Will Oscar voters fall for ‘Skyfall’?

With takings of $88 million, “Skyfall” had the biggest opening weekend for a James Bond movie ever. Audiences love it, giving the thriller a Cinemascore of “A,” and film critics rate it high, too (81 score from Metacritic and a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes).

Next up: what will Oscar voters think? How many nominations and wins can “Skyfall” reap?

One guaranteed bid: the title tune will definitely make the list for Best Song considering Adele‘s recent romp at the Grammys. Music composer Thomas Newman will probably score his 11th career bid, but he’s overdue to win after defeats for “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994), “Little Women” (1994), “Unstrung Heroes” (1995), “American Beauty” (1999), “Road to Perdition” (2002), “Finding Nemo” (2003), “Lemony Snicket” (2004), “The Good German” (2006), and two for “Wall-E” (2008).

Yet all eyes are on Roger Deakins, one of the academy’s most overdue craftsmen. He’s never won despite nine noms: “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994), “Fargo” (1996), “Kundun” (1997), “O Brother, Where Art Thou” (2000), “The Man Who Wasn’t There” (2001), “No Country for Old Men” (2007), “The Assassination of Jesse James” (2007), “The Reader” (2008), and “True Grit” (2010). Now can he finally prevail? In the past three years, the award for Best Cinematography has gone to sprawling, ambitious projects – “Avatar” (2009), “Inception” (2010), and “Hugo” (2011) – that nonetheless retain a painterly image to the composition.

Curiously, “Skyfall” is also the handiwork of a third craftsman ridiculously overdue for Oscar glory. As Kris Tapley (In Contention/ Hitfix) notes: “When you stack up the Oscar records of cinematographer Roger Deakins, composer Thomas Newman and sound mixer Greg P. Russell, an amazing stat hits you in the face: 0-34. Three guys have gone to the Oscars 34 times and not once have they walked away with a trophy.”

Blockbusters usually do very well in both audio categories, so “Skyfall” is a strong contender for Best Sound Editing, too.

Production designer Dennis Gassner is a previous winner for “Bugsy” (1991), as well as a nominee for “Barton Fink” (1991), “Road to Perdition” (2002), and “The Golden Compass” (2007). The film boasts several impressive sets in exotic locations, for the art directors branch could take notice.

Sometimes high-octane action films get recognized for film editing  (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” won last year), so that bodes well for Stuart Baird (nominee for “Superman” in 1978 and “Gorillas in the Mist” in 1988).

Visual effects may be too crowded a category this year for “Skyfall” to get in. It faces stiff competition from the likes of “Prometheus,” “Cloud Atlas,” “Life of Pi,” “The Hobbit,” and “The Avengers,” all of which are more effects driven than the largely practical “Skyfall.” Nonetheless, a nomination here is still a possibility.

Now the big question: does the film have a shot at a Best Picture nomination? Three years ago the field was expanded beyond five entries after an outcry erupted over the academy’s refusal to hail “The Dark Knight” in 2008. Now “The Dark Knight Rises” returns and is a long shot to get it in, but at least there does seem to be room for the occasional blockbuster under the new voting system. High grossers such as “Avatar” (2009) and “Inception” (2010) made the cut. If “Skyfall” continues to build momentum, it might bump “The Dark Knight Rises” or “The Hobbit.”

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Sam Mendes won Best Director for his first film, “American Beauty” (2009), but hasn’t been nominated since. Mendes has been praised for rejuvenating the Bond franchise, adding weight to the story while still fulfilling its genre expectations. However, in such a crowded year, Mendes’ achievement may be overlooked in favor of more serious contenders.

Javier Bardem and Judi Dench both stand a chance at supporting nominations. Both are previous winners in the categories – Bardem for “No Country for Old Men” (2007) and Dench for “Shakespeare in Love” (1998) – and both have juicy roles in the film. Bardem’s chances may be hurt from winning so recently for playing a villain, while Dench’s chances may be helped from by her dual campaign for “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”

Action films rarely receive screenplay nominations, but three-time Oscar nominee John Logan (“Gladiator” in 2000, “The Aviator” in 2004, and “Hugo” in 2011), and co-writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade could find themselves in the mix if support remains strong.

But beware: academy support has not been there in the past. Over the past 50 years, not a single James Bond movie has been nominated for Best Picture, much less for other major awards.

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