Saturday, January 7, 2012

Oscar Odds: 50 days to go… what movies are in?

By Devin Fuller
TGK Correspondent, Twitter / Facebook

With only 50 days until the Academy Awards ceremony and 17 until the nominations are announced, the race for Best Picture has solidified into a strong crop of front runners and a few potential dark horses. Some of the early contenders have proven their mettle, earning scores of guild, press and critics’ awards and nominations, while other expected front runners have lost their momentum as the result of less enthusiastic reception. Let’s review the race as it stands.

The Artist1:5
The Descendants1:4
The Help1:2
War Horse 2:3

The Artist” has quickly proven itself as the candidate to beat on Oscar Sunday this year. Recognized by the Screen Actor’s Guild, the Producer’s Guild of America, the Hollywood Foreign Press and the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association, “The Artist” will definitely be called on the morning of Jan. 24. Meanwhile, “The Descendants” and “The Help” have continued to do favorably as well, earning spots on AFI’s list of the top 10 films of the year in addition to various nominations for their leading actor (George Clooney) and actress (Viola Davis), respectively.

The following two films benefit from having the highest profile directors working in both familiar and new territory. In the former category, we have Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse,” which has had a bit less awards season success so far, as SAG and AFI overlooked the film in favor of other contenders. But, as mentioned before, the power of Spielberg, World War I and a tearjerking story about a horse ensure it a spot in the race. As for the latter, we have Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo,” which, like “The Artist,” plays upon Oscar voters’ nostalgia for early film but also makes 3-D a truly essential aspect of the filmgoing experience for the first time since “Avatar.” Additionally, it won the National Board of Review’s awards for Best Film and Best Director.

Midnight in Paris2:1
The Tree of Life3:1
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo5:1

Of the next five films, it’s likely that only two or three will be nominated. “Moneyball” and “Midnight in Paris” were notably absent from the NBR’s Top 10 list, but they did each make AFI’s Top 10 list and scored PGA nominations. As for Best Picture nominations, they could really go either way. “The Tree of Life” has received spots on numerous top ten lists, but it hasn’t really shown the same level of consistency as “Moneyball” and “Midnight in Paris” have, so it’s much less certain at this point.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” opened up fairly late in the season, and while Rooney Mara has received a lot of praise for her performance, the response to the film has been somewhat less enthusiastic. Still, the box office has been good and the film received a PGA nomination and appeared on the AFI and the NBR Top 10 lists, so there is that. And then we have “Bridesmaids,” which has made promising appearances in the PGA nominations, SAG nominations and the AFI top ten. But a Best Picture nomination? It would be extremely uncharacteristic of the Academy to recognize such a broad mainstream comedy, but stranger things have happened. On the unlikely chance the Academy goes for 10 nominees, it has a definite shot, but I wouldn’t put my money on it.

The Ides of March10:1
J. Edgar12:1
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy13:1
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close13:1

Down here we have four Oscar hopefuls who have seen their chances decrease dramatically as they’ve been overlooked by various award groups as well as one film that has received a boost as of late. “Drive” was not the mainstream success FilmDistrict might have hoped for, but it received a surprising eight nominations from the BFCA and made NBR and AFI’s top ten lists. While it would be tough to break into the Top 10, voters looking to be hip might give it that extra shot in the arm to go all the way.

Then we have Oscar’s also-rans. Aside from the occasional Top 10 list, acting nomination or Golden Globe nod, these films just haven’t sustained the momentum needed for films to make it into the Best Picture race. “The Ides of March” was quickly released and forgotten by most (although its inclusion on PGA’s list of nominees gave it a bit of a second life). The tepid reviews of “J. Edgar” guaranteed it Best Actor prospects and little else. “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” has been overlooked by nearly every major awards body (aside from making a strong appearance on BAFTA’s long list. And lastly we have “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” a film tailor-made to be Oscar bait. Perhaps critics and voters have seen through its plucky child hero, Oscar-friendly actors (Sandra Bullock, Max Von Sydow and Tom Hanks) and thrice-nominated director Stephen Daldry and realized that the film itself is just not that great. There’s no hope for “the Daldry” this time.

Is there any stopping the award season dominance of “The Artist”? Can “Bridesmaids” defeat the odds to become the first Best Picture nominee to feature a character relieving herself in a sink? Will one of our bronze contenders achieve a stunning upset? We’ll know for sure on January 24.

View previous Oscar Odds posts: 100 days to go, 150 days to go, 200 days to go.

Talk Oscar Odds with Devin on Twitter and Facebook. What movies do you think have the best odds at this year's Oscars? Let us know by commenting here, on Twitter or Facebook. We'll recap more odds right before nominations are announced on Jan. 24.
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