It’s early November, which means we’re right in the middle of awards season. This is the time of the year that studios trot out their ‘prestige’ pictures and little indies that could in hopes that the all-powerful Academy notices, and bestows them with a nomination or two. Whether or not the Oscars are artistically valid is debatable, but no one can deny that they are still the most important awards in the film industry.
The Academy tends to nominate, and award, similar films every year – with a few exceptions. Here I will do my best to predict, solely based on trailers and buzz, which films have the best chance to grab a nomination and win. Keep in mind that there is a minimum of five best picture nominations, and at max ten. Later in the year, I’ll update the list and get a little more specific (hopefully having seen most of the films by that point).
Argo- This seems like the film to beat this year. Ben Affleck looks like he’s transforming into quite the talented director. Reviews have been almost universally positive, and this is the perfect type of film for the Academy. They love historical dramas. Expect a best picture nomination (and probably a win). Also expect Ben Affleck to be up for best director and actor. It’ll also probably nab a best adapted screenplay nod, as well as a few nominations for supporting actors (Goodman and Arkin are good bets). There also could be a few technical nominations as well (editing, cinematography).
Lincoln- This is pure Oscar bait. Legendary director? Check. Legendary Actor? Check. Legendary historical figure? Check. Reviews aren’t overwhelmingly positive, but that didn’t stop them from nominating War Horse last year. This will definitely be in the best picture category, and Spielberg will most likely get a directing nomination. Daniel Day-Lewis will also be a lock for a lead actor nomination, but don’t expect him to win. Also expect a lot of technical nominations.
Silver Linings Playbook – David O. Russell’s new film is about mentally unstable people falling in love. This will definitely be nominated for best picture and director. Also expect Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence to get lead acting nominations (Lawrence might win). Robert DeNiro also has a shot at a supporting actor nomination. If he does get nominated, the Academy might give him the award for sentimental reasons. This movie also has a good shot at winning the best adapted screenplay award – especially if Argo cleans up all the other major awards.
Les Misérables - Tom Hooper won big two years ago for The King’s Speech. He’s back here with an adaptation of the classic Les Misérables. The Academy loves musicals, and with Hooper directing and Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe starring, this is a lock for a best picture nomination as well as songs and costume nominations.
Life of Pi- This is also pretty good Oscar bait. The Academy loves Ang Lee, and it loves epics based on popular books. This will for sure get a best picture nomination and perhaps a best directing nod. However, don’t expect it to win much beyond technical awards. There’s a good chance this will win for cinematography.
The Master – P.T. Anderson’s epic tale of cults and wayward souls might have been a little too out there for mainstream audiences, which means the Academy may ignore it as well. If there are more than five best picture nominations, expect this to be nominated. There’s also an outside chance of Anderson grabbing a directing nomination – but probably not a win. This film is just too difficult for the Academy to award it with best picture or director, and that’s a shame. The best chances it has are in the acting categories. Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman give amazing performances worthy of recognition.
Zero Dark Thirty- Kathryn Bigelow returns with this thriller about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. The subject matter is weighty enough, and it’s got pedigree in the form of Bigelow and Jessica Chastain, but it still has an outside chance in terms of nominations.
Flight- Robert Zemeckis looks to be swinging for the fences with this one, but he could be trying a bit too hard. Denzel Washington might grab a nomination, but the film might be a tad too melodramatic and hokey to get anything else (or maybe not).
Django Unchained- Tarantino’s latest is sure to be a crowd pleaser, but don’t expect it to win much. It might sneak into the best picture category. And Leonardo DiCaprio looks to be giving the sort of cartoon-ish, unconventional performance, that the Academy might recognize – but, again, don’t expect a win.
Hitchcock- This is the perfect type of navel gazing, biopic that the Academy loves. However, there’s not a whole lot of buzz surrounding it, so that might not be a good sign. Anthony Hopkins will probably get an acting nomination, though – the Academy loves impersonations of old movie icons.
Amour – Michael Haneke’s new film about an elderly couple’s relationship won the Palm D’Or at Cannes this year. The reviews have been very strong as well. It would be nice to see this squeak into the best film category, but it wouldn’t win. This does have a good shot at winning best foreign film, though.
Cloud Atlas – Like Life of Pi, this has the appearance of a classic Oscar bait epic. However, reviews have been very mixed, which doesn’t bode well for it’s chances. Expect it to pick up some technical awards.
Beasts of the Southern Wild- This indie film was showered in praise at Sundance earlier this year, which could translate into nominations. It would be great to see it sneak into the best picture category (again, it won’t win). The Academy would be going out on a bit of limb to nominate this, however. Newcomer Quvenzhané Wallis may get a best actress nomination, though.
Moonrise Kingdom- Wes Anderson’s latest may have been released too early in the year for the Academy to notice (which is a shame). However, there is a possible chance of it nabbing a screenwriting nomination, and a very outside chance of squeaking into the best picture category.
Anna Karenina -This looks pretty Oscar bait-y. The Academy certainly loves period pictures and classic literature. However, it does has the potential to flop. Don’t expect it to win anything (beyond, perhaps, costume design).
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey- This will surely be a smash hit at the box office. Expect the Academy to nominate it (maybe in best picture) just to get more people to watch the awards ceremony. It will definitely be up for, and win, a bunch of technical awards.