I have an unfortunate tendency of sticking to my initial instincts when it comes to Oscar predictions. Sometimes this works out for the best (like in 2010 when I held onto The King’s Speech until long after other experts had abandoned it in favor of The Social Network) and other times it makes me look stubborn and silly in my refusal to board any bandwagons. Ever since announcing my list of most anticipated movies of the year in early January I have been trumpeting the Oscar magnetism of Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. “OVERDUE DIRECTOR! GREAT PERFORMANCES! HARVEY WEINSTEIN,” I shouted from my internet soapbox until I had thoroughly convinced myself that no other film could win this year’s Best Picture award.
After much soul searching, however, I can now reluctantly admit that The Master might not win the most coveted award in this year’s Oscar race. I am not completely abandoning my awards darling yet, but I can now comfortably say that The Master is not the frontrunner. It is simply a frontrunner.
I cannot remember a year where there has been so much uncertainty about the Best Picture race heading into November. Previous years have brought us two or three films that could conceivably win it all, but usually no more than that. Usually this time of year has awards pundits breaking movies down into three categories: 1) Might win Best Picture, will get nominated, 2) Won’t win Best Picture, will get nominated, 3) Might get nominated. This year, however, there are no fewer than seven films that could conceivably win it all. The panel of experts over at the Gold Derby currently have six different films receiving number one rankings, meaning that a consensus is far from being reached.
Let us take a closer look at the seven films that I could see realistically winning Best Picture in the order of likelihood:
1) Argo – Ever since Roger Ebert declared that Ben Affleck’s political thriller would win Best Picture many people have taken the established film critic at his word. The film has already had mild success at the Box Office, which is it’s first major hurdle, as well as an endorsement from the critics on Rotten Tomatoes. It also has the benefit of being the only major awards contender from the powerhouse Warner Bros. pictures (unless The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is good enough for Oscars), meaning Affleck’s film should receive a generous awards campaign.
2) Life of Pi – After dropping at the New York Film Festival to rave reviews, Ang Lee’s Life of Pi was regarded as a late-to-the-game frontrunner by many including indieWIRE‘s Peter Knegt. A fair argument could be made that Life of Pi could be this year’s Hugo, receiving technical Oscars galore, but missing in the major categories. However, Hugo was up against an obvious frontrunner in The Artist, whereas Life of Pi could very easily be the one film that everybody who appreciates the craft of filmmaking could rally behind.
3) Silver Linings Playbook – There is a small group of critics who love David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook and have been declaring their support louder than a lot of other voices on the internet (Jeff Wells is one of these). The film doesn’t have the typical gimmick factor you would expect from a Best Picture winner, but it does have one great thing going for it: Oscar strategist Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein was behind the past two Best Picture winners and he is the type of person who could spin the good will being lauded on this film into Oscar gold.
4) Lincoln – I suspect that there is a contingent of the Academy that desperately wants to give another Oscar to Steven Spielberg. Last year Spielberg’s middling effort War Horse was nominated for six Oscars. His newest film Lincoln, which was widely praised when it bowed at the New York Film Festival, has all of the elements the Academy loves – biopic, patriotism, Acting with a capital “A,” technical beauty. The film could be seen as particularly relevant in this election year when the country is once again divided. If the DreamWorks Oscar campaign plays up that angle, they could be destined for the win.
5 & 6) Django Unchained and Les Miserables – I have lumped the next two films together because they belong to the ubiquitous “unseen prestige” category. These are movies that have respected cast and crew attached, but are held out of film festivals and not screened for anyone until very close to their release date. Tarantino’s credibility within the Academy has skyrocketed after Inglourious Basterds made a strong play for Best Picture. He’s another director who is certainly due for an Oscar and this might be the film to get it. Les Miserables is about as Oscar-baity as movie comes and according to one source, it’s definitely good enough to merit some Oscar attention. Both films are huge question marks, but they might be just the ticket to clear up all this confusion.
7) The Master – As I mentioned above, I don’t like to let go of my initial instincts and The Master still has a Hell of a lot going for it. However, it will definitely need a late season resurgence in order to overcome louder voices from other studios.
Other Unseen Movies That Could Spoil: Zero Dark Thirty, Hitchcock, Promised Land
As always, this list is subject to change at any given moment. The major categories in the Oscar prediction charts have been updated. Be sure to check those out and share your thoughts on the current state of the Oscar race in the comments!