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by Peter Knegt
November 7, 2011 4:09 PM
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For Your Consideration: The 2012 Oscar Predictions, As of November

"The Artist" The Weinstein Company.

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.

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28 Comments

  • manu | December 27, 2011 7:06 AMReply

    recently i had a chance to view this lovely film Hitler,s Grave which seems to now getting recognition from serious side of the industry to get what i thought it should get which are the oscars in the following categories , and i do hope it gets them all,
    BEST FILM HITLER,S GRAVE
    BEST ORIGINAL SCRIPT for HITLER,S GRAVE
    BEST DIRECTING for Daryush Shokof in HITLER,S GRAVE

  • isk | December 24, 2011 5:09 PMReply

    I just watched The Help and believe that Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, AND Jessica Chastain should all get Oscar nominations. I don't know why people are leaving Jessica out, she did an amazing job here.

  • france | December 23, 2011 7:27 AMReply

    the story gets an Oscar from me as the bravest original script ever written and produced for siverscreen
    Best Directing for daryush Shokof who has repeatedly shown he belongs to a league of his own
    Best Film for it can not be done more simple, down onto the point, more effective, and away from all clkiches we have all seen for over 100 years
    by the way the actress Taies Farzan deserves a nomination the least , and if not even winning it
    this movie should be studied in and at all screening possibilities throughout the globe, and hats off to Mister Shokof for all his services to mankind for all these years.
    mostt probably the most underestimated grand artist of our times

  • Tanner | December 13, 2011 1:42 AMReply

    J Edgar boasts some good acting but thats about all its got going for it. I don't think Leonardo will win but he might get a nomination. I think fassbender deserves to win best actor. He was incredible in shame and very good in x men and a dangerous method. Also left off the list that should at least be looked at is Kirsten Dunst in melancholia and both Tom Hardy and Nick Nolte in Warrior.

  • Devin | December 12, 2011 8:26 PMReply

    Drive deserves a best picture nom (and win in my opinion). It also deserves a director nom and best supporting actor WIN

  • Matthew | December 11, 2011 4:52 PMReply

    I'd love to see Merly take it this year. The trailer makes her performance look utterly mesmerizing.

  • Matthew | December 11, 2011 4:54 PM

    *Meryl, not Merly...Sorry.

  • Damien | December 2, 2011 10:01 PMReply

    The academy LOVES an underdog, so I expect to see Shailene Woodley nominated.

  • MUdem79 | December 1, 2011 12:53 PMReply

    Seriously? No nods for "Melancholia"? Best Actress: Kirsten Dunst?

  • janine | November 28, 2011 7:05 AMReply

    there are my simply the Best for 2012 for a miraclous movie "Hitler's Grave" by Daryush Shokof;
    Best Film
    Best Directing by Shokof
    Best original script by Shokof
    best actress Taies Farzan
    this movie is a must see for many years to come.

  • graham | November 21, 2011 11:48 AMReply

    here is the most amazing surprise of the year for the Oscars 2012;
    Best film Hitler's Grave by Daryush shokof
    Best Original script for Hitler's Grave by Daryush Shokof
    Best Directing by Daryush Shokof for Hitler's Grave
    you need to watch this wonderfully executed and masterly told story of fierce originality to agree why this modest film has the greatest heart i have seen around in any movies in years.
    a classic

  • Darin Shea | November 21, 2011 2:56 AMReply

    The one film that seems to be missing from this discussion is"The First Grader".

  • Kamil | November 18, 2011 4:05 PMReply

    There seems to be plenty of buzz for Kirsten Dunst, actually. Buzz enough for frontrunner-status except forecasts like yours seem to conveniently forget that.

  • Ellis J. Wells | November 17, 2011 5:29 AMReply

    Good list, very interesting to read and very exciting to hear about all the upcoming films (though I think Joseph Gordon-Levitt in "50/50" and Kirsten Dunst for "Melancholia" might prove far stronger competition than you give them credit for). I will say (and I've seen many "oscar prediction" blogs miss this one) "CARNAGE". It's directed by Roman Polanski, starring Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christopher Waltz and John C. Reiley. It's adapted (seemingly 99% word for word) from the Tony and Olivier award winning playing "God of Carnage" by French play-wright Yazmina Reza. I believe all four actors at the Tonys AND the Oliviers were nominated, and both times winning Best Actress. It might not be a Best Picture contender... but based on it's track history for giving actors ample opportunity to shine... I'd be SHOCKED if it didn't get a single acting nomination (frankly, I'd be a little surprised if all four weren't nominated... again, based on it's history at award ceremonies).

  • Nathan | November 12, 2011 5:08 PMReply

    What about Melancholia? Kirsten Dunst needs a long-deserved nomination (or, win). And The Help does not need every Oscar. It was a lovely film, yes, but not every Oscar. Also, am I the only one who hopes Jessica Chastain pulls a fast one and wins? She is such a beautiful redhead.

  • SusieG | November 13, 2011 11:37 AM

    I agree Kirsten Dunst should definitely be nominated and win. She was so subtely amazing in Melancholia, but I don't know if the film (thanks Lars von trier!!) will nab anything else - maybe cinematography? It was so beautiful... And I do hope The Help doesn't win Best Picture. I'm agreeing so far with this list from this movie blog apart from the fact that Melancholia almost didn't get anything else - http://popmongoose.blogspot.com/2011/11/oscars-2012-predictions.html.

  • Brian | November 12, 2011 2:27 AMReply

    Drive is way under-represented here. While unfortunately it probably won't get a best pic nom, it's positive critical reviews are noticeably higher ( 92% on rotten tomatoes) than the films listed. But what's really incomprehensible here is the omission of Nicolas Winding Refn's phenomenal direction. Terrence Mallick's on the list, yet Refn beat out Mallick for best director at Cannes, with Drive receiving a 15 minute standing ovation, and narrowly losing best pic to Mallick's Tree of Life. I've seen Drive 4 times. No desire to see Tree of life again.

  • Nick | November 12, 2011 10:20 AM

    While I personally enjoyed Drive immensely more than The Tree of Life, I too have Malick ahead of Refn on my Oscar list. This is because Malick has a lot more support within the Academy than Refn, whose film is most likely too action-heavy for their taste. However I agree that Refn's directing win at Cannes over Malick was warranted and Refn is perhaps one of, if not the best director going these days.

  • Jack | November 12, 2011 1:59 AMReply

    The top five predictions (minus Buck & Hell and Back Again) is more obvious big names rather than best, Oscar worthy films this year. There are so many docs that deserve to be up there as is such a strong year. PROJECT NIM: fantastic director but not his best work and flopped at box office despite huge campaign, THE INTERRUPTERS: way to long and not a patch on Hoop Dreams, SENNA: Huge campaing by Universal/Working title, but far to gushing over Senna as a man and sets Prost up as a cartoon character. Shame as the backing needed from Senna family has meant film is so onesided and does not search for anything new. Not a patch on Ocar worthy sport docs such as When We Were Kings or Hoop Dreams. Expect some new titles to creep into the list as the date gets closer.

  • GT | November 11, 2011 9:40 AMReply

    Do u still think DiCaprio will win best actor after the lukewarm reviews for J. Edgar had alot of buzz but didnt live up to it i dont even think he will be nominated id think its more Oldman, Dujardin, Fassbender, Clooney and the 5th im not sure, Pitt may get nominated for tree of life therefore Moneyball wont be nominated that being said i dont want Gosling to be nominated this year it would seem like a token prize if he was for Ides of March or Drive, Drive was good great directing though rather than acting and his acting in Blue Valentine was 10 times better than any of those and he was snubbed. Anyways ive heard no hype for Warrior i saw that and it was so good Nick Nolte has to be nominated for supporting actor but the picture and the directing was awesome ending was so sweet i hope it gets some nominations

  • Nick | November 12, 2011 10:21 AM

    Brad Pitt's performance in The Tree of Life is being pushed in the supporting category, not lead.

  • Austin | November 11, 2011 2:19 AMReply

    I don't think 50/50 should be forgotten. It has won the hearts of both fans and critics alike with a RT score of 93% with The Artist only one percent higher. I personally loved the film, I expected it to be a very sad movie around the end but it turned out to be more uplifting then sad.

    I also think the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 should also be considered for a few awards, maybe not best picture (only because it does not fit The Academy's "Best Picture Mold" I thought it may have been one of the best movies of the year if not the best) but best supporting actor absolutely. Alan Rickman has never won an Oscar and I don't believe he has ever even been nominated. With the powerful performance he gave I don't think The Academy will be able to overlook him any longer.

    And last but not least in the Best Actor category I think the amazing performance given by Andy Serkis in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. He was able to express fantastic emotion with just body language alone and this should be recognized. I feel like The Academy is trying to catch up to new technologies in film making and if he is awarded the prize this would prove that the academy is not behind the times.

  • Kamil | November 10, 2011 4:25 PMReply

    It's ridiculous that such an otherwise-apt forecast is missing out Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia as a major contender in the Best Actress race! Critics are almost unequivocal in their praise, and yet she's not even being considered on your list. Perhaps she has the buzz that Elizabeth Olsen and Felicity Jones are lacking.

  • Nick | November 12, 2011 10:23 AM

    While Dunst's performance may be amazing, she has very little buzz left at this point and the whole controversy with Von Treir won't help her either.

  • F.P. | November 8, 2011 9:10 AMReply

    Snazzy new site.

    Peter, I'm really surprised you're not picking up on the 'Tree of Life' buzz more. For all the ways that this fall is chock full of award-contenders, they'll only just contend. There has been little to no true Oscar greatness released so far and the trailers for all else (except 'Artist' and Daldry's film) doesn't inspire the imagination much. One could argue for 'Tinker, Tailor' but it was a TV show so it won't be winning.

    'Tree of Life' is pretty much on an island all its own this year - the rare film in which everyone has a relationship with it after it's been seen. There's the honoring Malick factor and on top of that, Pitt's and Chastain's performances become better and better as the year progresses - expect noms for both for this one, not Moneyball or whatever else in her long list of possibilities.

    You're also missing out on some major 'Harry Potter 7 Pt. 2' action. It's a Hollywood award, and given that the final HP film is the best reviewed of the canon, it's a candidate for a major push for the 7th-9th slots.

    Aside from 'The Artist' and 'Descendants' and 'The Help' scoring a bunch of noms (and no wins), Allen winning Orig. Screenplay for 'Midnight in Paris,' Plummer winning for 'Beginners,' you can lose any film or performance on your lists that isn't deathly serious. It's gonna be a dire year for the subject matter this year - which is why Malick and his film will carry the day. 'Young Adult' could upset the apple cart if it can top 'Juno' (unlikely) or if the Academy follows the fans (25 weeks!) in lauding 'Midnight in Paris.'

    Spencer is only the front runner for Supp Actress now, but Redgrave could eke out most of the critics' nods if 'Coriolanus' isn't just a crazy mashup and she could coast from there. I'm not sure if other Academy members regard the Oscars for Jennifer Hudson or Mo'Nique as great choices now, considering the body of work of both, post-award (which is why Carey Mulligan is probably a lock for 'Shame' - she's consistently award-worthy over the past few years). That's what likely hurt Gabourey for 'Precious' - yet she's turned out to be quite talented. Spencer's funny in everything she's in, but is she likely to repeat the red carpet year-after-year? In a perfect world, Davis wins for 'The Help' but the Academy is gonna go biopic here, Monroe probably (Hollywood!) over Thatcher.

    Not one review of 'J. Edgar' finds DiCaprio doing a standout job - why is it that pundits love to throw him in the mix every year? Does it guarantee more page views? He won't even be nominated and you should also let go of Gosling - he's had an excellent year but if anyone gets nominated for 'Ides,' it's Hoffman.

    You can pretty much take 'MMMM,' 'Like Crazy,' and 'Take Shelter' off the boards, they're over, and 'Hugo,' 'Carnage,' and 'Dragon Tattoo' aren't going to deliver the caliber of performances or sum-of-all-parts quality to merit front page awards or noms. 'War Horse' is looking less likely as a real contender except in tech (where 'HP7' will win a few), and 'Tintin' will likely score the Animated Oscar and the Academy will call it a day for Spielberg and motion-capture.

  • Caroline | November 7, 2011 11:54 PMReply

    I can't wait to see Leonardo in J. Edgar

  • Ronnie d. | November 7, 2011 10:24 PMReply

    Wow, what a terrible year for movies. In a perfect world Shame would win in pretty much every major category.

  • C.Aponte | November 19, 2011 8:40 PM

    Agree,remember this is Hollywood, conservative. The forward, cutting edge and controversial don't win Oscars. It has to resonate with the mass. I would love Fassbender to take the award but he will receive plenty of accolades someplace else.