The Oscar Race is More of a Sunday Stroll So Far

November 6; just a shade over seven weeks away from the end of the year, and we have no legitimate Oscar contenders thus far. Usually by now we’d have a set of early favorites and a couple of contenders that have already come and gone through the theaters, but so far, not so much.

The only film that I’ve seen so far that I would consider to have a legitimate shot at a Best Picture nomination (and note: nomination, not win) would be Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. That film was one of the best told stories of the year, and in the world of 5-10 nominations, it should have a shot at the top category. Not helping its cause, however, is that Owen Wilson is the star. Wilson, supposedly a perfectly nice guy, is not to be mistaken for a top (or even second) notch actor, but was perfectly cast in the lead role of a restless author. The film itself though had heart and soul, and even a subtle political message.

Last night I caught Take Shelter, which was an incredibly intense and well-done film. It stars Michael Shannon in a powerhouse performance as a man who may or may not be going crazy, but is willing to give up just about anything to protect his family from an possibly impending storm. Shannon, who was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as a crazier guy in Revolutionary Road, hit each and every note of his performance pitch perfectly, and should be a legitimate contender in the Best Actor category.

Another in the actor category, though one I’d consider a longer shot, is Ryan Gosling for the arty but brutal Drive. Gosling, an indie darling, is long overdue for a statue, though his problem probably is lack of big time films to his credit (The Notebook notwithstanding). His subtle, 0 to violence in 1.2 second performance as The Driver is certainly worth a look; in the hands of a lesser actor, that film doesn’t even work.

Brad Pitt has a legitimate shot an Oscar double-tap this year, as a Supporting Actor in the Tree of Life and as Billy Beane (Moneyball) in the top category. I haven’t seen The Tree of Life (never been a Malick fan), but his performance as Beane is one of the best of his career, though doomed to be overlooked. Pitt’s performance was subtle and nuanced with just the right blend of uncertainty and arrogance. Speaking of Moneyball, that’s another that could sneak in for the top prize (though I’d consider it unlikely).

Though I haven’t seen it, I understand Viola Davis is a near-lock for Best Supporting Actress for The Help. Beyond that, however, we’re waiting on movies from the last seven weeks of the year. I wonder who will emerge?