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

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

In the past week, the Oscar race has seen a remarkable swarm of precursors suggesting its fate, from the nominations for the Golden Globe Awards and Critics Choice Awards to the New York Film Critics Circle Awards, LA Film Critics Association Awards, and over a dozen other critics groups honors. There’s still loads to come, from the Screen Actors Guild Award nominations tomorrow to other Guild and critics’ prizes extending through January. But the past four days included the most activity this awards season will ever see, and with it has come considerable clarity toward where Oscar may be heading.

First of all, let’s consider what’s looking pretty good at this point. David Fincher’s “The Social Network” and Tom Hooper’s “The King’s Speech” have been this year’s two-headed awards monster since mid-October, and nothing has changed in that regard. They remain the films to beat, and essentially every precursor has supported that theory in some form or another (though “Network” has definitely received the bigger boost these past few days, making it the stronger head of the two all of a sudden). Beyond them, there’s nine other films that appear likely to join in on Oscar’s best picture lineup, though, of course, there’s only eight slots left.

Christopher Nolan’s “Inception,” David O. Russell’s “The Fighter” and Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan” – three remarkably different films from three directors that ten or twelve years ago no one would have expected to be surefire bets for inclusion in Oscar’s top prize – all seem good to go, each getting best picture nods from the Golden Globes and Critics Choice (and the latter two enjoying impressive beginnings these past few weeks at the box office), while Pixar’s “Toy Story 3” is a player as well. That leaves Joel & Ethan Coen’s “True Grit” (severely snubbed by the Globes but doing quite well at the Critics Choice), Danny Boyle’s “127 Hours” (which feels oddly vulnerable at this point but has consistently received notices), Debra Granik’s “Winter’s Bone” (doing better than many expected across the board), Lisa Cholodenko’s “The Kids Are All Right” (snubbed by the Critics Choice and receiving spotty appreciation elsewhere – though the New York Critics’ recognition should help) and Ben Affleck’s “The Town” (probably the weakest link) as the five films that seem to be duking it out for the final four slots. While Derek Cianfrance’s “Blue Valentine,” John Cameron Mitchell’s “Rabbit Hole” and Mike Leigh’s “Another Year” seem like outside contenders (and definite and deserving possibilities), the precursors have not been particularly kind to any of them outside of recognition for their actors.

The precursors have, however, been kind to that noted five, at least to varying degrees. All five got AFI top ten list honors, and while “Kids” was the only film to get a Golden Globe best picture nom (though in the wacky comedy/musical category), it was also the only one not to get a Critics Choice best picture nomination. Where that leaves everything seems pretty even-scored, and also opens the door for Oscar to break free of a precursor mold that has made clear that these 11 films have their vote to make Oscar’s top 10. If that ends up happening is something no one will know until January 25th’s nomination announcement, but “Blue Valentine” and “Another Year”‘s late release dates give them opportunities to rally some late-in-the-game buzz.

As far as the actors go, most of the murkiness that plagued a few of the races has more or less gone away. Six or maybe seven contenders have been narrowed down in each of the four races, with best supporting actress – which very recently seem so very up in the air – looking the most set with its Amy Adams, Helena Bonham Carter, Melissa Leo, Hailee Steinfeld, and Jacki Weaver lineup. Leo and Weaver in particular (who oddly both play overbearing, over-the-top blonde haired mothers) have done extremely well in the past week, while Steinfeld’s buzz seems to just be starting (even though she might face the category fraud argument). Mila Kunis – a Globe and Critics Choice nominee – is definitely the one most likely to upset this lineup (or Lesley Manville if the Oscars opt to place her in this category), as one time sure-things Dianne Weist and Miranda Richardson have been almost entirely excluded from all precursors.

Lesley Manville with Ruth Sheen in a scene from “Another Year.”

The other categories also have seen some mighty fall quite quickly. Noted Lesley Manville was once a certainty for best actress for her work in “Another Year,” but despite a National Board of Review win, she was ignored by the LA and NY critics (both of which awarded Mike Leigh actresses Sally Hawkins and Imelda Staunton with wins) and by both the Globes and the Critics Choice. Michelle Williams, however, once a dark horse for her work in “Blue Valentine,” has been getting notices all over, suggesting she might be joining Annette Bening, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lawrence, and Natalie Portman in the final five. There’s no doubt Manville could rally, but perhaps its not Williams that should be the most worried. A surprisingly underwhelming precursor tally for “Rabbit Hole” might make Nicole Kidman more vulnerable than it seems.

Manville’s Sony Pictures Classics colleague Robert Duvall (“Get Low”) also has hit a rough patch, getting ignored at the Globes and making it seem like a very youthful trio of Ryan Gosling, Jesse Eisenberg, James Franco might join Jeff Bridges and all-but-assured winner Colin Firth in the final five. Duvall, as well as Globe nominee Mark Wahlberg, are both definitely in the running, but it’s now officially an uphill battle.

Finally, there’s the seemingly least decided of the acting categories in best supporting actor. Future Oscar winner Christian Bale, as well as Andrew Garfield and Geoffrey Rush, all seem extremely likely, but beyond them there is room for surprise. “The Town”‘s Jeremy Renner was the only other actor to get both a Globe and Critics Choice nomination, so he could definitely make it, as could “The Kids Are All Right”‘s Mark Ruffalo – although his Globes snub is not good news. Then there’s “True Grit”‘s Matt Damon, who hasn’t really received any precursor love whatsoever but could benefit from late-in-the-game buzz from the film (which he’s so great in), and “Winter’s Bone”‘s John Hawkes. Hawkes seemed like a laughable suggestion just a month ago. Not because he’s not excellent in the film (he is), but because “Bone” just seemed like such an underdog to take nominations outside Jennifer Lawrence and perhaps adapted screenplay. But now it’s a best picture contender through and through, and Hawkes is a great candidate to benefit from that and give Oscar nomination morning a pleasant surprise.

Last year only one acting nominee – “Crazy Heart”‘s Maggie Gyllenhaal – did not receive either a Golden Globe or Critics Choice nomination. The best bets for that happening this year seems like John Hawkes, Matt Damon, or Lesley Manville. Though perhaps this year there will be a much greater deviation from the precursors, and Oscar will actually surprise us for once. An unlikely event, and with that in mind, here’s a rundown of where the top seven categories seem to stand:

Best Picture

Absolute Locks:
1. The King’s Speech
2. The Social Network
3. Inception

More or Less Locks:
4. Toy Story 3
5. The Fighter
6. Black Swan

Seems Likely, But They Are Vulnerable:
7. 127 Hours
8. True Grit
9. The Kids Are All Right
10. Winter’s Bone

11. The Town

Dark Horses:
12. Blue Valentine
13. Another Year
14. Rabbit Hole

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

A scene from Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan”

Best Director

Absolute Lock:
1. David Fincher, The Social Network

More or Less Lock:
2. Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech

Seems Likely, But They Are Vulnerable:
3. Christopher Nolan, Inception
4. Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan

Fighting For The Last Slot:
5. Joel & Ethan Coen, True Grit
6. Danny Boyle, 127 Hours
7. David O. Russell, The Fighter

Dark Horses:
8. Debra Granik, Winter’s Bone
9. Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right
10. Ben Affleck, The Town

Best Actor

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

More or Less Locks:
3. Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network

Fighting For The Last Two Slots:
4. Jeff Bridges, True Grit
5. Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine
6. Robert Duvall, Get Low
7. Mark Wahlberg, The Fighter

Dark Horses:
8. Javier Bardem, Biutiful
9. Paul Giamatti, Barney’s Version

A scene from John Cameron Mitchell’s “Rabbit Hole.”

Best Actress

Absolute Lock:
1. Natalie Portman, Black Swan

Seems Likely, But They Are Vulnerable:
2. Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
3. Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
4. Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole

Fighting For The Last Slot:
5. Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine
6. Lesley Manville, Another Year

Dark Horses:
7. Halle Berry, Frankie & Alice
8. Tilda Swinton, I Am Love
9. Julianne Moore, The Kids Are All Right

Best Supporting Actor

Absolute Locks:
1. Christian Bale, The Fighter
2. Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech

Seems Likely, But He Is Vulnerable:
3. Andrew Garfield, The Social Network

Fighting For The Last Two Slots:
4. Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
5. John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone
6. Jeremy Renner, The Town
7. Sam Rockwell, Conviction

Dark Horses:
8. Matt Damon, True Grit
9. Bill Murray, Get Low

Best Supporting Actress

More or Less Locks:
1. Melissa Leo, The Fighter
2. Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom
3. Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech

Seems Likely, But They Are Vulnerable:
4. Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
5. Amy Adams, The Fighter

Dark Horses:
6. Mila Kunis, Black Swan
7. Dianne Wiest, Rabbit Hole
8. Miranda Richardson, Made in Dagenham
9. Barbara Hershey, Black Swan

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

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

More or Less Lock:
3. Christopher Nolan, Inception

Seems Likely, But He Is Vulnerable:
4.. Mike Leigh, Another Year

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. Derek Cianfrance, Joey Curtis & Cami Delavigne, Blue Valentine

Dark Horses:
8. Nicole Holofcener, Please Give
9. Sylvain Chomet, Jacques Tati, The Illusionist

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Biggest Lock There Is:
1. Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network

Seems Likely, But They Are Vulnerable:
2. Michael Arndt, Toy Story 3
3. Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini, Winter’s Bone
4. Ethan Coen & Joel Coen, True Grit

Fighting It Out For The Last Slots:
5. Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy, 127 Hours
6. Ben Affleck, Peter Craig & Aaron Stockard, The Town
7. David Lindsay-Abaire, Rabbit Hole

Dark Horses:
8. Robert Harris & Roman Polanski, The Ghost Writer
9. William Davies, Dean DeBlois & Chris Sanders, How To Train Your Dragon

Peter Knegt is indieWIRE’s Associate Editor. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog. Check out his weekly Oscar prediction chart here.

Previous editions of this column:
For Your Consideration: A Guide To The Oscar Precursors
For Your Consideration: The 10 Biggest Surprises of the Spirit Award Nominations
For Your Consideration: The 10 Worst Original Song Oscar Snubs of the Past 10 Years
For Your Consideration: A Mid-November Stab at Oscar Predictions
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

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