FEINBERG FORECAST: BFCA, SAG, and HFPA Somewhat Clarify (and Clear) Playing Field

THR's awards expert Scott Feinberg offers his latest take on the Oscar race.
Courtesy of Oscilloscope

What follows is my latest assessment of all of the high-profile Oscar categories, along with commentary about the latest developments in each. 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 Help (Disney, 8/12, PG-13, trailer)
The Descendants (Fox Searchlight, 11/23, R, trailer)
Hugo (Paramount, 11/23, PG, trailer)
Midnight in Paris (Sony Pictures Classics, 5/20, PG-13, trailer)
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, trailer) =
The Tree of Life (Fox Searchlight, 5/27, PG-13, trailer)
The Ides of March (Sony, 10/14, R, trailer)
Major Threats
J. Edgar (Warner Bros., 11/11, R, trailer) =
Drive (FilmDistrict, 9/16, R, trailer)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Sony, 12/21, R, trailer)
Bridesmaids (Universal, 5/13, R, trailer) NEW
My Week with Marilyn (The Weinstein Company, 11/23, R, trailer)
50/50 (Summit, 9/30, R, trailer)
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Focus Features, 12/9, R, trailer)
Shame (Fox Searchlight, 12/2, NC-17, trailer)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2 (Warner Bros., 7/15, PG-13, trailer)
Margin Call (Roadside Attractions, 10/21, R, trailer)
Beginners (Focus Features, 6/3, R, trailer)
The Iron Lady (The Weinstein Company, 12/30, PG-13, teaser)

Last week's three major nominations announcements -- from the BFCA, SAG, and the HFPA -- solidified the standing of The Artist as this year's clear frontrunner for the best picture Oscar. The black-and-white silent movie led the BFCA field with 11 nods (Hugo had the same), including best picture; garnered a second-best three nods from SAG (behind only The Help's four), including best ensemble, which many SAG members treat as their best picture category; and topped the HFPA's charts with six nods (including best picture [musical or comedy]). Meanwhile, several other films that had faded from the discussion were reinjected into it by the various announcements: The Ides of March rebounded with a BFCA best ensemble nod and a Golden Globe nod for best picture (musical or comedy); Bridesmaids surged into the discussion with BFCA and SAG best ensemble nods, a best picture (musical or comedy) nod from the HFPA, a spot on the AFI's list of the year's top 10 films, and a ton of individual love for its stars; and both Drive and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close did well with the BFCA (eight nods and four nods, respectively, including best picture), if not with the other two groups. Snubbed in the top categories of all three -- and therefore on best picture Oscar life-support -- were The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Shame, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Margin Call, Beginners, and The Iron Lady, among others.

Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Alexander Payne (The Descendants)
Martin Scorsese (Hugo)
Steven Spielberg (War Horse)
Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
Major Threats
Tate Taylor (The Help)
Bennett Miller (Moneyball)
Stephen Daldry (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) =
Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life)
George Clooney (The Ides of March)
Clint Eastwood (J. Edgar) =
Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive)
David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Steve McQueen (Shame)
Tomas Alfredson (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy)
Jason Reitman (Young Adult)

For obvious reasons, SAG does not have a category recognizing directors, but the BFCA and HPFA do, and they, notably, agreed on three: Hazanavicius, Scorsese, and Payne. The BFCA also nominated Spielberg, Daldry, and Refn, whereas the HFPA filled out its category with Allen and Clooney. Notably absent from both lists were the lesser-known helmers responsible for two of the strongest best picture Oscar contenders, Taylor and Miller, who seem to me much more likely to crack into this year's best director Oscar lineup than Refn or Clooney, if not Allen, Spielberg, or Daldry. Malick and Eastwood, two veteran masters with very different sensibilities, remain outside possibilities. (What's the deal with Eastwood agreeing to appear on a reality show, though?! Of all people, I would have thought he'd be the least likely to agree to something like that.) Lastly, it seems that Fincher, who very nearly won his overdue Oscar last year for The Social Network, will not be back at the big show this year, as he has yet to be nominated by anyone for his latest effort.

Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
George Clooney (The Descendants)
Brad Pitt (Moneyball)
Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar)
Michael Fassbender (Shame)
Major Threats
Demian Bichir (A Better Life)
Ryan Gosling (The Ides of March)
Gary Oldman (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy)
Thomas Horn (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) =
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (50/50)
Michael Shannon (Take Shelter)
Ryan Gosling (Drive)
Woody Harrelson (Rampart)
Brendan Gleeson (The Guard) NEW
Paul Giamatti (Win Win)
Matt Damon (We Bought a Zoo)
Martin Sheen (The Way)

Over the past decade, only five people who were nominated for best actor by both SAG and the HFPA were not subsequently nominated for it by the Academy. That being the case, this year's double-nominees Dujardin, Clooney, Pitt, and DiCaprio -- all of whom also scored BFCA best actor nods -- would appear to be locked and loaded, as I've long suspected. But who will snag the fifth spot? SAG threw us for a major loop this past week by selecting the veteran Mexican actor Bichir, 48, who has been toiling in relative obscurity since he was 14, but in hindsight it makes a lot of sense -- in addition to giving a worthy perf, screeners for his film were among the first to reach voters (and therefore got watched), plus his personal narrative and the opportunity to celebrate a bit of diversity in the race undoubtedly increased his appeal to voters. SAG nods are the best predictor of Oscar nods -- in 2009 they overlapped on 19 of 20 acting slots and in 2010 on 17 of 20 -- but one of their few discrepancies last year came in this category, so Bichir should be taken seriously but not regarded as a done deal. If he doesn't make the cut, who will? The BFCA opted instead for Fassbender and Gosling (for Drive, not Ides), whereas the HFPA, between its two best actor categories, opted for Fassbender and Gosling (for Ides, not Drive), as well as Gordon-Levitt, Wilson, Gleeson, and Gosling (Crazy, Stupid, Love). My money is on Fassbender, who is in one of the true movies of the moment (which is entering the cultural discussion at just the right time, and in which he gives a performance unlike any of the others) and who has matched Gosling in his omnipresence this year (he also starred in A Dangerous Method, Jane Eyre, and X-Men: The Last Stand).

Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)
Viola Davis (The Help)
Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn)
Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs)
Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin)
Major Threats
Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) =
Charlize Theron (Young Adult) =
Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene)
Felicity Jones (Like Crazy)
Keira Knightley (A Dangerous Method)
Kirsten Dunst (Melancholia)

I have long presumed that Streep (who was the subject of a nice 60 Minutes segment this evening), Davis (who is now also appearing in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), and Williams are the safest bets, and this week's announcements did nothing to dispel that. What they did do, however, was confirm the degree of support that exists for veterans Swinton (BFCA, SAG, and HFPA nods) and Close (SAG and HFPA nods) over relative youngsters Theron (BFCA and HFPA nods), Mara (HFPA nod), Olsen (BFCA nod), Jones (none), and Dunst (none). While my gut feeling is that Swinton and Close are still somewhat vulnerable, based on the fact that many people find their films to be unbearable, I also, at present, cannot statistically justify not including them in my five. If someone is to knock one of them out, I think it will most likely be Mara, who is young, sexy, starring in a high-profile end-of-the-year release, physically transforms herself for her role, and plays a character whom many have come to regard as a feminist hero and icon. The movies of the other women in contention are probably just too small and/or quirky to compete.

Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
Albert Brooks (Drive) =
Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn)
Jonah Hill (Moneyball)

Nick Nolte (Warrior)
Major Threats
Armie Hammer (J. Edgar)
Viggo Mortensen (A Dangerous Method)
Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) =
Ben Kingsley (Hugo)
Patton Oswalt (Young Adult)
Jim Broadbent (The Iron Lady)
Andy Serkis (Rise of the Planet of the Apes)
Kevin Spacey (Margin Call)
Jeremy Irons (Margin Call)
John Hawkes (Martha Marcy May Marlene)
Corey Stoll (Midnight in Paris)

What was the hardest-to-crack category before last week's announcements remains the same after them -- indeed, if you ask me, the only sure-thing is still Plummer. Branagh had a great week (scoring nods with all three of the announcing groups (BFCA, SAG, and HFPA), as did Hill (SAG and HFPA). Brooks is probably still in good shape, despite a shocking/inexplicable SAG snub (he did score BFCA and HFPA nods). And then... your guess is as good as mine. The BFCA filled out its lineup with Nolte, Oswalt, and Serkis; SAG filled out its lineup with Nolte and Hammer (whom most had left for dead after J. Edgar's poor critical reception); and the HFPA went with Mortensen (another guy whose chances were thought to be hurt by his movie's disappearance from the discussion). When it comes to acting categories, I take SAG way more seriously than either of the other two groups. Therefore, while I acknowledge that it could be Hammer (who probably benefited from the spotlight afforded him by appearing in joint Q&A's with costar DiCaprio and director Eastwood), I'm currently inclined to go with Nolte (after all, everyone loves a good comeback story).

Octavia Spencer (The Help)
Berenice Bejo (The Artist)
Shailene Woodley (The Descendants) =
Jessica Chastain (The Help)
Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs)
Major Threats
Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids)
Carey Mulligan (Shame)
Sandra Bullock (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) =
Vanessa Redgrave (Coriolanus)
Evan Rachel Wood (The Ides of March)
Judi Dench (J. Edgar)
Judy Greer (The Descendants)
Marion Cotillard (Midnight in Paris)

Based on the numbers, it's hard to argue that Spencer, Bejo, and Chastain -- the key supporting talent in two of the strongest best picture contenders, and now all three BFCA, SAG, and HFPA nominees -- aren't good to go. I expected to be able to say the same of the young up-and-comer Woodley, but then SAG bafflingly left her off its list, which gives me a bit of pause; she was, however, nominated by both the BFCA and HFPA, and will benefit from the coattails of her popular film, so at the end of the day I still think she'll still make the Oscar cut. And so again, as I see it, it comes down to a race for a fifth slot. Will it be McTeer, who was nominated by SAG and the HFPA -- but not the BFCA -- for her great performance in a less-than-great movie? Or McCarthy, who was nominated by the BFCA and SAG -- but not the HFPA, which I find weird -- for her no-holds-barred perf in a summer comedy? Or Mulligan, who was nominated by BFCA -- but not by SAG or the HFPA -- for her shedding her good-girl image (and clothing) in an NC-17 flick? Or perhaps Bullock, the highest-profile of the lot, who gives one of her finest performances, but wasn't nominated by any of the three groups (perhaps because her film wasn't screened until just before all of their ballots were due)? At the moment, because I take a SAG-HFPA double nomination very seriously (and because I still struggle to see the Academy nominating someone who takes a dump in a sink), I'm going with McTeer... but I can't claim to feel especially confident about that.

Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash (The Descendants)
Stan Chervin, Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian (Moneyball)
Tate Taylor (The Help)
John Logan (Hugo)
Eric Roth (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)
Major Threats
Richard Curtis, Lee Hall (War Horse)
George Clooney, Grant Heslov (The Ides of March)
Steven Zaillian (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Bridget O'Connor, Peter Straughan (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy)
Hossein Amini (Drive)
Pedro Almodovar (The Skin I Live In)
Christopher Hampton (A Dangerous Method)
Roman Polanski (Carnage)

The BFCA and HFPA both nominated The Descendants and Moneyball, which was not unexpected. What is a bit surprising is that the only other adapted screenplay that the HFPA included among its five (it has just one screenplay category) was The Ides of March, not, say, The Help, Hugo, or Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (the three with which the BFCA filled out its adapted category), any one of which could have used a bit of a boost. Meanwhile, it's getting harder and harder to see a path to a nomination for War Horse, Dragon Tattoo, Tinker Tailor, Drive, or any other hopefuls, which have yet to receive screenplay recognition from any major awards-dispensing organization. (War Horse was nominated for best adapted by the Satellite Awards and Tinker Tailor was voted the year's best adapted by the San Francisco Film Critics Circle, but that's about it.)

Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
Tom McCarthy, Joe Tiboni (Win Win)
Mike Mills (Beginners)
Will Reiser (50/50)
Major Threats
Diablo Cody (Young Adult)
Annie Mumolo, Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids)
J.C. Chandor (Margin Call)
James Ward Byrkit, John Logan, Gore Verbinski (Rango)
Dustin Lance Black (J. Edgar)
Asghar Farhadi (A Separation)
Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life)
Abi Morgan, Steve McQueen (Shame)
Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene)
Drake Doremus, Ben York Jones (Like Crazy)

The BFCA and HFPA nominations give me no reason to believe that it's not still a race between The Artist (yes, silent films do require scripts, or at least scenarios) and Midnight in Paris (Woody being Woody, only doing a better job than he has in recent years), the only original screenplay selections on which they overlapped. The BFCA also included Win Win, from indie specialist McCarthy; 50/50, Reiser's semi-autobiographical script; and Young Adult, Cody's first script from Reitman since Juno, for which she won this category four years ago. Beginners, Margin Call, and Rango seemed like they had decent shots but were not nominated. Now, based on its clear popularity in other categories, I'm starting to wonder if the females-penned Bridesmaids might not be a more likely Oscar nominee than any of them.

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

Rango, Tintin, and Puss all seem to be holding steady, having scored nods with the BFCA and HFPA. As for the remaining two spots, I'm not yet ready to throw Cars 2 or Kung Fu Panda 2 under the bus, but I certainly noticed that Arthur Christmas, which had fallen out of the forefront of the discussion in recent weeks, beat out the former with the BFCA slot and the latter with the HFPA. In the end, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see the Academy go with only one of the two sequels and give the other spot to Christmas -- but, at this point, I just can't say for sure which is more vulnerable.

Project Nim (Roadside Attractions, 7/8, PG-13, trailer)
Buck (IFC Films, 6/17, PG, trailer)
Bill Cunningham New York (Zeitgeist Films, 3/16, TBA, trailer)
If a Tree Falls (Oscilloscope, 6/22, TBA, trailer)
Battle for Brooklyn (TBA, 6/17, TBA, trailer)

Major Threats
Undefeated (The Weinstein Company, 2/10, TBA, TBA)
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (HBO Documentary Films, TBA, TBA, trailer)
Long Way Home: The Loving Story (TBA, TBA, TBA, trailer)
We Were Here (Red Flag Releasing, 9/?, TBA, trailer)
Hell and Back Again (Docurama Films, 10/5, TBA, trailer)
Pina (Sundance Selects, 12/23, TBA, trailer)
Jane's Journey (First Run Features, TBA, TBA, trailer)
Sing Your Song (HBO Documentary Films, 9/2, TBA, trailer)
Under Fire: Journalists in Combat (TBA, TBA, TBA, trailer)
Semper Fi: Always Faithful (TBA, TBA, TBA, trailer)

The BFCA nominated Buck, Nim, and Undefeated, as well as three films that are ineligible for this year's Oscar race. Of the other films that are, the ones with the most buzz, at the moment, are Bill Cunningham, If a Tree Falls, and Paradise Lost 3 -- although Battle for Brooklyn, which follows an accidental activist over seven years as he fights to prevent his home and neighborhood from being demolished to make way for a massive real estate development, may be the category's big sleeper.

A Separation (Iran)
Where Do We Go Now? (Lebanon)
Le Havre (Finland)
In Darkness (Poland)
Footnote (Israel)
Major Threats
The Flowers of War (China)
Declaration of War (France)
Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)
A Simple Life (Hong Kong)
Pina (Germany)
Happy, Happy (Norway)
Terra Firma (Italy)
Sonny Boy (Netherlands)
Superclasico (Denmark)

Bullhead (Belgium)
Black Bread (Spain)
Postcard (Japan)
Omar Killed Me (Morocco)

When it comes to the best doc Oscar race, it's dangerous to place too much value on what other awards groups have to say, since the Oscar doc branch is notorious for marching to its own beat and often making eccentric choices. Nevertheless, it's worth noting -- though not particularly surprising -- that the BFCA and HFPA both nominated the Iranian film A Separation, which has long been considered the frontrunner to win the best doc Oscar (even if it hasn't exactly blown the socks off of the doc branch, the executive committee of which will nevertheless nominate it to avoid a major embarassment). The only other film on which the two agreed was The Skin I Live In -- which Spain opted not to submit for consideration this year. The BFCA filled out its list with the Lebanese, Finnish, and Polish entries, whereas the HFPA opted for the Chinese submission and two other Oscar-ineligible films.

Hugo (Dante Ferretti)
War Horse (Rick Carter)
The Artist (Laurence Bennett)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Stuart Craig)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Maria Djurkovic)
Major Threats
The Tree of Life (Jack Fisk)
J. Edgar (James J. Murakami)
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Sarah Greenwood)
Albert Nobbs (Patrizia von Brandenstein)
Midnight in Paris (Anne Seibel)

Drive (Beth Mickle)
A Dangerous Method (James McAteer)
My Week with Marilyn (Donal Woods)
Jane Eyre (Will Hughes-Jones)

The BFCA reaffirmed the strong standing of Hugo, War Horse, The Artist, and Harry Potter, as well as the fading awards prospects of Tinker Tailor, which was beaten out for a nod by The Tree of Life.

The Tree of Life (Emmanuel Lubezki)
War Horse (Janusz Kaminski)
Hugo (Robert Richardson)
The Artist (Guillaume Schiffman)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Jeff Cronenweth)
Major Threats
Drive (Newton Thomas Sigel)
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Chris Menges)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Hoyte Van Hoytema)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Eduardo Serra)
The Descendants (Phedon Papamichael)
Shame (Sean Bobbitt)
J. Edgar (Tom Stern)
A Dangerous Method (Peter Suschitzky)

The BFCA reaffirmed the strong standing of The Tree of Life, War Horse, Hugo, and The Artist, as well as the fading awards prospects of Dragon Tattoo, which was beaten out for a nod by Drive.

Jane Eyre (Michael O'Connor)
The Artist (Mark Bridges)
Hugo (Sandy Powell)
The Help (Sharen Davis)
W.E (Arianne Phillips)
Major Threats
My Week with Marilyn (Jill Taylor)
Midnight in Paris (Sonia Grande)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Jacqueline Durran)
War Horse (Joanna Johnston)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Trish Summerville)
J. Edgar (Deborah Hopper)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Jany Temime)
Albert Nobbs (Pierre-Yves Gayraud)
Captain America (Anna B. Sheppard)
Anonymous (Lisy Christl)
A Dangerous Method (Denise Cronenberg)

The BFCA reaffirmed the strong standing of Jane Eyre, The Artist, Hugo, and The Help, but somewhat surprisingly passed over the flashy work in W.E in favor of My Week with Marilyn, which appears gaining support across the board.

The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius, Anne-Sophie Bion)
Hugo (Thelam Schoonmaker)
War Horse (Michael Kahn)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Kirk Baxter, Angus Wall)
Drive (Matthew Newman)
Major Threats
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Claire Simpson)
The Ides of March (Stephen Mirrione)
The Descendants (Kevin Tent)
Midnight in Paris (Alisa Lepselter)
J. Edgar (Joe Cox, Gary Roach)
Moneyball (Christopher Tellefson)
Contagion (Stephen Mirrione)
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Dino Jonsater)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Mark Day)
Shame (Joe Walker)
Margin Call (Pete Beaudreau)

The BFCA nominated The Artist, Hugo, War Horse, Dragon Tattoo, and Drive. (Incidentally, poor Tent has been nominated three times by ACE, the film editors' guild, without ever having been nominated for an Oscar!)

Hugo (Howard Shore)
War Horse (John Williams)
The Artist (Ludovic Bource)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross)
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Alexandre Desplat)

Major Threats
The Adventures of Tintin (John Williams)
Drive (Cliff Martinez)
Jane Eyre (Dario Marianelli)
The Help (Thomas Newman)
Moneyball (Mychael Danna)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Alberto Iglesias)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Alexandre Desplat)
W.E (Abel Korzeniowski) NEW
The Ides of March (Alexandre Desplat)
Hanna (The Chemical Brothers)
Super 8 (Michael Giacchino)
A Dangerous Method (Howard Shore)
The Skin I Live In (Alberto Iglesias)
Midnight in Paris (Stephane Wrembel)

The BFCA and HFPA agreed on four selections: Hugo, War Horse, The Artist, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. For their respective fifth slots, both went a bit outside of the box: the BFCA with Drive and the HFPA with W.E. The wild-card, in my opinion, is Desplat's work on Extremely Loud. Why? Because the film is only now beginning to screen; the score is fantastic and integral to the deeply moving story; and Desplat is a huge favorite of the Academy's music branch (he has received four nods in this category over the last five years).