Oscar Preview: Precursor Winners & Losers, Week 6

As the precursor awards continue unabated through the month of January, I’m going to be providing a weekly update highlighting the films that have won and lost momentum through the precursor awards (this will be in place of my prior weekly article “Oscar Preview”. Today, we look back at the results of the New York Film Critics Circle, National Board of Review, Satellite Awards nominations, Spirit Awards nominations and the Producers Guild of America nominations. This is a healthy spread of award bodies from indie to big budget, and a nice broad spectrum of critics groups.

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

Week 7 (Jan. 10-16, 2012)

Jan. 10 – American Society of Cinematographers Nominations
Jan. 10 – Toronto Critics (Canadian Film award winner announced)
Jan. 12 – Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards
Jan. 13 – Academy Awards Polls Close
Jan. 15 – Golden Globe Awards
Jan. 16 – American Cinema Editors Nominations

Big Winners

Bridesmaids was the film that got the biggest boost of any out of this past week’s crop of precursors. Before going into the three guild nomination lists this week, Bridesmaids had mostly featured for Melissa McCarthy’s supporting performance and a handful of mentions in comedy/musical categories that don’t tend to reflect popular opinion. Yet, as not only the Producers Guild (which was expected), but also the Art Directors Guild and Writers Guild of America bestowed on the film key nominations, its star has risen dramatically. It’s now considered to be a stronger contender for several Oscar nominations, though the prevailing thought seems to be that the film is following a The Hangover-like trajectory and will eventually be rejected by the Academy as being too raunchy for their purist tastes. Still, with a certain nomination from the Editors Guild next week as well as awards for Best Comedy/Musical from both the Broadcast Critics and the Golden Globes seeming quite likely at this juncture, expect the film to be the talk of prognosticators for the next two weeks.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. While its boost comes mostly from being one of the most mentioned titles on the BAFTA longlists, there’s no denying that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is making a late-game surge. Whether it’s prizes from the OFCS for Adapted Screenplay or an unexpected Art Directors Guild nomination, the film is doing much better than I expected. The hill is still a long one and it may ultimately be too cool and subdued for the Academy, it’s chugging along well enough that even its studio is boosting the number of theaters the film is playing in to compensate. If it becomes a hit (which a hefty box office total of $5.8 million in less than $1,000 theaters seems to suggest), the rules of the game change…and it’s just in time as the Academy’s nomination polls close this week.
A Separation With awards from the OFCS and NSFC, the fact that its screenplay was ineligible for the WGA doesn’t betray how strong the film is playing this season. While ultimately the fact that the film is Iranian and there’s still hefty tension between Iran and Israel, could hurt its chances at wins, the film looks very likely to pick up nominations for Foreign Language Film and Original Screenplay. And now it seems some are predicting the film could make surprise Best Picture and Best Director appearances. I’m dubious of those ideas, but this Oscar season is a bit volatile, so there’s a chance.
My Week with Marilyn is a bit of a mixed bag this week. It failed to appear on any of the guild lists, but did pick up several metions at BAFTA. BAFTA’s tastes lean towards British-set films and the feature certainly qualifies as that. It tied Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy for most overall mentions on the longlist and it’s likely that several non-Oscar contenders from the film will earn Oscar nominations, it is still very much in the race.

Big Losers

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close did pick up an Art Directors Guild nomination in the contemporary category, but by missing the WGA and PGA lists and being further ignored by critics all combined with the fact that the film is doing poorly at the box office, the film has run its course as a contender. And with only four groups before the nomination polls close this week (as of this writing, neither the Visual Effects Society or Directors Guild of America have revealed nominations), Stephen Daldry’s film is looking to be down for the count.
The Tree of Life Not surprisingly, Terrence Malick’s film has been unrepresented with the guilds. None of the three that announced this last week gave Malick’s picture even a passing glance. But this should come as no surprise. The Thin Red Line made no appearances before the DGA back in 1998 and went on to claim 7 Oscar nominations. While I’m doubtful the film will be that successful this year, it still has a solid race to run. However, the film didn’t win any favors this week and dimmed in many views, so there’s a palpable tension that the film will be ignored, but I’m not calling it over just yet.
War Horse received a Best Picture nomination from the Producers Guild, but failed to show up in the more expected Art Directors Guild slate and the lesser expected Writers Guild list. Still, a film like War Horse not figuring in either two groups, especially the Art Directors Guild, suggests the film is still fairly soft in terms of Oscar playability. I still expect it to show up in several categories including Best Picture, but the movie is not faring well with the precursors.
The Artist may have earned several nominations this week, but the film doesn’t seem to be getting the box office numbers many would have expected for a described “crowd pleaser”. It will still come away with a lion’s share of prizes, very likely earning the most, but it really needs to gain momentum at the box office to be a bigger threat, which so far isn’t happening.

Individual Analyses

Online Film Critics Society Awards

Nothing incredibly new came out of this group’s awards. The newest item was an award for Tinker Tailor Soldier‘s screenplay. It was also a time for Michael Fassbender to shine for Shame a performance he hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention for finishing out the season.

Producers Guild of America Nominations

Although SAG beat the PGA to announcing its full slate of nominees, the Producers Guild was first out of the Guild Gate with its Documentary Feature selections. Here, they added the Best Picture and Animated Features slates to their repertoire. Bridesmaids, an expected choice for this group, is one of three films on the list that seem least likely to carry over to the Oscars (along with The Ides of March and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). The rest are films we’ve been talking about as contenders all season. On the Animated Feature slate, the list is dominated by poor box office performers and critical bombs. However, the Academy throws in one or two of those each year, so this list might not be too far off.

Art Directors Guild Nominations

The Art Directors have a relatively eclectic taste, as evinced by a lot of their non-period selections, including Oscar non-starters Cowboys & Aliens, Pirates of the Caribbean and the entire Contemporary slate. Still, outside of two bum years in the last five, this group has a habit of picking all five Oscar nominees from its Period and Fantasy categories. This year, however, there are a number of titles left off that I could see making the list in the end, but look through this list carefully. The final nominees may very well be presented and accounted for.

Writers Guild of America Nominations

If you aren’t a guild member or signatory, you are ineligible. This knocks off a whole slate of potential Oscar nominees making the Writers Guild the least accurate of all guilds. Still, knowing where the WGA is sitting can give you an idea of how they feel about this year’s slate and with critic-selected titles like 50/50, Midnight in Paris, Win Win and others, you can bet a larger than normal converted slate may occur this year.

British Academy Awards Longlist

Not a precursor really, but a piece of crucial information for predicting the precursor. Something like the Academy’s been doing for its unique-ruled categories, the British Academy sends ballots to its members asking for submissions to a longlist. These titles are used for nomination voters to select the final nominees for the British Academy of Film & Television Arts (BAFTA) awards. What makes them interesting is that they often show prognosticators what films are being heavily viewed and may show up at the Oscars. In addition, certain categories are ranked by which films got the most votes on initial ballots. This also gives us an idea of what’s being talked about for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Artist, this is good news. For others like War Horse it isn’t great news. Still, these aren’t nominations and a lot will change when they make their final selections.

National Society of Film Critics

Generally the last old school major critics group to announce its awards, the National Society of Film Critics has the opportunity to look at what other critics groups do and thumb their nose at those selections. That’s what happened this year with the photo finish victory of Lars von Trier’s controversial Melancholia over Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. Since the NSFC wasn’t likely to go for a film like The Artist, The Tree of Life got a slight repudiation by its members. Still, the film won several other prizes including Best Director, so it wasn’t a total loss. The rest of their choices with the exception of Kirsten Dunst for Melancholia were about as conventional as wisdom would allow this year.

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