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For Your Consideration: The 2012 Oscar Predictions, As of November

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire November 7, 2011 at 4:9PM

For Your Consideration: The 2012 Oscar Predictions, As of November
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The Weinstein Company. "The Artist"

It's been five weeks since this column last took a detailed look at what might materialize in this year’s Oscar race. And, let’s be honest—not a whole lot has changed. In fact, it seems that this year’s race will remain murky late into the year.

There’s still so many question marks remaining in films like Stephen Daldry’s “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” David Fincher’s “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” Cameron Crowe’s “We Bought a Zoo,” and Phyllida Lloyd’s “The Iron Lady” (which is now pushed to the end of December).  Each seems to have some potential, but no one knows for sure. That said, there have been some developments in which some folks doknow for sure. A few folks have actually seen Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse” at pop-up screenings across the country, though few credible reactions have made the rounds. Buzz has mostly been built off tweets that range from calling it a “masterpiece” to “shamless Oscar-bait.” More credible reactions have come regarding Jason Reitman’s “Young Adult,” Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” and Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar” and all of them look to be fixtures in at least a couple categories.

Still, compared to last year, it’s a very tough race to call. Increasingly, Michel Hazanavicius’s “The Artist” looks like the film to beat overall…. but that all depends on what happens with those question marks. OK by us; it just makes this race all the more fun. We should probably enjoy the mystery while it lasts. Come a few weeks from now, a consistent storm of critics awards, guild award nominations and those ever-telling Golden Globe nods will probably make things close to crystal clear.

Until then, it’s probably fair to wager that the following actors and actresses can plan on needing a date come February 26: George Clooney, Michelle Williams, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Vanessa Redgrave, Christopher Plummer, Jean Dujardin, Leonardo diCaprio and Kenneth Branagh. That still leaves 11 slots open to some guesswork.

Supporting categories in particular don’t feel fully formed at all. Aside from Plummer (“Beginners”), Branagh (“My Week With Marilyn”), Spencer (“The Help”) and Redgrave (“Coriolanus”), it’s anyone’s game. And while the lead acting races seem to be narrowed considerably to six or seven possibilities each, the race for the win could be juicy: Clooney vs. diCaprio vs. Jean “Who?” Dujardin, and Streep vs. Davis vs. Williams.

Here’s a category-by-category run down of some of the major categories, for what it’s worth. Check out a full list of predictions on indieWIRE’s regularly updated predictions chart.

Best Picture
In this new era of five to 10 nominees, predicting this category is officially next-to-impossible no matter how many films we’ve seen. But, as noted, there are definitely two locks: “The Artist” and “The Descendants,” though the latter seems to have little actual potential to win. The former, however, could do just that if films like “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” and “War Horse”  fail to ignite. A smart bet at this point is probably all four of those films as nominees, but what joins them will be the real fun. 

“J. Edgar” and “Young Adult” both seem like they won’t quite have enough support to break through (though acting categories are another story). “The Help” is definitely this year’s populist option and a lot more voters could end up giving the film top placement on their ballots than you might think. “Moneyball,” “Midnight in Paris,” “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” “The Tree of Life” and “Hugo” all have passionate fans as well; all seem to be waiting in the wings, hoping that the rest of the year’s slate to fall short.  Speaking of, we have no idea if films like “Dragon Tattoo,” “We Bought a Zoo” have what it takes to factor into this category. Or Angelina Jolie’s little-discussed “In The Land of Blood and Honey,” for that matter.

Overall, though, the most fun will be seeing how many of them do just that, as we won’t know until nomination morning how many nominees there actually will be (IW is currently betting on seven).

The Predicted 7:
The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Help
Midnight in Paris
Moneyball
War Horse

Potential Spoilers (in order of likelihood of doing so):
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
The Tree of Life
We Bought a Zoo
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Hugo
The Ides of March
Young Adult
J. Edgar
In The Land of Blood and Honey

The Winner?
The Artist


Best Director
Remember the days when there would be “lone best director nominees”? When David Lynch or Julian Schnabel or Mike Leigh would sneak in even though their films weren’t nominated for best picture? In the two years since the Academy expanded its best-picture nominees to 10, it seemed like that would be a thing of the past. But with the fluctuating best-picture nod count, there’s potential for that to happen again this year, and there seems like no greater opportunity than with Terrence Malick. Perhaps “The Tree of Life” can end up making it on both lists (despite being divisive, its supporters are very passionate), but it seems like it stands a much better chance with the director’s branch than the general voting membership that nominates best picture. 

Beyond Malick, there’s Payne and Hazanavicius as best bets from what we’ve seen, and Spielberg and Daldry as the most likely from what we haven’t. But like the best picture race, everything is far from set in stone. Underestimating the likes of David Fincher might prove foolish, as could underestimating voters’ love for “Midnight in Paris.”

The Predicted Nominees:
Stephen Daldry, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Steven Spielberg, War Horse

Potential Spoilers:
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Bennett Miller, Moneyball
Tomas Alfredson, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Martin Scorsese, Hugo
David Fincher, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

The Winner?
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist


Best Actor
It’s already been an astounding year for lead male performances (with diCaprio seemingly proving no exception in “J. Edgar”) and here lies what could very well be the most interesting acting race of the year. It’s also the clearest. There’s three giant movie stars, one quickly rising star, one veteran who’s been continuously ignored by the Academy and one relatively unknown French actor starring in a silent film. That’s six men for five slots, and it seems like it’s going to be pretty tough to take any of them down. The safe money would probably be on a George Clooney/Leonardo diCaprio/Jean Dujardin/Gary Oldman/Brad Pitt lineup, but something tells me that “Shame” star Michael Fassbender is going to have a lot of passionate fans of that performance. Unfortunately, that could spell yet another snub for Gary Oldman, though Pitt is vulnerable as well.

The Predicted Nominees:
George Clooney, The Descendants
Leonardo diCaprio, J. Edgar
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Michael Fassbender, Shame
Brad Pitt, Moneyball

The Spoilers:
Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Woody Harrelson, Rampart
Matt Damon, We Bought a Zoo
Ryan Gosling, The Ides of March
Michael Shannon, Take Shelter

The Winner?
Leonardo diCaprio, J. Edgar


Best Actress
Viola Davis and Michelle Williams are very much locked in this category and overall it’s become a tough race to break into if you’re not one of the assumed top six or seven. Looking like reasonable bets are Glenn Close and Charlize Theron (though they’re definitely not certainties). And then of course there’s Meryl Streep. While it’s difficult to imagine Streep not getting a nomination for “The Iron Lady,” no one’s seen it and La Streep is not as failsafe as some of us might like to believe (remember “Lions For Lambs”? “Rendition”? “Evening”?).  But say it isStreep, William and Davis for sure.

Who joins them if not Close and Theron (who will both likely have their detractors)? Sundance darlings Elizabeth Olsen and Felicity Jones just don’t seem to have the same buzz Jennifer Lawrence had last year. And unlike most other categories, there’s really not too much left: Besides Streep, “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” star Rooney Mara is the only question mark remaining. It could go any way, of course, but that seems to potentially leave room for a surprise contender. Tilda Swinton or Olivia Colman fit that bill, given their passionate supporters.

The Predicted Nominees:
Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis, The Help
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Charlize Theron, Young Adult
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn

Spoilers:
Tilda Swinton, We Need To Talk About Kevin
Rooney Mara, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Olivia Colman, Tyrannosaur
Felcity Jones, Like Crazy

The Winner?
Viola Davis, The Help

Best Supporting Actor
This is the one race that truly seemed all locked up. Ever since last year‘s Toronto Film Festival, Christopher Plummer’s performance in “Beginners” seemed like the closest thing this year had to a Mo’Nique or a Christian Bale: The winner whose statue should already be engraved. But then all this buzz started arriving regarding Max Von Sydow’s work in “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” At 81 and 82, Plummer and Von Sydow could very well bet set to go head to head in the battle of the Oscarless Octogenarians. Each is considered a legend and each has only one previous nomination—and no win.

Their competition offers a slew of other winless veterans, from Albert Brooks to Viggo Mortensen, Kenneth Branagh to Nick Nolte. The race could very well end up entirely made up of a 50+ crowd, though if any youngsters going to break into that midst, Armie Hammer of “J. Edgar” got pretty good notices, as did Patton Oswalt of “Young Adult” (who, yes, is 42 but when the average age of the front runners is 81.5…).

The Predicted 5:
Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Albert Brooks, Drive
Patton Oswalt, Young Adult
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Max Von Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Spoilers:
Armie Hammer, J. Edgar
Jim Broadbent, The Iron Lady
Viggo Mortensen, A Dangerous Method
Brad Pitt, The Tree of Life
Nick Nolte, Warrior

The Winner?
Christopher Plummer, Beginners


Best Supporting Actress:
In what looks like the weakest of all the acting races, the best supporting actress category is also probably the one that leaves us with the most questions:  How many women from “The Help” can get nominated? Can Sandra Bullock pull off a post-“Blind Side” nomination?  Is the buzz surrounding Melissa McCarthy actually warranted? We know none of these answers and won’t until January. Right now, Vanessa Redrave and Octavia Spencer seems like the only sure bets, but there’s a few major performances we’ve yet to see. So take the below predictions with perhaps the largest of the grains of salt.

The Predicted 5:
Sandra Bullock, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Berenice Bejo, The Artist
Vanessa Redgrave, Coriolanus
Octavia Spencer, The Help
Shailene Woodley, The Descendants

Spoilers:
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Carey Mulligan, Shame
Jodie Foster, Carnage
Jessica Chastain, The Tree of Life
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids

The Winner?
Octavia Spencer, The Help

Click here for predictions in all the remaining categories.

Peter Knegt is indieWIRE’s Associate Editor. Follow him on Twitter  and on his blog. And get the latest on this year’s award season at indieWIRE’s awards page.

This article is related to: Academy Awards, The Artist