Oscar Moment: Final 2012 Pre-Season Predictions, Part 2

29 11 2012

Best Actor

  1. Hugh Jackman, “Les Miserables”
  2. Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln”
  3. Joaquin Phoenix, “The Master
  4. Bradley Cooper, “Silver Linings Playbook
  5. Denzel Washington, “Flight

The past two years have seen the leading man of the Best Picture winner take home Best Actor.  So I’m going out on a limb for Hugh Jackman.  I know it sounds illogical at the moment.  But the hope is that in a few months, we will all look back at this post and say, “Wow, Marshall!  I can’t believe you had such foresight!”  Although it’s very likely that we also look back and say, “Wow, Marshall, you were really dumb not to see the steamroller of Daniel Day-Lewis coming a mile away.”

And indeed, when Time boldly declares him the greatest living actor (take that, Jack Nicholson!), it’s kind of hard to deny an incredibly palpable sense of momentum of Daniel Day-Lewis for “Lincoln.”  It’s the role of the moment, and he’s gotten tons of press and raves.  It could be 2007 all over again where Day-Lewis leads the conversation from the get-go and never lets up.

Fun tidbit that just popped into my head: Meryl Streep will be presenting Best Actor this year.  Imagine the sight, a three-time winner handing the third Oscar to Daniel Day-Lewis.

I’m still hoping that the critics groups can revive the heat for “The Master,” and Joaquin Phoenix in particular.  His performance is mesmerizing and animalistic, and I think they should recognize that.  He’s also a two-time nominee, so that makes his edginess slightly more pallatable for them.  But if the movie flops on the precursor circuit, he could find himself in danger.  Heck, even if it does do well, it could fall victim to the same prudish mentality that snubbed Michael Fassbender’s incredible work in “Shame.”

Though Bradley Cooper may be best known for “The Hangover” series, he does great work in a fantastic attempt to get people to take him seriously.  An attempt that worked as well as the rest of the movie, I’d argue.  Though many consider him (and the rest of the movie) to be lightweight, I think it will touch the same nerve as “The Fighter” did in 2010.  Granted, Mark Wahlberg was not nominated for Best Actor … but Will Smith was a big marquee star when he went serious in 2001 for his nominated role in “Ali.”

And I know plenty of people fawned over John Hawkes’ committed physical performance in “The Sessions.”  But the film has tanked with audiences.  And Denzel Washington, whose “Flight” has done very well at the box office, is breathing down his neck.  I think it has to be considered advantage Washington at the moment.

But in summary: it’s the two locks, Jackman and Day-Lewis, in a battle royale.  Phoenix, Cooper, Washington, and Hawkes competing for three slots.  (Outside spoilers could include Anthony Hopkins in “Hitchcock,” Richard Gere in “Arbitrage,” and Jack Black in “Bernie.”)

Best Actress

  1. Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook
  2. Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty”
  3. Quvenzhané Wallis, “Beasts of the Southern Wild
  4. Marion Cotillard, “Rust and Bone
  5. Naomi Watts, “The Impossible”

It might be a little too soon, but I’m about ready to call the race for Jennifer Lawrence.

She’s had one heck of a year between heading up the $400 smash “The Hunger Games” – and actually giving a heck of a performance in it as well.  We will forget about “House at the End of the Street” and pretend she went 2-for-2.  She’s shown versatility this year, and that’s going to work big time in her favor.  It also helps that her character in “Silver Linings Playbook,” Tiffany, is a perennial favorite archetype at the Oscars: flawed, messy, but ultimately lovable and embraceable.

It looks like her main competition will be Jessica Chastain’s gritty, steely CIA agent from “Zero Dark Thirty.”  Chastain’s epic 2011 brought her an Oscar nomination for “The Help,” and her grace and cheer really went over well with everyone.  As far as I’m concerned, she’s the new Amy Adams, who was the new Julianne Moore/Cate Blanchett/Kate Winslet.

I think we are set for a battle to rival the Best Actor race.  Especially because at the Globes, Lawrence will compete in comedy and Chastain will compete in drama.  Unless one totally dominates the critics groups, I think the two could essentially be tied until the SAGs when they go head-to-head.  (BFCA will clarify some, but they could always tie like 2008/2009.)  That’s when the momentum shifted to Jean Dujardin last year, although they chose Viola Davis over eventual champion Meryl Streep.

And maybe I’m underestimating young Quvenzhané Wallis, whose spunk powered “Beasts of the Southern Wild” into the indie spotlight over the summer.  Had the Oscars been held after Cannes or at the end of August, she probably would have been the favorite to win.  But after Lawrence and Chastain’s performances were revealed, she’s lost some of her thunder.  Unless the critics groups and early precursors make a strong contribution to her campaign, she should be content with a nomination and all the attention it adds to her career going forward.

Marion Cotillard deserves score a nomination here as well, and given the incredibly weak field, it shouldn’t be a problem.  Upon seeing the film a second time last week, I realized that where “La Vie En Rose” was a total transformation, “Rust and Bone” is a radically different movie for her.  She’s so much subtler and rawer.  It’s enormously affecting.  See it when you get the chance.

I think Cotillard’s contention bodes ill for Emmanuelle Riva, whose work in “Amour” apparently has Academy voters talking.  Two French-language performances nominated for Best Actress in one year?!  That seems a little much.  So I think the few passionate supporters of “The Impossible” will get Naomi Watts to edge out Riva (or Keira Knightley for “Anna Karenina” and Helen Mirren for “Hitchcock”) and sneak into the race in a movie with very little overall buzz.  Just like she did in 2003 with “21 Grams.”

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Robert DeNiro, “Silver Linings Playbook
  2. Eddie Redmayne, “Les Miserables”
  3. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master
  4. Alan Arkin, “Argo
  5. Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln”

I have legitimately no idea how to call this category.  None.  Which is fun.  Last year, Christopher Plummer had the lead from the beginning of the summer and never let up.  And the other four nominees were a mystery until nominations morning.

In 2012, we don’t even have the benefit of a frontrunner.  I’m saying Robert DeNiro has the lead at the moment because it’s the first time in decades he can be taken seriously by the Academy.  He hasn’t been nominated in 20 years and hasn’t won in 30 years.  And hey, guess what – the Oscars can make a Meryl out of him by giving him a third golden man!  It’s a lighter role for DeNiro yet still features plenty of depth in heart.  This category has been all about career achievement awards recently, making DeNiro a perfect fit.

On the other hand, young, upstart Eddie Redmayne is apparently the scene stealer of the supporting cast of “Les Miserables.”  With Russell Crowe apparently polarizing audiences, I think voters will likely rally around Redmayne.  He has a showy number at the end, “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” that will stick with viewers as they leave the theater.  If he can build consensus and doesn’t have to deal with vote-splitting, he could emerge a victor.

Philip Seymour Hoffman is just going for his second Oscar, but I think plenty of people would argue he’s an actor headed for the stature of Daniel Day-Lewis and Robert DeNiro.  He will get to two, and maybe “The Master” will get him there.  He won a prize at Venice (a tie with Joaquin Phoenix), and his co-lead status will help.

But I think his strength in the category will be largely determined by how well the movie does.  If it comes on strong (as I anticipate it might), he could be a serious threat to win.  But if it fires blanks, Hoffman will no longer be fighting to win and likely fighting to get nominated.

Alan ArkinAlan Arkin is likely in for “Argo,” but he’s only in the film for a handful of scenes.  He makes them the most funny and entertaining scenes in the film, though.  But I can’t help but wonder if he’s not as much of a shoo-in as some people think.  He’s already earned his lifetime achievement award – I mean, Best Supporting Actor prize in 2006 for “Little Miss Sunshine.”  And “Argo” may not be an actor’s movie.  So we will see.

As for that last slot, my brain says Tommy Lee Jones for “Lincoln” because a rising tide lifts all ships.  But I also wonder if Russell Crowe or Sacha Baron Cohen might make two nominations here for “Les Miserables,” the first time any movie would achieve such a feat in this category in over 20 years.

Or maybe Leonardo DiCaprio gets nominated for “Django Unchained” as so many are predicting.  I just can’t given how down to the wire the editing process is.

Best Supporting Actress

  1. Anne Hathaway, “Les Miserables”
  2. Sally Field, “Lincoln”
  3. Samantha Barks, “Les Miserables”
  4. Helen Hunt, “The Sessions
  5. Amy Adams, “The Master

Thanks for coming, everyone.  You did your best, but you weren’t good enough.  Anne Hathaway apparently gives a performance for the ages and makes everyone cry.  She has won.  It’s over before it even began.

So I just hope they don’t waste the other four nominations on people who don’t need them.  Since the other ladies aren’t really in contention to win, the word “Oscar nominee” could do wonders for a young actress’ career.  Like Samantha Barks, whose Eponine has plenty of tears she can jerk from her show-stopping “On My Own.”

And it could do a great deal to make the case for “she’s overdue to win” for Amy Adams, given that this would be her fourth nomination in her seven years since bursting on the scene.  That’s incredible.  At five, an eventual win becomes nearly guaranteed.

I don’t think she would have much of a chance to win, and probably wouldn’t be nominated if it weren’t such a weak year for the field.  “The Master” gives her very little to work with, but she’s fiercely intimidating and steely in what little she has.  I think unless the film totally collapses in the season, she will be able to squeeze in.

I bet Sally Field rides the coattails of “Lincoln” to a nomination, but she has won twice.  Would the Academy really crown two new Meryls in a year?  Past winner Helen Hunt will also probably figure into the race too, but I think her spot is at jeopardy given the film’s dismal box office performance.  She will need to stake a claim fast in the category or she runs the risk of getting forgotten.