Ah, November. Leaves are falling, colder weather is here (depending on where you live), and the 2011 movie season is coming to a close. While angry shoppers and red Starbucks cups generally mean it’s time to start preparing for the many awkward/tense family encounters that are sure to come, it’s also time to start thinking Oscar. We’ve seen a few contenders throughout the year, but a plethora of heavyhitters will be opening over the next 5 weeks.
To aid in your Oscar polls (or to quench your curiosity) we’ve compiled a state of the race preview as of this lovely Thanksgiving week. Granted, a lot can change from now until February, but a good portion of the major players have already been screened and we’re starting to get a sense of how it could all play out. We’ll be examining all the major categories over the next four days, kicking things off with the infamously unpredictable Best Supporting Actor and Actress. Hit the jump to see where things stand.
The following two categories are probably the toughest to predict – as they tend to be where the majority of surprises come from – but we’ve done our best to compile the list of contenders. Again, it’s still relatively early in the race and things can certainly fluctuate, but this is where we see the race right now.
Best Supporting Actor
Christopher Plummer – Beginners
Albert Brooks – Drive
Likely to be nominated:
Max von Sydow – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Patton Oswalt – Young Adult
Kenneth Branagh – My Week with Marilyn
John Hawkes – Martha Marcy May Marlene
Viggo Mortensen – A Dangerous Method
The supporting actor race this year is poised to be extremely top heavy age-wise, but that doesn’t mean the performances are lacking. Critics have been taking notice of Christopher Plummer’s role in Beginners since the film premiered at TIFF last year. The actor plays an aging man who comes out to his son shortly after his wife’s death, so it’s pretty much right up the Academy’s alley. Also of note is Albert Brooks’ terrifically nasty performance in Drive. While he’s been absent from the film world for a few years, he returned in a big way as the film’s violence-prone villain. The consensus is that Brooks will nab his first Oscar nomination since 1987’s Broadcast News.
While Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has yet to officially screen, early word from test screenings is that Max von Sydow’s turn as a mute man who only communicates through a notepad and the words “yes” and “no” tattooed on each hand is extremely emotional and should put him in the race. If his performance is anything like the character from the book, von Sydow has a serious shot at winning. Also in the mix is Kenneth Branagh who plays storied actor Lawrence Olivier in My Week with Marilyn. It’s not a huge role, but small portrayals of old famous actors is another Academy favorite.
On the younger side of things, Patton Oswalt is getting some serious chatter for his supporting role in Young Adult. Oswalt spends most of his screentime opposite Charlize Theron as the “nerd” that Theron denigrated in high school. Oswalt has the cool kids vote, and if the film picks up some serious fans once it starts screening more, the comedian has a good shot at landing a nod. Character actor John Hawkes’s nomination for last year’s Winter’s Bone was a welcome surprise and shows that the Academy has already acknowledged his talent, so he has a chance at being nominated again this year for Martha Marcy May Marlene. Also in the mix is Viggo Mortensen’s work in A Dangerous Method. Mortensen plays Sigmund Freud in David Cronenberg’s heavy-on-the-sex historical drama, but the last minute surge for the actor may be too little too late.
My Picks: Right now I see Plummer and von Sydow duking it out for the win, with Brooks, Hawkes, and Oswalt landing the remaining nominations. This category is where the surprises happen, so it’s really anyone’s guess. Possible spoilers include Branagh, Armie Hammer for J. Edgar, and even Jonah Hill is getting attention for Moneyball.
Octavia Spencer – The Help
Likely to be nominated:
Berenice Bejo – The Artist
Shailene Woodly – The Descendants
Janet McTeer – Albert Nobbs
Melissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids
Carey Mulligan – Shame
Sandra Bullock – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Best Supporting Actress category is probably the weakest of the bunch at the moment. The only clear frontrunner is Octavia Spencer in The Help, and even she isn’t locked in as the winner. Berenice Bejo is getting some chatter for her silent work in The Artist and Melissa McCarthy’s chances for her comedic breakout role in Bridesmaids get better every week. While a nomination for a comedic performance has become about as rare as a bad Pixar movie (though it does happen…), McCarthy’s Emmy win for Mike & Molly paired with her well-deserved success story has made a nomination a real possibility.
Also surging as of late is 20-year-old actress Shailene Woodley, whose strong performance in the Best Picture frontrunner The Descendants is gaining notice. The supporting categories are where the surprises come from so they’re extremely hard to predict, but I’d say Woodley has a good shot at a nod. Carey Mulligan has a chance as well for the character-centric Shame, and her chances only get better the more people talk about that NC-17 rating, keeping the film in the conversation.
Janet McTeer is getting notice for upstaging Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs, which should definitely bode well. McTeer was previously nominated for Best Actress in 1999 for Tumbleweeds so she’s got experience. 2009’s Best Actress winner Sandra Bullock is a contender for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, though the film has yet to screen so we don’t have a clear idea of exactly how she stacks up. She plays a woman widowed by 9/11 and judging by the trailers does quite a bit of crying, so I’d say she has a decent shot.
My Picks: While this will probably be entirely inaccurate, I say Spencer, Woodley, McCarthy, McTeer, and Bullock get the nods. The possible Dark Horse candidates are Bejo and Mulligan, though I could see Jessica Chastain getting a surprise nomination for The Help.
Be sure to check back tomorrow when we’ll be breaking down the Best Actor and Best Actress categories.