I really wanted to save Best Picture for last, but it's hard to talk about why I put people where I did in Best Director without giving away their Best Picture rankings, so...
Buzzing in your ears...
2. The Master
3. Les Miserables
4. Django Unchained
5. Beasts of the Southern Wild
6. The Dark Knight Rises
7. Zero Dark Thirty
8. The Great Gatsby
9. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
10. Anna Karenina
11. Hyde Park On Hudson
13. Life of Pi
14. The Sessions (formerly Six Session, formerly The Surrogate, sheesh)
17. Killing Them Softly
18. To The Wonder
19. Moonrise Kingdom
20. The Silver Linings Playbook
Also: Inside Llewyn Davis, On The Road, Prometheus, Trouble With The Curve
I'm sure I'll eat many of my words later, but here's my best guesses:
1. The Master...The Weinstein company is obviously pushing this film hard, it is directed by one of the most consistently strong film maker's working, and has a trio of highly talented stars, great trailers, and strong buzz. I honestly see it as the most likely to get nominated this year.
2. Beasts of the Southern Wild...It won Sundance, was lavished with praise and out of competition awards at Cannes, has been universally lauded in early screenings, and I have the same itchy feeling about this film that I had about The Artist this time last year. I'm not saying it'll WIN, but a nod seems highly likely and definite in a field of ten.
3. Les Miserables...An Oscar winning director takes on one of the greatest musicals of all time. It looks lavishly impoverished and Anne Hathaway sings like an angel in the trailer. None of Nine's early clips were this affecting. Nor any of the more acclaimed movie musicals of recent years.
4. The Dark Knight Rises...It might not stand a chance of winning, but I have faith that the final installment of Nolan's Batman trilogy will have what it takes to be the first super-hero based Best Picture nominee. The AMPAS could make a fool of me on this one, but Nolan's track record, especially in recent years, has demonstrated exceptionally high quality and he would never have made a part three if he didn't think it possible to build on what he did in part two.
5. Zero Dark Thirty...Bigelow and Boal and the Middle East. It does have The Hurt Locker to live up to, but my hopes are currently high, especially considering the potential in the cast.
6. Inside Llewyn Davis...I'm sure that the buzz is only laying low because of this film's early February 2013 release date, but the Coens wouldn't be launching in the middle of the previous year's Oscar frenzy unless they were planning on giving the film a qualifying run in late 2012. And they wouldn't be muddying the award waters unless they were coming to play. They like this game; they're good at it.
7. Anna Karenina...I don't know why, but I just feel like this film is going to go over big. Director Joe Wright's work has been exemplary in recent years (Hanna included), and he and Knightley have been magic together before. Plus, we know that the basic storyline is strong. The only challenge is going to be standing out from all the previous versions.
8. Life of Pi...People said that this novel could not be made into a movie, but reviews from early screenings indicate that Ang Lee has done just that, and quite effectively. With the potential for strong below the line support from everyone from the cinematographers to the visual effects branch, I think this is a strong contender for a slot in a field of ten.
9. Django Unchained...I'm sure this will be more than my own personal ninth favorite film of the year, or it will be a very unusually weak effort from Tarantino. However, the film sounds like it may push more envelopes than the post office, and could be too controversial for many of the more aged Academy members to embrace. Or not...it's still in my top ten.
10. The Great Gatsby...I'm very iffy on this movie. It sounds great in many ways, has a great cast, and you know its going to be an all in, highly creative, aim for the fence effort by director Baz Luhrman. Epic for sure, success or failure to be determined. Either way, I admire Luhrman's courage and conviction, and hope he keeps swinging for the fence. When he gets there, it's fantastic.
11. The Silver Linings Playbook...I so want this film to be great. Cooper gets a chance to do something a little more serious. Russell directs from his own script again. Robert DeNiro and Jackie Weaver play the aging parents. If Weinstein didn't already have two horses in the Best Picture race (both with slightly higher pedigrees) it would've made the top ten.
12. To The Wonder...Yeah, Malick just got in last year, but this intimate romantic drama (as it's being billed) sounds so different from Tree of Life (or anything else he's directed) that maybe he gets in again this year. It's sure to be a unique experience, but will enough Oscar voters "get it"?
13. The Sessions...This film has already received mostly favorable reviews out of Sundance and boasts top contenders in both of the lead acting races. It does concern sex though, and Oscar seems to be afraid of talking about that lately. Shame couldn't even break into the acting races last year, to the Academy's shame.
14. Moonrise Kingdom...Well reviewed and currently doing very respectable limited release box office, this could be the film that breaks Wes Anderson into the top races. Strong ensemble cast, clever script, and meticulously wrapped and decorated. If some of the unreleased films fall below expectations, this is a strong contender to take one of their places.
15. Argo...It's not that I don't have high expectations for Argo. It would be closer to the ten if it were not for the OTHER Middle Eastern espionage thriller from a highly respected director. I'm not sure there will be room in this category for the both of them and for now I'm on Team Zero.
16. Amour...Yeah, it's been a little while since the last time that a foreign language film broke into the Best Picture race but it DOES happen from time to time. Michael Haneke's latest picture seems like the most likely of candidates: won the top prize at Cannes, nearly unanimous praise, and a director who already has some degree of a following in the U.S.
17. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel...Yeah, the reviews have been less than amazing, but the box office has been unbelievable for a film of this type. It HAS gotten better reviews than The Blind Side did. Plus the age demographic of the film's cast is the closest to the Academy's own of any film on this list.
18. Brave...Early reviews indicate that this film is far better than Cars 2, but not nearly the equal of Pixar at their greatest. Still a leading contender for Animated Feature, but Best Picture prospects are dimming quickly.
19. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey...I expect great things from this film, but I expect the Academy to dole out more above the line love for Middle Earth one more time...when Part 2 is released. Still, I could be wrong, so it's ON the list.
20. Lincoln...You knew I wasn't going to leave it off entirely, it's Spielberg. However, this great director hasn't really shown us anything new for years, and there is nothing all that revolutionary about a biopic based on the life of a great American president. If there is some brilliant angle to this film that no one sees coming, or some very clever way of using Lincoln's story to comment on the state of the nation today, I will immediately throw in behind this film. As it stands now, I'm rooting for Sally Field.
1. Steven Spielberg - Lincoln
2. Paul Thomas Anderson - The Master
3. Quentin Tarantino - Django Unchained
4. Tom Hooper - Les Miserables
5. Christopher Nolan - The Dark Knight Rises
6. Katherine Bigelow - Zero Dark Thirty
7. Baz Luhrman - The Great Gatsby
8. Joe Wright - Anna Karenina
9. Ang Lee - Life of Pi
10. Roger Michel - Hyde Park On Hudson
Also: Peter Jackson - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Terence Malick - To The Wonder
But I'm feeling more...
1. Paul Thomas Anderson - The Master...Anderson always delivers and came soooo close for There Will Be Blood. Plus everything I said before about the film's Best Picture chances.
2. Tom Hooper - Les Miserables...I strongly suspect that this will be one of the serious contenders for Best Picture this year and that requires a nod in this category as well. If Hooper pulls this task off, he'll deserve it.
3. Katherine Bigelow - Zero Dark Thirty...She will have to show us something new in a film that has several things in common with her last one. If she can do that, I think she's back in. Even a nomination would solidify that the Academy did not view her win as a "token" victory.
4. Joe Wright - Anna Karenina...It just seems like this could be his year to break in. He's been doing excellent work in a variety of different kinds of films and here he is right back in the Academy's literary wheelhouse.
5. Behn Zeitlan - Beasts of the Southern Wild...I would honestly rank him even higher if there were any significant buzz to support me, but there is not yet. Regardless, I think that this is a strong possibility when it's all said and done.
6. Christopher Nolan - The Dark Knight Rises...Okay, so I have this fantasy where the only reason Nolan got snubbed for Inception in this category was so they could give him his first nod when he was back in Gotham one last time. Don't let them really delight in teasing him (and his fans) the way they seem to...
7. The Coen Brothers - Inside Llewyn Davis...I would have ranked Joel and Ethan higher if they hadn't already had two nominations in the last five years in this category. Still, they can never be counted out, and it would be fun to see this category's winners from two, three,and four years ago all going head to head in a single year. Not to mention the Coen/Anderson rematch and its inherent marketing possibilities.
8. Quentin Tarantino - Django Unchained...The AMPAS loves Tartantino, except for when he's too...Tarantino. This could go either way, regardless of the film's actual quality.
9. Ang Lee - Life of Pi...Lee is a masterful director and this film seems headed for screenplay and possibly picture nods, but the film's chances in this category seem less certain at present.
10. Terence Malick - To The Wonder...No, this film didn't crack my Best Picture top ten, but if it does get into the Best Picture race, Malick will certainly make the cut from the directors branch of the Academy. He might get a nomination even if the movie fails to.
And so concludes The Movie Frog's June Oscar Preview. If you think I've overestimated or underestimated certain films (or left something important out entirely), please start a conversation in the comments below. If you are checking into this series late, you can see my Best Actor and Best Actress predictions here. My predictions in the Best Supporting races here. Coverage of the Screenplays is here.
The Genre categories (Animated Feature, Documentary Feature, Foreign Language Film, and the Shorts) can be found here. Finally, my coverage of the Technical categories (everything else, from Cinematography to Make-Up) can be found here. Look for the next series of awards season previews at the end of summer, right before the heart of Fall Festival season is upon us. If you want to get an early jump on your Oscar watching, I would suggest catching Beasts of the Southern Wild on June 27th, and The Dark Knight Rises next month. I could easily see these two films racking up 15 or 16 nominations between them.
Listening (hungrily) for buzzing,