By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com December 13, 2012 at 2:24PM
It's the end of a busy-ass awards week, and a pretty crucial one as far as the Oscar season goes. Within the space of a few days, we've had the LA Film Critics Circle announcements, the Critics Choice Award nods, the SAG nominations and, this morning, the Golden Globe nominees being revealed.
We've got a couple of days of breathing room from major awards announcements, but with Oscar voting getting underway on Monday, we thought it seemed like a good idea to take the temperature of the major Best Picture contenders. Who had a good week? And which films were dealt a final death blow by omission from the big dogs? Read our take below, let us know where you differ in the comments section below.
Safely locked in at this stage, with Steven Spielberg once again expected to return to the Dolby Theater. Its three major actors -- Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones -- have popped up in all the major precursors, and it's had a heft of nominations everywhere, including seven at the Globes today (and given the American-leaning subject matter, and that they mostly shut out "War Horse" last year, that wasn't a foregone conclusion). It's one of the few films that's set to do well both above and below the line, which is always helpful, and it's been a big hit, crossing $100 million at the box office. It's certainly going to attract nominations in double-figures -- how many of them it converts into wins is the next question, and the one that'll play out over the next couple of months.
This one swept the early critics' awards and continues to figure fairly heavily elsewhere, though late screeners may have stopped it from picking up a Best Ensemble nod from the SAG (though it may also have been that they simply preferred the other films, which are a bit more A-list heavy). Jessica Chastain increasingly looks like the Best Actress front-runner, and Boal, Bigelow and the film itself are pretty much locked in. But we do wonder whether it has the right stuff to actually win. There's a risk that it may not perform below-the-line like some of its competition, and a wealth of nods is always helpful when it comes to a Best Picture win. Perhaps more importantly, being a cerebral procedural means it doesn't appeal to classic Hollywood-type voting -- even more so than "The Hurt Locker," it's targeting the head over the heart. Plus it remains to be seen how the controversy about the film's depiction of torture (brewed up almost entirely by people who haven't seen the film, it should be said) will end up affecting it. Will the story be played out by next week? Or is it likely to haunt the film as more and more people see it?
We always knew that 'Les Mis' was never really going to be a critical favorite, but we didn't think it'd be to this extent. The film picked up some fairly savage notices when the embargo broke, and currently stands at 56 on Metacritic and 74 on Rotten Tomatoes, significantly under most of its competition (we suspect those numbers will go down, rather than up, as it gets closer to release). There are signs of weakness elsewhere, most notably when Tom Hooper was snubbed by the Golden Globes for Best Director, a particularly tough category (only a handful of films have won Best Picture at the Oscars without a Globes nomination for the director, most recently "Crash"). All that said, the critics don't vote for the Oscars, the Academy members do, and a strong SAG showing, including Best Ensemble, suggest that it's certainly going to be a Best Picture nominee. But while it looked after those early screenings like it had the possibillity to romp home to Best Picture victory, now we're not so sure, particularly with so much competition. As such, it's still in play for the win, but could use some help at the box office and from the other guilds. A DGA nomination for Hooper would go a long way to putting it back on track -- after all, the last four years have seen the Globes and the Oscars differ on one Best Director nomination, so one could certainly expect Hooper (or David O. Russell) to sneak back in.
Anointed the early front-runner way back when, "Argo" always had a tough fight to keep the momentum up, and there were signs of the film slipping of late, particularly when "Zero Dark Thirty" turned up, with its geo-political subject matter stealing some of the thunder from Ben Affleck's film. But the blowing-in-the-wind Oscar pundits have been undervaluing just how much the film's beloved by the Hollywood community, and it's had strong showings this week, with an ensemble nod from the SAG and five nominations from the Globes (second only to "Lincoln"). Ultimately, any thought of "traction" or "momentum" comes second to people really, really liking the film, and "Argo" hits the Academy membership right in its sweet spot. Is that enough for it to win? We suspect not, but in such a divided field, it may well be, especially if ZDT starts to fade.
Another film deemed to be fading by some of late, that's been largely thanks to a modest box office performance, but that's only because it's still in limited release (Weinstein, you need to change this asap). It's also had a weakish showing from the critics' groups. But where it truly counts, the film's had some good few days of late -- four nods, including ensemble, from the SAG, and another four from the Globes (though, interestingly, a snub for Robert De Niro and David O. Russell as director). The film manages to straddle being both well-liked by critics, and being a crowd-pleaser that Academy-types are clearly responding to. That said, it won't pick anything up below the line, which hurts its chances when it comes to Best Picture, and Russell could potentially slip out of Best Director at the Oscars too, which could pretty much stop it in its tracks. And we do wonder how many people, Jeff Wells aside, would put it as their number one movie of the year. A film that comes second or third on ballots can fare OK with nominations, but isn't going to win anything. Not to be dismissed, even so.