With Part I of my Oscar predictions out of the way, it is time to finish up with the Writing, Directing and, of course, the most important award of them all: Best Picture. Let me give you a reminder of what the percentages mean when I talk about each nominee:
- under 5% - very very slim chance, just count it/him/her lucky to be nominated
- between 5 and 20% - chances slightly better, yet no real chance
- between 20 and 30% - stronger chances, could pull off an upset
- between 30 and 50% - really good chances, most likely the front-runner
- over 50% - clear the mantle, your Oscar is ready for you
Now, on with the show, so to speak:
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
And the nominees are:
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon & Jim Rash, The Descendants; John Logan, Hugo; George Clooney, Grant Heslov & Beau Willimon, The Ides of March; Steven Zaillian & Aaron Sorkin, Moneyball; Bridget O'Connor & Peter Straughan, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Prediction: The Descendants - 42%
The rest: Moneyball - 36%; Hugo - 13%; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - 6%; The Ides of March - 3%
Explanation: With yesterday's Writer's Guild Awards win, Alexander Payne's emotional dramedy The Descendants has positioned itself as the major front-runner in this category. Its stiffest competition comes in the form of two of the category's previous winners and their collaboration which garnered them the Critics Choice Award winner for Adapted Screenplay. Aaron Sorkin's (whose work on last year's The Social Network won him every award possible) and Steven Zaillian (who won almost 20 years ago for his adaptation of Schindler's List) collaborated on the audience favorite Brad Pitt-lead film about the Oakland Athletics, Moneyball. While The Descendants has the love of the Writer's Guild, remember that the WGA winner doesn't always find themselves as the Oscar-winner (see Up In the Air vs. Precious in 2010). Tony-winning writer John Logan has a small chance for his adaptation of Hugo thanks to the film's number of nominations, but the film has been praised as more Martin Scorsese's success than that of its writer. The much-praised adaptation of John Le Carre's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy seems more like a lovable longshot and George Clooney's The Ides of March has had such a poor showing in nominations (much to many critics' chagrin) that it really is lucky to be in the mix at all.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
And the nominees are:
Michel Hazanavicus, The Artist; Kristen Wiig & Annie Mumolo, Bridesmaids; J.C. Chandor, Margin Call; Woody Allen, Midnight In Paris; Asghar Farhadi, A Separation
Prediction: Midnight In Paris - 45%
The rest: The Artist - 35%; Bridesmaids - 15%; A Separation - 3%; Margin Call - 2%
Explanation: This is Woody Allen's 15th Original Screenplay nomination (he has won this award twice for Annie Hall and Hannah and Her Sisters in 1978 and 1987, respectively). He won the Writer's Guild Award yesterday as well as the Golden Globe and the Critics Choice Awards. In this category, he is the film titan to beat. That is why I cannot rule out the possibility of a potential sweep of major categories from Best Picture front-runner The Artist. If the Academy have truly taken Michel Hazanavicius' silent wonder into their hearts, the love may trickle into the Best Screenplay category (just like Best Picture winners The Hurt Locker and The King's Speech did in the previous years). Saturday Night Live star Kristen Wiig and fellow Grounding Annie Mumolo co-wrote the Summer comedy blockbuster Bridesmaids and their nomination has pleased many people (critics and audiences alike!). However, raunchy comedies rarely get noticed by the Academy, so in this case the nomination is a win. Foreign Film front-runner A Separation has a slightly (really slightly!) better chance than the really independent (yet really all-star!) Margin Call.
And the nominees are:
Woody Allen, Midnight In Paris; Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist; Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life; Alexander Payne, The Descendants; Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Prediction: Michel Hazanavicius - 50%
The rest: Martin Scorsese - 23%; Alexander Payne - 13%; Woody Allen - 11%; Terrence Malick - 3%
Explanation: Last year when I predicted that David Fincher would defeat Tom Hooper in this category, the Director's Guild had not handed down their opinion yet. Thanks to the DGA Awards being earlier this Oscar Season, I can say with a little more confidence that The Artist's Michel Hazanavicius will be victorious in this category come Oscar night. It is extremely rare that the Director's Guild winner is not the Oscar's Best Director (but it has happened!). So if Hazanavicius is found, by some chance, not to be in the winner's circle that night, who will be? The most likely candidate would be Hollywood's favorite auteur director Martin Scorsese. Scorsese spent years being ignored by the Academy for his gritty and graphic violent movies like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, GoodFellas and Gangs of New York. In 2007, his long streak of losses ended with his win for the just-as-gritty The Departed. Since then, many have felt that one Best Director win is not enough for the legendary filmmaker. His out-of-the-box choice of directing the fantasy epic Hugo was deemed the Best Film by both the American Film Institute and the National Board of Review. Also Hugo has the most Oscar nominations, which is definitely in Marty's favor. As for the others, both Alexander Payne and Woody Allen are front-runners in the Screenplay categories so that is where they are likely to shine. And Terrence Malick, though he won early awards (like Cannes!), his Tree of Life lost momentum going into the heavier part of Oscar Season (like the Golden Globes or the DGAs). In fact, he wasn't even recognized by the Guild this year (David Fincher was nominated there along with the other four Oscar nominees for his stylish remake of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo).
And the nominees are:
The Artist; The Descendants; Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close; The Help; Hugo; Midnight In Paris; Moneyball; The Tree of Life; War Horse
Prediction: The Artist - 35%
The rest: Hugo and The Descendants -15% each; The Help, Moneyball and Midnight In Paris - 10% each; War Horse - 3%; The Tree of Life and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - 1% each
Explanation: With 9 films in the mix this year, the distribution of odds was slightly tougher. That's why it was easier to bundle films together that had similar chances. It pretty clear on most of the sites that follow the Awards that The Artist is the definite front-runner for the top prize (I have stated so at least 3 or 4 times on this blog alone!). There are really only two films in the category that could challenge The Artist's dominance. As I said above, Hugo won top prizes from the American Film Institute and the National Board of Review as well as receiving the most Oscar nominations for any film this year (with 11 nods to the The Artist's 10). However, getting the most nominations does not mean a Best Picture win (see Avatar, Benjamin Button, There Will Be Blood and even Dreamgirls for proof!). The Descendants won the Golden Globe (for Best Picture -Drama), the L.A. Film Critics prize and the Golden Satellite (again for Best Picture - Drama). However, in two of those scenarios, The Descendants was not competing against The Artist. Both The Help and Moneyball may be audience favorites and Midnight In Paris may have that Woody Allen pedigree behind it, but their equal chances dwindle with each passing moment. And when it comes to pedigree (unintended Horse pun!), no one has more than Steven Spielberg. However with no Best Director nod for the Hollywood heavyweight, his poignant and sentimental War Horse loses more and more steam. Both The Tree of Life and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close were early favorites in the season, yet little showing among the Guilds and other awards puts them on the "in your dreams" list. All of this aside, The Artist has the most momentum and the most praise. Let's see the first silent film to win Best Picture since Wings back in 1928 (the first year of the Oscars!).
As for all of the other categories, expect Hugo and The Artist to battle it out in most of the technical categories (i.e. Cinematography, Film Editing, Score, Art Direction, etc.). In Animated Film, the Spring hit Rango would be the one to bet on as the winner there. And expect the Muppets to be victorious in the (albeit strange!) race for Best Song. With all this said, I look forward to Sunday, February 26 when the Oscars will be handed out. And after last year's lackluster ceremony, I'm even looking forward to a spirited televised event on ABC thanks to the choice of host: the ever-popular Billy Crystal. Good luck to all the Nominees and Happy Oscar watching!