Home Movie Awards Meryl Streep Oscar Ad To-Do + Best Song Contenders Booted from Ceremony + Predictions

Meryl Streep Oscar Ad To-Do + Best Song Contenders Booted from Ceremony + Predictions

Meryl Streep Oscar Ad Controversy

“It’s been TWENTY-NINE YEARS SINCE MERYL STREEP WON AN OSCAR. And she certainly deserves to win for her performance in The Iron Lady,” reads a Thelma Adams quote heading a The Weinstein Company ad. The ad, sent out a week ago by The Hollywood Reporter and Variety to their email subscribers, also included a link to a Streep interview found on the TWC website.

According to TheWrap‘s Steve Pond, the email “stirred up anger among Academy members and rival campaigners,” as it looked like TWC was in one fell swoop breaking Academy rules barring email campaigns extolling “the merits of a film, an achievement or an individual,” referencing past awards, or containing links to websites plugging an eligible film.

However, an Academy loophole allows such emails to be sent by third parties – something that, as can be attested, makes the rules themselves worthless.

The Weinstein Company COO David Glasser later complained to TheWrap that “not only are the Variety and Hollywood Reporter campaigns legal from an Academy standpoint, but they will be used by a number of different studios in the days ahead. It seems that every time TWC is innovative there is always some jealous competitor who … comes out of the woodwork.”

Now, there’s nothing “innovative” about the ad itself, tugging at the heartstrings of Academy members. That sort of approach has been around for decades. Something else that’s not at all new is that eyebrows were raised at a Harvey Weinstein company’s Oscar campaign strategy. That has been happening for quite some time. In fact, back in 2003 Oscar campaign rules were changed following Miramax’s ad – containing an endorsement by former Academy president and two-time Oscar winner Robert Wise – pushing for a Best Director Oscar for Gangs of New York‘s Martin Scorsese.

‘Rio’ & ‘The Muppets’ Songs Not to Be Performed at Oscar Ceremony

Even though there are only two Best Original Song nominees for the 2012 Academy Awards, according to Deadline.com, Rio‘s “Real in Rio” (music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown, lyric by Siedah Garrett) and The Muppets’ “Man or Muppet” (music and lyric by Bret McKenzie) will not be performed at the upcoming Oscar ceremony. Time constraints would seem to be the reason for the decision – which hasn’t been set in stone.

Deadline posted bits from an email from an “authoritative source,” explaining that “The show is not locked yet. Decisions about this and other things continue to be evaluated by the team trying to produce the most entertaining 3 hours possible. Someone ‘leaking’ this possibility to you is just another way for people to try and influence the creative direction of the show. And there have been Oscar shows that did not have the nom songs performed.” (At the 2010 ceremony, for instance, the nominated songs were shown in clips.)

Brian Grazer, who replaced Brett Ratner following the gay slur-Lindsay Lohan brouhaha, and Don Mischer are the 2012 Oscar ceremony producers.

Rio image: 20th Century Fox

Meryl Streep Margaret Thatcher The Iron Lady
Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher, The Iron Lady

Oscar Predictions Best Actress: Meryl Streep & Viola Davis

Three actresses are shoo-ins for the 2012 Academy Awards’ Best Actress shortlist: Meryl Streep for her portrayal of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in Phyllida Lloyd’s The Iron Lady, Michelle Williams for her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in Simon Curtis’ My Week with Marilyn, and Viola Davis for her portrayal of a Southern housemaid in Tate Taylor’s The Help.

All three actresses have been shortlisted for both the SAG Awards and the BAFTAs. Additionally, Streep and Williams won Golden Globes in the Best Actress in a Motion Picture categories (respectively, Drama and Comedy/Musical). Streep was also the New York Film Critics’ choice, while Williams has been the pick of most North American critics’ groups. Viola Davis, for her part, has received several citations as well, and was the Best Actress winner at the (televised and widely publicized) Critics’ Choice Awards.

This year, Meryl Streep will be receiving her 17th Oscar nomination – 14th as Best Actress. Her previous nods were for the following:

Best Supporting Actress:

  • Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter (1978), with Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken
  • Robert Benton’s Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), with Dustin Hoffman and Justin Henry
  • Spike Jonze’s Adaptation (2002), with Chris Cooper and Nicolas Cage

Best Actress:

  • Karel Reisz’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981), with Jeremy Irons;
  • Alan J. Pakula’s Sophie’s Choice (1982), with Kevin Kline and Peter MacNicol
  • Mike Nichols’ Silkwood (1983), with Kurt Russell and Cher
  • Sydney Pollack’s Out of Africa (1985), with Robert Redford and Klaus Maria Brandauer
  • Hector Babenco’s Ironweed (1987), with Jack Nicholson
  • Fred Schepisi’s A Cry in the Dark (1988), with Sam Neill
  • Mike Nichols’ Postcards from the Edge (1990), with Shirley MacLaine and Gene Hackman
  • Clint Eastwood’s The Bridges of Madison County (1995), co-starring Eastwood
  • Carl Franklin’s One True Thing (1998), with Renée Zellweger and William Hurt
  • Wes Craven’s Music of the Heart (1999), with Angela Bassett and Gloria Estefan
  • David Frankel’s The Devil Wears Prada (2006), with Anne Hathaway and Stanley Tucci
  • John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt (2008), with Amy Adams, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and The Help‘s Viola Davis
  • Nora Ephron’s Julie & Julia (2009), with Amy Adams

Streep won for Kramer vs. Kramer and Sophie’s Choice. She has been nominated 12 times since.

Michelle Williams was nominated as Best Supporting Actress for Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain (2005), co-starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, and as Best Actress for Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine (2010), opposite Ryan Gosling. Viola Davis was a Best Supporting Actress nominee for Doubt.

The other two Oscar 2012 Best Actress slots are more or less up for grabs. Having said that, both Tilda Swinton and Glenn Close have an edge over their competitors. For her performance as the mother of a young mass murderer in Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin, Swinton has been shortlisted by both SAG and BAFTA. Though ignored by North American critics this awards season, Close is up for no less than two SAG Awards: for her Irishwoman passing for an Irishman in Rodrigo García’s Albert Nobbs and for her ruthless attorney in the popular television series Damages. Actors clearly like her. Thus, Swinton and Close are our two selections to round out the top five.

Swinton, whose film career spans more than two decades, was a surprise Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner for Tony Gilroy’s George Clooney vehicle Michael Clayton four years ago. Glenn Close was nominated five times in the 1980s, then all but disappeared from Oscar view. Close’s nominations were for the following: as Best Supporting Actress for George Roy Hill’s The World According to Garp (1982), Lawrence Kasdan’s The Big Chill, and Barry Levinson’s The Natural, starring Robert Redford; as Best Actress for Adrian Lyne’s Fatal Attraction, out to get Michael Douglas, and Stephen Frears’ Dangerous Liaisons, out to get everybody, including John Malkovich and Michelle Pfeiffer.

But bear in mind that there could be one or two upsets when the 2012 Best Actress Oscar nominations are announced. In fact, as in the last few years, the 2012 Best Actress contenders form a much stronger group than their male counterparts.

The possible upsets are Rooney Mara for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,National Society of Film Critics and Cannes Film Festival winner Kirsten Dunst for Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, Elizabeth Olsen for Sean Durkin’s Martha Marcy May Marlene, and Charlize Theron for Jason Reitman’s Young Adult. Less likely, but not to be fully discarded are Emma Stone for The Help and Kristen Wiig for Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids. With the exception of Theron, who won as Best Actress for Patty Jenkins’ Monster (2003) and was nominated for Niki Caro’s North Country (2005), all of the aforementioned actresses would be first-time Oscar nominees.

Further down the list are Keira Knightley for David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method, Olivia Colman for Paddy Considine’s Tyrannosaur (Colman even failed to make the cut at the BAFTAs, as British Academy voters clearly much prefer big American stars), Michelle Yeoh for Luc Besson’s The Lady, Brit Marling for Mike Cahill’s Another Earth, and Felicity Jones for Drake Doremus’ Like Crazy.

Theoretically, The Artist‘s Bérénice Bejo could pull a Kate Winslet: pushed for a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Stephen Daldry’s The Reader (2008), but eventually shortlisted as Best Actress. (Winslet took home that year’s Best Actress Oscar.) That probably won’t happen, however, because unlike Winslet, Bejo isn’t a big name in the United States, where most Academy members reside.

Come to think of it, theoretically Winslet could herself pull a Kate Winslet. Both Winslet and Jodie Foster have been listed as supporting actresses in Roman Polanski’s Carnage. The problem is that Polanski’s film hasn’t been widely seen, nor has it received much critical love this awards season.

In a perfect world, Catherine Deneuve would be a Best Actress shoo-in for François Ozon’s Potiche, but as anyone with at least half a brain would know, this is hardly a perfect world. As for the Los Angeles Film Critics Association’s pick, Poetry‘s Yun Jung-hee, she has no chance at all.

Glenn Close/Albert Nobbs photo: Patrick Redmond / Roadside Attractions.

Meryl Streep/The Iron Lady pic: The Weinstein Company.


Bérénice Bejo, The Artist

Oscar Predictions Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer & Jessica Chastain

There’ll be anywhere between five and ten Best Picture nominees this year, depending on how many movies manage to get at least 5 percent of first-place votes*. That variable must be taken into consideration, whether you find that it increases the suspense (and therefore is a good thing) or decreases the chances of truly small movies getting a nomination (and therefore is a really, really bad thing).

This late in the game, only five movies are shoo-ins for a Best Picture nod: Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist (The Weinstein Company), Martin Scorsese’s Hugo (Paramount), Alexander Payne’s The Descendants (20th Century Fox), Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris (Sony Pictures Classics), and Tate Taylor’s The Help (Walt Disney Studios).

Curiously, only three of the above have a strong chance of landing acting nominations: The Artist (Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo), The Descendants (George Clooney and possibly Shailene Woodley), and The Help (Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, likely Jessica Chastain, and possibly Emma Stone, Sissy Spacek, and/or Bryce Dallas Howard).

Even more curious is that – despite a SAG Award nomination for Best Cast – there’s a Woody Allen movie in the running without a single likely Oscar nomination in the acting categories. (Midnight in Paris’ Owen Wilson and Marion Cotillard are longshots.) To date, Allen has directed no less than 16 Oscar-nominated performances, including six winners (Diane Keaton for Annie Hall, Dianne Wiest for Hannah and Her Sisters and Bullets Over Broadway, Michael Caine for Hannah and Her Sisters, Mira Sorvino for Mighty Aphrodite, and Penélope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona).

Bennett Miller’s Moneyball and David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo are two very likely additions to the 2012 Best Picture list, though they have a problem: both are Scott Rudin co-productions/Columbia releases, which means vote-splitting could mean the difference between 5 percent (the movie is in) or, say, 4.8 percent (the movie is out). In the acting categories, Moneyball‘s Brad Pitt and possibly Jonah Hill should be respectively shortlisted in the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor categories; The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo‘s Rooney Mara is a possible Best Actress nominee.

Beyond the aforementioned seven films, things get really tricky. Strong front-runners before they opened (we’re fully aware of the irony in that statement), Steven Spielberg’s War Horse and Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close are now also-rans. Of the two, War Horse has by far the strongest chance of landing a nomination, especially if Disney, Amblin, and DreamWorks’ executives and publicists (those who also happen to be Academy members, of course) have voted en masse for the Spielberg film as their no. 1 movie of 2011. Disney execs will probably have figured that The Help doesn’t need their – bad pun intended – help at the Oscars, whereas War Horse needs all the assistance it can get.

* After some spreading around of “surplus” votes and “orphan” votes. The surplus is triggered after a movie is the top choice in more than 1/11th + 1 of the ballots (the minimum number of topmost votes required for a maximum of ten nominees). The surplus votes (now worth less than one full vote) are then redistributed to the second or third or fourth choice on each surplus ballot, depending on which movies haven’t already been shortlisted as official nominees. Additionally, ballots topped by films that received less than 1 percent of the votes will also be redistributed.

Bérénice Bejo/The Artist pic: The Weinstein Company.

2012 Oscar Predictions Best Actress: Tilda Swinton, Glenn Close. [Photo: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley in The Descendants.]

Like in the Best Actress 2012 Academy Award race, there are three shoo-ins for the Best Actor shortlist: George Clooney, Jean Dujardin, and Brad Pitt. Clooney will be in the running for Alexander Payne’s The Descendants, Dujardin for Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist, and Pitt for Bennett Miller’s Moneyball.

Clooney has already won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his sleazy U.S. spy/weapons dealer in Stephen Gaghan’s Syriana (2005). In the acting categories, he was also nominated as Best Actor for Tony Gilroy’s Michael Clayton (2007) and Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air (2009). This year, Clooney’s own Golden Globe-nominated political drama The Ides of March serves as further evidence of the actor-director’s “worthiness.” (Clooney was a Best Director Oscar nominee for the 2005 black-and-white drama Good Night, and Good Luck, which also earned David Strathairn a Best Actor nod.)

Dujardin will be a first-time Oscar nominee and – if our quick research is accurate – only the fourth Frenchman to be shortlisted for an Academy Award in the acting categories. His predecessors were Maurice Chevalier for the Ernst Lubitsch musicals The Big Pond and The Love Parade (1929-30*); Charles Boyer for Clarence Brown’s Conquest (1937), John Cromwell’s Algiers (1938), George Cukor’s Gaslight (1944), and Joshua Logan’s Fanny (1961); and Gérard Depardieu for Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s Cyrano de Bergerac (1990).

Brad Pitt has been nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor for Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys (1995) and Best Actor for David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008). Also this year, he’s a possibility in the Best Supporting Actor category for Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life.

* In the first three years of the Academy Awards, nominees could be shortlisted for more than one film. Janet Gaynor, for instance, was voted Best Actress for the period 1927-28 for three movies, Sunrise, 7th Heaven, and Street Angel; Emil Jannings won for two: The Way of All Flesh and The Last Command. Also, the Oscars’ eligibility period initially went from early August to late July of the following year. That was changed in the early 1930s.

The Descendants photo: Merie Wallace / Fox Searchlight


Demián Bichir, A Better Life

The fourth Best Actor slot should go to Michael Fassbender, who is a strong possibility for Steve McQueen’s Shame. Having said that, we should add that Fassbender, though a BAFTA nominee, was bypassed by SAG voters, and rumor has it that numerous Academy members hated Shame. Yet, all Fassbender needs is to get about 20 percent first/second place votes to land a nomination. That shouldn’t be too hard, considering that the Best Actor competition this year isn’t all that stiff.

Also, Academy members who enjoyed watching Fassbender in Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class, David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method, or Cary Joji Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre may choose to vote for him in Shame, as – barring an upset of Dennis Hopper-ish proportions† – that’s Fassbender’s only viable Oscar ticket.

But what about the NC-17 “stigma”? Even if you choose to ignore Marlon Brando’s Best Actor nomination for Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris back in the early ’70s, Michelle Williams was a Best Actress nominee last year despite the initial NC-17 (later toned down to an “R”) rating given to Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine. True, Blue Valentine was plugged by the Oscar-savvy The Weinstein Company, but Shame‘s Fox Searchlight is no slouch when it comes to pushing potential Oscar nominees, e.g., Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan.

The fifth Best Actor slot is truly up for grabs. BAFTA chose Gary Oldman for Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; SAG went for Leonardo DiCaprio in Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar and Demián Bichir for Chris Weitz’s A Better Life. North American critics have cited Michael Shannon a number of times for Jeff Nichols’ Take Shelter. And then there’s Ryan Gosling for Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive.

Though DiCaprio would be the more obvious choice, we’ll go out on a limb and select Bichir. The inclusion of his performance as an undocumented Mexican immigrant living in Los Angeles was a major SAG Award surprise, and Bichir may well repeat that feat at the Oscars (reportedly thanks to early screeners sent to voters).

Also, bear in mind that most Oscar voters live (or spend a long time in) Los Angeles, and they usually appreciate stories about their hometown. Oscar-nominated examples abound, such as Curtis Hanson’s Best Picture nominee L.A. Confidential, Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown (Best Supporting Actor nod for Robert Forster), Michael Mann’s Collateral (Best Supporting Actor nod for Jamie Foxx), Paul Haggis’ Best Picture winner Crash, Clint Eastwood’s Changeling (Best Actress nod for Angelina Jolie).

Apart from DiCaprio, Shannon, Gosling, and Oldman, there are also a couple of considerably less likely Best Actor possibilities: Woody Harrelson for Oren Moverman’s Rampart and Joseph Gordon-Levitt for Jonathan Levine’s 50/50.

† In early 1987, Dennis Hopper was shocked to learn he was nominated for David Anspaugh’s Hoosiers instead of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet.

Demián Bichir/A Better Life photo: Summit Entertainment

The list of potential Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nominees is nearly as long as the list of female cast members in Tate Taylor’s socially conscious comedy-drama The Help. In fact, several The Help actresses are either likely or possible Oscar contenders.

Much like in the Best Supporting Actor category, in which only Christopher Plummer is a true shoo-in for his role in Mike Mills’ Beginners, the only shoo-in in the Best Supporting Actress category is The Help‘s Octavia Spencer, winner of a Golden Globe, and a SAG Award and BAFTA nominee.

Now, how could North American critics’ fave Jessica Chastain not be a shoo-in? Well, Chastain is a near shoo-in. Though not a strong probability, it’s certainly possible that she won’t get enough first/second place votes for either The Help or Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. And it could get even worse: Chastain fans could choose to vote for her performances in, say, Take Shelter or Coriolanus. In fact, that’s the one instance – one actor with multiple well-received roles in a single year – when “splitting the votes” to the detriment of a potential front-runner is an actual possibility.

In 1946, for instance, Olivia de Havilland asked Universal to not push her for Robert Siodmak’s thriller The Dark Mirror, as Paramount was already campaigning for her performance as a long-suffering single mother in Mitchell Leisen’s melodrama To Each His Own. De Havilland not only got nominated for To Each His Own, she went on to win that year’s Best Actress Oscar. Forty years later, Julie Andrews was in the running for two movies: Blake Edwards’ dramatic comedy That’s Life and Andrei Konchalovsky’s drama Duet for One. Quite possibly due to vote-splitting (competition in the Best Actress category was hardly fierce that year), Andrews failed to be shortlisted.

Now, despite our misgivings, we believe that Chastain will be shortlisted for The Help because of both the film’s popularity and Chastain’s SAG Award nomination. In other words, most Chastain fans will likely vote for her performance in Taylor’s sleeper hit – a much bigger box office success than Chastain’s other 2011 releases, and quite possibly her only effort many (most?) Academy members will bother watching.

The Artist‘s Bérénice Bejo and Albert Nobbs’ Janet McTeer are both up for SAG Awards. Bejo even managed to get shortlisted in the Best Actress category for the BAFTAs. Oscar nominations for both, though not guaranteed, are likely. Albert Nobbs hasn’t exactly set the North American box office on fire, but then again neither did Tumbleweeds (1999), which earned McTeer a Best Actress Oscar nod.

For slot no. 5, if we pick Melissa McCarthy for Paul Feig’s sleeper hit Bridesmaids, that’ll mean an exact Academy-SAG match. That may well happen, but we’ll opt instead for a possible upset: Vanessa Redgrave for Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus. Redgrave was recently honored by the Academy at a London ceremony, and despite her controversial politics, she has loads of admirers and remains one of the most respected actresses anywhere in the world. A Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner for Fred Zinnemann’s Julia (1977), Redgrave has been shortlisted for five other Academy Awards: as Best Actress for Karel Reisz’s Morgan! (1966) and Isadora (1968), Charles Jarrott’s Mary, Queen of Scots (1971), and James Ivory’s The Bostonians (1984), and as Best Supporting Actress for Ivory’s Howards End (1992).

Another strong contender, of course, is Golden Globe nominee Shailene Woodley for Alexander Payne’s The Descendants, a shoo-in for a Best Picture nomination.

Other possibilities are Carey Mulligan for Steve McQueen’s Shame (but, despite her BAFTA nomination, not for Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive),Sissy Spacek and Bryce Dallas Howard for The Help, Kate Winslet and Jodie Foster for Roman Polanski’s Carnage, Marion Cotillard for Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, Judy Greer in The Descendants, Maya Rudolph for Bridesmaids, Sandra Bullock for Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and Judi Dench for Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar (but, despite her BAFTA nomination, not for Simon Curtis’ My Week with Marilyn).

Jessica Chastain/The Help photo: Dale Robinette / DreamWorks / Disney Enterprises


Goran Visnjic, Christopher Plummer, gay lovers in Mike Mills’ Beginners

This is part one of our last-minute Oscar 2012 predictions, beginning with the Best Supporting Actor category. The 2012 Academy Award nominations will be announced Tuesday, Jan. 24.

Surprisingly, the only Best Supporting Actor shoo-in this late in the game is Christopher Plummer (the captain who romanced Julie Andrews in Robert Wise’s The Sound of Music) for playing Ewan McGregor’s gay father in Mike Mills’ Beginners. Plummer has already won a Golden Globe, a series of critics’ awards, and is up for a SAG Award.

Following a whole slew of North American critics’ awards, Albert Brooks should have been a shoo-in as well for his gangster in Nicolas Winding Refn’s thriller Drive. Brooks, however, has been left out of both the SAG Awards and the British Academy Awards. In other words, his Oscar nomination has become less of a sure thing.

Even so, our guess is that Brooks will be shortlisted. The Academy, after all, tallies votes according to the preferential voting system. Thus, if only a minority of Academy members – around 20 percent – places Brooks in first or second place in their ballots, he’ll surely be in. We believe it shouldn’t be too hard for him to get those votes. If we’re right, that’ll be Brooks second Oscar nomination; the previous one, also in the Best Supporting Actor category, was for James L. Brooks’ Broadcast News (1987). That year, Brooks (no relation to his director) lost to Sean Connery in Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables.

The third slot goes to SAG Award and BAFTA nominee Kenneth Branagh for playing Laurence Olivier opposite Michelle Williams’ Marilyn Monroe in Simon Curtis’ My Week with Marilyn. If our prediction is correct, that’ll be Branagh’s first Academy Award nomination in the acting categories since Henry V (1989), which he also directed – and got nominated for his efforts behind the camera, too. Branagh lost the Best Actor Oscar to Daniel Day-Lewis for Jim Sheridan’s My Left Foot, while that year’s Best Director winner was Oliver Stone for the Tom Cruise vehicle Born on the Fourth of July. (Curiously, Olivier also directed and starred in a 1946 version of Henry V that earned him a Best Actor Oscar nod. He lost to Fredric March’s World War II veteran in William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives.)

Slot no. 4 will likely go to veteran Nick Nolte for his alcoholic former boxer and father in Gavin O’Connor’s little-seen Warrior, a family drama co-starring Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton. Nolte’s previous two Oscar nominations, both as Best Actor, were for playing other troubled men: in Barbra Streisand’s The Prince of Tides (1991) and Paul Schrader’s Affliction (1998).

Slot no. 5 is a tough one. SAG committee voters went for Armie Hammer as Leonardo DiCaprio/J. Edgar Hoover’s co-worker/intimate companion in Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar. Though a nomination for Hammer isn’t impossible, we’d say it’s less likely than one for, say, Patton Oswalt for Jason Reitman’s Young Adult or for Jonah Hill for Bennett Miller’s Moneyball. Our pick for the no. 5 slot, however, is neither Oswalt nor Hill (or Hammer), but Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud in David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method.

Mortensen has already been nominated for a Best Actor Oscar, for Cronenberg’s thriller Eastern Promises (2007). The fact that he is a much bigger name than most of his competitors surely is no hindrance to him – much to the contrary. Think dubious supporting players such as Ethan Hawke (Training Day) and Julianne Moore (The Hours).

Besides Oswalt, Hill, and Hammer, other possibilities include: Ben Kingsley for Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, John Hawkes for Sean Durkin’s Martha Marcy May Marlene, Brad Pitt for Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, Jeremy Irons/Kevin Spacey for J.C. Chandor’s Margin Call, Christoph Waltz for either Roman Polanski’s Carnage or (less likely) Francis Lawrence’s Water for Elephants, and Max von Sydow (or Tom Hanks??) for Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Critical praise or no, a nomination for Andy Serkis for Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes would be a major upset.

Goran Visnjic/Christopher Plummer/Beginners photo: Focus Features.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, despite the star wattage of Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, has a chance only if the Academy members at Warner Bros. and Paramount decide to join forces like they did when making the movie, as the folks at Scott Rudin Productions will be spreading their Oscar love pretty thin already.

In addition to Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, other Best Picture longshots include Terrence Malick’s Cannes Film Festival winner The Tree of Life (Fox Searchlight), Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (a Focus Features release that’ll have a better chance if Focus’ parent company, NBC Universal, throws its Oscar-voting weight toward the prestige British import), and Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive (FilmDistrict).

Even less likely, though certainly not impossible, are Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids (Universal / Relativity Media), a SAG Award nominee for Best Cast, and George Clooney’s The Ides of March (Columbia).

Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation, no matter how brilliant, will land a Best Picture nod only if Farhadi himself lands a Best Director nod. Our point: Don’t expect that to happen. The same goes for Sean Durkin’s Martha Marcy May Marlene, Jeff Nichols’ Take Shelter, Mike Mills’ Beginners, and other such well-received “small movies” that failed to ignite at the North American box office. (Or to have Harvey Weinstein hawking them.)

Shoo-ins for the Best Director shortlist are Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris, Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist, Martin Scorsese for Hugo, and Alexander Payne for The Descendants. Our bet for the fifth slot is Terrence Malick for The Tree of Life, though DGA Award nominee David Fincher is just as likely a contender for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Less likely (while remaining in contention) are Bennett Miller for Moneyball, Tomas Alfredson for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Nicolas Winding Refn for Drive, and Tate Taylor for The Help. Barring a miracle, Stephen Daldry’s string of Oscar nominations – Billy Eliot, The Hours, The Reader; one for each of his feature films – will be broken when Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is left out of the running in the Best Director category.

Midnight in Paris picture: Roger Arpajou / Sony Pictures Classics

Watch Oscar Nominations Online Live Streaming

Nominations for the 84th Academy Awards in several categories will be announced live on Tuesday, January 24 at 8:30 a.m. ET / 5:30 a.m. PT by Academy President Tom Sherak and Winter’s Bone‘s 2011 Best Actress nominee Jennifer Lawrence, who’ll next be seen in The Hunger Games and would surely like to plug her upcoming film. The categories announced on live television -and that’ll be live streamed online (see below) – are Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

The shoo-in Best Picture nominees are The Artist, Midnight in Paris, The Descendants, Hugo, and The Help. Shoo-in Best Actor nominees are George Clooney (The Descendants), Jean Dujardin (The Artist), and Brad Pitt (Moneyball). Shoo-in Best Actress nominees are Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady), Viola Davis (The Help), and Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn). The only near shoo-in for Best Foreign Language Film is Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation – in that category, no film is ever a total shoo-in.

Other shoo-ins are Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris), Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist), Alexander Payne (The Descendants), and Martin Scorsese (Hugo) for Best Director. In addition to Christopher Plummer (Beginners) for Best Supporting Actor and Octavia Spencer (The Help) for Best Supporting Actress.

Highly likely contenders include Michael Fassbender as Best Actor for Shame, Jessica Chastain as Best Supporting Actress for The Help, Albert Brooks as Best Supporting Actor for Drive, Tilda Swinton as Best Actress for We Need to Talk About Kevin, and Glenn Close as Best Actress for Albert Nobbs.

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