Oscar Futures: Wall-E Makes Headway

Every week between now and February 2, 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 to insider gossip, comb the Oscar 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: Wall-E. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association isn't known for predicting Best Picture Oscars, but if they can break tradition and give their top prize to an animated film, why can't the Academy? DOWN: The Dark Knight. The movie's failure to win a single top award or nomination this week means it might just have to settle for its $997 million box-office gross and untold billions in DVD sales.
CURRENT PREDIX: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Milk, Revolutionary Road, Slumdog Millionaire, Wall-E
Best Director UP: Stephen Daldry, The Reader. Surprise! His Golden Globe nomination yesterday makes this former long shot a real contender. DOWN: Darren Aronofsky, The Wrestler. No major honors for directing or the film this week; if Rourke doesn't win an Oscar for The Wrestler, maybe nobody will (except Bruce Springsteen, possibly).
CURRENT PREDIX: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire; David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Sam Mendes, Revolutionary Road; Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight; Gus Van Sant, Milk
Best Actor UP: Sean Penn, Milk. A bi-coastal sweep of the critics' awards (plus landing Milk's only Golden Globe nod) certainly helps his chances — is he now the front-runner? DOWN: Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino. A rave from Manohla doesn't make up for yesterday's Golden Globes snub (and neither does his nomination for Best Original Song).
CURRENT PREDIX: Leonardo DiCaprio, Revolutionary Road; Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon; Sean Penn, Milk; Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
Best Actress UP: Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky. Awards from both New York and Los Angeles critics bode well. Maybe Kate and Meryl have some competition after all! DOWN: Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road. Will The Reader's better-than-expected collection of Globe nominations further confuse Academy voters who don't know which category to support her in?
CURRENT PREDIX: Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married; Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky; Melissa Leo, Frozen River; Kristin Scott Thomas, I've Loved You So Long; Meryl Streep, Doubt; Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road
Best Supporting Actor UP: Tom Cruise, Tropic Thunder. When his GG nomination was announced yesterday morning, the room was filled with laughter. But for that brief second after they called his name and before people started laughing, the moment was all his. DOWN: Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road. Nobody puts too much stock in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's picks, necessarily — but he was snubbed in favor of Tom Cruise's Tropic Thunder cameo.
CURRENT PREDIX: Josh Brolin, Milk; James Franco, Milk; Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt; Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight; Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road
Best Supporting Actress UP: Penélope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Given the results of most early awards, it's a pretty crappy year to be a supporting actress who's not named Penélope Cruz. DOWN: Rosemarie DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married. She was shafted at the Globes — is Anne Hathaway Rachel's only Oscar hope?
CURRENT PREDIX: Penélope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona; Viola Davis, Doubt; Rosemarie DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married; Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler; Kate Winslet, The Reader
Oscar Futures: Wall-E Makes Headway