Sabin wrote:3) What hasn't been seen yet? Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Lincoln, and Zero Dark Thirty. If I'm missing one let me know. Not betting much on The Guilt Trip. Not betting much more on Django Unchained. Three previous Oscar-winning directors (Bigelow, Hooper, and Spielberg) will unveil soon enough. I know they say don't write off anything but I'm just going to write off Django Unchained at having a chance at winning. Allow me that one concession...
...the least that Argo, Les Miserables, and Silver Linings Playbook have to do is wait out the eventual "lemon"-ing of at least one of them. I look at these three films and I think if one of these films turns out to be a sensation. Like, a true "Doesn't happen very often" sensation", then the race is likely over. I think at this point, most sensible people had Memoirs of a Geisha on their lists. And these three films kinda need to be sensations in order to win. Am I right? Lincoln can't just be pretty good and win. Zero Dark Thirty can't just be pretty good and win. I do think that Les Miserables (much in the fashion of Chicago and to a degree The Artist) can just get away with being pretty good and win because of the proximity of its release to the voting process.
Because the bar is set so much higher for those three releases and there is nothing that has been released thus far this year (The Artist was rearing its had and was a real charmer at Cannes), I think that bodes increasingly well for what we already know about Argo, Life of Pi, and Silver Linings Playbook.
I think of the films you listed, LES MISERABLES has the best chance of really connecting with audiences. The play is one of those productions that even non-musical audiences often enjoy. There are so many big
songs that connect with people emotionally. It is the only film that could match LINCOLN's number of nominations. Also, it has from what I have seen in clips two very strong performances from Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway. In fact, they are my very early predictions for winning Lead Actor and Supporting Actress respectively. Jackman has been working in Hollywood for sometime in both blockbusters and smaller dramas, and from what I hear folks really like him as a person. Plus, he did host the Oscars. Now that I think about it, the exact same thing can be said of Hathaway -- blockbusters and small dramas, nice person, hosted the Oscars. Also, I think much like Jennifer Hudson she has one of those musical moments that steals the show and people will remember her over everyone else in her category.
LINCOLN will definitely be nominated for Best Picture whether it is successful with audiences or critics. Much like GANGS OF NEW YORK, some films are just too big to ignore. Plus, if Spielberg's name alone can earn WAR HORSE (a film I actually like) a Best Picture nomination, I doubt it will fail him here. However, much like GANGS OF NEW YORK, it could easily go home empty handed. Its best chance seems to be in the make-up category.
ZERO DARK THIRTY is the film I am must nervous about. The trailer looks good, but will the Academy nominate it after giving the big prize to a very similar film from the same writer and director? One thing the film does have in its favor is that it and its director have become collateral damage in an attack against Obama. Killing Bin Laden is one of the President's greatest accomplishments, and the Republicans are trying to take that away from him by saying he gave classified information to Bigelow. As the election draws closer and the Republicans get more desperate, these attacks could intensify. If so, it could help draw attention to the film at a time when voters will be very busy attending screenings or watch DVDs. Even without Republican attacks, Obama himself will probably be using Bin Laden's death as an argument for re-election. Win or lose in November, I suspect some will see nominating the film as a show of support for Obama. As for wins, while I think the film itself probably will not take the top prize, Bigelow still has a better chance of a second win than Tom Hooper. If Oliver Stone can win a second Oscar a few years later covering very similar material, Bigelow can too.
LIFE OF PI looks amazing. I agree with you Sabin, LIFE OF PI seems very similar to HUGO in that it will be nominated for its spectacle. Much like HUGO, I think LIFE OF PI will win for its cinematography. The last three winners in that category have incorporated a great deal of special effects (and 3D in two cases). LIFE OF PI seems like the type of film folks will remember over all others in that category.
I never thought I would write these words, but it seems Ben Affleck could very well be an Oscar nominated Director. Many people regarded his win for writing as a fluke, and not much in the subsequent ten years changed people's perception of him as someone not to be taken too seriously. He impressed with his directorial debut, and earned both great reviews and box-office clout with his follow-up. ARGO could very well be his breakthrough with the Academy. The film has earned high marks and it has the potential to do quite well with folks looking for something intelligent to watch at the multiplex. It could very well surprise us and win Best Picture. I am certainly not writing it off, but it certainly faces some tough competition.
DJANGO UNCHAINED, on the other hand, seems like a lost cause. I agree with Sabin that it just does not seem like the type of film the Academy goes for, especially with so many other options. It seems more KILL BILL than INGLORIOUS BASTERDS. However, like the latter film, I would look out for a possible Supporting Actor win for Leo DiCaprio's villainous slave owner. If this were Harvey Weinstein's only film, he may have been able to use his dark magic to secure a Best Picture nomination. Unfortunately for Tarantino, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK is the safer bet, and despite being a lost cause Harvey will probably still push for THE MASTER out of a some sort of pride.
With all this being said, something could come out of nowhere to knock down all these front runners (a term I use very loosely). I still am putting my money on LES MISERABLES, but as DREAMGIRLS, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, SWEENEY TODD, and NINE have shown us, musicals have to have something special to connect with the Academy. We shall see if it has what it takes to go all the way.
"When it comes to the subject of torture, I trust a woman who was married to James Cameron for three years."
-- Amy Poehler in praise of Zero Dark Thirty director Kathryn Bigelow