Monday, August 29, 2011

August Predictions: Lead Actor

I’m just going to post these as I get them done and hope to have them all done by the end of the month so I can officially call these my ‘August Predictions’.

This is kind of a one man show at this point.  DiCaprio is going to win.  With that usually comes a surprise (which I’ve predicted).  When one actor is hogging the bulk of the votes then you usually have a surprise or two sneak in on nomination morning (just look at Bardem last year…which wouldn’t have happened had Firth not been the obvious winner since Jan. 2010). 

Here are my thoughts at the moment:

1)      Leonardo DiCaprio/J. Edgar:
WHY?  Leonardo is going to win an Oscar one day, and what better role to take him there than playing a real person who lived a very controversial life in a film by Clint Eastwood?  Seriously, the stars are all aligned for DiCaprio to finally win gold.  He’s beloved; his on-screen romantic partner just won HER Oscar and this role is baity as hell.  He’ll be showboating for sure, and Oscar loved theatrics.  Plus, he ages decades here, and that is usually a good thing (Oscar loves it when you act through makeup).  Seriously, there is no con here.  Unless the film is a total bust (which I’m counting it NOT to be) then he’s in it to win it.  Besides, he may be young but he’s overdue. 

2)      Ryan Gosling/The Ides of March:
WHY?  He’s supremely talented and has made a name for himself since his Oscar nominated performance in ‘Half Nelson’.  Coming off of that horrendous snub last year (he should have won the damn thing), I think he’s in a great place for his second nomination.  He’s having a huge year, staring in three diverse films and so his name and face are everywhere.  That, and this is a political drama that looks uber baity directed by Oscar’s newfound crush George Clooney.  It’s a plum role that allows Gosling to charm the pants off of voters and so this will be an easier pill to swallow than the bitterly honest husband he played last year.  If it weren’t for the overdue factor of DiCaprio’s career, I’d say that Gosling posed more of a threat for the win.

3)      Gary Oldman/Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy:
WHY?  He’s Gary Oldman and he’s never been nominated.  Oh, and the film looks AMAZING.  The role looks very reserved and quiet, but it may be just the right kind of brooding performance that lands him recognition.  He’s buzzed right now, I mean…everyone is talking up his chances.  It would obviously come from a ‘career nod’ type angle, which I NEVER can get behind (judge the work at hand, not the work you snubbed) but he genuinely looks great here and if the film is a success then his name will be called on nomination morning.

4)      Jean Dujardin/The Artist:
WHY?  The praise surrounding this performance is unbelievable.  Every critic praises him up and down, and it looks to be a delightfully charming and well-rounded display of actorly talent.  I’d place him higher, and I probably should, but while I think the film is going to get swallowed up in  nominations, I just think that Dujardin has no shot at a win.  This isn’t the type of performance that Oscar awards gold to; at least not as of late.  It’s silent, he’s foreign, it’s fun and charming.  Oscar likes English language performances that force emotions through sprained facial expressions.  Besides; this isn’t Best Actress.  They aren’t going to award the ‘hot young new guy’ over also-rans like DiCaprio or veterans like Oldman.

5)      Thomas Horn/Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close:
WHY?  The role, in a nutshell, is baity as fuck.  I mean, in all honesty, this is like the greatest child character handed out in decades.  If Horn nails this then I can’t see him NOT being nominated.  I know that Oscar NEVER does this (they like their ACTRESSES young, not the other way around) but I just have this feeling…I mean, this is a boy who lost his father in 9/11, wanders the streets seeking that special connection while harboring a dark secret that will devastate the hell out of you.  All he has to do is nail the ONE scene where he uncovers his secret and the whole world will be putty in his hands.

6)      Michael Fassbender/A Dangerous Method:
WHY?  He’s making a great name for himself, and like Gosling, he’s having one hell of a year.  The only difference is that Gosling is a former nominee and he’s starring in a political drama directed by Clooney.  Fassbender may be in a biopic, but it’s a kinky one directed by Cronenberg.  There is a big difference.  I don’t have the highest of expectations for him, and judging from early word it is Mortensen and Knightley who steal the show, so he may get lost in the shuffle.  There is still a chance for him if the film is received well.  If nothing else, it puts his name out there or another year.

7)      Brad Pitt/Moneyball:
WHY?  I think the film looks dreadfully boring, but it is written by last years Oscar winner and directed by a former nominee so you never know.  It looks very Disney or whatever, but Sandra Bullock just won an Oscar for basically doing a Disney movie so yay for Brad Pitt.  He’s having a good year, and many will certainly remember him from Tree of Life too.  Besides, people love him and I’m sure some really want him to have an Oscar.  He won’t win this year, not unless J. Edgar bombs to epic proportions, but if Moneyball is a big crowd pleaser and not another ‘For the Love of the Game’ then it could land him in the top five.

8)      Michael Shannon/Take Shelter:
WHY?  Supposedly, he’s amazing in this.  The film is small and not really Oscar’s cup-o-tea (supernatural thriller of sorts) but he got raves for his performance and he is a previous (surprise) nominee, so he could surprise again.  In fact, if he’s nominated I kind of see it being one of those Javier Bardem moments from last year.  He probably won’t be sited anywhere else but he will have lots of loud supporters rising up in the Actors branch that will push to have him WIN and he’ll wind up coming in 5th because of it.

9)      Joseph Gordon-Levitt/50 50:
WHY?  I love him and he’s going to be nominated one day, and he’s been working his way towards that with interested projects that show his range.  He’s a very good actor who can handle drama and comedy, and he’s one that can blend them effortlessly, which is why 50/50 seems like an ideal money ticket for him.  The trailer looks great (and he looks great in it) and while it’s a Seth Rogan film, those usually have noted performances (Franco, Mann, Rudd etc.) so Gordon-Levitt is pretty primed to win the Globe and, if he can pull this off (can he make cancer funny…I think so) then he could really go the extra mile, especially if Oscar thinks Brad is boring and Oldman is too quiet and Fassbender is too hot.

10)   Daniel Craig/The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo:
WHY?  I said this at the beginning of the year and I’ll say it again; Daniel Craig is a talented actor who just needs the right role to land on the Oscar shortlist.  I think this could be that role.  It’s a great one, but it does take a backseat to the showier and memorable one, so it will still be an uphill climb to get nominated.  That said, if the film is as huge as I (and many others) project then he’ll be on the radar.  In fact, I think it’s silly that no one else is calling this.  I kind of hope he gets nominated so I can say that I was the ONLY PERSON predicting him all year.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

August Predictions: Best Achievement in Directing

I’m just going to post these as I get them done and hope to have them all done by the end of the month so I can officially call these my ‘August Predictions’.

Director is always kind of dependent entirely on Best Picture.  It’s like everyone who votes automatically assumes that if the film is your favorite then the direction must be your favorite; but that is not always the choice.  With the new Best Picture voting system it becomes increasingly more difficult for ‘lone director nominations’ to sneak into the mix, and I don’t think we’ll see one this year (or any other for a while).  In fact, the five names I’m predicting are the five films I think will have the strongest impact on the Oscar race.

Here are my thoughts at the moment:

1)      David Fincher/The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo:
Why?  The loss last year really stings, and it still will come Oscar season.  But here’s the thing; Fincher is a master of his own style, and ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ is pretty much the perfect canvas for his breed of direction.  I really think that if he nails this it will be one of those tour-de-forces the Academy will not be able to ignore, and they may even pat themselves on the back for waiting a year and giving him the award for his ‘best’ work; even if there is no excuse for giving his rightful Oscar to that troll Tom Hooper.

2)      Stephen Daldry/Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close:
Why?  They really love him; like REALLY.  Sure, there are those who doubt Oscars obsession with Stephen Daldry, but the man has only made three films and all three have netted him Directing nominations, and two of them have been up for Best Picture.  I’ve read the novel this film is adapted from, and I ADORE it, so maybe I’m a tad bias, but this is really baity stuff.  With the ten year anniversary of 9/11 upon the horizon, it may be deemed kind of trashy or manipulative to ‘plan’ the release like this, but overall I think that narrative it far too strong to ignore and both Daldry and his film are going to be in serious contention for the gold.

3)      George Clooney/The Ides of March:
Why?  He’s George Clooney.  He has a knack for directing political yarn and this film looks rather exciting.  The Ryan Gosling factor will play heavy, since he’s having one of THOSE kinds of years.  Beside, he’s George and the Academy worships him now (what the hell) and so they are going to nominate him somewhere, and I just can’t rally behind that uninteresting borefest that is ‘The Descendants’ (I could be so wrong, but that trailer made the film look AWFUL).  I don’t think he’ll be a serious candidate for the win, but a nomination seems pretty safe at this point.

4)      Michel Hazaavicius/The Artist:
Why?  The buzz around this film is very loud, and there is a lot of talk about the direction being a major asset.  The directors branch always has been (or at least mostly has been) a tad more liberal than the Oscar voting branch as a whole (thus those surprising yet amazing lone director nominations) so I could see him getting in with or without a Best Picture nod, but the Best Picture nod almost looks locked up (shocking, I know…but talk is BIG here) and that will only help Hazaavicius.

5)      Tomas Alfredson/Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy:
Why?  I just really want this to happen.  I loved what he did with ‘Let the Right One In’ and the trailer alone for this film has me so wet with excitement that I’m ready to call Alfredson my personal winner in this category based on that stunning trailer.  This is going to rely heavily on a steady directorial hand to work right (as to all genre films like this) and he certainly has the ability to pull it off.  If this movie winds up being more than just the Gary Oldman show, which I’m betting on at the moment, then Alfredson could be welcomed to the prestigious group of nominated directors.  Like I said, I really want this to happen…but I really think it could!

6)      Roman Polanski/Carnage:
Why?  This is just a hunch, but I think that ‘Carnage’ is going to do very well with Oscar.  The film just seems to be very Oscary.  Sure, it’s a black comedy, and Oscar loves it some drama, but it’s a BLACK comedy and it seems to be seething at the teeth with some real bite.  Plus, you have two Oscar winning goddesses of screen (I’ve not always ‘felt’ Foster, but Oscar loves her), a newly christened Oscar winning actor and John C. Reilly, who is always dependable and understands the nature of comedic undertones very well.  I think that this will do very well with the acting branches and that love may spill over into other categories, including Director.  Besides, despite all of the drama surrounding Polanski and his life, he is still very much respected by his peers and so if ‘Carnage’ is as intricate and engrossing as it promises to be, I can see them welcoming him back to the event with open arms.

7)      Clint Eastwood/J. Edgar:
Why?  He’s Clint Eastwood, and that means a lot.  Sure, he hasn’t really been on a roll lately (Changling managed some nominations, but no real traction) but this is a different animal.  He’s directing Leonardo DiCaprio in a period biopic about a controversial subject in human history and the buzz surrounding DiCaprio’s eventual Oscar win is already mounting enough to validate predicting an Eastwood nomination based on DiCaprio’s name alone.  I only took him out of my top five/six because of that ‘overkill’ feeling that sets in when I think of Eastwood and Spielberg and how they already have two of these things and I often hope that the Academy would think about spreading the wealth as opposed to lazily nominating their heroes.  Whatever, Eastwood is probably going to win his third this year.

8)      Terrence Malick/The Tree of Life:
Why?  All of Malick’s works are, without doubt, directorial pieces.  If anything in this film, outside of cinematography, is going to land #1 placements on ballots it’ll be his direction.  But, the film has landed very mixed reactions from critics and audiences.  Some love it and some hate it.  Will the love be enough to gain momentum during the next few months, or will the hate kill off all of its chances before the real season begins?  At one time I felt that Malick was a lock here, but the subject matter and Malick’s continually making films that mean something to HIM may edge him out.  He’s only really been Oscar’s cup-of-tea once, and it was when he was tackling their favorite subject.

9)      Steven Spielberg/War Horse:
Why?  His name alone warrants inclusion in this category, and ‘War Horse’ certainly ‘looks’ pretty enough to garner directing recognition.  I’m one of the few who thinks that this film isn’t going to make a big splash with Oscar outside of the techs considering that the trailer left a rather ‘family film’ feel in my mouth, and family entertainment rarely translates into ‘Oscar Nominee’.  Still, this is Steven Spielberg we’re talking about; two time Oscar winner (in this category), so he’s always on the radar.  If the film has more cohunes than it initially appears to then maybe it’ll actually be a force to reckon with come Oscar season.

10)   Angelina Jolie/In the Land of Blood and Honey:
Why?  Who ever thought that Angelina Jolie would be a possible contender here, but it looks like her film ‘In the Land of Blood and Honey’ could really be a contender.  She obviously put her heart into this, and her passion usually bleeds through loud and clear.  The subject matter is strong and kind of screams Oscar (and I have a feeling her film may win the Globes ‘Foreign Language Film’ award, since that award doesn’t require your film be submitted from a foreign country) and she is a very respected woman, not just actress, and so I could see them wanted to show their admiration for her growth as an artist.  It all depends on the finished piece (it could be terrible), but if it’s great or even moderately respectable then I could see her placing on quite a few ballots.

Friday, August 12, 2011

August Predictions: Supporting Actor

I’m just going to post these as I get them done and hope to have them all done by the end of the month so I can officially call these my ‘August Predictions’.

Supporting Actor is getting harder and harder to predict simply because it seems so sewn up by a slew of previous nominees that are bound to lose out to some newbie no one is suspecting.  I just can’t figure out who is going to get the shaft since everyone seems like a sure bet at this point.  I could honestly see any one of my predicted five getting the boot for any one of my predicted 6-10.  Any mix of these ten, at this point, would make sense to me and yet I’m sure that there is going to be a nominee I’m not even predicting at this point.

There is something about this that seems too obvious.

Here are my thoughts at the moment:

1)      Christopher Plummer/Beginnings:
Why?  Christopher Plummer has finally been embraced by the Academy, and he feels like the type of actor who is going to get a second nomination.  Plummer has always been a consistent actor, for decades now, but what is most impressive about his work in ‘Beginnings’ is that it shows he is not afraid to grow as an actor; to continually stretch himself.  In fact, many critics have noted that playing an elderly, recently out gay man was something unexpected by this thespian, and something he nailed.  He is heralded as the best thing about the film, and while the film is small, it has exceeded expectations.  He’s still on the tip of everyone’s tongue, and I can almost taste his Oscar at this point.  Unless someone comes around with a scene stealing, gargantuan performance that is ‘undeniable’, I don’t see Plummer losing this one.

2)      Viggo Mortensen/A Dangerous Method:
Why?  One thing that Viggo has been proving over the past six years is that he is a far better actor than many ever gave him credit for.  While I’m not the biggest fan of ‘A History of Violence’, it is clear that his performance within was something no one really expected; and he only gets better with each consecutive role (‘Eastern Promises’ and then ‘The Road’).  Working with the man who led him to his first Oscar nomination, I have a feeling that this glorified Supporting role may be his next nomination ticket.  He’s playing a famous person in a very buzzed about film, and let’s be honest…he was the best part of that trailer.  He reminds me a tad of Viola Davis in that he was the one thing about the trailer that seemed grounded and balanced.  While everything else around him seemed over-the-top and somewhat disappointing, I was drawn to his every image.  Once ‘A Dangerous Method’ is released, I’ll know better, but right now he seems like the dark horse for the actual win.

3)      Albert Brooks/Drive:
Why?  The buzz surrounding this performance is insane right now, and while I personally didn’t see anything special about what I saw in the trailer (generic villain), supposedly he was all the rave at Cannes, so go figure.  Factoring in that he is a veteran actor who hasn’t been in the game since the 80’s and you have a great comeback story wrapped up in this performance.  That and the role he is playing is perfect for this category.  While Supporting Actress usually consists of gold-hearted prostitutes and long-suffering wives; Supporting Actor loves a good villain.  Just in the aughts alone, that particular ‘role’ has been nominated (and won) more than any other (Waltz, Ledger, Bardem, Haley, Tucci, Hurt, Kingsley, Newman…etc.) and so it seems a good bet that Brooks will get sucked into the final lineup.  I’m hesitant only because the film itself doesn’t LOOK like an Oscar film, but many who have seen it say that it is far deeper and involved than the trailer suggests.  Golsing is also having a tremendous year and so I could easily see his association with the film playing in Brooks’ favor as well.

4)      Christoph Waltz/Carnage:
Why?  Like I mentioned with Winslet, this is certainly an actor’s piece and if they nail it then they are in.  Waltz just recently won an Oscar for blending the comedic with the sinister dramatic to perfection, and that is something that is called for in this particular film (maybe not sinister, but many have said that the play is funny yet searing).  Having recently won is also a plus because the Academy will be watching him closely, hoping that he’ll prove them right.  I initially expected his first film this year (‘Water for Elephants’) to make a bigger splash and draw attention his way, but it doesn’t appear that very many people bothered to see that movie.  Alas, Waltz has this undeniable charisma and the film itself may very well be enough to get him a nomination.

5)      Armie Hammer/J. Edgar:
Why?  I’ve said this before, and so have many of my friends; had this role been played by a female it would be winning the Supporting Actress Oscar this year.  That is my only fear with Hammer; he is a man.  The role is baity as hell and if Hammer can pull of the OMGACTRESSING…err…OMGACTING then this could be an easy nomination.  On paper, it’s a no-brainer, but he really has to pull it off in order for it to work.  It doesn’t hurt that he proved his acting chops in last year’s Best Picture runner-up and that he got well deserved ‘good ink’ for it too.  The Academy may also see this role as a risk well taken by the young actor (playing gay is still considered risky); but then again, Plummer also went gay and he seems like a likelier bet in this category.  There needs to be a newbie, and right now Hammer seems like the perfect choice.  It doesn’t hurt that he’s starring in an Eastwood vehicle that also happens to be a period biopic that stars Leonardo DiCaprio in what is almost assuredly going to net him an Oscar.

6)      Max von Sydow/Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close:
Why?  On paper, this is VERY baity.  Having read the novel and having the script in my hands, I can easily see this translating into a contender for the win.  My only reservations lie in the fact that this is a quiet performance, which is not often embraced by the Academy, and they don’t usually nominate a group of veteran actors or previous nominees, and the first four in my predictions have ‘louder’ characters to play.  He could certainly ‘Halbrook’ his way into a nomination, but he has Plummer to contend with at the moment.  While I want to see it, I have a hard time seeing both actors getting nominated.  That said; his role is pivotal to the entire film and he has an extremely baity scene towards the end, so if ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ is a big player then he’ll be a good bet for a nomination.

7)      Nick Nolte/Warrior:
Why?  Early word is very good for the film and for his performance within it, but I’m hesitant based on the film’s subject matter being too close to last year’s big player, ‘The Fighter’.  It’s happened before, and it’ll happen again, where good films that follow bit Oscar vehicles get ignored because of being too similar.  If ‘Million Dollar Baby’ hadn’t swept the Oscar’s, would ‘Cinderella Man’ been ignored?  If ‘Capote’ hadn’t won Hoffman an Oscar, would ‘Infamous’ have picked up a nomination for Toby Jones?  See, that’s where I’m at with Nolte.  Sure, he’s respected and he hasn’t been recognized since 1998, but this will have to be a powerhouse performance in order to net him a nomination.  Nolte rides that fine line with me.  He’s either all over the place or he’s controlled and intense.  From what I read, this one is a keeper.  If the film gets more attention than I suspect it will, he could muscle his way into a nomination. 

8)      Corey Stoll/Midnight in Paris:
Why?  He was the standout in ‘Midnight in Paris’ to a lot of people, and he’s certain to remain on a lot of people’s tongues mainly because his performance was so memorable.  It is a small role though, and there are some more recognizable names in the field this year.  Still, ‘Midnight in Paris’ is a sizable hit for Woody Allen, who often has luck with his actors even with his films don’t hit as well with Oscar.  Sure, it’s usually for his Supporting women, but if ‘Midnight in Paris’ hits with Oscar in some major categories (Picture/Screenplay) then Stoll will be the place where actors look for a nomination.  Again, I almost have the same qualm with this performance as I do with Hammer’s.  If this were an actress in consideration then I’d say she was a shoe-in for the nomination; but the rules for men and women are very different within the Academy and so this is a trickier play than it should be.

9)      Tom Hardy/Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy:
Why?  I don’t really know much about this story or his role within this film, but I know that he has a sizable one and judging from the VERY STRONG TRAILER, this could be a real ensemble piece that thrives on the performances.  Hardy has been having a great couple of years with ‘Inception’ and critical recognition for his work in ‘Bronson’; and it doesn’t hurt that he is the new Batman villain.  In other words, his name is out there and people seem to like him and want to work with him.  He also has good ink already for ‘Warrior’, and so if ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’ hits the right marks with Oscar than I could see him getting swept in as well.  Until I see the film or read the book though, I won’t really know if his role is the standout.  He has a lot of internal competition from some big names.  And then again, could this be the Gary Oldman show; end of story?  Only time will tell at this point.

10)   Kenneth Branagh/My Week With Marilyn:
Why?  I at one time (like, last month) thought that Branagh was going to win.  Maybe I’m too impressionable and should stick to my guns, but his nomination is making less and less sense with so much buzz spreading in different directions.  Couple that with the fact that the film doesn’t look to be a major contender, with early reviews (if you can call them that) labeling it a disappointment of sorts.  There is also the Michelle Williams factor.  She really is the heart of the film, and so she can either steal all the attention in a major way or she can derail the chances of anyone getting recognition for the film.  It’s such a hard one to call.  Still, the early word was that Branagh stole the whole show, and this really is the PERFECT role for the respected thespian, so if the hand is dealt correctly then he could still make a dent in the race.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

August Predictions: Supporting Actress

I’m just going to post these as I get them done and hope to have them all done by the end of the month so I can officially call these my ‘August Predictions’.

So, Supporting Actress is kind of becoming my most anticipated category.  What seemed so hard to peg a few months ago has just flourished with possibilities, and each new inclusion is more titillating than the last.  I think most everyone and their mother assumes that this is Viola Davis’s Oscar to lose, and at the end of the day I concur.  I have yet to see ‘The Help’, but ALL early word singles her out as fantastic, and the fact that many believe she is really Lead in the film is only going to help her not only solidify a nomination but walk away with the statuette.  She’ll have some stiff competition though, especially in Vanessa Redgrave.  Having finally seen the trailer for ‘Coriolanus’ I must say that Redgrave looks amazing, and I have a feeling that her camp is going to pimp her to no end for that Oscar.  At this point, she seems like the only threat to Davis; but it’s early yet.

Here are my thoughts at the moment:

1)      Viola Davis/The Help:
Why?  Well, the buzz surrounding her performance is undeniable, and all ink recorded about the film singles her out as the film’s greatest asset.  Sure, in the beginning it looked the internal competition could detract from her traction, but it looks like that notion has settled away.  Spencer may be in contention for a nomination alongside Davis, but I don’t think she’s anywhere near a win.  Davis, on the other hand, has the ‘previous nominee’ status going for her, as well as admiration from her peers (she’s been doing this, and doing it well, for some time now).  I haven’t seen the film, but from the trailer alone it looks like her character is most certainly the most three-dimensional and emotionally resonant.

2)      Vanessa Redgrave/Coriolanus:
Why?  She’s a veteran actress, previous winner in this category and has had a few years of a seeming resurgence thanks to small yet pivotal roles in commercial films and the tragedy that has surrounded her family name.  Quite frankly, everyone is talking about this woman right now.  That, and the film has already received buzz, mainly for her performance (which many are labeling the Oscar winner).  Having seen the trailer, I can say that she looks superb.  The role also seems ripe for this kind of category.  She’s an overbearing mother of sorts, and we all know how they fare here (last year’s winner).  All that aside, Redgrave is a damn fine actress who has been away from the Oscars for far too long.  It’s about time to welcome her back!

3)      Kate Winslet/Carnage:
Why?  First of all, she’s Kate Winslet.  That really should be enough to solidify buzz.  Second, the role is a co-lead that will inevitably get placed in supporting to avoid vote splitting between Winslet and Foster, who has the more notable role.  Third, this is a character study directed by the great Roman Polanski that relies entirely on the charisma and chemistry between the four leads.  In other words, this is an ACTORS MOVIE, and if Winslet and company pull this off they will all be in contention for the big prizes and it wouldn’t shock me if they all get nominated.  For the time being, I actually think that Winslet is in the best position because of the category itself and the lack of ‘sure bets’.  While there are a lot of possibilities, the other categories seem slightly more packed.  Winslet is nominated a lot, and she recently won, so I think that voters will be happy to nominate her again, considering the strength of the character itself.

4)      Andrea Riseborough/W.E.:
Why?  Early buzz is pretty strong for her, and the few that have seen the film have basically say “THIS IS HAPPENING”.  Now sure, that happens often and then, well, it doesn’t happen, but the last time someone said “believe the hype; it’s on” was when Mo’Nique stormed the set on ‘Precious’ and we all know what happened there.  Another similarity is that no one in their right mind would have ever associated Mo’Nique with ‘Oscar’ before ‘Precious’.  Likewise, I don’t think anyone ever expected Madonna to direct an actress to an Oscar nomination, but it looks like that might happen.  The character is strong, the look and feel of the film (at least in stills) is magnificent and Riseborough is certainly an actress on the rise (talent is undeniable).  This could be her welcoming party; the perfect combination of character, status and timing.

5)      Jessica Chastain/Coriolanus:
Why?  I could be very wrong here, but I’ve been feeling Chastain since the year began; albeit, not for this.  In fact, I’ve gone across the board with what film I think will be her ticket.  She’s in EVERYTHING this year, and that could be a good and or bad thing depending on how you look at it.  I initially thought that she was a shoe-in for ‘The Tree of Life’, but that looks like a dead idea.  On the other hand, she has a buzzed performance in ‘Take Shelter’ that could corral her into the mix if her even more buzzed co-star (Michael Shannon) makes it into Lead Actor, but after seeing her act her ass off in the trailer for ‘Coriolanus’ I’ve decided to predict her for this film.  It doesn’t hurt that the film itself looks great and Redgrave feels like a lock (I know, I know, no such thing at this point in the game).  Long suffering spouse is a great role to play if you want to get nominated in this category!

6)      Carey Mulligan/Shame:
Why?  This could be nothing more than a crazy hunch mixed with wishful thinking, but I just feel like this is the type of role that is going to dominate with the critics and may, like Amy Ryan and Jackie Weaver, find itself picking up enough traction to actually land an Oscar nomination.  Unless she is raved to no end and wins everything, she isn’t winning the Oscar, but I wouldn’t rule her out for a nomination.  She is young and talented and was recently nominated for her breakout role and has followed up that nomination with superb performance after superb performance in films that are diverse and have shown her range (she is seriously the best thing about everything she touches).  That, and you can add buzz for ‘Drive’ which opens this year that will certainly get people seeing her.  This role seems really baity and she could steal scenes easily; and Fassbender’s year is also looking so great that goodwill could be pouring in from every angle here.  Like I said, it could be a crazy hunch, but then again it could really happen.

7)      Naomi Watts/J. Edgar:
Why?  I can’t decide what I think is going to happen with this.  I have heard from those who have read the script that it is not a very baity role but that it is a significant one and that Watts is one of the only characters who actually ages throughout the entire film; that and she closes it out as well.  But, she is Naomi Watts, and despite her undisputable talent and glorious range (the woman is AMAZING) she has only been nominated once and it was, arguably, one of her lesser performances.  She has been snubbed a disgusting amount of times.  That said, this is an Eastwood film with a lead performance (DiCaprio) that looks blessed from the heavens with an inevitable Oscar win, so you never know.  She could very well be this years Helena Bonham Carter; riding the coattails of her leading man despite having a less than baity character to play.  In fact, as ‘iffy’ as I am about the nomination, I do strongly feel that with the right campaign she could actually WIN this thing if she is nominated.

8)      Octavia Spencer/The Help:
Why?  This category often likes comic relief, and she certainly looks to sell that in spades.  My only issue with this particular prediction is that, in my opinion, she looked so one-note in the trailer and the film itself seems so pedestrian that I can’t see it getting more than Davis in the big eight categories.  I could be so wrong, and a lot of people who have read the book say that her character is far more complex than portrayed in the trailer, but just judging by what I’ve seen and read, Davis is the surefire standout, and with someone that far ahead I wonder if Spencer will get the votes needed to get a nomination.  Last year there was clear debate over who was better; Adams or Leo.  Debate may spark, but at the moment it looks like Davis is the clear answer to that question.  Still, ‘The Help’ has this ‘feel good’ vibe to it that could easily resonate with the Academy more than it deserves to (‘The Blind Side’) and if that happens then it could rack up surprising nominations; and Spencer could get yanked into the nominations if that happens.

9)      Penelope Ann Miller/The Artist:
Why?  The film looks amazing and the buzz surrounding it doesn’t look like it’s going to let up.  I suspect the film itself to be a HUGE player come awards season, and she could easily get swept in with goodwill for the film if bigger names and heavier players fade out when their films are released.  Having not seen the film, I’m not sure about her performance, but she looks great in the stills and she is a name that is known.  She’s been playing the game for years, so this may be one of those cases where the right film hits the right actress at the right time.  In order for this to happen, those bigger names have to drop the ball and fail to produce quality work, so it’s still a longshot guess at this point, but stranger things have happened.

10)   Sandra Bullock/Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close:
Why?  I never thought that Sandra Bullock would even be nominated for an Oscar, let alone win one and be in contention for a second, but the world works in mysterious ways.  Regardless of personal feelings towards her win in ’09, I’ve always loved Bullock because of her charisma and charm, and the Academy as a whole obviously likes her.  When you tack onto that fact the film itself, which is set to be huge, and the fact that the unfortunate humiliation heaped upon her by her douchbag ex-husband over the past year has only endeared her more in the public and critical eye, she seems like a real contender for a second nomination despite having just won two years ago.  It is a pivotal role that has been beefed up from the novel, and she certainly seems to be stretching herself with more challenging and less predictable roles, so that could be a major plus for her.  I’m not too anxious to predict her considering her track record, but if she nails this and the audience is moved then she could easily jump up this list to the top five.