THE LONG SHOT: The pre-nomination shuffle

Posted by · 6:53 pm · January 27th, 2010

Alec Baldwin in It's ComplicatedThis, ladies and gentlemen, will be the last Long Shot column I write before the 2009 Academy Award nominations are announced, and it’s not just because it’s the column’s 17th week that the well of subject matter is looking rather dry.

I have followed longer awards seasons than this one (the awards used to take place in late March, after all), but none have felt longer – thanks to this year’s eccentric, unprecedented scheduling that has most of the most significant precursor awards done and dusted before the Oscar nominations are even out.

The six weeks between nomination morning and awards night were once chockfull of awards ceremonies that could move the needle this way or that. We now have only the BAFTAs and some guild announcements to break up the more stealthy campaigning that could yet affect the race.

The result, then, is that Tuesday’s nominations seem like more of a formality than usual. By the end of the weekend, the Globes, the BFCA and the three most influential guilds will all have had their say, meaning almost every major race can be boiled down to a maximum of two contenders … before we even receive official confirmation that they’re in the race at all. If that’s the case, Lord only knows what we’ll find to talk about until March 7.

Perhaps I’m jumping the gun. Perhaps in 40 days’ time, we’ll be marveling over Vera Farmiga’s remarkable upturn in momentum that enabled her to topple Mo’Nique, while poring over the math of the preferential voting that led to a Best Picture win for “Invictus” … but I think we all know the race only allows so much room for maneuver.

But the inevitability of certain frontrunners only heightens the intrigue over which names and titles will occupy the lower rungs on the nomination ladder. When all eyes are on just one or two contenders, the Academy can sometimes get playful with the predetermined also-rans – and as I compiled my penultimate set of nomination predictions, I spotted a number of categories that still offer substantial wiggle room.

Chief among these is Best Supporting Actor, so overshadowed by the seemingly indomitable Christoph Waltz that no one is paying much mind to the four remaining nominee slots. And once you get past the fairly safe bet of a nomination for Woody Harrelson – the one actor to wrestle a notable precursor award from Waltz all season – it’s hard to find anyone who looks like a sure thing.

Stanley Tucci in Julie & JuliaYes, Christopher Plummer is scandalously overdue. But how many people have seen “The Last Station,” and how many among them were particularly wowed by his doddery performance in it? The Academy denied him 10 years ago for infinitely better work in an infinitely better film – it could easily happen again.

Yes, a nomination for the beloved Stanley Tucci made sense all season. But “The Lovely Bones” capsized and his performance underwhelmed, with many preferring his more low-key work in “Julie & Julia.” Could the latter performance steal enough votes to scupper his chances of a nod altogether, or could it even overtake his fussy turn in the less-liked film?

The potential spoilers are many. Alfred Molina’s chances depend on how much voters liked “An Education,” Matt Damon’s on how duped they were by the self-stated ‘importance’ of “Invictus.” Hardly anyone has seen Christian McKay’s film, but those that have were largely sold on his impressive party-trick of a performance. Meanwhile, Alec Baldwin’s surprise BAFTA nod for “It’s Complicated,” his first mention of the season, has me wondering if he could replicate the 2004 awards trajectory of Alan Alda.

And with so many low-wattage films jostling for a place in this category, the heat of “The Hurt Locker” could well push Anthony Mackie into the final five, despite a disappointing season so far. Every year needs a Michael Shannon or Robert Forster to defy precursor wisdom.

Other categories feature similar soft spots, filled by consensus contenders that have everything going for them but discernible passion. Is that fifth Best Actress spot still Helen Mirren’s after her compatriots snubbed her, or is it vulnerable to a left-field attack from an up-and-comer? In the supporting race, does the SAG- and BAFTA-snubbed Julianne Moore do enough in “A Single Man” to lock up a nomination, or could the ladies of “Inglourious Basterds” (one of them mired in category confusion) come out swinging? Does anyone really love what Morgan Freeman does in “Invictus,” or is Nelson Mandela the kind of role that nominates itself?

(from left) Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Bradley Cooper in The HangoverI’d need a whole extra column to address the question marks that pepper the below-the-line categories, but I’ll close with the race that obviously offers the most margin for error, thanks to its abundance of room. Where the expansion to 10 nominees once seemed a depressing safety-net to catch all available Oscar bait, the implosion of certain late-2009 prestige releases has left us with three or four slots that really could go any way.

Where a Best Picture nod for “The Hangover” was suggested in the summer as a kind of extreme what-if scenario, it now poses a very real threat to the race. Should voters decide to adhere to the unspoken Academy memo to play to the gallery, the frat-boy comedy could easily pad out the lineup with fellow summer hit “Star Trek,” making likelier nominee “District 9” look positively arthouse by comparison.

But there’s every chance the Academy’s more staid, middlebrow sensibilities (and substantial acting contingent) could usher a performance-led indie like “Crazy Heart” or “The Messenger” into one of the bottom slots. Or if the votes turn out to be very fractured indeed, could Harvey Weinstein have bought just enough ballots to secure a spot for yet another unpopular prestige picture?

No, I don’t think so either. But there’s plenty of suspense ahead of Tuesday’s announcement. And in an oddly back-to-front year where the winners in some races seem to precede the nominees, we should relish the week ahead.

Guy’s Oscar Predictions

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46 responses so far

  • 1 1-27-2010 at 7:26 pm

    AmericanRequiem said...

    interesting predictions, the ladies of inglourious basterds have been my biggest question mark all year, im hoping they both show up

  • 2 1-27-2010 at 7:31 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    “Alec Baldwin’s surprise BAFTA nod for “It’s Complicated,” his first mention of the season, has me wondering if he could replicate the 2004 awards trajectory of Alan Alda.”

    This makes my heart sing, since it brings back fond memories of when I was, like, the only guy who saw Alda coming.

    And my thoughts exactly on the bottom of the Best Picture field.

  • 3 1-27-2010 at 7:37 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Also, I would say there will be surprises, but you’re expecting them to be widespread, and I think that’s unlikely.

  • 4 1-27-2010 at 7:46 pm

    mjb said...

    Kinda hope Paula Patton for Precious shows up in supporting actress…I think it would be well deserved. I have an inkling Mackie and McKay might also be in as well. Think Freeman and Damon will be snubbed. Viggo might slip in.
    Why no love for Gwyneth and Joaquin in Two Lovers? The critics just forgot it.

  • 5 1-27-2010 at 7:46 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Kris: You’re probably right. I dare say I’ll rein the predictions in before Tuesday. For now, I’m just working out which surprises feel right, so I kinda splurged them all out.

    mjb: I’d predict Mariah Carey before Paula Patton, but even that’s a long shot. If I were to pick an upset in Best Actor, it’d be Viggo, but I’m not going there. As for “Two Lovers,” Phoenix’s offscreen antics, plus the fact that the film feels like very old news (it premiered at Cannes 2008), put paid to it.

  • 6 1-27-2010 at 7:48 pm

    Craig said...

    I’d kill for surprise nominations for Laurent or Mackie. Just watched The Hurt Locker again and Mackie’s last scene is just perfect.

  • 7 1-27-2010 at 8:16 pm

    Mr. F said...

    I have a feeling that Tilda Swinton will get nominated instead of Helen Mirren or Emily Blunt. I know she has not won any precursor awards or anything, but I have a strong feeling she will be this year’s most surprising nominees. It’s probably just wishful thinking though.

  • 8 1-27-2010 at 8:21 pm

    leonardo said...

    If there’s a litte bit of justice in the world, Tilda Swinton or Emily Blunt should be nominated instead of Sandra Bullock. But that only happen in dreams.

  • 9 1-27-2010 at 8:42 pm

    Robert said...

    Mr. F, I really hope that you’re right about Tilda Swinton. It would be the best surprise of the season!!!

    And I’m also really rooting for (500) Days of Summer to break into the top 10. Doubt it will happen, but if it does I’d be so happy.

  • 10 1-27-2010 at 9:21 pm

    Glenn said...

    I literally would die of happiness (and then be reincarnated as myself at the same age I am now) if Tilda Swinton somehow miraculously pulled off a nomination. Can you just imagine that? It won’t happen, but wow if it somehow did. I mean, her movie only made $20,000!

  • 11 1-27-2010 at 9:47 pm

    Adam M. said...

    I hope you didn’t put any money down on those predictions, Guy. I think we’re likely to see one or two surprises on nomination day, but you’ve picked unexpected contenders in several major categories. That just isn’t going to happen.

    Re: Shannon in Revolutionary Road. He had precursor support in a flashy prestige project with a sure-bet winner (albeit, ultimately, for a different film) in the leading role.

  • 12 1-27-2010 at 9:55 pm

    Adam M. said...

    Also re: Tilda Swinton. I heard that a distressing number of BFCA members did not know of ‘Julia’ or Swinton in it. I doubt the Academy– made up of members whose livelihoods do not rely on surveying the annual cinematic landscape (as is true for BFCA members, arguably)– would have a better record of awareness. So I think it’s literally impossible that she’ll receive a nomination, unless a large group of members were informed of her performance and voted blindly (would that many have sought out the film?).

  • 13 1-27-2010 at 10:03 pm

    Andrew2 said...

    Its really hard to believe that two months ago, Bright Star had real shots at nominations for Actress, Cinematography and Costumes, at least, and now may get none of these. I know the campaigning has been useless, but is this why it all went horribly wrong??

  • 14 1-27-2010 at 10:23 pm

    Andrew said...

    I’m thinking some surprises are definitely coming our way. I’m thinking It’s Complicated or Nine will make this Best Picture line up. And that either A Serious Man will recieve the Best Picture nomination, or A Single Man will, but neither together.

    I think Alec Baldwin could get a nomination, but it would be tacky for one Oscar host to get a nomination, but the other one doesnt. I think The Last Station will be completely shut out, so that counts out Plummer and Mirren. I think McKay could pop up, seeing as he’s playing legend Orson Welles or Mackie could ride of The Hurt Locker buzz. I also think Nine could still pick up votes. I mean it was nominated at the BFCA, SAG and Golden Globes. And Weinstein is behind it and many of the members of the AMPAS will be friends of at least one of the cast. I think Streep could be nominated for It’s Complicated instead of Julie & Julia, but if that happened I think she would loose to Bullock. I can also see Shohreh Aghshladoo surprising in Best Actress, and Saoirse Ronan. But like I said, I’m expecting alot of surprises!

    I so can’t wait for the nominees. They always feel so right :)

  • 15 1-27-2010 at 10:32 pm

    JJ said...

    I don’t understand how surprises happen.

    The season is long. There’s campaigsn, precursors, Satellites, Globes, BFCA, SAG, BAFTA … how can a surprise sneak in wehn they’re not a part of any of those line-ups.

    I mean, I know it happened to Alan Alda as recent as 04 with his lone BAFTA nod. And I relaize that Alec Baldwin could be that person this year.

    But does anyone really, truly see a potential Anthony Mackie, Viggo, Ben Foster, Lang, Weaver, Saldana, Gainsbourg, Gyllenhaal (one could hope), etc.???

    Any other crazy examples of Oscar nods lately with little to NO nods elsewhere. Maybe Tommy Lee Jones? What else did he get nommed for in 07?

  • 16 1-27-2010 at 10:34 pm

    JJ said...

    Oh, and my out-of-left-field guess would be a nod for NINE for Best Picture because of the exact reasons put forth by the poster 2 or 3 comments prior.

  • 17 1-28-2010 at 12:07 am

    red_wine said...

    Yep it is pretty weird as in Winners are locked or down to 2 but nominations are still not sure at all. Apart from the front-runners, the others would more or less be filler.

    I think even more than Julia, hardly anybody seems to have seen The Last Station. People must have blind voted for Mirren & Plummer where they were nominated because even the reviews aren’t flattering. They just say Mirren screams throughout the movie and wildly gesticulates. Nobody on the internet ever talks about that film.

    But I agree, whats there to talk about till March when most winners are so set in stone.

  • 18 1-28-2010 at 12:15 am

    Nigel Bridgeman said...

    We don’t know how the expanded Best Picture list will play out, so I’m expecting more than a few surprises. People here will either be ecstatic at the inclusion films they had all but given up hope on, or traumatized beyond belief by the absolute tragedy that is the inclusion of a film they don’t particularly like.

  • 19 1-28-2010 at 2:27 am

    Nigel Bridgeman said...

    One other thing – is Christopher Plummer really that overdue? I agree that he should have been nominated for The Insider, but other than that I can’t really think of anything that he should have been nominated for an Oscar for.

  • 20 1-28-2010 at 3:45 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    “Re: Shannon in Revolutionary Road. He had precursor support in a flashy prestige project with a sure-bet winner (albeit, ultimately, for a different film) in the leading role.”

    If you count a Satellite Award and nominations from the Chicago and Online critics’ groups as “precursor support,” then yes. But come on. He missed with ALL the majors. That’s barely more precursor attention than Anthony Mackie has this year.

  • 21 1-28-2010 at 3:59 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    JJ: There’s plenty of precedent if you dig around. My personal favourite example is one I mention the article, Robert Forster’s supporting nom for “Jackie Brown.”

    His ONE precursor mention all season? The Kansas City Film Critics.

  • 22 1-28-2010 at 4:48 am

    aspect ratio said...

    Maggie Gyllenhaal feels like a strong possibility for a surprise nomination. She’s boosted by the fact that so many will have seen Crazy Heart as Bridges is the talk of the town.

    Samantha Morton could definitely surprise too, and I definitely agree that there seems to be a bit of wiggle room in the supporting categories for surprises to happen. Maybe not on the same level as Michael Shannon, but it could definitely happen. Would be awesome if it did too, well, as long as the surprise nominee is deserving.

  • 23 1-28-2010 at 4:55 am

    Bia said...

    I think The Blind Side and Crazy Heart will make it in Best Picture.

  • 24 1-28-2010 at 5:29 am

    John H. Foote said...

    Too bad about “The Lovely Bones” — great demanding film with stunning work from Ronan and Tucci — that moment where she finds Tucci sitting, sexually sated in the tub with a faraway look in his eyes remains the single most terrifying moment in movies for me this year as the girl realizes she is dead and he killed her — lots from the book I wish Jackson had included, but overall I thought he made a rather brilliant film.

  • 25 1-28-2010 at 5:52 am

    James D. said...

    I have been telling you all about The Hangover for months now. I saw it first.

  • 26 1-28-2010 at 6:28 am

    JJ said...

    John H. Foote — I agree. Saw ‘The Lovely Bones’ with 3 of my most cynical friends (one read the book), and while we thought the film had too many scenes in the in-between and shortchanged the Abigail character (bigtime), we ALL thought it was haunting, tense, well acted, & beautifully crafted.

    We certainly thought it was much better than the reviews have led on. My 2 female friends said the hairs on the neck/arms were up in several instances.

    Guy Lodge: Thank you for the Foster/Jackie Brown info. Wow. Incredible. And on Michael Shannon, this leads me to believe even more that an Oscary movie like ‘Rev. Road’ would have definitely made it in Top 10 last year. Without ‘The Reader’, Winslet would have been nommed for ‘Rev. Road’, and that could have given the film 5 or so noms last year if also nommed for Best Pic.

  • 27 1-28-2010 at 6:28 am

    Me. said...

    Surprises I would love to see happen (at least 1):

    Anthony Mackie – Supporting Actor
    Mélanie Laurent – Supporting Actress
    Abbie Cornish – Lead Actress
    Penélope Cruz – Lead Actress
    Marion Cotillard – Supporting Actress (either of her films)
    Where the Wild Things Are, Bright Star or/and The White Ribbon – Best Picture and other nominations
    District 9 NOT getting into Best Picture
    Only 1 “Up in the Air” lady nominated
    and more…

    Sadly, the only ones possible are Mackie and Laurent but I don’t think they will be nominated. If they are, I’ll throw a party.

  • 28 1-28-2010 at 6:30 am

    Me. said...

    Also, I think this is the most likely Best Picture lineup:

    Crazy Heart
    District 9
    An Education
    The Hurt Locker
    Inglourious Basterds
    Up in the Air


  • 29 1-28-2010 at 6:57 am

    Mike said...

    Baldwin will get nominated and he could be the guy that beats Waltz. Waltz’s acceptance speeches keep getting worse and no one wants to hear another one. He is beatable.

    Also Blind Side will get nominated for Best Pic as well (but not The Hangover).

  • 30 1-28-2010 at 7:00 am

    Mike said...

    Remember back in 98 when Edward Norton got nominated out of nowhere for American History X? I would not be surprised if Sam Rockwell popped up in that spot this year nudging out Renner. No way Freeman gets pushed. Even though Renner was better.

  • 31 1-28-2010 at 7:36 am

    evelyn garver said...

    I am one of those who would love to see Tucci nominated for JULIE and JULIA. The portait of the Childs marriage is really the only reason to see the film.

  • 32 1-28-2010 at 8:02 am

    Ashley said...

    Last Station will be shut out, TUCCI will be nominated for The Lovely Bones, District 9 will be ignored in the best picture category and replaced with Crazy Heart. Scott Cooper is a threat to Lee Daniels in Best Director. Melanie Laurent should easily pick up a best supporting actress nomination along with Maggie Gyllennhall.

  • 33 1-28-2010 at 8:39 am

    Craig Kell said...

    In the Loop for Adapted Screenplay and Peter Capaldi for Best Supporting Actor anyone????

  • 34 1-28-2010 at 9:55 am

    billybil said...

    Thanks so much for a fascinating list! Reading it, I did get that feeling I get every year at nomination time – that fluttery feeling in my stomach because of the surprises popping up here and there. That made reading your list that much more fun! You actually managed to make the whole shebang feel “fresh” again! XO

    By the way – I LOVE that you put Kruger there instead of Laurent – you may have done it because of the category confusion but I just LOVED Kruger in that film!

  • 35 1-28-2010 at 10:24 am

    Aaron said...

    Melanie Laurent or Diane Kruger will be nominatated for best supporting actress, I just can’t say which one. I don’t think both will. I’m betting on Kruger, simply for the fact that she was nominated at the SAGs. I do not see Julianne Moore receiving a nomination AT ALL for A Single Man. It’s one of her weakest performances….

    …but I totally concur with all the Tilda Swinton mentions. That would literally be (for me) the best surprise nomination in Oscar history…EVER! If enough people see the film, I’m certain she could garner a lot of #1 votes…sadly, this is probably just a fantasy…

  • 36 1-28-2010 at 10:44 am

    Bryan said...

    I can stomach any bad nomination on tuesday so long as either Christian Mckay or Melanie Laurant sneak in (I think melanie was supporting, but if she goes in lead I will be happy just the same)

  • 37 1-28-2010 at 12:29 pm

    Mike M. said...

    I think Best Supporting Actress will be comprised of the three obvious contenders, as well as Diane Kruger (SAG nomination, doing tons of publicity, in a well-loved film) and either Cruz, Gyllenhal, or Morton. I’ve had a hunch Julianne Moore will be snubbed for a few weeks (SAG snub, will likely have difficulty getting #1 votes), and Laurent’s category confusion and additional vote splitting with Kruger will likely ruin her chances.

    I’d like to be shocked with a stellar line-up of Mo’Nique, Samantha Morton, Julianne Moore, Marion Cotillard, and Melanie Laurent, but that’s not happening.

  • 38 1-28-2010 at 1:12 pm

    Will said...

    i think the best picture line up will be
    The Blind Sind
    Crazy Heart
    District 9
    The Hurt Locker
    The Hangover
    Inglourious Bastards
    Up in the Air
    Star Trek

  • 39 1-28-2010 at 1:18 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    No “Precious”? As much as I’d like it to be true, that’s crazy talk ;)

  • 40 1-28-2010 at 1:55 pm

    Paul Outlaw said...

    Crazy talk, blasphemy.

  • 41 1-28-2010 at 2:39 pm

    Lance said...

    I agree that Julliane Moore will get snubbed -Many academy members admitted to not watching “Brokeback Mountain” because of its gay subject matter and the same could happen to “A Single Man”. With Moore teetering on the edge, little factors like this could effect the end result. With Colin Firth being more solid, I don’t think this factor will hurt him.

  • 42 1-28-2010 at 3:54 pm

    Will said...

    I think Precious will be the suprise snub

  • 43 1-28-2010 at 4:10 pm

    Fitz said...

    Cruz – regardless of performance – is usually nominated and she probably will be again for Nine, sadly.

    I’m really thinking Tucci gets in for J&J, and here’s a big upset Stuhlbarg takes out Freeman.

  • 44 1-28-2010 at 7:43 pm

    Ganonlink said...

    Crazy unexpected surprises happen a lot more at the best actor category, remember when Clint got nommed insted of Paul Giamatti with literally zero mentions at any other precursor? I think Renner could be edged out by Matt Damon or even Tobey Maguire to make things crazier and I’m almost sure one lady from Inglourious Baterds will make the cut.

  • 45 1-29-2010 at 8:30 am

    Sawyer said...

    I keep coming back to the Best Picture chances of The Last Station. I haven’t seen it, but the film seems baity enough – period, biopic, etc., and it also seems likely that many Academy voters will have screened it, since Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer look to receive nominations.

    If enough voters see it, I think it has a real chance.

  • 46 1-29-2010 at 8:32 am

    Sawyer said...

    So I’m going on a limb, and saying the 10 will be:

    District 9
    An Education
    The Hurt Locker
    Inglourious Basterds
    The Last Station



    Up In The Air

    (don’t know why I’m suddenly skipping lines)