Oscar Circuit: “Nice Guys (or Gals) Finish Last”

Oscar Predictions Updated! Who is the frontrunner now?

Oscar Predictions have been updated!

I’ve come, I saw, well, I didn’t conquer but I feel comfortable with the picks thus far. I’ve spent hours analyzing and looking at categories while trying to think like an AMPAS voter. The past eight days or so have presented many answers to questions we thought we knew the answer to. When looking at the Critics Choice, Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, and the two dozen critics’ awards that have announced their favorites for Year 2011, one thing remains clear. This is one of the most open races we’ve seen in years.

I hate using the word “lock” because as history has told us, AMPAS can “unlock” someone just as fast as we put them in. Think Paul Giamatti in “Sideways.” However, I feel comfortable using the word for a few films thus far. Michel Hazanavicius’ “The Artist” is the clear favorite and the one to beat. It has the Oscar flair that they love and the critics have taken to it in a big way as well. I still feel the same way about it that I did when I first saw it and that means something. “Slumdog Millionaire” which had the same effect on many critics, including myself, aged very poorly and looking back, not necessarily the best film of the year. Not by a long shot. Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants” has made a strong showing. George Clooney is working his magic and has encountered many awards along the way. It doesn’t hurt that he also directed and starred in “The Ides of March,” a film not locked by any means despite the Golden Globe nomination. Steven Spielberg’s great epic “War Horse” has everything that Oscar loves. While it doesn’t carry a strong showing on the performance front, the story alone will get voters checking the film off.

Those three films seem solid and ready for the ceremony. Close behind is Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo,” which got off to a great start with the National Board of Review naming it their Best Film of 2011. On the technical front, the film is sure to soar and it remains one of the best surprises that the year had to offer. Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” is second to “The Artist” with the most critic wins in the season so far. I believe Oscar voters will appreciate it and nearly fall in love with everything it offers. The film carries a lot of respect, which can go a long way with voters. I have fears for Tate Taylor’s “The Help” and Stephen Daldry’s “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.” The former has done well on the circuit, but I still have a horrible feeling of snubbing coming its way. Daldry’s film has been ignored by all nearly everyone except for BFCA. Granted, screeners went out extremely late but like In Contention’s Guy Lodge tweeted: ” At what point do we stop putting it down to late screening and start wondering if there’s a problem?” He has a valid point. It still can surprise in a big way and it should. It’s one of the most emotionally investing films I’ve seen this year.

In the acting categories, I have to give props to Joey Magidson who called a Brad Pitt lovefest coming that could lead to an Oscar win for “Moneyball.” Pitt delivers in the film unlike anything we’ve seen from him before. It’s not his best work but it’s one of his most charismatic roles yet. I will always believe Oscar got it wrong when they left him off for Andrew Dominik’s “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.” It showed everything this actor was capable of. Jean Dujardin and George Clooney still remain formidable contenders and are pretty locked in for Oscar night. Gary Oldman is dead in the water while Michael Fassbender and Michael Shannon rise in the ranks. I’m afraid Leonardo DiCaprio is in folks and it sucks. Plain and simple. He doesn’t deserve it. I know there are watchers out there who loved his work but I found it his weakest and worst performance to date. Let’s hope he recovers with “The Great Gatsby” in 2012. If DiCaprio is left off, Fassbender and Shannon should fill those spots. Demian Bichir surprised everyone with his mention at the SAG awards for “A Better Life,” but I’m not sure if it really meant anything. I sincerely wish it did but I’m not sure. Bichir’s film played a while ago, the DVD has even come and gone. He’ll need a big push, which they’re doing well already, but it can’t let up.

Is Viola Davis' Oscar in trouble?

Viola Davis is in trouble. Not for a nomination by any means, but for her Oscar statue. Meryl Streep can win all the awards she wants for “The Iron Lady” but I don’t think it will mean anything. This is not Streep’s year. Tilda Swinton has been making quite a splash for “We Need to Talk About Kevin” but I don’t think too many will be voting for her even though it is one of her most impressive turns. Glenn Close is worrying me. She’s received her Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award for her work in “Albert Nobbs.” IF Close is nominated for a sixth time, I can’t see them overlooking her for Davis. It just doesn’t seem viable. Close has four chances with Oscar this year. She stars, co-adapts the screenplay, produces, and writes the song, “Lay Your Head Down.” While I think they should throw votes towards her song, and give her the Oscar that way, not many will see it. She’s a performer, not a song writer. Performing is her trade, her essence. They probably should have done this for either “Fatal Attraction” or “Dangerous Liaisons” but Oscar can nearly never get it right. If Close makes the shortlist, Oscar may be written in the stars. Now, I know what many of the Oscar pundits will throw out, what about Peter O’Toole? And you’re right, O’Toole did lose a record eighth time to Forest Whitaker for “The Last King of Scotland” but if you place Close and O’Toole’s name side-by-side, who do you think deserves an Oscar for a better career resume? Let the debate begin.

Is Plummer's Oscar sewn up?

Albert Brooks has ripped through the critics’ awards for his work in “Drive” and giving “Beginners” supporting actor hopeful Christopher Plummer a run for his money. Brooks however, missed the SAG nomination which is sad but a sign for bad things to come. He could and should win the Globe in a walk but with no SAG nomination, it kills his momentum. Think Clive Owen in “Closer.” There going with a more “veteran-y” veteran and that would be Plummer unless Max Von Sydow finally shows up for “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” and then we have a REAL race here ladies and gentleman. It would be wide open. Kenneth Branagh’s likely nomination will be his reward. Other open spots can go any of the following actors: Jonah Hill landed his Globe and SAG award but he could be criminally left off easily, especially with the poor reviews of “The Sitter” hitting the web. Armie Hammer got it when it counted and was nominated for his work in “J. Edgar.” If they’re going for DiCaprio, they’ll likely write down Hammer’s name too. Ezra Miller is quietly making his rounds with his strong work in “We Need to Talk About Kevin” and Nick Nolte brought down the house with his work in “Warrior.” The latter received his SAG mention which should likely carry him to the Oscar nomination. Is this the year of vets?

The Contender that never was...

One vet that probably won’t be hearing her name is Vanessa Redgrave for her work in the abysmal “Coriolanus.” If they didn’t go to her rescue for “Atonement,” a film that she single-handily made a masterpiece, I don’t see it happening for Ralph Fiennes’ debut directorial work. And to top it off, it’s not a deserved nomination if she does get it. It’s a fine turn from her but she even manages to get outshined by the beautiful Jessica Chastain. With so many calling her the winner for months and now with her likely left off, who wins the Oscar? A tight race between Berenice Bejo and perhaps Jessica Chastain. Chastain has had the year of champions delivering great performance after great performance. I think her winning for “The Help” is a delightful way to recognize that. She can easily split between co-star Octavia Spencer who’s probably just as deserving. I don’t see Janet McTeer garnering enough support to go all the way and Melissa McCarthy would be too good to be true. Shailene Woodley might be something if she didn’t miss the SAG nod. See Natalie Portman for “Closer.” I think that’s hard to recover from.

The rest of this can be discussed for hours. But discuss among yourselves here and on the Forum but not until after you check out the Oscar Prediction Updates!

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