2012’s lineup for Best Picture brings to mind sober reflection.  As we redefine who we were in America, on the eve of President Obama’s second inaugural, our troubled past still haunts us.  Two films deal in very different ways with the subject of slavery. Two films deal with our volatile war with radical Islam.  Two films deal with choosing a more optimistic view of life, one remembers Hurricane Katrina, one remembers magical childhood love, one is a beloved musical just in time for Christmas.   Most of us will split on these, and the ongoing debate will rage: is it the movie that makes you feel? Or is it the movie that makes you think?

With Oscar ballots outstanding, it’s anyone’s game. The wind could suddenly change direction without warning.  What seemed like a sexy pick a week ago could lose steam. And everywhere, pundits, bloggers, critics and even celebrities are trying to control the unwieldy beast that is Oscar.

On Twitter, we Oscar bloggers fend off enthusiastic fans who really want their favorite musical to become a fully realized Oscar Best Picture winner, or leaders of a movement supporting one actress or actor to have their most loved performer recognized with an Oscar. Some of them beam in from foreign lands hoping that their favorite American star will at last be recognized. “What do you think Leo’s chances are?” “Do you think Naomi Watts can win?” “What are the chances for Holy Motors?” We can give our best guess but it is just a guess based on years of experience. That experience includes public humiliation, smug rightness, an “I told you so” or two, and a general assumption that we know how “they” will or won’t vote.

But nobody knows anything.

Some of us inside the bubble just want this to be one of those great years where the Academy remembers to really reward the best film of the year, not just the best right now, or the least offensive choice, but something worthy of the gold statue proclaiming its high achievement.

Some think Les Miserables is going to he “huge” with the Academy, that it will win the SAG ensemble and then take the Best Picture Oscar, even despite Hooper’s recent win and the mixed reviews. Some think it’s Zero Dark Thirty’s to lose, even though Kathryn Bigelow won as recently as 2009. Some have no choice but to settle on Silver Linings Playbook because it’s the only feelgood film in the bunch and would be a notable threepeat for the Weinstein Co. But one film continues to tower above the rest and it currently leads predictions on both Movie City News and Gold Derby. It has just passed Argo to become the highest grosser of the presumed frontrunners, currently at $108 million before Oscar nominations are even announced. It just broke Spielberg’s record for nominations at the SAGs and the Globes, and broke the Critics Choice overall nomination record. It isn’t winning critics awards like Zero Dark Thirty, The Master and Argo. Even Life of Pi has won more than Lincoln. But it is the elephant in the room, my friends, whether my fellow pundits are prepared to acknowledge it or not.

Today Spielberg is 66. It’s the same day that the 13th amendment was adopted. The critics and the Academy have both had a complicated relationship with Spielberg. The critics have really only liked Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan and perhaps Empire of the Sun. The Academy only really liked Schindler’s List. They shut out The Color Purple and they only awarded him Best Director for Saving Private Ryan. War Horse squeaked through with a nod last year. The ones who don’t have a “problem” with Spielberg, though, are the ticket buyers, the ones he’s been entertaining going on 40 years.

For many of us, Spielberg has become part of our DNA. Much of my own childhood was spent buying tickets to Spielberg movies. But it was more than that to me. Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and E.T. defined my own American experience.  Except for Jaws, each earned Spielberg a Best Director nomination and each, along with Munich, earned Best Picture nominations as well. Spielberg films, for many of us, weren’t just movies you go to on a Saturday night. They are how we remember our childhoods. It is significant that at 66 years old Spielberg has undertaken such a behemoth as bringing the story of Abraham Lincoln back into the collective consciousness at a time when we really need him. To have wrung that performance out of Daniel Day-Lewis and the supporting performances of Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field — it’s not your everyday Oscar contender. Or, at least, it doesn’t seem so from where I sit.

Five years from now we might all look back and think, why did we ever doubt that movie could win? Except that many do still doubt it can win. Many doubted, around this time of year, whether Titanic could win too. They all thought the Oscar was LA Confidential’s to lose. Lincoln isn’t Titanic, of course. Pundits say they keep hearing the old “but they just don’t LIKE it enough.” Women, in particular seem to resist it — to explain why I’d have to launch into generalizations. Not enough emotion? Not exciting? No one to root for? Oh, just the future of African Americans, oppression, racism — but that isn’t … sexy?

If Lincoln is “too boring” for women, and Les Miserables is too intense, and Life of Pi “too spiritual,” what might the women choose? They’ll probably split between Silver Linings Playbook, which has emotion and wit and charm and sex, and Argo, which is funny and sexy and moving. Either of those could win. Lincoln could win.

But the Academy is mostly white, middle aged males — the steak eaters, as they’re called. They vote with their hearts too. Can Lincoln be moving enough to motivate them to vote it the winner?

It is too soon to say.

But that won’t stop many of us from declaring the winner right now. Why? Because we are Oscar bloggers. That’s what we do.

We all look to those 5,800 Academy members who are really just trying to make it through their lives, probably, as they are poked and prodded by eager publicists, stalked by executives who want their vote, talked about by people who think they really really know what Academy members REALLY think. At the end of it, a vote.  A moment where some Oscar voter, tucked into a three-story home on Coldwater Canyon over holiday break reaches for the screener pile to entertain the fam. And that is when they’ll decide if the movies everybody’s talking about are really that good, or if not, they really got it wrong this time.

If they’re lucky enough, perhaps gathered around a roasted beast with a twinkling Christmas tree or Hanukkah Menorah glowing pleasantly in the background. I see them sitting there, in their awkward Christmas sweaters, sifting through the selections this year. What will they choose? What can they tolerate? What will they love? What will the quirky assortment of houseguests like? What will they HATE? What will they argue over? What is the film they can ALL decide on and why?

Or are they really the kind who spread on some foundation, hoists their tired bones into a pantsuit to lumber joylessly down to the Samuel Goldwyn theater and endure three hours of something they really wish they’d waited for on screener. Or do they skip happily down to the Goldwyn, sit breathlessly for two and a half hours and emerge from the darkness ruddy faced and optimistic about their lives because wow, they just saw THAT movie?

We don’t really know, do we? We try to guess anyway. These are the rules of the game as we’ve all agreed to play them. We hope, always, to move the needle in the “right” direction — but our idea of right likely contradicts some other person’s idea of right. A consensus vote is a consensus vote.

Still, the three strongest films this year confront our American fears and truths like we haven’t seen in the Oscar race in quite some time. The heart still wants what it wants, which means one of them might not win.  All the same, it’s important to remember that winning the Oscar isn’t everything. It doesn’t mean much except to show how a group of people felt once, in 2012, with so many bright stars shedding light in the darker corners, making it even harder to see.

Cheat Sheet December 18, 2012


Naomi Watts, The Impossible – When Reese Witherspoon writes to EW on your behalf, and you have many celebrities turning out to help get your film, The Impossible, some notice, and then you get a Globe nod and a SAG nod, you’re probably in.

Argo – Even though it trails Zero Dark Thirty in critic awards wins, buzz is picking up now that Argo turns out to be a film many people can agree upon is likable and satisfying.

Django Unchained – The movie industry never saw anyone like Tarantino and his films are events unto themselves.  Certainly far from perfect, Django displays Tarantino’s undeniable talent behind the camera. But it also features a mesmerizing, unsung performance by Jamie Foxx.

Lincoln – Tthe awards nominations records racked up and the continuing box office success means Lincoln remains a force to be reckoned with. It is now Daniel Day-Lewis’ highest grossing film.

Kathryn Bigelow – up or down depending on your definition but there is no doubt that wherever Bigelow goes this year, controversy seems to follow. In her defense, many critics have been speaking out against the accusations that it glorifies torture, though critics might not be enough to remove the notion. On the other hand, this is only the nominations phase. Winners are to be determined later.


Best Picture

1. Lincoln
2. Zero Dark Thirty
3. Silver Linings Playbook
4. Argo
5. Life of Pi
6. Les Miserables
7. Beasts of the Southern Wild
8. Moonrise Kingdom
9. Django Unchained
10. Flight

Best Actor
1. Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
2. Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
3. Denzel Washington, Flight
4. Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
5. John Hawkes, The Sessions

Best Actress

1. Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
2. Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
3. Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild 
4. Naomi Watts,The Impossible
5. Marion Cotillard, Rust & Bone

Supporting Actor
1. Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
2. Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
3. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
4. Alan Arkin, Argo
5. Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook

Supporting Actress
1. Sally Field, Lincoln
2. Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
3. Helen Hunt, The Sessions
4. Nicole Kidman, The Paperboy
5. Amy Adams, The Master

1. Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
2. Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty
3. Ben Affleck, Argo
4. David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
5. Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Alt: Tom Hooper, Les Miserables, Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master

Original Screenplay
1. Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty
2. Michael Haneke, Amour
3. Ava DuVernay, Middle of Nowhere
4. Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained
5. Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Moonrise Kingdom
Alt: Rian Johnson, Looper, Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master, Nicolas Jarecki, Arbitrage

Adapted Screenplay
1. Tony Kushner, Lincoln
2. Chris Terrio, Argo
3. David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
4. David Magee, Life of Pi
5. Benh Zeitlin, Lucy Alibar, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Alt: Stephen Chbosky – The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, The Dark Knight Rises

1. William Goldenberg, Dylan Tichenor, Zero Dark Thirty
2. Michael Kahn, Lincoln
3. William Goldenberg, Argo
4. Tim Squyres, Life of Pi
5. Jay Cassidy, Silver Linings Playbook
Alt: Melanie Oliver, Chris Dickens, Les Miserables

Greig Fraser, Zero Dark Thirty
Cloudio Miranda, Life of Pi
Janusz Kaminski, Lincoln
Roger Deakins, Skyfall
Rodrigo Prieto, Argo
Alt: Danny Cohen, Les Miserables, Mihai Malaimare Jr, The Master

Art Direction
Life of Pi
Anna Karenina
Les Miserables
The Hobbit
Alt: The Master

Sound Mixing
Zero Dark Thirty
Les Miserables
The Dark Knight Rises

Sound Editing
Zero Dark Thirty
The Dark Knight Rises

Costume Design
Anna Karenina
Les Miserables
Cloud Atlas

Original Score
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Cloud Atlas
The Dark Knight Rises

Foreign Language 
Amour (Austria)
The Intouchables(France)
A Royal Affair (Denmark)
Barbara (Germany)
After Lucia (Mexico)

Documentary Feature
The Gatekeepers
How to Survive a Plague
Searching for Sugarman
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God

Animated Feature
Rise of the Guardians
Wreck it Ralph

Visual Effects
Life of Pi
The Hobbit
Cloud Atlas
The Dark Knight Rises
The Avengers

Les Miserables
The Hobbit


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  • OLIN

    Total Iron Lady moment in the first paragraph. “People don’t think anymore, they feel. ‘How are you feeling; oh, I’m sorry we the group are..'” and hello, third Oscar.

  • Eric

    Wonderful article as always, Sasha.

    I got bored today and decided to watch past BP winners on YouTube. I was struck by Liz Taylor’s speech just before Midnight Cowboy was crowned the winner.

    Because I’m such a loser, I transcribed her bit. I hope AD readers find it as insightful as I did in a year where the wide variety of films is incredibly exciting.

    “We who make films, members of The Academy, are terribly proud of the world’s serious and dedicated filmmakers and their product. And each year, when The Academy announces the nominations for awards, film critics and fans alike find as much to disagree about as to agree with–which is, of course, as it should be. That’s why we make melodramas, musicals, historical pageants, comedies, westerns, and documentaries. There is no disagreement, however, that each year films are intensified and refined and more widely accepted as really true art. And from an abundance of excellence we have nominated, The Academy, these films as the five best pictures of the year.”

  • filmboymichael

    These are all great choices….I have not yet met my excitement of seeing zero dark thirty or les mis – I am excited to see both! I do hope that Zero Dark Thirty comes to Toronto before the new year!

    I will say this – I just say The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and really enjoyed it. There are many members of the academy who are of a certain age and I think we may be underestimating it’s power. Anyone agree? I won’t hate to see nominations at all, but I think we may be avoiding its presence….anyone agree?

  • Danemychal

    EVERY woman I’ve talked to has loved Lincoln, from my 28-yr-old wife to my 58-yr-old mother. This box office is not from men alone. If you seriously look back at Oscar’s BP picks over its long history, its pretty shameful. Of course there are “no-doubters” like GWTW, Casablanca, The Godfather and so on and so forth. But they’ve blown it too many times. The Artist and The King’s Speech are ALREADY too forgettable! Forrest Gump wasn’t the right choice but at least its not forgettable! It definitely is still loved by the masses. Ditto Titanic. Les Mis is going to be too divisive to garner the universal adoration of audiences. None of my guy friends have any intention of seeing it ever. Can we pick a movie that hasn’t been made 4-5 times already? Can they pick something that will become an institution and looked upon favorably not just the following year but several decades from now? I sure fucking hope so. Lincoln and ZDT seem to me to be the choices. And to a much lesser degree, Argo. Argo is a winner I could live with. Not the best of the year but a memorable and substantial achievement. There are other movies Id like in the conversation but they have no real shot (The Master, etc).

  • mecid

    Love your Sate of the Race writings. And happy Birthday, Mr. Spielberg!

  • Danemychal

    PS – AMC is offering special engagements tomorrow night to all AMC Stubs members in select cities for LES MIS. Huge snowstorm due in the Midwest tomorrow night or I would be all over it!

  • Jerry

    This thing happening with The Impossible is amazing. It started out with Angelina Jolie hosting the European premiere because she was so moved after watching it (on screener?) and reached out to the filmmakers. Now Reese Witherspoon is writing a public fan letter to Naomi Watts in EW. This must be some crazy emotional film. I got to believe two A-listers like Angie and Reese have some power with voters so adding Watts to my lineup.

  • Jerry

    For BP, I’m sticking with ZD30 to go all the way. All the pro/con torture propaganda talk will only give the film it’s prerequisite controversy that all the top 10 films have. It will add to the film’s must see buzz.

  • houstonrufus

    Sasha, just wondering how you think the premiere of Django being cancelled impacts its chances? Has it been tarnished in any way, its awards chances i mean?

  • Danemychal

    Just to be clear, Breznican from EW is contacting Academy members to write endorsements for candidates. Witherspoon endorsing Watts therefore is not just totally out of the blue. The first in the series was James Franco writing an FYC for The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I believe Witherspoon is the second one. More to come and I enjoy reading them!

  • Sasha Stone

    Thanks Dane! I didn’t know about the series.

  • Sasha Stone

    Wow, Eric, that’s so great!

  • I can’t get the idea out of my head that ARGO, ZERO DARK THIRTY, and LINCOLN are pulling from the same group of voters. I feel like all three can’t make it. Critics’ lists aren’t awarded based on a voting system where you have to rank your choices and only one counts. So it depends on the split, imo. Do they split evenly and knock more than one out possibly? Or does one glide in and another just make it? I can’t believe all three will make it in comfortably.

    Besides that your list looks too plain. Something weird’s gonna make it in.

    Or people will be so uniform that in a year of outstanding cinematic treasure only five will be recognized and it will be Letdown City.

  • Bball_Jake

    Ive come to the conclusion that the Oscar voters just watch the films that bloggers and critics are predicting as “the films that Oscars would like”,and if the voters like the films that bloggers and critics are saying are the oscar films, then they go, okay I’ll vote for these. The voters dont really watch all the movies made this year, and then vote for their favorites. Therefore, I think that you bloggers who write about the Oscars, have more power on what gets nominated then you think.

  • The Bilingual Japanese Viewer

    Thanks for a great read, Sasha.

    I respect Spielberg as a director and usually find his films and movies enjoyable. And I already said it in the Hear My Plea comment but let me rephrase my own words: If this year’s shortlist for Best Director includes but the two of Bigelow and Spielberg, and the voters like them both equally in other aspects, I am hoping they take into consideration the latter’s entire filmography.

    Anyway, that Tsunami movie about a couple of foreign survivors in a Southeast Asian country, I’ve heard complaints about the movie itself being of racism of sort on some level. And I myself spotted a NY(?)-based female author’s professional review unnecessarily using the term “dark-skinned people” with no cause or context when referring to those people in her already short piece (as usual); to be honest, it’s just not right to me.

    Back to Spielberg. I love Saying Private Ryan, but if asked to choose between the film and that year’s winner Shakespeare in Love, for now I think I’ll most likely go for the latter. They both stand the ToT for me.

  • PJ

    “But nobody knows anything.”

    I am just learning this, this season. I only used to really start paying attention after Oscar nominations but wanted to do it different this year and start following since well late summer/early fall. Everybody could agree on something and it ends up missing shortlist or everyone ignores something and they are a contender. It’s fun. Lots of ups and downs. Some things are certain and somethings are not. But that is what makes it a race!

  • Really curious to place “Middle of Nowhere” (already a long-shot) in 3rd above Moonrise Kingdom (5th) in Original Screenplay, Moonrise’s most competitive category (particularly curious seeing how you have it as 8th for Best Picture). 3rd looks like wishful thinking, where even 5th is iffy, Looper and The Master being more competitive. Otherwise, pretty solid predictions in the majors.

  • Steandric

    If Reese is not out of the blue, then Angelina, Edward Norton, Kate Hudson, and for that matter, Ruffalo….must be….um…out of their mind. The buzzmakers here must be very disappointed at this.

  • Yeah, Middle of Nowhere is such a long shot for any nominations. Wishful thinking, I suppose, although perhaps that’s necessary in order for this site (one of Middle of Nowhere’s biggest supporters) to keep it in the conversation, as Academy members fill out their ballots. Also, Amour in second is probably also wishful thinking – only one critics groups nomination thus far in that category (London), no wins, ineligible for the WGA, not nominated by the HFPA. It has a better shot than Middle of Nowhere, but it’s by no means the second favourite. Moonrise Kingdom is probably, currently, Zero Dark Thirty’s biggest competition, perhaps alongside Django.

  • phantom

    Sasha, can you tell me what convinced you Wallis will get the nomination so easily (your No3) ? I’m not nitpicking, I am honestly curious what your reasoning is because I don’t see that happening at all, she isn’t even in my top6.

    Her film should be doing spectacularly in the critics-stage yet after 21 groups, still no award in a main category (picture, director, screenplay, actress), and even though she was ineligible for SAG and the HFPA rarely (=never?) nominates child performances, I still don’t see her making the cut : the Academy-screening back in June was a mixed bag and even if it hadn’t been, due to the very early release date they would have already forgotten about it by now, mainly because we have a new supposed top5 player basically every week (first Argo and Silver Linings Playbook, then Lincoln and Life of Pi, then Zero Dark Thirty and the by-now-questionable Les Miserables and most recently Django Unchained).

    Frankly, I would be utterly shocked if anyone NOT in the Chastain-Lawrence-Watts-Cotillard-Mirren-Riva sextet, would make the top5. Even Rachel Weisz seems to have considerably more buzz than Wallis, with her prestigious NYFCC-win and drama Golden Globe nomination. So tell me, is that an educated guess/hunch or her buzz is stronger and I am simply not aware of it ?

  • Tony

    And what actually happens to The Master, and why is so out of the race, when it’s a magnificent achievement by any means (writing, direction and, especially acting)? Is it because of the box office performance?

  • steve50

    I think @antoinette is on to something when she says that Argo, ZDT and Lincoln all pull votes from the same demographic (your “steakeaters”, if you will). What’s important here is which one of them will get the most number 1 and number 2 votes.

    While I’m not hearing much about a passionate support system for an underdog like we did last year with Tree of Life, I think there is enough support for Les Mis (sight unseen), SLP and Pi to jostle with the above “number 3” placer to ensure a spot.

    I maintain what I thought earlier, though, in that we will not see ten nominees for BP. The gap in votes between the films listed above and any others will be too great.

  • steve50

    @tony – The Master is a great achievement, but when the only thing an ancient AMPAS voter understood or remembered was the handjob, the BP chances are pretty nuch squashed.

    From the Liz Taylor statement posted above, you can tell that self-perception is key to the voters – how do they see themselves? Recent events in society have unrightly hurt Django and TDKR, and I thnk The Master falls into this box, as well.

  • John

    Yeah I have not encountered one female that didn’t really like or love Lincoln.

  • Jim

    Is anyone else starting to think that maybe Les Mis will be this year’s Dreamgirls? Supposed to be huge in the awards season, gets great early coverage, but then it’s savaged by critics, misses a Best Picture nod, and wins Supporting Actress?

  • Dreamgirls wasn’t savaged by critics. And it was a much bigger player than Les Mis has yet been.

    The Dublin Film Critics Circle have announced. Their choices are baffling, but mostly brilliant:

  • Jim

    You’re right, Paddy. “Savaged” was a terrible word choice. But the reviews proved more mediocre than anticipated. And I feel like the same is even more true with Les Mis.

    But people still seem to really be pushing it hard in this race, and I don’t know that I see it happening.

  • rufussondheim

    jim, no.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I think ZDT will win simply because it’s more timely and relevant and it’s probably the better film if looked at objectively. I think Lincoln and ZDT will appeal to the same segment of the academy and I think ZDT will win out in most comparisons and that Lincoln will be eliminated leaving ZDT and Les Miz to battle it out with ZDT being victorious. It’s very tedious to type this out again. If you don’t understand what I am saying, then learn the voting rules. If you are ignorant about the voting rules than you can’t understand my point.


    Watched Gayby last night. It’s a silly little affair and the production values are pretty low compared to these big budget films we’re talking about here. But one thing Gayby has that all of these other films do not is a script that’s filled with so much humor and wit and it provided me with more sincere laughs than any other film this year. It will definitely go down on my top 5 Original Scripts of the year.

    Planning on watching Once Upon a Time in Anatolia this afternoon. Ready for something meaty and serious and I’m really looking forward to it.

  • Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is so good Rufus! Not what one would expect. Very beguiling.

  • Sasha Stone

    @Phantom – you’re right that no SAG for Beasts and no Globes nod for Beasts would make critics and pundits think the Academy wouldn’t like it either. I have to disagree with that, at least for now. The only two significant things that came out of the Globes for me was no nod for Tom Hooper (which is a very very BIG deal) and no nod for David O. Russell (at least he got a screenplay nod). And Spielberg’s record number of nods. The Globes are calling 2012 the “Year of the Woman” with Jodie Foster being honored and their hosts – which leads me to believe that Bigelow, who didn’t win in 2009, will win there.

    I fully expect the Academy will appreciate Beasts of the Southern Wild. And if they don’t, they don’t. It’s as much a gamble for that as Les Miserables, even though those who haven’t seen it might disagree. I think Beasts WOULD have been nominated for the SAG and am not surprised it didn’t get in with the Globes.

    But you could be right – I could be right – it’s a roll of the dice on that one.

  • Sasha Stone

    @Vince, if Middle of Nowhere gets in at all — and I know it’s a long shot — it has a very good chance to win. And I disagree with all of you who are dismissing it as being “as good” as the others – it is every bit as good as the rest of them, even better to my mind. I know how the Oscar game works by now, after almost two decades of this bullshit. I know that you all just look at the other guy and see what he’s predicting and you go by people’s predictions you “trust” to be able to accurately say, yes, I think on August 15 it will be a sunny day. Predicting the ordinary to happen does not interest me much. And surprises DO happen in the Oscar race — the general consensus is not always right. It could not have predicted Adrien Brody, Roman Polanski and the screenplay of The Pianist to win. That came about because people were talking about how much they loved that movie. If I could teach you all anything before I leave this game it’s that. Think bigger.

  • phantom

    Sasha Stone

    Agreed, the Hooper GG-snub was the biggest news that day, the film was widely considered a surefire HFPA-darling and in the end it received 4 nominations…Nine had 5 (!). I’m not writing him or LesMis down just yet, the Academy’s British-vote could still help him out, but it is definitely not just the mixed early reviews now, with that GG-snub it started to disappoint precursor-wise, too. Well, I guess it will come down to the DGA top5 which is probably down to Spielberg-Bigelow-Affleck-Lee-Tarantino-Hooper-Russell-Anderson in that order (DGA-fave Nolan, critics’fave Haneke, and emerging Bayona are my NGNG-picks). BUT I don’t see it coming even close to winning BP even if it somehow pulls off the BD-nod, because it would STILL need one for writing and that is even more unlikely than Hooper’s nomination, and I don’t think a film today could win without a screenplay nomination…and the Academy has to be head over heels in love with the film to nominate it in Best Director AND Best Adapted Screenplay.

  • Jerry

    Reese Witherspoon might have been asked by EW to write that fan letter to Naomi Watts but she didn’t have to agree. Or write that Watts’ performance is the best since Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice.

    <Also how do you explain Angelina Jolie's support of The Impossible. She held a party and a screening for the film. Talking up the actors too.

    < A-list celebrities rarely come out this much to support a film, usually only if there is some important social cause.

    <Like all the other top 10 films The Impossible has its own controversy (White-Washing of the original Spanish family and Asians most affected) but that is being actively pushed back on or ignored. There has got to be something unique about this film.

  • Sasha > I’m going by the fact that everyone likes to forget that Moonrise Kingdom is one of the few genuine hits of the year that actually grew legs, has been making critic’s ten lists, and has been loved by many (personally, I usually don’t care for his films, but I enjoyed this movie). It’s also Wes Anderson’s most accessible film since The Royal Tenenbaums (even more so, I’d argue), much like Fargo was one of the Coen brothers more accessible films and was a turning point in Osar’s view of them. With a shot at BP, your decision to place Moonrise in the 5th slot isn’t a sound one, IMO. With putting it in the 5th position, you’re basically saying, “Moonrise” will get a nod at this point for screenplay, but it’s vulnerable” to “Looper” and “The Master.” I’d suggest if anything is vulnerable to “Looper” and “The Master” in your scenario, its “Middle of Nowhere.”

    But, you’ve been doing this for “almost two decades,” so what do I know. According to you, “Middle of Nowhere” is this year’s “Talk to Her.” Its third position is justified, because I’m “looking at all the other guys and not seeing it on their prediction ballots, trusting what they’re calling.” Okay, got it, check. But, back in September, I was wondering why Moonrise Kindgom wasn’t on the other guy’s prediction list. I was trusting … my own God-damn instincts.

  • rufussondheim

    Let us compare the trio of arthouse films this year (Moonrise Kingdom, The Master and Beasts of the Southern Wild) with a similar trio of films from last year (The Tree of Life, Drive and Melancholia).

    First, if you haven’t familarized yourself with this site, please do…

    Notice that last year, the trio ranked 1, 2, and 6. But only the number 1 option got a mention. (Drive was a very close #2, even beating TOL with #1 votes). But as far as awards buzz goes, the only one that had any was The Tree of Life, and it’s my opinion that The Tree of Life got the nomination because it was really the only viable choice, that it was far and away the most popular option of the three as it was mentioned all the way from July until the final phases. Drive, while finishing strongly, wasn’t on anyone’s shortlist until late in the game and Melancholi was never an option after the Cannes controversy.

    But I think all three were critically successful enough that they should have gotten in if enough people in the academy were of the mindset to choose arthouse fare. Because only The Tree of Life got in, it’s fair to conclude that maybe 10 to 15% of the Academy is of this mindset. If it were smaller, I don’t think TOL would have gotten in, if it were larger than I think Drive would have gotten in.

    So look at this year with The Master, Moonrise Kingdom and Beasts of the Southern Wild. They currently place 2, 3, and 6, a slightly worse but definitely comparable critical evaluation as last year’s trio.

    But this year’s trio doesn’t have a clear favorite of the three like The Tree of Life last year. So which one, if any, has the best shot? I don’t know if any do. With that estimated 10 to 15%, if they get split fairly evenly, then none will get in. If they lean toward one film, then that film has a shot.

    But one thing that complicates this year, Zero Dark Thirty, Argo and Lincoln are heavier hitters than The Artist, Hugo and The Descendants from last year. I think ZDT, especially, will pull a lot of the “arthouse” vote and that percentage of academy members will be smaller. And as a result I don’t think there will be an arthouse option this year. I think The MAster, Moonrise Kingdom and Beasts of the Southern Wild will be on the outside looking in (regrettably). I also think The Master will lose votes to Django Unchained as those “edgy” voters will see Django as a more viable mainstream option that will need support.)

    1) Zero Dark thirty
    2) Lincoln
    3) Les Miz
    4) Argo
    5) Silver Linings Playbook
    6) Django Unchained
    7) Life of Pi
    8) The Impossible (it’s getting a boost!)
    9) The Master (it’s back on my top 10!)
    10) Moonrise Kingdom

    I think, though, that we are only going to get 6 or 7 nominees.

    A note about Les Miz – even though it may not deserve the placement, I think it will get in simply because it’s been on everyone’s shortlist for months upon months. Last year, Extremely Loud was savage by the critics more than Les Miz, nor was it buzzed about as much as Les Miz, and it got no precursor love and yet it still made it in. There’s no way Les Miz is not getting in even if every review from here on out gives it a zero and its metacritic score goes down to 12.

  • Excellent article Sasha both well written and insightful. I note in the Liz Taylor quote she says: “That’s why we make melodramas, musicals, historical pageants, comedies, westerns, and documentaries.” If we look over the possible pictures available for votes, there is a certain lack of variety in theme or content and an unwillingness to truly make anything that either can’t be major box office for popcorn sales or made cheaply enough to peddle as rapidly as possible to DVD. When you add the partisanship of award season on top of that, it truly limits the good feelings we all used to get by an night at the movies.

  • Jim

    Meow, Rufus. I do understand how voting works. And I understand the notion that Lincoln and ZDT will appeal to the same voters (even if I disagree with it). That doesn’t change the fact that to me it’s starting to seem like Les Mis, even among those who like it, doesn’t seem to be garnering a love-fest. And even from those who DO love it, there seems to be an acknowledgment that they almost love it in spite of itself. I don’t imagine it topping voting lists, even among its fans. That is why it feels vulnerable to me. Not because I’m unaware of how the voting system works, but because my guess as to how it goes differs from your guess as to how it goes.

  • Zach

    Sasha, really insightful article and great to see your current predictions! I’d like to put in a request for some in-depth analysis of the acting categories. Best Picture is tough this year but the admittedly sexier acting categories are even more up in the air. Plus so many of the acting contenders are in indies that are inaccessible to the larger public. Truly interesting in things like whether you think The Paperboy, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and The Impossible are Oscar caliber and whether Joaquin is going to be snubbed for his attitude or his unlikable, manic character.

  • Zach

    *I’m truly interested in things like…

  • rufussondheim

    Jim, why do you think Extremely Loud got a nomination last year?

  • rufussondheim
  • phantom

    1. Lincoln (Frontrunner…by a landslide.)
    2. Zero Dark Thirty (Critics’ favorite.)
    3. Argo (The textbook ‘strong contender’ (=BO+Raves+Precursor-love).)
    4. Life of Pi (IMO, Ang Lee is stronger than the Hooper-Russel duo…for now.)
    5. Les Miserables (A lot are still up in the air (final critical consensus+BO).)

    6. Silver Linings Playbook (The film is strong, but I don’t think Russel is.)
    7. Django Unchained (VERY late entry, but that might just be a good thing.)
    8. The Master (Could Anderson be this year’s Malick ? Definitely a possibility.)
    9. The Impossible (It has a VERY passionate campaign, it could have the 5% No1.)
    10. Moonrise Kingdom (It has been doing rather well lately.)

    11. Amour (No foreign language film has made the cut since the BP-expansion.)
    12. Beasts of the Southern Wild (Early release date + mixed Academy screening.)
    13. The Dark Knight Rises (ONLY with significant Guild-love (PGA-nod the very least.)
    14. Skyfall (ONLY with significant British-love (Bafta-nods will be telling).)
    15. The Hobbit (Old habits die hard ? They nominated all three LOTR-films.)

    16. Anna Karenina (They loved Atonement/P&P a lot MORE than other groups.)
    17. The Sessions (If they are already considering it strongly in acting and writing…)
    18. Cloud Atlas (Love/Hate movie…is there 5% there who LOVED it, though ?)
    19. Quartet (The Oscar-friendly cast and crew + Weinstein-push could be enough.)
    20. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (If they are already considering it in writing…)

  • John

    I agree with rufussondheim about Les Mis.

    If Extremely Loud could get in last year with some truly horrific reviews and minimal buzz and unimpressive box office and only a couple of noms, then you’d think that Les Mis with all of its buzz, stellar performances, respect of its audaciousness (though that’s its downfall, too), craft pedigree, box office potential, love it/hate it kind of strength … could make it, too. Inconsistent quality notwithstanding, it still has quite a bit going for it.

    Furthermore, I think it’s safe to say that with this new system that Dreamgirls would have been a Best Pic nominee and 9 nominations total. And while Nine was a disaster, it still got 4 noms and I really wonder how close it was to a BP nom itself. Could you imagine if that had popped up?

    I’m not saying Les Mis will absolutely happen. Maybe it won’t. I don’t see it registering with the particularly older male AMPAS members. But I feel like its still in decent stead for a Bp nom.

  • Roberto

    I like this article a lot and I identify myself with some of what is mentioned. When I think about the best experiences of my chilhood, I remember going to the movies to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark and E. T. It was sad when Spielberg did not win an oscar for his directing of E. T. and I really hope he will receive recognition from the Academy for his work in Lincoln.

  • Glenn UK

    You know what pisses me off about awards season – its things like people taking the GG’s seriously. Everyone is crapping all over the fact that Hooper never got nommed and state it is something major ….. a shift! Lets fast forward to the show itself and when people’s choices do not win then suddenly the HFPA will be a bunch of lunatics who know nothing about movies and who do nothing but ass kiss and “get bought” – for example Avatar/Hurt Locker year and that is one year of many when the Globes were discredited. Again, they are not a Guild and thusly their winners are no better than those dished out by the critics. It’s all about the Guilds and BAFTA people – that, I believe, is where the race begins and where, if there are going to be shifts, then this is where it will be!

  • Bball_Jake

    I think Hobbit can get in with enough #1’s.

  • Exactly – I so think Les Mis is getting in. I took a bit of flack the other day for saying that I thought it’d make it despite the fact that some of the critics have been slating it.

  • Patrick

    I don’t think anyone’s denying that Les Mis is a shoo-in for a nomination. All people are saying is that it just doesn’t seem to have much of a shot at winning anymore. Sure the Golden Globe winners don’t necessarily translate to Oscar, but the fact that Hooper missed the directing nod is indeed a very big deal, like Sasha says.

  • steve50

    I think your prediction list is bang on, phantom. The top 5 are probably solid and I’ll guess that no more than two or three from the second list make the cut. Anybody from the third set would be a surprise, but a wildly popular one.

  • Sammy

    I have recently seen Amour and imho it is a very good film by Haneke. It won Cannes Palme D’Or and European Film Award and LAFCA. I honestly think it deserves a BP nomination and definitely a BD nomination.

  • Daveylow

    There is no “one” best picture of the year which is why the Oscars can be so frustrating.

  • Daveylow

    I’m not sure why those behind The Impossible decided to open the film so late in the year, but this film deserves to be a Best Picture contender. I hope it finds an audience because they are bound to moved by the film. Watts, Holland, McGregor all deserve nominations.

  • Daveylow

    Life of Pi is getting nominated for at least one sound award. Ang Lee isn’t getting edited by the Sound Editors guild for no reason.

    Pi is also close to a shoo-in for Best Music Score.

  • Daveylow

    “The only two significant things that came out of the Globes for me was no nod for Tom Hooper (which is a very very BIG deal) and no nod for David O. Russell (at least he got a screenplay nod).”

    I really don’t see the logic here. It was obvious that the Globes were into Django Unchained so Tarantino got the directing nomination that Hooper or Russell would have gotten. I don’t expect BAFTA to follow suit.

  • w.j.

    I still think Javier Bardem is getting in to the supporting actor category. The academy loves him.

  • Daveylow

    Barbara and Once Upon a Time in Anatolia were my two favorite foreign films that I’ve seen this year (yes, I saw Amour) but there has been no buzz about them whatsoever. What a shame.

  • rufussondheim

    Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is not for everyone and for much of it, I wasn’t sure I was one of the ones it was meant for. But I stuck with it and now that I’ve digested everything, I’m glad I did.

    It’s an extremely memorable film, filled with many haunting images and events. It’s simultaneously dreamlike and utterly real. And it comes to a suprisingly emotional conclusion filled with compassion and mystery.

    For thoughtful, patient viewers, I highly recommend it.

    My new personal top 10.

    The Perks of Being a Wallflower
    Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
    Sound of My Voice
    Take This Waltz
    Safety Not Guaranteed
    Life of Pi

  • Hanson

    Jim I am not sure what Dreamgirls you saw but Dreamgirls did not get bad reviews. It had an 78 on rotten tomatoes with an 86 top critic rating. It has an 77 on Metacritic and 92 on BFCA.

  • Linc4Jess

    What I find more interesting is the faltering “Les Miserables”. It general consensus of film critics is down to 71% and falling. What is happening to this film before it even opens to the general public is very interesting. Heck, “Jack Reacher” has a 78% and rising. Maybe the film critics need to take a second look and place “Jack Reacher” in their top ten. Ah, but as i remember the not so good “Dread” had a percentage in the upper 80s as well. Oh, well, I like to read film critics reviews but hardly ever listen to their recommendation.

  • I loved the twist at the end of Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. I didn’t see the end to that story turning out the way it did. Caught me off guard, and I was so riveted I didn’t realise.

    Phantom, your list is comprehensive, but two issues I have:
    – Beasts of the Southern Wild is surely in better stead than 12th. I have a feeling that certain sections of the Academy will love it. Were the race not so crowded, I’d even be considering Benh Zeitlin for a shock Director nomination.
    – No Best Exotic. It totally has a realistic shot.

  • Daveylow

    Oops: Something went awry with my Life of Pi comment above. It should say:

    Life of Pi is getting nominated for at least one sound award. Ang Lee is getting honored by the Sound Editors guild for a reason.

  • rufussondheim

    Yeah, Paddy, there’s definitely an atraditional edge-of-your-seat quality to the end of that film. You know something’s coming, but you have no idea what it could be. It’s just so well done. (But not for everyone)

  • phantom

    Paddy, you’re right, I forgot Marigold which does seem like a BP-contender with a realistic shot after the SAG/HFPA love BUT it received the exact same nominations from both as Bridesmaids and that didn’t make it with better reviews and Box Office. I think a film like ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ – or ‘Bridesmaids’ for that matter – would have been a shoo-in for the BP-nod in the 2009-system (a.k.a. The Blind Side-year), but with the new rule, I honestly don’t see it delivering the 5% No1. Having said that, it should have been in my top15 based on the SAG Ensemble nod alone, so thanks for reminding me.

    As for Beasts of the Southern Wild, I’m starting to feel that even #12 is generous. The film hasn’t won one award in the main categories so far (21 groups announced) and it is exactly the kind of film/conteder that is supposed to be damn strong in the critics-stage even if it fades later on. Again, you could be right and it could pull off the 5% No1, but I’m simply not feeling the buzz anymore.

  • ChrisFlick

    I’m guessing Riva in place of Cotillard, just haven’t read enough good reviews for Rust and Bone, this on the East Coast. Watched Deep Blue Sea last night. Rachel should be on the short list but doubt many people will appreciate such an old style movie. A shame as she is really wonderful, as is Simon Russell Beale as her husband. They have two confrontation scenes that are as good as anything I’ve seen this year, marvelously written (adapted)and played.

  • rufussondheim

    I don’t see Beasts of the Southern Wild as having a shot at a BP nomination for all of the reasons Phantom says. It’s one of those films that’s getting lost in the shuffle.

    And it still has the most 100’s of any film in Metacritic (although it looks like Amour and ZDT might pass it) But still. The fact that it’s doing so poorly in the big critic’s awards is rather disconcerting.

  • Beasts hasn’t won anything, but I do a points chart every year based on the critics groups, and it’s currently in seventh on that, and only barely behind Moonrise Kingdom and Silver Linings Playbook. The support is definitely there. I think the same types of people who pushed through A Serious Man and The Tree of Life in recent years might give it the same push.

    Best Exotic and Bridesmaids appeal to two very different demographics. Bridesmaids’ demographic is in low numbers in the Academy. Best Exotic’s demographic is the Academy.

  • rufussondheim

    Let’s hope you are right, Paddy (I’m waiting to get it through Netflix so I have a couple of more weeks yet before I see Beasts.)

    Now I must pretentiously inform you that I am off to read some Haruki Murakami before I watch Oslo, August 31st.

  • unlikely hood

    Sasha: If I could teach you all anything before I leave this game it’s that. Think bigger.

    Going somewhere?

  • phantom


    “Best Exotic and Bridesmaids appeal to two very different demographics. Bridesmaids’ demographic is in low numbers in the Academy. Best Exotic’s demographic is the Academy.”

    Touche. I’m still not convinced it will pull off the #1s, though.

  • I loved DREAMGIRLS. I was pissed when it didn’t get in.

    Now I shall prescrumptiously inform you that I’m going to watch some Kanako Murakami before I press play on THE RETURN OF THE KING: EE, just in case. 😉

    p.s. Last time I checked I was female and I didn’t like LINCOLN.

  • rufussondheim

    Yeah, I hear it’s not in your DNA Antoinette. It must suck being a girl.

    Apparently they just awarded a special Nobel for the discovery of a Spielberg Gene on the Y Chromosome. It must have gotten there in 1993 when Monsanto was trying to clone Dinosaurs so they could replace people in a new and improved foodstuffs that was intended to be called Soylent Blue.

  • Max

    Consider this possibility:
    4 films – Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, Les Miserables, Life of Pi – splitting it ALL(except for Best Animated Feature, Animated Short, Foreign Film, Documentary Feature, Documentary Short etc.)

    Picture: Lincoln/Zero Dark Thirty
    Director: Lincoln/Zero Dark Thirty
    Actor: Day-Lewis(Lincoln)
    Actress: Chastain(Zero Dark Thirty)
    S.Actor: Tommy Lee Jones(Lincoln)
    S.Actress: Hathaway(Les Miserables)
    O.Screenplay: Zero Dark Thirty
    A.Screenplay: Lincoln
    Production Design: Les Miserables/ Lincoln/ Life of Pi
    Editing: Zero Dark Thirty
    Cinematography: Life of Pi
    Costume Design: Les Miserables
    Makeup and Hairstyling: Lincoln
    Visual Effects: Life of Pi
    Score: Lincoln
    Song: “Suddenly”(Les Miserables)
    Sound Mixing: Les Miserables
    Sound Editing: Zero Dark Thirty

    Everyone Else Wins Nothing.

    It’s quite possible, ain’t it?

  • Nic Cage

    The Dark Knight Rises was really mediocre and not deserving of any awards.

    Read this for an intelligent conversation regarding the quality of the film:

  • flynn

    It is ridiculous for Reese Witherspoon to compare Watt’s performance to the mighty Meryl Streep’s turn in Sophie’s Choice. Naomi doesn’t bring anything new to her very Oscar-Baity performance, and Streep’s performance has never been replicated again or surpassed.

  • flynn is predicting Les Miserables will be a monster box-office hit. It is already breaking records for advance tickets, so this will help Les Mis Oscar-wise.

  • rufussondheim

    Well, my favorite movie tally website’s just been updated and unlike last year, there have been some wild swings as the lists come pouring in…

    1) The Master just overtook Zero Dark Thirty as the number one film and it has more #1 votes than ZDT too. So maybe The Master isn’t as dead as we thought. The #1 film usually gets a BP nomination and since they expanded from five nominees it has gotten a BP nom.

    2) Holy Motors is gaining strength rather than losing strength as foreign films usually do. It’s at #3 with more #1 votes than any film. Amour is at #5. I still expect these films to fall in the rankings over time as the more provincial critics lists pour in (last year A Separation got as high as #3 before settling in at #9)

    3) Lincoln is all the way down at #7, exactly where The King’s Speech finished, which I guess is good news for Lincoln.

    4) Two other surefire nominees are Argo at #8 and Silver Linings at #10. These are pretty low. Last year 6 of the top 8 films got a nomination, if nominations go as expected then only 4 of the top 10 would get one.

    5) Life of Pi is at 16 and Django Unchained is at #18. These are pretty low and if last year serves as a template, one could argue they won’t get it. 3 films outside the top 10 did get in (The Help and War Horse were in the 20’s and Extremely Loud was outside the top 40) but they were more sappy audience favorites rather than critical favorites (Dragon Tattoo was #18 and that didn’t get in.)

    If these numbers hold, then I’m going to have to reconsider their status’s as good possibilities (I have them at #7 and #6 respectively.)

    6) Perks of Being a Wallflower is at #24! This is the first time it’s made an appearance. This will have no effect on the Oscar Race, just wanted to poin it out.

    7) Les Miserables is at #28 While this is extremely low for the old five film tally (only The Reader was ranked lower since 2000) it’s about right for getting a nomination under the current system – The Help/War Horse were 26/27, ELAIC was 41+ – but it’s way too low to actually win BP. A Beautiful Mind was the lowest to win at #18.

    8) No sign of The Impossible. Maybe when the list expands to 40 it will make it in, maybe it has yet to emerge (War Horse didn’t crack the top 40 at first, either). But with ELAIC last year, I wouldn’t count out The Impossible just yet. I have a feeling it will get into the top 40 when all is said and done.

  • steandric

    Re: Naomi Watts, The Impossible – When Reese Witherspoon writes to EW on your behalf, and you have many celebrities turning out to help get your film, The Impossible, some notice, and then you get a Globe nod and a SAG nod, you’re probably in.

    Sounds bitterly libelous as if some sort of conspiracy is going on?

    Talking about “some notice”, opened for just 2 moths, “The Impossible” has swept past Titanic to become the highest ever grossed film in the entire movie industry in Spain, making $53 million out of a population of only 46 million people. Literally everyone in Spain is talking about the film.

    “As the film’s heroine, Naomi Watts powerfully becomes a front-runner for an Academy Award…..“The Impossible” is one of the best films of the year.” [4 stars out of 4, Roger Ebert]

    “Watt’s Maria gives you something to aspire to…..She’s always superlative, but The Impossible is Watt’s best performance in years.” [Mary Pols, Time Magazine]

    ‘A remarkable visual achievement, made more affecting by the depth the actors bring to their characters….the go-for-broke intensity and emotional layering Watts brings to her role is an acting triumph.[Peter Travers, Rolling Stone]

  • rufussondheim

    The Impossible has 5 100’s out of 17 on Metacritic. That’s a ratio that’s better than Lincoln (11 out of 41) and is dragged down by one idiot’s review that was assigned a 12.

    I wouldn’t count it out just yet. With the celebrity push, the critical acceptance and it’s emotional subject, I think this has a really strong possibility of getting in as a BP nominee.

  • Meh Ed Gonzalez. I read his reviews when I feel like despairing over the state of film criticism.

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