Oscar Index: The Pitt and the Pendulum

A week after its stirring season debut, Oscar Index returns to the scene with the latest scientifically observed developments in the 2011-12 awards race. Indeed, Movieline's Institute for the Advanced Study of Kudos Forensics has issued the results from its latest zeitgeist biopsy, and they look... inconclusive. Naturally! It's September.

Nevertheless, ready as so many prognosticators seem to be to issue grains of salt with their preliminary awards analysis, it hasn't slowed the torrent of data rocketing forth from the cognoscenti. Let's get a look at the latest:

[Click the graphs for full-size images.]


The Leading 10:

1. War Horse

2. The Descendants

3. Moneyball

4. The Ides of March

5. The Artist

6. J. Edgar

7. The Help

8. Midnight in Paris

9. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

10. The Tree of Life

Outsiders: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Iron Lady, A Dangerous Method

Last week's Index almost directly coincided with word that the Academy was revising its rules for campaigning. To wit, no star-studded receptions! No Twitter badmouthing! Limited Q&A's! "We want to do everything we can to put the focus back on the work," AMPAS COO Ric Robertson told Steve Pond. Right. I really wish this meant great things for the masterful Melancholia and every deserving candidate on Sasha Stone's "For Your Consideration" list, but it's another toothless bit of Academy regulation that obviously can't even take effect until after nominations are announced -- by which time it's too late for "the work" that's already been buried by critics' awards, top-10 lists, and the Golden Globes, whose HFPA administrators never encountered an awards-season gravy boat they didn't nearly drown in.

Furthermore, as Scott Feinberg observes, this just drives the active campaigning underground -- not that there weren't already inky Weinsteinian currents of power and influence traversing the awards substrata, but this rule change just means that voters shouldn't be surprised when they order a pizza and someone from The Artist delivers it. Or, even likelier, someone from The Artist delivers a pizza that a voter didn't order. ("Je suis vraiment désolé! Vous n'avez pas commandé une pizza? Eh bien, tenez quand même, avec les hommages de monsieur Harvey Weinstein et L'Artiste," etc. etc.)

Of course this doesn't slow War Horse's brisk gallop through the dawn-speckled Oscar landscape. (There's even a new, corresponding dawn-speckled poster. Well played, DreamWorks!) The latest editions of both Gold Derby and Gurus O'Gold have the year-end Spielberg entry reigning over the likes of the upsurging Descendants and even more upsurging Moneyball, whose opening-weekend windfall complemented its impressive Academy screening and far-flung social-media approbation. (Bret Easton Ellis and Jerry Seinfeld seemed especially jazzed in this week's edition of Twit Wit.) The aforementioned Artist also enjoyed a boost from the likes of Stone, who persuasively reminded us all:

And then there's The Artist. The Weinstein gem is the snake in the grass, as they say, driven home by a conversation I had with David Poland. [...] Some are wondering if it will even get nominated -- it's time to put those thoughts to bed. The film that has been carried through strongly from Cannes, Telluride and Toronto is The Artist and it will be a very strong force to be reckoned with. The Artist has it all - it is a movie about movies. It is a movie that is the kind of movie audiences turned to during the Depression to feel better about their own lives. "The trick," said Poland, "is whether the movie can make any money." Unlike the 1920s, getting audiences to pay for a silent, black-and-white movie seems like a daunting task.

"Y a quelqu'un qui a commandé une pizza?" Ahem.

Also of note: Gregory Ellwood's pronouncement that Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, like War Horse, is the other present-day Best Picture frontrunner sight unseen ("Hanks, Bullock, Daldry, Rudin, a boy loses his father during 9/11. Until it isn't, it is"), and the awesome, awesome, awesome new, extended trailer for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. "There are two things that Oscar voters adore," writes Tom O'Neil. "1) overdue, cool directors with edgy new films and 2) movies based upon books that have a fanatical following." The latter is most definitely true, and may also benefit Extremely Loud (based on the bestseller by Jonathan Safran Foer). But there's a third thing that Oscar voters adore as well: Heart-squeezing war movies directed by Steven Spielberg. That's War Horse's royal flush to the others' two pair -- or at least that's how it looks on paper.


The Leading 5:

1. Steven Spielberg, War Horse

2. Alexander Payne, The Descendants

3. Clint Eastwood, J. Edgar

4. Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist

5. George Clooney, The Ides of March

Outsiders: David Fincher, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo; Stephen Daldry, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close; Bennett Miller, Moneyball; Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris; Tomas Alfredson, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; Tate Taylor, The Help; David Cronenberg, A Dangerous Method

Taking the data from the Best Picture races and entering it into the Director-race algorithm, our Kudos Forensics researchers came up with the graph above. I think it's mostly accurate, if only because Ides of March slipped a bit and Fincher and Daldry have that awards-darling mojo that keeps them ranking over a guy like Miller -- Moneyball's ascendancy notwithstanding. Clooney is clearly the filmmaker in the most danger of tumbling from the competition, with Ides slowing a bit behind War Horse and Descendants and Michel Hazanavicius whipping up pizzas in the Weinstein kitchen enjoying a nice boost from the pundit ranks.

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  • Kendra says:

    Ha! I remain victorious in my quest to make the first comment! (and by the, I've brought the alcoholic beverages this time)
    When you say the Artist needs to make money, exactly how much are you talking? I can't imagine middle America exactly showing up in droves for this one. I can't really imagine upper-middle America going either.
    The only other thought I have is "My that Shailene Woodley lady has a lot of hair"

  • AS says:

    I've decided to single handedly create Oscar buzz for DRIVE, so every time I drop a comment, DRIVE will be mentioned! So THERE Academy voters! I know you're reading this!

  • S.T. VanAirsdale says:

    Thank you, Kendra. Your fervor is appreciated. But: The comment about Artist grosses was not mine but David Poland's. I can't speak for him. I don't even have a guess myself! What is the over/under on silent French films in 2011? You tell me.

  • Morgan says:

    Great call on Drive from the previous poster.
    Surely there's room for a good genre flick that has an insane amount of audience popularity (it's IMDB user score is 8.6 if that's anything to go by). It may take Dragon Tattoo or Tinker Tailor to drop for Drive to be considered though. I think those two are sort of taking up the genre film slots.
    The Help takes up The Blind Side spot. Surely Drive can replace The Help, no way is The Help a complete movie. It's popular in middle america, so what - Drive is way better.
    Also - they should change the Best Director category to the sliding scale too. It just just match Best Picture. Best Director tells you who the leaders are anyway, and it's always a tight race. Nolan missed out last season, and there's another group of directors that will miss out this season too.

  • Remy says:

    Just saw "Melancholia", and Kirsten Dunst's performance is a knockout. It will be a crime if she's overlooked.
    Also, I'd love to see Benedict Cumberbatch nominated for "Tinker, Tailor...". He was the best of the supporting actors in that movie, which considering the company he was in is saying quite a lot.