Predicting which films will land Academy Award nominations for best picture is an exercise in semi-educated postulating and flat-out guessing. But this year — on the eve of Tuesday’s nomination day — the amount of pre-guessery is more intense than usual.
Those who closely track the Oscar rules and regulations will recall that earlier this year, the Academy announced a change to the best picture nominating process, one that means there will be at least five nominees in the category this year and no more than 10. But other than that, the exact number is totally unknown. Oh, the drama and excitement generated by a numerical uncertainty in a major awards show! Is there anything quite like it?
In order for a film to be nominated, it must receive at least five percent of the No. 1 votes. In other words, five percent of ballot-casting Academy members must consider it their absolute favorite release of 2011.
Which films have the love and support needed to rise to (or beyond) the important five-percent mark? I’ve laid out my predictions regarding those eight — yes, I’m thinking there will be eight — best picture nominees below.
And feel free to peruse my lists of predictions for best actor, actress, supporting actor, supporting actress and director, which follow.
The Best Picture nominees
Is there any chance this widely embraced silent film won’t get a best picture nomination? In a word, no.
And that goes for “The Descendants” — the other Golden Globe winner for best picture — too.
Honoring cinematic tradition is a theme at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony. With both “The Artist” and “Hugo” honored in this category, it should be a theme among best picture nominees, too.
The fine ensemble cast and the attention to period detail should guarantee a nomination for the movie adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s best-seller. The fact that the civil rights era-story is uniquely American also may win points in its favor at a trophy show designed to honor the best of Hollywood.
“Midnight in Paris”
While Woody Allen films have been nominated numerous times for directing, acting and writing honors, only two of them have ever earned a best picture nomination: “Annie Hall” (which won the prize in 1978) and “Hannah and Her Sisters.” It seems likely this will be the third.
It’s a classic, old-fashioned, pretty, refined and respectable Academy Award nominee for best picture. Will it win? No. But it will be on the list.
This could easily be left off. But with Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and its the fastball-quick dialogue of its screenplay all possibles for nominations, I am betting that enough voters will rank it No. 1 and slide it into the race.
“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”
This is the selection in which I have the least confidence. The buzz surrounding this 9/11 weeper never rose anywhere close to loud. But with Warner Bros. and producer Scott Rudin pushing it — not to mention all those heartbreaking (or inappropriately cloying, depending on your perspective) — reminders of “the worst day,” I have a feeling it may resonate just strongly enough with some ballot casters.
George Clooney, “The Descendants”
Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
Michael Fassbender, “Shame”
Brad Pitt, “Moneyball”
Gary Oldman, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”
On the bubble: Leonardo DiCaprio, “J. Edgar”
Glenn Close, “Albert Nobbs”
Viola Davis, “The Help”
Rooney Mara, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”
Michelle Williams, “My Week With Marilyn”
On the bubble: Tilda Swinton, “We Need to Talk About Kevin”
Best Supporting Actor
Kenneth Branagh, “My Week With Marilyn”
Albert Brooks, “Drive”
Nick Nolte, “Warrior”
Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”
Max von Sydow, “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”
On the bubble: Jonah Hill, “Moneyball”
Best Supporting Actress
Berenice Bejo, “The Artist”
Jessica Chastain, “The Help”
Melissa McCarthy, “Bridesmaids”
Octavia Spencer, “The Help”
Shailene Woodley, “The Descendants”
On the bubble: Janet McTeer, “Albert Nobbs”
Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
Alexander Payne, “The Descendants”
Martin Scorsese, “Hugo”
Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris”
Steven Spielberg, “War Horse”
On the bubble: Terrence Malick, “The Tree of Life”