Move over, Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson, Walter Brennan and Ingrid Bergman. Daniel Day-Lewis is about to join you in the pantheon of Oscar's second-biggest winners.
After previous Academy Award victories for "My Left Foot" (1989) and "There Will Be Blood" (2007), Day-Lewis is now a shoo-in to win for "Lincoln." He'll soon be just one statuette shy of four-time champ Katharine Hepburn.
"Lincoln" was screened Thursday night in Los Angeles for various Oscar bloggers, who seemed to agree that this is no "War Horse" – Steven Spielberg's big Oscar disappointment of last year. His "Lincoln" rules the screen with authority. It seems like a cinch to be nominated for Best Picture, Supporting Actress (Sally Field) and Adapted Screenplay (Tony Kushner), in addition to Best Actor. There's also an excellent chance that Tommy Lee Jones is nominated as firebrand abolitionist Congressman Thaddeus Stevens and that Spielberg's usual team of craftsman will probably score nods too: composer John Williams, film editor Michael Kahn and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski. It also may reap bids for art direction and costumes.
But what about Spielberg? That's uncertain given his quirky history with the academy. Even though "The Color Purple" (1985) and "War Horse" scored bids for Best Picture, he was snubbed in the directors' category. However, he seems to command the respect of voters over all. He won Best Director twice: "Schindler's List" (1993) and "Saving Private Ryan" (1998). If he does make the list this year, his "Lincoln" could score 11 or more nominations. Thus, it could turn out to lead with the most bids and that, of course, is significant since the movie with the most noms usually wins Best Picture.
But can "Lincoln" win? It's, well ... possible. That can't be ruled out, but, frankly, "Lincoln's" biggest kudos hope is probably that it is poised to become the first film to deliver an acting Oscar to a Spielberg pic.
Personally, I was leery that Day-Lewis could pull off this role, which requires warmth, wit and subtly from an actor who usually slices through celluloid like Bill the Butcher ("Gangs of New York"). Recently, he ruined "Nine" by doing his usual big, brooding angst routine instead of laying on Guido's impish charm. In "Lincoln," however, he holds back. He's still brooding, but only so far as to deliver Abe's notorious melancholy, then adding the man's heart, authority and devilish streak. He's so damned good, it's creepy -- you really believe this is Abe. Honest.
Just last month, when "The Master" debuted, it looked like Joaquin Phoenix would finally catch up with his overdue Oscar. After all, he goes crackers on screen in a film helmed by the same man who directed Day-Lewis to his last Academy Award when he went bonkers in "There Will Be Blood": Paul Thomas Anderson.
But now Day-Lewis has the clear edge because he portrays a real-life, heroic figure (Oscar voters, in general, prefer that) in a surprisingly convincing, magisterial performance in a big, epic film that is seriously in the running for Best Picture.
Sally Field gives such a big, bombastic turn as Mary Todd Lincoln that it will be hard for the academy to ignore an old darling. She's won twice ("Norma Rae," "Places in the Heart") and never lost, but she may not be so lucky this time. Her Mary is more indignant and righteous than crazy. Oscar voters like crazy.
Tommy Lee Jones isn't shy about showboating the wackiness of his character as he barks down foes on the floor of the House of Representatives. He's seriously in the running for Oscar #2 following his previous win in the supporting slot for "The Fugitive" (1993). In fact, I just moved him up to first place.
Here are my latest, revised predictions now that I've seen "Lincoln." Compare them to the predix of other pundits here. Note that Steve Pond (TheWrap) and Glenn Whipp (L.A. Times) -- who attended the same screening last night -- also have Day-Lewis in the lead. When our predix are combined, they are translated into these rankings and racetrack odds.
Win $100 predicting:
Emmys, MTV Movie Awards,
ACMs & Daytime Emmys
Read more about entry and rules here. Make your initial predictions now. Change them later as often as you wish up until the nominations or winners are announced.
Below, meet our past winners of recent award prediction contests.
Oscar Nominations: New York state resident Tim Kressner (gufa54) won $1,000 for reaping the highest percentage (78%) when predicting Academy Award noms. Watch our video chat with him here and learn his strategy for making picks. See the leaderboard here. See Kressner's predix here.
Golden Globes (Film): Mario Gomez, a med studen in Mexico, won our contest with the highest percentage of correct picks (86%) and highest point score (2,693). See our video chat with him here. Two other contestants also scored 86%: lulo1989 and eastwest. Tom O'Neil reaped best Experts' score. David Schnelwar had top score among our Editors. See the leaderboard here to see if you made the top tier.
Critics Choice Nominations: Bryce H scored an impressive 83% when sizing up 20 categories. That was one percentage point ahead of our smartest Editor, Daniel Montgomery. Our top Expert was also one of our Editors, Paul Sheehan, who reaped 74%. To see how you performed, check out our leaderboard plus the score section of your account page.
Golden Globe (Film) Nominations: Jonathan was our top User, reaping a staggering 86% when forecasting the lineup of 10 categories. That put him six percentage points ahead of our best Expert -- Scott Mantz (Access Hollywood) -- and eight ahead of our leading Editor, Daniel Montogomery. Did you made the cut on the leaderboard score breakdown?
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award Winners: Christian aced all rivals, scoring 82%. That was almost 20 percentage points ahead of our top Expert (Edward Douglas of ComingSoon ) and Editor (Matt Noble), both of whom earned scores of 64%. Christian foresaw that surprise screenplay win for "Before Midnight." See leaderboard.