Oscar Circuit: “10 Weeks to Go”

The Oscar race is beginning to formulate itself.  As it stands the Academy Awards have positioned themselves to be the wildest of wild cards of the Oscar season.  Since Oscar ballots are due January 3rd, the nominations will be one of many awards ceremonies coming down like wildfire.

The Screen Actors Guild Awards announce their nominee choices first beginning on December 10th.  The Broadcast Film Critics Association will name their best of the year with the Critics Choice Movie Awards being announced the next day on December 11th.  The Hollywood Foreign Press will follow-suit with their Golden Globe nominations on December 13th.  Mark my words; those four days will likely be the most important and telling aspects of the awards season.  If you start hearing the usual suspects, back-to-back and over and over, Oscar will be referring to these groups for citations for their own nominees when they’re announced on January 10th

As the New York Film Festival has officially come to a close, Ang Lee’s Life of Pi showed itself as a formidable contender in categories like Best Picture and Director.  The “secret” and surprise screening of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln solidified itself as a serious threat this year.  While the film will land categories like Picture, Director, and Lead Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis) without skipping a beat, co-stars Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field placed themselves firmly in their respective categories.  As Paramount Pictures gears up for their awards campaign, Denzel Washington has been the talk of the town for months for his performance in Robert Zemeckis’ Flight.  The closing night of NYFF and the very positive words for the film will be sure to bring Denzel back to the Oscar race since his win for Training Day (2001).  In a more surprising turn of events, the film itself is good enough to be considered for other categories like Best Picture and Supporting Actor for John Goodman.

As we are midway in the month of October, there are six other contenders waiting to pop their way into the season.  With the exception of our staff writer Mark Johnson, no other pundits out there have faith in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  A seemingly mediocre trailer and an unpopular decision to turn the book into a trilogy have people grumbling with anticipation for a fantasy flop.

Gus Van Sant and the trailer for Promised Land didn’t turn too many heads when it premiered but when you think about it, many trailers this year misled the actual quality of what they could be (i.e. Lincoln).  Matt Damon teams up with co-writer and star John Krasinski along with Dave Eggers to bring this seemingly important piece to the screen.  Oscar-winner Frances McDormand and Rosemarie DeWitt round out the cast in what could be Focus Features’ big film of the year.

The second trailer for Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained re-ignited the excitement for not only the film but the prospect of three-time Academy Award nominee Leonardo DiCaprio snagging his first Oscar for Supporting Actor.  While the film continues to look more and more like something that could be a populist favorite but not the Academy’s cup of tea, Tarantino and DiCaprio are revered in Hollywood.  A core group of members could come together along with a strong campaign from the Weinsteins and find their footing with multiple nominations.  Furthermore, the trailer featured some wonderful shots of Kerry Washington, who many say could be the standout in the role of Broomhilda, Django’s missing wife.

Jessica Chastain was front and center in the first full-length look at Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty.  In the middle of a male predominate cast; it’ll be easy for Chastain to stand out with not only her stunning beauty but an incredible acting talent that she has shown earlier this year in John Hillcoat’s Lawless.  Up and coming actors Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt along with Stephen Dillane, James Gandolfini, Mark Strong, and Scott Adkins may come together in this sure-to-be American crowd-pleaser.  Our own Terence Johnson and Scott Feinberg of the Hollywood Reporter suggested that Chastain may fit in a Lead campaign if her role is juicy and large enough.

On the other side of the fence and rather soon we’ll hear what Sacha Gervasi’s Hitchcock really looks like as a contender.  Academy Award Winners Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren lead this all-star cast that includes Toni Collette, Scarlett Johansson, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jessica Biel, and James D’Arcy.  What can this late entry from Fox Searchlight offer the Oscar race?  Many are placing bets on Hopkins and Mirren entering their respective categories based on the nature of the roles but is there room for Johansson, who has been left off for performances in Lost in Translation (2003) and Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003)?  How about Stuhlbarg who carried the Oscar-nominated A Serious Man (2009) on his bare shoulders?  He also has a memorable turn in Spielberg’s Lincoln this year which could help with a campaign.

Last and certainly not least on our list is Tom Hooper’s big time adaptation of Les Miserables starring Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe.  Many are feeling good about championing this as our Best Picture winner already before anyone has seen it, and while I share the positive outlook on its chances, the last time a beloved musical was adapted, Joel Schumacher gave us The Phantom of the Opera (2004).  While the Globes will more than likely nominate it everywhere it can be, how will the actors feel about Jackman, who hasn’t been as revered as a screen actor as his counterpart Crowe.  Speaking of Crowe, definitely not the most liked actor in the world and after three consecutive nominations in the early 2000’s, Crowe hasn’t found his way back since even after delivering in Cinderella Man (2005) and 3:10 to Yuma (2007).  What will they make of Crowe in a singing role that is sure to get heads turning?  Anne Hathaway has all but had her name inscribed on the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in her role as Fantine.  The teaser trailer focused on her big number, “I Dreamed a Dream” along with what is sure to be her big Oscar scene in the film.  Warner Bros. has already announced that her role in The Dark Knight Rises will be pushed Lead which will pave the way to the Oscars clear and stress free.  Eddie Redmayne, also believed to have a great singing voice has a powerful number in the film that could steal the show from supporting co-star Crowe and Aaron Tveit.

Attempting to gauge these contenders is becoming increasingly difficult but there are some things solidly coming into focus.  The Best Actor race seems taken up by three contenders in the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis, John Hawkes, and Joaquin Phoenix.  Denzel Washington’s turn in Flight should be enough to carry him through as well as long as Golden Globe and SAG nominations come through.  About ten other viable and capable contenders are fighting for those fourth and fifth spots.  With a career that spans over four decades, Richard Gere has paid his dues in a big way.  Going back being left off the Best Actor lineup for An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) and his tender comedic and romantic turn in Garry Marshall’s Pretty Woman (1990), Gere has continued to show his range throughout his career.  His big snub would come in 2003 when Oscar all but remembered his fiery and fierce performance in Rob Marshall’s Chicago in light Michael Caine in The Quiet American (2002).  In Nicholas Jarecki’s Arbitrage, Gere puts his charm and explosive acting chops to good use, scene after scene and delivers one of his finest screen portrayals yet.  I wonder if a small film studio like Roadside Attractions in partnership with Lionsgate can find some room in their pockets to push Gere as well as co-star Nate Parker?  Let’s hope so.

Killing Them Softly from Andrew Dominik is said to be immensely violent and with a whole lot of violence comes a whole lot of snubs.  Just ask anyone from Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive (2011) from last year.  That may not help star Brad Pitt in an lead actor bid.  Bradley Cooper looks to capitalize on his star power and the “surprise” factor of being good in David O. Russell’s Silver Linings PlaybookJean-Louis Tringnant subtlety steals your heart in Michael Haneke’s Amour along with co-star Emmanuelle Riva who is as afflicting.

With the recent and polarizing début of Ben Affleck’s Argo, taking the critics by storm, Ben will be looking to be the Clint Eastwood of the year and direct himself to his first acting nomination.   If they really love the film, a trifecta of love and support could come for him as a Producer, Director, and Lead Actor.  While Bill Murray seems down and out after the poor reception to Hyde Park on Hudson, playing Franklin D. Roosevelt will get enough interested voters to pop in their screeners.   He stands out as best-in-show and is a previous nominee.  Jamie Foxx and Tom Hanks will be two more previously awarded actors looking for a return to the Oscar lineup.  Both need their films to get critical successes.

As you will see from the Oscar menu on top and sidebar, the Oscar Predictions have been updated in all respective categories.  Check out the latest rankings and make sure to include your own thoughts on the state of the race and where you see it going.

Comment and discuss!