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For Your Consideration: A Mid-November Stab at Oscar Predictions

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire November 10, 2010 at 2:58AM

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.
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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

This article is related to: Features, Academy Awards, The King's Speech