Courtesy of MCT
Around this time last year, it felt like the race for the Academy Awards was already over. The silent film tribute “The Artist” had just come out and, even in the months leading to its release, there was a feeling around the industry that the film was the frontrunner for all the major awards. By the time the Oscars finally came, these prognosticators were proven right.
This year is much different, though, and the film industry is all the better for it. The last couple years have been marred by predictability and, as a result, the Oscars wound up being as boring as ever (and they’re usually pretty darn boring). However, we are about to enter December and we still don’t have a clear frontrunner for any major category. For once, it might actually be a close race.
Of course, there are still a handful of movies that some people are singling out as potential Oscar winners. That will always be the case. What’s different this year is that no single film has been able to separate itself from the pack. Usually by now the picture has crystallized a little bit, but it’s just muddled.
If one had to pick a single film as the frontrunner, it would probably be Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln.” It has all the ingredients, and Daniel Day-Lewis certainly seems the most likely Best Actor winner as of now, but it still seems like an easy pick for the Academy. “Lincoln” will certainly get nominated, but in recent years it’s seemed more interested in actually naming winners that haven’t won before. Spielberg is a director the Academy loves, but I get the feeling that he will only win if nothing else steps up to the plate.
This is also why I’m skeptical that Tom Hooper’s version of “Les MisÃ©rables” will be the big winner. It has seen a handful of screenings recently, and the buzz has been red hot, but Hooper won for his last movie, “The King’s Speech,” just a couple years ago. Once again, I think the Academy will adhere to some strange unwritten rule that the preference will go to someone who has yet to win.
This same rule applies to “Zero Dark Thirty,” which has been getting nothing but positive buzz. But once again, director Kathryn Bigelow won for “The Hurt Locker” in 2009. Based on past history, the Academy will look elsewhere before settling on any of these three. You can debate all day as to whether that’s right or wrong. It’s just the way it is.
So where does one go from here? One movie to keep an eye out for is Ben Affleck’s “Argo,” which came out several weeks ago and was met with near-universal acclaim. It might have hurt itself by coming out early in the season, and it’s possible that the like-minded “Zero Dark Thirty” may steal some of its buzz, but it’s quite feasible to think the Oscars will award Affleck for his creative resurgence.
However, you can’t go through Oscar season without keeping an eye out for the Weinsteins. These producers/distributors are infamous for their aggressive Oscar campaigns, and they’ve been very successful. If not for them, “Shakespeare in Love,” “The King’s Speech” and “The Artist” would not have won like they did. This year, they are backing David O. Russell’s comedy/drama “Silver Linings Playbook.” They have other releases like “The Master” and “Django Unchained” out there, but “Playbook” seems like the Weinstein film that is most likely to get their patented push. Don’t be surprised in February if you see Russell stealing an Oscar from Spielberg. It’s just the nature of the beast.