This is the time of year when many movie pundits start making predictions on what will be nominated for the Oscars. We are officially in “Oscar season”. Why? This is when the movies that are typically given awards consideration are released – between the months of September and December. In general terms, the spring is when movies of all genres are released that aren’t considered Oscar contenders and there’s usually a giant release like this year’s Hunger Games. The summer is blockbuster season when studios release the movies they hope make a LOT of money. Kids are out of school, so this is when lots of superhero flicks, raunchy comedies, and franchise hopefuls come out.
We see that in the fall as well with some BIG releases, like Skyfall and The Hobbit. Autumn, however, is primarily awards season. There’s lots of film festivals, like Toronto, Telluride, and New York. This is where a lot of awards hopefuls screen first, which allows for critics to get the word out on whether it’s great or not. It’s when certain performances jump to the forefront of consideration.
Having said that, there are a few major awards contenders that no one has seen yet: Les Miserables, Zero Dark Thirty, Hitchcock, Django Unchained, Promised Land, and The Hobbit. Just in the last week, advance word on films such as Lincoln and Flight has come out due to screenings done at the N.Y. Film Festival.
I follow the Oscar race very closely. Why? Because I’m a movie fanatic — haven’t you readers figured that out yet??
So, in the post, I am predicting what I believe will be nominated for Best Picture and Director. I will categorize the possible nominees by the following: Shoo-Ins, Strong Possibility, Possible, and Long Shots.
As the unseen films listed above start to gather buzz, the list will be updated in the future, but I am factoring these movies in now and what I think their chances currently are.
This category has been the subject of some controversy among film buffs in the last four years. For decades and decades, the nominating process for Best Picture was simple. Five nominees. Every year. Simple right? Then in 2009, the Academy changed the rules. Now, there would be 10 nominated Pictures (even though every other category would remain 5). Why the change? Many have speculated that 2008’s omission of The Dark Knight being nominated was a big factor. In that year, generally considered pretty weak for movies, Dark Knight won over critics and audiences in a way few movies do. Not often are the MASSIVE blockbusters such critical darlings too. Many pundits predicted the Academy would do something they normally don’t: nominate the movie that audiences seemed to like the best. They didn’t. So, the 10 movie format was done for 2009 and 2010. In 2011, the format changed again where the number of nominated Best Pictures can fall anywhere between 5 and 10 movies (once again, all other races stay at 5). Last year, nine movies were nominated. I read the guidelines for how Best Picture nominees are chosen now in the new format and got a headache. It’s something about combination of #1 votes and #2 votes and how many ballots the movie appears on. Bottom line? It’s a stupid process. The Academy should simply take it back to five.
Why? In broad terms, there are usually only up to 3 movies that really have a chance to WIN the award. In some years, it’s very easy to predict. Everyone knew Schindler’s List would win in 1993. Everyone knew Titanic would win in 1997. It is very rare that it’s a wide open race and by the time the Oscars air, the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards have already taken place and we have a general idea what and who is going to win… though upsets have happened, though relatively rarely. Also, it is well-known that the winner of Best Picture and Best Director usually match up. 62 out of 85 times as a matter of fact. More importantly, there has been precisely ONE time in the last EIGHTY years where the Director of the Best Picture winner was not nominated for Best Director. That would be in 1989 when Driving Miss Daisy won and its director Bruce Beresford didn’t get nominated. What does that all mean? It means if a movie gets a Best Picture nomination and the director isn’t nominated, that movie stands ZERO chance of winning Best Picture… or 1 out of 80 if you’re gonna be a stickler. Keeping it at five is clean and simple. But, it’s not that way so I have to predict accordingly:
Argo came out this weekend and was met with critical and audience acclaim. It also had a big opening weekend (it helps a movie get a nomination when it’s a hit). Why? More viewers tune in when they’ve seen the movies nominated. The 1998 telecast in which Titanic cleaned up is the most watched Oscars in history. Another highly rated telecast more than others? 2004 when Lord of the Rings: Return of the King won. Argo is not the type of hit those movies were, but I had to make that point somehow.
The other shoo-in? Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. It’s not out yet, but early word is already out and it’s mostly quite positive. If Spielberg’s War Horse got nominated last year, which got a fairly lackluster reception from critics and audiences, there’s no way this won’t get nominated.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master is about as close to a shoo-in as it can be without me calling it that. The people who love it really love it. Anderson is considered by most, including me, to be one of the very greatest directors working today. The only reason I’m not calling it a total shoo-in is that I’ve seen it and know some critics are beginning to start a small backlash against it. It’s a tough film to categorize and there’s been a small amount of controversy with it due to its allusions to Scientology. Still, at the end of the day, it’s in.
Les Miserables looks like a movie built for Academy Awards. It’s from the director of The King’s Speech. It’s got an A list cast. It’s a musical. The only reason I’m not calling this a shoo-in? As I mentioned, no one’s seen it yet and it could be a critical and commercial flop. That seems highly unlikely though.
Silver Linings Playbook won the Audience Award at the Toronto Film Festival, arguably the most influential of all the festivals. It’s not out yet, but it’s said to be a real audience pleaser that’s gotten great reviews so far. The performances by a first-rate cast are said to be outstanding. It looks like it’s in.
Ang Lee’s Life of Pi recently had festival screenings and the response was overwhelmingly positive. It’s based on a known best-seller and looks Academy friendly.
We’ll list the five that no one’s seen: Hitchcock, Zero Dark Thirty, The Hobbit, Promised Land and Django Unchained.
The Academy loves movies about making movies and Hitchcock centers on the making of 1960’s classic Psycho, with previous winner Anthony Hopkins playing Hitchcock and previous winner Helen Mirren as his dedicated wife, who contributed much more to Hitchcock’s films than most realize.
Zero Dark Thirty is about the manhunt to kill Osama Bin Laden and comes from Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow, who won for that film in 2009.
The Hobbit? You’ve probably heard of it. Peter Jackson directs the adaptation of Tolkien. His three Lord of the Rings films all received nominations and third installment won.
Promised Land comes from Milk director Gus Van Sant, stars Matt Damon, and is a drama that challenges the fracking phenomenon going in the country. Sounds like something liberals could eat up.
Django Unchained comes from Quentin Tarantino. Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds were nominated and QT is widely considered in the very top tier of working directors whose films are Events.
Robert Zemeckis’s Flight screened at the NY Film Festival last week and is said to be great, even though a lot of the attention centered on Denzel Washington’s performance.
The Austrian film Amour won the Palm D’or at the Cannes Film Festival this year and is a critical favorite. Another critical hit that did very well on the art-house circuit is Beasts of the Southern Wild and the same can be said for Wes Anderon’s Moonrise Kingdom.
Cloud Atlas is based on a best-seller and comes from the creators of The Matrix trilogy. It’s screened at festivals and seems to be one of those hate-it-or-love-it type of pictures.
The Impossible has received very positive notices on the festival circuit. It stars Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor and takes place during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The Sessions is another festival favorite, starring John Hawkes as a paraplegic who seeks out a sex therapist, played by Helen Hunt.
Remember how mentioned the controversy about Dark Knight being the country’s favorite and yet it didn’t get nominated? Don’t count on Dark Knight Rises being nominated either, especially because its reviews weren’t nearly as rapturous as its predecessor. Same goes for The Avengers. And The Hunger Games.
Skyfall is said to be one of the best Bond films ever, but it’s hard to see the Academy nominating it.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was an art-house and critical hit over the summer, but that’s probably not enough to make it a factor.
Anna Karenina reteams Atonement team of director Joe Wright and star Keira Knightley but it hasn’t received the positive buzz that film did, which led to its nominations.
Seeing that anywhere from five to ten films will get nominated and that nine did under the new format last year, I’m going with 8 Pictures getting the nod. They are:
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD
LIFE OF PI
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
Now that I’ve explained the Pics being nominated, it’s safe to say that all five Directing nominees will be from those movies. That said, here’s the list on the four categories:
Ben Affleck for Argo, Steven Spielberg for Lincoln, and Paul Thomas Anderson for The Master
Tom Hooper for Les Miserables, Ang Lee for Life of Pi.
Michael Haneke for Amour, Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty, David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook, Gus Van Sant for Promised Land, Sacha Gervasi for Hitchcock, Benh Zietlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild, Robert Zemeckis for Flight, Wes Anderson for Moonrise Kingdom, and Peter Jackson for The Hobbit, and Quentin Tarantino for Django.
Christopher Nolan for Dark Knight Rises, Sam Mendes for Skyfall, Joe Wright for Anna Karenina, Ben Lewin for The Sessions, Juan Antonio Bayona for The Impossible, Tom Twyker and Andy and Lana Wachowski for Cloud Atlas.
Ben Affleck, Argo
Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master
Tom Hooper, Les Miserables
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
So there you have it. My initial predictions for Picture and Director. The acting posts will be coming in the next couple of days, so stay tuned!