In a competitive movie award-season year with no clear frontrunner at this point, the last couple weeks have certainly clarified the likely field of nominees for the Academy Awards.
Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” is looking good, particularly in the acting categories. It won the most nominations from the Broadcast Film Critics, 13; and the Golden Globes, seven.
Daniel Day-Lewis, playing President Lincoln, won best-actor honors from The New York and Boston Film Critics Circles. Sally Field won supporting actress in New York and Boston as well. Both were nominated for Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe awards.
“Zero Dark Thirty,” Kathryn Bigelow’s depiction of the 10-year hunt for Osama Bin Laden, was the best-picture and best-director choice of the New York and Boston Film Critics Circles and the National Board of Review. The NBR also chose Jessica Chastain as best actress for playing a CIA agent in the film.
“Silver Linings Playbook,” best-picture winner at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, earned 10 nods from the Broadcast Film Critics. Jennifer Lawrence snagged a best-actress title from the Los Angeles Film Critics Circle, while Bradley Cooper won best actor from the National Board of Review. The two play characters whose paths cross as they struggle with mental health issues and romantic feelings in the wake of trauma in both their lives.
“Lincoln,” and “Silver Linings Playbook” both snagged best-ensemble nominations from the Screen Actors Guild. Those two, plus “Zero Dark Thirty,” made the top-10 list of the American Film Institute and snagged Golden Globe best-picture nominations.
The rest of the AFI top-10 list included “Argo,” Ben Affleck’s movie set amid the hostage crisis in Iran; “Les Miserables,” a musical based on Victor Hugo’s epic French novel; “Life of Pi,” based on a novel about a boy and a ferocious tiger sharing a lifeboat; “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” an apocalyptic tale of global warming; “Django Unchained,” Quentin Tarantino’s lurid movie about slave revenge; and “Moonrise Kingdom,” Wes Anderson’s offbeat comedy about youngsters eloping in the 1960s.
That’s about as good a list of potential Oscar best-picture nominees as you’ll find today, with the possible addition of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master,” a character study loosely based on the founder of Scientology, and “The Sessions,” about a man in an iron lung who wants to lose his virginity to a sex surrogate.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will name anywhere from five to 10 best-picture Oscar nominees this year, depending on a labyrinthine selection process in which its voters rank their choices. A movie likely will need about 450 first-place votes (one-eleventh of the ballots cast plus one) to guarantee a nomination right away. Movies with less than 1 percent of first-choice picks are eliminated immediately.
But movies with at least 20 percent more votes than they need will trigger the surplus rule, in which second-choice picks will get a share of that best-picture vote. I think there will be at least eight worthy films this year.
The buzz about winners and losers in the wake of the Golden Globe nominations was how well “Django Unchained” did and how “Les Miserables” and “Zero Dark Thirty” didn’t get as many nominations as expected.
But the reverse was true with the Screen Actors Guild nominations, which are determined largely by Oscar voters. “Django” was shut out there, as was “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”
I think directors David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”) or Tom Hooper (“Les Miserables”) could bump Tarantino, who topped them with a Golden Globe nod.
Similarly, Robert De Niro (“Silver Linings Playbook”) may replace Leo DiCaprio (“Django Unchained”) for a supporting-actor slot when Oscar nominations come out Jan. 10.
Emmanuelle Riva (“Amour”) could get the actress slot that the Golden Globes gave to Rachel Weisz (“Deep Blue Sea”) or Naomi Watts (“The Impossible”).