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In our ongoing search for Oscar’s best picture winner, which doesn’t necessarily define the best film in a given year, we continue to grope around in the dark. War Horse began screening in various theaters around the country in pop-up screenings, as Paramount’s Young Adult also has (although Para did have one preview here in LA this week). But for the most part, we have to conclude, the blogosphere has been cock-blocked. Enough with the overhype, enough with the bad buzz, enough with not being able to control output. Enough.

Bloggers and VIP-invitee film critics are simply not getting a chance to see the movies but will have to wait until mainstream critics and even Academy members start to see them. Remember Oscars old school? Remember when the first word you heard on a movie was Todd McCarthy at Variety? Remember when reviews that came out of Cannes early in the year were few and far between? Remember when you had to wait until late Thursday to get all of the major reviews? I certainly do. I remember chasing them down in the days before Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. I remember having to manually type reviews from Entertainment Weekly that came out in print. I remember a reader jotting down all of EW’s Dave Karger’s Oscar picks just as his Entertainment Weekly arrived in his mailbox. Yes, times have changed.

But studios are kind of fighting back. Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me. How much damage is done to a movie when all of its online hype is delivered months before the movie opens? Isn’t it better to have all the ribbons braided together and peak at the same time the reviews come out, just as the movie unfurls for the public? In terms of the Oscar race, you can’t really build momentum without the bloggers on board. Not these days. There are only a handful of movies that will be up for consideration anyway.

It is this debate that has bloggers scratching their heads with the pop-up screenings for War Horse that have been unleashed countrywide, exceot not right here in Los Angeles or in New York. What that says to some people is that it’s not a movie for big city folk. What it says to others is that it doesn’t matter at all – they’re trying, if anything, to remove the film from its curse of being an Oscar frontrunner early in the year. By showing it to people who don’t necessarily review movies for a living, that could say, well, maybe they want to take some of the potential Oscar heat off of the movie, normalize it in a way.

It’s a radical move, I’d say, though I won’t see the film until the end of November. I already know I will love it. There are very few Spielberg films I don’t love and being that I was raised among horses and ponies, love animals in that embarrassing girly way, and sob at the drop of a hat (hormonal thing?), War Horse IS a movie FOR me. Yet, I’ve not been given the chance to see it and champion it. So I have to go on what I’m hearing “out there.”

Either which way, War Horse isn’t the only film being kept under wraps from us loudmouth bloggers – Extremely Loud, and Incredibly Close, We Bought a Zoo and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo are also movies I’ve not yet seen. It’s funny the way the Oscar race works, but there really isn’t a right way or a wrong way. You can do everything right, you can have the best film of the year in your pocket and you can win every critics award you’re lined up for — and you still will lose to a movie about a British monarch (I’m getting over it, don’t worry). Nobody knows anything.

And yet we are still asked what we think, as this month’s Gurus of Gold was released on November 1. I was busy with the Savannah Film Fest and didn’t have a chance to post it earlier. But it looks like Alexander Payne’s The Descendants, a movie most have seen, is now in first place. That, because of two shifts in the wind. The first, Dave Karger and David Poland’s confidence in The Artist winning. The Weinstein Co. has to keep this lovely movie mostly under the radar so that it seems like an unlikely winner — up until the moment it wins. The other shift is that people don’t seem as confident predicting a film like War Horse, or any other film, that they haven’t yet seen.

Putting a movie you haven’t seen in first place is like writing yourself a check for a million dollars and stuffing it in your pocket. Wouldn’t it be nice?. If wishes were (war) horses beggars would ride. And wouldn’t it be nice if War Horse was a movie we could just look forward to instead of saddling it as a potential Oscar juggernaut? There are a handful of directors whose work gets a lifetime pass from me. Steven Spielberg made Jaws, Close Encounters, E.T. and Schindler’s List. He gets a lifetime pass from me. Martin Scorsese made Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Departed – he gets a lifetime pass from me. Frances Ford Coppola made Apocalypse Now and The Godfather – lifetime pass.

But back to the gurus — Best Actress comes under the microscope next. And again, my fellow gurus are starting to follow my lead, or else arrive to this conclusion on their own, that Viola Davis is a force to be reckoned with this year. Meryl Streep is no longer in the lead – why – because no one has yet seen The Iron Lady and pundits feel a little less inclined to choose a performance for a film they haven’t seen.

Is this is smart do you think? It’s hard to know. Streep could come along and hit it out of the park. Or it could come down to Viola Davis versus Glenn Close. Meanwhile, Rooney Mara is also going to be one to watch out for, ditto Charlize Theron in Young Adult. Best Actress is probably the toughest and most competitive of the acting categories this year.

My own Best Actress predictions have been left off the guru’s chart. But they are as follows:

1. Viola Davis in The Help, one of the year’s most successful films, inexplicably. An unknown director and bad press about the film’s subject matter can’t stop what’s coming and that’s the brilliant, beautiful and talented Ms. Davis’ exceptional work and place in the sun. If she wins, she will only be — wait for it — the second black woman in 84 mother-fucking years of Oscar history to win Best Actress. Yeah, it’s like that.

2.Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs, Close is one of the best actresses never to win. She is hurt only by the Viola Davis of it all. What an astonishing performance by Close. What a career. It isn’t always enough, though, to give the performance of your life. Winning means you have to be better than the person standing next to you. And in this case, The Help will likely get a Best Picture nomination, Albert Nobbs will not. Therein lies the rub.

3. Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady — you can’t really ever count out Ms. Streep. She has two struggles with this, though. The first is that she’s playing a right-wing icon. Not a good place to be right now. Unless they really trash Thatcher’s memory, which they will not do, it will be hard, I suspect, for voters to go there with their whole hearts. The second, Streep’s past work is her biggest problem – can she top the great performances in her career? Sophie’s Choice, The Devil Wears Prada, Julie & Julia — she’s a miracle.

4. Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — I haven’t yet seen the movie but I’ve seen clips of her and they blow the roof off the joint. So if I can hold a place for Streep I can hold a place for Mara.

5. Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn vs. Charlize Theron in Young Adult — I love what I’ve heard about both of these performances. Alas, I’ve not yet been invited to a Marilyn screening (cock-blocked again, and always too soon), and unfortunately I missed a screening of Young Adult that was held this past weekend. Though the notion of both of them stepping outside their comfort zone thrills me to no end. I just don’t know which one to include.

And pushing through I also feel:

Tilda Swinton in We Need to Talk About Kevin — this is a frustrating situation with this film. If it keeps building buzz it will overcome that hard thing to overcome — how hard this brilliant film is to watch. Swinton has never been better, but I know that it’s sometimes hard for Academy members to embrace darker films.

Ellen Barkin in Another Happy Day — brilliant performance, her best.

Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Macy May Marlene — what a debut.

Best Actor puts George Clooney in the lead for The Descendants. We still don’t know how the winds are going to shift this year. But right now it feels like Clooney can’t be beat. The only challenger is possibly Woody Harrelson in Rampart. This is one performance I have not been able to shake. I’ve long admired Harrelson’s work in the Messenger, in No Country for Old Men, but I guess I’ve never really seen him dig so deeply, fiercely in. I know many aren’t even considering him for a nomination but it seems to me he’s strong enough to be a contender, at least. Brad Pitt is also in the running in a big way in this, his most mature and endearing performance to date in Moneyball, a film that is as much about America right now as any film released this year.

Unfortunately the NC-17 puts Michael Fassbender in a different category now. That rating hurts the film though I am hoping Fassbender gets in, even though I don’t have him on my Best Actor predictions list on Gurus — but for the record, I did these on my iPhone when I was barely awake and not thinking clearly. My Best Actor list right now would look something like this:

1. George Clooney, The Descendants — this would be a win for his wonderfully raw performance but it would also be a career win for Clooney and all that he’s contributed to the film community.
2. Jean Dujardin in The Artist — especially if The Artist doesn’t win Best Pic, DuJardin could be a big win for that film.
3. Brad Pitt, Moneyball — still among my top personal picks for the year – the performance and the film.
4. Gary Oldman Tinker Tailor — marvelously moving performance and an actor who has yet to be nominated.
5. Woody Harrelson, Rampart vs. Michael Fassbender in Shame vs. Leo DiCaprio in J Edgar. Three actors for the fifth slot. Tough category. We’ll know better in a few months.

As far as supporting turns go, I am still hoping Christopher Plummer pulls out the win for Beginners. I know that it’s sort of hard to sustain all of this momentum for the long haul; it is always so much more tempting to pick someone new by the end. Voters seem to like fighting for someone as opposed to just voting like a lemming. There are also memorable turns as supporting actor like Jonah Hill in Moneyball, George Clooney and Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Ides of March, and then of course, Max Von Sydow in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close seems maybe poised to finally collect an Oscar for his whole career and for this role in this film especially. But again, we can’t really know because we haven’t seen it.

As far as supporting actress goes, you have Octavia Spencer currently leading. Again, love for The Help could pull both actresses through. I would literally run naked down Hollywood Blvd. if Viola Davis AND Octavia Spencer won. Two black actresses? Really AMPAS? Also in the running, god willing, is Melissa McCarthy whose breathtaking, hilarious turn in Bridesmaids is nothing short of one of the best performances of the year male or female. Carey Mulligan in two magnificent performances – Drive and Shame. That girl endlessly impresses. And what to do with the furiously talented Jessica Chastain? Tree of Life, The Help, Take Shelter? I’m going to hope she gets recognized for The Help because I think she does her very best work there. But there are so many more to come that we haven’t seen: Sandra Bullock in Loud and Close. Robin Wright in Dragon Tattoo – although she’s really good in Rampart too.

Janet McTeer is a true standout in Albert Nobbs I can’t imagine she won’t be included. And then there’s Judi Dench in J. Edgar, Berenice Bejo in The Artist, Shailene Woodley — one of the best things about The Descendants — and Vanessa Redgrave who has two performances this year – one in Anonymous and the other in Coriolanus.

But you know, with no real there there these lists will all change significantly once people start to see the movies. Until then, hope springs eternal. We wait for what we hope to be. We wait for a story to be told. It’s possible, when the dust clears, that we’ve already seen our Best Picture winner. It’s also possible it’s waiting in there in the shadows. In darkness.

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  • knee play

    clooney, pitt and dicaprio? the lead actor category could not be more boring.

  • julian the emperor

    It’s interesting to note that Leo’s chances is perceived as waning fast…is that only due to the fact that people are annoyed to still not have been able to see J Edgar with their own eyes?
    Anyways, I can live with a Clooney win (for a movie I’m very much looking forward to see) and Davis (for her crucial role in The Help, a movie I find problematic in so many ways, but Davis is not one of them). Could Plummer pull off a win for Beginners (another problematic movie, yet with a stellar performance from the veteran’s veteran) and maybe Mulligan for Shame (not likely, I know), this starts to look like an ok season…

  • Brett

    @knee play

    Agreed. Gosling (Drive), Fassbender, and Shannon should be in the top 5.

    Leo and Brad are there for their names. They may be good in their roles but the best performances of this year have come from actors who aren’t huge celebrities (minus Gosling)

  • phantom

    Michael Shannon was truly brilliant in ‘Take Shelter’ and the film was fantastic, as well…too bad there are already at least 6 top players (Dujardin, Clooney, Pitt, Oldman, Fassbender, DiCaprio) for the 5 slots, not to mention Woody Harrelson, Christopher Plummer, Ryan Gosling, the still-unseen Daniel Craig-turn in ‘Dragon Tattoo’, the still-unseen Matt Damon-turn in ‘We bought a Zoo’ and several “young” performances (Irwine, Horn, Butterfield) that could easily emerge as top5 contenders considering their films could also easily emerge as bp-frontrunners…and here I am hoping JGL has a shot at this – I really liked his 50/50 performance – but it will be probably considered too light for the Academy.

    And about the Best Actress race : as much as I LOVE Viola Davis – I consider her one of the very best actresses in Hollywood, definitely top5 – if Glenn Close will ever win an Oscar, there simply cannot be a more fitting victory than one for a role, she had been so fiercely devoted to for almost 30 years.

  • Paddy M

    Best Actress sure is tough. And when the critics rhyme in, perhaps outside contenders such as Keira Knightley, Kirsten Dunst, Felicity Jones and Olivia Colman may pose a threat too. It’s going to be tough to hear the Academy’s choices in this category as, one way or another, several highly deserving performances are going to have to go unrewarded.

    Best Supporting Actress is currently a total clusterfuck. It would seem so odd to have Octavia Spencer win for The Help and not Viola Davis, which is why I’m reluctant to place Spencer at the top of my list, as I’m not confident that Davis is far enough in the lead just yet. It could be Vanessa Redgrave, although buzz will need to start building again for that performance. Carey Mulligan will have to contend with the NC-17, Janet McTeer may have to contend with a few disappointing reviews, Judi Dench may cancel herself out with two performances, as may Jessica Chastain with about 23 performances. Then there’s Evan Rachel Wood, Shailene Woodley, Berenice Bejo, Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet for Carnage, Sandra Bullock, and Naomi Watts for J. Edgar. I had a look through some stills for J. Edgar on IMDb the other day, and Watts’ ageing make-up is far superior to Leo DiCaprio’s, and Watts has been overdue a second nomination since her first.

  • julian the emperor

    But then again, phantom, aren’t we tired of those career trophies? I mean, Close is great and I bet her performance in Nobbs is good, but what is “fitting” should never be a valiant reason for handing out an Oscar.
    Besides, I really don’t consider her overdue, actually. Yes, she was overdue in, say, 1990 (and should have won at that point, frankly), but now? After not being in contention for the Oscars for two decades? Hardly overdue, I would say (but then again, Sasha thinks Viola Davis, of all people, is overdue, so what do I know!).
    Overdue? Julianne Moore or Anette Bening.

  • RL1979

    I´m a little bit surprised, that the Gurus of Gold totally ignore the “Carnage” actors. I hope they are wrong with that. 🙂

  • Paddy M

    @ julian the emperor

    Annette Bening and Julianne Moore have had roughly two decades of great performances. Glenn Close has had one decade of great performances, and two decades of fine performances on film, and great performances on stage and on TV. Her work in The World According to Garp, The Big Sleep, The Natural Jagged Edge, Maxie, Fatal Attraction, Dangerous Liaisons, Reversal of Fortune, Hamlet and 101 Dalmatians doesn’t fade as the years go by.

  • julian the emperor

    I don’t wholly agree with you, Paddy. Surely Close’s great performances don’t fade away, we should all cherish her contribution to the movies (as well as stage and TV productions), but to me the overdue factor (when it comes to the Oscars) is concerned with “the present moment”. Are you or are you not currently on the radar due to actual or recent performances/nominations. I find Moore and Bening overdue because they are always mentioned in relation to the ongoing Oscar discussion in relation to their high profile status. You cannot say the same about Close, who has lived a relative obscure existence when it comes to the “Oscar-type movies” for the best part of two decades. That leaves you in another position than “hot and ready” Oscar candidates, like Moore and Bening.
    I’m not here to diminish Close and her incredible work, I’m just saying that I don’t find her exactly overdue, more like highly deserving of praise. But that is definition nitpicking, I know…;)

  • phantom

    julian the emperor

    Sure, the “story”/overdue-status shouldn’t count, sure, it should be all about the performances.

    If the top4 contenders will be indeed Davis, Williams, Streep and Close, it is very likely that all these performances will be in NOT great films, so it will come down to individual achievement.

    Davis faces the problem that the other 3 contenders carry their films as the sole lead characters, meanwhile she is a part – although a big part – of a stunning ensemble cast…having said that, her film has the best shot at getting a bp-nod thanks to the stunning BO and that would officially make her the frontrunner.

    Then we have Streep, who should win her 3rd sooner or later but I firmly believe that for that, she needs a year WITHOUT contenders who are considered seriously overdue (Close, Davis, and even Williams) AND a stunning, bp-nominated film…lately she was the great thing in good to mediocre films, it would be lovely to see her in a GREAT film again. Could The Iron lady be the answer ? Hope so…but doubt it.

    So if this theory worked (it doesn’t, Davis is the frontrunner), it would come down to Williams and 5-time-nominee Close and – based on precedent – Close would lose to Williams, the “beautiful young actress who paid her dues”, or at least that’s how it worked out almost every single time in the last decade or so. And if we add the tiny fact, that Williams has the Weinsteins in her corner (and so does Streep for that matter), it almost seems like Close barely stands a chance…and she deserves better than that.

    Bottom line : Davis has Box Office, Williams and Streep have the iconic character+Weinstein combo…so let’s not take away the overdue-factor from Close, because let’s face it…that AND a bunch of raves are all she’s got…and after a career like hers, she deserves better.

  • Jerm

    I don’t think Glenn will win, although I have yet to see the film, I feel she is losing momentum. I fully agree with Julian the emperor. I am so sick of the Academy giving an Oscar as a trophy of their career, instead of the best performance in a given year. It is truly unfair to the actors nominated in the category.

    @ Paddy M. Did you see you what you said. Bening and Moore have had two decades of great performances where Close has had one with a few decades of fine performances. I would rather have two decades of great performances than one with a few fine performances here and there. I don’t think that grants Close an Oscar. I disagree though, so of her work has faded, if I wouldnt have researched Glenn I would have never heard of some of her performances. The Hamlet version she was in was TERRIBLE! But nonetheless I love Glenn, she deserved an Oscar for Fatal Attraction.

    Best Picture:
    War Horse WINNER
    Extremely Loud
    The Descendants
    The Artist
    The Help
    Midnight in Paris
    Tinker Taylor
    My Week with Marilyn

    Best Actress:
    Streep WINNER

    Best Actor:
    Leo WINNER

    Supporting Actress:
    Spencer WINNER

    Supporting Actor:
    Von Sydow WINNER

    I may be all sorts of wrong. But it’s all part of the game 🙂

  • amanda

    The fact that Clooney could be a 2 time acting Oscar winner is just gross.

  • Sasha Stone

    I don’t think there will be that many Best Picture nominees – I’m gonna guess like 6 or 7 at the most. If that.

  • phil

    the reason Leo’s and J Edgar’s chances are waning fast is that people ARE finally starting to see the movie — there was a packed screening Tuesday at the DGA.

  • Jon

    Sasha you still forgot to mention Albert Brooks in DRIVE for Supporting Actor. Maybe I am bias, but I still think he and Plummer are locks in that category.

  • Bob Burns

    “And wouldn’t it be nice if War Horse was a movie we could just look forward to instead of see as potential Oscar juggernaut?” Couldn’t agree more. The sharp knives are out for Joey and Albert.

    I only barely care about WH’s Tony win. What I do care about is the power of the story and the love I feel for the characters. I will be surprised if the Oscar race inspires thoughtful commentary about the story.

  • julian the emperor

    but then again, phantom, my point is that for example Michelle Williams is actually more overdue than Close (if we have to take that silly phenomenon at face value), simply for one reason: receiving nominations twice this last decade, whereas Close has received none for two whole decades. That makes a difference. If Close has an advantage, it is more like that of the beloved veteran, who people would like to invite back into the limelight. That status works wonders for a guy like Plummer (you could argue that he comes across as more humane and accessible as a person than Close, who many perhaps tend to find “difficult” as a personality and as a professional actor not quite taking the obvious route career-wise), but still: maybe it could be enough for Close?
    I doubt it, among other things for the very reasons listed by you, no need to repeat them here.
    I believe this is Williams vs. Davis at this point (even though both are in a vulnerable position), BUT if The Iron Lady is a positive surprise, it could boost Streep’s chances and the word out on Young Adult is that Theron is very good. Who knows? This could be a very open race, all candidates face an uphill battle (Theron has the previous winner tag attached to her name, and is the academy really ready to “do a Swank” again?)

  • rick

    I still see Davis as SUPPORTING .. she did not play a leading role IMO

  • bebe

    I don’t see Mara that high up yet. The Millennium trilogy, the books, is purely genre entertainment, and Finch will probably do it justice given his track record. I can see the Academy responding to something like crafts and perhaps the performance, but I have to say, Mara has a tough shoe to fill after the much loved and beautiful Rapace. I think her obstacles is that she’s still a relative unknown in hollywood. She is young and pretty but are they really going to buy into the physical transformation? Remember back when Theron won she was already an established movie star in Hollywood.

    Best actor is another interesting field. On paper these predictions look good but when you factor in the demographics of the voters these will change. Too many movie stars and young, hunky actors in the running, making it almost an impossible line up. Remember, they are not really horning here as they are for Best actresses.

  • bebe

    As for poor Fassy, I am sorry to say it’s never going to happen. Has nothing to do with the great performance but these kind of Best Actor nomination, for such a small and difficult film and role with almost null oscar appeal, just never happen. Unless you have already paid your dues in Hollywood. The next time he gives an Oscar friendly performance, however…

  • julian the emperor

    well, bebe, it happened for Gosling in Half Nelson. Fassbender is just as much a rising star as Gosling was back then. It is not totally out of the question, I think. With Clooney, Pitt and DiCaprio all in contention, I think many voters will reserve a spot for an upcoming star from a smaller movie, and that vote will most likely go to Fassbender. I think he could very well take the forth or fifth spot.

  • Camille

    Honestly I’m going to wait a little longer before I even attempt to start making predictions. But anyway Sasha it was great seeing you at the film fest. Who would of thought I’d end up sitting next to (imo) one of the best film bloggers out there.

  • bebe

    @julian I hope you are right and that he has a chance, but you can’t compare half nelson to shame. Just look at what the film is about, and what they are trying to say. I seriously doubt that it’s their cup of tea. Again, think of who the voters are and their choices over the years, The year that Gosling was nominated, the best actor field eventually became too thin it was between Gosling and Borat for the last spot. Go figure who they went and nominated.

    The following year, you have Gosling and Hirsch for the last spot. Hirsch young upcoming actor in a film that was underwhelmed nomination morning. Gosling, who got the BFCA SAG GG trifecta who couldn’t get in. Someone in love with a real doll? sometimes the actor’s branch is just that conservative. Guess who got instead. Tommy Lee Jones.

    I think people are right to some extend. He is an up and comer and he’s everywhere, man of the moment guy with a oscar worthy performance. But there are so more strikes, unforgiving ones too, against him than what he has going for him.

  • julian the emperor

    I do see your point, bebe. I was disappointed as well with the Lee Jones nomination (a worthy, yet stoic to the point of being formulaic, performance) over Gosling’s much more daring performance. And yes, the subject matters can be a defining factor (not least when it comes to veteran of war vs. man who loves a doll!)
    But I firmly believe that every season presents another story. Nothing is definitive when it comes to the AMPAS. And a scenario where a critically adored performance (Fassbender) sneaks in next to major A listers, is not unlikely. A field consisting of Pitt, Clooney, DiCaprio and Oldman will seem somewhat formulaic, even to the AMPAS, I think. Dujardin is the exotic flavor, sure, but I don’t think they will go for all four well-known stars in this category. Fassbender could be the perfect extra spice that lends the category an air of refinement as well as mass appeal.

  • julian the emperor

    I meant; “in addition to” mass appeal (which the Clooney, Pitt and Dicaprio represent).

  • bebe

    Every year is different, yes, and they have been making more daring choices lately. Not the actor’s branch in particular but nonetheless. Although last year’s fiasco did suggest otherwise. Nothing much has changed. It’s the same group of people voting.

    The critics could push Fassy in, but they’ll have to push pretty hard, like a sweep. Plenty of worthy choices this year but could happen. I mean, Oscar is really an insiders club, making it hard for any new comers to break in really. If he’s been in Hollywood a few years longer, I have no doubt that he will be a more serious contender given the great year he’s having.

    I don’t think it will be 4 movie stars either. That is rare. I think that puts vets like Oldman and Harrelson in a pretty good position.

  • Ryan Hoffman

    Enjoy 80% correct predictions!
    I’m predicting a J. Edgar shun in the big categories and War Horse getting all the noms but no wins. Personally, I welcome our Extremely Loud overlords.

    Nominees (In order of winability)
    Best Picture:
    Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
    The Descendants
    The Artist
    War Horse
    The Help
    Midnight in Paris
    Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

    Best Director:
    Steven Daldry – Extremely Loud
    Alexander Payne – The Descendants
    Steven Spielberg – War Horse
    Michael Hazanavicius – The Artist
    Tomas Alfredson – Tinker Tailor

    Best Actor:
    George Clooney – The Deacendants
    Jean Dujardin – The Artist
    Brad Pitt – Moneyball
    Woody Harrelson – Rampart
    Gary Oldman – Tinker Tailor

    Best Actress:
    Michelle Williams – My Week With Marilyn
    Viola Davis – The Help
    Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady
    Glenn Close – Alfred Nobbs
    Charlize Theron – Young Adult

    Best Supporting Actor:
    Max Von Sydrow – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
    Christopher Plummer – Beginners
    Kenneth Brannaugh – My Week With Marilyn
    Jim Broadbent – The Iron Lady
    Patton Oswalt – Youth in Revolt

    Best Supporting Actress: (SUPER WEAK)
    Octavia Spencer – The Help
    Vanessa Redgrave – Coriolanus
    Shailene Woodley – The Descendants
    Dame Judi Dench – J. Edgar
    Melissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids

    Best Original Screenplay:
    Midnight In Paris
    The Artist
    Young Adult
    Like Crazy
    J. Edgar

    Best Adapted Screenplay:
    The Descendants
    Extremely Loud
    War Horse
    The Help
    The Ides of March

  • Paddy M

    @ julian the emperor

    If you consider Michelle Williams to be more overdue than Glenn Close due to the fact that she has been more prolific recently, why bring up Christopher Plummer? He’s only been nominated once in the past decade, and not even once beforehand. And what would be your opinion regarding Max von Sydow, Lauren Bacall, Liv Ullmann, Gena Rowlands, Albert Finney etc. Not one nomination between them in the last ten years, and not one Oscar statuette between them. Are, say, Sophie Okonedo, Salma Hayek, Alec Baldwin more overdue then?

  • Ryman

    To be honest, I don’t think we’ll even have a clue until the NYFCC happens. The Gotham awards aren’t always accurate and I stopped paying attention to the Satellite Awards a few years ago. So for me, I probably won’t make any official predictions until the NYFCC and NBR show their picks.

  • Ryan Hoffman

    “Gotham awards a rent always accurate”? Are you kidding me? They’ve never in the history of ever been looked as a barometer? Have you ever read an Oscar site?

  • Sasha Stone

    Hi Camille! It was really nice meeting you too – sorry we had to rush out of that screening but … when you gotta go, you gotta go.

    “Sasha you still forgot to mention Albert Brooks in DRIVE for Supporting Actor. Maybe I am bias, but I still think he and Plummer are locks in that category.”

    Thanks. You’re right: dumb of me.

  • julian the emperor

    I didn’t bring up Plummer as an example of an overdue actor, Paddy. I was bringing him up as a “beloved veteran”, which I think is the “club” Close aspires to (more than the overdue one), so no contradiction there!

    Plummer could soon be considered overdue, though. With the nomination two seasons ago for The Last Station (a mediocre perf in an inferior film, but nonetheless) and again this year for Beginners. IF he doesn’t win this year, he will surely be overdue for recognition same time next year…right? That’s the only logic I’m trying to advocate here. Two or more nominations in the last, say, 6-7 years, that is overdue to me, no matter if you are 18, 37 or 86 years old.

    Von Sydow, Ullmann etc.? IF they ever win (Von Sydow is mentioned this year as a possibility, but let’s wait and see until someone has actually seen the movie), that win will be, imo, a “beloved veteran” win rather than an “overdue” win (maybe “long overdue” is a viable compromise..?;))

    And, just for the record, a win for Sydow in particular would be something I would love to see. I absolutely adore the man, so that would be a beautiful moment (but a Plummer win would be as well!) And that’s the nature of this thing: an old actor gets points for being old and esteemed, a younger actor/actress gets points for being “overdue”/talented.

  • julian the emperor

    maybe I should have added “fuckable” to overdue/talented…

  • Joschi

    everyone is bashing J Edgar and still no one has seen it.. poor poor People!

  • Bryce

    Not exactly following the logic of some of these Oscar prognosticators…(warning: bad internet sarcasm approaching)

    “Hello fellow Oscar-watchers, sorry to disappoint you, but the upcoming Dragon Tattoo adaptation is really just a dark horse for a nomination. Outside shot, at best. The material is simply NOT up the Academy’s alley.

    “Now we know what you’re all thinking: ‘But Breznican/Ellwood/Hammond/Howell/Karger/Olsen/Tapley/Thompson/VanAirsdale/Wloszczyna! Surely a film destined to have very good to excellent reviews (high 70s-90 Metascore, 80s-90s% RT) based on well-loved source material released in late December by a two-time Oscar nominated director (who was – objectively – snubbed for an Oscar the year prior) with an Oscar winning crew (in music, editing, and writing categories – not to mention Oscar-nommed sound designer) with what is surely to be a showy breakthrough performance (sexual abuse, uglifying an attractive actress, etc.) by Rooney Mara must have SOME…scrap of a chance?’

    “No,” Breznican/Ellwood/Hammond/Howell/Karger/Olsen/Tapley/Thompson/VanAirsdale/Wloszczyna say, “but don’t worry, The Help and Midnight in Paris are absolute locks.”

    Black Swan and Winter’s Bone made it last year. District 9 and A Serious Man made it the year before. The Silence of the Lambs won Best Picture two decades ago, in what I imagine was a far more conservative Academy.

    Oscar progs keep saying how there isn’t a clear-cut winner like in previous years.
    ANSWER: It is staring you in the face.

    The Artist and Midnight in Paris are too paper-thin? The Help was too mediocre? Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is too clever? The Tree of Life is too out there? Steven Spielberg doesn’t need those fourth and fifth Oscars? Alexander Payne and George Clooney don’t need their second? Moneyball is too baseball, didn’t make enough money? J. Edgar is too dry? Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is too much of a wild card to put at #1?

    I’m just shocked that no one has Dragon Tattoo in first.

    Oh, and doesn’t Dragon Tattoo have neo-Nazis somewhere in the plot or something similar? THAT says it all.

  • Hi Guys!

    I’m cheering for Shame to be the surprise movie of the award season, and Michael Fassbender for a win. And sorry but I can’t see Viola Davis to win this.
    And I do NOT understand the extreme hype for Midnight in Paris. It was jus as boring and tired as any Woody Allen movie from the last ten years (except Match Point). I hope that it won’t be able to make the cut. It would be a shame, if that movie (wich is in my view nothing more than a very nice “introducing Paris” movie for tourists) could be a Best Picture contender. But my ears are opened to hear your positive thoughts of that movie. Maybe I’m the only one who didn’t get it.


  • Juliette Binoche FTW.

  • m1

    No one thinks that Daniel Craig will get in for Dragon Tattoo? I think he has a shot. I hope Pitt gets in as well.

    Also, interesting how no one uses the “like” button on this site. Why?

  • monique

    Joschi: we saw the trailer. That was enough.

  • Bryce


    As someone who thinks that TGWTDT is pretty much locked for eight categories (Picture, Director, Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Film Editing, Sound Mixing, and Original Score) I have to say, there is no way in hell Daniel Craig makes it in Best Actor. It isn’t because he isn’t a good actor, it’s just the role doesn’t seem meaty enough to muscle out a Clooney/DiCaprio/Dujardin/Fassbender/Oldman/Pitt or even a Shannon/Harrelson/Horn.

  • Sasha Stone

    I’m just shocked that no one has Dragon Tattoo in first.

    Some of us have our quiet little ideas about this but the last thing we’ll do is blab about it right now. 🙂

  • Bryce

    So is that just you or is the whole Oscar blogosphere in on it?

  • Joschi

    who gives a damn about a Trailer, Monique? Seriously?

  • William James Wilkinson

    This is a frustrating year! I’m not a blogger, I’m not a writer, I don’t work within the industry; I’m merely a bystander and won’t have access to half these movies until my local Regal shows them all together a week before the Oscars (which is cool), or I catch them next year on DVD. This year I keep wanting to put my foot through my laptop screen; so late in the year and so much goes unseen still, quite UNLIKE the past 3 or 4 years.

  • Sasha Stone

    No, so far it’s only me and no one takes me seriously because they think I’m a Fincher fangirl.

  • I gotta go back and read your whole article because I mistakenly clicked on the link and almost went blind because of the Best Supporting Actor Category.

    Jonah. Hill.

    This is just, no. I’m not having it. I generally like the guy. But if on Oscar nomination morning they read his name, I will walk out of my house, stand in the middle of the street until a car stops, grabs someone out of the car, and just throw them. I don’t even care.

  • m1

    I thought Jonah Hill was wonderful in Moneyball. Definitely changed the way I think about him as an actor.

  • brandz

    Have the Gurus actually seen all of the films this year? I didn’t think so. When they do, and the film critics prizes are announced, the rankings will change.

  • Joschi

    Amen, brandz!

  • More quick thoughts.

    Your group for Best Actor. Even though there’s a French guy in there, it still seems too white bread. I’m going to still, stubbornly, camp out for Tom Hardy. I don’t care if my ability to have him in my list on Gold Derby evaporated. lol (He and Warrior got changed to Jane Eyre lololol) DVDs still exist so I’m just going to Occupy the Oscar race. I’ve got marshmallows and a harmonica.

    @amanda Couldn’t agree more.

    @m1 I used the like button 3 times then I forgot it was there. It’s kinda 8th grade anyway. But please tell me about Jonah Hill. I don’t see it. Beyond personally liking him, what makes him a contender?

    I’m going to do something unheard of. I’m going to ignore all the films I haven’t seen and just make a pools of potential nominees to draw from as if I was the Academy, buzz be damned. The fact is I’m not going to see most of these movies until January and I’m tired of guessing. I’ll add to the pools as I see the Oscar bait. And if my nominees don’t match, so be it. I’m kinda pissed off about that dearth that is going to be November. Why we can’t have the also-rans this month is beyond me.

  • daveylow

    I think Brad Pitt is going to be the odd man out once the actors’ branch start comparing all the performances next to each other. And I think Fassbender will be hard to ignore, kind of like the year Day-Lewis was nominated for My Left Foot. And I think Clooney may win this thing. But maybe they’ll be a brilliant campaign for Dujardin who gives a lovely performance.

  • A.J

    On a side note can we stop ignoring Harry Potter? Can at least one pundit not look stupid when it starts it’s steam roll of nominations throughout awards season? (note I said nominations, not wins)

  • Matt

    Is it me or does a great movie like ‘Drive’ seem to be headed down the road to being sadly overlooked and forgot about this upcoming awards season? Ryan Gosling’s performance and the directing especially are award worthy in my opinion. Same goes with the wonderful performance from Andy Serkis in ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’. Serkis deserves way, way more consideration for supporting actor.

  • Pierre de Plume

    No, so far it’s only me [mentioning Dragon Tattoo] and no one takes me seriously because they think I’m a Fincher fangirl.

    I can see it, Sasha. And part of the sentiment might have something to do with last year’s race.

    Christophe Waltz seems like a possibility. He has an Oscar pedigree now — always helpful — and seems strong in the trailer. A good “ensemble” nomination.

    Also, I see Michelle Williams getting in. With prior nominations and having the moxie to take on an iconic real-life character, the statistical odds would favor her.

    Viola Davis will go lead — and is the one to beat.

    And I don’t think there’s enough steam for Albert Brooks.

  • Carlo

    Man, that Best Actress race is stacked! I know Close is overdue but I kinda wish she weren’t that high on the list. Would love a big five that included Viola Davis, Rooney Mara, Elizabeth Olsen, Michelle Williams and Charlize Theron.

    Call me biased, but yeah I kinda like the races younger. Gotta give props to the new blood!

  • Paddy M


    I agree about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I can’t get it out of my head that this could be something along the lines of Fincher’s The Godfather – that this trilogy may end up being so good and so influential that it ends up defining his whole career from here on out. I can totally see a Best Picture win at this moment.

  • Erica

    As much as I enjoy reading blogs about the Oscars it totally makes sense that they hold off screenings from the blogosphere. I remember that SO MANY PEOPLE believed that one reviewer who posted on a blog somewhere that Michelle was underwhelming in MWWM. The people completely ignored the positive Twitter comments because of that one post. Now, look at how much raves she is getting!

    I personally am betting on Michelle though if Glenn wins I will also rejoice. I am not going to bet on Viola Davis because I feel it isn’t her time. Meryl, well, the movie seems campy based on the clips.

  • Mattoc

    The dragon tattoo I agree will be good. Not sure about Oscar material though…
    Fincher is an incredible director, and after last years snoozefest, this material seems right up his alley.
    Fight Club is his greatest achievement and the trailer reminds me of his talents and what he could possibly do with the source material.
    Mark my words, it will be a crowd-pleaser and probably live on longer than the eventual nominees, but like the masterpiece that Fight Club was, no cheese at AMPAS , just critics and us.

    Also, I am really surprised that Extremely Close…is even being mentioned. Why do people think it may be ‘that’ popular comes awards time? I’m serious, I just don’t see anything there from all the available information. I haven’t read the book so maybe that’s my problem. But from the trailer it looks like Sleepless in Seattle crossed with 20 Bucks. Enlighten me.

  • tombeet

    The “overdue” in Oscar has become something of a system. Say if Art Carney did not win Best Actor in 1975 => Al Pacino could not win in 1993 => Denzel Washington would not win in 2002 (I still think Russel Crowe put a stronger performance in that year) -> all of it for being “overdue” and Oscar wanted to reward them back.
    Yeah, also beloved veteran is another factor, Michael Caine for The Cider House Rules, Jack Nicholson for Terms of Endearment. Although they’re consistently excenlent, these winning awards seemed so WRONG for me.

  • julian the emperor

    Yeah, Caine’s win for Cider House was a full-blown travesty. Oscar at its worst.

  • Jon

    Tombeet, I just want to say that – and I am in the small minority here – that Art Carney deserved his Oscar for HARRY AND TONTO. Yes, Pacino and Nicholson were amazing/iconic in their films, but Carney is also INCREDIBLE in HARRY AND TONTO. Again, I should note that I am bias in that Art Carney is my favorite actor along with Paul Newman and Tom Hanks (yes, really).

  • Jon

    Carney also wasn’t overdue when he won in ’75. His performance kind of came out of nowhere considering everyone associated him as Ed Norton in THE HONEYMOONERS. The irony is that Carney actually gave the performance of a lifetime a few years later in THE LATE SHOW and wasn’t even nominated! You can argue that was the performance that he should have won the Oscar for – and yes it is better then Richard Dreyfuss in THE GOODBYE GIRL.

  • Erica

    Yeah I agree about being “loved.” Case in point Sandra Bullock. I love her but Best Actress for the whole of 2009? Not really.

  • Jon

    I also must disagree with the comment that Albert Brooks doesn’t have enough steam for DRIVE. I think the film is actually probably well regarded and will not be forgotten come Oscar time. Brooks is a beloved veteran – actually a legend – and the fact that he was playing against type will be remembered. I don’t think he has the steam to win at this point (still think it is Plummer’s) but that will depend on the campaign the studio gives him if he is nominated.

  • tombeet

    The only kind of performances that I think deserve to be recognized are against type. I honestly never think Catherine’ Keener’s performance in Being John Malkovich was good (in Oscar nomination sense) until I saw her other movies; by that I don’t mean she’s awful in other movies, but the performance in Being John Malkovich seems so fresh and original. I also do not appreciate Jim Carey until I watched Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind (and amazingly he was snubbed, again); what a great performances from lead actors.
    But the against type performance I really enjoyed was Steve Buscemi in Ghost World. Just classic!
    So yeah, I really love to see Albert Brooks got nomination for supporting this year.

  • Pierre de Plume

    I also must disagree with the comment that Albert Brooks doesn’t have enough steam for DRIVE.

    Jon, maybe you’re right. In an otherwise excellent film, I didn’t always buy Brooks’ portrayal. But I do appreciate your love for Art Carney’s performance in Harry and Tonto as I thought he was very good in that film.

  • I can’t believe how underestimated Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is with the Gurus. I’m pretty shocked, actually. I think it’s going to not only get nominated but WIN, along with Fincher, Mara (who is also mysteriously being under-predicted here), adapted screenplay, editing and quite likely more than a few techs.

    Also, Theron and Williams getting in over Mara and Elizabeth Olsen is not happening.

  • Sasha Stone

    Erik, I can guarantee you I’m not underestimating it. I just don’t want to kill it with hype. I’m happy they are ignoring it. That makes its chances all the more viable. Believe me, the last thing you want with a Fincher film is Oscar attention before it opens. Remember, it came AFTER the Social Network opened. We have to see Dragon Tattoo. I think there is some debate about whether to cut time off of it. That’s what I heard. But we can be sure of three things: 1) Fincher has never directed a bad film. At his worst he is better than almost all. 2) Rooney Mara is going to be fucking amazing. I already know this from the clips I saw and from reading the book. 3) Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross will have composed a score unlike any other — that alone will be reason to see it. I am keeping mum on it because the readers are tired of my love affair with Fincher and I don’t want to jinx the thing. But there is no other movie I’m looking forward to more, both as a lover of film and an Oscar watcher.

  • Rock on, Sasha. Among the gurus you’re one of the few to have a handle on it, I think. Good point on not trying to overhype like TSN last year. One thing the Academy likes to do (or thinks that it does) is not simply repeat itself. After last year’s more traditional winner in TKS and the snub of the biggest critical hit of the year, I think they will embrace Dragon Tattoo with open arms. Both as a sort of mea culpa to Fincher and because it’s been quite a while since a film like this has gotten Oscar attention (Silence of the Lambs, 20 years ago?).

  • brian

    This years Oscars race seems rather dull

  • Erik815

    what puzzles me is that no one is even remotely predicting Contagion. It has very oscar-friendly talent in front of and behind the camera, stellar reviews, and solid box office (75 million domestic, still expanding worldwide). It’s on the sidebar in the top 5 for editing, which is usually a very strong indicator for best film, certainly when there are more than 5.

  • Erik815, I think it’s because Contagion comes off less a prestige Oscar pic than it does a movie where a ton of Oscar-winnings actors get to work together. Not quite in the same way as the Ocean movies but in a sense. Contagion was a really good film but I can’t see it making a single dent with the Academy.

  • stapleton

    i stopped reading after i realised this was just your way of begging to see War Horse to stay ‘relevant’ even though this site is as objective as fox news or some shit half the time these days, who gives a shit.

  • TonyD

    I can’t believe how underestimated Angelina Jolie’s ITLOBAH is even after that trailer premiered..

  • Mike

    I don’t care about the NC-17 rating. Fassbender is a sure-thing for a nomination for Shame, and I don’t see Carey Mulligan missing out on a Supporting Actress nomination. She’s a terrific actress and is consistently great. Loved her in Drive! Speaking of which, it’s quite sad that film will most definitely be overlooked. Gosling should have been nominated for sure, and it’s also deserving of Best Director. I see Elizabeth Olsen getting in for Martha Marcy May Marlene. She’s this year’s Jennifer Lawrence, and the story of her being sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley will only create more buzz about her performance. I think we can count Theron out. I thought she was simply amazing in Monster, but, while Young Adult looks entertaining, her performance and the film don’t seem like anything special. I think it’s going to be Davis, Streep, Close, Williams, and Olsen.

  • Erik815

    @ Erik Anderson: I sorta see your point, but I don’t think that’s the reason. If a film is prestigious enough, that’s a plus, not a minus (see for example the advance buzz Nine had, and that ended up with crap reviews and 4 oscar nods).

    Contagion will likely show up on a number of critics’ top 10 lists, the question is how often and how high. a few mentions at the film critics awards could easily give it awards legs. It should easily find room to campaign in editing, score, and original screenplay, and should have the common sense to pick out2 performances to campaign for supporting (among the ladies Jennifer Ehle, among the guys either Jude Law or Laurence Fishburne). It should be able to mount a strong best picture campaign on that, as well as a less likely best director campaign.

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