It’s been a little over a week now since the Academy announced their slate of nominees for this year’s ceremony, and a lot has happened. The Critic’s Choice Awards, the Golden Globes, wider releases and rereleases for some of the nominees, even an Academy member coming straight out against "Zero Dark Thirty". Thankfully, the start of the Sundance Film Festival will get the industry’s mind off the Oscar season briefly before the voting period begins.
A lot has happened, and then again, very little has actually happened. We still have no real sense of where everything stands. Who exactly is the frontrunner? Can a film win without a best director nomination? These questions, and more, have created something close to a whodunit mystery novel. So lets take a look at the chief suspects.
The man, and film, on everyone’s mind right now are Ben Affleck and “Argo”. After a snub, which becomes more confusing everyday, for best director Affleck and his third directorial effort seemed practically lost in the shuffle despite landing seven total nominations. Then it won best picture and best director at both the Critic’s Choice Awards and the Golden Globe. Now, those awards have no direct affect on the Oscars, as there is no crossover between the three groups when it comes to voting; but could a wave of sentiment be building up for the film?
Those seven nominations proves the film has a strong base of support across the board. On top of that initial love, if Affleck keeps raking in the kudos, people will start to wonder how exactly the director’s branch of the Academy could make such a massive mistake in omitting him. That surge could compel people to amend that decision by voting for “Argo” for best picture. All that sentiment, however, depends on “Argo” staying in the spotlight.
“Argo” is probably not the favorite for SAG’s best ensemble, which means another film will take the spotlight for at least a few days. After that, if “Argo” fails to win either or both at the PGA and DGA, it could fall behind those winners as well; especially if two or all three of the guilds sync up, however unlikely that may be this year. A win with one of the guilds could make “Argo” the surprise favorite, but no wins could mean it peaked early in a field of thoroughbreds.
Shortly after the nominations, many people believed that the title of favorite belonged with the film that grabbed the most nominations. “Lincoln” scored twelve noms, including director, writing, editing, a number of below the line categories, and three in acting. It had the gravitas and the pedigree behind it coming from the beard himself, Steven Spielberg. But is “Lincoln” respected more than it is loved?
The only constant that “Lincoln” seems to have is that every time they hand out a best actor award Daniel Day-Lewis is on the receiving end of it. Spielberg has yet to win a directing honor from a major group. Tommy Lee Jones is in a dogfight against every single one of his fellow nominees for best supporting actor. Sally Field has no chance of beating Anne Hathaway’s steam rolling performance. Even John William’s keeps getting overlooked for his score. “Lincoln” is always in the conversation for best film, but is anyone really buying it as the best film?
Then there are the usual suspects, the Weinsteins, and their claim for a third straight best picture winner, “Silver Linings Playbook”. There were questions as to why the Weinsteins would hold back on their big player this year with the slow roll out it had, finally releasing wide in the past couple of weeks, but they appear to have been answered.
The film’s word of mouth and strong Oscar showing has made it one of the most talked about movies of late. On top of that having two of the biggest stars in Hollywood in Bradley Cooper, and this year’s “it girl” Jennifer Lawrence, puts this film in the perfect position for a final charge. “Silver Linings” is already looking to cut off the wind in “Argo’s” sails as a top contender for best ensemble at SAG. If that happens, watch out everyone else.
Strong questions surround the other major contenders as well. Can “Life of Pi” be more than a technical juggernaut? Can “Zero Dark Thirty” overcome the torture controversy that seems to be splitting the industry down the middle? Is the spectacle of “Les Mis” being overlooked and waiting in the wings? Even “Django” has some small mystery as to how much people are behind it.
With just a little more than a month left before Oscar night it would take Sherlock Holmes to deduct who is the true favorite in this race is. You know what, who cares? The Oscars have been practically forgone conclusions in the last few years, a little excitement and debate could bring a whole other level to cinema’s biggest night.
Let’s take a stab in the dark, though, as to where things stand right now.
1. Silver Linings Playbook
4. Life of Pi
5. Les Miserables
6. Zero Dark Thirty
7. Django Unchained
9. Beasts of the Southern Wild
I’m going with my heart on this one a little bit, but any of the top four films could take the big prize on February 24th where we will finally discover how this mystery ends.