1. Argo (dir. Affleck)
2. Lincoln (dir. Spielberg)
3. Les Misérables (dir. Hooper)
4. The Master (dir. P.T. Anderson)
5. Silver Linings Playbook (dir. Russell)
6. Beasts of the Southern Wild (dir. Zeitlin)
If there are more than six nominees...
7. Life of Pi (dir. Lee)
8. Zero Dark Thirty (dir. Bigelow)
8. Zero Dark Thirty (dir. Bigelow)
9. Flight (dir. Zemeckis)
10. The Sessions (dir. Lewin)
|Denzel Washington in Flight|
The official start of the awards season is the triple festival punch of Venice, Telluride and Toronto. Having now passed that phase, the picture has become much clearer, though there remain quite a large number of films still unseen. Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, Robert Zemeckis’s Flight, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables, Katherine Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty and Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained are the big ones that might have a shot at a nomination in the top category. I’m almost certain we have already seen all other potential nominees at one place or another. So what was the impact of the fall festivals on the season?
The biggest winner is undeniably Silver Linings Playbook. David O. Russell’s follow-up to the Oscar nominated The Fighter won the People’s Choice Award at TIFF and was a major hit with critics and the audiences alike. Its stars have been the centre of every discussion about the film and we know the actors’ branch is the biggest one in the Academy. Though TIFF's top award is often a red herring, in the case of Playbook, I think it's safe to assume it will at least be nominated, since Russell has already been welcomed to the club, Lawrence and Cooper are major stars, and most importantly, English-language winners of TIFF are very often serious awards season contenders.
|Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook|
Argo was another big hit both at Telluride and Toronto, where it came second in the People’s Choice voting. Despite being a period piece, it has now miraculously become the most politically relevant film of the year, with the protests across the Muslim world and attacks on U.S. embassies in a couple of countries. It’s sad that such unfortunate circumstances should come into play here, but the campaign will be focusing on that angle quite a lot and this type of "hitting on the zeitgeist" is a real hook. Affleck’s last film, The Town, presumably missed out on a best picture nomination very narrowly but this time he shouldn’t have a problem cracking the top category.
Then there was The Master, which was touted as one of the frontrunners long before the festival season even began. It went on to win two awards at Venice (including a shared best actor award for its two male leads) and was met with acclaim in Toronto. Dissenting voices can be heard here and there, but ardent fans of Paul Thomas Anderson have been more vociferous and I think there's quitea lot of them in the industry. (In fact, I interviewed one of them myself!)
Anna Karenina opened to very divisive response in Toronto. It was noted for its predictably strong below-the-line elements but the film, and Keira Knightley’s performance, weren’t quite as readily acclaimed.
Cloud Atlas, which I personally never saw as a best picture hopeful, was met with an equally divided reaction so a best picture nod seems out of the question.
The Impossible is probably a player in the effects race and in the extremely weak Best Actress race, but cracking the top category might be a bit of a reach.
Quite a few things have changed since my predictions last month. The most significant was the decision to leave The Great Gatsby for summer 2013. It’s a choice that I think will pay off for the film in the long run. If it isn’t an Oscar player, it is in the film’s financial interest to open in the summer instead of the busy days of Christmas holidays. If it is an Oscar player, the few months’ time will let it settle in for voters – and we all know a Baz Luhrmann film definitely needs that time. In its stead, Gus Van Sant’s Promised Land and Sasha Gervasi’s Hitchcock have both been added to the season.
|John Krasinski in Promised Land|
In the case of the former, the pedigree of everyone involved means that it will automatically be in the conversation, but I wonder if it’s big enough to make an impact on the voters when the voting cut-off is January 3rd and the film is only released five days earlier. In the case of the latter, Fox Searchlight clearly believes there’s something special on their hands and they’re anxious to get it out as early as possible. If Gervasi’s Anvil documentary is any indication, this will indeed be something special.
Finally, Trouble with the Curve, which was present in my last set of predictions, was released this week to generally positive reviews. I haven’t seen it yet myself, but everything seems to indicate that this is not going to be vying for any awards attention later in the year. Even the most celebratory of reviews looked at the film as pure entertainment.