Weekly Column! Just in time for weekly chart updates. You heard me!
Let's start with an oft-forgotten fact: there are no "locks" until films are open and seen by the Academy. Even then, positive reactions don't always translate into votes. War Horse would be the right example. It feels like a winner by way of pedigree (Spielberg and Team), topic (World War), intangibles (the Broadway play on the same topic is a hit!) and early peeks (the trailer), but until voters are actually watching any movie from start to finish, you can't know.
Until you have seen a movie there is no way to consider how it tugs at your own heart (or doesn't), how it seizes your imagination (or doesn't) and how your instant reaction sizes up with general consensus. Instant reactions do not happen in lockstep with voting (at least not usually) and consensus -- which is say the wisdom of masses, media favoritism, and opinions from one's own social circle -- absolutely affects individual response though people regularly feign otherwise.
Seeing the pictures is key and without the keys, aren't locks mere abstractions?
J. Edgar is another prime example. It's got the pedigree team, the baity topic and genre, but the second people are watching it things will change, for better or worse. I can't say that I'm hopeful after seeing the dull musty trailer, which plays more like the zombie corpse of an Oscar contender rather than a lively shiny hopeful. But then, I didn't get the Clint Eastwood Appreciation Gene so I readily admit that I am no representative sample.
To win nominations a film (or performance) must not only win hearts, minds and imaginations but it must stack up favorably against its competition. In other words "locks" for films or actors no one has seen are an absurd notion. Take War Horse again... will its message resonate with voters as much as The Help's? Will the young male lead (no, not the horse) inspire them or make them feel as protective as his counterpart in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close might? Will anything within War Horse, stimulate like the wit and adult soul of Moneyball? Does the equine war drama have any lighter moments and are they as effervescent or charming as the best scenes from The Artist or Midnight in Paris?
If nominations were held RIGHT NOW, right this second, and all films that have been seen by a lot of people -- i.e. multiple festivals (whether they're technically open yet or not) were eligible these would be your only "Locks"