With late-arriving prestige pictures “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” (Stephen Daldry!) and “War Horse” (sentimental Steven Spielberg!) and the looming shadow of Oscar magnet Meryl Streep playing England’s “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher, the award season, at its outset, sported an air of uncertainty all but absent from last year’s front-loaded race.
Or it did, until right about the time we handed out candy to a kid dressed up like J. Edgar Hoover (the angry old guy version) and realized that, yes, some spots continue to be up for grabs, but in terms of who’ll get the nominations, the major races have already narrowed into focus. The good news: Outside of maybe “The Help’s” Viola Davis for lead actress, there’s plenty of jockeying to be done before an actual winner can be pegged.
As the season progresses, the Gold Standard column will handicap the current state of the key award races in The Envelope and at 24 Frames — ranking them by likelihood of a nomination — and will update often as the holdout contenders screen and events transpire (George Clooney rescued a dog from a burning house? Really?) that change the course of the various races. Let’s dig in, shall we?
1. “The Artist”
2. “The Descendants”
3. “The Help”
4. “Midnight in Paris”
5. “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”
6. “War Horse”
8. “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
9. “The Tree of Life”
10. “J. Edgar”
Bubbling under: “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” “Hugo,” “Young Adult,” “Shame,” “The Ides of March,” “The Iron Lady,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2”
For your consideration: “50/50.” We realize that academy members don’t like to vote for comedies here. But we also know they love movies featuring a potentially life-threatening illness. “50/50” combines both in a rule-breaking manner that pivots between gravity and hilarity with seamless ease.
Analysis: We probably won’t have 10 nominees again. But eight seems likely. We’ve seen late-season “sure things” crash and burn every year (“Up in the Air,” “The Social Network”), so we’re going to hold off going all in on “War Horse” and “Extremely Loud.” But the top four? Voters love them truly, madly, deeply.
Photo: Young Thomas Horn with Tom Hanks in "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close." Credit: Francois Duhamel/Warner Bros.