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Oscar Watch: The Artist is the One to Beat

by Anne Thompson
December 15, 2011 4:29 PM
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Dujardin & Bejo in "The Artist"
Dujardin & Bejo in "The Artist"

Yes, "The Artist" is running away with the Oscar ball. It has love from critics, dominated the SAG and Golden Globes nominations, and is strong with actors and craftspeople alike. As a nostalgic love letter to the movies--and a comic/tragic/romance--it has everything a Academy member could love, and will grab more Oscar nominations than any other film.

What could beat it? Winning Best Picture is about getting the love from all sectors of the Academy, including the biggest branch, the actors. Clearly, Martin Scorsese's well-reviewed "Hugo" and Steven Spielberg's "War Horse" (which has yet to be reviewed by critics and audiences) aren't winning over the actors. Neither is Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life." That is not a necessity to land a best picture nomination, but it helps if you want to win. Scorsese, Spielberg and Malick could score as favored insiders in the director race, and all three films will score multiple nominations through the technical catgories. But even so, French outsider Michel Hazanavicius could still lead the directors race as well. And silent stars Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo will land nominations, for once not hampered by speaking accented English.

Alexander Payne's "The Descendants" does have actors behind it--George Clooney could win Best Actor, and Shailene Woodley has a shot at best Supporting Actress. Payne is a strong contender for Director and Adapted Screenplay. (Robert Forster hasn't shown up anywhere, but he is a favorite among actors.) But as a small-scale ensemble comedy, "The Descendants" not only peaked earlier at the fall festivals, but won't register through the technical categories. And not everybody loves it.

Popular favorites "Moneyball" and "The Help" do have actor support; "Moneyball" could win Adapted Screenplay, and Brad Pitt could muster a challenge to Clooney. "The Help"'s Viola Davis could beat Meryl Streep for best actress, and Octavia Spencer is the favorite in supporting. But Bennett Miller and Tate Taylor are not locks for director and their films will not score in technical categories.

Woody Allen's popular hit "Midnight in Paris," which has done well so far, is unlikely to score much beyond best picture, director and writer nominations. And while actor-directors often do well with the Academy, I don't see Clooney's "The Ides of March" or Clint Eastwood's poorly reviewed "J. Edgar" yielding many nominations. Leonardo DiCaprio has the best shot. It's hard to see anything picking up new momentum between now and ballot time. David Fincher's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" could build a groundswell for Rooney Mara, and might score nods for editing or score, but it's still hurt by its status as a hard-R genre remake.

Which leaves "The Artist" cleaning up the field.


  • Anne Thompson | December 19, 2011 1:27 AMReply

    Spielberg is a strong candidate for best director, along with Alexander Payne, Terrence Malick, Martin Scorsese and Michel Hanzanavicius. Behind them are Bennett Miller and Woody Allen, which is why this is not the year for Nic Winding Refn to get in.

    I don't feel the Academy love for Drive, which I always knew the critics would support. That helps. But it's such a violent genre piece--the things that dive-bombed it with general audiences apply to the Academy as well. Even though they nominated Gosling for Half Nelson, Drive and Ides of March cancel each other out. Albert Brooks has the best shot.

  • Isaac | December 17, 2011 10:09 AMReply

    I think that Drive should be nominated for Best Actor (Ryan Gosling), Best Supporting Actor (Albert Brooks), Best Original Score (Cliff Martinez), Best Director (Nicolas Winding Refn), Best Editing (Matthew Newman), Best Cinematography (Newton Thomas Sigel) and of course Best Picture. It was easily the best film to emerge this year.

  • Michael | December 17, 2011 5:54 AMReply

    Amazed DRIVE, TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY and THE TREE OF LIFE were shut out of the Globe race but I have a feeling Oscar will set things right with 3 of the best films of the year scoring director nods, and DRIVE and THE TREE OF LIFE should go head-to-head in the editing and cinematography categories. Something tells me Spielberg should write a speech for next time. He's been gone a while and TINTIN may get all the love this year, but what a nice surprise it would be to see him cop a nod for directing that instead of the too-sentimental WARHORSE (which has been talked up way too much).
    Fingers crossed for Melissa McCarthy, Nick Nolte, and very dark horse Almodovar for his latest...

  • Justin | December 16, 2011 2:13 PMReply

    Finally, somone saying it as it is. Not only is The Descendants a rip-off of The Kids are Alright, you've bern the only one bold enough to say the underdog will win it all

  • shernawaz | December 16, 2011 5:01 AMReply

    hello, what you would say about ryan gosling acting in drive? i think this movie would grab some nominations and awards.

  • Gustavo | December 15, 2011 4:34 PMReply

    What about Spielberg's chances in the director category? I think he has never been nominated for an Oscar without being nominated by the HFPA before.

  • ProfDave | December 16, 2011 1:13 PM

    Gustavo, after screening War Horse last week, I found it to be only slightly above average. And although the direction was good, it's a crowded category and I believe there are many others more deserving than Spielberg (Nicolas Winding Refn, Hazanavicius, Scorsese, Allen, and even Clooney ... I must be forgeting others)

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