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For Your Consideration: Indiewire’s Mid-Year Oscar Analysis

For Your Consideration: Indiewire's Mid-Year Oscar Analysis

It’s been roughly four months since Indiewire’s coverage of the mammoth 2010-2011 awards season came to an end. Our “For Your Consideration” column has lain dormant ever since, its most recent edition an advance stab at what might become of the next awards season. But with the Venice Film Festival and Toronto Film Festival just two months away, “next” is soon to be now. Thus, we welcome you to a special mid-year edition of our “For Your Consideration” column, which will run regularly beginning in September.

This focus of this particular column is not a preview of what’s to come, but what we already know from the year’s first six months whether via festival screenings or theatrical releases. Last year at this time, we called all of the following:

  • Christopher Plummer receives a best supporting actor nomination, and maybe wins.
  • Vanessa Redgrave receives a best supporting actress nomination, and maybe wins.
  • “Rango” is nominated for best animated feature.
  • “The Tree of Life” is nominated for best cinematography.
  • “Midnight in Paris” is nominated for best original screenplay, and maybe best picture.
  • Also potentially factoring in from Cannes are Michael Hazanavicius’s “The Artist,” Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive,” Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia” and Lynne Ramsay’s “We Need To Talk About Kevin,” while from Sundance we have Drake Doremus’ “Like Crazy,” Sean Durkin’s “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” Dee Rees’s “Pariah,” and Jeff Nichols’ “Take Shelter.”

So we were wrong about Redgrave. But who wasn’t? Most folks were predicting her to at least be nominated all the way through December. Her work in Ralph Fiennes’ “Corionalus” — which debuted at the 2011 Berlinale — puts eventual winner Octavia Spencer’s performance in “The Help” to shame. But in all likelihood, too few people ended up seeing “Corionalus” and she managed to lose out to the (deserved) likes of “Bridesmaids” actress Melissa McCarthy, a film we’d also seen by this time last year.  McCarthy was noted as a “decent shot” in the best supporting actress category in last year’s column, and at the time even that felt ambitious. But let that be a lesson that critically acclaimed summer box office hits should never be counted out (it seems to me another M.McM — Matthew McConaughey — could end up this year’s Melissa McCarthy for his fantastic work in “Magic Mike”).

And clearly we could have been a bit more optimistic about “The Tree of Life,” “Midnight in Paris” and — most especially — “The Artist.” In large part due to a lack of worthy competition from the year’s second half, these three films each score best picture and best director nominations, and the latter won both (in addition to best actor). While it was clearly well received when it debuted at Cannes last May, very few folks would have felt confident suggesting it would win best picture. After all, it was a French-produced silent film with no recognizable actors.

So with last year’s prognosticatory shortcomings in mind, let’s turn the conversation to 2012, a year that so far genuinely makes the first half of 2011 look like an Oscar goldmine. Cannes and Sundance — which often offer quite a few Oscar-nominated films (though last year’s Cannes batch was unrivaled in how many Oscar noms they churned out), both appeared to be considerably not-so-Oscar-friendly this year. Though — as last year made clear — films can unexpectedly recieve boosts later in the year.

As far as the best picture category goes, each festival offered two genuine possibilities: “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and “The Sessions” (formerly known as “The Surrogate”) from Sundance, and “Moonrise Kingdom” and “Amour” from Cannes.  Michael Haneke’s “Amour” is by far the longest shot of the four, and the idea of two Palme d’Or winners getting noms back-to-back is unprecendented. But people adore “Amour,” and its definitely a strong possibility for a few other categories (screenplay, foreign language film and perhaps a lone director slot). 

The other three — all American productions — have considerably better chances. Some suggested Benh Zeitlin’s Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner “Beasts of the Southern Wild” was a bit too experimental for awards season. But a strong limited debut at the box office and absolutely glowing reviews seems to make it the first half of 2012’s safest bet for a best picture nomination, the sort of slot that “Winter’s Bone” and “The Tree of Life’ managed in recent years.

Wes Anderson is getting some of the best reviews and biggest box office of his career for “Moonrise Kingdom.” The filmmaker has never received a best picture nomination (though one wonders if there had been more than five nominees if “The Royal Tenenbaums” could have done so), and this is definitely his best chance yet. There’s a slightly smaller chance Ben Lewin’s “The Sessions” makes the cut, though that film is a very good bet for an original screenplay nomination as well as acting nods for Helen Hunt, William H. Macy and especially John Hawkes.

Then of course there’s John Madden’s “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” which has turned into something of a box office sensation. It’s a definite best picture possibility, if the rest of the year proves weak. It also could give Dames Maggie Smith and Judi Dench yet another Oscar nod (they each have six so far, and have both won). Dench is probably one of the safest bets of any of the potential nominees at this point, actually. She joins six other sure bets we’re willing to bet money on seven months before Oscar gives us his nominations:

  • John Hawkes receives a best actor nomination.
  • Judi Dench receives a best supporting actress nomination.
  • “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is nominated for best adapted screenplay.
  • “Brave” is nominated for best animated feature (though likely doesn’t win).
  • “Moonrise Kingdom” is nominated for best original screenplay.
  • “Mirror Mirror” is nominated for best costume design.
  • “The Avengers” is nominated for best sound editing, best sound mixing and best visual effects.

As for acting possibilities beyond the noted Hawkes and Dench, there’s three very possible best actress nominees from films we’ve already seen — Quvenzhané Wallis in “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” Helen Hunt in “The Sessions,” and Marion Cotillard in “Rust and Bone.”

Hunt and Cotillard are both previous winners, but Wallis — probably the best bet of the three — would be something of an anomaly. Just six years old when she filmed “Beasts,” Wallis beat out 4,000 other children who had auditioned for the part. She’s stunning in the role, and the thought of the charismatic young actress getting a nomination might be too precious a thought for voters to resist. She would become the youngest female nominee ever in any category, and second youngest ever after 8 year-old Justin Henry’s nomination for “Kramer vs. Kramer” (she’ll be 9 on the night of the ceremony).

Another potentially interesting nominee is Matthew McConaughey, who is having an extraordinary year thanks to his work in “Bernie,” “Killer Joe,” “Mud,” “The Paperboy,” and most notably, “Magic Mike.” As previously suggested, the mix of box office success and critical acclaim that is meeting “Mike” could propel McConaughey — never nominated for an Oscar — into the race in a fashion akin to Burt Reynolds’ nomination for “Boogie Nights.”

But in the interest of keeping this first column from excess, we’ll stop here. The rest of the story can be told through the list on the following page. Category by category, it details the chances of films that have officially screened at either a festival or in theaters. Keep in mind the difficulty of picking candidates in the categories of best foreign language film, best documentary feature and best original song, all of which are notoriously unpredictable even at the end of the year (with regard to foreign language, we don’t know which films will even be submitted for consideration).

At the end of the summer, this column will relaunch with thoughts on what Venice and Toronto could soon tell us about Oscar. Until then, continue to the next page to see what we might already know about the eventual nominations (and here’s updated charts featuring guesses that include the films no one has seen yet).

Best Picture:
Safe Bets: None
Reasonable Maybes: “Beasts of the Southern Wild”; “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” “Moonrise Kingdom”
Dark Horses: “Amour,” “The Avengers,” “Ruby Sparks,” “The Sessions”

Best Director
Safe Bets: None
Reasonable Maybes: Michael Haneke, “Amour”; Benh Zeitlin, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
Dark Horses: Wes Anderson, “Moonrise Kingdom”; Ben Lewin, “The Sessions”

Best Actor
Safe Bets: John Hawkes, “The Sessions”
Reasonable Maybes: None
Dark Horses: Paul Dano, “Ruby Sparks”; Jean-Louis Trintignant, “Amour”; Channing Tatum “Magic Mike”

Best Actress
Safe Bets: None
Reasonable Maybes: Quvenzhané Wallis, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”; Helen Hunt “Six Sessions”; Marion Cotillard, “Rust and Bone”
Dark Horses: Zoe Kazan, “Ruby Sparks”; Emmanuelle Riva “Amour”; Rachel Weisz “The Deep Blue Sea”; Michelle Williams “Take This Waltz”; Mary Elizabeth Winstead, “Smashed”

Best Supporting Actor
Safe Bets: None
Reasonable Maybes: William H. Macy, “The Sessions”; Matthew McConaughey, “Magic Mike”
Dark Horses: Michael Fassbender, “Prometheus”; James Gandolfini, “Killing Them Softly”; Dwight Henry “Beasts of the Southern Wild”; Bill Nighty, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” Bruce Willis, “Moonrise Kingdom”

Best Supporting Actress
Safe Bets: Judi Dench, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”
Reasonable Maybes: Maggie Smith, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”
Dark Horses: Frances McDormand, “Moonrise Kingdom”

Best Original Screenplay:
Safe Bets: “Moonrise Kingdom”
Reasonable Maybes: “Amour”; “The Sessions”
Dark Horses: “Brave”; “Gimme The Loot”; “Magic Mike”; “Ruby Sparks”; “Take This Waltz”; “Your Sister’s Sister”

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Safe Bets: “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
Reasonable Maybes: “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”
Dark Horses: “The Avengers”; “Killing Them Softly” “On The Road”

Best Animated Feature:
Safe Bets: “Brave”
Reasonable Maybes: “The Lorax”
Dark Horses: “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted”

Best Foreign Language Film:
Safe Bets: None
Reasonable Maybes: “Amour”
Dark Horses: “Barbara”; “Beyond The Hills”; “The Hunt”; “Laurence Anyways”; “Rust and Bone”; “Tabu”; “War Witch”

Best Documentary Feature:
Safe Bets: None
Reasonable Maybes: “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry”; “”Bully”; How To Survive a Plague”; “The Imposter”; “The Invisible War”; “The Queen of Versailles”
Dark Horses: “5 Broken Cameras”; “The Ambassador”; “China Heavyweight”; “Detropia”; “The House I Live In”; “Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present; “Planet of Snail”; “Searching For Sugar Man”

Best Cinematography:
Safe Bets: None
Reasonable Maybes: “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
Dark Horses: “Lawless”; “Moonrise Kingdom”; “Prometheus”

Best Film Editing:
Safe Bets: None
Reasonable Maybes: “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
Dark Horses: “The Avengers”; “Moonrise Kingdom”; “Prometheus”; “The Raid: Redemption”; “The Sessions”

Best Art Direction:
Safe Bets: None
Reasonable Maybes: “Moonrise Kingdom”
Dark Horses: “Dark Shadows”; “Mirror Mirror”; “On The Road”; “Prometheus”; “Snow White and the Huntsman”

Best Costume Design:
Safe Bets: “Mirror Mirror”
Reasonable Maybes: None
Dark Horses: “Dark Shadows”; “The Deep Blue Sea”; “Moonrise Kingdom”; “On The Road”; “Snow White and the Huntsman”

Best Original Score:
Safe Bets: None
Reasonable Maybes: “Beasts of the Southern Wild”; “Moonrise Kingdom”
Dark Horses: “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”; “Brave”; “On The Road”; “Prometheus”; “Rust and Bone”; “The Sessions”

Best Original Song:
Safe Bets: None
Reasonable Maybes: None
Dark Horses: “Safe & Sound” (The Hunger Games)

Best Sound Mixing/Best Sound Editing:
Safe Bets: “The Avengers”
Reasonable Maybes: “Brave”; “Prometheus”
Dark Horses: “The Amazing Spiderman”; “Battleship”; “The Grey”; “The Hunger Games”; “Men In Black 3”; “Snow White and the Huntsman”

Best Visual Effects:
Safe Bets: “The Avengers”
Reasonable Maybes: “Prometheus”
Dark Horses: “The Amazing Spiderman”; “Battleship”; “The Hunger Games”; “John Carter”; “The Raid: Redemption”; “Snow White and the Huntsman”

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:
Safe Bets: None
Reasonable Maybes: “Dark Shadows”; “Men In Black 3”
Dark Horses: “The Avengers”; “Prometheus”; “Snow White and the Huntsman”

Peter Knegt is Indiewire’s Senior Editor and awards columnist. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

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