Oscar Index: Ladies First

You know that when two of the most respected pundits in all of Oscardom argue (within days of each other!) for curtailing both the epic Academy Awards season race and the ceremony in which it culminates, patience for all this crap is wearing thin. With that in mind — and also considering that the "race" for most of these categories ended weeks or months ago — who's up for an Oscar Index lightning round? (The entire staff at Movieline's Institute for the Advanced Study of Kudos Forensics raises its hands.) OK, then — to the Index!

The Final 9:
1. The Artist
2. The Help
3. The Descendants
4. Hugo
5. Moneyball
6. The Tree of Life
7. Midnight in Paris
8. The Daldry
9. War Horse

Though we cannot rule out any of these underdogs' mounting a behind-the-scenes charm blitz before Academy polls close next Tuesday, or the implications of the reminder that no movie about movies has ever won Best Picture, The Artist's triumph at last weekend's BAFTA Awards only tightened its seeming lock on the Best Picture Oscar. Still, let's hear it for The Descendants, blazing the media afterburners for a desperately needed uptick. (The Help, by comparison, got a forlorn-looking electronic billboard.) Also, don't look now, but somebody actually dared to write thoughtfully about The Daldry. Not a minute too soon! Anyway, yes, Steve Pond, we're all with you: Let's just end this farce already.

The Final 5:
1. Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
2. Alexander Payne, The Descendants
3. Martin Scorsese, Hugo
4. Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life
5. Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris

While the BAFTAs nudged Hazanavicius ever closer to Oscar glory and Sasha Stone contemplated the beneficiaries of a potential split vote — which is really the most that the pundits and campaigners engineering an anti-Artist backlash can hope for at this point — only Allen received a truly needle-moving endorsement this week. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Nick Jonas: "[F]or directing, I chose Midnight in Paris because Woody Allen is my favorite. He’s awesome.[... T]here would be a Woody Allen film on the tour bus every now and again. There’s always a Woody Allen movie on." Now you know.

The Final 5:
1. [tie] Viola Davis, The Help
1. [tie] Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
3. Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn
4. Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
5. Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs

"I hope we can all agree that when the Oscar conversation involves actresses as massively gifted as Meryl and Viola we all win," wrote Nathaniel Rogers of the juiciest race going. "If only we could have a tie!" Haha, fine for now, but NO. Don't give the Academy any ideas; it'll totally screw up my Oscar-party ballot.

That said, it's quite a conversation, with the BAFTAs and the Berlinale's gala tribute tilting momentum back Streep's way. But if we're to believe that the continued dissemination and discussion of these events among awards observers and the media cognoscenti are really the factors that persuade Oscar voters (and I guess we are to believe that, rightly or not — otherwise, what are we doing here?), then wouldn't it follow that the continued dissemination of Davis's boundless class, intellect and talent on the campaign trail would either match or supersede Streep's own carefully cultivated hype? Take this incredible appearance that Davis and Help co-star Octavia Spencer recently made on Tavis Smiley's show, an interview that's been covered here, there and everywhere [transcript via The Carpetbagger]:

“I want you to win,” Mr. Smiley said, “but I’m ambivalent about what you’re winning for.”

Ms. Davis was direct. “That very mind-set that you have and that a lot of African-Americans have is absolutely destroying the black artist,” she said.

“The black artist cannot live in a revisionist place,” she added. “The black artist can only tell the truth about humanity, and humanity is messy. People are messy. Caucasian actors know that. [...] We as African-American artists are more concerned with image and message and not execution,” she said, “which is why every time you see your images they’ve been watered down to the point where they are not realistic at all.”

“My whole thing is, do I always have be noble?” she continued. “As an artist, you’ve got to see the mess.”

The Academy has never really given any indication of having taste that would or could be moved by a case like that. But if its members in the actors branch in particular do have that taste, and they can hear her voice above the noise, then Davis may yet be the actress to beat. For now, meanwhile, it's just too close to call.

In other brief news, Mara got another profile-boosting close-up while Close — who's facing such delightful headlines as "Glenn Close: Next Queen of Oscar losers? may as well ask to just be awoken when it's Feb. 27. Tough world.

The Leading 5:
1. Jean Dujardin, The Artist
2. George Clooney, The Descendants
3. Brad Pitt, Moneyball
4. Demián Bichir, A Better Life
5. Gary Oldman, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Sure, Dujardin claimed the BAFTA and made more zeitgeist-y viral-video waves in 48 hours than than his competition combined has made all years, but Clooney and Oldman in particular keep working the circuit in search of hearts and minds. Watch out for the latter candidate, who may yet coax away those crucial "sentimental favorite" votes that Clooney never really deserved in the first place (not with three Oscar nods for acting in five years, anyway) and which have been known to split categories. Could be interesting, though I'm probably just hallucinating non-existent intrigues at this point. You tell me.

The Leading 5:
1. Octavia Spencer, The Help
2. Bérénice Bejo, The Artist
3. Jessica Chastain, The Help
4. Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
5. Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs

Bejo magically reappeared on the scene for about 20 seconds with an interview and a 15-year-old short film called Pregnant or Lesbian? And that should just about do it.

The Leading 5:
1. Christopher Plummer, Beginners
2. Max von Sydow, The Daldry
3. Jonah Hill, Moneyball
4. Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
5. Nick Nolte, Warrior

"Enough about Max von Sydow's burst of applause, already!" admonished Kristpher Tapley. Got it! Just trying to stay awake over here.

Anyway, see you next week with the conclusion of the 2011-12 Oscar index!

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  • med says:

    Streep is more here, there and everywhere than Davis could imagine in her dreams. Consider Streep's recent Fresh Air interview which was astounding, her BAFTA win boost, and her Berlin Lifetime Achivement Award. I think just those headlines alone are tilting the win to Streep (plus Harvey will never allow Meryl to lose). The pundits may be predicting a Davis win, but when they talk about it is is more of a "could go either way-neck and neck" narrative. Plus, who gives a shit about your Oscar ballot S.T.? Nobody...

    • KevyB says:

      There's this thing called "a sense of humor"... look into it. Seriously, people will like you more if you have one.

      I, for one, have been back and forth on who I'd like to see win Best Actress. Meryl Streep IS the best actress of all time (regardless what recent "experts" have been saying) and deserves more than two friggin' Oscars.

      But Viola Davis has brought more intelligence to the whole race issue this year than any of the black talking heads, or the white liberal-guiltmongers littering the airwaves this year. Honestly, all this about FUCKING MAIDS. Nobody bitched and moaned when Michael Clarke Duncan was nominated for playing a retarded man. Or when Terrence Howard got nominated for playing a drug-dealing pimp! Or when Gabourey Sidibe got nominated for playing a ghetto girl bearing her daddy's children! Or when Mo'Nique won a damn Oscar for playing an abusive mother from the projects who allows her husband to rape and impregnate her daughter! But play a MAID IN THE SIXTIES??? OMG!!!

      Heaven forbid these people remember that in the SIXTY YEARS between Oscars with BLACK MAIDS, there were also black Oscar nominees and winners that played cops, war heroes, sports stars, music stars, champion boxers, Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela and the people who saved lives with Hotel Rwanda! BUT THEN THOSE WOMEN HAD TO GO AND PLAY MAIDS AND MAKE EVERYONE FORGET ABOUT ALL THOSE OTHER PEOPLE!!!

  • Rob says:

    So,...Bejo went up because of an article you posted and an article a colleague posted? lol bit conceited. I would love to know how many Academy members read those articles.....

  • Brian says:

    what time do they start are they still thursday thx

  • AS says:

    I'm projecting a Rooney Mara win.


  • The Winchester says:

    Call me crazy, but I predict a surprise upset in the Best Actress category by Albert Brooks.

  • Dimo says:

    Good Lord do I want all of this over. Put the damn show on the Sunday after the Superbowl and call it a day. I haven't missed a telecast since 1981, but I have to admit that I just don't care anymore. The season is too long, and the show is too long. I think it comes down to an overabundance of coverage, and dare I say...over importance! And I'm a die hard Oscar lover!

    Even you S.T. must be sick and tired of writing this every week. And why do I still read it?

    Back in the day (The 80's) this show sometimes didn't air till early April. Can you imagine that now? The crazy part is that nobody seemed burned out on all the prognostication, cause there wasn't that much. Leaving the possibility of actual surprises when the envelopes were opened.

    And...how about the red carpet consisting of just The Barbara Walters Special and one minute of pre taped walk ins before the broadcast! I know, I know...I'm naive for thinking that we could ever go back to that time. But it would make this whole stupid thing fun again. Isn't that what the ultimate celebration of movies is supposed to be?

    Sorry for going on and on...I will get back to churning my own butter now.

    • Patrick Hallstein / McEvoy-Halston says:

      A predetermined event without surprises, anteceded by a numbing number of pre-events: it's turning Catholic, monarchical. More than ever, the people attending will feel like courtiers -- with the status not the deference being key. The film most detached from the public wins -- what is great must at some key level refuse the public appetite; the public will have to rest content with the spectacle, and some permitted partial access to stars.

    • S.T. VanAirsdale says:

      I hear you! I think everyone feels this way -- even the studios/distributors of the nominated films, who stand to gain from the awards boost (especially if their nominees are still in theaters; hence the November/December release glut) but wind up spending millions just to remind you that, say, Moneyball is nominated for six Oscars that it won't win anyway. We need three months of that?

      But yes, speaking for myself, I cannot wait to get away from it.

  • Nerd says:

    I totally hear you regarding the Oscar coverage overkill S.T. I can't even imagine how you feel. Only one more to go!

    At least this year there is basically zero coverage of the actual awards show, specifically the host. When compared to the shitstorm of anticipation and conjecture surrounding Franco and Hath, this year we got off easy imo. Im guessing that was no accident on the Academy's part (with the exception of the whole Eddie Murphy incident, but that seems like years ago at this point).

    • S.T. VanAirsdale says:

      ...with the exception of the whole Eddie Murphy incident, but that seems like years ago at this point.

      I know, right? Remember that, and how people thought it was inspired and exciting and not just another shameless studio-marketing ploy-- e.g. Fox, which last year clearly had designs on two nominated co-hosts with their respective films (Love and Other Drugs and 127 Hours) coming out on DVD on March 1? How did that work out for everybody?

      So this year it would have been Universal: Buy Tower Heist on DVD or Blu-ray on Feb 21! But I have no one but myself to blame for exposing myself to and/or being insulted by creeps like these.

  • BJ says:

    "Watch out for the latter candidate, who may yet coax away those crucial "sentimental favorite" votes that Clooney never really deserved in the first place (not with three Oscar nods for acting in five years, anyway) and which have been known to split categories."

    You wrote this about Oldman but put Bechir ahead of him at #4? Why not move up Oldman past Bechir and Pitt if you think he's got as good a shot as Clooney against Dujardin?

    • S.T. VanAirsdale says:

      I didn't write that Oldman has as good a shot as Clooney against Dujardin. I wrote to watch out that he may draw votes away from Clooney as the late campaign continues, and that could split the category -- which, if you read last week, is probably likelier to benefit Bichir than Oldman.

      • BJ says:

        So Bechir is ranked #4 because Oldman might siphon off votes from Clooney in this hypothetical scenario? And these two actors aren't ranked that way for any other reason? Trying to understand how Bechir is above Oldman anywhere in the universe. Even if Oldman is only an influence he should rank higher. Why would Oldman coax a vote based on sentiment?