Oscar Index: Left Out in the Gold

Smack in the middle of a two-week frame yielding two awards shows and a pair of nomination announcements that will culminate in this year's Oscar nods, the researchers at Movieline's Institute for the Advanced Study of Kudos Forensics have gained minimal insight into where the Academy may take the 2011-12 awards race in next Tuesday's final nominations. Or maybe they're all just sleeping. It's been that kind of year. Let's check their work in this week's Oscar Index.

The Leading 10:
1. The Artist
2. The Descendants
3. The Help
4. Midnight in Paris
5. Hugo
6. Moneyball
7. War Horse
8. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
9. Bridesmaids
10. The Tree of Life

Outsiders: The Ides of March; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; Drive

Regardless of their volume and putative weight, let's try an experiment: Let's not belabor the developments of the last week. Let's look past the all-star rosters and scattered surprises at the Critics Choice Movie Awards, Golden Globe Awards and among this week's BAFTA Award nominations, and let's forget how real I was telling you it all began to feel a week ago. Let's instead make quick work of key points about a race that is fundamentally down to two films vying for a Best Picture Oscar and maybe one or two others vying for the privilege of being considered alongside them. Academy nomination ballots are being counted as we speak; by this time next week we'll be talking not about what should or shouldn't be considered but rather about what a film with 11 nominations has going for it over a film with nine nominations. And all this bullshit about heat meters and gold derbies and even Oscar Indices will tumble through the cracks of new white noise telling how imperfect the whole system is, and what winning has to do with justice, and why do we care, and so on and so forth until the last for-your-consideration ad is sold and the last fleck of vomit is scrubbed from the leather banquettes that got the very worst of the Oscar-night after-after-after-after parties.

Let's concede that this is the part of the race where we all forgo our last remaining illusions of pure aesthetic combat, turning instead to the customary sight of fine-tuned cogs endeavoring to spin faster and faster still -- The Weinstein Company with its Artist, Fox Searchlight with its Descendants -- coaxing the parts around them into specialized lurches, as affecting as interchangeable porcelain ballerinas and lilting lullabies set into action by two greasy, handwound parts. Can The Help move any faster than it has all season, with its phenomenal box-office days behind it and actresses setting the pace of their own categories? Can Hugo survive the ever-escalating altitude of its nostalgia? Can Midnight in Paris pivot successfully out of the nostalgia trap, and if so, will a complacent Academy votership simply shy away, thinking, "Oh, too bad, this one's broken"? Can Moneyball or Dragon Tattoo, with all their sinewy, contemporary fierceness, fly low and slow enough to ever be seen by the birdwatchers otherwise known as AMPAS? Can Bridesmaids find the groundswell it will require to even crack the Best Picture class, let alone compete within it?

Let's then concede that our individual answers are all that's left of a process that only two weeks ago teased us with the prospect of intrigue, and that when the Academy reflects our old intrigues back to us, we will betray them as we always do with new intrigues are no one else's (e.g. "This is more easy emotional default old-fart consensus thinking...", "The Adventures Of Tintin might seem a surprise over favored Rango, but the latter is probably too American for the foreign group...") And then let's keep it going for another month of posturing on all sides, guided by the same inexorable pieces at the heart of the same inexhaustible machine.

Anyway, this is as good a read as I can get on the situation headed into Nominee Tuesday, which gives you an indication of how ridiculous this whole folly is from week to week. I say we'll get eight Best Picture nods total, in the order listed above. Wagering on this prediction would be a bad idea -- unless you win, I guess, in which case you'd better cut your old pal STV in.

The Leading 5:
1. Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
2. Alexander Payne, The Descendants
3. Martin Scorsese, Hugo
4. Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
5. Steven Spielberg, War Horse

Outsiders: David Fincher, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo; Bennett Miller, Moneyball; Tate Taylor, The Help; Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive

Scorsese has been a nomination lock for weeks now, but claiming Best Director at the Globes was one of the rarer glints of HFPA influence on the Oscar race. On the one hand, Harvey Weinstein was able to wrangle an Oscar for a relatively unknown Tom Hooper last year over Fincher et. al., so doing the same for Hazanavicius shouldn't be perceived as too difficult. On the other hand, Scott Feinberg notes the Academy's historical Best Director quirk:

History tells us that Academy members rarely back different films for best picture and best director, respectively, which would benefit The Artist, which seems to be the more beloved film. But we also know that "splits" do sometimes happen, and the example set by the HFPA of "spreading love all around" might appeal to some Academy members who love The Artist but would rather back a director with a long track record than someone who now has only one American feature film under his belt.

Obviously Payne shouldn't be ignored in this context, either, but Scorsese gets the week's big bump. Fincher is coming around behind the scenes as well; Sony pushed hard last week as resistance to the Dragon Tattoo-slump non-story built around the Academy. We'll see what that's worth against the last ounces of Spielberg's pre-nomination muscle.

The Leading 5:
1. (tie) Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
1. (tie) Viola Davis, The Help
3. Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn
4. Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin
5. Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Outsiders: Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs; Charlize Theron, Young Adult; Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene

Not even the boldest pundit would yet dare to choose a Best Actress favorite after the week we just had, with winner Davis dazzling the Critics Choice crowd and Streep giving it her own best acceptance-speech shot at the Golden Globes. And what of Michelle Williams, whose provocative GQ photo spread prompted Sasha Stone to observe: "There is a school of thought where Oscar is concerned that goes like this: You can win if you can give them rock hard erections." Yowza! So much for the L.A. Times's hilarious awards-season "Heat Meter" -- what we need around here is a meat heater. Amirite? OK, don't answer that.

The Leading 5:
1. Jean Dujardin, The Artist
2. Brad Pitt, Moneyball
3. George Clooney, The Descendants
4. Michael Fassbender, Shame
5. Gary Oldman, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Outsiders: Demián Bichir, A Better Life; Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Edgar; Michael Shannon, Take Shelter; Ryan Gosling, The Ides of March

The Globes gave us the Dujardin/Clooney showdown we expected, so whatever. Let's wait and see on that. I'm more preoccupied with the bubble, where I like Oldman to make the cut -- particularly after seeing Tinker Tailor's BAFTA nomination showing. The Tweet of the Week, from Anne Thompson at the Golden Globes, also helps address why:

Listening to Leo on the red carpet explain what J. Edgar was about you could feel eyes glazing over worldwide. It was a hopeless cause.Mon Jan 16 18:46:30 via TweetDeck

Pair that with Steve Pond's observations about Bichir ("Oscar voters have made smart and surprising choices in this category in the past [remember Javier Bardem for Biutiful last year?]") vs. DiCaprio ("He still seems more likely than not to get in – but if he doesn't, this could be one of the least surprising surprises of Oscar nomination morning"), and the general consensus points toward another snub you can hear coming from days away.

The Leading 5:
1. Octavia Spencer, The Help
2. Jessica Chastain, The Help
3. Bérénice Bejo,
The Artist
4. Shailene Woodley, The Descendants
5. Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids

Outsiders: Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs; Vanessa Redgrave, Coriolanus; Jessica Chastain, The Tree of Life; Jessica Chastain, Take Shelter

It's over.

The Leading 5:
1. Christopher Plummer, Beginners
2. Albert Brooks, Drive
3. Jonah Hill, Moneyball
4. Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
5. [tie] Nick Nolte, Warrior
5. [tie] Andy Serkis, Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Outsiders: Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close; Armie Hammer, J. Edgar; Corey Stoll, Midnight in Paris; Ben Kingsley, Hugo

At least one insider foresees the potential of some love for Serkis, but few pundits this week struck a more crucially persuasive tone than Jeffrey Wells: "The SAG members who voted against or failed to nominate Serkis for Best Supporting Actor are pathetic little squirrels." Good luck, Nolte!

Follow S.T. VanAirsdale on Twitter.
Follow Movieline on Twitter.


  • AS says:

    1. Mark my words, Mara will probably not be nominated.

    2. People are giving Bridesmaids too much credit. McTeer definitely has an edge over McCarthy. I really don't think the Academy is going to award a film featuring characters defecating into a sink... idk, that just doesn't seem to be their style.

    3. I think Ides should be in top 10 for BP. I'd say it's got a better shot than Tree & Bridesmaids.

    • S.T. VanAirsdale says:

      1. Mark my words, Mara will probably not be nominated.

      Your words have been marked for weeks now! She's definitely a bubble baby, but I'm just charting what I read/hear. A Close nomination would not shock me, though it would embarrass me -- for the Academy's sake, not mine.

      2. People are giving Bridesmaids too much credit. McTeer definitely has an edge over McCarthy. I really don't think the Academy is going to award a film featuring characters defecating into a sink... idk, that just doesn't seem to be their style.

      It wouldn't have to be the Academy recognizing McCarthy in this case; it would be the Actors Branch, which has enough of an edge and unpredictability to nudge her over the top. And I've made the same connection regarding the sink-poo, but I think Mark Harris at Grantland has -- on a couple of occasions now -- made a really good case for why this is irrelevant for Picture and Screenplay consideration in particular. I'd definitely recommend checking him out.

      3. I think Ides should be in top 10 for BP. I'd say it's got a better shot than Tree & Bridesmaids.

      Again, just charting what I read/hear. It came and went at the Globes and nobody's really talking about it at all. Tree of Life is an interesting case; I can't remember where I read this, but no English-language Palme d'Or winner has ever grossed >$10m domestic and NOT been nominated for Best Picture. But that buzz is dying, too, so hey! I guess we'll see.

      • Aiden says:

        "A Close nomination would not shock me, though it would embarrass me -- for the Academy's sake, not mine."

        Lets be honest, about 50% of the potential nominees are embarrassing, so Close would just be one amongst many. I.e. The Help (it's a feel good movie but must we pull another Blind Side?!), Meryl Streep (When you begin playing Thatcher as a comical figure... shit is wack!), Dragon Tattoo (Fincher NOT getting nominated for Zodiac but for a film that he could have phoned in?! Alrighty then...), Leo DiCaprio (another one of those "so you're going to nominate him NOW but snub him for career bests in Catch Me If You Can, Shutter Island, etc), and the list goes on and on. Point is, this year will go down as one of the more embarrassing years for Oscar. The fact that strong and challenging work (like the person who posted below me pointed out) is not being recognized but The Descendants and War Horse stand a shot is cray cray! (So much so that I just quoted the Kardashians!!!)

        • S.T. VanAirsdale says:

          Pretty much! I mean, that's basically what I was getting at at the top of the piece: We're all bound to be abjectly disappointed once again, leading to the same doubt as to why we bother caring, or the same invective between fans and "experts," leading to another terrible Oscarcast where we realize how irrelevant our intellectual investment in all this stuff actually is. I'm done with it after this year. Life's too short.

          • AS says:

            I really don't get why people act like the Academy EVER called it right. How many times since the Academy's inception has the actual best film won Best Picture? Of course that's all subjective but you get my point. For my money The Departed was the last film to win that actually deserved it. I know many considered it a lifetime achievement award but Scorsese well earned it.

          • S.T. VanAirsdale says:

            That's my point! It's an abusive relationship. We get into it every year thinking this insular horde of industry-ites is going to change, and they never do. It's not their fault -- they've always been an insular horde of industry-ites with way more influence than any institution with such questionable taste is entitled to. At some point you've either gotta accept it and live with the reality and all that accompanies it, or you just gotta pack your bags and go focus on something else for a while. This year more than ever, the latter sounds not just appealing to me but kind of necessary.

          • Aiden says:

            HOLD UP- You're done with it as in no more Oscar Index? Movieline's Institute for the Advanced Study of Kudos Forensics will no longer exist? Say it ain't so!!! You make Oscar predicting fun!

            MIASKF Cheerleading Squad

          • S.T. VanAirsdale says:

            Thanks a million, but yes, I am done with it after this. Someone else in the MIASKF ranks will no doubt step forward and carry the banner with aplomb. Or a meteor will hit the Earth and we'll all die, which is the funnest prediction of all.

        • Aiden says:

          "I really don't get why people act like the Academy EVER called it right. How many times since the Academy's inception has the actual best film won Best Picture?"

          Not so much winning, I was merely pointing out the quality of the nominees. Last year we were spoiled with such great nominees in all categories. When you look at the line-up this year especially in comparison to what we were offered last year, it's so embarrassing. We had Inception, The Social Network, Black Swan, The Fighter, Blue Valentine, Animal Kingdom, etc. to this years The Descendants (a made for TV movie if there ever was one), My Weekly Movie with Marilyn, and Albert Nobbs: A Film No One Cares About Except Glenn Close. I'm grouping actor nominations with picture nominations, but you get my point...

  • Bec says:

    "Movieline's Institute for the Advanced Study of Kudos Forensics"

    Please tell me you came up with that yourself and it has been copyrighted because it's pure genius! I've been keeping up this index for months now and I can't believe I glossed over that title!

    Anyway... looking at the slate of Best Picture nominees (1-10), with an exception of Hugo, Midnight in Paris, and The Tree of Life, this year is looking like one of the most mediocre years in recent Oscar history. I finally saw The Descendants, and boy was I disappointed. It was the last of the big Oscar movies I needed to see, and I figured it would live up to its hype... but nooo. The narration is beyond frustrating and so random, the scenes are choppy, the plot is... well there really isn't one. I like to think of myself as a Payne loyalist, so disappointed doesn't even begin to describe how I feel about The Descendants. Coupled with the fact that I went and saw Young Adult the day before and I kept thinking to myself, "Wow this is the kind of movie Payne would totally make." Yes, Young Adult is leagues better than The Descendants and that may be due to the fact that Cody has written a damn good screenplay or that Mavis is a much more interesting and complex than Matt King (grieving and absent father... wow totally original!). The acting in The Descendants is good, I'll give you that. But what's with all the hype for Woodley? She's definitely good but not remotely Oscar worthy in my opinion. She has one "wow" scene which I won't spoil for those who haven't seen the film but it involves a pool. Mulligan would have had that spot on lock had "Shame" been an easier sell. I think that's the exact same problem with Theron and Young Adult. Actress and screenplay SHOULD be locks. But the Academy must be full of cowards to not recognize challenging work.

    • Bec says:

      **I realize I am making the assumption that the Academy will snub Theron and screenplay. If they prove me wrong, I will personally find each and every Academy member and kiss their feet.

      (No I won't)

    • S.T. VanAirsdale says:

      Thanks! Sadly, yes, MIASKF is my creation. Do not try Oscar blogging at home, this is the havoc it wreaks.

      I am right there with you re Descendants vs. Young Adult. I cannot for the life of me understand how Paramount dropped the ball on the latter film; it had at least Actress, Supporting Actor and Screenplay going for it, but I would have lobbied hard for everything from Picture to Director to Editing and Art Direction (did those domiciles not feel completely lived in and reflective of their characters?). I guess the Hugo awards juggernaut needed feeding, and maybe the studio just moved resources from one to the other. It's really just a shame all around.

  • Devin Fuller says:

    What a long, strange trip it's been...

    We've seen Oscar frontrunner Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close crash and burn, Spielberg's War Horse stumble out of the gate, and Bridesmaids emerge as a surprise contender in spite of its infamous scatological sink moment.

    What frontrunner do you think has the best chance of being snubbed next Tuesday? Alternatively, which dark horse has the best chance of being called?

    • S.T. VanAirsdale says:

      Long and strange, indeed! Let's just get this shit over with, already.

      These are very good questions -- so good that I really can't answer them with anything approaching authority. I would call The Help the foremost frontrunner in any major category that retains some vulnerability; I could definitely envision a scenario in which Bridesmaids wrestles its spot away, especially if the Actors Branch thinks it's doing all the favors it needs to do by nominating Davis and Spencer in acting categories. If enough voters with that mentality -- and I'd guess it would only take 100 or so, on top of the +/-150 already putting Bridesmaids in first place, irrespective of The Help -- opt for this course, then you'll see an upset. But again, I really doubt that.

      Who/what do you think is at risk?

      • Devin Fuller says:

        I'd love for something crazy to happen like Meryl Streep not getting a nomination (not because I have anything against her but just for pure shock value), but Lindsay Lohan has a better chance of being nominated for her work in federal court than that happening.

        I think it's possible Shailene Woodley might be overlooked, since I've read as much on a few other sites, but I'd be very surprised.

        • S.T. VanAirsdale says:

          A Streep snub would hurtle me into the frigid city shrieking with joy. Fuck that movie.

          Woodley's in, but only because the Actors Branch seriously is desperate to just fill that category with anyone at this point.

  • Charles says:

    Jonah Hill's performance is way overrated. It's not much of anything. Vanessa Redgrave's turn, bound to be left out, is far richer than any of those that will occupy the five slots. Spencer's performance is of the fine-but-nothing-special variety.

    • S.T. VanAirsdale says:

      Vanessa Redgrave's turn, bound to be left out, is far richer than any of those that will occupy the five slots.

      Agreed, 100%.

      • Charles says:

        S.T., I always enjoy reading your posts. Your Oscar forecasts are usually money in the bank, spot-on. As a movie fan like yourself, I am a bit disappointed by this year's crop of films. I've seen eight of the 10 films you predict will be nominated and not one of them really approached greatness. No clunkers among them, but not one that I would rush out and tell people to see right away. Nothing blew me away.

        • S.T. VanAirsdale says:

          Thanks, Charles! I was a little more fond of some of them than you were (Midnight in Paris in particular), but on the whole it's pretty blah. Either way, I really appreciate your readership and the kind words; we'll get through this thing.

  • Kendra says:

    Hello Movieline people! I am here to report on the goings on of my french class today.
    So I brought up the Artist in order to ask my teacher how one should pronounce the last name of the director (Az-an-a-VEES-use, he says)and he then continued "Oh yes! You know that movie I showed you last year, Brice de Nice?" And we all said yes because it was an entirely idiotic low-brow comedy that we remembered quite well. So, uh, the star of the movie is Jean Dujardin. And, it has a musical number, which was the most ridiculous part of the movie. Of course, I couldn't help but think of you and the wonderful Hailee Steinfeld commercial you posted last year, so here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YVojpNSz3E. Even if you were previously aware of Jean Dujardin's previous exploits in cheap french comedies, I think the readers of this fine website may enjoy this video.

  • Tyrone says:

    Iˇve recently started a web site, the info you offer on this web site has helped me tremendously. Thank you for all of your time & work.