The Oscar Warrior’s 2011 Oscar Picks – Part 2

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Earlier this week in Part 1, we made all of our predictions for the acting races at the Oscars and here are the four other key races including Screenplay, Director as well as our picks for Best Picture:

Original Screenplay

The Writers’ Guild (WGA), who announce their nominations on January 5, have already turned down a couple of potential Oscar nominees in this category including The Artist and Margin Call, but the writers’ branch of the Academy have always made it clear they’re fully behind screenplays that show true originality, regardless of their origins, genre or subject matter. While the WGA won’t announce their nominations until tomorrow, one can expect they can only go 4 for 5 since the Academy can and will nominate Michel Hazanavicis’ The Artist, even if the frontrunner may be the filmmaker with the most career nominations in this particular category.

1. 50/50

Will Reiser’s personal story about fighting cancer was turned into a delightful and well-reviewed dramedy starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen.

2. The Artist

While this won’t receive a WGA nomination due to their rules, Michel Hazanavicius’ screenplay for his black and white silent film is bound to get writers excited considering how evocative it is in telling a story without dialogue.

3. Beginners

Mike Mills’ semi-autobiographical story about a graphic artist trying to find love after the death of his father has been getting a lot of late-season attention, and writers certainly should appreciate Mills’ writing.

4. Bridesmaids

This is a category where comedy tends to get its due as seen by the nomination for Borat a few years back, although two of producer Judd Apatow’s own movies have been snubbed despite receiving WGA nominations.

5. Midnight in Paris

Woody Allen is clearly a favorite in this category, having been nominated fourteen times before and having won two Oscars for his writing. Since this is considered his best movie since Match Point (his last screenplay nomination), a nomination is guaranteed with a win very likely.

On the Outskirts

Terrence Malick’s personal story in The Tree of Life may get some attention from the Oscar writers although the enigmatic filmmaker may not even allow his screenplay to be released to Oscar voters, which lessens its chances. (His previous Oscar nomination for The Thin Red Line was in the adapted category.)

Don’t be surprised if Tom McCarthy’s screenplay for Win Win gets some last minute support from the Academy’s writing branch. McCarthy is well-liked among the Academy and this screenplay is certainly original.

Bumped!

We’re feeling pretty good about the above selections, which means previous Oscar winner Diablo Cody’s script for Young Adult probably won’t get in. Nor will Jeff Nicholls’ Take Shelter despite the film getting a lot of late-year critical support.

The Winner

Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris.

Adapted Screenplay

In previous years, this category was more difficult since so many more of the Oscar Best Picture nominees were based on previous material. That’s been changing in recent year with The King’s Speech and The Hurt Locker, and it seems like the stronger movies with support in other categories should win out.

1. The Descendants

Alexander Payne won an Oscar (along with his writing partner Jim Taylor) for his screenplay for Sideways and there’s little argument that the screenplay for his latest is just as strong.

2. The Help

Tate Taylor’s adaptation of his best friend Kathryn Stockett’s bestselling novel is the start of one of the year’s biggest success stories, which should help its screenplay get some Oscar love.

3. Hugo

John Logan’s screenplay has a good chance at getting a nomination, not just because it’s well written but also because of the way it brings Brian Selznick’s popular book to life.

4. Moneyball

Another tough book to adapt for sure, it took two Oscar-winning screenwriters–Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian–to crack the nut and the screenwriting branch will know and appreciate what it took to make a good movie out of the non-fiction book.

5. War Horse

The screenplay for Steven Spielberg’s new movie is one of the questionables, only because the writing isn’t that strong and some find it schmaltzy. Academy screenwriters may snub it in favor of something else, putting the movie in the same category as Avatar or Titanic.

On the Outskirts

If for some reason War Horse doesn’t get a screenplay nomination putting it in the same boat as big movies like Titanic and Avatar, a couple of other screenplays could get support. If George Clooney’s The Ides of March gets a WGA nomination, that adds a lot of support to the PGA nomination and will improve its chances to get nominated here and for Best Picture.

Even though the Writers Guild turned it down for inclusion, Peter Straughn and Bridget O’Connor’s adaptation of John Le Carré’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy could find some support from the writing branch as the film’s only nomination, while other possibilities include Steve Zaillian’s adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (though that may be hurt by it being the novel’s second adaptation) and Hossein Amini and Nicolas Refn’s adaptation of Drive, though these are both being seen more as directing achievements. Eric Roth’s adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close may be out of the running unless the WGA gives it support over some of the screenplays listed above.

The Winner

This is Alexander Payne’s to lose, although he might be in the same boat as Jason Reitman a few years back with Up in the Air; if that happens, this year’s surprise winner would have to be Moneyball.

Director

This year’s Oscar race is very much a battle between the Old Guns and the New Guard, and though there should be a lot of familiar names in the running, all eyes are on a couple of younger upstarts who have never been nominated and whether they can get past the better known directors. It’s been a little bit more difficult to figure out the five directors in this category ever since the Academy upped the number of Best Picture nominees, but no movie has ever won Best Picture without at least having a Best Director nominee to match it. (The last movie to win Best Picture without its director also winning the Oscar was Crash and then Chicago before that.) The Directors Guild (DGA) nominations on January 9 should be a lot more telling because they tend to have the best track record both with the directing and Best Picture nominations; for now, we’re fairly positive on three of our predictions and the last two slots can go a number of ways.

1. Woody Allen – Midnight in Paris

It’s been 15 years since Woody Allen has been nominated as director, but the filmmaker is a favorite among Oscar voters and directors are likely to take notice of his strongest film in decades.

2. Michael Hazanavicius – The Artist

The French filmmaker behind one of the biggest phenomena of awards season not only has a guaranteed nomination for his brilliant work making a silent movie, but he could also pull out a surprise win, making it the second year in a row a relative unknown wins.

3. Terrence Malick – The Tree of Life

A true visionary and likely to be a filmmaker directors might honor for his vision without necessarily having enough first place ballots to get a Best Picture nomination.

4. Alexander Payne – The Descendants

A second nomination for Payne though his new movie is more likely to be honored for its screenplay and performances than for Payne’s actual direction, although his participation in making the film work should be honored.

5. Steven Spielberg – War Horse

A two-time Oscar winner with five other nominations, Spielberg’s return after a number of years is likely to get him an eighth Oscar nomination, though it may be both for this and The Adventures of Tintin (which should get nominated in the Animated category).

On the Outskirts

Malick may be the weakest link because his movie may be too esoteric to get support among the Academy branches other than technical ones, and being the weak link, a stronger and more respected filmmaker like Martin Scorsese may get in for his 3D homage to the silent film era with Hugo.

Not quite as likely but possible is Tate Taylor for his direction on the popular Southern drama The Help, but we think this will get more support for its acting and screenplay.

Another possible surprise nominee (ala Fernando Meirelles for City of God or Julian Schnabel for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) may be Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn for his work on the crime thriller Drive, which is very much a filmmaker’s film, though he’s going up against the stronger Malick.

Having already been nominated for his earlier film Capote, Bennett Miller’s direction on the baseball movie Moneyball may get him a surprise nomination similar to the one he got for Capote.

Bumped!

This looks like the year that Stephen Daldry ends his nomination streak in this category, because his new drama Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is far too polarizing, as is two-time nominee David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which may not seem as groundbreaking as his previous two films, which took him out of his comfort zone.

The Winner

While there’s a chance that the Spielberg name gets a ton of votes, we think Michel Hazanavicius will be following last year’s winner (Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech) as another new filmmaker whose work wins over Oscar voters.

Best Picture

With the new rules, we’re not convinced there will be ten Best Picture nominees this year, because we’re not sure enough movies will have the backing to get over 300 first place votes on the ballot, and at this point, there really are only three guaranteed nominees and three subsequent favorites destined to get in.

Instead of writing even more about these movies than we already have above, we’re just going to rate their chances of getting nominated based on previous awards, other potential Oscar nods and general buzz, so that the movies with five stars “*****” are guaranteed nominations, while those with one or two have a good chance of missing the mark.

Again, these are in alphabetical order:

1. The Artist – *****

2. The Descendants – *****

3. Drive – **

4. The Help – ****

5. Hugo – ***

6. Midnight in Paris – ****

7. Moneyball – ***

8. The Tree of Life – **

9. War Horse – ***

If there is a tenth nominee, we have a couple of choices, including the R-rated comedy Bridesmaids, which we think already has a disadvantage by being a comedy, but also might turn off the more puritanical Oscar voters with its R-rated humor. It received a SAG Ensemble nomination, which makes some sense, and even its recent PGA nomination shouldn’t be that big a surprise since it was a solid moneymaker, but will Academy voters take it seriously as a Best Picture? There’s only been one other movie in recent memory that got SAG and PGA nominations but not Best Picture, which was Bill Condon’s Dreamgirls and that was before the Academy increased the number of Best Picture nominees.

George Clooney’s The Ides of March has gotten a little bit of a boost with its PGA nomination (joining its multiple Golden Globes nominations), which shows that there is industry support, as does David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, although there have been other PGA nominees that didn’t get into the Best Picture race including Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight and J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek. If one of those two got in, it would mean bumping Drive or The Tree of Life, which have received a lot of critical support and should be seen as quality Oscar-worthy films.

Bumped!

We’re giving up hope on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 getting a Best Picture nomination even though it’s well-deserved and it should still get into five to six of the technical categories and possibly win a few Oscars there as well.

At one point, it was thought that multiple Oscar nominee Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close had a chance but with the support from only one group (BFCA) and without a nomination from the Producers Guild (PGA), its Oscar run is probably done.

Who We Think Will Win:

Picture – The Artist
Director – Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist
Actor – George Clooney for The Descendants
Actress – Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady
Supporting Actor – Christopher Plummer for Beginners
Supporting Actress – Octavia Spencer for The Help
Original Screenplay – Midnight in Paris
Adapted Screenplay – The Descendants

The Oscar Warrior will have a couple more updates as the DGA announce their nominations and various groups (including the Broadcast Film Critics and Hollywood Foreign Press) announce their winners. If we have time before the nominations are announced on January 23, we might look at some of the other races such as Animated, Foreign Language, Cinematography, Score, etc.

Before that, I just want to give a shoutout to some of my colleagues whose thoughts, debate, writing (and frequent sidebets) over Oscar season have always helped to make Oscar season more fun as well as helping to influence some of the Oscar Warrior pieces to date:

Sasha Stone (and Ryan Adams) of Awards Daily
Nathaniel Rogers of The Film Experience
Scott Feinberg of ScottFeinberg.com and The Hollywood Reporter
Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood-Elsewhere.com
Tom O’Neil of Gold Derby
Erik Childress of EFilmCritic and Movies.com
Katey Rich of CinemaBlend
Guy Lodge of InContention and
Brian Tallerico of Hollywood Chicago