The top Oscar race has now been whittled down to nine films. To win Best Picture, a film usually needs to be recognized across the various branches; this year’s lineup racked up 42 other nominations.
Then there are the bellwether categories. A film hasn’t won Best Picture without a directing nomination since “Driving Miss Daisy” in 1989. And no film has won Best Picture without an editing nomination since “Ordinary People” in 1980. A screenplay nomination and recognition from the large acting branch are also big boosts.
Let’s have a look at this year’s contenders and see how their nominations stack up.
“The Artist” (10 nominations)
The Best Picture favorite did what it needed to do to stay in front. It picked up nominations in the major categories: Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay. And it reaped five below-the-line bids including that essential Editing nom.
“Hugo” (11 nominations)
By getting one more nomination than “The Artist,” it positions itself as the clear alternative. It picked up all the categories it needed to stay viable: Director, Adapted Screenplay and Editing. The only place it fell short was being completely ignored by the acting branch. However, as Ben Kingsley was only viewed as an outsider in his race, it did not failed to meet expectations there.
“The Descendants” (5 nominations)
This film hit all the marks it needed to: Director, Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Editing. These are all big bids that Best Picture champs usually need. The nature of the film led to little expectations in the tech categories so its lack of recognition outside the top categories is not much of a blow. Shailene Woodley’s failing to sneak into Supporting Actress is a bit of a shame.
“Moneyball” (6 nominations)
Six is a really strong total for this film showing a broad level of love for this film from the actors, writers, sound branch and those all important editors. The only disappointment is the lack of a directing nomination, which is a considerable hurdle in its quest for Best Picture. Had Bennet Miller been nominated, a great case could have been made for this well-reviewed film being the alternative to “The Artist.”
“The Tree of Life” (3 nominations)
This film was considered to be fighting for one of the final Best Picture slots. Now, it’s sitting pretty with not only a bid in that top race but can also boast of having one of the five Best Director nominees. It would have needed much more tech support, especially an editing nomination, and perhaps some acting recognition to even think about contending for the win but it did really well.
“Midnight in Paris” (4 nominations)
Director and Original Screenplay are certainly key categories, but they were largely expected. Art Direction is a nice nod indicating some below-the-line support. However, its failure to get into the editing race and not showing up unexpectedly elsewhere is going to make it hard for this film to position itself as the alternative to “The Artist.”
“The Help” (4 nominations)
The nominations are a disappointment. Its failure to surprise in the directing category along with snubs from the writers and editors are big setbacks. The silver lining is that it was able to pick up three acting nominations showing strong support from the largest of the academy branches.
“War Horse” (6 nominations)
An impressive haul from the tech branches show strong support for the film there. However it’s failure to pick up directing, writing or editing bids knocks this film out of the top race.
“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” (2 nominations)
Since it’s been largely ignored this awards season, got average reviews and failed to connect with the public, it is probably unfair to call this a loser. Any Oscar bids this film got meant it exceeded expectations, let alone getting a bid for Best Picture. However with those aforementioned hurdles hobbling this film, it would have needed to have many more nominations to look like a serious contender in this race.