Jack’s 2012 Oscar Predictions: Top Eight Categories

So I just realized that the Oscar nominations come out tomorrow. For an aspiring entertainment writer/blogger/wanna-be-know-it-all, this is a pretty big screw up. I could have milked this for a series of blog posts over the last week, but got distracted by my horrific 3-7 playoff pick record (more on this later this week).

Anyway, the Oscars. I really can’t stand awards shows; having one every week takes the point out of winning; it’s like how every kid gets a participant ribbon for everything they do anymore (another practice I can’t stand and likely will be a blog post when I get REALLY bored).

Most people when doing the Oscar races do Best Picture and the actors. Many do directors. But I consider the writing categories to be equally important (imagine that?).

So without further ado, my predictions for the 2012 Oscar Nominations. Keep in mind that I haven’t seen all of the movies on my list (but I have seen most, and the goal is to complete the circuit before awards night); these are noted by an asterix.

BEST PICTURE
Keep in mind that Best Picture is anywhere between 5-10 movies, and it’s based on a formula that gives more weight to first place votes. This means fringe movies will actually have a harder time getting in, since a movie will have to be listed #1 on people’s lists to have a better shot. I think the magic number will be eight this year; why I think this, I have no idea.

My List
The Artist
The Descendants
The Help
War Horse
Hugo
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, pt 2

The top three are locks, four and five are very likely. The Tree of Life will struggle due to its polarizing quality, but enough people will give it first place votes to thrust it up. Harry Potter remains one of the best reviewed movies of the year (top three on Rotten Tomatoes, in fact), and Hollywood has a way of rewarding extraordinary cinematic achievements, which the series as a whole most certainly is.

Others: Mission Impossible, Ghost Protocol, should most definitely be on this list, certainly if it was still fixed at 10. It was one of the best told stories of the year, didn’t have an ounce of fat on it, and was the only one of the four movies which really GOT what it meant to be a covert operative. I hear that Bridesmaids might sneak in, but that movie was god awful, so I will not put it on my list. Moneyball could potentially replace any of the bottom three on my list, but feel like the Academy will push Brad Pitt for the actor award instead. Margin Call should be on the list, but won’t be for reasons completely passing understanding.

BEST ACTOR
There are some years where there is an overwhelming, transcendent actor performance (think Jamie Foxx in Ray), which makes the actor race a virtual lock. This is not one of those years.

My List
George Clooney – The Descendants
Brad Pitt – Moneyball
Jean Dujardin – The Artist
Michael Fassbender – Shame*
Michael Shannon – Take Shelter

The top three on this list are virtual locks; it would be a major upset to see one of the miss. There’s a lot of folks in the mix for the last two spots: Leonardo DiCaprio was awesome as J. Edgar Hoover, but that movie was deeply flawed and he’s got no momentum right now (and DiCaprio never seems to be able to catch a break). Ryan Gosling should get it for Drive or The Ides of March, but both movies are somewhat polarizing, so it’s easy to see him not getting quite enough votes for either. And though I have yet to see Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy, I know Gary Oldman is always awesome but like DiCaprio, he’s lacking in buzz.

BEST ACTRESS
I’m seriously lacking in seeing the films in this area, in large part because a lot of the favorites have really just started hitting screens outside of film meccas Los Angeles and New York. So I’ll have to make many of my predictions more based on buzz than actual opinion.

My List
Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady*
Michelle Williams – My Week with Marilyn
Viola Davis – The Help
Glenn Close – Albert Nobbs*
Rooney Mara – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

(I’m tired of writing this line) The Top three on this list are locks, and Glenn Close is a virtual shoe-in as well, but the late release date isn’t helping her cause (it goes wide on Friday). That leaves just one slot; past nominee Tilda Swinton has come out of nowhere for We Need to Talk About Kevin, but Rooney Mara absolutely embodied Lisbeth Salander, so she gets it from me. Charlize Theron (Young Adult) and Elizabeth Olson (Martha Marcy May Marline) are also in play, but not seriously.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
I’m seriously annoyed how closely my picks are lining up with the Golden Globes and EW’s picks, but I find myself agreeing with them at just about every turn. I like four of these guys for sure; #5 I’m going to toss in a spoiler just for fun.

My List
Kenneth Branagh – My Week With Marilyn
Christopher Plummer – Beginners
Jonah Hill – Moneyball
Albert Brooks – Drive
Andy Serkis – The Rise of the Planet of the Apes

There’s a shit-ton of people who could get that last spot, and I really wanted to put Serkis there because motion capture is as a legitimate of an acting enterprise as simply being in front of the camera. The buzz seems to be centered around Nick Nolte (Warrior – haven’t seen, but the Blu-Ray is in my house), Max Von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close*, but movie’s reviews are hurting) and Armie Hammer (J. Edgar). I think Kevin Spacy should be up there for Margin Call, but won’t be. Ben Kingsley could have a shot for Hugo as well.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jessica Chastain has a serious problem. She’s on virtually everyone’s prediction list for an Oscar nomination, but she’s got three huge performances this year…yes, three: The Tree of Life, The Help and Take Shelter. If The Help weren’t receiving so much positive buzz, that would likely split her vote and shut her out completely. Take Shelter and The Tree of Life won’t draw much from her The Help role, and she should just squeeze into the fifth spot (even though she should be higher).

My List
Octavia Spencer – The Help
Berenice Bejo – The Artist
Shailene Woodley – The Descendants
Keira Knightly – A Dangerous Method
Jessica Chastain – The Help

Keira Knightly is the upset here; she hasn’t gotten much buzz but her performance is so powerful it can’t be ignored. Spencer and Bejo are the ones to beat here; Woodley hit a setback by not getting nominated for a SAG, but should edge out potential spoilers like Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs*) and Melissa McCarthy in the god-awful Bridesmaids.

BEST DIRECTOR
This is a four-horse race (see below) with a fifth wild-card spot who will fall into the “Just be happy to be here category”. This could also potentially be a true insight into the Best Picture race, since often the two categories line up pretty closely.

My List
Michael Hazanavicius – The Artist
Alexander Payne – The Descendants
Martin Scorsese – Hugo
Steven Spielberg – War Horse
Woody Allen – Midnight in Paris

Again The Tree of Life becomes a matter of contention. Some might argue that it was way over directed, some might disagree completely. On a five name list, Malick doesn’t quite make the cut. Personally, I think David Yates should push our Spielberg’s War Horse by a nose, but there’s no buzz there. George Clooney for The Ides of March might have a shot as well.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
To me, this is the most straight-forward category of the year. We might see a couple of upsets, but these should unquestionably be the nominees:

My List
Moneyball
The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo
The Descendants
The Help
Hugo

I love Aaron Sorkin, so any time he’s up I’m going to call him the winner. But really to adapt that book into any kind of a watchable movie is extreme writing genius. Everyone else is playing for second.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Like with it’s twin brother, the Original Screenplay category is pretty straight forward There’s a lot of talk about Bridesmaids not only scoring a nom here but also actually winning, so I’ll address my hated for the movie now. It’s a one-note, one-joke movie that simply doubles down on itself with each passing scene with a canned and predictable ending It gives people the false sense of originality and building to an actual story by putting a woman in the lead and not making it really about men. It’s original, only in that it’s originally stupid.

My List
50/50*
The Artist
Midnight in Paris
Win Win
A Separation*

50/50 is a feel good comedy about cancer; and given its reviews it has to work, which means that’s worth something. The Artist’s screenplay couldn’t have really been more than 50 pages and it’s idea is so unique it gets a slot. Midnight in Paris is more original that one might realize and contains an amazingly subtle commentary on Republican (and especially Tea Party) politics. Win Win is a lot of fun, and deserves something. Finally A Separation is supposedly that good, so lets give it something. Could see Tree of Life here, and maybe Young Adult*.