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George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio in tight Oscar race

November 17, 2011 |  2:46 pm

George Clooney and Shailene Woodley in The Descendants
George Clooney seems to be solidly holding on to a lead actor Oscar nomination slot (and is the leading candidate for the win at the moment). But "The Artist's" Jean Dujardin, a leading French actor, is climbing in popularity as well. And with Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Gary Oldman still in the race, anything can happen.

As the movie awards season progresses, the Gold Standard column will handicap the current state of the races in The Envelope and at 24 Frames — ranking them by likelihood of a nomination. Check back often for updates.

1. George Clooney, “The Descendants”
2. Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
3. Leonardo DiCaprio, “J. Edgar”
4. Brad Pitt, “Moneyball”
5. Gary Oldman, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
6. Michael Fassbender, “Shame”
7. Woody Harrelson, “Rampart”
8. Ryan Gosling, “The Ides of March”
9. Michael Shannon, “Take Shelter”
10. Paul Giamatti, “Win Win”

Bubbling under: Matt Damon, “We Bought a Zoo”; Daniel Craig, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”; Jeremy Irvine, “War Horse”; Joseph Gordon-Levitt, “50/50”; Demián Bichir, "A Better Life".

For your consideration: Michael Shannon, “Take Shelter.” A movie that should go to the top of every screener pile for a dozen different reasons, including Shannon’s subtle, empathetic portrait of a haunted man consumed by apocalyptic visions and desperate to protect his family -- from the coming storm and from himself.

Analysis: DiCaprio’s work is so good that he actually makes you forget the geezer makeup -- no small feat. Reaction to the film itself is mixed, but nobody loved Eastwood’s “Invictus,” either, and Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon won noms. Still, the movie’s ashtray-tinted history lesson does feel a little blah when compared to full-frontal Fassbender. Might he sneak through the ... (wait, why does every metaphor feel vaguely dirty when connected to "Shame"?).

Harrelson and Shannon made the rounds in Los Angeles last weekend, with Woody working his charm at post-screening Q&As for SAG and BAFTA members. Some voters who have seen Harrelson’s violent cop character study express more admiration for the performance than the film itself. (“He’s insane in it,” one film academy member told me. “But the movie comes up a bit short on story.”)

Oldman’s “Tinker Tailor” might have the opposite problem. The Cold War espionage film already has a reputation for being so relentlessly complex that it has left a few voters feeling intimidated. (“You mean I have to really concentrate for 130 minutes?” one academy member sarcastically groused. “Can’t I watch ‘The Artist’ again?”)

The never-nominated Oldman has pried himself loose from filming “The Dark Knight Rises” and will be in town Tuesday for a SAG nomination committee screening. He’ll be feted at the Gotham Awards the following week, raising a profile that, to this point, has been as understated as his “Tinker Tailor” spy.


The Gold Standard: Predicting the best picture race

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Gold Standard: Predicting the best director Oscar nominees

-- Glenn Whipp

Photo: George Clooney and Shailene Woodley in "The Descendants." Credit: New York Film Festival

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