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Can Daniel Day-Lewis Break The Spielberg Acting Awards Oscar Losing Streak For 'Lincoln?'

by Oliver Lyttelton
August 24, 2012 12:22 PM
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The Best Picture Chart
(last time's positions in brackets)

1. "Les Miserables" (2)
Even as it continues to be under the radar (and we can't imagine we'll see a full trailer before October, when Universal will open another musical movie, "Pitch Perfect"), given the pedigree, the material and the cast, this seems like a perfect storm. That said, we saw the trailer on the big screen recently, and Hooper's style looks more distracting than in "The King's Speech."
2. "Lincoln" (1)
See above. Plus, we'd long since seen a "War Horse" trailer by this time last year, a movie that opened six weeks later than "Lincoln" is in 2012. Is this a sign that Disney/DreamWorks aren't quite sure how to sell this one? A poster did at least appear this week, so let's see if it's followed by a trailer.
3. "Argo" (3)
We're continuing to hear very strong buzz about this one. Warner's decision to offer Ben Affleck "Justice League" seemed to demonstrate how confident they are in the film, and Affleck's decision to turn it down shows that he's serious about this whole filmmaking lark. Does it have a real chance at winning, though?
4. "Life Of Pi" (6)
Ang Lee's film is opening the New York Film Festival, the same slot that "Good Night, And Good Luck," "The Queen" and "The Social Network" all had in recent years, which bodes very well. Then again, that slot didn't much help "Carnage" last year, so don't assume that it's a home run just yet.
5. "The Master" (4)
The confirmation of the TIFF premiere make it clear that this is Harvey's great hope for the year. "There Will Be Blood" marked an awards breakthrough for Anderson, but let's not forget that beyond scattered acting and screenplay nods, his earlier films weren't necessarily Academy favorites, and this is apparently his most difficult yet.  
6. "Beasts Of The Southern Wild" (5)
Still one of the best-reviewed films of the year, but it's also something of an underdog (young first-time director, unknown cast) in a year full of serious behemoths. Will it end up looking like a minnow against the previously-lauded likes of Steven Spielberg, Tom Hooper, Ang Lee and Kathryn Bigelow?
7. "The Impossible" (10)
On the one hand, this has pretty much the undivided attention of Lionsgate/Summit, while most studios have multiple films competing for campaign time. That said, while the companies have Best Picture winners in the recent past ("Crash," "Hurt Locker"), they've gone a few years without a nominee. But a trailer aimed expertly at awards audiences made it look like a real player, and one early review certainly seems to suggest it's got the goods.
8. "The Promised Land" (11)
With an official release date, going limited on December 28th, followed by a wider bow in January, this is definitely going to be a player, although it'll be a while before we find out if it will dliever. The source material sounds like it's right in the Oscar wheelhouse (word is Hal Holbrook in particular is one to watch, performance wise), but Gus Van Sant can be inconsistent with this sort of thing. And will hitting the season so late help or hinder it? The last Best Picture winner to follow a similar release pattern was "Million Dollar Baby" eight years ago, and it may be finished too late for many critics' awards or even Top 10 lists.
9. "Hyde Park On Hudson" (13)
We saw the trailer again recently, and it reminded us that the film looks like the kind of thing that the Academy eats up. It will be carried on the back of Bill Murray and his performance, but the star can be reclusive and secretive with the press. He's probably assured an acting nomination, but he might have to step up and campaign if the film is to follow with him.
10. "Moonrise Kingdom" (9)
Hitting DVD in October, gives it a perfectly-timed second wind just as festival season winds down. We can see this making it onto a lot of ballots, but how many crucial first-place votes will it get?
11. "Zero Dark Thirty" (7)
One of the more divisive films right now for prognosticators, our gut says this could be a big player, but will what seems to be a journalistic, ensemble approach without a clear lead, hurt it? Are there any acting nominations up for grabs in the film? And will controversy about the research process be a problem?
12. "Flight" (15)
A premiere on the closing night of the New York Film Festival certainly shows that Paramount have Oscar in mind for this, and given that "The Descendants" had the same slot last year, it might well pay off. Then again, Clint Eastwood's "Hereafter" had it the year before, plus Zemeckis isn't an Academy golden goose. "Forrest Gump" aside, his other films haven't cracked the Best Picture line-up, even something like his last live-action film "Cast Away."
13. "The Sessions" (8)
The more we think about it, the more this might be a performance-only affair, and the multiple title changes show Fox Searchlight's nervousness about it. But it could start building buzz again by popping up at Telluride, and hopefully carrying its Sundance buzz through to Toronto.
14. "Anna Karenina" (18)
We know it's screened. We hear it's going to be very divisive. Reviews will start appearing just before TIFF, as the film opens in the UK on September 7th. Let's see how that turns out...
15. "Cloud Atlas" (13)
Some test screening reports got some exposure recently, some suggesting the film simply isn't Academy material. There's a slight sense that Warners aren't quite sure what to do with it, but the presence of Academy favorites like Tom Hanks and Jim Broadbent can only help it if the film works.
16. "The Silver Linings Playbook" (14)
We spoke to someone who'd seen the film, and they suggested it was interesting enough, but likely too brash and vulgar to figure into the awards season. Describing it "like all the loud, noisy [family arguments] in 'The Fighter' stretched to feature length," they suggested that the film wouldn't play with the Academy. But they also said that Jennifer Lawrence and especially Robert De Niro could figure into the acting races, but then again, it's just one person's opinion, so who knows... 
17. "Django Unchained" (19)
We keep being told we're undervaluing this, but it's always felt more "Kill Bill" than "Inglourious Basterds" to us. Then again, the period/Western setting might help, even if the slavery themes probably won't.
18. "To The Wonder" (17)
Between this and "Argo," Ben Affleck feels like he's about to have a Brad Pitt year -- the star used the momentum of "Moneyball" to help "The Tree Of Life" get a nomination last year. But that film was a fairly unopposed critical favorite, while "The Master" and "Beasts Of The Southern Wild" could pip this to the post. We'll find out if this works in a little over a week.
19. "The Dark Knight Rises" (16)
Feels more like "Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Pt. 2" than "Return Of The King" at this point, but then Warners are more concerned with the box office than awards campaigning this time around. It would help if the publicity-shy Christopher Nolan can be convinced to do the awards-centric press rounds later in the year.
20. "Song For Marion" (New)
We've been tipping this as a dark horse for about 18 months, but weren't sure if it was going to see the light of day in 2012. It's closing TIFF, which will give it a big boost, but that slot doesn't have a great history, with "The Young Victoria," "Last Night" and "Page Eight" playing in recent years. And do the Weinsteins have a place for it on their release calendar? If it plays well with critics, you bet they do.

Out: "Hitchcock" and "Out Of The Furnace" -- sources confirmed to In Contention that Fox Searchlight and Relativity had been flirting with the idea of pushing these two films up for Oscar contention, but have ultimately decided against it.

Bubbling Under:
"This Is 40," "The Hobbit," "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," "Trouble With The Curve," "Amour," "Killing Them Softly"

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  • CR | August 27, 2012 1:24 AMReply

    Do you know what the problem with moviegoers these days? We're so focused on stats and streaks that we forget about what's important: the actual movie. Here we have movies that haven't even been released and we're already trying to predict who will come out on top. While it's okay to speculate who will win, you cannot reach these sorts of conclusions without the slightest inkling of what the movie has in store. And the Academy? Don't get me started! They have made the movie industry so political that I can't tell for sure if the best film/actor/actress did win.

  • Thomas Sundby | August 26, 2012 10:38 AMReply

    If Daniel Day-Lewis can give a close picture of "Honest Abe" I`m sure he`ll be greatly rewarded for acting.

  • AJMR | August 25, 2012 11:52 AMReply

    Regarding the Oscar chart and the placement of Silver Linings Playbook, so one person's opinion motivated you guys to move SLP from 14 to 16?...yeah, right, long as Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert DeNiro receive the nominations they so richly deserve (and from what I'm hearing, especially Jennifer Lawrence), I'll be fine if Silver Linings Playbook does not score a best film nomination. It is funny though how you totally serious film types at IW play right along with the Hollywood politics (LOL).

  • JD | August 25, 2012 11:26 AMReply

    DDL will almost certainly get a nomination, as the guy just dosen't give bad performances, even if not every single film he's starred in has been great (although most have) and he is by general consensus far and away the best actor of his generation in an iconic role of one of history's great figures so the stars seem to be aligning. However the competition will be tough, yes Phoenix will more than likely garner a nomination as his performance is the best of his career. Whilst I favour Murray to get a nod for playing another president in Hyde Park on Hudson as for the others it is difficult to say who will come in the final nominations but at this stage it looks a 3 horse rivalry for the top honour, but this of course means nothing when you consider the snubs (Pacino 72-74 stands out) and unjustified wins that the academy has handed out (Tom Hanks Twice). So predicting the winner is hardly an exact science, only guessing the nominees is the closest we can get.

  • LA2000 | August 25, 2012 4:44 AMReply

    This feels like Joaquin Phoenix's year. The Oscars are selected by storytellers and it always seems that there is some narrative psychology going on (more than simply a clinical evaluation of merit) when they pick a winner. These people love a "come back" story, they love obvious actor-ly transformations like losing or gaining weight, they love the notion of hard earned redemption, and they love to anoint a new "king/queen for a day".

    Phoenix's narrative aligns with all of these. I think he's going to win because not only is the performance good, but because it will make a good story.

  • DG | August 24, 2012 8:07 PMReply

    Marie- Good point!

  • DG | August 24, 2012 8:06 PMReply

    Good point!

  • Xas | August 24, 2012 7:32 PMReply

    I read this argument before and I think this could be the biggest Day-Lewis' big disadvantage - Himself . His Daniel Plainview is considerated by many as one of the best Oscar winning performances and we need to remember he became unstoppable in that award season. The bar is too high and his Lincoln needs to surpase it with critical acclaim -Even more than Daniel Plainview- and unfortunally for him, his second Oscar is too recent in AMPAS members' memories. And next, his competition is strong: Hawkes -Character actor playing a real life diseable man in a feel-good movie hit by Sundance-, Joaquin Phoenix -One of the best actors of his generation who can make a great comeback with a tour-de-force performance in a PTA film not less-, Hugh Jackman -One of the most succesful Hollywood stars and Tony Award winner who has found a perfect role for his talents-, Bill Murray -Ex comedian playing another beloved US president in difficult times-, Denzel Washington -Maybe the most respected black actor of our times and also, he's still a magnetic Hollywood star- and even Brad Pitt -International Hollywood star whose last six years is making excellent choices working with auteurs and could have afterglow love after his last year's defeat-. So, I think, unless Day-Lewis surpass himself with an excelent film by Spielberg, he could be happy with just the nomination.

  • Flor | August 24, 2012 6:15 PMReply

    All I hope is that Joaquin Phoenix will win the Oscar for best actor, is excellent and deserves it for years!

  • Rajat | August 24, 2012 6:14 PMReply

    It's too early to say anything but i wish its DDL.He is the one of the greatest actors alive.He has done just 11 films since 1989,and given everything to each and every role.Other actors are also great but he is the best indeed.

  • Mark | August 24, 2012 5:47 PMReply

    Let's wait and see the performance first. Personally, I reckon it'll be a magnificent performance and the Oscar is his to lose.

  • Tom | August 24, 2012 5:37 PMReply

    I trust DDL to give the right kind of performance for Lincoln. That said, the Academy does seem to prefer showy work. It's a bit ridiculous to predict without seeing any of the films yet, but I'd say DDL, Joaquin and John Hawks are the three main players.

  • MAL | August 24, 2012 2:25 PMReply

    There was no more deserving winner than Ralph Feinnes the year he was nominated (but didn't win) for Schindler's List. As Marie sites below, his was subtle, nuanced and frightening -- too frightening for the Academy. Instead, the award went to the showy, over-the-top performance by Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive. Mr. Jones is an outstanding actor but there is really no comparison between his performance in No Country for Old Men to The Fugitive. Nope - the Academy goes for showy over subtle.

  • sp | August 24, 2012 2:12 PMReply

    Marie, you made a very good point .

  • Marie | August 24, 2012 4:22 PM

    I want to make it clear though that I think DDL was brilliant in There will be Blood and more subtle (in most of the film) than he is given credit for...That being said, both Daniel Plainview and Bill the Butcher are extreme characters, showmen, rageful, and on the fringes of society. They were unbalanced. LIncoln even with all his demons and eccentricities was not a man filled with rage. He was a balanced, thoughtful man who lacked malice..even if many people died becuase of his decisions. (now that's a tough spot to be in-- He apparently did have guilt which was evident in the fact that his favorite Shakespearean soliloquy was that of Claudius in Hamlet when he was praying for relief for his guilt.
    Back to DDL, his subtle work in the BOxer and the very underrated Ballad of Jack and Rose rivals any of his bigger performances. Good actors can play extreme characters or more down-to-earth characters. There is room for appreciation of both.

  • MJ | August 24, 2012 1:52 PMReply

    If it brings back the subtle DDL of old, I have no problem crowning him "the greatest actor in Hollywood history".

  • Mike | August 25, 2012 1:03 AM

    There's certainly merit in his performance in There Will be Blood, but I'd take the DDL of In the Name of the Father, The Boxer, etc. any day.

  • MAL | August 24, 2012 2:30 PM

    SP -- it's a shame you let the trailer sway you. DDL's performance in There Will Be Blood, while bold and brash, was nuanced with tremendous humanity and realism that made an impressive film truly powerful.

  • sp | August 24, 2012 2:26 PM

    MJ, I hate the current over-the-top DDL. I still have not seen There Will Be Blood, because DDL was unbearably over-the-top in the trailer.

  • Mike | August 24, 2012 1:35 PMReply

    DDL might be really great in Lincoln and he might win a lot of precursor awards this upcoming awards season, but I think the Academy voters will say pass on him. Just like what happened with his performance in Gangs of New York. The Oscar will go to somebody else. Either for Murray who hasn't won or maybe Phoenix who will stir up more talks in The Master.

  • mpbstereo | August 24, 2012 1:16 PMReply

    "Oscar losing streak..." most directors would consider it a compliment to even qualify for a losing streak.

  • yer | August 24, 2012 1:16 PMReply

    Having seen THE MASTER a couple of days ago in SF, DDL's performance will have to be right up there with his best to beat Phoenix. Phoenix gives a De Niro in his prime type of performance in TM.

  • Dan | August 24, 2012 1:02 PMReply

    Joaquin Phoenix or John Hawkes will win.

  • sandra | August 24, 2012 12:58 PMReply

    Not if Joaquin has anything to say about it.

  • DG | August 24, 2012 12:46 PMReply

    I'm not sure why people are treating Lincoln like some sort of guaranteed success already. Yes it has a lot going for it in terms of cast and the idea of DDL doing something like this sounds obviously amazing but I think the subject matter honestly sounds like a potential snooze rest. Maybe I'm totally wrong and the movie will be riveting but I'm guessing if that happens it will because DDL gives an intense performance, in which case he'll deserve awards talk/recognition, but for now it seems a little premature no?

  • Marie | August 24, 2012 11:09 PM

    You have a point. To be honest, I don't care if he wins an Oscar. I just want him to deserve a nomination. Deserving an award and getting one are not always the same thing. I am fairly confident this won't be Amistad. Kushner is too good of a writer. Another thought...let's say, that this movie is really good and the performance is really strong and it makes a boatload of money (perfect ideal situation and just for the sake of argument obviously because historical films can be tough to make perfectly) , could the academy be even more impressed because DDL is playing someone so much the opposite of Daniel Plainview. If his Lincoln is really really likable, perhaps he could win on likeability. Its happened before--I mean compare Sean Penn's harvey milk to his character in Mystic RIver.. In all honesty though, I don't think he's going to win. And I don't imagine the film will be a massive blockbuster and its bound to have some people who dislike it (Spielberg's got some haters; hell, Lincoln's even got some haters or people not so impressed with heroic status.) The things I am most concerned about the performance are that he does a convincing rustic accent, has at least a somewhat high-pitched voice and doesn't forget that LIncoln had a droll sense of humor. If he nails those aspects, he'll be fine. The more brooding elements of lincoln are easy for an actor like DDL.

  • ben | August 24, 2012 6:42 PM

    @marie: you're right, performances don't have to be "intense" to be compelling/worthy of awards. The question is, does the Academy generally agree? Would they give it to a guy who's already won two for a performance more subdued and less immediately impressive (like his Daniel Plainview)? And for a possibly mediocre film (this could very well be another Amistad, for all we know)?

  • Dan | August 24, 2012 1:28 PM

    Marie is right. Those are great performances. They do get nominations, but not wins. Oldman sadly lost for the best performance any actor gave last year for the low key Tinker, Tailor, Solder, Spy. Pacino lost for his best film performance in The Godfather Part II, and Liam Neeson and Anthony Hopkins lost for great work in the same year (Schindler's List and The Remains of Day). This is sad when you do consider how great these are, and how dated or over the top some of the performances that do win awards become over time (take note: Some not all!)

  • Marie | August 24, 2012 12:51 PM

    Do all performances have to be 'intense' to be compelling or worthy of awards? What about nuanced, thoughtful,quietly determined, charismatic, idiosyncratic, funny/droll, conflicted, cunning and sad performances. BTW, these are all traits that the supposedly- boring Abraham Lincoln had. I personally don't want a maniacal and extreme performance. DDL proved he could do that already.

  • Prolly Not | August 24, 2012 12:32 PMReply

    No. Daniel Day-Lewis is bound to give an incredible performance but I can see him being passed up for either Joaquin Phoenix in THE MASTER or Bill Murray in "Give Me An Oscar in Hudson"

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