Every week between now and January 10, 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.
Let's look at this week's chart:
Zero Dark Thirty. Everyone is talking about Zero Dark Thirty right now, and though some lawmakers are outraged by it, the film had an auspicious start at the box office and is positively dominating Top 10 lists.
Argo. Is Ben Affleck a director or an aspiring senator? As Affleck fans the rumors that he might be seeking John Kerry's Senate seat, the media narrative now shifts away from Argo, just as the superficially similar Zero Dark Thirty arrives on the scene to soak up year-end support.
Michael Haneke (Amour). Glowing reviews and a bump from the shortlist in the Foreign Language category (for which Amour has got to be considered the frontrunner) give Haneke the momentum to spoil in this category just when he needs it most. What better opportunity will voters have to reward the never-nominated auteur than this one?
Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty). How can Bigelow fall the same week that her film is on the upswing? Blame a withering, buzzed-about Hollywood Reporter article that portrays her as overly deferential to screenwriting collaborator Mark Boal. Ouch.
Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables). Jackman is bringing the tears both onscreen and off, as he makes personally revealing appearances on 60 Minutes and Katie. Plus, don't discount the support of Henry Winkler!
Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln). Still, most pundits rate Daniel Day-Lewis as a lock to win at this point.
Naomi Watts (The Impossible). Even when critics aren't keen on the movie, Watts is singled out for glowing praise. After last week's SAG/Globes double play, she may have the edge to bump Emmanuelle Riva or Quvenzhane Wallis here.
Maggie Smith (Quartet). Maybe Harvey Weinstein is devoting too much attention to Jennifer Lawrence, or maybe Maggie Smith doesn't want this performance to pull focus from her Supporting buzz for Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but whatever the case, Smith's year-end Quartet role is warranting barely a campaign.
Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained). Jackson is coming on strong as a potential stealth nominee here: His incendiary turn has Hollywood talking, and he's outdrawing costar Christoph Waltz on the film's current press tour.
Ewan McGregor (The Impossible). Aside from an early tout from Angelina Jolie, McGregor's role here hasn't been pulling in the same kudos as his screen wife Watts.
Ann Dowd (Compliance). Turns out this acclaimed actress (in an underseen role) financed all the Compliance screeners on her own credit card! Dowd is hoping that the studio will reimburse her … if she gets nominated. Talk about a narrative.
Kerry Washington (Django Unchained). It's a shame that Tarantino provided such primo scenery-chewing for the men in his cast but cut down Washington's presence so extensively that she has maybe a dozen lines left.