In the early hours of Thursday, Jan. 10, Seth MacFarlane and Emma Stone will take a stage to announce the nominees for the 85th Academy Awards. Most years, the process is the cap to a long season with the same three titles dominating every category, the final choices rarely surprises.
This year is a bit different.
Sure, there are frontrunners, but more so than in the last decade, most categories are anyone’s to win — or even pop into at the last minute with a surprise nomination. With the amount of Best Picture nominees in flux, no clear leader to any acting pack, and a bevy of technical awards that could go to any of the prestigious films to roll out over the year, the 2012 Oscar nomination line-up is one big question mark.
To test our powers of prediction, we weighed the odds and ran down every category with our picks for who may walk away with a nomination at the end of tomorrow. If they do, we’ll still be up for one of the toughest Oscar pool years in a long, long time….
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty
Who Could Break In? In 2009, the Academy opened up the Best Picture race from five to 10 nominees. In 2011, they changed the rules again to allow the potential number of nominees to change based on the vote (with a minimum of five and a maximum of 10). So we’re going with nine movies from 2012 for Best Picture. What could sneak in? Thanks to the BAFTAs, it seems more possible that Skyfall could be James Bond’s first time in the Best Picture ring. There’s also the French drama Amour, which could transcend the Foreign Film confines to nab the 10th slot.
Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook
Jessica Chastain – Zero Dark Thirty
Marion Cotillard – Rust and Bone
Helen Mirren – Hitchcock
Emmanuelle Riva – Amour
Who Could Break In? Naomi Watts was a longtime favorite for her physically demanding work in The Impossible, but quiet buzz has us swapping her out for Hitchcock‘s Mirren. Foreign language favorites Cotillard and Riva also look like solid picks, but raves for Quvenzhané Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild could bump the young actress into the top five.
Denzel Washington – Flight
John Hawkes – The Sessions
Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln
Hugh Jackman– Les Misérables
Bradley Cooper – Silver Linings Playbook
Who Could Break In? This is one of the only categories that looks locked, but voters may have erased Joaquin Phoenix’s anti-Oscar rant from memory long enough to move him into Hawkes or Washington’s slots. The dark horse is Jack Black, who has been garnering more and more love in the awards season push for his performance in Bernie.
Best Supporting Actress
Helen Hunt – The Sessions
Sally Field – Lincoln
Anne Hathaway – Les Misérables
Maggie Smith – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Nicole Kidman – The Paperboy
Who Could Break In? Best Exotic Marigold Hotel could take a second slot in this race, with Dame Judi Dench bouncing Kidman from the ring (or even replacing her costar Smith). Amy Adams also looks like a major contender, but the favorite from The Master has lost traction since the movie debuted in September.
Best Supporting Actor
Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Master
Leonardo Dicaprio – Django Unchained
Tommy Lee Jones – Lincoln
Alan Arkin – Argo
Javier Bardem – Skyfall
Who Could Break In? Robert De Niro is still a major player for the Supporting Actor category, but he’s more of a legend worth nodding to than a stand out in Silver Linings Playbook. With unexpected love from both the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs going to Javier Bardem for his villainy in Skyfall, he stands a good chance of taking the fifth spot. Or maybe the voters will realize the greatness of Matthew McConaughey in Magic Mike….
Ben Affleck – Argo
Kathryn Bigelow – Zero Dark Thirty
Steven Spielberg – Lincoln
Ang Lee – Life of Pi
Quentin Tarantino – Django Unchained
Who Could Break In? Tom Hooper (Les Misérables) earned the fifth slot in the Director’s Guild award nominations earlier in the race, but the stylish magic of Tarantino may outnumber him when it comes to the Oscars. Close-ups and canted angles versus zooms and whip pans to bloodshed — which does the Academy favor?
Best Original Screenplay
Quentin Tarantino – Django Unchained
Rian Johnson – Looper
Paul Thomas Anderson – The Master
Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola – Moonrise Kingdom
Mark Boal – Zero Dark Thirty
Who Could Break In? The Writer’s Guild honored Flight writer John Gatins for his work on the alcoholism drama, but with Tarantino (who is not a WGA member and was ineligible for their nom) in the mix, his weaker work looks to be ousted. Writer/Director Michael Haneke’s elegant work on Amour could also be honored if the Academy feels bad for not stepping up and giving it a Best Picture nomination.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Chris Terrio – Argo
Stephen Chbosky – Perks of Being a Wallflower
Tony Kushner – Lincoln
David Magee – Life of Pi
David O. Russell – Silver Linings Playbook
Who Could Break In? If too few members of the Academy caught Chbosky’s touching translation of his own novel, love for Beasts of the Southern Wild may be strong enough to bump it into this category (it was based on a short play called “Juicy and Delicious”). Enough Les Misérables support could also bump the musical into the category, replacing either Perks or The Master.
Best Animated Feature
The Rabbi’s Cat
Who Could Break In? Sorry, Rise of the Guardians. Although you’re a technical marvel, your holiday magic just didn’t impact enough people this holiday season to make you an Oscar contender. We’ll go with the relatively unknown (but highly-praised by those who have seen it) Rabbi’s Cat.
Best Documentary Feature
How to Survive a Plague
The Invisible War
Mea Maxima Culpa
Searching for Sugarman
Who Could Break In? Jafar Panahi’s astounding self-portrait This Is Not a Film is a whirlwind of emotion — that’s also shot mostly on an iPhone. The low-tech feel puts it under the flashy documentaries above, but one hopes the Academy could see beyond the cinematography.
Best Foreign Language Film
A Royal Affair
Beyond the Hills
Who Could Break In? Amour is the one to beat, but watch out for Norawy’s Kon-Tiki, which could rise all the way to the top if voters feel split over giving Amour Best Picture and Best Foreign Language love.