We’re only about three precursor awards deep into this year’s Oscar season, but one thing has become abundantly clear at this stage in the race: Hugo is to be taken seriously.

I was pretty dismissive of this film’s chances in a earlier podcast and the first edition of these rankings (not even mentioning it for Best Picture) because of the Academy’s distaste for both children’s and fantasy fare. It seems the cult of Scorsese has triumphed over those biases as early critics awards have been plentiful for Hugo, including a win from the National Board of Review.

Keep in mind, the NBR is a notoriously unreliable Oscar predictor when it comes to its ten nominees, but its winners usually move on to an Oscar nomination. The last film that won the NBR and didn’t go on to get nominated for Best Picture was Quills about a decade ago. This early win speaks very strongly for Hugo’s chances and it’s time to start thinking of it as legitimate contender despite its genre and intended audience.

Below are the now Hugo-fied Oscar Power Rankings. Keep in mind, these are listed in order of a hopeful’s likelihood of being nominated and pay no attention to anybody’s chance of winning.

ACTOR


1 (Rank Last Edition: 1) – Jean Dujardin in The Artist

Dujardin remains a pretty solid lock at this point, as the film is plowing through the precursors and he picked up a nomination from DC. There’s really no reason to think he won’t get nominated at this point.

2 (2) – George Clooney in The Descendants
Clooney’s been predictably solid thus far with with wins from the NBR and Washington DC Film Critics. He’s essentially a lock.

3 (3) – Brad Pitt in Moneyball
A win from the New York Film Critics Circle means any doubt as to whether this role is meaty enough should be quelled. Pitt is a major player in this category.

4 (4) – Michael Fassbender in Shame
A nod from DC and review basically singling this film out for its acting and not much else give Fassbender plenty of weight here.

5 (5) – Gary Oldman in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
No precursor attention yet, but a lot of early review and interview are painting this as a career-capping role for Oldman. Those are the types of roles that normally earn somebody their long-overdue first Oscar nomination.

6 (8) – Ryan Gosling in Drive
Gosling hasn’t gotten any mentions himself, but his movie is all over the early precursors. Expect that to buoy his chances going forward.

7 (6) – Woody Harrelson in Rampart
Nothing has happened yet for Harrelson, but this movie still hasn’t made its way to every precursor voter. He should pick up buzz as the season wears on.

8 (7) – Michael Shannon in Take Shelter
He picked up a nomination from DC, but this film is starting to feel like yesterday’s news. He seems like the actor most in need of a precursor avalanche to keep a nomination attainable.

9 (9) – Leonardo DiCaprio in J. Edgar
J. Edgar surprisingly got named to NBR’s top ten list, but that’s about as valuable as getting named to my personal top ten list that I keep in a shoebox under my bed. Still, any news has to be good news for Leo at this point.

10 (10) – Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 50/50
I’m going to keep him here until somebody rises up to supplant him. The good news is that the movie’s screenplay won NBR and DC, so maybe some residual buzz could get my man in.

ACTRESS

1 (1) – Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady
She’s only won New York so far, but supposedly the voting wasn’t even close. A nod from DC means she’s the clear favorite now.

2 (1) – Viola Davis in The Help
No wins yet, but a nomination from DC and a big DVD release portend well for her chances going forward.

3 (1) – Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs
It’s kind of shocking that we’re three deep and no precursors have mentioned the performance or the film. I think that will start to chance in the next few weeks, however.

4 (4) – Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn
A win in DC, and critics singling the performances out in this movie in a way similar to the buzz for shame, means Williams is starting to live up to the Oscar hype this movie enjoyed a few months ago.

5 (6) – Tilda Swinton in We Need to Talk About Kevin
Swinton won NBR and promises to plow through the indie awards. She’s on track for finally delivering a nomination from one her indie-lead performances that everybody’s relentlessly fond of.

6 (9) – Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Mara remains a total X-Factor here. Nobody’s really seen this movie yet (except for the famous embargo breaker at the New Yorker) so there’s not much buzz. Having said that, I have heard that Mara is this movie and could become a major contender here.

7 (5) – Keira Knightly – A Dangerous Method
This movie looks to be DOA from both the critics and at the box office. The only hope for the film is Knightly’s showcase performance. Seems like it’s becoming a long shot though.

8 (8) – Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene
She picked up a nomination from DC, but everything about this movie is starting to feel like yesterday’s buzz. I’m not sure she’ll maintain her momentum into January.

9 (7) – Charlize Theron in Young Adult
Theron is excellent in this film, but this feels like it’s in the ‘Reese Witherspoon in Election’ zone of great comedic female leads that just barely miss out on a nomination.

10 (10) – Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia
The reviews for the film are so good and the praise for Dunst so staggering that she’s bound to win a few critics awards. Whether that translates to an Oscar nomination remains to be seen.

SUPPORTING ACTOR

1 (3) – Albert Brooks in Drive
It seemed like the buzz had passed Brooks by, and then he won New York and Washington DC to reclaim his spot at the top. All that, and precursor love for the film itself, make him just about a lock.

2 (2) – Christopher Plummer in Beginners
Plummer won the NBR and it’s pretty clear that he’s not going to split with himself for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It’s nice that he can get his second nomination so soon after his first.

3 (1) – Max Von Sydow in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Nothing yet for Von Sydow, but that’s bound to change pretty soon. Unless the movie’s lousy. Then all bets are off.

4 (7) – Kenneth Branagh in My Week with Marilyn
It looks like the actors in this film are going to hold on to their previous Oscar favorite slots with only a slightly less firm grip. Branagh’s DC Film Critics nomination shows he’s still got some Oscar Mojo.

5 (5) – Nick Nolte in Warrior
He’s still waiting for his first precursor mention, but there just isn’t a strong enough fifth contender to make me feel worried about Nolte’s place yet.

6 (4) – Jim Broadbent in The Iron Lady
Supposedly this movie is a dud and Meryl Streep is the only reason to stay awake during it. Can Streep runoff help Academy fave Broadbent or will he bogged down in the dullness of this film? Stay tuned.

7 (6) – Brad Pitt in The Tree of Life
It’s starting to look like voters will check off Pitt as a lead and move on. Still, I never like to underestimate how much the industry respects everything about Terence Malick’s films.

8 (9) – Andy Serkis in Rise of the Planet of the Apes
It’s starting to happen. The Washington DC Film Critics nominated somebody for Best Supporting Actor for pretending to be a monkey and then not actually appearing in the film. Please tell me it ends with them.

9 (8) – John Hawkes – Martha Marcy May Marlene
A surprise nominee from Washington DC who clearly seemed to like this film a lot. We’ll see if he can maintain that type of momentum. He was on the outside looking for precursors during his Winter’s Bone run, and that seemed to work out for him, so he definitely has a shot.

10 (NR) – Ben Kingsley in Hugo
Our first Hugo entry! If this film really starts to gain momentum, Kingsley is the only actor with a real shot. He just may get swept up in the Hugo love affair.

Dropping Out: Kevin Spacey in Margin Call (10)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

1 (1) – Octavia Spencer in The Help
She won in DC and is starting to look like the clear favorite actor in this film.

2 (3) – Shailene Woodley in The Descendants
There’s been a slew of buzz surrounding this performance and she now has an NBR award for her first piece of hardware. It won’t be her last.

3 (5) – Bernice Bejo in The Artist
There’s a lot of actresses with near-equal shots in this category, but I think Bejo is the most likely of the non-Woodley/Spencer bunch.

4 (2) – Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids
She picked up a nomination from DC, and the only question now is if the year of Melissa McCarthy can extend for a few more weeks. I’m betting it does.

5 (9) – Carey Mulligan in Shame
A DC nominee and a lucky recipient of the “all-acting” buzz from this film. She seems like strong contender for her second nomination.

6 (8) – Jessica Chastain in The Help, The Tree of Life, or Take Shelter
Those New York Film Critics think they’re so clever by giving Chastain an award for these three films. Well, they’re not. There is nothing clever about that. Give an award for a performance, not the “Best Supporting Actress” of the year. How does that even make sense? Are we supposed to follow everyone around to make sure they practice acting real hard? To make sure they’re a good person too? It’s pretentiousness at its highest form when people think they’re being smart and just come off as ignorant. And where was The Debt in all that, huh? Not good enough to make your list, NYFCC? Ugh. Though mostly I’m just frustrated because it did little to clear up this vote split.

7 (4) – Janet McTeer in Albert Nobbs
Albert Nobbs is so far under-the-radar that I haven’t heard anybody mention it in the last few weeks. That does not bode well for its Oscar hopeful that nobody’s ever heard of.

8 (6) – Vanessa Redgrave in Coriolanus
There’s been some quiet buzz for this movie, but that’s more as a spectacle than as a showcase for Redgrave. She’s starting to look like an also-ran.

9 (7) – Sandra Bullock in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
It all depends on if the movie’s good or not.

10 (10) – Emily Watson in War Horse
Ditto.

BEST DIRECTOR

1 (3) – Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist
He won New York and picked up a nomination from DC. The buzz for this film is palpable and Hazanavicius is moving into lock status.

2 (10) – Martin Scorsese for Hugo
And…he’s back! Scorsese won both the NBR and Washington DC awards. Could he actually take down his second win this quick after waiting so long for his first win?

3 (1) – Alexander Payne for The Descendants
A DC nomination is all Payne has, and that’s expected at this point. I don’t see him winning many critics awards because they don’t understand what tone is and think that cool visuals are all directors are good for. He’s a lock for the DGA and some other industry awards down the road, so he’s not in any trouble.

4 (2) – Stephen Daldry for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
No mentions yet, but until I’m told otherwise, I’m going to keep the guy with 1.000 nomination batting average in the top five.

5 (5) – Terence Malick for The Tree of Life
What did I say in the first Oscar Power Rankings? I’m not going to drop Malick out of the top five. I refuse to do it. Even when he doesn’t get mentioned by critics groups, he won’t budge. This is because he is endlessly respected in the industry and they’re the ones who actually vote on the Oscars. He’s. Going. To. Get. Nominated.

6 (4) – Steven Spielberg for War Horse
He hasn’t been mentioned yet, but the film popped up on the NBR top ten and has been starting to make its way into critics’ lists. This looks like it could be as good as everyone expects and with that could come another nomination for Spielberg.

7 (9) – Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris
He got a nomination from DC and the buzz for this film is growing. I still feel like this is a screenplay-only film for the Woodster, but ya never know.

8 (NR) – Nicolas Winding for Drive
It’s a very stylized film and has been getting some early awards buzz. It looks like it’s poised to become more than just Albert Brooks’ nomination and Winding is quickly becoming a threat in this category.

9 (6) – Bennett Miller for Moneyball
Moneyball has gotten some precursor love, but no mentions yet for Miller. I think this is going to be about the movie, the lead actor and the screenplay with Miller left out.

10 (8) – David Fincher for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Until this film actually comes out, I’m keeping Fincher around and reserving judgment for later. We just don’t know at this point whether this will be Panic Room or The Social Network on the Fincher flowchart.

Dropping Out: Steve McQueen for Shame (7)

BEST PICTURE

1 (1) – The Artist
With wins from The NBR and DC Film Critics, it’s clear: this is going to be the darling of the precursor awards.

2 (2) – The Descendants
No wins yet, but nominations from NBR and DC show its status as an Oscar favorite. There’s nothing to indicate that this isn’t a lock.

3 (3) – War Horse
This hit the NBR top ten, but that’s it so far. The buzz is growing for it though. This might be a serious multi-category threat.

4 (4) – Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Is it good? Is it bad? We don’t know yet. Until we do, I’m keeping it up high based on its pedigree.

5 (NR) – Hugo
And here it is. And why not? It won NBR. It got a nomination from DC. Everybody is fawning over this film. It’s time to see it as a real contender.

6 (5) – Moneyball
The film itself has missed all the precursors so far, but its screenplay won both NBR and NYFCC. It’s clear that this is to be seen as more than just a sports movie.

7 (7) – Midnight in Paris
Only a DC Film Critics nod for Screenplay so far for this one, but I like its chances going forward. It’s bound to pick up some critics awards based on its reviews.

8 (10) – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy
The buzz is going to keep growing for this one. It’s one of the top movies of the year on Metacritic .

9 (NR) – Drive
It looked like all the mixed buzz was going to relegate this one to the acting categories and nothing else, but with mentions from both the NBR and Washington DC Film Critics, Drive looks like it has a shot in multiple categories.

9 (6) – The Help
This may end up as a film that gets multiple acting nominations and that’s about it. It doesn’t look like it’s going to catch on with the precursors at this point, but it’s not impossible. Remember, this was a huge hit made for little money, and Hollywood loves to reward those types of films.

10 (9) – The Tree of Life
This picked up an NBR nomination and the cult of Terence Malick gives it a good shot. This is about where I draw the line on the truly serious contenders.

11 (11) – Shame
I think this is acting and that’s it. It may pick up some buzz based on that though and become more of a contender, but I doubt it.

12 (8) – The Iron Lady
Ditto.

13 (13) – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
There’s only one person who’s told us whether or not this movie is good, and they seemed to give it about a 7/10. We’ll have to wait until more counties report.