Starting the prediction game

Posted by · 3:18 pm · July 28th, 2011

Right, I stayed out of the Oscar prediction racket for a while — partly to give myself a vacation from any such thoughts after 2010’s long, wearying season, and partly because I found myself struggling to blindly sort a pile of late-year prestige titles that struck me from afar as a little lean.

The latter problem hasn’t really resolved itself, but with the recent revelation of key autumn festival slates, a kind of faint shape to the season is starting to emerge — and with Kris already having kicked off the guesswork earlier this month, I thought I may as well draw up a list of pre-festival nomination predictions, a first draft ready to get substantially rewritten as the hits and misses of Venice, Telluride and Toronto emerge.

As my predictions took shape, two films emerged dominant: one of them the big-name spectacle near the top of everyone’s list (Spielberg’s “War Horse,” of course), the other the foreign wild card that I’ve nurtured a strong hunch about ever since its breakfast-hour Cannes screening. Yes, the Weinstein-backed silent Hollywood homage “The Artist” looks nothing like a conventional Oscar juggernaut at first glance — but that could be its strength if a number of the more typically baity awards prospects lean toward the generic.

In picking a number for the now-flexible amount of Best Picture nominees, I found myself hypothesizing which films could conceivably generate the passion, as opposed to mere respect, to land the required 5% of #1 votes — hence the predicted nomination for “The Tree of Life” ahead of more safely Oscar-targeted fare. Over-thinking the #1 vote factor can be a little short-sighted — I spent much of the 2008 season, for example, needlessly puzzling over who could conceivably put “Frost/Nixon” at the very top of their ballots — but nonetheless, I found myself instinctively veering towards the lower end of the 5-to-10 scale.

Any more detailed discussion at this point would be foolhardy, so I’ll leave you to peruse my predictions for yourself and ask your own questions. (There’s also a year-round link to them at the bottom of Kris’s prediction sidebar.) Unlike Kris, I’ve thrown in some foreign-language and documentary predictions, while some dark horses are scattered throughout to keep things fluid and interesting at this early stage (my, that Best Actress race seems to be skewing indie) — and as always, I think half the fun of early punditry is guessing which prestige titles won’t go the distance.

Predictions here. Enjoy or ignore as you will, but don’t treat it as anything more than a bit of sport.

[Photo: Fox Searchlight]

→ 127 Comments Tags: , , , | Filed in: Daily

127 responses so far

  • 1 7-30-2011 at 10:39 am

    The Other James D. said...

    Jon, it all depends on whether or not voters can separate her performance from the film itself, which seems potentially polarizing for voters. And even based solely on the fact that this is a Lars Von Trier movie, she has an uphill battle in campaigning. That being said, glad to hear the good response–and perhaps she’ll get some recognition from various other awards bodies, if the Academy shuns it.

  • 2 7-30-2011 at 10:54 am

    Robert said...

    Brock – I’ve not read the J. Edgar script, so I can’t comment with that much authority, but Eastwood’s films always win over the Academy when they pack an emotional punch.

    I don’t see how a biopic about a disliked figure in history will pull that off.

  • 3 7-30-2011 at 12:06 pm

    Brock Landers said...

    “Brock – I’ve not read the J. Edgar script, so I can’t comment with that much authority, but Eastwood’s films always win over the Academy when they pack an emotional punch.”

    That’s the thing, I wasn’t expecting it to pack an emotional punch, but the way Black develops the character from J. Edgar’s POV sets you up for a pretty huge sucker punch at the end. It won’t leave audiences sobbing like Million Dollar Baby, but it will make you incredibly sympathetic for the title character. I think it’s really going to surprise people.

  • 4 7-30-2011 at 12:40 pm

    b said...

    Bill Cunningham New York for best doc.

  • 5 7-30-2011 at 12:48 pm

    Robert said...

    As for Girl With a Dragon Tattoo, the Academy does shun genre pics, but their taste has also been getting darker lately. If anyone can transcent it’s issues it’s a director that’s both masterful and underloved by them (ie Coens with No Country for Old Men).

    And while I know the Academy feels no need to nominate hits, they have been doing it a bit more lately (or just a result of the 10 nominee process perhaps). Still, Dragon Tattoo may be the last viable big hit of the year for them to latch onto, that is to say, provided it is one. It’s got the built in fanbase.

  • 6 7-30-2011 at 2:52 pm

    matsunaga said...

    Well I hate to be pessimistic, but with Mission Impossible, Sherlock Holmes, Adventures of Tintin, Wee Bought A Zoo and War Horse, I think Girl with a Dragon Tattoo will have a tough time at the box-office…

    Not unless having Fincher and Craig might help???

  • 7 7-31-2011 at 12:41 am

    Simon Warrasch said...

    Right now my favourite performances are:

    For Lead Actor:

    – Jean Dujardin – The Artist
    – Milan Peschel – Halt auf freier Strecke
    – Christoph Waltz & John C. Reily – Carnage
    – Peter Mullan – Tyrannosaur
    – Michael Fuith – Michael

    For Lead Actress:

    – Steffi Kühnert – Halt auf freier Strecke
    – Charlotte Gainsbourg & Kirsten Dunst – Melancholia
    – Elizabeth Olsen – Martha Marcy May Marlene
    – Jodie Foster & Kate Winslet – Carnage
    – Olivia Coleman – Tyrannosaur

  • 8 7-31-2011 at 1:56 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    If Jennifer Lawrence from Winter’s Bone can get in, than what is going to stop Dunst (who not only won Best Actress from Cannes, but is getting rave reviews, reviews stating that this is a career defining performance) from sneaking in?

    With respect, this kind of “why x if not y” argument is pointless to me, ignoring as it does the wildly different circumstances (and films) around each performance. Aside from giving an excellent breakthrough performance, Lawrence was playing a sympathetic character in a critically championed US film that wound up getting a Best Picture nod. Why wouldn’t she get nominated?

    I don’t know if you’ve seen “Melancholia” or not, but it’s pretty self-evident that the film isn’t going to have the same level of support within the Academy. And I’ve said it before: I don’t think Dunst’s performance, strong as it is, is in an emotional key that will really register with voters. Her Cannes win isn’t much of deal-breaker, either — just ask Charlotte Gainsbourg.

  • 9 7-31-2011 at 2:00 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    @BEF and Kris: That’s an astute point about Durkin’s screenplay — not having seen the short film, I’m not sure how tangential the relationship is, but if “District 9” and “Fatal Attraction” were deemed adaptations from shorts, I suppose this one could too. That said, the Academy consistently throws me with their classifications — I’ll never understand how “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” was ruled an original screenplay in 2002 — so I’ll wait and see.

    @Brock and others: Glad to hear the “J. Edgar” script is such a good read, and hope as much as you do that it augurs well for the film — but I’ve been burned before in forming expectations for a film based solely on a script, which is why I don’t read them anymore. Not that I have a particularly bad feeling about the film, either — just playing around here.

  • 10 7-31-2011 at 2:14 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    @Dana Jones: To my knowledge, “The 13 Women of Nanjing” is to be a 2012 release, and the fact that it hasn’t shown up on the festival radar yet suggests to me that’s still the case.

    @The Other James D: Not confident at all of only six nominees — just have a mostly irrational hunch it’ll be on the lower side, with a couple of films dominating the conversation and scooping the bulk of the votes. Don’t really feel like bothering with naming four alternatives until we know more — I found myself with a lot of bottlenecking once I got past those six.

    @Speaking English: I agree that the design work in “The Tree of Life” is outstanding, but it’s also rather low-key — I’m thinking voters may principally remember exteriors when they think back on the film.

    @Nelson: Long after others began predicting it, we were actually both firm in our conviction that they wouldn’t go for “The Dark Knight” — until the precursors made us think otherwise. Should’ve stuck with our first instinct. (I thought for a brief time that “WALL-E” could sneak in; Kris never did.)

    @Lynne: I agree. I’m just wondering if the afterglow effect will carry it for Firth.

  • 11 7-31-2011 at 3:25 am

    Steven Kaye said...

    #44 – Doh! I meant costume design, not set design!

  • 12 7-31-2011 at 4:30 am

    julian said...

    People keep talking about Melancholia and Dunst like they are real Oscar contenders…that, frankly, amazes me. A Lars Von Trier movie in Oscar contention?? Come on…it’s never going to happen! (which is Oscar’s loss, not Lars’, surely)

  • 13 7-31-2011 at 4:32 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Julian: While I completely agree with you that Melancholia is not a serious contender, let’s not forget that Emily Watson was nominated for Breaking the Waves — so the notion of a Lars von Trier movie in the Oscar race isn’t without precedent.

  • 14 7-31-2011 at 6:09 am

    JJ1 said...

    With Kirsten Dunst, the story/buzz/angle could be ‘young, but very well-known, and veteran actress providing great work in a von Trier film’.

    With Emily Watson, it could have been ‘von Trier or not, who the hell IS this actress? She’s amazing and completely unknown’. etc.

    Precedent is definitely there, just two totally different circumstances, no?

  • 15 7-31-2011 at 6:14 am

    BEF said...

    Having seen “Mary Last Seen” but only the trailer for “Martha Marcy May Marlene” it seems to have enough similarities to be considered adapted — “Mary” screened at Sundance in 2010 and “Martha” was a script from the Sundance Screenwriters and Directors Lab. Both feature a boyfriend (played byBrady Corbet in both) who takes a girl on a road trip, and whose relationship is revealed to be “not what she thinks and their destination is not what was promised.”

    Regardless, I have high hopes for the feature.

    You can see the trailer for Mary Last Seen under “directors” “Sean Durkin” here: — I couldn’t find a stream of it online. The trailer for Martha Marcy May Marlene,

  • 16 7-31-2011 at 7:23 am

    Jane said...

    Just curious of your thoughts with W.E. It was well received at the early test screenings.
    Or do we have to wait for the reviews simply because it is directed by Madonna?

  • 17 7-31-2011 at 1:22 pm

    JC said...

    Guy – any word on a Wettest County 2011 release by the Weinstein company? It sure would continue the year of Jessica Chastain, Gary Oldman and Mia Wasikowska…

  • 18 7-31-2011 at 5:13 pm

    ePastorJames said...

    @Jane: Well-received by whom?! One person—fanboy—on an IMDb message board, no less—posted alleged positivity, without any verifiable sources. Meanwhile, sources from more legitimate websites have stated that feedback from early screenings has been largely negative. Shocking.

    As expected, the consensus has been that it’s a hollow production, void of any substance; too much focus on set decor, a superficial screenplay that fails to shed light on why Abbie Cornish’s modern age woman is so entranced by the life of Wallis, etc., etc.. Basically, all indications point to this being a hot mess. Token vapid costume drama with more focus on art direction than character development. I don’t even think one needs to wait to discount it from nearly every category, except Costume and Art Direction. Potentially.

  • 19 7-31-2011 at 6:42 pm

    RichardA said...

    Yay!…No silly talks of Girl w. Dragoon Tatoo. The book was loved. The original movie was loved. Fincher’s version will always be “too whatever” compared to gthe original two sources. It’s an uphill battle. The only achievement it will have is to boost the Christopher Plummer nod for The Beginners.

  • 20 7-31-2011 at 7:25 pm

    austin111 said...

    @Brock Landers:

    I agree on the ending. Also interesting was something the actor who plays Hoover’s doctor in the film had to say about a scene between DiCaprio and Naomi Watts. He described it as very much like a scene from King Lear. I can easily see Hoover as a kind of tragic Lear figure myself.

  • 21 8-01-2011 at 3:06 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Both feature a boyfriend (played by Brady Corbet in both) who takes a girl on a road trip, and whose relationship is revealed to be “not what she thinks and their destination is not what was promised.”

    @BEF: You’ve been slightly misled by the trailer, I think — that’s not really the setup of “Martha Marcy May Marlene”, though you’re right that Brady Corbet plays the same character in both the feature and the short. (The “girl” in question is a different character from Elisabeth Olsen’s protagonist.)

    I dug up the Cannes press notes on the film and found some clarification on the matter — Durkin began writing the feature in 2007, but after failing to get the production going, he decided to make a calling-card short that would be representative of the planned feature film. The script for “Martha…” therefore precedes “Mary Last Seen”, so it should qualify as original.

    Hope that’s helpful.

  • 22 8-01-2011 at 4:45 am

    timr said...

    That’s a dreamy-looking Best Actress line-up. More than Williams or Dunst, I do wonder about Rachel Weisz, though.

  • 23 8-01-2011 at 5:54 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Too dreamy, I suspect. I had Weisz in there for “The Deep Blue Sea” until the film failed to show up in the Venice lineup — I imagined a likely Best Actress win on the Lido would set her on the awards path, but now I’m not sure how much buzz the film will generate in the Toronto clusterfuck. Maybe “The Whistleblower” will be her vehicle instead?

  • 24 8-01-2011 at 10:06 am

    BEF said...

    @ Guy — Thanks! I guess it was Corbet and the shot of the house and the Sundance workshop that made me think otherwise.

  • 25 8-01-2011 at 1:37 pm

    Airride said...

    Pastor James , did you receive your “more legitimate sources” from The Daily Mail by chance? Lol

  • 26 8-01-2011 at 1:42 pm

    The Other James D. said...

    Daily Fail indeed, but nevertheless a well-composed article with more convincing substantiation than that of a twatwaffle on a message board!

  • 27 8-01-2011 at 3:23 pm

    Airride said...

    Sorry but that article was highly panned and it even reverenced false hateful lies about a cast that never existed that supposedly didn’t get along with her. Their source came from one person from a lounge site for chrisake. Very legitimate indeed.