The time has come. If you’re anything like me you’ll be up early in the morning to watch the announcement of the 2012 Oscar nominees. Can anything stop The Artist? Maybe not, now that the guild awards have started coming in, showering director Michel Hazanavicius’s silent ode to Hollywood with adoration and shiny gold trophies. But it’s still shaping up to be a hell of a year. Even with a few sure things, there’s a lot of room for surprise nominations, snubs and serious competition in each category. We’ll know the official contenders tomorrow, but for now let’s take a crack at predicting the 2012 Academy Awards nominations.
[UPDATE: The Oscar nominations were announced this morning and contained so many surprises that, well, we're forced to admit defeat. Most of our predictions were accurate, but there were unexpected snubs and inclusions in almost every category. Check out the official Oscar nominations to see what the hell happened.]
Midnight in Paris
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Tree of Life
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
The Ides of March
Predicting the Best Picture nominees is harder than usual this year, since there aren’t even a definite number of nominees. The Academy Awards now allow between five and ten contenders, depending on how many of them were the voters’ number one choice on the ballot. But the top five or six seem easy to predict. I’d be shocked if The Artist, The Descendants, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris and War Horse don’t get nominated.
But what films, if any, have the traction needed to fill out the playing field? I’d say the individualist baseball drama Moneyball was a lock if ten nominations were guaranteed, but they’re not. The same goes for populist favorites Bridesmaids and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but they don’t necessarily have the traction necessary to make the cut in a wild card year like this.
As for the critical darlings The Tree of Life and Drive, they don’t have a lot of fervent admirers, but those who love them probably love them enough to put them at the top of a ballot, so they’re still serious possibilities. And then of course there’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, which Warner Bros. is promoting the hell out of, hoping for a “pat on the back” nomination. It probably doesn’t have a chance in hell, but it still can’t be ignored. Finally there’s The Ides of March, 50/50 and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, three films with intrinsic Oscar potential but almost no buzz to speak of. One of them might sneak in, but I wouldn’t count on it. No matter what, this should be the most interesting category come tomorrow morning.
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Steven Spielberg, War Horse
Tate Taylor, The Help
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
David Fincher,The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Bennett Miller,The Help
Terence Malick, The Tree of Life
Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive
George Clooney, The Ides of March
Stephen Daldry, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
When the Academy Awards expanded the Best Picture category to ten, it became abundantly clear that the Best Director nominees represented the true contenders. With this many obvious frontrunners for the main prize, it seems to be a fairly conservative year for Best Director. Expect Michel Hazanavicius, Alexander Payne and Martin Scorsese to get nominated. I predict Tate Taylor and Steven Spielberg will fill out the slate, even though Spielberg was shut out of the DGA awards, but their spots aren’t guaranteed. They’re facing strong competition from David Fincher, Woody Allen and Bennett Miller in particular, with art house favorites Terence Malick and Nicolas Winding-Refn bringing up the rear. The directors of The Ides of March and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close seem like total long shots, but I wouldn’t count Stephen Daldry out yet. He’s been nominated for every film he’s directed to date, and the Academy loves consistency. Just look at Meryl Streep.
NEXT: Who will be nominated for Best Actor and Best Actress?
George Clooney, The Descendants
Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Edgar
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Michael Fassbender, Shame
Brad Pitt, Moneyball
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 50/50
Ryan Gosling, Drive
Ryan Gosling, The Ides of March
Woody Harrelson, Rampart
Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Demian Bichir, A Separation
Brendan Gleeson, The Guard
Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris
It seems like a pretty cut-and-dry year for Best Actor. The Artist’s Jean Dujardin is the obvious frontrunner for the award, with George Clooney providing his only serious competition. Brad Pitt seems like a lock for a nomination as well for his excellent work in Moneyball, and I suspect Leonardo DiCaprio will get a token nomination for playing J. Edgar Hoover, even though nobody seems to care very much for the actual film.
It’s that fifth spot that’s almost up for grabs. Michael Fassbender’s had a great year and seems most likely to be rewarded with a nomination for Shame, but the film’s dark enough to turn off some potential voters. Ryan Gosling could steal that spot with either The Ides of March or Drive, or possibly split his own vote, leaving room for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s heartbreaking turn in the cancer comedy 50/50, or Woody Harrelson’s corrupt performance in Rampart. Or it could go to someone completely out of left field, like critical darlings Demian Bichir in A Separation, Brendan Gleeson’s fantastic turn in The Guard, or Owen Wilson’s return to form in Midnight in Paris. I predict Fassbender will pull through in the end, but he’s not quite a lock.
Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis, The Help
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin
Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn
Kirsten Dunst, Melancholia
Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Charlize Theron, Young Adult
Keira Knightley, A Dangerous Method
Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids
Michelle Yeoh, The Lady
Another race with some guaranteed nominations: Viola Davis, Meryl Streep and Michelle Williams are neck-and-neck for their roles in The Help, The Iron Lady and My Week with Marilyn. Previous Oscar-winner Tilda Swinton also seems primed to pick up a nomination for her incredible performance in We Need to Talk About Kevin, but both Swinton and critics’ favorite Glenn Close are facing some serious competition from ingénues in late year releases, in the form of Kirsten Dunst, Rooney Mara and Charlize Theron. I suspect the Academy will lean more conventionally, but these two actresses have a serious chance at unseating Close, at least, when the nominations are announced tomorrow. There’s still a shot for Kristen Wiig to pull out a rare comedy nomination for Bridesmaids, or for Michelle Yeoh or Keira Knightley to slip in for films few people seem to have seen, but if anyone’s going to break into this crowd unexpectedly it’s probably going to be Elizabeth Olsen for the eerie indie drama Martha Marcy May Marlene.
NEXT: Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Animated Feature!
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn
Albert Brooks, Drive
John Hawkes, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Armie Hammer, J. Edgar
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Brad Pitt, The Tree of Life
Andy Serkis, Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Jeremy Irons, Margin Call
Viggo Mortensen, A Dangerous Method
Patton Oswalt, Young Adult
Max Von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
There are three locks for Best Supporting Actor this year: Kenneth Branagh, Albert Brooks and Christopher Plummer, and only those last two are real contenders for the big prize. It’s those last two slots that could surprise us when the nominations are announced tomorrow. Armie Hammer might squeeze out a nomination for J. Edgar, especially if voters think he got snubbed for his dual performance in last year’s The Social Network, as might Jonah Hill for his first big dramatic turn in Moneyball. Brad Pitt might also pull off a second nod for his powerful work in The Tree of Life, but I predict those two nominations are likely to go to John Hawkes in Martha Marcy May Marlene, especially after Winter’s Bone put him on the Academy’s radar last year, and Nick Nolte, who’s likely to get the lone nomination for the excellent but underseen Warrior. That said, Jeremy Irons,, Max Von Sydow, Viggo Mortensen and even Patton Oswalt have a chance to sneak in there.
Oh, and as for Andy Serkis, who would be the first person nominated for a motion-captured performance in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I’d be surprised if the Academy is hip enough to consider him, but boy, do I wish him luck.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Bérénice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Octavia Spencer, The Help
Shailene Woodley, The Descendants
Jessica Chastain, The Tree of Life
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Bryce Dallas Howard, The Help
Carey Mulligan, Shame
Vanessa Redgrave, Coriolanus
The playing field is thinner in the Best Supporting Actress category, but as with all the other categories, there are a handful of sure things. Bérénice Bejo, Shailene Woodley and Octavia Spencer all but have a space reserved for them, and I’m pretty sure the Academy is already engraving Spencer’s name on the award as we speak.
Filling out the category, Melissa McCarthy seems likely to get a nomination for her scene-stealing turn in Bridesmaids, and Jessica Chastain seems likely to get a nomination for her bubbly turn in The Help or her ethereal work in The Tree of Life. She can’t be nominated twice, so I suspect she’ll either be nominated for more Oscar-friendly film The Help, or split her vote and leave room for Janet McTeer to pull out a nod for her cross-dressing role in Albert Nobbs. There’s a chance that Bryce Dallas Howard might make the cut, making the category unusually dominated by a single film, Carey Mulligan might slip in there for her work in Shame, and Vanessa Redgrave might get some love for Coriolanus, but none of them seem likely to make the cut.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
The Adventures of Tintin
Puss in Boots
Winnie the Pooh
Happy Feet Too
Kung Fu Panda 2
A Cat in Paris
Chico & Rita
Gnomeo & Juliet
One last category before we call it a day, and it’s a little easier to predict since we already know all the potential nominees, which were whittled down months ago. The two biggest contenders are clearly The Adventures of Tintin and Rango, and it’s probably going to be a close race between them come Oscar time. Those last nominations are tougher. Puss in Boots and Cars 2 seem likely to whip out nominations, despite neither being particularly good, and that last spot seems likely to go to either Winnie the Pooh, my prediction as the token 2D animated feature, or Arthur Christmas, which won quite a bit of critical praise and comes from frequent Oscar-winners Aardman Animation. The last spot is literally anyone’s for the taking, with mainstream films like Happy Feet Too going toe-to-toe with foreign contenders like the Spanish films Wrinkles or Chico & Rita. Unlikely? Perhaps, but that’s what they said about The Secret of Kells, the film nobody even heard of before it whipped out a surprise nomination in 2010.
Those are our picks for the major categories… What are yours? And don’t forget to come back tomorrow to see how we did!