What to Watch for as the Campaigns Unfold

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

In a particularly confusing year, why the usual signposts from now until early January might not point to Oscar.

The Oscars are up for grabs. That wasn't the case at this point last season. By then, The King's Speech had wowed them in Telluride and Toronto, and The Social Network had hit theaters to critical hosannas. So what are the signs suggesting which way the winds are blowing this year?

Critics Rush to Judgment

The New York Film Critics Circle, which traditionally waits until mid-December to deliberate, is leapfrogging every other group by holding its annual meeting Nov. 28. That, in turn, is putting pressure on distributors of year-end releases including Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and The Iron Lady, which aren't finished. Insiders insist such movies will be ready in time, but if not, the NYFCC's choices could be suspect.

The Indies Have Their Day

The Gotham Independent Spirit Awards, which take place Nov. 28 in New York, could boost The Descendants or Martha Marcy May Marlene, which lead the pack with three noms each. But that could be short-lived because Film Independent, which reveals its Spirit Award noms the next day, could take an entirely different tack.

Golden Globes Go For Laughs

Normally, the comedy/musical categories at the Globes -- noms will be announced Dec. 15 -- play second fiddle to drama. Not this year, though: Bridesmaids, Midnight in Paris and The Artist have been submitted in the comedy category. But then, so has Roman Polanski's Carnage and even The Help, which is as much a heavyweight drama as a social comedy.

The Producers Stick to 10

If Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is to get the attention Warner Bros. feels it deserves, then the Producers Guild of America, which announces feature noms Jan. 3, would be one place to start. But the PGA, which will nominate 10 films, won't necessarily be an Oscar barometer because the Academy's new voting system will result in five to 10 best picture noms.

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