Oscar Picks: 10 Jan 2012

The Artist
The Descendants
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Help
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
War Horse

Falling off: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Rising star: Moneyball
The skinny: Stephen Daldry’s sure thing a month ago has now fallen victim to some scathing reviews. Don’t count it out completely though. For now, it’s got to contend with the wave of support for Moneyball, which I don’t feel has enough pull to find itself on the final slate. War Horse has seen some significant snubs, with its spots going to the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Could there be enough love for both films to make the final slate?

Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Michel Haznavicius, The Artist
Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Martin Scorsese, Hugo

Falling off: Steven Spielberg
Rising star: David Fincher, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The skinny: That Directors’ Guild is something else, ain’t it? They’ve nominated Spielberg plenty before but found other helmers more to their liking. Their five are the same as my picks so far, but subbing in Fincher for Malick. It’s pretty interesting Fincher’s the one getting the late surge here, since last year he was “the sure thing.”

George Clooney, The Descendants
Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Edgar
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Michael Fassbender, Shame
Brad Pitt, Moneyball

Falling off: No one
Rising star: Demián Bichir, A Better Life
The skinny: Bichir’s only hope is winning that SAG, which seems near-impossible. Despite acclaim for Michael Shannon, Gary Oldman and Woody Harrelson, I think we’ve got our five.

Viola Davis, The Help
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Charlize Theron, Young Adult
Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk about Kevin
Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn

Falling off: No one
Rising star: Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The skinny: Theron does some extraordinary work in Young Adult, but she’s such an unlikable character that she may have a tough time breaking through. The SAG picked Glenn Close over her, but Albert Nobbs still has a tough road ahead. Rooney Mara still has the best shot of disturbing this set of nominees, especially given the late surge for Dragon Tattoo. The real dark horse here is Kirsten Dunst, who just won Best Actress from the National Society of Film Critics for her performance in Melancholia.

Albert Brooks, Drive
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Patton Oswalt, Young Adult
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Falling off: John Hawkes
Rising star: Corey Stoll, Midnight in Paris
The skinny: I still think von Sydow has a shot given his respect and what’s surely a great performance in a movie that’s taken a significant beating in the last month. Kenneth Branagh, a SAG nominee (along with other longshots Armie Hammer and Nick Nolte) could sneak in, which just, ugh. The less talk about My Week with Marilyn, the better. But I’d love to see Jonah Hill make it in, though something about the phrase Academy Award nominee Jonah Hill just seems so hard to write and say.

Bérénice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Octavia Spencer, The Help
Shailene Woodley, The Descendants

Falling off: No one
Rising star: Vanessa Redgrave, Coriolanus
The skinny: Always to call before and after the nominees are announced, this slate could completely change in two weeks, with Bejo the only pure lock.

The Descendants
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Falling off: War Horse
Rising star: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The skinny: Depending on how much love the Help gets – and it’ll get plenty – Tate Taylor’s adaptation could find its way in, but we’re pretty set here. That and Dragon Tattoo are WGA nominees, but those awards always come with qualifiers, what with non-members being ineligible and such.

The Artist
Midnight in Paris
Young Adult

Falling off: Margin Call
Rising star: Win Win
The skinny: Tom McCarthy deserves every accolade thrown his way, but it’s going to be difficult to mount a successful campaign for a movie that will be 10 months old by the time nominations are announced. That means Young Adult gets tossed aside, which is a real shame. I sincerely hope the screenplay for the Artist gets snubbed, because, let’s face it: the script is not what’s drawing its fans in. There’s also a possibility the Iranian family drama A Separation could make its way here, and that would be a lovely surprise indeed.

The Adventures of Tintin
Arthur Christmas
Puss in Boots

Falling off: Rio
Rising star: No one
The skinny: We’re pretty locked in at this point. I don’t think there are enough devotees of either of the sequels (Kung Fu Panda 2 or Cars 2) to break in. The only question mark is Tintin, which is almost entirely motion capture, and thus it becomes hazy how it can be defined as animated. There’s still no ruling from the Academy yet. I suppose Rio can stay if too few members see the Spanish-language Wrinkles.

Footnote (Israel)
In Darkness (Poland)
Le Havre (Finland)
Miss Bala (Mexico)
A Separation (Iran)

The skinny: Anything can happen in this category. The possible spoilers for this five would be Monsieur Lazhar (Canada), Pina (Germany) and Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Turkey). Where Do We Go Now? (Lebanon) won the Toronto International Film Festival’s audience award, an honor bestowed on previous Best Picture winners like the King’s Speech, Slumdog Millionaire and American Beauty and this category’s champs like Tsotsi, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Life is Beautiful.

Hell and Back Again
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Project Nim
We Were Here

The skinny: All the acclaimed docs (The Interrupters, Senna) are absent from the Academy’s shortlist, and thus we go here. If a Tree Falls received a nod from the Writers’ Guild and Buck and Bill Cunningham New York were well received, but they both seem kinda lightweight compared to the real-world resonance of Paradise Lost 3, which recently saw its subjects free of the murder charges that kept them locked up for nearly two decades.

The Artist
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Tree of Life
War Horse

The skinny: Unless the American Society of Cinematographers produces a big spoiler, I’d say this category is set.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
The Tree of Life

The skinny: Based on the Academy’s shortlist, these look like the best bets.

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