The Oscar nominees will be announced on January 10, and had you asked a couple of weeks ago, I would have given Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained and Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty good odds at raining on Steven Spielberg's Lincoln parade. But reality has since intruded. The horrendous Sandy Hook massacre and the subsequent debate about gun control and violence in pop culture, not to mention an ill-considered Christmas Day release, have taken the shine off Quentin's latest brilliant, blood-soaked provocation. (And don't even think about The Dark Knight Rises.)
As for Zero Dark Thirty, after undergoing congressional investigations during production and, with its release, slams from both the Left and the Right for its supposed advocacy of torture, it's looking a bit iffy. Unless the Academy nominates more than five films for Best Picture (they nominate a minimum of five and a maximum of 10), these two might be out of luck — though Zero's Jessica Chastain has a shot at Best Actress.
So Lincoln rolls on triumphantly, embodying as it does the nation's newfound spirit of compromise and rationality. That means nominations for Best Picture and Director, Best Actor for Daniel Day-Lewis, Best Supporting Actress for Sally Field, and Best Supporting Actor for Tommy Lee Jones.
With Zero somewhat out of the picture, Ben Affleck's Argo star rises as the reigning depiction of the War on Terror, circa 1979. A shout-out to the magic of Hollywood adds to its chances for Best Film, Director, and Best Supporting Actor for Alan Arkin. And rounding out Oscar's salute to the cause of freedom and the supremacy of show biz is Les Misérables, a likely nominee for Best Picture, with Hugh Jackman stealing a Best Actor nomination, Anne Hathaway looking good for Best Supporting Actress, and Tom Hooper hopeful for Director.
Next come the old Oscar standbys — the elderly, infirm, endangered, addicted, and insane. The geriatric Best Exotic Marigold Hotel might reserve a place in a five-plus Best Picture category, with a Best Supporting Actress niche for Maggie Smith. So could Michael Haneke's portrait of aging spouses, Amour, which should also be honored with a Best Actress nomination for Emmanuelle Riva.
The Sessions looks likely for Best Picture placement, and it will undoubtedly earn a Best Actor nomination for John Hawkes as the man in the iron lung and a Supporting Actress slot for Helen Hunt as the sex surrogate who loves him. And rounding out the candidates in the afflicted column, Marion Cotillard should enter the Best Actress race as the double amputee in Rust and Bone.
How about endangered, addicted, and insane? Best Actress looks good for Naomi Watts as the imperiled tsunami survivor in The Impossible. Denzel Washington will land a Best Actor bid as the derelict pilot in Flight. As for insane, no one does it better than bad guy Javier Bardem, likely Best Supporting Actor nominee for Skyfall. On the lighter side, Bradley Cooper will be in the running as the funny/psychotic hero of The Silver Linings Playbook, a film that should also score nominations for Best Picture, Best Director (David O. Russell), Best Supporting Actor (Robert De Niro), and Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence). Philip Seymour Hoffman should be megalomaniacal enough for Best Supporting Actor consideration in The Master, and for a down-home, high-camp, nympho nutjob, you can't go wrong with Nicole Kidman in The Paperboy for Best Supporting Actress.