It's mid-December, and everybody's a winner, what with critics' prizes and best-ofs and award nominations being announced seemingly around the clock. Has any of this changed the best picture race? And how are the documentary and foreign-language categories shaping up? Let's take a look.
"Saving Mr. Banks"
"Inside Llewyn Davis"
Bubbling under: "Lee Daniels' The Butler," "Blue Jasmine," "August: Osage County," "Fruitvale Station," "Dallas Buyers Club," "All Is Lost," "Prisoners," "Enough Said"
Analysis: Golden Globes! SAG! L.A. Film Critics! Southwestern Indiana Film Lovers United! Every day brings a new round of nominees and winners and, as academy voters prepare to go into hibernation for the holidays, perhaps a small shuffling amid the stacks of DVD screeners. The sheer number of excellent contenders this year makes any kind of consensus impossible. As long as studios have some kind of victory to trumpet, a movie can remain in the conversation, which is why even a win from a nebulous group like the National Board of Review (to quote Paul Newman's Butch Cassidy: "Who are those guys?") can be meaningful.
"12 Years a Slave" remains the front-runner and will likely lead the field with the most nominations when the academy makes its announcement next month. Scoring three acting nods — Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong'o — will give it solid footing with the actors' branch, easily the largest bloc of voters. "Gravity" will have only Sandra Bullock in that fold, and "American Hustle," even with its standout cast, can solidly count only on Jennifer Lawrence to secure a nomination. (Amy Adams and Christian Bale face tougher challenges in the lead categories, while Bradley Cooper has a decent chance for supporting actor.)
Of course, movies can score a double-digit number of nominations and still not win anything. It happens all the time; just ask the Coens ("True Grit"), Steven Spielberg ("The Color Purple") or Martin Scorsese ("The Gangs of New York"). It's difficult to see that happening this year, though, and not just because "12 Years" is a great movie. (Though it is.) Unlike their counterparts in the television academy, Oscar voters believe in making statements. And to shut out a movie that offers a clear-eyed history lesson never before seen in film would be the wrong kind of statement, particularly after three consecutive years of honoring lighter fare. The pendulum has to swing sometime, doesn't it? Doesn't it?