Oscar Futures: Not Much of a Horse Race Anymore



Albert (Jeremy Irvine) and his horse Joey are featured in this scene from DreamWorks Pictures' "War Horse", director Steven Spielberg's epic adventure for audiences of all ages, set against a sweeping canvas of rural England and Europe during the First World War.

Ph: Andrew Cooper, SMPSP

?DreamWorks II Distribution Co., LLC. ?All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Andrew CooperSMPSP/?DreamWorks II Distribution Co., LLC. ?All Rights Reserved.

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. In addition to tracking all the awards minutiae on our dedicated Oscars page, Vulture's Oscar Futures column 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 Picture UP: The Artist. Our certified frontrunner has gotten nods from all the guilds (except for the WGA, where it wasn't eligible). It's the Romney of the race. DOWN: War Horse. Meanwhile, War Horse has racked up good box office numbers and not much else. Yes, it got a PGA nod, but that was a ten-nominee list; meanwhile, the DGA, WGA, SAG and even the ASC passed it by. With support like that, don't expect to see this one in the final derby.
CURRENT PREDIX: The Artist; The Descendants; The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo; The Help; Hugo; Midnight in Paris; Moneyball
Best Director UP: David Fincher (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). What a difference two weeks make! When Dragon Tattoo debuted, pundits wrote off its Oscar chances, but it's been a sleeper surprise at the guilds. The biggest prize -- a DGA nomination for Fincher this week -- takes Tattoo from a perceived long shot to a safe bet. DOWN: Steven Spielberg (War Horse). Spielberg's DGA snub was a shocker. His defenders point out that the Director's Guild has way more rank-and-file members than the Academy's very select directors branch, but that makeup should have favored Spielberg, a studio mogul who's created countless jobs in film and television.
CURRENT PREDIX: Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris); David Fincher (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo); Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist); Alexander Payne (The Descendants); Martin Scorsese (Hugo);
Best Actor UP: George Clooney (The Descendants). In the most unsettled of the acting races -- where it feels like Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Jean Dujardin each have a shot at the Oscar -- Clooney's Critics Choice award only helps. DOWN: Michael Fassbender (Shame). Shame is already losing theaters (and awards steam). Both it and A Dangerous Method are holding back on theatrical expansion until a potential Oscar nomination ups Fassbender's star power, but are they waiting until it's too late?
CURRENT PREDIX: George Clooney (The Descendants); Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar); Jean Dujardin (The Artist); Michael Fassbender (Shame); Brad Pitt (Moneyball)
Best Actress UP: Viola Davis (The Help). Critics Choice award winner Davis is pulling ahead of close contender Meryl Streep, thanks to one classy, warm acceptance speech after another. DOWN: Michelle Williams (My Week With Marilyn). She'll get nominated, for sure, but even Young Adult -- a perceived underperformer starring competitor Charlize Theron -- is now outgrossing the stalled Marilyn.
CURRENT PREDIX: Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs); Viola Davis (The Help); Rooney Mara (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo); Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady); Michelle Williams (My Week With Marilyn)
Best Supporting Actor UP: Andy Serkis (Rise of the Planet of the Apes). James Franco's passionate editorial praising Serkis put the spotlight back on the motion-capture innovator during the crucial end period of Oscar voting. DOWN: Albert Brooks (Drive). He had a good chance at taking home the Critics Choice award, but season-long frontrunner Christopher Plummer triumphed instead.
CURRENT PREDIX: Kenneth Branagh (My Week With Marilyn); Albert Brooks (Drive); Jonah Hill (Moneyball); Nick Nolte (Warrior); Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
Best Supporting Actress UP: Octavia Spencer (The Help). She's got surging competition from Melissa McCarthy and her own costar Jessica Chastain, but red carpet fixture Spencer is suddenly everywhere, and she racked up a good win from the Broadcast Film Critics last night. DOWN: Shailene Woodley (The Descendants). She lost to Spencer in the Critics Choice category for Best Supporting Actress, and she even lost to super-adorable Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close star Thomas Horn for the ceremony's Best Young Actor honor.
CURRENT PREDIX: Berenice Bejo (The Artist); Jessica Chastain (The Help); Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids); Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs); Octavia Spencer (The Help)