Oscar Preview: Precursor Winners & Losers, Week 4

In our fourth week of precursors, we’re heading into the holidays, which means nothing much new will be coming out, but after that, we start getting into the guild nominations and awards, which will be a lot more interesting.

But, before we get into this week’s winners and losers, let’s take a look at what’s coming up this week:

Week 5

Monday, Dec. 24 – Online Film Critics Society Nominations
Tuesday, Dec. 25 – Phoenix Film Critics Awards (guesstimate)

Big Winners

Argo. They may not be incredibly prominent among the critics groups, but St. Louis and Florida Film Critics have given Ben Affleck’s film a much needed boost. After taking a back seat for most of the awards season to date, Argo has been amassing a nice trove of precursor nominations and now has two Best Picture prizes to bolster its profile. What plays most into the film’s chances is that the Best Picture race seems to be fracturing between populist Les Misérables, historical crowd pleaser Lincoln and critics darling Zero Dark Thirty. Could the three films water down their own support enough for a film like Argo to sneak in? Some might suggest that possibility and although this past week’s results don’t exactly point that direction, the possibility is still there.
The Master. Apart from its acting, Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master took quite a few hits during the first three weeks of the precursors, but in the last week, its fortunes have turned tying Amour for most nominations from the London Film Critics Circle and winning Best Picture from Toronto and San Francisco critics. It won’t be enough to secure it a Best Picture win, but the film doesn’t seem as weak in terms of Oscar possibilities as it did towards the beginning of Awards season.
Zero Dark Thirty may well be the ultimate Best Picture winner. It has won many prizes throughout the process and looks like it may be a box office hit when it finally goes wide in a couple of weeks. The victories for the film in the last week suggest that it’s still doing incredibly well with critics across the nation, not just on the coasts, meaning it has broad appeal. Of course so did L.A. Confidential and look how that turned out.
Jessica Chastain / Jennifer Lawrence. If the Oscars were a boxing match, these two champions would be battling it out for the hearts and minds of audiences and Oscar voters. Chastain and Lawrence have been picking up trophies back and forth throughout the precursor season and look to be heading into a mano-e-mano competition for Best Actress. Matter of fact, the only way we’ll know who the ultimate Oscar winner will be is if one actress picks up the three big televised awards: the Critics’ Choice, the Golden Globe and the Screen Actors Guild. For now, though, the entire competition will be a nailbiter.
Christoph Waltz won an Oscar for Quentin Tarantino’s prior film Inglourious Basterds and may be the film’s only real shot at an acting nomination this year. Some have suggested that Leonardo DiCaprio will pick up a nomination for the film, but it’s been Waltz that has earned prizes so far this season. He and DiCaprio could both be nominated or neither could be, but if it has to be one of them, the last week would suggest that it’s Waltz by a nose for the nod.

Big Losers

Emmanuelle Riva started out strong, garnering the grand daddies of critics awards, but since then, she’s been largely missing from the conversation. A single prize from San Francisco and runner-up mention from Toronto aren’t going to do away with her failure to appear on either the Golden Globe or Screen Actors Guild lists. A victory at the Oscars is likely out of the question at this point, but a nomination is still in the cards.
Lincoln seemed poised to ride its wave of nominations and awards through the precursor season and emerge as the frontrunner for Best Picture, Best Director and a number of other prizes. While that possibility still remains, the film hasn’t been very lucky in the last week. Its actors are still getting recognized, but the film failed to make the Best Picture nominations list for the London Critics, and has really only otherwise been seen as a Best Adapted Screenplay winner. The lack of momentum may hurt Spielberg’s film in the end, but the guild nominations may change that in a couple of weeks.
Django Unchained was one of two films Harvey Weinstein seemed to be pushing for year-end consideration. Last-minute screenings didn’t seem to impress initial voters and even in the last week, the film has failed to catch on as the likelihood of various groups having seen the film at screenings continues to increase. Tarantino’s also facing bad press over his glorification of violence in the face of the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. In the end, Weinstein will work his magic, but the tarnish is there and won’t easily be burnished away easily the later in the game it gets.

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