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by Peter Knegt
November 10, 2010 2:58 AM
22 Comments
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For Your Consideration: A Mid-November Stab at Oscar Predictions

It has been six weeks since this column last took a look at what might be materializing in this year's Oscar race, and let's be honest - not a whole lot has changed. At that point, a sextet of films that had screened to Oscar worthy acclaim in the first half of the year - "Inception," "The Kids Are All Right," "Toy Story 3," "Winter's Bone," "Another Year" and "Blue Valentine" - all seemed like reasonable bets to stick it out. Venice, Telluride and Toronto had just shown the vast majority of potential contenders, with "The King's Speech," "127 Hours" and "Rabbit Hole" leading the way. And "The Social Network" - about to debut at the New York Film Festival - already had an Oscar-buzz-o-meter that was pushing 11.

To varying degrees, all of those things remain in tact. However, that might not be the case for very long. A whole lot is about to change, with the Golden Globe nominations and a flurry of critics awards set to bombard awards season with daily doses of buzz shifts in just a few weeks.

So it seems like now is a good time to reassess where things stand before things start accelerating. Because while not a whole lot has changed, there have been little things here and there. Tom Hooper's "The King's Speech" and David Fincher's "The Social Network" remain best picture's most-likely-to-succeeds, but there is a certain something in the air that suggests that it's not necessarily going to boil down to a duel between them (as classic as the old school vs. new school, Weinstein vs. Rudin battle it would be). Then again, there's nothing that feels like a reasonable bet to beat them either. "Toy Story 3," "Inception," "The Kids Are All Right," and "127 Hours" all seem settled into berths in Oscar's top ten, though can anyone really picture any of them winning? And then there's as-yet-unseens like "The Fighter" and "True Grit," which seem promising but beg respective questions: Is another boxing movie, especially one directed by someone so disliked by a lot of Hollywood, really capable of going all the way? And can the Coen Brothers really repeat just three years after "No Country For Old Men," and with a remake no less?

These are questions with answers that will be much clearer soon enough ("The Fighter" is actually screening for press today after sneak previewing for the public at AFI last night - which resulted in some mixed-to-positive tweets, for what that's worth... and suggestively by the time one reads this there could be reviews aplenty), but any Oscar enthusiast should take pleasure in the fact that things could be heading in a contentious direction. One question that might linger all the way to the day the nominations are announced is what films take what seems like two spots that are very much up for grabs (if indeed the eight films mentioned all end up proving and/or sustaining themselves - which is unlikely given history). Right now, it really seems like five or more films could be fighting it out for those slots, with "Another Year," "Black Swan," "Rabbit Hole," "The Way Back" and "Winter's Bone" all looking like the strongest bets (four of which are still awaiting release). "The Way Back" is the most flexible of the five it seems. A lot of people really like it, it's from a beloved director that's never won, and it has a scope that seems right up Oscars' alley. But then again, it's getting a tiny qualifying release from a small distributor. It could go over in a big way, or it could not go over at all.

A scene from Peter Weir's "The Way Back."

Last year at this time, this column was predicting "Nine," "Invictus" and "The Lovely Bones" for best picture nods, and "The Blind Side" was a laughable suggestion at best. If any of the noted 2010 films fail to receive the boosts from the critics, Globes and/or Guilds they need to push forward they could be out just as easily. And there's also still room for a out-of-nowhere surprise. For example, what if James L. Brooks' "How Do You Know?" is more of a "As Good As It Gets" than a "Spanglish," despite seemingly everyone's gut feelings to contrary. Or, on the flipside, what if "True Grit" is the worst thing the Coens' have ever done, which opens up slots all over? Both unlikely, but both possible. That's the beauty of the pre-December awards season. Pretty much anything is still possible.

Across the acting categories, that statement could not be more true. Though it's probably fair to wager that the following actors and actresses can plan on needing a date come February 27th: Annette Bening, Helena Bonham Carter, Colin Firth, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Miranda Richardson, Mark Ruffalo, Geoffrey Rush, and Dianne Wiest. But that still leaves 11 slots open to some guesswork.

The supporting categories in particular really don't feel fully formed at all. Last year, we knew Christoph Waltz and Mo'Nique were very likely winners from October onwards, while this year it's hard to decide if anyone is even a likely nominee. But the fact that "True Grit" and "The Fighter" both offer a couple possibilities isn't making that easier. "Grit"'s Hailee Steinfeld and "The Fighter"'s trio of Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo could be full fledged game changers if they go over very well, filling up 4 of the 10 supporting slots. But if they don't it would open up doors for folks many might not have seen coming.

And while best actor seems rather cemented in its Firth vs. Franco showdown (the only real certainty at this point), best actress remains the most exciting and unforeseen race of the year. Every Oscar blog out there has noted time and time again that this is one of the most competitive races in many years, and for good reason. The fifteen or so women that still seem in contention could have seemed like shoo-ins for a nomination in most other years. Is anyone really safe? Is Julianne Moore really out? And what to make of as-yet-unseens like Gwenyth Paltrow and Reese Witherspoon, and latecomer Halle Berry for "Frankie & Alice" (where she plays a woman with dissociative identity disorder, no less)? All three of them best actress winners that have yet to get a second nomination.

Here's a category-by-category run down of all the major categories, for what it's worth. Though looking back at last year at this time, 16 of 20 acting nominees were called, so perhaps things are clearer than they appear.

Best Picture

Locks:
1. The King's Speech
2. The Social Network

Looking Good:
3. Toy Story 3
4. The Kids Are All Right
5. 127 Hours
6. Inception

Seem Likely, But No One's Seen Yet:
7. The Fighter
8. True Grit

Fighting For The Last Two Slots:
9. The Way Back
10.Winter's Bone

11. Another Year
12. Rabbit Hole
13. Black Swan

Dark Horses That Could Rally:
14. The Town
15. Made in Dagenham
16. Secretariat
17. Blue Valentine
18. The Ghost Writer
19. Shutter Island

Seems Unlikely, But, Uh, How Do You Know:
20. How Do You Know?

-this article continues on the next page with predictions in seven more categories-

Best Director

Locks:
1. David Fincher, The Social Network
2. Tom Hooper, The King's Speech

Looking Good:
3. Danny Boyle, 127 Hours

Quite Possible:
4. Christopher Nolan, Inception
5. Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right
6. Peter Weir, The Way Back
7. Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan

Quite Possible, But No One's Seen:
8. Joel & Ethan Coen, True Grit
9. David O. Russell, The Fighter

Dark Horses That Could Rally:
10. Ben Affleck, The Town
11. Debra Granik, Winter's Bone
12. Mike Leigh, Another Year

Best Actor

Locks:
1. Colin Firth, The King's Speech
2. James Franco, 127 Hours

Seem Likely, But No One's Seen Yet:
3. Jeff Bridges, True Grit

Fighting For The Last Two Slots:
4. Robert Duvall, Get Low
5. Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine
6. Javier Bardem, Biutiful
7. Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network

Quite Possible, But No One's Seen Yet
8. Mark Wahlberg, The Fighter

Dark Horses That Could Rally:
9. Aaron Eckhart, Rabbit Hole
10. Stephen Dorff, Somewhere
11. Paul Giamatti, Barney's Version
12. Leonardo diCaprio, Shutter Land

A scene from John Cameron Mitchell's "Rabbit Hole."

Best Actress

Locks:
1. Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right

Looking Good:
2. Natalie Portman, Black Swan

Fighting For The Last Three Slots:
3. Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
4. Lesley Manville, Another Year
5. Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone
6. Julianne Moore, The Kids Are All Right
7. Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine

Dark Horses That Could Rally:
8. Sally Hawkins, Made in Dagenham
9. Diane Lane, Secretariat
10. Anne Hathaway, Love and Other Drugs
11. Naomi Watts, Fair Game
12. Tilda Swinton, I Am Love

Seems Unlikely, But No One's Seen Yet:
13. Halle Berry, Frankie & Alice
14. Reese Witherspoon, How Do You Know?
15. Gwenyth Paltrow, Country Strong

Best Supporting Actor

Locks
1. Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech

Seem Likely, But No One's Seen Yet:
2. Christian Bale, The Fighter

Looking Good:
3. Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right

Fighting For The Last Two Slots:
4. Ed Harris, The Way Back
5. Matt Damon, True Grit
6. Andrew Garfield, The Social Network
7. Jeremy Renner, The Town
8. Colin Farrell, The Way Back

Dark Horses That Could Rally:
9. John Malkovich, Secretariat
10. Sam Rockwell, Conviction
11. Bill Murray, Get Low
12. John Hawkes, Winter's Bone

Seems Unlikely, But No One's Seen Yet:
13. Jack Nicholson, How Do You Know?

Best Supporting Actress

Locks:
1. Helena Bonham Carter, The King's Speech
2. Dianne Wiest, Rabbit Hole

Looking Good:
3. Miranda Richardson, Made in Dagenham

Seem Likely, But No One's Seen Yet:
4. Melissa Leo, The Fighter
5. Amy Adams, The Fighter
6. Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit

Dark Horses That Could Rally
7. Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom
8. Barbara Hershey, Black Swan
9. Saoirse Ronan, The Way Back
10. Elle Fanning, Somewhere
11. Sissy Spacek, Get Low
12. Dale Dickey, Winter's Bone

Director Lisa Cholodenko (middle) on the set of "The Kids Are All Right with stars Annette Benning and Julianne Moore. Image courtesy of Focus Features

Best Original Screenplay

Locks:
1. David Speidler, The King's Speech
2. Stuart Blumberg and Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right

Looking Good:
3. Mike Leigh, Another Year
4. Christopher Nolan, Inception

Fighting For That Last Slot:
5. Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz & John J. McLaughlin, Black Swan
6. Paul Attanasio, Lewis Colich, Eric Johnson, Scott Silver & Paul Tamasy, The Fighter
7. Billy Ivory, Made in Dagenham
8. Derek Cianfrance, Joey Curtis & Cami Delavigne, Blue Valentine

Seems Possible, But No One's Seen Yet:
9. James L. Brooks, How Do You Know?

Dark Horses That Could Rally:
10. Sofia Coppola, Somewhere
11. Chris Provenzano, C. Gaby Mitchell, Scott Seeke, Get Low
12. Sylvain Chomet, Jacques Tati, The Illusionist

Best Adapted Screenplay

Locks:
1. Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
2. Michael Arndt, Toy Story 3

Seems Likely, But No One's Seen Yet:
3. Ethan Coen & Joel Coen, True Grit

Fighting It Out For The Last Two Slots:
4. David Lindsay-Abaire, Rabbit Hole
5. Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini, Winter's Bone
6. Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy, 127 Hours
7. Ben Affleck, Peter Craig & Aaron Stockard, The Town
8. Keith R. Clarke, Peter Weir, The Way Back

Dark Horses That Could Rally
9. William Davies, Dean DeBlois & Chris Sanders, How To Train Your Dragon
10. Robert Harris & Roman Polanski, The Ghost Writer
11. Michael Konyves, Barney's Version
12. Jez Butterworth, John Butterworth, Fair Game

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.


Previous editions of this column:
For Your Consideration: Gauging a Crowded and Female-Friendly Spirit Award Field
For Your Consideration: Could a Documentary Be Nominated For Best Picture?
For Your Consideration: Assessing Those Gotham Award Nominations
For Your Consideration: 10 Underdog Actors
For Your Consideration: 10 Underdog Actresses
For Your Consideration: Save For "Love" Snub, Foreign Language Submissions Uncontroversial
For Your Consideration: Post-Toronto Oscar Predictions
For Your Consideration: Updating Oscar Contenders In The Eye of The Storm
For Your Consideration: 10 Things The Fall Fests Should Say About Awards Season
For Your Consideration: Assessing Oscar In The Calm Before The Storm

22 Comments

  • Kaye | January 10, 2011 7:36 AMReply

    Last year's early prediction column talked a lot about the American but it's not mentioned here or in any other recent article by anyone else. Another example of how all the glory goes to movies that come out at the very end of the year. (Somewhere hasn't even been released yet, has it?) I just rented the American to watch for the second time and it's really too bad it's fallen out of everyone's memory.

  • tim13 | December 21, 2010 8:20 AMReply

    The Way Back is beautiful, but flawed in its insistence, to a fault, on spiritual imagery. Peter Weir leaves me working for relevance inside the films staged magnificence and nobility.
    The Fighter's Amy Adams and Christian Bale are two of the year's best performances. I'm from Boston and these two are channeling working class Lowell, Massachusetts. Stunning. For me, Nichole Kidman, Dianne Weist, Aaron Erhart, and Miles Teller in Rabbit Hole bring to earth what has been accused of being cliched material, but I thought was great, great writing fully realized by these actors.

  • Vanina | December 18, 2010 5:11 AMReply

    Nada para Johnny Depp??? Será que soy la única que considera que es el mejor y que desde hace años se merece un Oscar o no se ha dado cuenta la Academia todavia??? Que injusto che...

  • Steve | November 23, 2010 10:05 AMReply

    I would like to see "Winter's Bone" in the Best Picture and John Hawkes in the Supporting Actor category. I also hope "Blue Valentine" is able to overcome it's NC17 press. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams performances are amongst the best I've seen all year. It also deserves to be in the Best Picture race.

  • Kevin | November 16, 2010 4:06 AMReply

    Well, I have not seen every single one of these films mentioned, but I found The Town to be the most enjoyable film I have seen in years. And a lot better than the past 3 best pic winners, easily.

  • nowhereman136 | November 16, 2010 2:53 AMReply

    Mila Kunis from Black Swan for Supporting actress

  • Devin | November 16, 2010 12:51 AMReply

    I would lock in Winter's Bone for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actress. It got the Grand Jury Prize (Dramatic) at Sundance and the last two movies to get that were Precious and Frozen River, both of which were remembered by the Academy. On top of that, it's a fantastic movie.

    I love Danny Boyle myself, but I'm pretty sure that if he gets nominated it'll be because he already has an Oscar, not for the merits of 127 Hours. They didn't care about Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, or Millions. 127 Hours looks like the sort of quality flick that they'd only pay attention to because the trailer can start with "From the Academy Award winning director of...." The similarly plotted and equally interesting Buried lacks an award winning director and is getting no buzz at all.

    You made no mention of Julie Taymor's The Tempest starring the radiant Helen Mirren. That one's a wild card so far. There's a chance the Oscars could really go for it, but then again, they haven't had a taste for Shakespeare in decades.

    The American is one of the best directed movies this year and easily the best shot. If that gets any campaign it might show up in a few categories.

    It'd be nice to see Get Him To The Greek occupying a slot or two in Best Original Song. That had a great soundtrack and certainly seems more fulfilling than whatever generic country ditty they feed to Gwyneth Paltrow.

    I'd personally prefer it if How To Train Your Dragon beat Toy Story 3 to the Adapted Screenplay nomination. And with those both being technically "adapted" and Sylvain Chomet's The Illusionist being an original screenplay, could this be the first year that two animated films are up for writing Oscars?

    I'm curious to see if there's enough of an American fanbase for The Girl Who Wore Black Lipstick and Solved Mysteries trilogy to get a nomination for Noomi Rapace.

  • kendra | November 15, 2010 11:14 AMReply

    Armie Hammer for supporting?

  • Matt Rafferty | November 15, 2010 8:39 AMReply

    Checkout my award winning film ONE BAD MICE for FREE. Go to www.spike.com and search fro ONE BAD MICE FILM (88 min. )

  • truthteller | November 15, 2010 8:17 AMReply

    For Best Documentary--Errol Morris' "TABLOID" about Joyce McKinney, the former Miss Wyoming whose fiance vanished in the seventies while she was completing her Ph.D. in Utah. A detective finds him in England under the brainwashing of the Mormon cult, out doing street recruitment, his head shaved and his eyes dialated, chanting about polygamist Mormon prophets. When she and a trusted friend travel to Epsom Surrey to do a CULT RESCUE on him, she becomes the victim of a vicious but well orchestrated PRESS HOAX by Mormon spin doctors and PR teams that she "kidnapped and raped" him--despite the fact that he weighed 300 pounds and stood 6'5". Concerned about their multi million dollar Media Image, the cult attempts to falsely imprison her and discredit her to silence an outspoken dissident against Mormon oppression and human rights abuses, and cover up the forbidden love tryst one of their "missionaries" (her fiance) had with her, by going into collusion with the worst of Britains' Fleet Street rag mags who wage war to see who can print the most libelous "Joyce McKinney story." Joyce's saga is the story of a woman who battled THIRTY THREE YEARS to clear her name of a crime that she not only never committed but was never even charged with, and the trauma of a false accusation. Her story shows The Power of Myth, how courts can screw up, how the media can lie, and cause suffering to an innocent person.
    Joyce hopes that since Morris' documentary "left a lot of her story out", that a studio will do a full length feature on her story--and tell the COMPLETE story. Now THAT will be an OSCAR WINNER--as her famous love story took Britain by storm. Public sentiment was on her side as she was mobbed for autographs. She sat at the table with John Travolta at the premiere of Saturday Night Fever, was asked to dance by the Bee Gees, and kissed by Keith Moon of The Who. She was chauffeured around town in Rolls Royces and pictured with the famous, as the tabloids made millions off her, paintings were hung of her in the National Art Gallery in London, and seven British rock groups wrote albums about her. There were Joyce McKinney dolls, Joyce McKinney T-shirts, Joyce McKinney posters, and she is one of the most publicized women in British press history. Trouble is, according to Joyce, the REAL story of her love affair with the Mormon has NEVER BEEN TOLD, and she refuses to sign with a studio unless they are totally committed to telling THE TRUTH, and will put that in writing. Even Morris' documentary --which only told a partial story--was the hit of Telleride film festival, Toronto, London BFI, and she got a standing ovation drawing cheers from the crowd, at NYC/DOC on November 6th!!!

  • Audrey F. | November 15, 2010 7:56 AMReply

    I agree with Michael Bell, just came on to post that I could definitely see Carey Mulligan or Andrew Garfield getting nominated for Never Let Me Go, and I think it's adapted screenplay has a good chance as well.

  • Michael Bell | November 15, 2010 1:04 AMReply

    I think these predictions drastically underestimate Never Let Me Go's chances of making some kind of showing, whether in the acting or adapted screenplay categories. And, hi Keil.

  • RobT | November 12, 2010 4:52 AMReply

    Eisenberg delivers a terrific performance in the first half of "The Social Network", but makes less impact in the second half as the movie shifts its focus elsewhere. His nomination chances hinge on the degree to which the Academy can overlook this.

  • Mechanical Shark | November 11, 2010 10:07 AMReply

    I really don't understand why people aren't absolutely rock-solid sure of Eisenberg. He's locked in unless The Social Network turns out not to be very popular with the Academy.

  • Jake G. | November 11, 2010 7:16 AMReply

    What about HEREAFTER??? It was astonishingly good!

  • Peter Knegt | November 11, 2010 6:55 AMReply

    @Joseph Chastain: Sorry about that... it's fixed.

  • RobT | November 11, 2010 4:43 AMReply

    I see this year you've got the screenplay categories in play, unlike this time last year. As with my comment on last November's predictions, I'm interested in the films that might be nominated for their screenplays while missing the "best picture" top 10. At the last Oscars there were two such, the relatively low-grossing films "The Messenger" (which had one other nomination, "best supporting actor") and "In the Loop" (no other nominations). These took the places of popular favorites (albeit with somewhat hackneyed writing) "Avatar" and "The Blind Side". (Interestingly, last year I cited "District 9" as a possible surprise original screenplay nominee--I wasn't aware at the time that it was based on an earlier short film--but along with everyone else I had no idea it might seriously contend for "best picture".)

    In these predictions, you've got three movies among your top 5 original and adapted screenplay picks--"Another Year", "Black Swan" and "Rabbit Hole"--that aren't in the "best picture" top 10, while three of the "best picture" top 10--"127 Hours", "The Fighter" and "The Way Back"--don't make the top 5 in either screenplay category. These choices seem a bit arbitrary to me, though I can see arguments for most of them; for instance, "Another Year" and "Rabbit Hole" both seem like traditionally writerly (i.e., dialogue-heavy) movies which attract screenplay support while being pushed aside for "best picture" by movies with more striking cinematography ("127 Hours", probably) or editing ("The Fighter", probably).

    I actually think "Black Swan" has a stronger chance at a "best picture" nomination than at a screenplay nomination, though of course it could get both. It's a polarizing picture, but the people who do like it seem to like it A LOT, and as with the similarly polarizing "A Serious Man" last year I bet it gets picked as a favorite by enough Academy voters to place in the top 10.

    I wouldn't underestimate the screenplay chances of "127 Hours" or "The Fighter", especially the latter (depending on how heavily it leans on dialogue and character interaction) although the former, as a favorite "best picture" nominee, can't be ruled out altogether though its "one-man-show" qualities may work against it.

    As for "The Way Back", I'm very iffy about its on-again-off-again-then-on-again campaign strategy, which suggests a production company with a property they don't know how to promote. Then too, except for "The King's Speech" it seems to be the most traditionally "Oscar-baity" movie in consideration, and the Academy wasn't kind to several such films last year (e.g. "Invictus", "The Lovely Bones", "Nine"). I can imagine "The Way Back" earning picture and screenplay nominations, and I can also imagine it being shut out in both categories, but I have a hard time believing it might get one nomination without the other.

    On the other hand, I could easily picture "Winter's Bone"--your #10 pick for "best picture" and #5 for adapted screenplays--getting only one of those nominations, and possibly missing out on both. I love the movie, but it's clearly hanging on to its Oscar chances by the skin of its teeth at this point; the Academy is going to need some reminding of what was so special about the picture before they nominate it for anything. It may well be that one of your other screenplay picks, such as "Another Year" or "Rabbit Hole", will displace "Winter's Bone" for "best picture"; it's also possible that a non-traditionally baity film like "District 9" or a late-breaking popular favorite like "The Blind Side" will defy expectations and break into the top 10.

    In any case, I'm enjoying your Oscar predictions and look forward to more in the next few months. Thanks!

  • jimmytwotimes | November 11, 2010 3:01 AMReply

    Shutter Island!>?!?>!? That might be the worst movie of Scorsese's career, it has zero chance. Secretariat is a dud too and has absolutely zero shot.

    The Ghost Writer, on the other hand, was sorta awesome.

  • Joseph Chastain | November 11, 2010 1:00 AMReply

    The link to last years predictions appears to be broken.

  • TC | November 10, 2010 8:09 AMReply

    Any best picture race this year that doesn't include Australia's Animal Kingdom is a travesty.

  • hack | November 10, 2010 5:03 AMReply

    Nothing for Cyrus ? Hard to believe that there isn't any Dark Horse love for this film (Screenplay / Jonah Hill )

  • Keil Shults | November 10, 2010 3:57 AMReply

    I would think Nolan's chances are "looking good" if not a lock.

    And I'd also put Portman as a lock.