American Hustle, Jennifer Lawrence

Still To Come

As ever, the supporting categories can be somewhat unpredictable, so much could still change when new films bow and we see what their ensembles have to offer. Given the success of "Silver Linings Playbook" and "The Fighter" in the acting categories, David O Russell's "American Hustle" has to be worth keeping an eye on (Russell got Jacki Weaver a nomination last year despite the actress having about seven lines of dialogue in the movie). Amy Adams is going to be campaigning as a lead here, which makes Jennifer Lawrence the obvious contender for the film. That said, in the draft of the script we read, it didn't seem an especially nominateable part, but we suspect it's been expanded in the meantime.

Adams could still crop up in the category, though, thanks to her part in Spike Jonze's "Her" -- the film's an unknown quantity at this point, but given Adams' four nominations in the category, she's likely to be in the conversation. We'd wondered about Vanessa Redgrave in "Foxcatcher" for a while, but obviously the film's recent delay into 2014 makes that one impossible for now.

A potentially serious threat is Cameron Diaz in "The Counselor." On the page, it's a killer role, but we've always wondered if Diaz might be miscast in the role, and reports we've heard recently that Diaz filmed the part with a Hispanic accent, and then redubbed it (Jodie-Foster-in-"Elysium" style) doesn't fill us with confidence. But if she can pull the part off, she's definitely the film's best bet at the gold.

Elsewhere, Kristin Wiig could be a possibility if there's anything more to her role in "The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty" than a romantic foil, while Cate Blanchett shouldn't be counted out for "Monuments Men," and Emily Watson could figure in from "The Book Thief" if the film works. And there are longer shot possibilities from Zoe Saldana in "Out Of The Furnace," Elizabeth Olsen in "Oldboy" and even Julianne Moore in "Carrie" (let's not forget that Piper Laurie was nominated for the same part in Brian DePalma's original).

So that's how the field looks. If we had to pick five right now, it'd be the ones below. Next week: the fiercely competitive Best Actor line-up.

Best Supporting Actress Predictions - September 30th

Cameron Diaz - "The Counselor"

Margo Martindale - "August Osage County"

Lupita Nyong'o - "Twelve Years A Slave"

June Squibb - "Nebraska"

Oprah Winfrey - "Lee Daniels' The Butler"

Best Picture Chart - September 30th

12 Years A Slave

1. "12 Years A Slave" (last week's position: =)

The first hint of a backlash arrived with a piece questioning whether Solomon Northrup really wrote the book that chronicles his experiences. But if that's the worst that the hit squad can come up with, this should have a more painless passage than expected. And rivals are clearly a bit scared of it: it's hard not to feel that the film's early dominance is part of the reason for some of these delays. 

2. "American Hustle" (=)

This can only benefit from the wavering of "The Wolf Of Wall Street," which appeared to be its closest genre competition in the race, and from the delay of Sony Picture Classic's "Foxcatcher." If 'Slave' distributors Fox Searchlight are looking over their shoulder, it's because of this one.

3. "Gravity" (=)

The press who didn't see this on the festival circuit caught up with it in the last week or so, and in general the critical hosannas continued, though a minority see it as a pure theme park ride. It's tracking to open as high as $40 million at the weekend which would only help its case.

4. "Saving Mr. Banks" (=)

We believe that this is going to be unveiled as a secret screening at NYFF, so we should have word on this soon. Not the hip choice, necessarily, but it should be very Academy-friendly.

5. "Captain Philips" (7)

After slightly muted reception when those first reviews leaked out just before TIFF, the word on this got better and better as its NYFF premiere took place. We feel confident enough that this is definitely among the eventual Best Picture nominees at this stage -- but does it have the right stuff to challenge for the win.

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty

6. "The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty" (=)

We're a matter of days away from its NYFF unveiling, but don't hold your breath for critical raves: we suspect that the knives may be out for it in some quarters. That said, raves for "Life Of Pi" last year helped carry it through, so if the reaction's even vaguely positive, it'll shore up its slot.

7. "Inside Llewyn Davis" (8)

There are those out there who think this is a longer shot than we do, but they seem to be forgetting that "A Serious Man" made the final line-up, and that was a film as difficult as anything the Coens had made since "Barton Fink." This isn't necessarily any more endearing, but the "O Brother"-style music angle is undoubtedly a boon, and the reviews are raves.

8. "Dallas Buyers Club" (11)

One of the films that benefits from some of the other contenders falling out. We're expecting reviews for the movie itself to be a little less glowing when the film itself arrives in early November, but this is looking more and more like it'll have the right stuff for a Best Picture nod to go with its acting nominations.

9. "Nebraska" (14)

Word is that Academy types are really responding to the film, despite the black and white and the relatively minor tone. Plus, as a Paramount release, this stands to gain more than most from a potential delay to "The Wolf Of Wall Street," especially having moved to a plum Thanksgiving slot.

10. "Monuments Men" (12)

With the potentials for last-minute surprises fading, "Monuments Men" is well-placed to swoop in, as one of the last films to screen, and pick up last-minute momentum. And while some raise eyebrows that it looks more of a commercial proposition, the same might have been said about "Argo," sight-unseen.

August: Osage County' Starring Meryl Streep
"August: Osage County" Available for Pre-Buy in iTunes

11. "August Osage County" (9)

Uncharacteristically, the Weinsteins lost control of the narrative over this one after the mixed reviews and the talk of changing the ending. Now an AFI slot has opened up with "Foxcatcher"'s absence, it could certainly benefit from a relaunch closer to the Academy base.

12. "Philomena" (16)

Still a touch under the radar, despite buzzy reviews on the festival circuit, but this feels like it's much more well-liked than The Weinstein Company's other contenders, and it's not impossible to see Harvey putting his muscle behind this as 'August' falters.

13. "Prisoners" (17)

On the one hand, a strong box-office opening, and people seem to be really responding to the movie. On the other, it's a long way to nominations in January, and we can see this slipping over time, particularly given the easy dismissals it gets from some as a pure genre picture. 

14. "Lee Daniels' The Butler" (13)

We just can't see this lasting the distance, especially as other nominations beyond Oprah and Original Screenplay seem like stretches. But only a fool would doubt Harvey Weinstein completely.

15. "All Is Lost" (18)

We're yet to hear much in the way of bad words about the Robert Redford vehicle, but the film's reception on release may be crucial as to whether it's seen as a one-man show, or if it's a more serious best picture contender. Again, the more films that slip out, the better the news is for this one, but with Roadside Attractions putting the film out, it does have an uphill battle -- the company's sole Best Picture nominee was "Winter's Bone."

Rush, Chris Hemsworth

16. "Rush" (15)

On the plus side, it's a hit abroad (it rose to the top spot in its second week in the UK), and audiences love it. On the minus, its screen average on opening weekend in the U.S. was fairly mediocre, behind summer movies like 'The Spectacular Now" and "Before Midnight." It'll need to do a lot better in wide release to show us that it can last through to February.

17. "Her" (20)

We heard it's good. Really, really good, and more obviously emotional than Spike Jonze's early work. Our gut is that it'll still be too offbeat for the Academy, but things will become clearer by the time it closes NYFF.

18. "The Wolf Of Wall Street" (5)

It's down and out to some already, but it's important to remember that despite the news this week, the film hasn't officially moved to 2014 yet, hence the film still being on the chart. But its lower ranking reflects not just the possibility that it is delayed, but also that Paramount are willing to entertain the possibility -- if it was an awards sure thing, they'd move heaven and earth for even a limited 2013 opening. That a delay is an option (plus rumors that the film's flirting with an NC-17 rating) suggests that the studio might feel it just won't play with the Academy.

19. "Blue Jasmine" (24)

Rising up the ranks partly because with "Foxcatcher" out, this becomes Sony Pictures Classics' biggest hope. And partly because we recalled that we were similarly skeptical that "Midnight In Paris" could last the distance, until it did. That said, it'll be a tougher fight to get Academy members to really love, rather than respect, the film as well as Blanchett's performance.

20. "Fruitvale Station" (19)

Sundance movies like this generally need notices like "Beasts Of The Southern Wild" to break through, and while the film's well-liked, it doesn't have the same momentum. It's still in the chase, but it's a way back still.

Enough Said

21. "Enough Said" (new)

We've been wondering about this one for a while, but a strong screen average in its opening weekend (in the ballpark of Best Picture nominees like "Frost/Nixon" and "Juno") was better than even our expectations for it. It doesn't mean everything, and it's still long shot for Best Picture, but if Fox Searchlight really chased it, it could happen.

22. "Out Of The Furnace" (=)

Scott Cooper's film will premiere away from the traditional festival circuit, at Rome. Is this a bold attempt to find a new awards launching pad? Or an acknowledgement from Relativity that the film's unlikely to get much traction.

23. "The Book Thief" (21)

We're keeping this in here until it starts to screen, but we suspect it'll really have to be exceptional -- or at least, exceptionally manipulative -- to break into the race, even as others fall out.

24. "The Counselor" (23)

The more marketing we see on this, the more we suspect that Fox are treating it as a commercial release rather than an awards run. Could yet potentially surprise, though.

25. "Labor Day" (new)

We dismissed this a little last week after tepid reception at TIFF and Telluride, but the film does have its fans, and if they become more vocal, that may be all the film needs. Still feels more "Young Adult" than "Up In The Air."

Bubbling Under, Or Basically Non-Starters: "Lone Survivor," "Before Midnight," "Frances Ha," "Mud," "The Past," "The Place Beyond The Pines," "The Spectacular Now'

Out: "Foxcatcher," which may not have been ready (Bennett Miller had a three-hour cut of the film not long ago, though had subsequently got it down), or may be keeping its fingers crossed for a quieter year, and "Grace of Monaco," which Harvey had high hopes for, but either needs more time to be finished, or is more "Diana" than "My Week With Marilyn."