As detailed here (for Best Picture) and here (for other categories), the Oscar nominations are determined like no other awards. Passionate support for a contender can, and often does, trump those with broader but less enthusiastic backing.
It’s likely what led to the little-seen “Letter From Iwo Jima” bumping assumed Best Picture nominee “Dreamgirls” in 2005. The academy’s significant British voting bloc may have thrown their weight behind “The Reader” leading to “The Dark Knight’s” controversial shut out in 2008. Last year, Javier Bardem (“Biutiful”), Michelle Williams (“Blue Valentine”) and Jackie Weaver (“Animal Kingdom”) all got to go to the Oscars at least in part due to the voting method.
So looking forward to this year, who are the potential winners and losers of the Oscar voting system?
“War Horse” is not generating a whole heap of passion. Steven Speilberg’s name will probably help it land on a lot of ballots but it may struggle to get the #1 votes needed to get the nomination. “Moneyball” seems to have more love behind it. However, with films like “Hugo” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” fresher in voters’ minds may hurt it’s #1 vote count. Speaking of the David Fincher movie, its themes and violence will probably turn off a lot of voters but it only needs a 5% pocket of support. Other films that may have that pocket of passionate #1 votes to get them into the Best Picture lineup are “The Tree of Life,” “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” and “Bridesmaids.”
There seems to be one open slot in this race — who has the most passion to fill it? Spielberg is going to struggle to contend for “War Horse.” Stephen Daldry has always been nominated in this category and he’ll need the British voters to reap a bid for “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” The directors may also want to make it up to last year’s unofficial runner up David Fincher; his “Dragon Tattoo” may have a good pocket of support. We’ll see how much love there is for “The Help” and “Moneyball” depending on whether Tate Taylor or Bennett Miller can score nods for their respective films. Then there is Terrence Malick who might have enough love to squeak in for “The Tree of Life.” However, that movie’s struggle to get into the Best Picture race does not bode well.
Leonardo DiCaprio is a popular guy with a Globe and SAG nomination to boot. I’m sure he’ll end up on a lot of ballots. However, is anyone really going to rank “J. Edgar” #1 for anything? It seems that there is very little passion for this movie or DiCaprio’s performance. He could get nominated but he’s vulnerable. Gary Oldman from “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” and Demian Bichir from “A Better Life” have performances that may have less attention but voters who like them will rank them high on their ballots.
Glenn Close from “Albert Nobbs” and Tilda Swinton from “We Need to Talk About Kevin” are the most vulnerable in this race. In Swinton’s corner could be the British voting bloc. Close’s advantage is the relentless campaigning she’s been doing. However, depending on the level of support for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” it seems quite realistic that a passionate bloc could bump one of them for Rooney Mara.