First look at potential Oscar nominees

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

The Oscars are a bit like an old boyfriend you once dumped.
Or maybe he dumped you.

Or maybe it was mutual.

Anyway, you basically don’t give a rat’s butt about him, but every so often his name comes up and you find you’re still hooked.

In that I-really-don’t-care, but now that you mention him…

That kinda hooked.

So technically, I don’t really care about the Academy Awards. One of my guiltiest pleasures in recent years — after decades of reporting on them, column-izing about them, heck, I even went to them once — is not watching them. Or watching about a third and going to bed, blissfully unaware of what was named Best Picture.

And yet, here they are again. The nominations will be announced bright and early Thursday morning, Jan. 10.

Well, bright and early for the East Coast, but an ungodly hour for the West Coast where the nominees are likely based.

Digression: I love it when the morning talk shows call up a new nominee and he/she gasps/yawns, “Omigod, they were announced today??? I absolutely forgot.”
Or, “I’m so happy. My agent just called and told me!”

Uh-huh.

Anyway, here’s some self-centered pontification on who may be nominated. Just in a few categories, thank you, or we’ll be here all month.

Best Picture, the Biggie.

Ever since the Academy opened (actually re-opened) the nomination field in this category to 10 instead of the long-traditional 5, it’s been like a free-for-all.

In other words, just about any movie that’s opened this year and might up the viewer-ship of the Oscar-cast itself is a possibility.

Sinking Nielson ratings have plagued the show for a while now. First they blamed the timing — opposite the Final Four. Then they blamed the proliferation of awards shows preceding the Oscars, everything from the Golden Globes to The People’s Choice (my favorite People Choice awards are the ones that go to someone who didn’t make a movie that year…I’m not kidding; check it out).

Then, well, they just moved them to February.

So, just off the top of my head in, no particular order, the nominees are: “Les Miserables,” “Argo,” “Lincoln,” “The Life of Pi,” “Skyfall,” (the first of all the 007s and included because the influential Producers Guild made it one of their nominees) , “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Django Unchained,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild (indie nod, traditionally known as the “Little Miss Sunshine” slot), and “Silver Linings Playbook.”

Ok, that’s nine. The 10th spot could go to “The Hobbit,” “The Master” (one of my critic groups, the National Society of Film Critics, fell all over it) “Anna Karenina,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” “The Impossible” (though it’s likelier to surface in the acting and effects categories), and the much-praised “Amour” which could cross over from the Best Foreign Language category (It used to happen in the old days.) And “The Dark Knight Rises.” Though there’s bound to be some skittishness and understandably so, after the tragic midnight show in Aurora, Colorado.

Best Actor?

Not sure. There are always lots and lots of potential nominees and Oscar hasn’t extended its reach beyond the traditional Five (Best Picture is the only one to leap-frog to Ten).

Well, let’s call the category closed and hand the Oscar to Daniel Day-Lewis for his illuminating, transforming, belongs-to-the-ages character study of Abraham Lincoln in a movie that wasn’t half as complex as he was. Too bad for Hugh Jackman (“Les Miz”), Denzel Washington (“Flight”), John Hawkes (“The Sessions”), Ben Affleck (“Argo”) and maybe even Daniel “Bond, James Bond” Craig. Oscar probably likes Joaquin Phoenix (“The Master”) too, now that they’re sure he won’t win.

Best Actress, as always, doesn’t have quite as many possibilities to choose from.

Some ideas: Jessica Chastain (“Zero Dark Thirty”), Jennifer Lawrence (“The Hunger Games,” but more likely for “Silver Linings Playbook”), Quvenzhane Wallis (“Beasts of the Southern Wild,” plus she was just profiled on “Sunday Morning”), Emmanuelle Riva (“Amour”), Naomi Watts (she’s beaten up every which way you can imagine in “The Impossible”), Rachel Weisz (“The Deep Blue Sea”). And maybe Anne Hathaway (“Les Miz”) who stands a better chance of winning here than she does in the Supporting category which is where, I think, she’ll land. And lose to either Sally Field (“Lincoln”) or Amy Adams (“The Master”).

But the whole Oscar thing is locoweed unpredictable. Which is probably one reason it encourages addiction. If you’re making some early guesses, please keep in mind, the top box-office movie last week was “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D.”

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