With so many critics groups eagerly coming out to name their best films and performances of the year it is easy to get ahead of ourselves and start declaring Oscar winners before the year even comes to an end. However, it is increasingly important that we don’t be hasty as there is still over one month before nominations are even announced. As the last several years have taught us, there is no such thing as a “sure thing” even up until the night of the actual ceremony.
Let’s stick to thinking just about the nominations for now, which began to came into focus after last week’s boom of major award nominations. The Critics Choice Award nominations, SAG Award nominations, and Golden Globe nominations were all announced in a span of three days and they answered several major questions. Each of the successive groups have enormous impact on the Oscar race and the fact that they announce so near one another gives a great perspective on the current mindset of major voting groups. If a particular film or actor is recognized by all three groups, it becomes an increasingly likely player in the Oscar race.
There were three films that were recognized by all three groups in their Best Picture categories (Best Film for BFCA and Globes, Best Ensemble for SAG): The Artist, The Help, and Midnight in Paris. It is beyond safe to call The Artist a lock for a Best Picture nomination and now it appears that The Help and Midnight in Paris are very likely to join it. There was some hesitation about Midnight in Paris as, unlike The Help, it will not be recognized in any of the individual acting categories. However, for the enormous acting guild to recognize the film’s entire ensemble is very telling that the film has support behind it.
Interestingly, there was nothing significant enough about last week’s awards to change my Best Picture Oscar predictions. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo were the two outsiders that needed a boost and neither of them got it. The other film that remains a question mark is the British spy drama Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. After the film was ignored in all major categories by the BFCA, SAG, and Globes it would be easy to discount it as a potential contender this year. However, the film lead the London Film Critics Circle nominations and is likely to be a huge player in the BAFTA awards that are announced next week. The Academy loves a solid British film, so don’t count it out just yet.
In the Best Actor race there were four actors recognized by all three groups: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Jean Dujardin, and Leonardo DiCaprio. Let’s call those four locks for now and look to see who will fill that fifth spot. Michael Fassbender is leading with the critics groups who eagerly line up behind his performance in Shame. He was recognized by the BFCA and the Globes, but snubbed by the most important group – the Screen Actors Guild. They went with the surprise choice of Demian Bichir from the relatively under the radar A Better Life. That movie’s distributor Summit Films was the first to send screeners out and got the campaign going early. I suspect some of that buzz will dissipate as the Oscar nominations approach. Also, I would never count out Gary Oldman.
Four actresses have been apparent locks in the Best Actress race for some time now and all four received nominations from the three major groups last week. They are Viola Davis, Michelle Williams, Meryl Streep, and most recent addition Tilda Swinton. Glenn Close was thought to be a frontrunner early in the season, but the complete absence of Albert Nobbs in early season awards seemed to indicate her momentum was halted. That changed when the Screen Actors Guild put her in the top five. With the respect she has as an established actress I find it hard to imagine that the Academy would pass her over in favor of a newcomer like Rooney Mara or Elizabeth Olsen.
Up until last week there were only two actors that were sure things in the Best Supporting Actor race: Christopher Plummer and Albert Brooks. Brooks was snubbed by the Screen Actors Guild, but that certainly does not count him out. There were three other actors that were recognized by all three groups last week: Kenneth Branagh of My Week With Marilyn, Jonah Hill of Moneyball and Nick Nolte of Warrior. Those three are looking pretty good right now. There is also a chance that Armie Hammer of J. Edgar could sneak in as he did sneak in ahead of Albert Brooks for the Screen Actors Guild nomination last week. I suspect J. Edgar is too forgettable to save Hammer, but actors in Eastwood films have been known to sneak in when the film is otherwise ignored.
Finally the Best Supporting Actress race may turn out to be one of the most exciting of the year. We finally know that The Help is the film that the Jessica Chastain juggernaut is likely to emerge from. Her co-star Octavia Spencer also received nominations from all three major groups last week as did The Artist‘s Berenice Bejo. That leaves two spots that are likely to be filled by Bridesmaids‘ Melissa McCarthy, Albert Nobbs‘ Janet McTeer, or The Descendants‘ Shailene Woodley. Each of those actresses has a group championing them. With all of the surprise support behind Bridesmaids, I find it hard to imagine that McCarthy does not get in, even though she was ignored by the Globes. The Screen Actors chose McTeer over Woodley, while the Critics went the other way. Since The Descendants has more overall support, Woodley gets my pick, but I make such a prediction with great hesitation.
It is also important to remember that there are always a few nominees that sneak out of nowhere and earn an Oscar nomination. Scott Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter points out that it averages about one per year over the last decade. I could see a performance like Olivia Colman of Tyrannosaur or Michael Shannon of Take Shelter sneaking in from nowhere and getting an Oscar nod. We will find out on January 24th of next year.
Don’t forget to check out the updated Oscar prediction charts and to share your thoughts in the comments!