Oscar Power Rankings: The Final Stretch
It’s been an insane ride this Oscar season, with my power rankings essentially up-ended as a compressed precursor schedule has seen almost every major critics’ group come out in a short three-week burst that’s rewritten the whole race.
The only thing clear? That the race is still very muddy. After at least 20 different precursors, the Oscar picture is still far from in-focus with only a week left before the nominees are announced on January 10th.
This will make for a crazy final week, but here’s where we stand with the last round of guilds and critics awards left before the big morning on Thursday.
1 – Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln
The Oscar baitiest of all Oscar bait roles has been comfortably racking up precursors all season. He’s the one surefire lock in this category.
2 – Denzel Washington in Flight
It gets tricky early here as the next five have a near-equal shot at the nomination. I like Denzel at two because he’s a past winner and has the most prestige of anybody else in this category other than Day-Lewis. Plus, this is the heavy type of role that Academy voters normally fawn over. He’s not a lock though.
3 – John Hawkes in The Sessions
A past nominee, Hawkes lit up the festival circuit early this year with this performance and now the critics groups are following with their own accolades. It’s a small film, but it’s the type of performance the Academy likes to honor.
4 – Joaquin Phoenix in The Master
He seemed like the certain sixth man until he started keeping just a shade behind Day-Lewis in the precursor count. This film, and his performance, have regained much of the momentum they lost early in Oscar season and now seem like strong threats all around. Missing the SAG hurts, but that doesn’t always match up. He’s looking like the classic non-matching nominee.
5 – Hugh Jackman in Les Miserables
As this movie starts to wane, so too does Jackman’s Oscar prospects. Male leads in musicals have been notoriously shut out over the years and he has just enough precursors to seem like a threat to go either way. I have him in right now. Barely.
6 – Bradley Cooper in Sliver Linings Playbook
It’s a stacked top six and that means somebody is going to be left on the sidelines. All the buzz from this film is going in Cooper’s co-star’s direction with very little for the film’s male lead. He’s notched a SAG and a Golden Globe nomination, but not much beyond that. He’s as likely as anybody other than Day-Lewis, but right now he looks like the one who doesn’t make the shortlist.
7 – Denis Lavant in Holy Motors
It’s going to be five of the top six that end up with the nominations in this category, but it’s worth nothing that Lavant has gathered a handful of critics’ notices of his own. Not enough to make him any sort of a threat, but enough to be interesting.
8 – Jamie Foxx in Django Unchained
In a shallower year, the past winner would be a major threat. Now he’s just the third-most buzzworthy performance in his own film.
9 – Anthony Hopkins in Hitchcock
For a movie that seemed to be made for no other reason than to try to get Hopkins nominated, this sure is a weak campaign. He’s on the list based on reputation alone.
10 – Jean-Louis Trintignant in Amour
Almost all of the buzz for this film has gone to his co-star, Emmanuelle Riva, but every so often a co-star is able to ride the ancillary buzz to a nomination. It’s not going to happen here though.
1 – Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty and Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook
There’s really no point in differentiating between these two performances. They’re both mega-locks and there’s no way they don’t both get nominated. They’ve split the precursors virtually right down-the-middle and now it’s a just a matter of which performance will ultimately win.
3 – Emmanuelle Riva in Amour
This heart-breaking performance is exactly what the Academy has been digging so hard in this category the last few years. She missed SAG and the Golden Globes, but she won Los Angeles and has enough other precursors to overcome that. Certainly much more than anybody other than the top two.
4 – Quvenzhané Walls in Beasts of the Southern Wild
The Academy does love its kiddie actors and Walls now has a nice haul of precursor nominations to make her worthy regardless of her age. She’s a near-lock.
5 – Helen Mirren in Hitchock
Combine the SAG and Golden Globe nominations with her prestige and you have a lame performance from a lame movie getting nominated. It’s almost a foregone conclusion.
6 – Naomi Watts in The Impossible
She got SAG, The Golden Globes and the Broadcast Film Critics triple to go along with a few other precursors, but I still don’t believe in her. The movie’s just too small and has too weak a campaign behind it for her get into the top five.
7 – Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone
Another triple-nominee with a past win to boot, but this movie is even smaller than Watts’ film and the buzz is basically non-present.
8 – Rachel Weisz in The Deep Blue Sea
She came out of the gate with a fury, winning the New York Film Critics Circle Award in this category. Since then, it’s been barely a
9 – Meryl Streep in Hope Springs
No matter how forgotten the movie or how little it seems like Oscar bait, she’s still Meryl Streep. The same Meryl Streep who got nominated for Music of the Heart – so she’s never completely out of it.
10 – Judi Dench in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
I’m out contenders at this point, so I’ll take the former Oscar winner with the Golden Globe nomination over simply inventing a contender.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
1 – Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln
A surefire Oscar performance complete with the one big scene that the Academy loves from the supporting roles. TLJ is leading in total precursors and Oscar friendliness.
2 – Phillip Seymour Hoffman in The Master
The buzz has rebounded nicely for this film and Hoffman is now looking like a virtual lock for his fourth nomination. Doesn’t it seem like he should have more by now?
3 – Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained
Originally a lead, the Weinsteins saw how top-heavy that category is and shrewdly moved Waltz into the supporting ranks. This meant a late start to his precursor campaign, but he’s ending with a decent haul of awards. He’s now the top contender from this film.
4 – Alan Arkin in Argo
The Academy is going to want to spread the love around the categories for this film and Arkin is really the only acting threat. He’s started to become a bit of an Oscar darling since his win for Little Miss Sunshine, in that if he’s in a good movie, he’s worth paying attention to. This is the guy who had a shot at getting nominated for Sunshine Cleaning after all.
5 – Leonarod DiCaprio in Django Unchained
It may be foolish with the buzz shifting to Waltz, but I’m sticking to my DiCaprio pick. For now.
6 – Robert De Niro in Silver Linings Playbook
All the articles are declaring this performance the return of De Niro to the ranks of an Oscar contender, but I don’t think it’s quite a touchdown yet: The buzz is in the lead’s favor, the performance is not flashy at all, and the film is starting to fade in general. Call it a fourth-and-goal right now.
7 – Javier Bardem in Skyfall
He got a SAG nomination, but missed on the Golden Globes in favor of the Django duo. This performance is going to be too out-there for some voters and too much like The Joker or Anton Chigurh for others. Because really, that’s all it was.
8 – Dwight Henry in Beasts of the Southern Wild
While buzz from this movie is mainly reserved for this young co-star, Henry has picked up some late-season precursors to start to look like a real threat. If momentum keeps building in this movie he could float into a nomination.
9 – Matthew McConaughey in Magic Mike
Awards have been very splintered for him as he’s picked up precursors for this film, Killer Joe, and Bernie. I think this is his highest profile and most likely nomination – but it’s still something of a long shot.
10 – Eddie Redmayne in Les Miserables
He’s the breakout boy star of this film and might have had a real shot if it hadn’t have come up just a bit too flat with the precursor crowd. He’s not got much of a shot right now.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
1 – Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables
She gets the show-stopping role with the show-stopping number and is certain of a nomination at this point. She hasn’t missed any important precursors.
2 – Sally Field in Lincoln
This is an easy run to a nomination for Field. I mean, was she even in this movie? I think they just put her name in the credits and she gets a nomination for it. However it worked, she’s a lock.
3 – Amy Adams in The Master
She’s nearly kept pace with Field and Hathaway in the precursor tally for her frightening performance in this film. It’s looking like a fourth nomination in six years is a near certainty for Adams.
4 – Helen Hunt in The Sessions
She’s picked up lead and supporting precursors this awards season, but it’s pretty clear Oscar will have her as a supporting actress where she’s looking like a lock to pick up her first nomination since she won for As Good As It Gets in 1997.
5 – Ann Dowd in Compliance
You may not know what this is. I may not know what this is. Critics groups know what this is though. Will Oscar voters? It’s right on the fringe at this point.
6 – Judi Dench in Skyfall
The Broadcast Film Critics were the only major precursor group to recognize her, but she does have a few more notices to go along with that big one. She’s certainly respected enough to get a nomination for a James Bond film, but it’s still a nomination for a James Bond film.
7 – Nicole Kidman in The Paperboy
Along with Hunt, Field and Hathaway, Kidman pulled off the Golden Globe/SAG double (Adams missed the SAG). Of course, those are the only two precursors she’s received.
8 – Maggie Smith in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
She’s old. She’s British. She got a SAG nomination. So did her movie. She’s got to be considered a dark horse with that resume.
9 – Samantha Barks in Les Miserables
She’s picked up a few late precursors to suddenly emerge as a potential nominee. It’s unlikely that potential is realized at this point though, especially with Hathaway already a lock in this category.
10 – Emma Watson in The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Strange as it may seem, she won the San Diego Film Critics Award in this category and has a few other nominations to alongside that win. It’s not going to happen, but it’s fut to point out.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:
1 - Zero Dark Thirty by Mark Boal
The Screenplay so impeccably researched that it launched a CIA investigation. If that’s not Oscar-worthy buzz, then nothing is.
2 – Moonrise Kingdom by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
This screenplay is actually keeping pace almost precursor-for-precursor with Zero Dark Thirty. This is looking like the surest nomination of Anderson’s career.
3 – Django Unchained by Quentin Tarantino
Tarantino is starting to look like a lock for this category whenever he decides to make a movie. This year will be no different as he’s hit every precursor he needs to and he’s looking unlikely for Director – making this the best spot for the Academy to recognize him.
4 – The Master by Paul Thomas Anderson
Everything has turned around for this script as the critics groups have lauded it with a nice haul of precursors and moved him into good position for his third nomination in this category.
5 – Amour by Michael Hancke
In recent years, The Academy has reserved a spot for great foreign films in this category. Amour is the strongest contender this year, and I think it sneaks in.
6 – Looper by Rian Johnson
This looks certain to be the “Wow! That got a lot of precursors but somehow didn’t get nominated even though it’s regarded as a cool and hip movie” non-nominee. Also known as the “50/50 Memorial”.
7 – The Cabin in the Woods by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard
Who’da thunk this would be Whedon’s best shot at an Oscar nomination this year? This has picked up some precursors while The Avengers got blanked all season.
8 – Flight by John Gatins
Gatins is a screenwriting lifer who looked like he’d written his breakthrough with this piece. However, it just hasn’t gotten the buzz or the precursors to seem like much of a threat for a nomination at this point.
9 – Arbitrage by Nicholas Jarecki
This is like this year’s Margin Call. Except the whole not-getting-nominated thing.
10 – Seven Psychopaths by Martin McDonagh
This is like this year’s In Bruges. Except the whole not-getting-nominated thing.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:
1 – Lincoln by Tony Kushner, John Logan and Paul Webb
Who does the Academy love more? Tony Kushner or Abraham Lincoln? Luckily for them, they won’t have to decide.
2 – Argo by Chris Terrio
Everything about Argo is looking like a lock, particularly its screenp
3 – Silver Linings Playbook by David O. Russell
4 – Life of Pi by David Magee
The Academy loves when screenwriters tackle extremely hard adaptations and Magee’s work on this incredibly difficult novel
5 – The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
There’s usually a spot in the screenplay categories for the hipper and smaller movie and Chbosky’s self-adaptation has gotten the precursor love to look like this year’s screenplay to fill that slot.
6 – Les Miserables by William Nicholson
Musicals don’t normally do well here. Especially when they’re almost entirely sung-through. Especially when they have very little precursor love. But if there’s a late surge for this film, the screenplay could be a beneficiary.
7 – Beasts of the Southern Wild by Benh Zeitlin and Lucy Alibor
As buzz has built for this film, so too has its chances across all categories. This one seems the least likely, but if the sweep that’s been building happens, it will certainly float to the top along with the rest of the film.
8 – Cloud Atlas by Andy & Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer
Like Life of Pi, this is another example of an extremely tough adaptation that moved to the screen fairly well. Unlike Life of Pi, it hasn’t received much level of acclaim. Also, like Life of Pi, this was a fairly big bomb
9 – Anna Karenina by Tom Stoppard
Tom Stoppard adapting a classic piece of literature? Why isn’t this a lock? Oh yeah, because nobody remembers it came out.
10 – The Sessions by Ben Lewin
I’m admittedly out of gas here. It’s on the list because of its acting, not the writing. Sometimes it’s tough to find ten in these screenplay categories.
1 – Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty
With this film she’s going from auteur-de-Point Break to maybe the greatest female film director of all time. She’s a certain nominee and Oscar may just annoit her.
2 – Ben Affleck for Argo
The Actor-Turned-Director slot actually has a director with so strong a case that he’d be a lock without fitting into that role. He’s a lock.
3 – Steven Spielberg for Lincoln
The third lock just so happens to be the most acclaimed director of the last 30-or-so years. He’s delivered his surest Oscar film since Saving Private Ryan and there is no way he misses a nomination for this one.
4 – Ang Lee for Life of Pi
The only thing that’s remained in the wake of all the disappointing box office and buzz disappearance has been Lee’s visual prowess with this film and the
5 – David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook
It gets icky starting here. I like O. Russell based on nothing more than a hunch. Until the DGA nominations come out, it’s anybody’s fifth slot.
6 – Tom Hooper for Les Miserables
Tom Hooper has not made near the precursor noise you’d expect for a future nominee, especially with such an awards-bait movie. The Golden Globe snub in particular hurts him because the HFPA loves musicals so much. At this point, he needs the DGA nomination badly to have a chance for his second nomination.
7 – Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained
He got the Golden Globe nomination, but that’s about it for QT in this category. It’s looking like he’ll have to settle for the Screenplay nomination.
8 – Paul Thomas Anderson for The Master
Same as Tarantino, minus the Golden Globe nomination and plus an LAFCA win.
9 – Wes Anderson for Moonrise Kingdom
This is the type of movie that will always bee seen as a writer’s film and nothing more. If you think the Academy is biased against comedic performances, there’s some comedic directors who want to be recognized.
10 – Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild
It’s going to be touch for Zeitlin to get in here with his first film – especially with such a strong contingent above him. Amazingly, his film has a better chance than he does.
1 - Zero Dark Thirty
It’s leading the planet in precursors and has some of the most ungodly critical love of any movie in the last fifteen years. With that and a strong Oscar pedigree behind it, it’s steamrolling to a nomination.
2 – Argo
From the moment this first popped up in previews before its release, everybody in Hollywood had it as a shoo-in for a Best Picture nomination. Now that it’s racked up two-dozen precursors, nothing has changed.
3 – Lincoln
A movie designed for the Oscars will certainly get the big nomination. It hasn’t missed a major precursor and
4 – Les Miserables
This is not as strong as it seems. Critical praise just hasn’t been on par with the hype and its precursor total is not something to be envied. With as many as ten nominees, I don’t see how it misses – but it’s more of a Dreamgirls than it is a Chicago.
5 – Silver Linings Playbook
This was the buzz champion a month ago, but it’s been swallowed by Zero Dark Thirty. Its prowess in the acting categories will be enough to carry it through, but this isn’t the super-lock it was a few weeks ago.
6 – Django Unchained
The latecomer in this category has the raves, the precursors and the huge box office to overcome a slow start that saw it miss the SAGs altogether. A DGA nomination to go along with its PGA nomination would make it a lock, but that could be tough. I still think it will be hard to miss though.
7 – The Master
It’s plugging along with the critics’ groups and getting just enough industry love to stay in the race. Missing the PGA is troubling, but its prowess in the acting categories still make it a good bet for a nomination.
8 – Life of Pi
The secret bomb of the year notched a PGA nomination to help its somewhat weak campaign stay afloat. Ang Lee is enough to help it overcome its lack of precursors, but it’s far from a sure thing.
9 – Beasts of the Southern Wild
This tiny movie is looking to lock down the “Indie Nobody Saw” slot with a late precursor push that’s now included a PGA nomination. Any love from the SAGs would have made it a lock, but the strong amount of critics’ awards are starting to make it look like it can overcome those industry misses.
10 – Moonrise Kingdom
Only Zero Dark Thirty, Argo and Lincoln have notched more precursors than the quirky indie comedy. Buuuutttt…it’s still a quirky indie comedy – not quite what normally gets nominated for Best Picture.
11 – Amour
A win from Los Angeles usually means an almost certain nomination. At least it used to. Ever since it missed with About Schmidt, LA has only been 50/50 or so with Best Picture nominations. I think this comes in the bad half of the 50 as it just doesn’t have the industry support to overcome its size.
12 – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
I have this slotted here on the strength of its SAG Ensemble nomination alone. The actors are the biggest branch and they seemed to like this one. So ya never know.
13 – Skyfall
The Producers Guild nomination goes along great with the…Phoenix Film Critics Nomination! Yes, that’s about all this movie has gotten so far this Oscar season – making it look like one more blockbuster that won’t cash in on the ten-picture rule.
14 – Holy Motors
The surprise “Got a lot of precursors from out of nowhere but has no chance of getting nominated” slot.
15 – Looper
The “Cool movie that got precursors but can’t possibly get nominated for anything other than a Saturn Award” slot.
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