Friday, December 23, 2011

The State of Race: Organized Chaos

Before the critics descended on us, and gave their thoughtful opinions regarding this Oscar race, the race itself could be described as complete chaos. So many questions, not enough answers. In the post-critic world, many of our questions have gotten at least partial answers, but compared to last year, where so many of the nominees seemed set in stone, and the winners in the acting categories looking like slam dunks, what we have remaining in this lull between critics and guilds is organized chaos. In each category there are some sure bets, but a lot of dangling films and performances that could fill a fourth or fifth slot.

In Best Picture, I am feeling pretty confident about The Artist and The Descendants. The Help, Midnight in Paris, and Hugo are less strong, but still seem like safe bets. War Horse is getting good enough reviews, and across the board technical support seems like it will be strong, and I think it is in too. It is those last two slots that seem tricky. Extremely Loud is getting mixed reviews, but we are all so cautious after The Reader, that most people have kept it in despite less-than-stellar reaction. That would be seven. Are there more nominees out there? Moneyball has done well, but not great in precursors, but mostly in Acting/Screenplay categories. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is dividing people, but in this year of emotion and sap, a well-executed, dark, violent film may be a nice counterpart. Then there are those films like Drive and The Tree of Life, that could probably make the list with ten, but with less than that, and both getting the shaft from SAG (and possibly other guilds), means their incredible run so far might be coming to a close. So two are safe, three are pretty safe, two are good maybes, and two are hard pills to swallow.

Until the DGA announces, the Director's race is probably the most complicated. Scorsese, Payne, and Hazanavicius seem safe bets, but the last two slots are truly a mess. You have classics like Steven Spielberg and Woody Allen, both have strong possibilites. Daldry has never missed a nomination. Malick will have his champions, but not enough broad support. Then there are directors like Bennett Miller and Tate Taylor, whose project's other strengths may be enough to bring them in the loop. Three safe, four others fighting for two spots.

Unlike the top two races, the acting races seem to all have four safes (with the exception of Supporting Actor). In Actor, we have Pitt, Clooney, and Dujardin, with Dicaprio also most likely getting in over bad reviews. What happens in the fifth slot? Bichir got the SAG, but needs more support, Fassbender has the NC-17 thing over him, and Oldman has to rely only on a BAFTA nod for his support. We could see an out of the box fifth nominee, some like Javier Bardem last year. Either way, the category is in flux. Best Actress is probably the most stable with Streep, Davis, and Williams being the frontrunners, and Swinton and Close getting SAG and GG nods to boost. Charlize Theron and Rooney Mara are possibilities, but both won't get in if there is an upset.

Supporting Actress has six/seven women for five slots, Chastain, Spencer, and Bojo looking like safe bets, with McTeer, Woodley, and McCarthy fighting for the last two slots. Now the Supporting Actor race is a mess. Plummer and Branagh seem in, and despite lack of a SAG nod, I still think Brooks gets the nod. But the last two slots are tricky. Jonah Hill seems to be in, a shocker to say the last, but Armie Hammer is not safe. Despite SAG love, I think that J. Edgar could be all about DiCaprio. Max von Sydow is still in, simply because he is, well him, and ELCC could be big contender. Nick Nolte has come screaming back into this race, but is Warrior strong enough of a vehicle? I can't put my finger on it, but there is something about this category that makes me nervous. I just don't know what to expect. There are a few other factors like Serkis and Oswalt, and I keep waiting for the bomb to drop.

So what does all of this mean? That while the race has started to calm down, it is far from set in stone, and we may have more surprises coming our way. To be is organized chaos.

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