Oscar nomination predictions!!

Best Picture:

The Artist

The Descendants

Hugo

Midnight in Paris

The Help

Tree of Life

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Best Picture is a tough call this year, thanks to new rules regarding the number of nominees. After two years of experimenting with 10 nominees, the Academy decided it wasn’t done tinkering, and changed it so that films have to reach a quota of about 300 first-place votes  (or 5% out of about 6,000 Academy voters) to qualify for a nomination. (New York Magazine has a good explanation of it here)

So, if six films reach that 5% mark, then there will be six nominees. If 5 or fewer films reach the threshold, then the top 5 votegetters will be the only nominees, regardless of percentage. So on and so on.

This obviously makes gauging Best Picture harder than before. We can’t just rank the top 10 buzzgetters; we also have to factor what films are likely to be ranked as the favorite film by 5% of Academy voters.

The top bracket of the category is easy. The Artist has been a frontrunner for a long time now, with no sign of losing momentum yet. Hugo has been right there behind it for the bulk of the race, and The Descendants and The Help are on its tail.  Midnight in Paris has been doing well on the precursor circuit, and is Woody Allen’s most successful film yet. In a 5-nominee year, those would be my picks.

Of films on the outside looking in, Tree of Life stands to benefit most from the voting rules. Not a mainstream film by any stretch, it’s been largely ignored by the guilds, while critics have heaped awards all over it. It’s the kind of film that develops a fervent fanbase that might well propel it to a nomination. I think it’ll sneak in

I’m less confident about Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and, the last film likely to get nominated, Moneyball. The former has done extremely well with the guilds. I can’t ignore that, even as I doubt it will appear first on as many ballots as Tree of Life. Meanwhile, Moneyball strikes me as the kind of film that the Academy will view as having many elements worthy of praise, but that doesn’t stir much passion as a complete package. I think it falls short.

Best Director:

Michel Hazanavicius- The Artist

Alexander Payne- The Descendants

Martin Scorsese- Hugo

Terrence Malick- Tree of Life

Woody Allen- Midnight in Paris

Four of the top five Best Picture contenders. Swap out the most Oscar-baity, least directorial-vision driven film (The Help) with the most visionary film of the year, by a legendary director.

Best Actor:

Brad Pitt- Moneyball

George Clooney- The Descendants

Jean Dujardin- The Artist

Michael Fassbender- Shame

Michael Shannon- Take Shelter

Pitt, Clooney, and Dujardin are pretty much set. They’ll battle for the award. Fassbender is a trendy outsider’s pick. He should sneak in. The 5th spot is tough. There are several actors who could get in, but I’m going with Shannon, whose performance in Take Shelter earned major accolades, and has inspired the kind of small but vocal support that can lead to surprise nominees.

Best Actress:

Meryl Streep- The Iron Lady

Michelle Williams- My Week with Marilyn

Viola Davis- The Help

Tilda Swinton- We Need to Talk About Kevin

Glenn Close- Albert Nobbs

Streep, Williams, and Davis are locks. Swinton was nominated for a Golden Globe and SAG. She should be safe. Other than Berenice Bejo getting a surprise lead nomination (not likely; if the Academy refused to move Hailey Steinfeld to lead last year for True Grit, I doubt they do it for Bejo), I think Close gets in for her acclaimed performance.

Best Supporting Actor:

Christopher Plummer- Beginners

Albert Brooks- Drive

Nick Nolte- Warrior

Jonah Hill- Moneyball

Kenneth Branagh- My Week with Marilyn

Plummer looks hard to beat in the category. Brooks, for some reason, is the only aspect of Drive to get any awards momentum. Not that he doesn’t merit it; it’s just stunning to see one of the best films of the year do so well in one category and get consistently ignored in others. Nolte’s performance in Warrior is right up the Academy’s ally (a broken, recovering alcoholic dad trying to reconnect with his grown sons), and he has a couple of stellar scenes that will put him over the top for a nomination. Jonah Hill’s Oscar buzz is a bit puzzling to me (it’s a solid, likable performance, but nothing extraordinary) but he’s been getting it. He’ll get in. The last spot is where, in the past, I’d talk myself out of the obvious choice (Branagh in My Week with Marilyn) and try to predict a surprise, like Viggo Mortensen in “A Dangerous Method” or John Hawkes in “Marsha Marcy May Marlene”. But I’ve learned my lesson. I’m going with Branagh.

Best Supporting Actress:

Octavia Spencer- The Help

Jessica Chastain- The Help

Berenice Bejo- The Artist

Shailene Woodley- The Descendants

Melissa McCarthy- Bridesmaids

Spencer is the front-runner. Chastain has had a hell of a year, and will get in for something. That something will almost certainly be The Help, although it’s too bad she hasn’t gotten more attention for her ethereal turn in Tree of Life. Bejo will ride the wave of love for The Artist. The Academy loves to nominate new, young actresses, and Shailene Woodley is their best bet this year. The last spot is a toss-up. I’m going with McCarthy, a comic performance from a breakout star (McCarthy has been having a magnificent year as well, factoring in her Emmy win and popular SNL appearance) that will likely earn a lot of top votes.

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About johnmichaelmaximilian

Freelance writer from New Bedford, Massachusetts. Movies are my favorite thing.

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