Oscar nominee with Julie Delpy.  Delpy's never been nominated, but seemingly came close for "Before Sunset" 9 years ago. She's even better in "Midnight" (though I realize that's hard to believe) and unless it turns out to be a remarkable year, it seems likely to make the cut.  Though don't count out Rooney Mara joining her for her subtle, heartbreaking performance as a woman whose husband is set to prison for a crime she technically committed in David Lowery's "Ain't Them Bodies Saints."

Most Likely To Succeed: Julie Delpy, Before Midnight
Reasonable Possibilities: Rooney Mara, Ain't Them Bodies Saints
Dark Horses: Robin Weigert, Concussion; Kathryn Hahn, Afternoon Delight; Amy Seitmetz, Upstream Color

Best Supporting Actor: While Rooney Mara is excellent in "Saints" (as are Casey Affleck and Keith Carradine for that matter), the film's best shot at an acting Oscar nomination certainly has to be Ben Foster, who continues to just get better and better as an actor. He actually gave two great performances at Sundance, the other as William S. Burroughs in John Krokidas's "Kill Your Darlings." But its his work as a lonely sheriff in "Saints" is the one more likely to get Foster his first Oscar nomination after a decade of excellent work. He could be joined by Sam Rockwell if the festival's most expensive pickup -- the conventional and generally mediocre "The Way, Way Back" -- becomes as big a hit as Fox Searchlight clearly hopes it does. But here's hoping for two underdogs instead: Dane DeHaan's seductive, sinister take on Lucien Carr in "Kill Your Darlings," and Denis O'Hare's delicately hilarious turn as a born again Christian in "C.O.G."

Most Likely To Succeed: Ben Foster, Ain't Them Bodies Saints
Reasonable Possibilities: Sam Rockwell, The Way, Way Back
Dark Horses: Keith Carradine, Ain't Them Bodies Saints; Dane DeHaan, Kill Your Darlings; Denis O'Hare, C.O.G.

The Spectacular Now
Best Supporting Actress: Shailene Woodley deservedly shared Sundance's juried acting award with her "Spectacular Now" co-star Miles Teller, and perhaps has an even better shot than him at an Oscar nod for the film. A year after narrowly missing Oscar's cut for "The Descendants," Woodley gives a much more assured and mature performance in "Spectacular Now," and she would be a welcome addition to any best supporting actress race.  She could be joined by one or two women from "Fruitvale" -- Melonie Diaz and last year's winner in this category, Octavia Spencer -- both of which are excellent in the film. Hell, I'd even give decent shots to comical, scene-stealing turns from Scarlett Johannson and Allison Janney in "Don Jon's Addiction" and "The Way, Way Back," respectively. Given that this year's supporting acting race is one the weakest in years, it's nice to know next year's is already off to such a great start.

Most Likely To Succeed: Shailene Woodley, The Spectacular Now
Reasonable Possibilities: Octavia Spencer, Fruitvale; Melonie Diaz, Fruitvale
Dark Horses: Scarlett Johannson, Don Jon's Addiction; Allison Janney, The Way, Way Back; Gaby Hoffman, Crystal Fairy

Best Documentary Feature: Here's where we have some certainty. It's reasonable to feel assured that at least one of Sundance's docs will end up an Oscar nominee, if not two, three or four (this year, as noted, four made it). Though while the idea of a doc from Sundance being nominated is a very good bet, knowing which doc makes it is next to impossible. Last year one would have thought films like "The House I Live In" or "The Queen of Versailles" might have ended up nominees, but that wasn't the case. This year, there's basically a 20 film-long laundry list to choose from, though I'd give "After Tiller," "Cutie and the Boxer" and "Blood Brother" the initial edge.

Most Likely To Succeed: After Tiller; Cutie and the Boxer; Blood Brother
Reasonable Possibilities: Dirty Wars; The Summit; God Loves Uganda; Manhunt; We Steal Secrets; Blackfish; 20 Feet From Stardom; Which Way Is The Front Line From Here;
Dark Horses: The Square; Narco Cultura; Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer; American Promise; Valentine Road; When I Walk; The World According To Dick Cheney

Peter Knegt is Indiewire's Senior Editor and awards columnist. Follow him on Twitter if you want more of the same.

This article is related to: Sundance Film Festival, Fruitvale, Ain't Them Bodies Saints, Before Midnight