11 Days ’til Oscar: Taking Inventory of the Big Races

There are just 11 days left until the Academy Awards ceremony, where the best in the business will be given their due and, well, where some people just may get snubbed as well.

With just a little bit of time left until awards season finally comes to a close, various categories are beginning to take form and probable winners are coming out of the fold. This last stretch, which will see the announcement of the winners of 5 or more other awards ceremonies, will all culminate in the big day.

So which films are looking like surefire winners and which are free-falling towards no-trophy land?

The Artist looks to be the big winner at this year's Oscars, with likely wins in several major categories

When it comes to the big categories, most of them seem (pretty much) decided:

The Artist will take Best Picture, and likely Best Director for Michel Hazanavicius’ work. Star Jean Dujardin is looking more and more the favorite for Best Actor, after his wins at the SAGs and, most recently, the BAFTAs. You can also count on The Artist to win Best Film Editing and Best Music (Original Score), based on its previous wins (Score) and its stature as the likely Best Picture winner (Editing). The two awards (Picture and Editing) are generally very closely correlated.

Octavia Spencer (The Help) and Christopher Plummer (Beginners) are as close to locks as can be for Supporting Actress and Supporting Actor, respectively. Each has won a majority, if not all, of the precursor awards for their category. And just as it was looking more and more like Viola Davis (The Help) would triumph as Best Actress over Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady), Streep took the prize at the BAFTAs this past weekend. Davis won the award at the SAGs and BFCAs, while Streep also won at the Golden Globes. For my money, I’m betting it’ll be Davis for the win, but the race is still perhaps too close to call.

Octavia Spencer is a lock for Supporting Actress, but what about Davis' odds for Lead Actress?

By the beginning of next week, we will have a clearer insight into the writing categories, as the Writers Guild will name their award winners for Original Screenplay and Adapted Screenplay. For Original Screenplay, it has been a back and forth battle between The Artist and Midnight in Paris in the precursors, but I have a feeling that Woody Allen’s screenplay for Midnight in Paris will win this one.

Adapted Screenplay has been a dogfight as well, with Moneyball and The Descendants being the two going round-for-round. Had you asked me two months ago, I’d have guessed that The Help would win this category based on its popularity. However, for the moment, I’m going with Moneyball for Adapted. After this coming Sunday, these two races should be essentially decided.

Getting into some of the smaller yet no less important categories, despite The Artist‘s Best Cinematography win at the BAFTAS, The Tree of Life is the near-lock in this category at the Oscars, winning almost every single cinematography award in the last few months. And Rise of the Planet of the Apes looks to be the winner for Visual Effects over Harry Potter and Hugo. They’ve gotta recognize Andy Serkis’ mo-cap performance somehow.

Hugo should see some love in the technical categories with The Artist picking up most of the big awards

Hugo, while not making much of a splash in the bigger categories, looks to be the frontrunner for Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Art Direction, and Costume Design, with only formidable foe The Artist standing in its way. With Scorsese’s film getting no love in the major awards, I imagine it’ll pick up a few in the smaller categories. But don’t count out The Artist for either Art Direction or Costume Design. The Cinema Audio Society and the Costume Designers Guild make their picks on February 18 and 21, respectively. The Iron Lady is likely to pick up the Oscar for Best Makeup, for those who care.

On  the foreign front, A Separation is easily the frontrunner for Best Foreign Language Film; I’ve heard nothing about the other films that seem to suggest otherwise. As for the Best Documentary category, people are very high on UndefeatedPiña, and Paradise Lost 3. I can’t say for sure which of these is the frontrunner, but right now my vote is on Paradise Lose 3 to take home the hardware.

Animated Feature could turn out to be one of the more interesting categories this year, what with Tintin out of the picture (despite its wins at the Globes and PGA Awards) and a few unknowns coming into the fold. I can’t say much about Chico & Rita or A Cat in Paris, but as for the others, Rango is the strongest candidate. I’d say it’s Rango in the lead here, with a possible upset from one of the unknowns. But don’t count on it.

And I’m not even going to make my own projections right now on the short films, as I have no experience to go off of, but I’m hearing that the frontrunners seem to be: Raju (Live Action Short), The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (Animated Short), and The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement (Documentary Short).

Oh, and The Muppets better win for Best Original Song. Or else.

Muppets vs. Rio for Best Song: If 'The Muppets' doesn't win, I will go insane. Literally.

If my current projections hold true, it’ll be The Artist as the biggest winner with 5 Oscars (Picture, Director, Actor, Editing, Score), Hugo in second with 4 (Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Art Direction, Costumes), and  The Help in third with 2 (Actress, Supporting Actress). The rest would be a slew of films with one award apiece.

I will have my final Oscar predictions up late next week, with a few awards from various guilds and societies left to be handed out, so stay tuned and be sure to to make your own predictions, too. You can join my New York Times Oscar Pool by clicking the link here (should work, if not, let me know).

Who do you think will win? Leave your opinions and some feedback in the comments section below!

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