Sunday, July 21, 2013

July Oscar Buzz and Predictions - The Big Two

     The big two, of course, being picture and director.  As always, the first list is about the buzz.  The second list is whatever crap came out of my head...

Best Director

  1. George Clooney - The Monuments Men
  2. Martin Scorsese - The Wolf of Wall Street
  3. Joel & Ethan Coen - Inside Llewyn Davis
  4. Alfonso Cuaron - Gravity
  5. David O Russell - American Hustle

  6. Ridley Scott - The Counselor
  7. Bennett Miller - Foxcatcher
  8. Paul Greengrass - Captain Phillips
  9. John Wells - August: Osage County
  10. Steve McQueen - 12 Years a Slave

     I can understand why all of these names made the list. If there's a long shot in the bunch, it is probably John Wells.  I'm expecting August: Osage County to be more of a showcase for the actors, maybe the script, but time will tell.  If I had to say what sets my list apart, I would note that I am predicting more of a breakthrough for the young buck auteurs in 2013.  I'm also more realistic about how easily the directors' branch of the AMPAS gets spacesick...

  1. Joel & Ethan Coen - Inside Llewyn Davis...I am not necessarily predicting the win here, just the most likely nominee. Out of the true veteran heavy hitters in this year's race (it seems odd to think of  the Indie Revolution harbingers as such, but it's been a long time since the early nineties), only the Coens have already debuted their film and received a consensus critical opinion that leans comfortably toward the positive.
  2. Martin Scorsese - The Wolf of Wall Street...Sure, I usually give a strong edge in the early part of the year to the films that have already debuted, but I can't help myself.  Marty and Leo are always a powerful combination.  It seems unlikely that both Scorcese AND Clooney get left out.  After seeing the first trailer for "Wolf", my money's on Marty.
  3. Ryan Coogler - Fruitvale Station...At this point, this little indie effort might just WIN the top two categories.  Coogler is sure to top a host of best first director lists this year, and winning would give him the distinction of being the first African-American director to do so.  See, I made it all the way to number three before I invoked Harvey Weinstein's name to justify a predicted nominee's inclusion...invoke.
  4. Steve McQueen - 12 Years a Slave...And while we're at it, we might as well also go on record saying that 2013 will be the first year to award two black directors with nominations (you can't call Steve McQueen an African-American no matter HOW PC you are, he's from England).  True, McQueen's previous efforts (particularly Shame) were a little too much for the Academy's delicate, often fragile, sensibilities.  This film could easily follow in Shame's footsteps and elude recognition no matter how brilliant it is.  Slavery, however, is a topic that Oscar can stomach a good hard look at much more readily than sex addiction (to say nothing of Michael Fassbender's penis).  Django proved this to be true.  I'm hoping that this picture can follow in those footsteps.
  5. JC Chandor - All is Lost...I went back and forth on my fifth and sixth place predictions, but I finally decided to place this epic of one man lost at sea in the number five slot for two reasons.  First, it has already debuted and blown expectations out of know.  Critical consensus is firmly on the film's side and star Robert Redford's Oscar comeback story is ready to write itself.  The second reason is that, as I stated, I think this will be a real breakout year for up and coming writer/directors.  Chandor's freshman effort, Margin Call, beat the odds to land him a screenplay nod.  Might this be the year that the other aspect of his amazing talent gets recognized?

  6. George Clooney - The Monuments Men...Of course its more than likely that Mr. Clooney will take one of my young lions down.  The Academy loves Mr. Clooney in a way that makes the women uncomfortable in their clothes and the men even more so.  After mostly ignoring his last effort, The Ides of March, it is almost unthinkable that they would let this film (which panders to their tastes in such a gratifyingly obvious way) go by without giving it multiple nods (with director/writer/star/producer George C up for at least a couple of them personally).  Still, it is not THAT far outside of the realm of probability that he gets Picture and Screenplay, but misses director and/or actor.
  7. Bennett Miller - Foxcatcher...Moneyball was the best movie that has ever been made about two topics as boring as math and baseball.  Imagine what Mr. Miller might do with an inherently interesting premise and an equally capable cast.
  8. Ridley Scott - The Counselor...I would have placed this film higher in the rankings if I had not been burned last year lobbying for Mr. Scott's underwhelmingly adequate Prometheus.  I'm sorry, but only time can heal these wounds...maybe just enough time for this thriller to open.
  9. David O Russell - American Hustle...Mr. Russell's recent track record with Oscar means you can't ignore his possible inclusion here, but every lucky streak breaks eventually, just ask Jason Reitman.
  10. Alfonso Cuaron - Gravity...I really wanted to put Elysium in this unlikely wild card slot, but Gravity does have far more buzz.

     But I considered...John Wells (August: Osage County), Richard Linklater (Before Midnight), Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine), Lee Daniels (The Butler), Paul Greengrass - Captain Phillips, Neil Blomkamp - Elysium, Bill Condon - The Fifth Estate, Spike Jonze - Her, James Grey - The Immigrant, Jason Reitman - Labor Day, Anton Corbjin - A Most Wanted Man, Alexander Payne - Nebraska, Spike Lee - Oldboy, Scott Cooper - Out of the Furnace, Asghar Farhadi - The Past, Stephen - Philomena, Ron Howard - Rush, John Lee Hancock - Saving Mr. Banks, Susanne Biers - Serena, Jean-Pierre Jeunet - The Young and Prodigious Spivet

Best Picture

  1. The Monuments Men
  2. Inside Llewyn Davis
  3. The Wolf of Wall Street
  4. August: Osage County
  5. Captain Phillips
  6. Fruitvale Station
  7. Nebraska
  8. Foxcatcher
  9. Before Midnight
  10. The Counselor

  11. Gravity
  12. Saving Mr. Banks
  13. American Hustle
  14. 12 Years a Slave
  15. Labor Day
  16. The Butler
  17. The Great Gatsby
  18. Out of the Furnace
  19. All is Lost
  20. Rush

     So far, the year has seen the debut of three films that I'm betting make the Best Picture race, and you can find them at slots one through three on my prediction list below.  Film festival crowds have also been treated to a couple of feasible maybes (six and fifteen on my list) and one dark horse wild card that's made enough of an impact to humor (number nineteen). The other fourteen films I am championing purely on speculation, some more speculative than others.

  1. Inside Llewyn Davis...Coens + Cannes acclaim + Oscar friendly release date > or = Best Picture nominee.
  2. Fruitvale Station...Sundance AND Cannes acclaim + The Weinstein Co. + critical embrace > or = Best Picture nominee.
  3. Before Midnight...Conclusion to a beloved trilogy never honored under old five nominee system + best film in the series + best reviewed narrative film in English of the year = Best Picture nominee.
  4. The Wolf of Wall Street....After all that simple math the remaining speculation seems a little scarier. Of course, Martin Scorsese reunited with frequent 21st century muse DiCaprio is usually a PRETTY sure bet, at least better than most, so I can face my fears on a big limb before I go out on some that are decidedly flimsier.
  5. 12 Years a Slave...With only two previous films under his belt, Steve McQueen is already proving himself a thoughtful director of consistently impressive quality.  His third film sounds far more baity and far less off-putting than Shame.  For now, my money is on McQueen getting bumped up to the next level when the year is said and done.
  6. All is Lost...As already noted, this film has screened to rave reviews and surpassed the expectations of almost everyone who has seen it. In it Robert Redford give a performance that has placed him at the head of this year's Best Actor race securely enough to generate other nominations.
  7. The Monuments Men...I held out as long as I could before getting to the film that seems genetically engineered for the Academy Awards due to a sneaking suspicion that the "bait" factor here could prove to be overkill.
  8. Foxcatcher...There is now some doubt whether this film will actually be released or get held over to 2014.  IF it comes out this year, I'm expecting greatness...largely a hunch.
  9. The Counselor...Ridley Scott failed to deliver last year, and it has made me gun shy regardless of how potentially great the premise of this film sounds.  Of course, the same knee jerk reaction kept me from being too enthusiastic about Lincoln last year, and we know how that turned out.
  10. Blue Jasmine...Yeah, I know, Woody JUST had a big comeback two years ago, but early word on this one is encouraging and Cate Blanchett looks positively brilliant in the trailer.

  11. Gravity...Yeah, I expect it to be great too, but any film set in space has one mark against it from the get go.
  12. American Hustle...While director David O Russell's film's have had a flawless track record in recent years, that is a double edged sword.  While the AMPAS is sure to take the film seriously, they may also feel that the director has already gotten his due of late.  He's almost got to top Silver Linings Playbook to even get in the game.
  13. August: Osage County...I find the cast of this piece as rife with tasty possibilities as the next guy, but I'm still not sold that it will break out of the acting categories.
  14. Captain Phillips...Action flicks are another genre with something of an uphill battle to wage when it comes to getting awards recognition.  Still, director Greengrass has done it before.
  15. Nebraska...For an Alexander Payne film, Nebraska's response at Cannes was...tepid.  It could still happen, but Payne's track record is about due for a blip, and so far it leaves many cold.
  16. Labor Day...Jason Reitman fell out of the Academy's favor a bit with his last effort, Young Adult. His possible comeback? The dramedy king goes all drama.  It could be the revitalizing change of direction that he needs, or it could be just another action thriller.
  17. Elysium...Even though no one else seems to be taking this film's above the line prospects very seriously at this point, I am STILL so stoked about the way that District 9 transcended the science fiction genre that I will not count director Neil Blomkamp out.
  18, Philomena...Weinstein seemed awfully eager to pick up this up. His sights COULD be set for a campaign beyond Best Actress.
  19. Stories We Tell...Every year or two, some rather unique documentary comes along that people theorize could finally be the first to land a best picture nomination.  If anything did this year, it would be this one from director Sarah Polley, which has received nearly universal praise.
  20. The Young and Prodigious Spivet...Again, Weinstein jumped at distribution and its not like director Jean-Pierre Jeunet has never been courted by Oscar before (Amelie).

     And that does it for this round of Oscar predix.  We'll probably get around to more around September.

  Related articles: What "Cannes" We Tell So Far?, June Oscar Buzz and Predictions - The Aural TechsThe Visual TechsThe Genre CategoriesThe ScreenplaysSupporting PlayersActor and Actress; Innkeepers of Blood and Shame (Shame review), Arantino Explained (The T is Invisible) (Django Unchained review), Promarlius Kingdom (Prometheus review), Dark Clouds Beautify "Silver Linings"Another Young Project (Young Adult review)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Outside the Prodigal Idiots

     Our fourth installment of the 2010 rewind series brings Algeria's Oscar nominee, an unusual documentary about a transsexual and her estranged brother, and an animated feature about redemption that will give you wings...

  Outside the Law - The story of three brothers and the roles that they play in the early twentieth century fight for Algerian independence from France, Outside the Law earned Algeria a nomination for Best Foreign Language film at the 83rd Academy Awards.  Director Rachid Bouchareb had previously been nominated for the 2006 film Days of Glory which I regret to say I have not seen.  Taken on its own merit, "Law" is something of an old fashioned sprawling family epic, one that highlights a culture and a people that have received relatively little exposure in world cinema.  For this alone, the film is to be admired.
     However, it is also a tale well told and a capably handled production.  The three lead actors in particular are to be commended.  The brothers are all such distinct personalities, yet their onscreen chemistry never lets you doubt the common history and bond that they share.
     Jamel Debbouze plays the youngest brother Said, who could be said to be the pragmatist of the trio.  He lives outside of the law in service of personal profit, trying to build a bubble of security for himself and his own with a small empire of endeavors that range from promoting boxers to running prostitutes.  Debbouze plays him with a smarmy charm that never quite comes across as slimy.  Of course, one could make the argument that characterizing a pimp in such a sympathetic light ignores his exploitation of women. I prefer to see him as a truly well rounded personality, complete with both despicable and noble qualities.
    Nobility is the very spirit of eldest sibling Abdelkader, played by actor Sami Bouajila, but he can be the most ruthless of them all in the service of a cause that he perceives as noble.  He is a man who is comfortable with ideals, but not so much with interpersonal relations and emotion.  Bouajila portrays him, in fact, as something of a cold fish when not immersed in the passionate fight for Algerian independence.  As an activist, however, he is bold, charismatic, powerfully spoken, and inspirational.
     Roschdy Zem plays the middle brother, Messaoud.  He has the gentlest and simplest nature of the three, and is the last one to become an outlaw.  He is also a complex figure whose nature is rife with contradictory elements. He can be an absolute physical monster of a man in defense of what is his, a decorated soldier long before he joins his elder brother in the Resistance.  He is the most sympathetic of the three, as played by Mr. Zem, and the most tragic.  In the end, his loyalty to his family and his people is his Achilles' heel. Physically, he is by far the most formidable member of his brood.  In his heart, he is the most vulnerable.
     As you can easily see from this basic rundown of the main players, the story is far from short on conflict on multiple internal and external levels.  Watching how the brothers change in response to circumstance and each other makes for a complex and captivating tale of war and brotherhood that I can only criticize for an occasional slide into melodrama...4 of out 5 stars.

  Idiots and Angels...Writer/director/producer/animator Bill Plympton is generally considered to be one of the most talented and exciting makers of animated film around.  His short films have won awards at Cannes and nominations from the Academy.  His feature films don't lack for critical laurels, either. Despite this, your ignorant little Froggy had not seen ONE Plympton original until I watched Idiots and Angels for this rewind series.
     I can see, even at first exposure, what all the fuss is about.  Idiots and Angels was a highly original piece of work, with a strong story line that didn't condescend to its audience. While certainly not aimed at children, the script does make excellent use of elements common to children's tales.  Taken at its most simple elements, it is an allegory of redemption.  The characters are largely allegorical in nature and the story draws clear lines between good and evil while still allowing for the existence of both within each individual.
      The animation is strongly influenced by the Film Noire school in tone and style.  The images are not designed to achieve the "hyper-realism" of modern computer generated graphics, but use a simple, representative approach to character and scenic design.  I'm not sure (being shamefully unexposed to Plympton's other films) if this is simply the animator's constant style or if it was tailored specifically to Idiots and Angels, but it complemented the allegorical slant of the movie perfectly.  The transitions between scenes were particularly brilliant, morphing one focal object into another as the background shifted almost imperceptibly.behind them.
      If you enjoy watching unique and creative approaches to animated story telling, this picture should be a must see.  It has less musical numbers or fart jokes than most animated Oscar nominee have (none, actually) but it does have something far more difficult to come by in today's world of market testing and target audiences...MAGIC...4 1/2 of 5 stars.

  Prodigal Sons - My opinion shifted several times during the course of this offbeat documentary from director Kimberly Reed.  It begins as a simple story about Ms. Reed's first trip back to her home town after transitioning from her old identity as Paul McKerrow many years before.  I grew a little weary during the first thirty minutes of the film, which don't really cover much new ground in terms of LGBT acceptance issues in biological families.  But this is just the beginning, and explorations on the themes of gender, identity, acceptance, and the nature of family are only broached at this point.
    The most grating thing about the picture's first act (and indeed, the whole picture) is the onscreen presence and personality of the film maker's older adopted brother Marc.  Yet Marc's abrasive nature serves the film well, because it sets the viewer up to write him off as the voice of ignorant intolerance that hinders the progress of our valiant hero.  In the second act (which is mostly Marc's story), you see that Marc's fears and the emotional distance he maintains are brought about largely by his own insecurities and indefinite sense of personal identity.
     By forcing the viewer back and forth between perspectives, the film maker calls attention to the subjective nature of perception. Like a fun house mirror, life often shows us an image that is warped enough to appear as something "other" when it is really just our own reflection.  As much as I came to admire the documentary that this film grew (somewhat accidentally, it appears) into, I still felt that the first act was a needlessly drawn out example of a scenario we have seen numerous times before, presented in a manner that has become somewhat dull with repetition...4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013 Oscar Buzz and Predictions - Actor and Actress

     In the interest of trying to finish these close to June, let's hop right to it. As always the buzz is more immediately obvious and I make you wait just a moment longer...

Best Actor
  1. Leonardo DiCaprio - The Wolf of Wall Street
  2. Bruce Dern - Nebraska
  3. Matthew McConaughey - Dallas Buyer's Club
  4. Robert Redford - All is Lost
  5. Michael B Jordan - Fruitvale Station

  6. Tom Hanks - Captain Phillips
  7. Oscar Isaac - Inside Llewyn Davis
  8. Steve Carrell - Foxcatcher
  9. Chiwetel Ejiofor - 12 Years a Slave
  10. Michael Fassbender - The Counselor

     The buzz seems reasonable here, and I see no reason not to believe that most or all of the gentlemen listed above will deliver noteworthy turns.  I do think that Bruce Dern is probably going to wind up being campaigned in Supporting.  Other than that, my predictions differ mostly in that I tend to give the edge to performances that have already screened and proven to live up to the hype.  With that in mind...

  1. Robert Redford - All is Lost (0 wins out of 1 nomination)...I am a LITTLE self-satisfied that I predicted this a few months back in my first guesses BEFORE anyone saw the film at Cannes.  Since then everyone else has jumped on board with me.  Hopefully we won't capsize.
  2. Oscar Isaac - Inside Llewyn Davis (never nominated)...Word out of Cannes was very strong for this latest Coen production and its star.  Of course, we won't really know until the film debuts to a wider audience, but for now it seems like a strong bet.
  3. Michael B Jordan - Fruitvale Station (never nominated)...This film (and its young star) received raves out of both Sundance and Cannes earlier this year.  The obstacle here will be getting enough people to see the film but modest box office didn't stop Quvenzhane Wallis last year, so it might not matter.  Oh, yeah, the Weinstein Company is handling distribution.
  4. Matthew McConaughey - Mud (never nominated)..It would seem to be Mr. McConaughey's year.  I know everyone else is predicting that he gets in for Dallas Buyer's Club, but we don't REALLY know how that will turn out just yet.  We DO know that Mud was his greatest performance to date, so until that is no longer true, I'm sticking to my guns.
  5. Steve Carrell - Foxcatcher (never nominated)...I love it when famous funny men prove they have dramatic range as well, and so does the Academy.  Bennett Miller directed Jonah Hill to a nod in a role that possessed far less furniture chewing potential, so...

  6. Michael Fassbender - The Counselor (never nominated)...This film is a potentially fantastic question mark at the moment, but after being left out at the 84th Oscars because his equipment was flopping  all around the screen while he out acted all of that year's eventual nominees, the Academy should be looking for an excuse to recognize Fassbender's talent.
  7. Ethan Hawke - Before Midnight (0 wins out of 1 nomination in acting categories)...Something from the first half of the year almost always emerges as a true awards player and the third film in the Before series would seem to be the early bird most likely to succeed at this point in the game.  A previous nod for Training Day demonstrates that the Academy respects Mr. Hawke. If the film scores in Picture, Adapted Screenplay and Actress, he could be swept along with the current.
  8. Chiwetel Ejiofor - 12 Years a Slave (never nominated)...Steve McQueen is a strikingly gifted director whose films thus far have featured actors in roles that took them down to very deep and difficult places.  If the never previously nominated actor rises to the challenge, he could be a real threat.  However, he'll have to avoid being upstaged by both McQueen muse Fassbender and Brad Pitt.
  9. Leonardo DiCaprio - The Wolf of Wall Street (0 wins out of 3 nominations)...I LOVE Leo, and he is undeniably one of the most overdue actors out there but I'm SOOOO tired of predicting his nomination every year and being wrong.  See, this is the thing.  Leo CAN get another nomination, and a win, and he will in time. But Leo has to be twice as good to get praise from the Academy as anyone else because he once acted like a brat when he didn't get a nod for playing a role in which he was pleasant, but vastly under challenged. Of course, this was back when he was barely out of his teens.  Now that he's nearing forty, I'd like to ask the Academy: Who's REALLY being the brat?
  10. Tom Hanks - Captain Phillips...Once the AMPAS's favorite son and poster boy, it has been quite some time since Mr. Hanks REALLY threw his hat in the ring.  A lot of pundits believe that this will be the year that he receives a long awaited sixth nomination.  I think he's gearing up, but I could be wrong.  If it DOES happen this year, I prefer to believe it will be for this film, rather that the as yet sap-unseen Saving Mr. Banks.
  I also wouldn't be shocked by:  Casey Affleck - Ain't Them Bodies Saints (0/1), Christian Bale - American Hustle (1/1), Forest Whitaker - The Butler or Untitled Lee Daniels Project (1/1), Benedict Cumberbatch - The Fifth Estate (nn), Michael Shannon - The Iceman (nn), Josh Brolin - Labour Day (0/1), Mark Wahlberg - Lone Survivor (0/1), Idris Elba - Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, Christian Bale - Out of the Furnace (1/1), Hugh Jackman - Prisoners (0/1), Colin Firth - The Railway Man (0/2), Daniel Bruhl - Rush (nn), Tom Hanks - Saving Mr. Banks (2/5), Ben Stiller - The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (nn), Christoph Waltz - The Zero Theorem (2/2)

Best Actress
  1. Meryl Streep - August: Osage County
  2. Nicole Kidman - Grace of Monaco
  3. Naomi Watts - Diana
  4. Emma Thompson - Saving Mr. Banks
  5. Kate Winslet - Labor Day

  6. Sandra Bullock - Gravity
  7. Marion Cotillard - The Immigrant
  8. Julie Delpy - Before Midnight
  9. Berenice Bejo - The Past
  10. Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine

     Many a year reaches the half-way point and the biggest challenge in predicting this category is coming up with ten ladies to single out as true real contenders.  Traditionally, more films are led by men with more women playing supporting roles.  This year, however, we actually have a pretty wide field of actresses to choose from.  I could see ANY of the women above winding up with a nomination, but they're not exactly my top ten...

  1. Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine (1 win out of 5 nominations)...No one can claim that the Academy has failed to honor Cate Blanchett, but no one can claim that she hasn't earned and deserved every bit of it.  She looks amazing in the trailer, like her performance IS the film. I could say we all know what Allen is capable of doing when working with a female talent of this caliber if Blanchett wasn't practically in a caliber all her own.
  2. Julie Delpy - Before Midnight (never nominated in acting categories)...I've gone on record with the fact that I expect this film to be the one big above the line player released in the first half of 2013, and this is probably the second most likely nod for it to snag.  Mrs. Delpy's performance has been universally praised as one of the strongest elements.
  3. Meryl Streep - August: Osage County (3 wins out of 17 nominations)  Whatever the AMPAS thinks of DiCaprio that makes them so hesitant to honor him, the opposite must be true of Meryl Streep.  Like Woody Allen, she almost has to be attached to a BAD film to get left out (or request that no one vote for her).  No reason to believe that this Weinstein backed production will fall into that category as of yet, so here she is.
  4. Judi Dench - Philomena (1 win out of 6 nominations)...Speaking of Harvey and Company, they recently picked up this film for distribution at Cannes.  If the move was made as an 86th Oscar play (and with the Weinsteins, it is likely), Best Actress seems like a reasonable primary target.  While the company already had three strong contenders for nomination (Streep, Kidman & Roberts), a second Oscar for aging British matron Dench seems like their strongest play for a win.
  5. Jessica Chastain - The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (0 wins out of 2 nominations)...Both in terms of Academy appeal and ability to deliver, Ms. Chastain shows signs of becoming the Meryl of a new generation.  She's made a believer out of me, demonstrating more range in two short years than most actresses manage in a whole career.  If I have to lay odds for performances I haven't seen (and, well, I kinda do), she seems like a safer bet than most.

  6. Berenice Bejo - The Past (0 wins out of 1 nomination)...Circumstance may well keep The Past from being submitted to the Foreign Language Film race at all, but there's no way that it will fail to register on 2013's awards radar.  Original Screenplay and Actress seem like the categories in which it could most easily compete with English language productions. DuJardin may have won the statue for The Artist, but the world fell in love with Ms. Bejo.
  7. Sandra Bullock - Gravity (1 win out of 1 nomination)...Ms. Bullock is certainly well loved and likable, and it has made her one of the most successful and bankable romantic comedy stars ever.  Now over forty, she is working very hard to expand her range as an actress before she gets relegated to playing rom-com moms.  Her Oscar for the Blind Side came not so much because her performance blew everyone else out of the water (the script was far too saccharine and formulaic to allow for that),  but because it broadened the range of what we had seen her do significantly.  She beat out several younger, more "prestige" actresses for Gravity, and I'm sure that director Cuaron did not take the decision of casting this (practically) one woman show lightly.  The only thing standing in her way is the little problem of the film's subject matter.  The last Best Actress nominee in space was Sigourney Weaver for Aliens waaaay back in 1986.
  8. Julia Roberts - August: Osage County (1 win out of 3 nominations)...It's not that I don't think Ms. Roberts stands a very good chance of being fantastic in this film.  I have reservations about her chances of recognition in this category because of splits.  She and Streep will split the votes of those who wish to honor the film in this category. She, Streep, Dench, and Kidman will split the campaigning efforts of the Weinstein Company.  Of course, it she actually shows us something new and surprising, none of that will matter.
  9. Emma Thompson - Saving Mr. Banks (1 win out 4 nominations)...I recently saw Beautiful Creatures and was reminded of just how great an actress Emma Thompson can be when she's given something to do besides be primly British.  I want to be wrong about how many empty calories this film will contain, but if wishes were fishes we'd all have a feast.
     I'm so lame. I'm declaring number ten a tie.  Again...
  10. Nicole Kidman - Grace of Monaco (1 win out of 3 nominations)
  11. Naomi Watts - Diana (0 wins out of 2 nominations)
     It seems appropriate to pair these ladies, and not just because they are "besties".  They are also both appearing in self-titled biopics about iconic women.  This particular sub-genre of cinema has a bad reputation for good reason.  Quite often such movies exist strictly to serve as Oscar Bait vehicles which exploit the shortage of leading roles available to women to attract stars regardless of how little effort has been put into the script.  Yes, you occasionally get The Queen, but more often you get The Iron Lady.  I would love for one of these two pictures to buck the trend, and both ladies may receive nominations even if my hunch is right on the money.  For now, I'm going to choose to believe that this year's bumper crop of notable women characters is evidence that the day of My Week With Marilyn has passed...and keep my finger's crossed.

  What bumper crop, you say?  Behold this feast...Rooney Mara - Ain't Them Bodies Saints (0/1), Chloe Grace Moretz - Carrie (never nominated), Cate Blanchett - Carol (1/5), Annette Benning - The Face of Love, Greta Gerwig - Frances Ha (never nominated), Marion Cotillard - The Immigrant (1/1), Felicity Jones - The Invisible Woman, Kate Winslet - Labor Day (1/6), Jennifer Lawrence - Serena (1/2), Shailene Woodley - The Spectacular Now (never nominated), Audrey Tatou - Therese Desqueyroux

     With that, we are left with Picture and Director.  I shall try to return posthaste.

  Related articles:  What "Cannes" We Tell So Far?, June Oscar Buzz and Predictions - The Aural TechsThe Visual TechsThe Genre CategoriesThe ScreenplaysSupporting Players,  Innkeepers of Blood and Shame (Shame review), Water and Earth Make "Mud"