Do you ever marvel at the countdown clock in the lefthand sidebar and think "Wow, only ___ days until Oscar nominations!". I know I do. As of right now there are only 148 days and some hours left until Oscar nominations. 21 weeks! That means the universe has plenty of time to back me up on my current predictions or destroy them savagely. Either way is fun for me which is, I suppose, why I've never been able to quit predicting Hollywood's High Holy Night.
Best Picture & Best Director - The Great Gatsby and Baz Luhrmann exit the charts, both moving to summer 2013. And though I never had faith in Gatsby as an actual finalist (the book is too perfect as a book) what can rush in to replace it on the charts? The race is still wide open as it should be.
But from where I sit though I'm sure some will disagree, the franchise hopefuls are toast. A lot of people still think that The Gidling of the Lord of the Rings Lily: Part 1 of 3 will factor in but Oscar is not Emmy and LotR is not The West Wing. Fantasy is still a novelty for Oscar voters and I can't imagine that handing the last one 11 Oscars won't feel like enough of a reward for Jackson & Middle Earth. Yes, they've had a decade long breather but I figure the only way The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is competing for the top prize is if people go crazier for it than the original trilogy. And that would be an unexpected journey.
Meanwhile I suspect that The Avengers and The Dark Knight Concludes Divisively will have a rough time making it through the wild rapids of winter campaigning and I don't expect either of them in the big show beyond a few craft nods. I don't even have faith in the eagerly awaited Django Unchained as an Oscar hopeful. Quentin Tarantino, when he leans toward retro remixes of less prestigious film genres, is just not necessarily for them (see: Jackie Brown, Kill Bill). Yes, he leans towards that.. always... and he has made two big Oscar hits. But Pulp Fiction was the kind of pop-cultural zeitgeist breakthrough that's impossible to ignore and Inglourious Basterds was a WW II fantasy and Oscar does his own share of fantasizing about that.
All of this nitpicking doubt leads me to believe that Beasts of the Southern Wild, a movie that doesn't look much like an Oscar film (yay!), is on its way to locked up status as an Oscar film. While it didn't become the crossover hit we'd hoped it would, it's done well enough financially to ride the "beloved indie / critical darling" into the mainstream competition for gold. (Think Winter's Bone.)
Best Actor - It's been 11 years since Denzel Washington won his second Oscar and in that whole time he hasn't done anything worth Oscar's time. Will they welcome him back if Flight is a big hit?
The way I see it mainstream dramas that become big hits are shoo in for Oscar play. Oscar likes drama best and when films without genre trappings that are intended for adults soar at the box office, they join in the applause. I'm feeling it'll hit. Just a feeling.
But the big question in Best Actor is whether the Weinstein's will try to convince AMPAS voters that Joaquin Phoenix is "supporting" Phillip Seymour Hoffman (or the other way around) in The Master. If they risk a double lead campaign and the film is the critical mega-success the internet seems to be expecting, could they be the first Actor Pair since *gulp* Amadeus (twenty-eight years ago) to hog 40% of the shortlist? It's hilarious (and depressing) to view Amadeus in retrospect and know that campaign teams would try to pretend that Salieri or Mozart were "supporting" players in their own riveting brutal musical duet.
Best Supporting Actor - This category hasn't come into focus yet which should make the fall extra exciting. So for the moment, you can predict just about anything (at least here) and feel like a true psychic. You can feel like a psychic right up until the moment the films open and prove you wrong! But the foggy nature of the Supporting goods me wonder if I'm not underestimating those that have already arrived and delighted (like Matthew McConaughey and Michael Fassbender) despite the lowbrow nature of their roles... at least accordingi to Oscar's general aesthetics.
Best Visuals and Best Aurals - UPDATES STILL IN PROGRESS -- THIS TAKES TIME.
The latest film to enter the ring visually and aurally is the Motown musical Sparkle (my review tomorrow) and while I don't expect Oscar play anywhere stranger things have happened in the below the line categories.