FEINBERG FORECAST: 'Carnage' Divides, 'Extremely' Intrigues, 'Moneyball' Grows

Our awards expert Scott Feinberg offers his latest take on the Oscar race.
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Among the things that factored into this week's projections, which appear below...

  • Carnage opened the New York Film Festival on Friday night, and, while it played extremely well in Alice Tully Hall (where I saw it), reactions from pundits who attended concurrent press screenings -- and who, unlike me, saw the original theatrical production -- have been mixed-leaning-negative. Jeff Wells wrote that the 79-minute film is "wonderfully tight and concise... every shot, every cut and every line tells you that someone highly intelligent directed [it]," but David Poland called it an "utter failure" starring a "great cast... all in the wrong roles"; Sasha Stone tweeted that "the film actors look like amateurs" in comparison to those who starred in the stage version" and that she "can't imagine anyone liking it honestly"; and Kris Tapley chimed in, "Carnage is a mess. But at least it's only 80 minutes long." My own sense is that it will play well with middle-aged and older folks in the general public and the Academy, most of whom will not compare it with the stage production because they will not have seen it, and who will enjoy seeing that they are not the only people with "colorful" marriages. Can it snag a best picture nod in a year in which only five slots are guaranteed and other slots will only be given to films that inspire passionate support? I have my doubts... but not because it isn't an excellent film featuring four commanding performances.
  • Buzz is building for the recently completed Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, a star-studded film adapted from Jonathan Safron Foer's best-selling novel about a boy who loses his father in the attacks of September 11, 2001 -- over the past week, its poster and trailer were finally revealed (and are quite impressive) and it had its first test screening in New York (which apparently went very well). Everyone already knew to look out for director Stephen Daldry (who has scored a best director Oscar nod for all three of his previous features, two of which also earned best pic nods), stars Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock (both Oscar winners for leading performances who will probably be pushed in the supporting categories this year), and screenwriter Eric Roth (who 17 years ago won the best adapted screenplay category in which he is again eligible this year, for another little film starring Hanks called Forrest Gump). The trailer and an attendee of the test screening, however, suggest that we should also keep a close eye on the film's young star, teen Jeopardy! champion Thomas Horn, for best actor, and 82-year-old veteran Max von Sydow, for best supporting actor. Von Sydow, who plays Horn's character's silent (he was traumatized during World War II) but supportive (he accompanies him on his epic quest) grandfather, has done standout work in important films for over a half-century -- The Seventh Seal (1957), The Exorcist (1973), Three Days of the Condor (1975), and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007), to name just a few -- but he has only received one Oscar nod, for best actor for Pelle the Conqueror (1985), and has never won, just like his category's longtime presumptive frontrunner Christopher Plummer (Beginners), so he could wind up right in the thick of things.
  • Moneyball, which opened at #2 at the box-office last weekend with nearly $20 million in sales, earned 43% less this Friday than it did last Friday, only a 3% worse drop-off than the one experienced by The Social Network (2010) last year. Word-of-mouth buzz for the crowd-pleasing film -- and particularly for Brad Pitt's leading performance as Billy Beane, who I see as a sports-version of Atticus Finch -- continues to be very strong, and an argument could be made that, of all of the Oscar hopefuls that have already been screened this year, it has the strongest shot in the best picture race. The newly-released cancer dramedy 50/50, meanwhile, failed to metastasize, and is on track to take in less than $10 million at the box-office. This, like the recent similar underperformance of Drive and Warrior, is a real shame, because the film, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last month and which I caught at its New York premiere last week, is really very good and features an excellent leading performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (I can't picture anyone else in his role), and fine supporting work by Seth Rogen (who provides the film with the comic relief that makes its subject matter palatable) and Anna Kendrick (who told me at the premiere's after-party that the grueling awards campaign for Up in the Air two years ago actually prepared her to play her character in this film, which started filming shortly thereafter, because both things called for her to act like she was supposed to be in a certain place even though she didn't really know what she was doing there).
  • In addition to the aforementioned screening of Carnage, I have been in and out of New York all week for other screenings at the New York Film Festival, as well. This year's NYFF, the 49th annual edition, could be nicknamed the Sony Pictures Classics Festival, since so many of its films -- including many of its finest -- are being distributed by Michael Barker and Tom Bernard's little New York-based studio, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The two that stand out the most in hindsight: A Separation, Iranian director Asghar Farhadi's film about domestic strife in Tehran that won the Golden Bear (the top prize) at February's Berlin Film Festival and then played at Telluride and Toronto before coming to New York, which is absolutely riveting and a sure-fire best foreign language film Oscar contender; and The Skin I Live In, the latest whacky film from the great Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, which is campy but irresistable nonetheless. Antonio Banderas, whose international career took off after his last collaboration with Almodovar 20 years ago, stars as a Dr. Frankenstein-type whose beautiful "Monster" -- per one of Almodovar's oldest fetishes -- starts out as one gender and ends up as another. (Spoiler alert: yes, Vicente and Vera are played by different actors -- thanks to great make-up work, I honestly wasn't sure!)

War Horse (Disney, 12/25, TBA, teaser)
J. Edgar (Warner Brothers, 11/11, R, trailer)
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Warner Brothers, 12/25, TBA, trailer)
The Artist (The Weinstein Company, 11/23, TBA, trailer)
Moneyball (Columbia, 9/23, TBA, trailer)
Midnight in Paris (Sony Pictures Classics, 5/20, PG-13, trailer)
The Help (Disney, 8/12, PG-13, trailer)
The Descendants (Fox Searchlight, 11/23, R, trailer)
The Ides of March (Sony, 10/14, TBA, trailer)
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Focus Features, 12/9, TBA, trailer)
Major Threats
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Sony, 12/21, TBA, trailer)
The Iron Lady (The Weinstein Company, 12/21, TBA, teaser)
The Tree of Life (Fox Searchlight, 5/27, PG-13, trailer)
My Week With Marilyn (The Weinstein Company, 11/4, TBA, TBA)
Carnage (Sony Pictures Classics, 12/16, R, trailer)
50/50 (Summit, 9/30, R, trailer)
Like Crazy (Paramount Vantage, 10/28, PG-13, trailer)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2 (Warner Brothers, 7/15, PG-13, trailer)
We Bought a Zoo (20th Century Fox, 12/23, TBA, trailer)
The Adventures of Tintin (Paramount, 12/21, TBA, trailer)
Hugo (Paramount, 11/23, TBA, trailer)
Young Adult (Paramount, 12/9, TBA, TBA)
A Dangerous Method (Sony Pictures Classics, 11/23, TBA, trailer)
The Lady (Cohen Media Group, 12/?, TBA, trailer)
Coriolanus (The Weinstein Company, 12/2, TBA, trailer)
The Way (Producers Distribution Agency, 10/7, TBA, trailer)
Super 8 (Paramount, 6/10, PG-13, trailer)
In the Land of Blood and Honey (FilmDistrict, 12/23, TBA, TBA)
Still Seeking Domestic Distribution
Take This Waltz

Steven Spielberg (War Horse)
Clint Eastwood (J. Edgar)
Stephen Daldry (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)
Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
Major Threats
Bennett Miller (Moneyball)
Alexander Payne (The Descendants)
George Clooney (The Ides of March)
David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Roman Polanski (Carnage)
Tate Taylor (The Help)
Tomas Alfredson (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy)
Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life)
Phyllida Lloyd (The Iron Lady)
Simon Curtis (My Week With Marilyn)
Jonathan Levine (50/50)
Drake Doremus (Like Crazy)
Steven Spielberg (The Adventures of Tintin)
Martin Scorsese (Hugo)
Cameron Crowe (We Bought a Zoo)
Jason Reitman (Young Adult)
David Cronenberg (A Dangerous Method)
Luc Besson (The Lady)
Ralph Fiennes (Coriolanus)
Emilio Estevez (The Way)
J.J. Abrams (Super 8)
Angelina Jolie (In the Land of Blood and Honey)
David Yates (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2)
Still Seeking Domestic Distribution
Sarah Polley (Take This Waltz)

Brad Pitt (Moneyball)
Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar)
George Clooney (The Descendants)
Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
Ryan Gosling (The Ides of March)
Major Threats
Michael Fassbender (Shame)
Thomas Horn (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)
Gary Oldman (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy)
Christoph Waltz (Carnage)
John C. Reilly (Carnage)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (50/50)
Michael Shannon (Take Shelter)
Woody Harrelson (Rampart)
Anton Yelchin (Like Crazy)
Ryan Gosling (Drive)
Owen Wilson (Midnight in Paris)
Daniel Craig (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Matt Damon (We Bought a Zoo)
Jeremy Irvine (War Horse)
Demian Bichir (A Better Life)
Rhys Ifans (Anonymous)
Ralph Fiennes (Coriolanus)
Johnny Depp (The Rum Diary)
Michael Fassbender (A Dangerous Method)
Paul Giamatti (Win Win)
Martin Sheen (The Way)
Sam Shepard (Blackthorn)
Antonio Banderas (The Skin I Live In)
Tom Hardy (Warrior)
Sean Penn (This Must Be the Place)
Still Seeking Domestic Distribution
Christopher Plummer (Barrymore)

Viola Davis (The Help)
Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)
Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs)
Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn)
Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

Major Threats
Felicity Jones (Like Crazy)
Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene)
Keira Knightley (A Dangerous Method)
Jodie Foster (Carnage)
Kate Winslet (Carnage)
Charlize Theron (Young Adult)
Kirsten Dunst (Melancholia)
Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin)
Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre)
Michelle Yeoh (The Lady)
Ellen Barkin (Another Happy Day)
Adepero Oduye (Pariah)
Rachel Weisz (The Whistleblower)
Vera Farmiga (Higher Ground)
Saoirse Ronan (Hanna)
Still Seeking Domestic Distribution
Michelle Williams (Take This Waltz)

Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn)
Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)
George Clooney (The Ides of March)
Jim Broadbent (The Iron Lady)
Major Threats
Albert Brooks (Drive)
Jonah Hill (Moneyball)
Tom Hanks (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)
Nick Nolte (Warrior)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Ides of March)
Armie Hammer (J. Edgar)
John Hawkes (Martha Marcy May Marlene)
Viggo Mortensen (A Dangerous Method)
Brad Pitt (The Tree of Life)
Andy Serkis (Rise of the Planet of the Apes)
Patton Oswalt (Young Adult)
Thomas Haden Church (We Bought a Zoo)
Jeffrey Wright (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)
Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk About Kevin)
Corey Stoll (Midnight in Paris)
Tom Hardy (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
Mark Strong (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
Benedict Cumberbatch (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
Still Seeking Domestic Distribution
Terrence Howard (Winnie)

Berenice Bejo (The Artist)
Vanessa Redgrave (Coriolanus)
Octavia Spencer (The Help)
Judi Dench (My Week with Marilyn)
Evan Rachel Wood (The Ides of March)

Major Threats
Shailene Woodley (The Descendants)
Sandra Bullock (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)
Emily Watson (War Horse)
Jessica Chastain (The Help)
Carey Mulligan (Shame)
Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs)
Naomi Watts (J. Edgar)
Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids)
Scarlett Johansson (We Bought a Zoo)
Judi Dench (J. Edgar)
Anna Kendrick (50/50)
Alexandra Roach (The Iron Lady)
Charlotte Gainsbourg (Melancholia)
Charlotte Rampling (Melancholia)
Judy Greer (The Descendants)
Kim Wayans (Pariah)
Still Seeking Domestic Distribution
Judy Davis (The Eye of the Storm)
Charlotte Rampling (The Eye of the Storm)

Richard Curtis, Lee Hall (War Horse)
Eric Roth (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)

Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian (Moneyball)
Tate Taylor (The Help)
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash (The Descendants)
Major Threats
George Clooney, Grant Heslov (The Ides of March)
Bridget O'Connor, Peter Straughan (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy)
Steven Zaillian (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Roman Polanski (Carnage)
Cameron Crowe, Aline Brosh McKenna (We Bought a Zoo)
Christopher Hampton (A Dangerous Method)
Pedro Almodovar (The Skin I Live In)
John Logan (Hugo)
John Logan (Coriolanus)
Emilio Estevez (The Way)
John Banville, Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs)
James Ellroy, Oren Moverman (Rampart)
Bruce Robinson (The Rum Diary)

Dustin Lance Black (J. Edgar)
Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life)
Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady)
Major Threats
Adrian Hodges (My Week with Marilyn)
Will Reiser (50/50)
Drake Doremus, Ben York Jones (Like Crazy)
Diablo Cody (Young Adult)
Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter)
Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy Mae Marlene)
Asghar Farhadi (A Separation)
Annie Mumolo, Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids)
Tom McCarthy, Joe Tiboni (Win Win)
Rebecca Frayne (The Lady)
J.J. Abrams (Super 8)
Lars von Trier (Melancholia)
Dee Rees (Pariah)
Mike Mills (Beginners)
Angelina Jolie (In the Land of Blood and Honey)
Still Seeking Domestic Distribution
Sarah Polley (Take This Waltz)

Rango (Paramount, 3/4, PG, trailer)
The Adventures of Tintin (Paramount, 12/21, TBA, trailer)
Happy Feet 2 (Warner Brothers, 11/18, TBA, TBA, trailer)
Cars 2 (Disney, 6/24, TBA, trailer)
Arthur Christmas (Sony, 11/23, TBA, trailer)

Major Threats
Puss in Boots (DreamWorks, 11/4, TBA, trailer)
Rio (20th Century Fox, 4/15, G, trailer)
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked (20th Century Fox, 12/11, TBA, TBA)
Winnie the Pooh (Disney, 7/15, G, trailer)
Kung Fu Panda 2 (DreamWorks, 5/26, PG, trailer)
The Smurfs (Sony, 7/29, TBA, trailer)
The Lion of Judah (Animated Family Films, 6/3, TBA, trailer)
Still Seeking Domestic Distribution
The Dreaming Machine
The Rabbi's Cat
Tales of the Night

The Interrupters (The Cinema Guild, 7/29, TBA, trailer)
Project Nim (Roadside Attractions, 7/8, PG-13, trailer)
Buck (IFC Films, 6/17, PG, trailer)
Senna (Producers Distribution Agency, 8/12, PG-13, trailer)
If a Tree Falls (Oscilloscope, 6/22, TBA, trailer)
Major Threats
Hell and Back Again (Docurama Films, 10/5, TBA, trailer)
Cave of Forgotten Dreams (IFC Films, 4/29, G, trailer)
Into the Abyss (Sundance Selects, 11/11, TBA, TBA)
Koran by Heart (HBO Documentary Films, TBA, TBA, trailer)
Page One: Inside the New York Times (Magnolia, 6/24, TBA, trailer)
Tabloid (Sundance Selects, 7/15, R, trailer)
Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey (Submarine Deluxe, TBA, trailer)
Magic Trip (Magnolia, 8/5, TBA, trailer)
Bill Cunningham New York (Zeitgeist Films, 3/16, TBA, trailer)
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (Sundance Selects, 9/9, TBA, trailer)
Pearl Jam Twenty (Abramorama, 9/20, R, trailer)
Bobby Fischer Against the World (HBO Documentary Films, TBA, TBA, TBA)
The Whale (Paladin, TBA, TBA, TBA)
The Bully Project (The Weinstein Company, TBA, TBA, trailer)
Revenge of the Electric Car (Westmidwest Productions, TBA, TBA, trailer)
The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (Sony Pictures Classics, 4/22, PG-13, trailer)
African Cats (Disney, 4/22, G, trailer)
Life in a Day (National Geographic, 7/29, PG-13, trailer)
Still Seeking Domestic Distribution
Bombay Beach