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Oscar nominations will be revealed on the 24th.  As arbitrary as the nominations can sometimes seem, there’s definitely method to their madness.  Over the next week, we’ll dive into the potential nominees in each of the big eight categories.  This time around: Supporting Actor.

VIRTUAL LOCK

  • Christopher Plummer, Beginners

He received nominations from the Golden Globes, SAG, is mentioned on the lists of a great number of critics, plays a character who is dying and who comes out of the closet to his son. And is Christopher Plummer. So yeah, a nomination seems all but sewn up. For awhile now, it sure has seemed like this is going to be Plummer’s year, a chance for his first Oscar win (and second nomination, surely you haven’t already forgotten The Last Station). Although, to be honest, he’s not on my list. Mostly because I didn’t find the character particularly interesting or deep.

GOOD BET

  • Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn

Branagh already has four Oscar nominations under his belt (though he’s still search for his first win) and not only is he playing Hollywood legend Sir Laurence Olivier, but he’s playing Olivier as Olivier struggles to get a movie made. He also has the right precursor nominations. I’m not sure his character has an Oscar scene, necessarily, but he has a decent chunk of screen time. Additionally, with Michelle Williams in the conversation for Best Actress, Branagh will benefit from the fact that voters are that much more likely to have seen the movie. As for me, I think I’d be OK with a nomination here.

LIKELY IN

  • Albert Brooks, Drive

Brooks missed a SAG nomination, which was a little surprising, the only reason I’ve knocked him down to this category. Support for Drive seems to be vociferous, if not quite as broad as hoped for (or at least expected, heading into Oscar season). But Brooks is supposed to really nail it (I haven’t seen the film just yet). He already has one Supporting Actor nomination, for Broadcast News.

ON THE BUBBLE

  • Nick Nolte, Warrior
  • Jonah Hill, Moneyball
  • Ben Kingsley, Hugo
  • Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
  • Armie Hammer, J. Edgar
  • Brad Pitt, Tree of Life
  • Viggo Mortensen, A Dangerous Method
  • Patton Oswalt, Young Adult

I’ve seen a ton of guesses as to which two actors will fill out the final two slots in this category, and I’m not sure any two predictions have been the same. Mentioned most often, probably, is Nick Nolte, who received a SAG nomination and is a two-time Oscar nominee. Warrior is a fantastic movie that absolutely deserves Oscar recognition, but it didn’t do very well at the box office, and I can imagine voters dismissing it as (that MMA movie). Also, I wonder if the kudos are for the performance/role or for Nolte appearing to be sane in a movie. Jonah Hill received nods from both the Golden Globes and the SAG. The strike against him is that he’s known as a young, comedic actor. But he’s received near-universal plaudits for this relatively dramatic role in a very well-liked movie. I personally don’t see it, but I clearly saw a different Moneyball than nearly everyone else. Ben Kingsley hasn’t shown up on a lot of lists, it is true, but he makes a lot of sense to me to surprise here. He’s already got one Oscar along with three additional nominations. Hugo is a movie nearly everyone saw and loved, and is headed toward a Best Picture nom. I disliked the movie and have this weird thing about Kingsley, so I’ll stay out of this one. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has been tanking something fierce in terms of Oscar, but perhaps it can muster enough support to rally around Max von Sydow, who has an Oscar nomination to his name. Haven’t seen the movie, but based on my recollection of the book, I’m a little surprised the character is around enough to warrant the buzz.

Speaking of movies tanking with Oscar, J. Edgar couldn’t even get into the Makeup bakeoff with the old age makeup the Academy loves so much. Hammer is dashing, holds his own against DiCaprio, and received a SAG nom, but everyone seems to be trying to do their best to forget this movie ever existed. I thought he was fine, but was kinda curious if anyone would have noticed had he and Ryan McPartlin switched roles. I have absolutely no idea what to do with Tree of Life, awards-wise, and I’ve been debating for months now if I’m actually going to see it. But Brad Pitt has two Oscar noms already and will likely already be getting a third one this year. Viggo received a Golden Globe nomination, but it seems like no one is talking about A Dangerous Method. Probably because it is boring. I know Adam was a big fan of Mortensen in the movie, saying that he was impressed with how much subtle emotion Viggo managed to portray while hiding behind that beard. It is kind of awesome that Patton Oswalt is even in the conversation here. It isn’t just wishful thinking on my part as he already has a BFCA nod. And how great would it be to have three of the nominees to be noted comedic actors. If you saw Big Fan, then you weren’t surprised that Oswalt has dramatic chops. Buzz for the dark comedy Young Adult has been fading, I think it would have helped Oswalt if more people were talking about Theron. It also kinda felt to me like he was missing an Oscar scene.

DARK HORSES

  • Andy Serkis, Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  • George Clooney, Ides of March
  • Corey Stoll, Midnight in Paris
  • Robert Forster, The Descendants
  • The entire cast of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Ides of March
  • Jim Broadbent, The Iron Lady

The undisputed king of motion capture, Serkis has his champions and a BFCA nomination, but it will be very difficult to convince enough voters that he is the one responsible for the performance. Ides of March has been picking up steam lately, and you should never count George Clooney out. Corey Stoll garnered an Independent Spirit nomination for his role and to me may well be the one actual standout of anyone on this entire list whose movie I’ve seen. As with Stoll, Robert Forster’s chances may depend on voters really loving his movie. He also has an Oscar nomination for Jackie Brown.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED

  • Don Cheadle, The Guard
  • Michael Fassbender, X-Men: First Class
  • Gary Oldman, Red Riding Hood
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Hesher
  • Ben Schwartz, Peep World
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Oscar nominations will be revealed Tuesday January 24th. As we get closer, the Grouches will be sharing some thoughts, hopes, and predictions. You can read thoughts on the so-called “major” categories all over the place, but this time around, we share our wishes for nominations in the technical categories.

John: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Oscar Nomination

For me, the technical categories are all about Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. I think the film has to be a front runner for Art Direction, so I’m not too worried about it getting a nomination. But it should also get a Costume nomination.

Here is a film that lives so fully in its setting and time period. Think of the detail in every room of MI6, from the library to the isolation meeting rooms. And the costumes just scream 70s. I think in particular of some of the ostentatious garb at the Christmas party, including one suspect’s garish shirt with matching bowtie made of cloth of the exact same garish pattern. A spy film could easily get away with generic costumes but Tinker Tailor always gives you something to look at.

Jared: Sucker Punch My Immortals

I’m not really a visual person, but I’ve been in the tank for everything that appears on screen in  Tarsem Singh’s movies since The Fall.  It would be a big mistake to overlook the art direction and costumes in Immortals just because the movie didn’t really live up to expectations.  I saw the film months ago and I still have a relatively vivid recollection of most of the sets.  The movie had a flair far surpassing the typical sword and sandals film.  It was big and bold and flashy, but in a way that served to the enhance the movie, not overshadow it.

Speaking of disappointing over the top action movies, I’d also like to stump for Sucker Punch.  We can have all sorts of debates over the gender politics and artistic merits of the film.  But speaking on a strictly technical basis, I think it would be very difficult to argue against the film’s images being incredibly evocative.  Indeed, primarily fueling all the talk of the film being Zack Snyder’s wet dream, or whatever, are the stark images of the ladies of the film dressed how they were, in the crazy environments Snyder dreamed up.  Regardless of whether you think the film is misogynistic or empowering, the visuals sure left a lasting memory.

Brian: Loves movies about movies and America

I was going to go with Captain America for Hugo Weaving’s makeup, but I forgot that the Academy hates America, so its not even on the shortlist vetted by the Makeup Branch, meaning there’s no chance it shows up as a nominee. I would have said that the Weaving’s menacing take as Red Skull kept the rollicking “ripped from the comic pages” tone going while also being just incredibly kickass.

Instead I’ll offer two hopes in this post for a technical award I’d love to see — one which will likely happen, the other not so much. This is the first of what will be a series of posts where I talk glowingly of Hugo and the rest of the Grouches ignore or denigrate me for that opinion. Not since Avatar came out has a movie used 3-D so beautifully. The falling snow and the swooping shots through the clocks of the Parisian train station sucked me in from the start and the movie didn’t let go of me until the final credits.

Maybe the art directors for Super 8 just raided the warehoused archives of The Goonies and E.T., but the sets, props, location shots — everything was just perfect at recreating that early ’80s atmosphere. J.J. Abrahms 80%-good-film relied heavily on that nostalgia for both a “simpler” era and childhood nostalgia — so much that he forgot to complete a good story (that’d be the 20% not-so-good part). He owes his art direction team for that.

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