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Oscar 2014 Nomination Predictions: Actress

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Oscar 2014 Nomination Predictions: Actress
Oscar 2014 Nomination Predictions: Actress

Saving Mr. Banks telegraphs Emma Thompson’s date with Oscar. When her character, Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers, first meets Walt Disney (Tom Hanks), the mogul of magic walks past a wall of Oscar statuettes—golden idols nearly within Thompson’s grasp. And when Travers finally hits the premiere of the film she reluctantly greenlit, she’s decked out, as seen above, like she’s bound for the Academy’s red carpet (though, admittedly, it’s good this film takes place in the days before “Who are you wearing?” as it seems the answer could be “Bed Bath & Beyond”). In short, this is my way of saying that Thompson, a woman who’s flawlessly navigated the campaign circuit, is in. Could Meryl Streep’s Thompson tribute at the National Board of Review Awards, which some saw as underhandedly self-serving, have affected the Brit’s chances? I don’t think so. If anything, the last few days have galvanized my suspicion that August: Osage County’s Streep, the vulnerable hopeful alongside the category’s other predicted locks (Thompson, Gravity’s Sandra Bullock, Philomena’s Judi Dench, and Blue Jasmine’s Cate Blanchett), is out.

Oscar Prospects: Zero Dark Thirty

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Oscar Prospects: Zero Dark Thirty
Oscar Prospects: Zero Dark Thirty

Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty was certainly made to seem special, kept under tight lock and key before being slowly, strategically unveiled at year’s end, but few pundits likely predicted the gravity of the film’s Oscar potential, and that Bigelow may well have another winner on her hands. As 2012 winds down, it’s beginning to feel a lot like 2009, when The Hurt Locker stormed ahead as the little contender that could, and sat poised to not just claim the Academy’s top prize, but make Bigelow its first female Best Director. If you want to go by precursor buzz alone, Zero Dark Thirty has now stepped ahead of Lincoln as this year’s Best Picture frontrunner, claiming top kudos from The New York Film Critics Circle, and topping the 10-Best lists of early-out-of-the-gate critics like David Edelstein and Lisa Schwarzbaum (Owen Gleiberman and Richard Corliss, who also revealed their lists, included it among their picks as well). For whatever it’s worth in this early stage, the film also picked up five nods from the International Press Academy, landing Satellite nominations for Picture, Director, Actress (Jessica Chastain), Original Screenplay (Mark Boal), and Editing (Dylan Tichenor). And as of this very writing, the National Board of Review has named Zero Dark Thirty its Best Film of the Year, with Bigelow taking the Director trophy. It’s more than safe to assume that the movie has an ironclad slot in Oscar’s top race, if not a damn good shot at ending up ahead of the pack.

Oscar Prospects: Margin Call

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Oscar Prospects: Margin Call
Oscar Prospects: Margin Call

Margin Call is an awards season anomaly, an off-the-radar drama that, even after having performed well at festivals, never seemed to be a serious player, its tacky posters and mishmash cast of (mostly) B-Listers suggesting a gem bound for little more than a cult life on video. But after netting some very good ink from some top Gotham critics, one of whom dubbed it “the best Wall Street movie ever made,” the film became an unlikely buzz gainer, and went on to collect three Independent Spirit Awards citations (two nods and a Robert Altman Award win), a National Board of Review Spotlight Award for first-time writer/director J.C. Chandor, and a Best First Film award for Chandor from the New York Film Critics Circle. The artistic community’s general support of—or, at the very least, deep fascination with—the Occupy Wall Street movement has certainly helped this smart, well-acted, dawn-of-collapse thriller to gain attention beyond a Certified Fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes. But the perception of certain critics—and wannabe tastemakers who fancy themselves critics—that Margin Call is a bona fide Oscar candidate in multiple categories, including Best Picture, is the stuff of wishful delusion.