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Oscar Futures: George Clooney Makes His Move

Every week between now and January 24, when the nominations are announced, movies and stars will help themselves — or sometimes, hurt themselves — in the Oscar race. Vulture's Oscar Futures will listen for insider gossip, comb the blogs, and out-and-out guess when necessary to track who's up, who's down, and who's currently leading the race for a coveted nomination.

Best Director UP: Tate Taylor (The Help). He hasn't quite cracked through on most pundits' lists yet, but we have a feeling that the relatively unknown helmer is this category's dark horse. DOWN: David Cronenberg (A Dangerous Method). You are all wrong, by the way! This is a very good movie, surprisingly fleet and fun, yet it's gotten emphatically mixed festival reviews. Ah, well.
CURRENT PREDIX: Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris); Stephen Daldry (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close); David Fincher (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo); Michael Hazanavicious (The Artist); Steven Spielberg (War Horse)
Best Actor UP: George Clooney (The Descendants). The most popular man in Telluride had a performance that impressed many. "George Clooney's performance as a beleagured, soon-to-be-widowed dad is touching, real, honest. He's immediately in Best Actor contention," tweeted Jeff Wells. DOWN: Gary Oldman (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy). Strong, but "not the slam-dunk we might have thought," wrote In Contention's Guy Lodge out of Venice.
CURRENT PREDIX: George Clooney (The Descendants); Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar); Jean Dujardin (The Artist); Gary Oldman (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy); Michael Shannon (Take Shelter)
Best Actress UP: Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin). Swinton was feted in front of influential audiences at Telluride, and she'll have to keep up that momentum to make headway with her challenging film. Still, she's overdue for an Oscar return.DOWN: Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs). Early fest audiences found her gender-bending performance to be impressive but a little opaque. "She's going to need strong SAG support and have to work the circuit to guarantee a call to the dance," said Hitfix.
CURRENT PREDIX: Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs); Viola Davis (The Help); Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady); Charlize Theron (Young Adult); Rooney Mara (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo)
Best Supporting Actor UP: Nick Nolte (Warrior). It's still the only supporting performance that people are talking about right now. With Drive just around the corner, Albert Brooks could use a little of Nolte's juice. DOWN: Jonah Hill (Moneyball). Critics like him, but most agree that it's not an Oscar performance.
CURRENT PREDIX: Kenneth Branagh (My Week With Marilyn); Jim Broadbent (The Iron Lady); Albert Brooks (Drive); Nick Nolte (Warrior); Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
Best Supporting Actress UP: Shailene Woodley (The Descendants). Could the lead of ABC Family's risible The Secret Life of the American Teenager really secure an Oscar nomination? Word on Woodley was glowing out of Telluride, and if the movie is a front-runner, she's poised to reap the benefit. DOWN: Evan Rachel Wood (The Ides of March). One Clooney ingenue is up this week, and one is down. Fest audiences found Wood to be warm, but the character is problematically served by new plot wrinkles.
CURRENT PREDIX: Sandra Bullock (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close); Jessica Chastain (The Help); Vanessa Redgrave (Coriolanus); Octavia Spencer (The Help); Shailene Woodley (The Descendants)