FEINBERG FORECAST: 'Dragon Tattoo' and 'Extremely Loud' Last Contenders to Screen

THR's awards expert Scott Feinberg offers his latest take on the Oscar race.
Felicity Jones in "Like Crazy"

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

The Artist (The Weinstein Company, 11/23, PG-13, trailer)
War Horse (Disney, 12/25, PG-13, trailer)
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Warner Bros., 12/25, PG-13, trailer)
The Descendants (Fox Searchlight, 11/23, R, trailer)
Hugo (Paramount, 11/23, PG, trailer)
The Help (Disney, 8/12, PG-13, trailer)
Moneyball (Columbia, 9/23, PG-13, trailer)
Midnight in Paris (Sony Pictures Classics, 5/20, PG-13, trailer)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Sony, 12/21, R, trailer)
The Tree of Life (Fox Searchlight, 5/27, PG-13, trailer)

Major Threats
J. Edgar (Warner Bros., 11/11, R, trailer)
Margin Call (Roadside Attractions, 10/21, R, trailer)
Beginners (Focus Features, 6/3, R, trailer)
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Focus Features, 12/9, R, trailer)
The Ides of March (Sony, 10/14, R, trailer)
The Iron Lady (The Weinstein Company, 12/30, PG-13, teaser)
Shame (Fox Searchlight, 12/2, NC-17, trailer)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2 (Warner Bros., 7/15, PG-13, trailer)
50/50 (Summit, 9/30, R, trailer)
My Week with Marilyn (The Weinstein Company, 11/23, R, trailer)
We Bought a Zoo (20th Century Fox, 12/23, PG, trailer)
Young Adult (Paramount, 12/9, R, trailer)
Drive (FilmDistrict, 9/16, R, trailer)
Super 8 (Paramount, 6/10, PG-13, trailer)

Talk about a good week for a Focus Features film: Mike Mills' charming semi-autobiographical dramedy won best feature and best ensemble at the Gothams; was voted best supporting actor (Christopher Plummer) and a spot on the list of the year's top 10 indie films by the NBR; and received feature, director, supporting actor (Plummer again), and screenplay nods from the Indie Spirits.
Talk about a bad week for a Focus Features film: Tomas Alfredson's thickly-layered adaptation of John le Carre's novel, which many have struggled to follow, was completely shut out by National Board of Review and New York Film Critics Circle, and at the British Independent Film Awards (where it wasn't even nominated for best screenplay) it won only best production design.

PHOTOS: The Making of Steven Spielberg's 'War Horse'

Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Steven Spielberg (War Horse)
Stephen Daldry (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)
Alexander Payne (The Descendants)
Martin Scorsese (Hugo)
Major Threats
Tate Taylor (The Help)
Bennett Miller (Moneyball)
Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life)
Clint Eastwood (J. Edgar)
J.C. Chandor (Margin Call)
Mike Mills (Beginners)
Tomas Alfredson (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy)
George Clooney (The Ides of March)
Phyllida Lloyd (The Iron Lady)
Steve McQueen (Shame)

His larger-than-life personality, interest in fringe subjects, and filmmaking skills are downright Hitchcockian, as the industry is discovering as he makes the rounds (as you can deduce by watching the interview that I recorded with him last Wednesday). The fact that his controversial NC-17 film began its platform release this past weekend and made an absolute killing at the box-office -- $361,000 from just 10 theaters -- doesn't hurt his prospects either.
Like virtually all of his films since Letters from Iwo Jima (2006), this one has failed to click critically (it has a dismal 41% rating on Rotten Tomatoes) and commercially (after four weeks in release it still hasn't recouped its $35 million budget). Moreover, the basis of several of its central claims have been called into serious question, which doesn't help matters.

PHOTOS: The Making of 'The Artist'

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

Michael Fassbender (Shame)
Major Threats
Gary Oldman (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy)
Woody Harrelson (Rampart)
Michael Shannon (Take Shelter)
Demian Bichir (A Better Life)
Paul Giamatti (Win Win)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (50/50)
Ryan Gosling (Drive)
Ryan Gosling (The Ides of March)
Matt Damon (We Bought a Zoo)
Ralph Fiennes (Coriolanus)
Daniel Craig (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Thomas Horn (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)

Could that tantalizingly up-for-grabs fifth slot be grabbed by... a Mexican actor whose name virtually no one even knows? I can't help but notice how often Academy members bring up "the guy from A Better Life." Sometimes quality perfs simply rise to the top, and Summit's decision to mail screeners early seems to have gotten this one seen. (Just this week he scored a best actor Indie Spirit nod and the film made the National Board of Review's list of the year's top 10 indies.)
After getting snubbed by the Academy last year despite campaigning vigorously on behalf of Blue Valentine, he has been almost entirely absent from this year's awards circuit. He might have been able to get away with that if he was a part of a juggernaut movie, but this one is on life-support. At this point, I'm inclined to believe that he has a better shot for the smaller Drive, which has very passionate supporters.

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
Felicity Jones (Like Crazy)
Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene)
Charlize Theron (Young Adult)
Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin)
Keira Knightley (A Dangerous Method)
Kirsten Dunst (Melancholia)
Adepero Oduye (Pariah)
Michelle Yeoh (The Lady)
Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre)
Ellen Barkin (Another Happy Day)

Academy members (who are mostly older males) love cute, vulnerable, young British actresses who experience heartache on the big screen -- think Keira Knightley in Pride & Prejudice (2005), Carey Mulligan in An Education (2009), and now this Sundance Special Jury Prize recipient, who last week was voted best breakthrough actor at the Gothams (over Olsen) and by the National Board of Review (tying with Mara), and whose enthusiastic champions include Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, and Stanley Tucci. I'm a believer!
Speaking of Knightley, when is the last time that anyone paid any attention to this movie? She's the best thing about it, but it has received virtually no awards recognition, thus far, and seems to have faded completely from the discussion.

PHOTOS: The Making of 'The Descendants'

Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)
Albert Brooks (Drive)
Ben Kingsley (Hugo)
Kevin Spacey (Margin Call)
Major Threats
Jim Broadbent (The Iron Lady)
Jeremy Irons (Margin Call)
Jonah Hill (Moneyball)
Patton Oswalt (Young Adult)
Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn)
John Hawkes (Martha Marcy May Marlene)
Andy Serkis (Rise of the Planet of the Apes)
Tom Hanks (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)
Nick Nolte (Warrior)
Armie Hammer (J. Edgar)
Corey Stoll (Midnight in Paris)
Christoph Waltz (Carnage)
John C. Reilly (Carnage)
Brad Pitt (The Tree of Life)
Stanley Tucci (Margin Call)

The 1982 best actor Oscar winner, who just received a special tribute from BAFTA and has been making the rounds on behalf of Hugo, is at the center of -- and seems likely to benefit from -- his film's emotionally-powerful third act, in which his character, the long-forgotten Georges Melies, is pulled from the dustbin of history and celebrated for his tremendous contributions to the art of the movies.
In my humble opinion, the only scene in a 2011 film that tops his door stoop soliloquoy about a bridge that he once built is Elle Fanning's performance-within-a-performance scene in Super 8. That being said, he has very limited screen time, and Roadside's for-your-consideration ads indicate that they feel that only two members of the film's incredible ensemble -- Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons -- have a real shot at a best supporting actor nod (which is probably correct).

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

A slew of recent great press -- including the charming interview that she granted me -- is helping to remind people that there is more than one perf from The Descendants (Shailene Woodley's) that is worthy of a best supporting actress nod, just as voters deemend that there was more than one worthy of a nod from Doubt (2008), Up in the Air (2009), and The Fighter (2010).
It's a shame (forgive me) that her committment to film Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby in Australia has largely kept her from joining co-writer/director Steve McQueen and co-star Michael Fassbender on the awards circuit, since she could have reminded people the degree to which her perf is unlike anything she's ever done before --not the nudity (she'd already done that), but the darkness and vulnerability.

PHOTOS: 23 Awards Contenders Featuring Animals

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

Payne, who won this category seven years ago, appears to be the frontrunner again. This week, he and his co-adapters of Kaui Hart Hemmings' novel won the NBR's best adapted screenplay prize and were nominated for best screenplay by the Indie Spirits.
The buzz for this political-thriller has come to a virtual standstill, with awards-dispensing groups passing on it even though embracing it might result in having Clooney -- who, along with Heslov, scored a best original screenplay Oscar nod six years ago for Good Night and Good Luck -- show up at their events.

Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
Mike Mills (Beginners)
J.C. Chandor (Margin Call)

Tom McCarthy, Joe Tiboni (Win Win)
Major Threats
Will Reiser (50/50)
James Ward Byrkit, John Logan, Gore Verbinski (Rango)
Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life)
Dustin Lance Black (J. Edgar)
Diablo Cody (Young Adult)
Annie Mumolo, Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids)
Abi Morgan, Steve McQueen (Shame)
Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady)
Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene)
Drake Doremus, Ben York Jones (Like Crazy)
Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter)
Asghar Farhadi (A Separation)
James Ellroy, Oren Moverman (Rampart)

Reiser's semi-autobiographical script about cancer has provoked laughter and tears from audiences since its release in September, and now it's getting rewarded for it: this week, he won the National Board of Review's award for best original screenplay and was nominated for the Indie Spirit Award for best first screenplay.
Though this May release has passionate backers, they haven't been able to propel it to any awards attention, thus far, which is a bit worrisome: it was denied nods for pic, director, or screenplay by the Indie Spirits and completely shut out by both the Gotham Awards and the National Board of Review.

Rango (Paramount, 3/4, PG, trailer)
The Adventures of Tintin (Paramount, 12/21, PG, trailer)
Cars 2 (Disney, 6/24, G, trailer)
Puss in Boots (DreamWorks, 11/4, PG, trailer)
Kung Fu Panda 2 (DreamWorks, 5/26, PG, trailer)

Major Threats
Happy Feet 2 (Warner Bros., 11/18, PG, trailer)
Rio (20th Century Fox, 4/15, G, trailer)
Arthur Christmas (Sony, 11/23, PG, 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)

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

War Horse (Janusz Kaminski)
The Tree of Life (Emmanuel Lubezki)

The Artist (Guillaume Schiffman)
Hugo (Robert Richardson)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Jeff Cronenweth)

Major Threats
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Hoyte Van Hoytema)
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Chris Menges)
Drive (Newton Thomas Sigel)

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)

Hugo (Sandy Powell)
The Artist (Mark Bridges)
Jane Eyre (Michael O'Connor)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Jacqueline Durran)

W.E (Arianne Phillips)

Major Threats
The Help (Sharen Davis)
J. Edgar (Deborah Hopper)
War Horse (Joanna Johnston)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Trish Summerville)
Albert Nobbs (Pierre-Yves Gayraud)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Jany Temime)
Captain America (Anna B. Sheppard)
My Week with Marilyn (Jill Taylor)
Anonymous (Lisy Christl)
A Dangerous Method (Denise Cronenberg)
Immortals (Eiko Ishioka)

Hugo (Howard Shore)
The Artist (Ludovic Bource)
War Horse (John Williams)
The Adventures of Tintin (John Williams)
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Alexandre Desplat)
Major Threats
Jane Eyre (Dario Marianelli)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Alberto Iglesias)
The Help (Thomas Newman)
The Ides of March (Alexandre Desplat)

Moneyball (Mychael Danna)
Super 8 (Michael Giacchino)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Alexandre Desplat)
A Dangerous Method (Howard Shore)
The Skin I Live In (Alberto Iglesias)
Midnight in Paris (Stephane Wrembel)
Margin Call (
Nathan Larson)