Take 5: A look at the Oscars race

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This week, we’re going to look at the Oscars and where we stand on the biggest race of them all: the race for Best Picture. These are the five major contenders for the award, ranked first-to-last in likeliness of winning.

1. Les Miserables – This film is my personal choice for Best Picture and its prospects are only looking better after recent advance screenings that have generated fantastic buzz for the film. The film is the big screen adaption of the popular stage musical, which tells the story of ex-convict Jean Valjean’s quest for redemption while being pursued by Inspector Javert across the years in 1800s France.

Reviews are embargoed until December 11th but going by reactions that people have posted online, it should easily have a nomination at least locked down. If Les Miz were to win, it would be the first musical to win since Chicago in 2002. What remains to be seen is the larger reaction to creative decisions made in the film, such as live singing or the quality of some of the actors’ performances (Russell Crowe, ahem).

Les Miz also faces the problem that Lincoln does, that of having the support of the critic’s groups. The New York Film Critics Circle is simply unlikely to support this film; they would rather throw support behind a more contemporary, edgy film like Zero Dark Thirty. However, I still have this film number one on the list, and I believe that this film could become the Titanic of the season, an unstoppable juggernaut.

2. Argo – The favorite for most of the fall, it still has a good chance to win the award. The film tells the story of how the CIA was able to rescue six Americans during the Iranian Hostage Crisis, by making a fake movie. There is still a lot of support, but it is facing the challenge that other films released earlier in the year have faced: maintaining the momentum.

After a rapturous debut at the Telluride Film Festival in September, the release/screenings of the other major players (Lincoln, Les Miz) have began to push Argo to the back of Academy members’ minds. Director Ben Affleck and Warner Brothers are going to have to do a lot of good publicity work to keep the film in the race, or else they may fall prey to what happened to The Social Network or Avatar: losing because of an eleventh-hour push by another film (The King’s Speech, The Hurt Locker).

3. Lincoln – This film is the definition of an Oscars magnet, and it is practically guaranteed a nomination in this category and probably twelve to thirteen others. The film follows the final months of President Abraham Lincoln’s life and his struggle to pass the 13th Amendment. Daniel Day Lewis, playing Honest Abe, is a near lock for the Best Actor award, and rightfully so.

The real question for this film is how many of the awards it can actually take home. It is here that the other awards organizations decisions will come into play. If the guilds or the critics’ groups give Lincoln the Best Picture award, then its Oscar chances will go up accordingly. Lincoln has high potential to be another Hugo: a film that amassed eleven nominations but only won five of those.

4. Silver Linings Playbook – A quirky entry into the race, it is one that has gained a lot of grassroots support. The story of a recently released mental patient who moves back in with his parents and befriends a neurotic widow, it is a complex thematic film. It tackles issues like mental illness, marital woes, the power of sports in a way that is both cynical and sentimental. The film has the leader in the Best Actress race (Jennifer Lawrence) and a strong entry in the Adapted Screenplay and Director categories.

What may have a large influence on the film’s chances is its box office performance. Right now, it is under-performing in limited release, but it should pick up steam with more word of mouth. This was another smart move by Harvey Weinstein, moving this film from its originally planned 2,000 theater rollout to a gradual one. Harvey Weinstein has won the past two Best Picture awards with this approach (The King’s Speech, The Artist). Silver Linings Playbook needs several things to go its way for a win.

5. Zero Dark Thirty – The first film from Director Kathryn Bigelow since her Best Picture winner The Hurt Locker, this film has gained much traction with its first screenings over the Thanksgiving weekend. There was also no review embargo on this film, and the first ones have been extremely positive. The film tells the story of the ten year manhunt for Osama Bin Laden that the US went on. It features a Best Actress hopeful in Jessica Chastain’s CIA agent, and should score strong in nominations for Director and Original Screenplay.

This film will most likely have the support of the critics’ groups in New York and Chicago and that will boost the profile of the film tremendously. However looking at historic examples, the film may not fit what Academy voters like, which is something emotional, something to connect to. You only have to look at wins by films like The King’s Speech over The Social Network to see that (Still one of the great injustices ever by the Academy). This film, at least based on early reviews, is a dry procedural type of film. This is still a major player in the race, however.

OTHER CONTENDERS
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Life of Pi
Django Unchained
The Master
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Moonrise Kingdom
The Dark Knight Rises
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Nathan Foster brings you the latest news and highlights of pop culture, from the cinema to the music stage, from Hollywood to Broadway.