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: Picture.

VIRTUAL LOCK

  • The Artist
  • The Descendants

The Artist has hit nearly every significant precursor and is the presumed front-runner for the big trophy.  The biggest stumbling block may be its slightly disappointing box office.  Pretty much ditto for The Descendants, except it hasn’t won quite as many precursors.

GOOD BET

  • The Help
  • Hugo

Ah, remember simpler times?  Like five months ago, when The Help first came out and we questioned if it could hold up through the Oscar season gauntlet?  Contenders dropped left and right, but it seems like The Help has stuck around for good.  Hugo is an interesting case, because it hasn’t been buoyed by Oscar campaigns for its cast like the films above it have, though I suppose Scorsese is basically filling that role.  A crowd-pleasing (but not overly comedic) movie about movies directed by an acknowledged master is a good bet for a nomination.

LIKELY IN

  • Midnight in Paris

With nominations from all the big three guilds and a marketable story about Woody Allen’s return to form, Midnight in Paris seems like it should get through.  The only question may be if voters don’t consider it dramatic enough, or if people who most like this film rank it below The Artist on their ballots.

ON THE BUBBLE

  • Tree of Life
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Moneyball
  • War Horse
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Keep in mind there will be somewhere between five and ten (inclusive) best picture nominees this year depending on how the ballots shake out, based on the new rules.  For the last time, I have no clue what to do with Tree of Life.  It seems the kind of film that has a group of very passionate devotees who will put it at the top of their ballots.  But will the group be large enough?  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has been making a late Oscar surge.  It is a genre film, though, which tend not to fare well in Oscar’s top category.  Moneyball may well be the most-liked movie of the year.  But will that translate to firsts and seconds on Oscar ballots, or fourths and fifths?  Everyone just sorta assumed War Horse would get a nomination, and it still may, even though it hasn’t lived up to expectations.  My understanding is that in many ways it feels like an Oscar movie in a way the old guard may appreciate.  The British bloc in the Academy is a sizable contingent.  It is possible they’ll find enough supporters elsewhere to push Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy through.

DARK HORSES

  • Bridesmaids
  • Drive
  • The Ides of March
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

With ten nominees, you’d think Bridesmaids would be in.  This year, with the variable number and so many other comedy-type movies up for contention, the film has a tough road.  The arguments I made for Tree of Life hold true for Drive, I think, except it also has to overcome the bias against action films.  The Ides of March feels to me a little like Frost/Nixon in that it just sorta seems like an Oscar movie, whatever that means.  Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was a presumptive favorite six or seven months ago that featured a super late release, so you can’t count out the possibility it sneaks through.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED

  • The Muppets
  • Crazy, Stupid, Love.
  • Warrior
  • Paul
  • X-Men: First Class
  • Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
  • The Names of Love
  • 50/50
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