Oscar Circuit: “Right Category, Right Time”

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Cannes is over.  We have a possible Best Picture contender in Michael Haneke’s Amour, which you can see added to the Oscar Tracker.  In the past month, trailers for big Oscar contenders have dropped like Roger Michell’s Hyde Park on Hudson, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, and even as late as yesterday with Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables.  Any talk circling around the notion of an Oscar nomination possibility is mere beguilement and an attempt to satisfy our obsessions during this first half of the fiscal year.  But that’s why we read the Awards Circuit, isn’t?

As I get used to updating and creating the new Oscar prediction pages much more frequently, my thoughts about this upcoming Oscar race are going at 100 miles a minute.  Ben Affleck’s Argo seems like a formidable contender at this point but I’m not sure if that’s more hope or gut feelings.  Six Sessions, formerly called “The Surrogate,” is a wildcard.  While many, including myself, believe in the power of lead performer John Hawkes and co-stars Helen Hunt and William H. Macy, I’m unsure of how much the Academy will take to the film.

Looking at each category objectively in June is extremely important.  Though we’ll never exactly know what the Academy is thinking at any given time, based on past trends, we can foresee plenty of possibilities.  Meryl Streep has just been rewarded her third Oscar for Phyllida Lloyd’s dreadful The Iron Lady (2011).  Many speculate the long Streep lovefest that the Academy has been obsessed with for decades will finally cool off and pave the way for fresher, younger talent to take over.  This year, Streep will star in David Frankel’s Hope Springs with Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell.  This seems like the type of film that could fall in line with her past entertaining efforts like It’s Complicated (2010) or the gut wrenching Mamma Mia! (2008).  Either way, Streep is always someone to watch out for especially when the Golden Globes come into play.

Category placement is imperative when studios are attempting to get their talents recognized by the Oscars.  If anyone recalls the debacle that was Maria Bello and her bravura performance in David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence (2005), a film that was able to capture two Oscar nominations for Adapted Screenplay and Supporting Actor for co-star William Hurt.  When the critics are split on the placement of category placement, it’s the movie studios’ job to step in and make the decision for them.  Bello was nominated for Lead Actress in a Drama at the Golden Globes and was snubbed by the Screen Actors Guild.  It was believed during the season that four ladies (Amy Adams, Catherine Keener, Rachel Weisz, and Michelle Williams) were locked for Oscar nominations and the fifth spot was between Bello and the acclaimed supporting turn of Frances McDormand in Niki Caro’s North Country (2005).  Many felt the former performer was the most deserving for the citation but in the end McDormand’s strong presence during the award shows and firm stand on placement overtook the great Bello.

This method of firm placement doesn’t always work in all circumstances.  Scarlett Johansson delivered two terrific and award worthy performances in Peter Webber’s Girl with the Pearl Earring (2003) and Sofia Coppola’s critical darling Lost in Translation (2003).  It was perceived that the works were both so strong that Johansson would end up vote-splitting with herself and miss out on all counts.  Focus Features, the distributor of Coppola’s film decided that her clearly visible and understandable lead performance as Charlotte was going to be campaigned as a “supporting” performance in hopes, this would be the easier venture for them to achieve.  Johansson was double nominated at the Golden Globes in both Drama and Comedy/Musical categories and snubbed by the Screen Actors Guild, a clear sign that there plan would ultimately fail.  On Oscar morning, Lost in Translation was nominated for four Academy Awards including Picture, Director, Screenplay, and Lead Actor for co-star Bill Murray.  Johansson would watch the show from the sidelines and until this day, is still without a nomination under her belt.

Bill Murray, Laura Linney, and Olivia Williams in "Hyde Park on Hudson"

I shed light on these instances because Laura Linney from Hyde Park on Hudson, Carey Mulligan from The Great Gatsby, and Anne Hathaway from Les Miserables, seem to be the three actresses who could find their works ride the line between the two classifications.  Where Supporting Actress is the most common category to double up on performers from the same film (Chastain and Spencer from The Help, Adams and Davis from Doubt, Barraza and Kikuchi from Babel), Linney may not be as hurt in her respective film.  Co-stars Olivia Williams and Olivia Colman will both be bidding on a spot in the Oscar race this year.  Hathaway and her role in Les Miserables, a role that is naturally a supporting role and doesn’t accumulate a lot of screen time, could find herself in a Anthony Hopkins-type situation where the work is so profound, that a lead campaign and reward could be in the cards.  Hopkins was only in the Oscar winner, The Silence of the Lambs (1991) for about sixteen minutes, the shortest lead performance to ever win the Oscar.  Mulligan may have the hardest time with a placement given the structure of her role, Daisy, in Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby.  Daisy, though in the story immensely, has the type of presence that could go either way.  My anticipation is that the studio will see which category seems like the “easier” get and “less competitive.”

As you sift through the categories that have been updated (all the major categories along with Art Direction, Cinematography, Costumes, and Film Editing), you will see the anticipation and prestige surrounding Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln is too huge to ignore.  With that being said, I acquire an annual giddy and exciting obsession for a film that I just CANNOT wait to see.  Up until recently, I was worried because I hadn’t contracted the virus because it was already May.  Past and cured obsessions have been Closer (2004), Brokeback Mountain (2005), Little Children (2006), Atonement (2007), Revolutionary Road (2008), The Lovely Bones (2009), Inception (2010), and The Artist (2011).  While it’s obvious that some of the films didn’t get the Oscar treatment or were flat out failures (it’s obvious which that one is, isn’t?), I feel good when this familiar feeling returns every year.  I’m proud to announce that the film this year is Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master.  It’s the return of one of my favorite and most cherished actors Joaquin Phoenix teaming up with the great Philip Seymour Hoffman and the absolutely adorable Amy Adams, being helmed by the maker of Boogie Nights (1997) and Magnolia (1999), how can it be bad?  Actually, come to think of it, it can be a flat out disaster if things aren’t executed properly but I remain hopeful.

You can read the rankings for each film predicted to be in contention on the sidebar or use the menu on the top of the page and navigate category-to-category.

As always, make sure to include your predictions down in the comment section or on the forum!  Looking forward to them!