As of tomorrow we are two weeks away from the announcement of the 85th Academy Award nominations and almost every category is still completely up in the air. This is largely because none of the precursor groups that have announced so far seem to be able to agree on the best movies and performances of the year. According to the handy chart at Indiewire, 10 separate films have won Best Picture precursor awards already and a handful more have been nominated. 8 different actresses have won an award from a critics group or other voting body and 8 actors have already shared wins. Two weeks ago the Critics Choice Awards, Screen Actors Guild, and Golden Globes announced their nominations with a small amount of overlap, but certainly no consensus.
Personally, I cannot remember a time when the precursor awards have been more spread out. There have certainly been years where two or three films take the lion’s share of the awards and it’s a toss up between them, but in the seven or so years that I have been closely following the Oscar race, I cannot remember a time when the precursor award winners have been so widespread, at least in the Best Picture race. Zero Dark Thirty, Argo, The Master, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and even Safety Not Guaranteed (way to go Indiana Critics) have all been championed by different awards bodies. Even the Oscar experts can’t seem to agree with five different films in the number one spot on Gold Derby’s Oscar charts.
Further complicating things is the fact that we still don’t know how many Best Picture nominees there will be. Last year, the first year under the Academy’s new voting system, yielded nine nominees, but there could be anywhere between 5 and 10. With such a diversified awards race, I would not be surprised if there were nine again this year, but for prediction purposes, let’s assume there will be eight. Zero Dark Thirty and Argo are the precursor favorites so far this year with the most wins from critics groups, so they are pretty safe bets. Lincoln and Les Miserables dominated in total nominations from the Critics Choice Awards and the Golden Globes, so they are also pretty safe bets. That leaves four remaining spaces to be filled.
Silver Linings Playbook is the best shot at a Best Picture Oscar that Harvey Weinstein has this year. The master Oscar strategist has had his films win Best Picture the last two years and he is going to be work very hard to make it three in a row. If he focuses his attention, he should have no problem securing a spot for David O. Russell’s film. Ang Lee’s Life of Pi has its detractors, but it also has a contingent willing to heap mountains of praise upon it. It will likely receive a fair share of number one votes on Academy ballots, which are vitally important in the new voting system. The six films I have named so far are the ones that I am most confident in.
Filling the last two spots is tricky. At one point, Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master was the favorite to win it all, but it has been slipping down the charts and is now barely included in the awards conversation. It has support among some critics, but needs a big push to gain the Academy’s favor. Beasts of the Southern Wild is hard to predict because it has been deemed ineligible for many of the major guild awards, which means it won’t be getting as much early publicity on red carpets. However, it’s this year’s indie darling and has the powerful studio Fox Searchlight Pictures running its campaign. However, my picks for the 7th and 8th spot are Michael Haneke’s Amour and Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. Amour is the film this year that seems to be adored by everyone who comes in contact with it and Django is in the spotlight right now with good reviews, good Box Office, and Harvey Weinstein drumming up support.
The Best Actor race has been Daniel Day-Lewis’ for months and he will be joined by Hugh Jackman of Les Miserables, Denzel Washington of Flight, John Hawkes of The Sessions, and Bradley Cooper of Silver Linings Playbook. Those five have accomplished the rare feat of being nominated for a Golden Globe, Critics Choice, and Screen Actors Guild award and few actors who accomplish all three are excluded from the Oscars. The biggest potential spoiler is Joaquin Phoenix whose performance in The Master is certainly one of the year’s best, but his anti-Oscar orations have hurt his overall chances.
The Best Actress race is a lot more exciting this year. Jessica Chastain of Zero Dark Thirty and Jennifer Lawrence of Silver Linings Playbook seem to be neck and neck for the win, but the rest of the field is pretty open. Marion Cotillard of Rust and Bone has fulfilled the Critics Choice, SAG, Globe trifecta, so she’ll probably fill the number three spot. Naomi Watts of The Impossible also completed that trifecta and Helen Mirren of Hitchcock came close, but I am going to fill the 4th and 5th spots with Quvenshane Wallis of Beasts of the Southern Wild and Emanuelle Riva of Amour. Both actresses might depend on their movies getting support in the Best Picture category and a solid campaign by their respective studios, but I’m choosing them because they feel like fresh new faces that the Academy likes to recognize as opposed to the Oscar veterans Watts and Mirren. This is a category, however, where I would not be surprised if I went 3 for 5 or even 2 for 5 on my predictions.
Be sure to check out the complete 2013 Oscar predictions including supporting categories and all technical categories. Share your thoughts on any of the Oscar races in the comments below.