“American Hustle” and Jennifer Lawrence are having a good week thanks to wins at the prestigious New York Film Critics Circle Awards. (Photo courtesy of the Associated Press)
As more previously unseen contenders are screened and precursor awards are handed out, the Oscar race is becoming clearer as we move into the busy month of December, when studios stop being polite and start getting real about their campaigning. Here now are my updated Oscar predictions (which took a break last week because of the holidays and my laziness):
1. “12 Years a Slave”
2. “American Hustle”
4. “Inside Llewyn Davis”
5. “Saving Mr. Banks”
6. “The Wolf of Wall Street”
7. “Captain Phillips”
9. “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”
11. “August: Osage County”
12. “Blue Jasmine”
13. “Fruitvale Station”
15. “All is Lost”
16. “Dallas Buyers Club”
17. “Blue is the Warmest Color”
18. “Before Midnight”
20. “Out of the Furnace”
Well, here’s a development. After weeks and weeks of being the overwhelming favorite, “12 Years a Slave’s” hold on the Best Picture trophy has started to slip a bit. It lost the top trophy at the Gotham Film Awards on Monday to the Coen Brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis,” and despite winning Best Director at the prestigious New York Film Critics Circle Award, it failed to win Best Picture on Tuesday. The winner of that prize?
David O. Russell’s flashy, ’70s-set ABSCAM drama was finally shown to critics recently, though their reviews have been embargoed until closer to its Dec. 18 release date — the buzz, though, has been very strong, and its New York Critics Circle win shows that it’s a major contender. For weeks and weeks, I thought it’d be a face off between “12 Years” and “Gravity,” but “Hustle” seems to be making a play for a three-way race.
I’m hesitant in positioning “Hustle” as the new frontrunner, however — though it may be a hit with critics, it’s unknown whether audiences will embrace it, too, which could certianly threaten its chances of going all the way. “12 Years” has been staying strong at the box office, though, as it continues to expand to more theaters throughout the year.
As for the rest of the Best Picture contenders: “Llewyn Davis” is gettings lots of critical love, as well as the aforementioned Gotham Award win and a Best Film nomination at the Independent Spirit Awards (the other nominees: “12 Years,” “All is Lost,” “Frances Ha” and “Nebraska”), so it is essentially a lock for an Oscar nod, at least. Buzz continues to grow that the Disney drama “Mr. Banks” will be the crowd-pleaser of the Christmas season (it opens wide Dec. 20), and while reviews for “Wolf of Wall Street” haven’t been released yet, it’s a prestige Scorsese joint, so it should be able to squeeze in.
Also sneaking in for the 10th spot: Spike Jonze’s quirky romance “Her,” which surprisingly won the Best Picture award from the esteemed National Board of Review. It may be more of a guarantee for a nomination in the Original Screenplay category, but its recent win definitely makes it a serious player.
TEN MORE BEST PICTURE CANDIDATES TO KEEP AN EYE ON: “The Book Thief,” “Enough Said,” “Frances Ha,” “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” “Labor Day,” “Mud,” “Prisoners,” “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” “Short Term 12,” “The Spectacular Now”
*The number of nominees for Best Picture can range from five to 10, depending on the number of votes a film receives.
1. Robert Redford, “All is Lost”
2. Chiwetel Ejiofer, “12 Years a Slave”
3. Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”
4. Tom Hanks, “Captain Phillips”
5. Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”
6. Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street”
7. Michael B. Jordan, “Fruitvale Station”
8. Christian Bale, “American Hustle”
9. Forest Whitaker, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”
10. Oscar Isaac, “Inside Llewyn Davis”
As “12 Years a Slave’s” top status in the Best Picture race starts to falter, so does its standing in the acting categories — Ejiofer slips from the top slot for the first time this season, being replaced by Redford, who just won the Best Actor award from the New York Film Critics Circle. The veteran actor has never won an acting trophy (he took home the 1980 Best Director award for “Ordinary People,” though), and his nearly wordless performance in “All is Lost” (which is literally just him on a boat for nearly two hours) has been getting career-best notices.
So far, the leading actor race boils down to just five names: Redford, Ejiofer, McConaughey (who won Best Actor awards from the Rome Film Festival and the Gotham Film Awards), Hanks, and Cannes Film Festival and National Board of Review winner Dern. All of them, save for Hanks, were also nominated for the Independent Spirit award for Best Actor, as were breakout stars Isaac and Jordan. Right now, it’s hard to imagine anyone besides those top five names making it through to the Oscars.
FIVE MORE BEST ACTOR CANDIDATES TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Christian Bale, “Out of the Furnace;” Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Fifth Estate;” Idris Elba, “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom;” Hugh Jackman, “Prisoners;” Joaquin Phoenix, “Her”
1. Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
2. Emma Thompson, “Saving Mr. Banks”
3. Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”
4. Judi Dench, “Philomena”
5. Amy Adams, “American Hustle”
6. Meryl Streep, “August: Osage County”
7. Julie Delpy, “Before Midnight”
8. Adele Exarchopoulos, “Blue is the Warmest Color”
9. Brie Larson, “Short Term 12”
10. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Enough Said”
Since the film’s release in the summer, “Blue Jasmine’s” Blanchett has been the favorite for the Best Actress win, and her recent New York Film Critics Circle victory helps cement her status (she’s also nominated — and the front-runner — for the Independent Spirit Award). Though she was poised to possibly bypass Blanchett for a surprise win, decreasing buzz means Bullock may not be able to overtake her and will have to do really well with further precursor awards to be seen as a serious threat.
The unexpected dark horse to pop up, though? Emma Thompson, who has been getting raves for “Mr. Banks” and is working the publicity circuit and charming everyone in her path like it’s her J-O-B. She also scored the Best Actress prize from the National Board of Review, which helps a lot. If “Mr. Banks” becomes the sleeper hit that some are projecting this Christmas, Blanchett could have some major competition.
As for the other contenders, Dench should be a lock for her seventh nomination (“Philomena” has done well with critics and audiences so far), and thanks to the sudden emergance of “Hustle” as a serious contender, I’ve pushed Adams up to the fifth spot, dropping down The Almighty Meryl … for now. You don’t put Streep in the corner.
As for a possible surprise contender, keep a look out for Brie Larson, the young star of indie drama “Short Term 12,” which has a small, but fervant following — she got nominated for the Independent Spirit Award and beat Blanchett on Monday for the Gotham Film’s Best Actress prize. Her major obstacle is campaigning, as the film’s studio, Cinedigm, is too small to afford a major awards push for Larson. It’s the same issue that character actress Ann Dowd faced last year with “Compliance,” and she eventually funded her own independent campaign, though she was eventually snubbed by the Oscars.
FIVE MORE BEST ACTRESS CANDIDATES TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Berenice Bejo, “The Past;” Greta Gerwig, “Frances Ha;” Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County;” Kate Winslet, “Labor Day;” Shailene Woodley, “The Spectacular Now”
1. Michael Fassbender, “12 Years a Slave”
2. Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”
3. Tom Hanks, “Saving Mr. Banks”
4. James Gandolfini, “Enough Said”
5. Bradley Cooper, “American Hustle”
6. Barkhad Abdi, “Captain Phillips”
7. Daniel Bruhl, “Rush”
8. Will Forte, “Nebraska”
9. Jonah Hill, “The Wolf of Wall Street”
10. Casey Affleck, “Out of the Furnace”
If there’s one category “12 Years” is still the de facto front runner in, it’s in Supporting Actor for Fassbender’s performance as an evil slave owner. He’s been a lock since the drama’s debut in September, and I don’t see it diminishing anytime soon.
His competition, though, continues to become clearer: Leto should be a lock for his performance as a transvestite in “Dallas” (his recent win at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards certainly helps); the reviews for “Mr. Banks” claim that Hanks is at his most charming Tom Hanksy-ish (and it’d make him a rare double nominee in the lead and supporting categories); the late Gandolfini rides the wave of “Enough Said’s” surprise success at the box office (he’s also nominated, along with Fassbender and Leto, for the Independent Spirit Award); and Cooper, like Amy Adams, benefits from “Hustle’s” deafening buzz to switch positions again with newcomer Abdi.
And storming the charts to the No. 8 spot is former “Saturday Night Live” performer Will Forte, who won the National Board of Review award and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for his well-received performance in “Nebraska.” He probably has a very out-of-left-field chance of getting nominated, but the field’s still wide open enough for a surprise entry in the top five.
FIVE MORE BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR CANDIDATES TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Steve Coogan, “Philomena;” Harrison Ford, “42;” Matthew McConaughey, “Mud;” Matthew McConaughey, “The Wolf of Wall Street;” Jeremy Renner, “American Hustle”
1. Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”
2. Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”
3. Oprah Winfrey, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”
4. June Squibb, “Nebraska”
5. Octavia Spencer, “Fruitvale Station”
6. Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine”
7. Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County”
8. Margo Martindale, “August: Osage County”
9. Scarlett Johansson, “Her”
10. Sarah Paulson, “12 Years a Slave”
What a difference a few weeks make. For ages, Best Supporting Actress appeared to be a showdown between newcomer Nyong’o and Dame Oprah. And then came J. Law.
After early whisperings that her role was almost a glorified cameo, some of the biggest critical acclaim for “Hustle” ended up being for Lawrence, who is apparently the steal-stealing jewel of the drama. And then Tuesday, she scooped up the Supporting Actress prize at the New York Film Critics Circle. So not only has she moved up as a contender, but I’m going ahead and placing her at the top, thanks in part to “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’s” record-breaking box office results. Is it too soon to award such a young actress again, especially since she just won the Best Actress trophy earlier this year? It may be too soon to tell, but she’s almost guaranteed another nomination, at least.
Former winner Spencer has dropped down to No. 5 and is just hanging in there, despite being considered a lock since “Fruitvale’s” release this summer, but but her buzz seems to have weakened (she was snubbed for an Independent Spirit Award nomination, though her co-star Melonie Diaz was recognized). A recent win from the National Board of Review, however, helps keep her in the game.
“Jasmine” co-star Hawkins positions herself as possible threat thanks to a surprise nod at the Independent Spirit Awards (she’s nominated alongside contenders Nyong’o and Squibb), and if she can score a Golden Globe nomination, she should be able to continue to keep the “August: Osage County” actresses at bay. And no, for the record, I have still not gotten over her Best Actress snub for “Happy-Go-Lucky” four years ago, AND I NEVER WILL.
The big question mark of the season: whether Scarlett Johansson will be eligible for a nod for her voice-only performance in “Her” (she voices a Suri-like computer operating system). The Rome Film Festival gave her their Best Actress prize, but the Golden Globes deemed her ineligible for recognition. The Oscars haven’t weighed in yet, but it’d definitely create a new precedent for voice-over performances if she was nominated (this same issue was raised 10 years ago when Ellen DeGeneres was being touted for a nod for “Finding Nemo”).
FIVE MORE BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS CANDIDATES TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Amy Adams, “Her;” Melonie Diaz, “Fruitvale Station;” Carey Mulligan, “Inside Llewyn Davis;” Julianne Nicholson, “August: Osage County;” Lea Seydoux, “Blue is the Warmest Color”
1. Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”
2. Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity”
3. David O. Russell, “American Hustle”
4. Martin Scorsese, “The Wolf of Wall Street”
5. Ethan and Joel Coen, “Inside Llewyn Davis”
6. Paul Greengrass, “Captain Phillips”
7. John Lee Hancock, “Saving Mr. Banks”
8. Alexander Payne, “Nebraska”
9. Woody Allen, “Blue Jasmine”
10. Spike Jonze, “Her”
The top five is staying the same, but their placement is being scrambled up a bit. New York Film Critics Circle winner and Independent Spirit Award nominee McQueen stays in the top spot (for now), while Cuaron remains his biggest threat for the visually groundbreaking “Gravity” (remember, Ang Lee won the 2012 Best Director prize for the 3-D magnum opus “Life of Pi”).
Big addition of the week: “Her’s” Jonze, who lands in the No. 10 spot after winning the National Board of Review’s Best Director prize.
FIVE MORE BEST DIRECTOR CANDIDATES TO KEEP AN EYE ON: J.C. Chandor, “All is Lost;” Lee Daniels, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler;” Ryan Coogler, “Fruitvale Station;” Stephen Frears, “Philomena;” John Wells, “August: Osage County”