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Winter's Bone (#110 of 18)

Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Actress

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Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Actress
Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Actress

Compared to most of the season’s races, Best Actress has remained somewhat open, with only two gals firmly secure in their nominations, and at least five more boasting realistic chances. The two locks in question are, of course, Zero Dark Thirty lead Jessica Chastain and Silver Linings Playbook star Jennifer Lawrence, a pair whom most believe will duke it out for the win. Coming off of one of the most impressive breakthrough years of any actor in memory, Chastain took top billing in a film that never tried to promote girl power, but nonetheless emerged as a battleground riff on any number of feminist dramas, with a can-do female fighting powers that be to see justice done. Historically, it’s the sort of performance the Academy lives to reward, right up there with the dead-on mimicry of late icons. Lawrence, meanwhile, used her turn in Silver Linings Playbook to cement her career longevity, which has been hinted at since Winter’s Bone, the last film to land her a nod in this category. Far from a flash in the pan, Lawrence has that rare gift of deeply understanding the women she portrays, and her bone-deep grasp of unhinged widow Tiffany is the highlight of David O. Russell’s flawed dramedy.

Oscar Prospects: The Sessions

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Oscar Prospects: The Sessions
Oscar Prospects: The Sessions

Biopics may have the strongest track record in currying Academy favor, but tales of overcoming physical obstacles aren’t far behind, and if the right film can merge both elements, all the better. Among this year’s surefire awards candidates is The Sessions, which covers the biographical and physical-hurdle bases, while boasting some tastefully risqué quirk to boot. Most would agree that the dramedy has been an Oscar player since its debut at Sundance, where audiences first bore witness to its cocktail of baity ingredients. Recounting the story of polio survivor Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes), whose personable nature assuages any characters (or viewers) unnerved by his disability (he’s immobile, yet not paralyzed, from the neck down), The Sessions offers a cheer-worthy underdog who, in a most relatable way, finally wants to get laid. That the movie uses sex as a human right of passage and not an incessant belly-laugh source is what continually saves it from puerile potholes. Like August’s Hope Springs, it’s a movie that takes a decidedly adult approach to sexuality, and any situational humor that results is largely due to the good old, natural discomfort of intimate moments. It’s also an actors’ showcase, a work of modest origins, and the breakout effort of a man (writer/director Ben Lewin) who lives with the same affliction as his protagonist. Thanks to all of this, The Sessions joins Beasts of the Southern Wild as one of few 2012 indies with serious Oscar traction, and secures an outside shot at a Best Picture nomination.

15 Famous Movie Hicks

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15 Famous Movie Hicks
15 Famous Movie Hicks

Chloë Moretz and Blake Lively get their hillbilly on in Hick, one of this weekend’s Dark Shadows alternatives and, quite possibly, one of the year’s worst. It is indeed good for something, though, as it’s inspired this 15-wide roster of cinema’s unforgettable rednecks. While far more prevalent in recent movies, characters who don’t quite hail from the upper crust have long been giving fuel to the likes of Jeff Foxworthy, who might have made the list himself if not out-hicked by a slew of fictional kinfolk. Whether hailing from the sticks or the trailer park, these hayseeds might even make Jerry Springer blush.

Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions Picture

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Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Picture
Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Picture

The ascendance of the stuttering king and Oscar’s perceived instantaneous regression into the mottled pastures of White Elephant Cinema (how quickly we forget The Reader) has rendered some of our most reliable barometers speechless. Suddenly, the movie no one wanted to pay attention to became the movie all your friends and relatives who see two movies a year have seen and just know is the best picture of the year. What can one say in the face of that? Even dependable crank Armond White, who had been working himself up a pretty good head of anti-Social Network steam leading up to an Ingracious Basterd-worthy final snit as MC of the New York Film Critics Circle awards, has been more or less reticent in the wake of The King’s Speech’s dozen proofs in support of the theory that dusty linens, not bloody tourniquets and certainly not hackers’ grease-stained pizza boxes, are the fabric that holds Oscar together. And why shouldn’t he remain mum? There’s no one this year to disabuse of the notion that Oscars actually matter.

Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions Actress

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Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Actress
Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Actress

For Annette Bening, it seemed as if the stars in the Oscar sky had finally aligned into a shape that wasn’t that of Hilary Swank’s face. For her fine performance in Lisa Cholodenko’s Showtime-y The Kids Are All Right, the actress was a frontrunner for this award since Sundance last year, and nothing seemed capable of pussyblocking her on the way to the Oscar podium. Then came the pitter patter of Black Swan’s balletic feet. Darren Aronofsky’s casually, if cluelessly, homophobic and misogynistic melodrama, after receiving mixed notices at Venice and Toronto, struck a chord with American critics and audiences, and the rest was not only box office history, but a repeat of the same old Oscar story. For being young, having a nice ass, showing us every frayed nerve in her character’s body, but little else, and indulging in the sort of gay sex that only a gay person could have a problem with, Natalie Portman so perfectly embodies the spirit of this award that few are entertaining the possibility of an upset at this point. I won’t either, because I’m not sure Bening, for all of her class and industry cred, can complete with the sort of effusive passion chronic masturbators fans of Black Swan have for all of the blood, sweat, and tears Portman poured into the project, though if truth be told, does it really matter who gets it? Whichever way it goes, the category’s best performance still gets the shaft.

Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions Adapted Screenplay

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Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Adapted Screenplay
Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Adapted Screenplay

I see no reason why this entry need be any longer than Ed’s post yesterday, the one about how his post predicting Christian Bale for Best Supporting Actor needn’t be any longer than his curt prediction for Heath Ledger in the same category for 2008. Though it doesn’t hurt that this is the only category the once (and probably not future) Best Picture frontrunner doesn’t face off against The King’s Speech, Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay for The Social Network would’ve been a pretty sure bet even if it was the movie’s only nomination, because his dialogue consistently makes everyone in the cast hyperventilate.

Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions Supporting Actor

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Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actor
Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actor

Not sure there’s much more to say here than I did two years back ago when I called this for Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight except that this is probably one of two categories where The King’s Speech most deserves to win. Christian Bale, for eating, regurgitating, then shooting up The Fighter’s scenery, has lapped up nearly every supporting actor accolade since the start of the awards season. Oscar loves a showboater, and unlike his co-star Melissa Leo, Bale seems to have kept the drama on screen. I’m not sure the momentum he’s mustered can be toppled, even by some slightly unhinged awards speeches that suggest playing Dicky Eklund wasn’t exactly a stretch for the actor—though we knew that already from the way Bale talks to his mother. I know, it’s been less than a month since industry awards revealed that The Social Network was probably never our Best Picture frontrunner, but even then the only honor Geoffrey Rush has wrestled from an unkempt Bale’s twitchy fingers, not counting SAG’s ensemble award, was a prize from the Central Ohio Film Critics Association. Oscar loves a saint, but in the supporting categories at least, they love losers even more.

Oscar 2011 Nomination Predictions: Picture

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Oscar 2011 Nomination Predictions: Picture
Oscar 2011 Nomination Predictions: Picture

Even though AMPAS’s decision last year to widen the Best Picture field to 10 nominees was an obvious publicity stunt, a means of boosting the Oscar telecast’s ratings share by ensuring that more than one box office cash cow would compete for Oscar’s top prize, we were optimistic that a few legitimately off-the-beaten-path treasures would somehow manage to enter the race. But we know how that turned out, and though we doubt things will pan out differently in this more middlebrow-embracing year, at least we’re going to be spared the endless chatter about how so-and-so film can’t win the Oscar because of its poor box office. And to give you just one example of how much money means to the corrupt Oscar race: By Tuesday morning, the bulk of the dozen or so films with a legitimate shot at a Best Picture nomination will have made in excess of $75 million each. To give you another: The only ones among those dozen or so films that anyone is even talking about possibly not making the cut (127 Hours, The Kids Are All Right, and Winter’s Bone) are the ones that will never make that much money even after you’ve added together their domestic and foreign box office and video receipts.

Oscar 2011 Nomination Predictions: Actress in a Leading Role

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Oscar 2011 Nomination Predictions: Actress in a Leading Role
Oscar 2011 Nomination Predictions: Actress in a Leading Role

All season long, two prominent Oscar players have straddled the uncomfortable line between aligning with the supporting and leading categories. One appeared in approximately two-thirds of her film’s running time, most of it not merely the center of attention but arguably the black hole of attention; her handlers gunned for a Best Actress nomination, no doubt confident that “female lead in Mike Leigh’s newest film” translates to instant Oscar buzz. The other appeared in all but the final three or four minutes of her film (when an older actress took over the role for a “30 years later”-style coda), but admittedly spent significant chunks of that running time making room for her male costar’s grizzled, drunken antics; her handlers pushed her for a Supporting Actress berth. Both won various awards and nominations in their chosen categories, but now all the buzz surrounding these two particular races is whether the latter, Hailee Steinfeld, can pull off a Keisha Castle-Hughes miracle, which we now believe she can. All the while, virtually no one even mentions the name of the former, who would’ve probably been a slam dunk if she’d switched category allegiance. The hard lesson for Another Year’s almost certain also-ran Lesley Manville to learn from this: Don’t you dare, even when both the relative centrality and overtly showy nature of your role would justify the placement, stiff up in class when you could just as easily slum. Manville will be punished for daring to do the right thing, whereas True Grit’s Steinfeld will be doubtlessly rewarded—and, we think, in the correct category—for feigning modesty about her chances among the big girls. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that youth helps in Oscar’s distaff categories—a double-edged sword which only actually cuts those who play women who openly lust after men 10 to 15 years younger than themselves.

Oscar 2011 Nomination Predictions: Actress in a Supporting Role

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Oscar 2011 Nomination Predictions: Actress in a Supporting Role
Oscar 2011 Nomination Predictions: Actress in a Supporting Role

At least three of the spots in Oscar’s supporting actress category have been sewn up since the start of the awards season—one for triple-A method actress and Golden Globe-winner Melissa Leo in The Fighter, a second for her costar and possible Oscar-night spoiler Amy Adams, the around-the-way alpha to Leo’s Medea-like omega, with Helena Bonham Carter happy to be riding shotgun for her piffle of a performance in The King’s Speech, wondering if her winsome solicitation of Geoffrey Rush’s services for her king of a husband, or her winsome intake of stammer-proofing breath, will constitute her likely nanosecond-length Oscar clip. By most accounts, True Grit’s Hailee Steinfeld is also a lock, but like everyone else, we have to ask, “In which category?”