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My First Round of 2012 Oscar Predictions

It’s officially that time of year. Actually, I won’t lie about the fact that I’m showing up a bit late to the party. Some of my fellow prognosticators laid out their first set of predictions the day after the last Oscars closed the curtain, or at least when a few contenders began to emerge during the course of the summer. However, I have been plagued by indecision, distaste over the last event’s disappointments and general fatigue, overall. Yet, it’s time to lift the veil and get back to what I’m good at. It’s time to get down to business.

Where to begin? Everything written up to and including now should be considered speculation or strong theory, at best. However, before we dive too deep into what we haven’t even seen, yet, there have definitely been a few films already released that might have a decent run at the gold.

Perhaps the first big contender to emerge in the Best Picture race is “Midnight in Paris.” While Woody Allen has made far better films, this is certainly both an original and different pass for him. It doesn’t hurt that it’s easily the highest grossing film he’s ever made. Voters might enjoy seeing his mighty return to the Best Picture category for the first time in 25 years and could use this film as a platform to do it. I’m personally not buying into that logic, quite yet.

However, while “Midnight in Paris” seems like a long shot, another film seems almost assured to go all the way. That, movie is “The Help,” and it is a piece of cinema that the Academy will likely eat up with a spoon. Even if it somehow falls out of Best Picture contention, one should already consider Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer to be surefire contenders. But the film is burning through the box office and leaving audiences with a sweet taste in their mouths. This is the type of phenomenon that can easily survive all the way to the heart of the awards season.

Aside from Best Picture contenders, the summer has produced its usual slew of blockbusters that will have their way with the technical awards. Expect both “Transformers 3” and “Super 8” to sweep nominations in Best Sound, Sound Editing and Visual Effects. While I never bought into the brief debate over “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows” and its Best Picture status, I’d guess that the franchise’s last hurrah will make stabs for several awards including Best Art Direction and Cinematography. Finally, perhaps the strongest lock for a nomination and perhaps the win is this season’s biggest surprise, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and it’s extraordinary CG effects.

Now that we’ve gone through what we know, it’s time to move on to what’s important: what we don’t. A handful of question marks remain hovering above many titles. However, several films have emerged as being close to sure things as possible. Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse” has been on radar screens for a while now, but after the trailer hit the web a few months ago, expectations have exploded. Based on a Tony Award-winning play, the film must pack a powerful story, while the visuals look absolutely astounding. If the film is as good as it is expected, a clean-sweep is not out of the cards. Yet, voters may feel like holding off of awarding Spielberg again with his next film, “Lincoln” finally getting the go-ahead for next year.

Both of George Clooney’s vehicles, “The Descendants” in which he stars and “The Ides of March” which he also co-wrote and directed, seem primed for glory. The last time Clooney took to the director’s chair with a serious topic, the film earned 6 nominations. His new feature also bolsters a stellar cast and very relevant subject matter. Meanwhile, “The Descendants” features what seems to be fantastic, heartfelt story written and directed by Alexander Payne, who appears to be at the peak of his career and possibly primed for Oscar glory. Both films have issued trailers that tease strong potential for taking home the grand prize.

Ironically, the film that has, by far, the strongest pedigree is the one that we have seen the least from. Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar” has all of the chops of a Best Picture winner. It’s a biopic that shines a light on the little-known aspects of its subject. It has a solid cast including Leonardo DiCaprio (who might finally be poised to win his first Oscar), Naomi Watts, Armie Hammer and Judi Dench. It’s a period piece, sure to be flush with lavish costumes and set dressings. Yet, most of all, it has Clint Eastwood,  who has reached a point in his career in which it’s almost unlikely for him not to be the frontrunner for Best Director. Of all films this year, this one seems to have the most potential. Now all we need is a glimpse of it.

After those four principle films, any number of possibilities could round out the final spots. There’s Roman Polanski’s character study, “Carnage,” Tomas Alfredson’s thriller, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” Lynn Ramsay’s vicious drama “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” and Bennett Miller’s baseball biopic “Moneyball.” Not to mention the period piece, “A Dangerous Method,” centering on the rivalry between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud. David Cronenberg has been passed over a lot for Oscar. Could this finally be his vehicle that will take him to his first Best Director nomination? We’ll see.

Meanwhile, two movies stand with a fog of uncertainty around them due to their subject matter. The Cannes smash hit “The Artist,” is the first mainstream silent film to be released in, well, nearly a century. While undoubtedly phenomenal, it’s unclear whether the Academy will embrace such a curveball of a narrative and stylistic choice.

Then there is the hugely anticipated “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” remake. Some say that it will be too brutal,grisly and depressing for the Academy. In its defense, I must point attention to “The Silence of the Lambs” which defied odd to be come the first horror movie to ever win Best Picture, twenty years ago. Others will believe that the Oscars won’t go for an American remake of such a recently released foreign film. Yet again, I must refer to the “The Departed” which remade an Asian film only four years after the original’s release. A lot of factors weigh against it, but I believe that David Fincher will not only pull off the film, but carry enough guilt over from last year’s outrageous snub to take the movie all the way.

Well, I’ve gone on for quite a bit so I’ll leave my discussion of this year’s acting contenders for another piece. Below, I have my full list of predictions which I will try to update at least once every month until nominations are announced. Remember that these are just speculation, but take heed that I’ve still put a lot of thought into them.

Enjoy the rest after the jump or view them under the prediction tab, here.

BEST PICTURE

1. J. Edgar
2. War Horse
3. The Descendants
4. The Ides of March
5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
6. The Artist
7. The Help
8. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Alt 1: A Dangerous Method
Alt 2: Carnage

BEST DIRECTOR

1. Clint Eastwood – J. Edgar
2. David Fincher – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
3. Steven Spielberg – War Horse
4. Alexander Payne – The Descendants
5. George Clooney – The Ides of March

Alt 1:  David Cronenberg – A Dangerous Method
Alt 2: Terrence Malick – The Tree of Life

BEST ACTOR

1. Leonardo DiCaprio – J. Edgar
2. George Clooney – The Descendants
3. Gary Oldman – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
4. Jean Dujardin – The Artist
5. Michael Fassbender – A Dangerous Method

Alt 1: Ryan Gosling – The Ides of March
Alt 2: Michael Shannon – Take Shelter

BEST ACTRESS

1. Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady
2. Tilda Swinton – We Need to Talk About Kevin
3. Viola Davis – The Help
4. Glenn Close – Albert Nobbs
5. Elizabeth Olsen – Martha Marcy May Marlene

Alt 1: Rooney Mara – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Alt 2: Michelle Williams – My Week with Marilyn

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

1. Christopher Plummer – The Beginners
2. Kenneth Branagh – My Week with Marilyn
3. Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Ides of March
4. Armie Hammer – J. Edgar
5. Viggo Mortensen – A Dangerous Method

Alt 1: Jim Broadbent – The Iron Lady
Alt 2: Brad Pitt – The Tree of Life

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

1. Keira Knightley – A Dangerous Method
2. Naomi Watts – J. Edgar
3. Octavia Spencer – The Help
4. Vanessa Redgrave – Coriolanus
5. Shailene Woodley – The Descendants

Alt 1:  Kate Winslet – Carnage
Alt 2: Emily Watson – War Horse

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

1. The Descendants
2. The Ides of March
3. War Horse
4. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Alt 1: The Help
Alt 2: A Dangerous Method

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

1. The Artist
2. Midnight in Paris
3. Martha Marcy May Marlene
4. J. Edgar
5. Win Win

Alt 1: Like Crazy
Alt 2: Young Adult

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

1. Rango
2. The Adventures of Tin Tin: Secret of the Unicorn
3. Kung Fu Panda 2
4. Happy Feet 2
5. Cars 2

Alt 1: Arthur Christmas
Alt 2: Rio

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

1. Project Nim
2. The Interrupters
3. Tabloid
4. Senna
5. When a Tree Falls

Alt 1: Buck
Alt 2: How to Die in Oregon

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

– T.B.D.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

1. War Horse
2. The Tree of Life
3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
4. The Artist
5. J. Edgar

Alt 1: Hugo
Alt 2: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

BEST EDITING

1. J. Edgar
2. War Horse
3. The Ides of March
4. The Girl with Dragon Tattoo
5. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Alt 1: The Artist
Alt 2: Contagion

BEST ART DIRECTION

1. Hugo
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part 2
3. War Horse
4. The Artist
5. Water for Elephants

Alt 1: A Dangerous Method
Alt 2: J. Edgar

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

1. The Artist
2. J. Edgar
3. War Horse
4. Hugo
5. My Week with Marilyn

Alt 1: Jane Eyre
Alt 2: The Help

BEST SOUND EFFECTS MIXING

1. Super 8
2. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
3. War Horse
4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
5. Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Alt 1: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part 2
Alt 2: J. Edgar

BEXT SOUND EFFECTS EDITING

1. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
2. Rango
3. Super 8
4. The Adventures of Tin Tin: Secret of the Unicorn
5. Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Alt 1: Cars 2
Alt 2: Real Steel

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

1. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
2. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
3. Super 8
4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part 2
5. Hugo

Alt 1: Captain America: The First Avenger
Alt 2: Cowboys and Aliens

BEST MAKEUP EFFECTS

1. The Iron Lady
2. J. Edgar
3. Albert Nobbs

Alt 1: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Alt 2: Hugo

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

1. War Horse
2. Rango
3. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
4. The Artist
5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Alt 1: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part 2
Alt 2: The Help

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

– T.B.D.

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