As summer comes to an end and award season braces for the triple threat of the Venice, Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals, this pundit must once again put his reputation on the line with my annual Oscar in August predictions. This hit or miss list began in 2005 while I was writing the Hollywood Hitlist for MSN. This is the sixth edition and let's just say this prognosticator's soothsaying skills are improving with age.
There are a lot of obvious picks, but let's be honest, it's ludicrous to call winners at this point. Sure, Mo'Nique was a massive frontrunner even this far out a year ago for "Precious," but who knew that certain members of the media would start to campaign against her? Or, "Avatar" sure seemed like it was going to upset increasing favorite "The Hurt Locker" after critical and box office pandemonium hit Hollywood through the Christmas holidays, but the Academy had second thoughts only a few months later. Still, it's an Oscar watcher's duty to fall flat on their face every now and again, but moreover, be correct a good deal of the time. Let's revisit this list in February shall we?
Roadside is the new Apparition.
Last year, newcomer Apparition made waves during awards season with their prestige pics "Bright Star" and "Young Victoria." The company has lost much of its luster after co-head Bob Berney departed this spring, but not surprisingly, another distributor is filling the void. Roadside Attractions has been around for quite awhile, but this year will be a significant player with Sundance Grand Jury winner "Winter's Bone," "Biutiful" with Javier Bardem and the long-delayed "I Love You Phillip Morris."
Prediction: Roadside will land at least one Oscar nod for either "Winter's Bone" or "Biutiful."
The Weinstein Company is back in the Oscar game.
After loosing out on a chance to reclaim their former Miramax digs and some over-hyped results for "Piranha 3D," Harvey is back in full force for awards season. The longtime Academy player has two major contenders: "The King's Speech" with Colin Firth, John Wells' underrated "The Company Men" and "Miral."
Prediction: The Weinstein Company stays in the game, but doesn't match last year's Oscar nod total.
One of the year's most competitive categories might just be visual effects.
It helps that there a new rule allowing five nominees in the category, but without an "Avatar," "Lord of the Rings" or "Benjamin Button" in the mix, this is one of the closest races in some time.
Prediction: "Inception," "Tron Legacy" and "Iron Man 2" are locks for visual effects nominations.
Leonardo DiCaprio is screwed.
Perhaps its because he appears to be playing the same moody, upset character again and again, but DiCaprio seems further away than ever from winning an Academy Award. Considering the talent he displayed with his first nod in 1993 for "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," that's something of a shocker 17 years later. Perhaps a comedy might mix things up? At this point, we'll put our money on Brad Pitt to win Oscar gold before DiCaprio ever does.
Prediction: Leonardo DiCaprio will not benefit from the critical acclaim of "Inception" and finds himself without his fourth Oscar nomination.
"How Do You Know" is this year's "It's Complicated."
Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson and Reese Witherspoon are talented actors, but James L. Brooks' latest dramedy appears to be just another false-awards contender in the making. Universal and the filmmakers behind "It's Complicated" played this game last year and used it to their advantage publicity wise. "Know" could do the same with the Globes, but not much else.
Prediction: James L. Brooks doesn't rekindle the magic that has deserted him since "Broadcast News" and is out of the awards game with "How Do You Know."
"Toy Story 3" will nag a best picture nomination and, duh, win best animated picture.
This pundit is one of the few who just feels the increasingly predictable Pixar formula all over the third "Toy Story" installment, but $1 billion worldwide and rave reviews will be handsomely rewarded.
Prediction: Not only will "Toy Story 3" win best animated picture, but it will be nominated in the traditional best picture category as well.
Venice and Toronto will provide another late surprise.
Two years ago, Searchlight picked up "The Wrestler" after Venice and quickly rode adoration for Mickey Rourke's performance to solid box office and a Best Actor nod. Last year, Sony Classics acquired "The Last Station" after Telluride and was rewarded with Oscar nods for both Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer. This year there are a number of contenders salivating in the wings for distribution. Robert Redford's "The Conspirator"? Mickey Rourke, Bill Murray and Megan Fox in "Passion Play"? "Henry's Crime" with Keanu Reeves and Vera Farminga? John Cameron Mitchell's "Rabbit Hole" with Nicole Kidman? We'll know much more in less than two weeks.
Prediction: One film will be picked up at either Venice, Toronto or Telluride and land at least one Oscar nomination this year (not so vague when you think about it, really).
Annette Bening could be this year's Jeff Bridges.
Sadly, there is a growing list of actresses past 50 that have been nominated more than two times and never won an Academy Award. Some of the names include Sigourney Weaver, Glenn Close, Michelle Pfeiffer, Debra Winger and Joan Allen. One of those ladies, three-time nominee Annette Bening, will get another shot this year.
Prediction: Bening will be nominated for Best Actress for "The Kids Are All Right." Will she win? Well...
There are three best picture nominee no brainers.
Unless a filmmaker/producer or actor associated with three films commit some heinous act (and there's certainly time), only seven slots are left open at the moment for every other studio to fight over.
Prediction: "Inception," "The Social Network" and, as previously mentioned, "Toy Story 3" are in.
Do you agree or disagree with predictions above? Share your thoughts below.
For the latest entertainment commentary and breaking news year round, follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter @HitFixGregory .
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