The most interesting about this year is that, for the first time, no one know how many nominees for Best Picture there will be. All we know is that there will somewhere between five and ten. In the Kremlinology involved in deciphering the motivation for these rule changes, one can be a little perplexed. If the absence of The Dark Knight in 2008 occasioned the expansion of the nominees from five to ten, what film made the powers-that-be dial it back?
Some have speculated it was The Blind Side, but that particular film was nominated two years ago, not last year, so if it is the culprit it was a slow reaction. I’m thinking that one of last year’s nominees–maybe Winter’s Bone, which was a worthy nominee–had a paltry amount of votes. Now, any film that doesn’t get at least five percent won’t be nominated, thus eliminating the chance that a film could be nominated with only one vote.
The Blind Side was really the only WTF? movie that was nominated over the two-year ten-nominee period. I liked some more than others, but it didn’t lead to any major embarrassments. I have a feeling that this winnowing process will hurt some films, like Winter’s Bone and A Serious Man, that deserve to be nominated. We’ll see.
And now, my highly unscientific, arbitrary, and clueless list of ten films that seem to stand a good chance at getting nominated. And I’ll also make a guess at how many films end up getting nominated: 7. It’s my lucky number.
Carnage (Roman Polanski, December): Adaptation of the play God of Carnage, with the God edited out presumably for the sensitive American audience. Polanski is a hot button, but this seems like it good be very good, and it has Christoph Waltz playing someone who isn’t a villain, which will be a nice stretch. Also with Kate Winslet, known Oscar favorite.
Contagion (Steven Soderbergh, Sept. 9); Trailers look promising, great cast, classy director, and a squirm-in-your-seat subject matter. This is the kind of genre film that the expansion seems to have helped out.
The Descendants (Alexander Payne, Nov. 23): I love Payne (not pain–I’m not a masochist), and teaming him with George Clooney seems like good Oscar bait. Payne scored an Oscar nominations for Sideways, so it’s not unprecedented.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Stephen Daldry, December): Daldry has made three movies, he’s been nominated for Best Director three times. The last two were also Best Picture nominees. That could either mean he has momentum, or he’s do for a let-down. I’m betting on the former, given that this is a 9/11 film.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (David Fincher, Dec. 21): Sure to be a box-office smash, and with the Fincher imprimatur should get oohs and aahs from critics. This has a chance to be the one film of the lot that celebrates commerce over art…
The Help (Tate Taylor, Aug. 10)…or it could be The Help, which has sparked debate amongst intellectuals and has also managed to be a big hit. It is a middlebrow examination of a complex issue, which is right up Oscar’s alley. If there were ten nominees, it would be a sure nominee.
The Ides of March (George Clooney, Oct. 2): Clooney could be seeing double-duty in this category. This one is a political drama, which is sure to titillate liberal Hollywood. Clooney is not guarantee, though–remember Leatherheads?
J. Edgar (Clint Eastwood, November) Like Charlie Brown with the football, I keep putting Clint Eastwood down on my list, though he hasn’t hit Oscar gold since Letters From Iwo Jima. A biopic of J. Edgar Hoover with Leonardo DiCaprio seems just the ticket to get Clint back to the Kodak Theater.
Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen, May 20): Like Eastwood, Allen hasn’t had a chance to refuse attending an Oscars in a while (he was last nominated for Match Point). Given that this was a critical and box office success (his greatest box office success ever), combined with the frisson of his return to favor, makes it film a potential nominee. It will certainly be nominated for Best Original Screenplay, where he’s been nominated more than twenty times.
War Horse (Steven Spielberg, Dec. 28) This has got to be the front runner right now, a gooey adaptation of a novel and play about a boy and his horse, set against the backdrop of World War I. It’s period, it’s sentimental, it’s Spielberg. I should add that Spielberg has only been nominated as Best Director once in the last thirteen years (for Munich).
Other possibilities, in no particular order: Hugo (Martin Scorsese), We Bought a Zoo (Cameron Crowe), Tree of Life (Terence Malick), Young Adult (Jason Reitman), Iron Lady (Phyllida Lloyd–and Meryl Streep’s shot at a third Oscar), Moneyball (Bennett Miller), and The Artist (Michel Hazanivicius–a silent movie).
Let the games begin!