The following are the official HE guesstimates of the Ten Likeliest 2012 Best Picture Nominees, favored in front and less favored in the rear. Along with some very loosely-spitballed reasons why:
Bill Murray as Franklin D. Roosevelt in Roger Michell’s Hyde Park on Hudson
Lincoln (mid to late December), d: Steven Spielberg, cast: Daniel Day Lewis, Sally Field, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tommy Lee Jones. Why: The usual Spielberg-kowtow instinct (i.e., to show obeisance before power) plus the impact of Daniel Day Lewis‘s lead performance plus the instinct to show respect and allegiance for the legend of Abraham Lincoln. Classic historical chops. Will Spielberg try to hold back on his usual instincts? He may, I think, because of the Lewis influence.
The Master, d: Paul Thomas Anderson; cast: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Laura Dern. Why: This project has felt chilly from the get-go, but if it’s halfway focused and well-shaped it’ll offer a chance for Hollywood to deliver a big “eff you” to Scientology, which, we’ve all been told, The Master is absolutely not about. Plus it’s hard to imagine Hoffman’s L. Ron…sorry, charismatic leader performance not emerging as a Best Actor standout.
The Great Gatsby (12.25), d: Baz Luhrman, cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, Carey Mulligan, Isla Fisher. Why: The usual instinct to honor an adaptation of a classic novel. As long as Luhrman doesn’t screw it up, that is, by going all crazy and wackjobby like he did on Australia.
The Silver Linings Playbook (11.21), d: David O. Russell, cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker, Julia Stiles. Why: No clue, but Russell always delivers so I’m guessing/presuming here.
Gravity (11.21), d: Alfonso Cuaron; cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney. Why: The technical audacity of this film, described by Clooney as sort of 2001-ish, will attract respect and huzzahs.
Cloud Atlas, d: Wachowski Bros., Tom Tykwer; cast: Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Hugh Grant, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Ben Whishaw. Why: You have to figure that anything the Wachowskis have their hands on (especially with Tykwer co-directing) will not be seen as “an Academy film”, but Cloud‘s narrative scheme is so dense and ambitious hat it might push through as a Best Picture favorite.
Les Miserables (12.7), d: Tom Hooper, cast: Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway. Why: Classic musical in grand sweeping historical tradition plus direction by Hooper (The King’s Speech) plus Crowe, Jackman, etc. And Hathaway finally sings.
Untitled David Chase ’60s “Music-Driven” Film (11.19), d: David Chase, cast: James Gandolfini, Brad Garrett, Bella Heathcote, Christopher McDonald. Why: Because every Best Picture tally needs a smaller, more granular film that reflects or honors some cherished period of the past. In this instance it’s the ’60s — an easy boomer pocket-drop.
Untitled Kathryn Bigelow Osama bin Laden Film (12.14). Why: This may just be a good, solid action film without any Oscar play, but respect will initially be paid to the director of the Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker. To some pic may provide or represent a form of 9/11 closure.
Hyde Park on Hudson, d: Roger Michell, cast: Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Olivia Williams. Why: Michell is a classy, proficient director of midsize dramas and light comedies, and the plot — centered around the weekend in 1939 when the King and Queen of the United Kingdom visited upstate New York, and focusing in particular on love affair between FDR and his distant cousin Margaret Stuckley — suggests a King Speech-y vibe. But how will Murray fare with FDR?