FEINBERG FORECAST: 'The Artist,' 'The Descendants,' 'The Help' Atop Best Pic Field

The Descendants
Fox Searchlight

What follows is my latest assessment of all of the high-profile Oscar categories, along with commentary about what/who has positive and negative momentum at the moment in each of them. I welcome your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of the post.

The Artist (The Weinstein Company, 11/23, PG-13, trailer)
The Descendants (Fox Searchlight, 11/23, R,
The Help (Disney, 8/12, PG-13,
Midnight in Paris (Sony Pictures Classics, 5/20, PG-13,
Moneyball (Columbia, 9/23, PG-13, trailer)
War Horse (Disney, 12/25, PG-13, trailer)
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Warner Bros., 12/25, PG-13,
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Sony, 12/21, R,
J. Edgar (Warner Bros., 11/11, R, trailer)
Margin Call (Roadside Attractions, 10/21, R, trailer)
Major Threats
The Ides of March (Sony, 10/14, R, trailer)
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Focus Features, 12/9, R, trailer)
Hugo (Paramount, 11/23, PG, trailer)
The Tree of Life (Fox Searchlight, 5/27, PG-13, trailer)
Shame (Fox Searchlight, 12/2, NC-17, trailer)
Beginners (Focus Features, 6/3, R, trailer)
The Iron Lady (The Weinstein Company, 12/30, PG-13, teaser)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2 (Warner Bros., 7/15, PG-13, trailer)
In the Land of Blood and Honey (FilmDistrict, 12/23, R, trailer)
50/50 (Summit, 9/30, R, trailer)
My Week with Marilyn (The Weinstein Company, 11/23, R, trailer)
Young Adult (Paramount, 12/9, R, trailer)
Carnage (Sony Pictures Classics, 12/16, R, trailer)
Super 8 (Paramount, 6/10, PG-13, trailer)
Drive (FilmDistrict, 9/16, R, trailer)
We Bought a Zoo (20th Century Fox, 12/23, PG, trailer) ?

? This timely little indie's gutsy day-and-date release plan has paid off in spades, with the film raking in considerable dough and becoming a hot topic of discussion amongst both industry insiders and the general public's intelligentsia.
? Nobody seems quite certain about what this film "is" -- an awards contender, purely commercial, or neither -- and the announcement that it will have a "nationwide commercial sneak" four weeks before its actual release is not reassuring news.

Alexander Payne (The Descendants)
Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)

Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
Steven Spielberg (War Horse)
Tate Taylor (The Help)
Major Threats
Stephen Daldry (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)
David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Bennett Miller (Moneyball)
Clint Eastwood (J. Edgar)
Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life)
Martin Scorsese (Hugo) ?
George Clooney (The Ides of March)
Steve McQueen (Shame)
J.C. Chandor (Margin Call)
Tomas Alfredson (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy)
Phyllida Lloyd (The Iron Lady)
Jason Reitman (Young Adult)
Roman Polanski (Carnage)
Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive)

? It took guts for this old-school filmmaker to experiment with a technique like 3-D for the first time in his career at the age of 69, but his efforts on this family film are being met with heaps of praise from the likes of 3-D pioneer James Cameron (read here) and Time magazine's Richard Corliss (read here).
? Fairly or not, the growing consensus seems to be that this is not one of his "major works" (think Unforgiven, Mystic River, and Million Dollar Baby), but rather the latest in a more recent string of films that have left a little more to be desired (Changeling, Gran Torino, Invictus, and Hereafter).

Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
George Clooney (The Descendants)
Brad Pitt (Moneyball)
Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar)
Michael Fassbender (Shame)

Major Threats
Ryan Gosling (The Ides of March)
Gary Oldman (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy)
Michael Shannon (Take Shelter)
Woody Harrelson (Rampart) ?
Ryan Gosling (Drive)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (50/50)

Paul Giamatti (Win Win)
Thomas Horn (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)
Daniel Craig (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) ?
Ralph Fiennes (Coriolanus)
Demian Bichir (A Better Life)
Owen Wilson (Midnight in Paris)
Jeremy Irvine (War Horse)

Zachary Quinto (Margin Call)
Matt Damon (We Bought a Zoo)

? He's been beating the pavement as much as anyone this awards season, and -- even if his character in this film has turned off some female voters, who feel he's unapologetically misogynistic -- he himself is a hard guy not to like.
? Though virtually nobody who is not working on the film has seen the film yet, the buzz that I'm hearing is that it's the Rooney Mara show, and that if it scores any acting nod it will be one for her, not Craig.

Viola Davis (The Help)
Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) ?
Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn)
Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs)

Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Major Threats
Charlize Theron (Young Adult)
Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene)
Kirsten Dunst (Melancholia)
Keira Knightley (A Dangerous Method) ?
Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin)
Michelle Yeoh (The Lady)
Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre)
Ellen Barkin (Another Happy Day)
Felicity Jones (Like Crazy)
Adepero Oduye (Pariah)
Rachel Weisz (The Whistleblower)
Vera Farmiga (Higher Ground)

? This actress' incredible portrait of Margaret Thatcher as both a vibrant middle-aged and fading elderly woman has received enthusiastic acclaim from virtually everyone who has seen it since its unveiling last week, and is certain to bring her a record-extending 17th Oscar nod.
? The film and this performance -- easily the most memorable thing about it -- seem to be fading from the discussion as another psychological/sex-centric drama -- Shame, which also stars Michael Fassbender -- steps into the spotlight.

Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)
Albert Brooks (Drive)
Jeremy Irons (Margin Call)
Kevin Spacey (Margin Call)
Major Threats
Stanley Tucci (Margin Call)
Jim Broadbent (The Iron Lady)
Jonah Hill (Moneyball) ?
Armie Hammer (J. Edgar)
Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn)
Patton Oswalt (Young Adult)
Ben Kingsley (Hugo) NEW
Tom Hanks (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) ?
Christoph Waltz (Carnage)
John C. Reilly (Carnage)
Nick Nolte (Warrior)
John Hawkes (Martha Marcy May Marlene)
Robert Forster (The Descendants) NEW
Andy Serkis (Rise of the Planet of the Apes)
Viggo Mortensen (A Dangerous Method)
Brad Pitt (The Tree of Life)
George Clooney (The Ides of March)
Alan Rickman (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2) NEW
Christopher Plummer (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) NEW

? Few expected the 27-year-old -- who has almost exclusively worked in frat-pack comedy prior to this venture (with Cyrus being the one notable exception) -- to hold his own as much as he did opposite Brad Pitt in this film, the awards campaign for which is currently being revived.
? This performance has yet to be seen by virtually anyone not working on the film, but is said to be incredibly brief -- almost a cameo, really -- and considerably overshadowed by veteran von Sydow's.

Octavia Spencer (The Help)
Shailene Woodley (The Descendants) ?
Berenice Bejo (The Artist)
Jessica Chastain (The Help)
Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs)

Major Threats
Sandra Bullock (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)
Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids)
Vanessa Redgrave (Coriolanus) ?
Carey Mulligan (Shame)
Evan Rachel Wood (The Ides of March)
Judy Greer (The Descendants)

Jodie Foster (Carnage)
Kate Winslet (Carnage)
Jessica Chastain (The Tree of Life)
Marion Cotillard (Midnight in Paris)
Elizabeth Reaser (Young Adult) NEW
Emily Watson (War Horse)
Kim Wayans (Pariah)
Judi Dench (J. Edgar)

Scarlett Johansson (We Bought a Zoo)

? Many a young actress has been recognized in this category, and this one checks off a lot of important boxes: she's pretty, charming, and humble (see her profile/pic in the new EW, not yet online) -- plus it never hurts to have George Clooney running around saying fantastic things about you.
? As strong of a perf as this is from a truly great actress, the film in which it is given -- which takes classic Shakespeare and sets it in the present day -- just is not everyone's cup of tea and is not lighting a fire in the bellies of even those for whom it is.

Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash (The Descendants)
Tate Taylor (The Help)
Stan Chervin, Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian (Moneyball)
Richard Curtis, Lee Hall (War Horse)
Eric Roth (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)

Major Threats
Steven Zaillian (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
George Clooney, Grant Heslov (The Ides of March)
Bridget O'Connor, Peter Straughan (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy)

John Logan (Hugo)
Hossein Amini (Drive)
Pedro Almodovar (The Skin I Live In)
Roman Polanski (Carnage)
Christopher Hampton (A Dangerous Method)
Cameron Crowe, Aline Brosh McKenna (We Bought a Zoo)
John Logan (Coriolanus)

Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
Dustin Lance Black (J. Edgar)

Mike Mills (Beginners)
J.C. Chandor (Margin Call)

Major Threats
James Ward Byrkit, John Logan, Gore Verbinski (Rango)
Diablo Cody (Young Adult)
Annie Mumolo, Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids)
Tom McCarthy, Joe Tiboni (Win Win)
Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy Mae Marlene)
Abi Morgan, Steve McQueen (Shame)
Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life)

Will Reiser (50/50)
Asghar Farhadi (A Separation)
James Ellroy, Oren Moverman (Rampart)
Drake Doremus, Ben York Jones (Like Crazy)
Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter)
Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady)
J.J. Abrams (Super 8)
Dee Rees (Pariah)

Rango (Paramount, 3/4, PG, trailer)
The Adventures of Tintin (Paramount, 12/21, PG, trailer)
Cars 2 (Disney, 6/24, G, trailer)
Happy Feet 2 (Warner Bros., 11/18, PG, trailer)
Puss in Boots (DreamWorks, 11/4, PG, trailer)
Major Threats
Kung Fu Panda 2 (DreamWorks, 5/26, PG, trailer)
Rio (20th Century Fox, 4/15, G, trailer)
Arthur Christmas (Sony, 11/23, PG, trailer)
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked (20th Century Fox, 12/11, TBA, trailer)
Winnie the Pooh (Disney, 7/15, G, trailer)
The Smurfs (Sony, 7/29, PG, trailer)
The Lion of Judah (Animated Family Films, 6/3, TBA,

Project Nim (Roadside Attractions, 7/8, PG-13, trailer)
Buck (IFC Films, 6/17, PG,
If a Tree Falls (Oscilloscope, 6/22, TBA,
Bill Cunningham New York (Zeitgeist Films, 3/16, TBA,
Battle for Brooklyn (TBA, 6/17, TBA,
Major Threats
Long Way Home: The Loving Story (TBA, TBA, TBA, trailer)
Hell and Back Again (Docurama Films, 10/5, TBA, trailer)
Pina (Sundance Selects, 12/23, TBA, trailer)
Sing Your Song (HBO Documentary Films, 9/2, TBA,
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (HBO Documentary Films, TBA, TBA,
We Were Here (Red Flag Releasing, 9/?, TBA, trailer)
Undefeated (The Weinstein Company, 2/10, TBA, TBA)
Semper Fi: Always Faithful (TBA, TBA, TBA, trailer)
Under Fire: Journalists in Combat (TBA, TBA, TBA,
Jane's Journey (First Run Features, TBA, TBA,

A Separation (Iran)
Where Do We Go Now? (Lebanon)
Le Havre (Finland)
A Simple Life (Hong Kong)
In Darkness (Poland)

Major Threats
Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)
Declaration of War (France)
Footnote (Israel)
Pina (Germany)
The Flowers of War (China)
Happy, Happy (Norway)
Terra Firma (Italy)
Sonny Boy (Netherlands)
Superclasico (Denmark)

Bullhead (Belgium)
Black Bread (Spain)
Postcard (Japan)
Omar Killed Me (Morocco)
The Turin Horse (Hungary)
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Turkey)
Montevideo: Taste of a Dream (Serbia)
Morgen (Romania)

The Artist (Ludovic Bource)
War Horse (John Williams)
Hugo (Howard Shore)
The Adventures of Tintin (John Williams)
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Alexandre Desplat)

Major Threats
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Alberto Iglesias)
The Help (Thomas Newman)
Super 8 (Michael Giacchino)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Alexandre Desplat)
The Ides of March (Alexandre Desplat)

Moneyball (Mychael Danna)
Jane Eyre (Dario Marianelli)
A Dangerous Method (Howard Shore)
The Skin I Live In (Alberto Iglesias)
Midnight in Paris (Stephane Wrembel)
Margin Call (
Nathan Larson)