The Oscar Warrior’s 2011 Oscar Picks – Part 1

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We’ve been doing Oscar Warrior posts on the Weekend Warrior blog for a couple of months now, but it’s time to put our best foot forward and actually make some predictions now that ballots have gone out and the 5,783 members of the Academy are making their selections as we speak to get their ballots back by January 13 with nominations announced on January 25.

We’re going to start by saying that this has been one of the craziest years in recent memory, because no one can seem to agree on what’s worthy, what’s not, who is the frontrunner, who doesn’t stand a chance and so on. In past years, we’ve always felt there was a Helen Mirren or a Javier Bardem or some movie everyone agreed upon, but even the frontrunners have their most vocal detractors and there’s a lot of last-minute support for movies that seems to merely be a reaction to support for other movies. I guess you can blame that on the growing internet and the resulting boost in people writing about Oscars from two or three years back. There’s a lot of clutter and noise and only a few writers are able to keep their head above all the bullsh*t to analyze the race without including their personal biases or preferences. (Not that we’re saying we always rise above it.)

But none of that matters, because after months of musing over the possibilities and weighing the good and bad of all of them, we’ve come up with our five picks for seven categories as well as the nine or ten movies vying in the Best Picture race.

We’ll start with the four acting categories, and besides three generally sure things in the lead actor races and two or three in the supporting race, no one agrees on who is actually the frontrunner. At this point, we still have a lot of open races with less than two months before Oscar night.

Actress in a Leading Role

The thought we might have four actresses nominated for movies that don’t get a Best Picture nomination probably isn’t any sort of precedent, but right now, Davis, Streep and Williams are pretty much guaranteed leaving two more slots for everyone else. Tilda Swinton is getting a lot of support and we already know the Academy likes her, and we think Rooney Mara might fill the young ingénue slot since Academy members will have seen Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo right before filling out ballots.

(All of our predictions are in alphabetical order.)

1. Viola Davis – The Help

The second nomination for this accomplished actress but first time in a leading role, but do enough Academy voters feel she was the lead in this movie?

2. Rooney Mara – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Academy’s token ingénue, giving a stunning performance in a late release movie that will be fresh in their minds while filling out ballots. A single tear just rolled down Noomi Rapace’s cheek.

3. Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady

Already a 16-time nominee, seeing Streep’s name in this category has become a foregone conclusion, but her portrayal of a public figure like Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher seems to be what she needs to win her first Oscar in 28 years.

4. Tilda Swinton – We Need to Talk About Kevin

Having won an Oscar with her first nomination (for Michael Clayton), Swinton has become a highly-respected actress and her portrayal of a mother tormented by a malicious kid is unforgettable.

5. Michelle Williams – My Week with Marilyn

A two-time nominee, Williams’ portrayal of Marilyn Monroe should connect with enough of the older Oscar voters that she’ll be going to Oscar night for a second year in a row.

On the Outskirts

At this point, support for Glenn Close’s performance as a woman pretending to be a man in the 19th Century drama Albert Nobbs seems to be slipping, but with five previous Oscar nominations under her belt, she may very well bump Rooney Mara for that fifth slot. Being ignored by SAG isn’t a good sign for Charlize Theron’s snarky performance in Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody’s Young Adult either, nor is the movie’s dismal box office which makes one think audiences just aren’t connecting with the film.

Bumped!

We love Elizabeth Olsen’s performance in Sean Durkin’s Martha Marcy May Marlene, but she seems to have been forgotten due to the late-in-the-race arrival of Rooney Mara in “Dragon Tattoo.”

The Winner

Streep will win her third Oscar and her first in 28 years for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher. Her strongest competition–Davis and Williams–will essentially cancel each other out.

Actor in a Leading Role

This category seems to be far more set with five actors who have been showing up repeatedly since their movies did the awards circuits, but this is really between Clooney and DuJardin at this point and has been for a while.

(All of our predictions are in alphabetical order.)

1. George Clooney – The Descendants

Already nominated for three Oscars for his acting with one award on his mantle, Clooney’s portrayal of a Hawaiian estate lawyer whose wife is dying hits all the right notes.

2. Leonardo DiCaprio – J. Edgar

Some say that much of DiCaprio’s performance can be attributed to the make-up job, but it’s still a strong performance playing a real person from history and DiCaprio’s been nominated for much less.

3. Jean Dujardin – The Artist

The fact that Dujardin gives such a well-rounded performance without the benefit of spoken words makes his role that much more powerful, as he offers the strongest competition for the win.

4. Michael Fassbender- Shame

A well-respected Irish actor long overdue for recognition, the difficulty of playing a sexually-addicted man and what that entails is sure to get him recognized.

5. Brad Pitt – Moneyball

With two nominations under his belt, Pitt is coming into the year with another strong performance in a well-liked movie that’s been more successful in terms of box office than the others.

On the Outskirts

There’s still something to be said about having a long career without ever having an Oscar nomination, which may be why Gary Oldman’s portrayal of John Le Carré’s aging spy George Smiley in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy may get him some recognition. Former supporting actor nominee Michael Shannon has been getting a lot of critical support for Jeff Nicholls’ Take Shelter, and deservedly so, and the screener went out early enough that enough voters will have seen it, though its genre elements may hurt his chances. If either of them get in, it would probably be in place of DiCaprio.

Bumped!

Woody Harrelson gives the performance of his career in Oren Moverman’s police drama Rampart, but for some reason, the dark police drama has not connected with audiences and awards voters who have snubbed him across the board.

The Winner

Despite all the critical support for others, this looks to be Clooney’s to lose.

Actress in a Supporting Role

What’s interesting about this category is that we might see five first-time nominees, though that may not be too surprising since this category has always been one where new and unrecognized talent often gets nominated and wins. (See Marisa Tomei, Mo’Nique, Jennifer Hudson, Marcia Gay Harden and plenty of others.) Unfortunately, this is not a year with a strong known actress running (ala Tilda Swinton, Rachel Weisz or Renee Zellwegger) which means there’s no real frontrunner, once again making this the most interesting category.

(All of our predictions are in alphabetical order.)

1. Berenice Bejo – The Artist

A performance just as strong and memorable as Dujardin’s which got shafted into the supporting category to avoid interfering with Harvey’s two-fer of Streep and Williams in lead.

2. Melissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids

A rare Oscar nomination for a comedic performance, the antics of McCarthy’s crazy character in Kristin Wiig’s R-rated comedy has left a huge impression; McCarthy’s recent Emmy win also doesn’t hurt.

3. Janet McTeer – Albert Nobbs

In an ironic turn, McTeer gives a more convincing performance as a woman playing a man than the film’s main purveyor, Glenn Close, and stands a better chance at getting into the weaker supporting category.

4. Octavia Spencer – The Help

Another performance everyone agrees helps make one of the year’s most popular movies is Spencer’s portrayal of a sassy Southern maid, also one of the first cast for the film.

5. Shailene Woodley – The Descendants

Holding one’s own against a force like Clooney is impressive on its own, but the fact this is Woodley’s first major film role puts her in the same category as last year’s Hailee Steinfeld.

On the Outskirts

We love Jessica Chastain in everything she does but we have this bad feeling that being in so many movies and having such strong roles in The Help and Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life is likely to split votes. If she does get in, it’s likely to be for The Help and any of the five above might be replaced, but Woodley and McTeer are her targets.

Bumped!

There was a lot of early support for Vanessa Redgrave’s performance in Ralph Fiennes’ Shakespeare adaptation Coriolanus, but that dissipated almost as soon as awards started being announced. Reviews are mixed and opinions are split on Daldry’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, and Oscar voters are likely to feel they already gave Sandra Bullock her due by awarding her an Oscar for The Blind Side. This is a great performance in a weak and divisive film.

The Winner

Octavia Spencer seems to be the most likely winner here, following Jennifer Hudson and Mo’Nique as the third African-American actress of the last ten years to win. The spoiler may be Berenice Bejo who has the luxury of being placed in this category despite having a leading role.

Actor in a Supporting Role

There’s a very good chance that 50 will be the low-end cutoff age for actors to get into this year’s supporting actor race with only one younger actor possibly breaking things up. We’ve seen this category go to so many veterans over the years that when a new face like Christoph Waltz or Benicio Del Toro gets the award, it’s a nice surprise. Villains tend to play very well in this category, as seen by successive wins by Javier Bardem, the late Heath Ledger and Waltz, which gives an advantage to Albert Brooks, who along with Christopher Plummer and Kenneth Branagh are the only sure things here.

(All of our predictions are in alphabetical order.)

1. Kenneth Branagh- My Week with Marilyn

His portrayal of Sir Laurence Olivier, whom one expects to be well-respected amongst the Academy’s acting branch, as well as nominations from SAG, the Hollywood Foreign Press and the Broadcast Film Critics, guarantees Branagh is in.

2. Albert Brooks – Drive

The return of a once-prolific comic actor in a dramatic role as a crime boss has turned many heads and won many early critics awards despite being snubbed by SAG.

3. Jonah Hill – Moneyball

The youngest potential candidate in this category has already received SAG and Golden Globes nominations, though his performance tends to be overshadowed by the film’s more famous star Brad Pitt.

4. Nick Nolte – Warrior

Another previous nominee (both times in lead) who has never won an Oscar, Nick Nolte’s performance as a neglectful alcoholic father has been one of the prime takeaways from this sports drama with BFCA and SAG nods, but no Golden Globe nomination.

5. Christopher Plummer – Beginners

Watching Plummer play a 70-year-old recently-outed gay father with cancer in Mike Mills’ semi-autobiographical film has kept people well aware that Plummer has yet to win an Oscar in his career.

On the Outskirts

Max von Sydow’s performance as a silent Holocaust victim in Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is another terrific turn for the veteran, previously nominated for Pelle the Conqueror. With no precursors and opinions divided on the film, it would be shocking if he gets nominated.

Bumped!

George Clooney did a great job co-writing and directing the political thriller The Ides of March while also playing a Presidential candidate, but the Academy is much more focused on the higher-profile The Descendants. Similarly, Patton Oswalt gives a heartfelt and poignant performance in Jason Reitman’s Young Adult, but if Oscar voters don’t like the movie enough to nominate Charlize, what chance does he have? Ezra Miller’s performance in Lynne Ramsay’s thriller We Need to Talk About Kevin is the type of absolute evil we enjoy see being honored by the Academy. Sadly, they’re more focused on Swinton.

The Winner

This is between Albert Brooks and Christopher Plummer, and while we’d prefer to see Brooks win, we think the latter’s age and his more prominent role in Mike Mills’ Beginners will win over older Oscar voters.

Look for Part 2 of our Oscar picks tomorrow.