I'm not much of a prognosticator when it comes to awards season. Mostly I go from what others are saying, with a few of my own thoughts creeping in. Nevertheless, it's been a while since I wrote about the Oscars and now is as good a time as any. I'll going through several of the categories giving my thoughts on each one.
Could this year's race really come down to a battle between the two biggest movie stars on the planet? It looks like it, with George Clooney and Brad Pitt being virtual locks for their performances in The Descendents and Moneyball, respectively. There's a certain stigman against movie stars; a belief no one famous could be talented, or according to Emma Stone, talented enough to make people forget he or she is a star and play a real person. Some will scoff at the idea of two movie stars being leading candidates for the Best Actor Oscar but from what I've heard, Clooney and Pitt give career best performances. Add the fact Pitt has also recieved acclaim for his work in Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life and Clooney did quadriple duty this year with directing, producing, co-writing and acting in the political thriller The Ides of March, and it's no suprise these two guys are frontrunners.
Another big star, Leonardo DiCaprio, also has a solid chance at getting his first Best Actor nomination since 2006's Blood Diamond, with Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar. I liked DiCaprio's performance but I still prefer his work in Shutter Island and Blood Diamond. If anything, I hope DiCaprio's probable inclusion doesn't lead to Gary Oldman's exclusion. I haven't seen Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy yet but Oldman is supposed to be terrific in the role of George Smiley. Oldman has also never been nominated before. After so many years in the business and being able to go from playing Dracula to Commissioner Gordon, I think most are in agreement it's finally time.
Adding to the list of movie stars, Jean Dujardin, a star in France, is also likely to get a Best Actor nomination for his work in the silent film The Artist.
Woody Harrelson is also supposed to be great in Rampart but like Oldman he missed out on the SAG and Golden Globe nominations. Ryan Gosling was just nominated for his roles in Crazy Stupid Love and The Ides of March at the Golden Globes. His role in Ides is probably the best bet for a nomination but something tells me he's going to be left out agan this year.
I think the eventual line-up will be: Clooney, Pitt, DiCaprio, Dujardin, Oldman.
Despite having two Oscars , there's a feeling Meryl Streep is overdue. It's been nearly thirty years since she won for Sophie's Choice and she has been pretty close with her roles in Doubt and Julie and Julia, losing out to Kate Winslet and Sandra Bullock. She plays former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady and it's the kind of role which screams Oscar, namely a real person, and a wildly controversial one at that. For the longest time people were talking about the race for Best Actress would be between Streep and Glenn Close, who hasn't been nominated since the 1980s. Her role in Albert Nobbs is that of a woman pretending to be a man in 19th century Ireland. This is also a role which screams for a Oscar. Close has never won, giving her the "due" factor. I'm just wondering if the film will make enough of an impression for Close to win.
Some, like Dave Karger of Entertainment Weekly, feel the race is between Streep and The Help's Viola Davis. The Help has a better chance of being nominated for Best Picture than The Iron Lady or Albert Nobbs, which I feel gives Davis a slight advantage over both of them.
I think Michelle Williams is also a lock for playing Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn but as I said in my review of the film I think Williams deserves a better movie. Tilda Swinton is gaining momentum for her work in We Need to Talk About Kevin. I had Elizabeth Olsen as one of the top five, thinking she'd be the Jennifer Lawrence of this year, but I think she's lost steam recently. Charlize Theron or Rooney Mara could be get the fifth spot, or the fourth and fifth if Swinton if left out.
Best Supporting Actor
I think Christopher Plummer has a really good shot at finally winning an Oscar this year. Plummer only recieved his first nomination two years ago for The Last Station but lost to Christop Waltz for Inglorious Basterds. His role in Beginners as a father who reveals he's gay in his seventies has already landed Plummer a few of the critic's awards for Best Supporting Actor. Albert Brooks has also picked up a few awards for Drive, making him Plummer's closest competition. Ingmar Bergman alumni and acting legend Max von Sydow could also get in for his role in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. The thing is, the film, despite it's pedigree, doesn't seem like a big player, which may be a result of it being screened later than other films. I also think Kenneth Branagh has a good chance at a nomination but like Williams, I think he deserves a better movie. Could Jonah Hill, a SAG and Golden Globe nominee for Moneyball ride Brad Pitt's wave to a nomination? I could see it happening but he's not a lock yet. Armie Hammer has just been nominated for a SAG for his role in J. Edgar. This puts him back in the race after it seemed he was pretty much out. Like Hill, I still think he could get left out, particularly if J. Edgar isn't a big player.
Best Supporting Actress
I think this race could come down to the ladies of The Help, Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain. Chastain has been in everything this year, and has been in danger of splitting the vote among her performances. I think she's safe for a nomination though, with people leaning towards The Help. Chastain could still split the vote with Spencer. Shailene Woodley, who plays George Clooney's daughter in The Descendants, could take it if there's a vote split but I don't see the academy giving it her. She's still fairly young and new to the movie scene. There's no pressure to give it to her either. Vanessa Redgrave has been seen as a frontrunner for some time now but she lost out on the SAG and Golden Globe Nomination for her role in Ralph Fiennes' adaptation of Shakespeare's play Coriolanus. I think Laurence Olivier was the first and last actor to win for a Shakespearean role, that of Hamlet. I would love a Shakespearean performance to win this year. The Artist's Berenice Berjo also seems like a likely candidate. Some people have mentioned Sandra Bullock in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close but even if it picks up steam, which it can, I don't see Bullock getting in.
Best Picture/Best Director
I think The Artist and The Descendants are locks for Best Picture. Their respective directors, Michel Hazanavicius and Alexander Payne will also get in. Martin Scorsese's Hugo as well. While I'm a little mixed on Hugo, I think it'd be great for Scorsese to win another Best Director Oscar. The pressure to award him is gone though so they'll probably give to someone else. The Help has a good chance at getting in but I feel it's director Tate Taylor is not a big enough name to get a nomination. Midnight in Paris, while a small scale film, is getting more love than most of Woody Allen's recent films. It could get in, with Woody Allen receiving his first Best Director nomination since 1994's Bullets over Broadway. Never underestimate Steven Spielberg, particularly with two big holiday releases this year, War Horse and The Adventures of Tintin. The director I most want to see get nominated is Terrence Malick for The Tree of Life. Unfortunately, I think the origin of the universe and afterlife sequence will turn off some academy members.
So there you go, some of my thoughts on a slightly open Oscar race this year.