Oscar Futures: Not Much of a Horse Race Anymore

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)
Oscar Futures: Not Much of a Horse Race Anymore