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Top 15 Oscar Hopefuls

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SETH MACFARLANE

Contributed by Michelle McCue, Melissa Thompson and Ken Parker.

The Clock is Ticking…tick tock, tick tock Oscar voters. The ballots are due today at 5 p.m. PT so not much can happen now. It’s all up in the air, but we’re definitely rooting for the dark horses. As we begin what’s annually known as Oscar Week, we’ve compiled a list of Oscar hopefuls. Some of our choices are undoubtedly the frontrunners, while others we wanted you to have a second look at.

We kick off the list with Best Song from this year’s Oscar Host and Nominee, Seth MacFarlane. Here’s “Everybody Needs A Best Friend” from TED.

PARANORMAN – Animated Feature Film Nominee

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This is the first nomination for both Sam Fell and Chris Butler. Like Burton and the geniuses at Aardman Animations, this latest production from the studio behind the wonderful CORALINE employs stop-motion animation to provide hand-crafted appeal to the clever and surprisingly scary story of a Massachusetts town whose witch-hunting past catches up with it on its 300th anniversary. PARANORMAN is probably the year’s most visually dazzling movie and the stunning climax centering on an 11-year-old witch is too good to spoil.

LINCOLN – Best Actor Nominee Daniel Day Lewis

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Daniel Day-Lewis is extraordinary as the president, capturing his wit and generosity but also the iron will that made him the country’s greatest hero. Day-Lewis’ voice is thin and reedy, which jibes with historical accounts but subverts our expectations. His attitude makes listeners lean in, and so do we, magnetized by his kindly reserve. LINCOLN provides Daniel Day-Lewis with an opportunity for his latest extraordinary performance, one filled with kindness and strength in equal measure.

This is his fifth nomination in this category. He won Oscars for his performances in My Left Foot (1989) and There Will Be Blood (2007). He was also nominated for his leading roles in In the Name of the Father (1993) and Gangs of New York (2002).

LIFE OF PI – Director Nominee Ang Lee

Netter_PI_1418R - Director Ang Lee on the set of LIFE OF PI

No one ever thought author Yann Martel’s LIFE OF PI could successfully be translated to the big screen… until the Oscar-winning filmmaker masterfully took charge of the material. With Lee’s visionary use of 3D, we are there with Pi and Richard Parker, experiencing these extraordinary and visually stunning moments, immersed like never before in an epic movie adventure interwoven with an emotional and spiritual journey. The film is a triumph.

This is the third nomination in this category for Ang Lee, who won the award for Brokeback Mountain (2005). He received Directing and Best Picture nominations for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and is also nominated for Best Picture this year.

LES MISERABLES – Hair and Makeup Nominees Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell

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Jackman embraced the physical challenges and the changes required of the character as he goes from convict to outcast to mayor over several years. It was decided to shoot the scenes of the convict Valjean at the start of principal photography to allow Jackman to not only lose weight, but also to grow his own beard. “It was important to tell the story that he had been in prison for 19 years,” notes Jackman. “I was surviving on very limited food, but Valjean was also known for his strength, so I was spending three hours in the gym. It was a tough beginning.” So committed was Jackman to the part, for 36 hours before he shot the opening sequences of the film, the performer also decided to go without water. This gave him the hollowness and gauntness befitting a convict of the era.

Hathaway’s dedication to the role was by all accounts extraordinary, and her physical journey, as well as the emotional one, was just as intense as Jackman’s. Not only did she choose to have her own hair cut in the scene where Fantine sells her tresses, the already slim actress lost a great deal of weight to make completely believable Fantine’s physical decline from, and ultimately her death because of, consumption.

“Over the course of five weeks, I lost 25 pounds,” relays Hathaway. “It was very intense and very extreme and to be honest, if I had stopped and really thought about what I was doing, it probably would have felt too hard. I knew that I had an end moment, and all I needed to do was keep my spirits up and keep my focus on that point.

Listen in as nominees Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell describe the process of taking these beautiful actors and turning them into “bloody messes.”

SKYFALL – Cinematography Nominee Roger Deakins

Daniel Craig;Berenice Marlohe

Nominated nine times and winner of the 2013 American Society of Cinematographers award, SKYFALL was Deakins third collaboration with Sam Mendes having worked on Jarhead and Revolutionary Road. To accommodate Deakins’ brilliant lighting there was a lot of thought that went into the juxtaposition between a location environment, such as the Old Vic Tunnels, and sets built on sound stages, including the underground MI6 bunker.

This clip includes Adele’s Oscar nominated song “Skyfall.”

ZERO DARK THIRTY – Editing Nominees Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg

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After photography completed on ZERO DARK THIRTY, Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow headed for the editing room. There she worked with Oscar-nominated editors Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg, poring through the footage to construct the final story – she had shot nearly two million feet of digital footage. “It was a mountain of material,” Bigelow notes, “We could have had a cut more than three hours long. But Billy and Dylan were great at helping me cut it down to size.”

DJANGO UNCHAINED – Supporting Actor Nominee Christoph Waltz

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Golden Globe & BAFTA winner, Waltz plays Dr. King Schultz. Shortly following the release of INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, Tarantino worked feverishly on the screenplay for DJANGO UNCHAINED. Christoph Waltz, an Academy Award-winner for BASTERDS, was present for much of the creative process. “I read the script as it was in the making,” Waltz remembers.

“It unfolded in front of me, more or less. I went up to Quentin’s house and he sat me at his table and put the pages in front of me and then watched me read it. It was a wonderful ritual. I was very touched that he would actually let me participate not in the genesis of the script, but in his train of thought.”

ARGO – Best Picture Nominee

Argo

“It’s thrilling and suspenseful and scary, but it’s also funny and, I hope, entertaining. On a deeper level, it’s about the power of storytelling because for so long this story could not be told. But this is a moment when we can all be proud of what these people did.” – Ben Affleck.

Directors Guild winner, Producers Guild winner, BAFTA winner, Screen Actors Guild winner, ARGO is produced by Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck and George Clooney.

This is the second nomination for Grant Heslov in this category. He received Best Picture and Original Screenplay nominations for Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005) and an Adapted Screenplay nomination for The Ides of March (2011).

This is the first nomination for Ben Affleck in this category. He won an Oscar for the original screenplay for Good Will Hunting (1997).

This is the first nomination for George Clooney in this category. He won an Oscar for his supporting role in Syriana (2005) and was also nominated for his leading roles in Michael Clayton (2007), Up in the Air (2009) and The Descendants (2011). He also received Directing and Original Screenplay nominations for Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005) and an Adapted Screenplay nomination for The Ides of March (2011). With his Best Picture nomination for Argo, George Clooney joins Warren Beatty as the only individuals to have competitive nominations for Best Picture, directing, writing and acting.

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK – Adapted Screenplay Nominee David O. Russell

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I was shown the book by Sidney Pollack who had acquired it with Harvey Weinstein. This was before THE FIGHTER. Although SILVER LININGS was fiction, it was likewise filled with very intense authentic people in a very specific local world the author knew well: emotional homes, people under great pressure, surprising drama, and unintended comedy. I am very drawn to these worlds, I find them fascinating. A certain place, a certain time, certain foods, certain rituals, unlike anything else, yet all the emotions and yearnings for love and respect and livelihood are deeply universal. I found that Bradley Cooper had, as we spoke, so much of the perceptive directness, fierceness, and vulnerability the Pat Solatano character has; and he was very hungry to play an intense unexpected character for him, which is the best timing for a director. Jennifer Lawrence and I had not met, but she knocked me out on her Skyped audition, and Harvey’s “Oh my God” upon viewing expressed his complete agreement. I love romance as much as I love authentic neighborhood worlds; the chemistry of Bradley and Jennifer was palpably combustible as the two very particular people, a gift. In another gift, I was fortunate to find Mr. De Niro with his own strong desire to be authentic in an emotional role of the kind we had discussed over the years that had personal ties for both of us as fathers. The rest of the neighborhood family constellated around the remarkable Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker, Anupam Kher, John Ortiz, Julia Stiles, Shea Whigham, Paulie Herman, and Dash Mihok. At the end of the day I love to peer into the lives of these people trying to overcome what they face, often themselves, in their own particular house on their own particular block, in ways that are heartbreaking and unbearable before somehow they pull through. For now.

-David O. Russell

MOONRISE KINGDOM – Original Screenplay Nominee Wes Anderson

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“What’s universal and relatable about Moonrise Kingdom is that this is a story about first love and a magical summer,” comments producer Jeremy Dawson. “It’s about a young boy and girl (Youngsters Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) who run away to be together. There is a sweetness and charm to this movie, and it’s also funny.

“The title references the cove that the two kids run away to. It has the technical name of Mile 3.25 Tidal Inlet on the map – but for them it’s a secret, magical place, so they re-name it: Moonrise Kingdom.”

Both the technical name and the more meaningful one represent the creative attention to detail that moviegoers have come to expect from a Wes Anderson picture. Anderson collaborated with his fellow filmmaker Roman Coppola in writing the script for Moonrise Kingdom, marking the second time that the two have scripted Anderson’s ideas into the road map of a movie, following The Darjeeling Limited (2007).

Actor Bob Balaban notes that he was struck by how “Wes makes movies according to his own particular sensibilities. His is not just a talented mind; it is an organized and kind one. He makes movies like nobody else, and he’s not trying to do it to be different; he’s doing it because that’s who he is.”

Gilman enthuses, “It’s got action. It’s got comedy. It’s got drama. It’s got romance. It really packs a punch!”

ANNA KARENINA – Costume Design Nominee Jacqueline Durran

Anna Karenina

In her third nomination, as well as collaboration with director Joe Wright and actress Keira Knightley, Oscar nominee Jacqueline Durran rose to the challenge in creating the massive amount of costumes needed for the film. As she did with her work on previous films ATONEMENT and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, the British costume designer breathed richness and elegance into Tolstoy’s tale of tragedy, passion and love.

THE SESSIONS – Supporting Actress Nominee Helen Hunt

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This is Hunt’s second nomination and the first in this category. She won an Oscar for her leading role in As Good as It Gets (1997).

Of his rapport with his co-star, actor John Hawkes remarked, “She was very daring to accept the role in the first place and then she just stepped up and embodied it, physically and emotionally.”

THE GATEKEEPERS – Documentary Nominee

the gatekeepers

For the first time ever, six former heads of Israel’s domestic secret service agency, the Shin Bet, share their insights and reflect publicly on their actions and decisions. Since the Six Day War in 1967, Israel has failed to transform its crushing military victory into a lasting peace. Throughout that entire period, these heads of the Shin Bet stood at the center of Israel’s decision-making process in all matters pertaining to security. They worked closely with every Israeli prime minister, and their assessments and insights had—and continue to have—a profound impact on Israeli policy.

THE GATEKEEPERS offers an exclusive account of the sum of their successes and failures. In the process it sheds light on the controversy surrounding the Occupation in the aftermath of the Six Day War.

Director Dror Moreh adds, “I was startled but thrilled when six former heads of the Shin Bet (“The Gatekeepers”) agreed to discuss their careers openly on camera for the very first time. This gave me a unique and intimate opportunity to enter the inner sanctum of Israel’s security decisionmakers for almost half a century. Numerous times during the making of this film, I found myself overwhelmed by their stories and testimonies. I kept asking myself how far I would have gone when confronting the same life or death dilemmas. I still do.”

AMOUR – Foreign Language Nominee

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In his review of director Michael Haneke’s film, Jim Batts wrote, “AMOUR is a truthful examination of the part of love that’s not the subject of countless ballads and pop tunes. It’s emotionally brutal and unforgettable. Tough to watch, but it’s a subject which will touch every viewer.”

From Austria, AMOUR is the fifth film to be nominated for both Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film. The others were Z, which won the Foreign Language Film award in 1969; The Emigrants, a Foreign Language Film nominee in 1971 and a Best Picture nominee in 1972; Life Is Beautiful, which won the Foreign Language Film award in 1998; and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the Foreign Language Film winner in 2000.

In addition, the film’s co-star, Emmanuelle Riva, becomes the oldest Best Actress nominee at 85 years old.

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD – Best Actress Nominee Quvenzhané Wallis

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With her first nomination, Nine-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis becomes the youngest Best Actress nominee. The youngest acting nominee overall is Justin Henry, who was eight years old when he received a Supporting Actor nomination for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979). No one will ever forget this fearless little five-year-old saying,”Once there was a Hush puppy and she lived with her Daddy in the Bathtub.”

Honorable Mention – MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS – Visual Effects Nominees Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick

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For the visual effects nominess to pull off the destruction of a New York City street, special effects supervisor Dan Sudick involved precision pyrotechnics and well-timed car gags so that the production’s stunt people could safely maneuver through the explosions and flipping cars. To pull off the large pyrotechnic event, Sudick and his team rigged 28 explosions, which went off in a wave fashion down the street to simulate an air attack. The sequence also included setting up 14 cars down the middle of the street, which included ‘cannon cars,’ ‘flipper cars,’ ‘pyro’ cars as well as a big semi truck that exploded. Sudick and his team pulled off the impressive sequence without a hitch and even though it was shot on East 9th Street in downtown Cleveland, it still made the cover of the New York Post with the headline: “Save us, Thor!”

So now that you’ve seen our list,  here’s how things stand from our point of view.

For Best Actor, the sure bet is Daniel Day-Lewis, but Hugh Jackman has been everywhere. BAFTAs were Sunday, February 10th and Hugh was all over the red carpet. He was on The Tonight Show right after the Oscar Nominees Luncheon trying to promote Movie 43, but all Jackman and Leno could talk about was LES MISERABLES. Jackman could definitely finish with the statuette in hand and here’s why. Hollywood loves him and voters would relish in being a part of awarding him his first Oscar. Day-Lewis has 2 already. Even with his Screen Actor Guild and BAFTA wins, are Academy voters ready to put him in the small group (4) that has won 3 acting Oscars? (Katherine Hepburn has won 4).

In the Best Picture race, ARGO has the momentum…and the pity votes for Affleck. Winning best picture would more than make up for the snub in Best Director category. We like Affleck and his films, but it just feels like there’s an underlying agenda…oh let’s make a movie about Hollywood inside stuff so we’ll win awards. They can deny it all they want, but they’re betting on the industry’s ego. Hollywood loves to pat itself on the back.

But don’t count out Les Miz just yet. The screen adaptation of the record-breaking musical plays mostly to the older Academy voting crowd who go to the theater and love Les Miz. Having already been shut out of the other big awards this season, Les Miz is truly a long-shot. But so was Braveheart. It also had no momentum and was released in May – nowhere near awards season. Whichever film wins, the votes for it won’t be by much as this year will be nail-biter down to the very end.

Best Director will be Steven Spielberg. With Affleck not in play, they’ve clearly stacked the deck in his favor for the win. And if Jackman and Les Miz edge out Day-Lewis and Lincoln, at least Lincoln won’t go home empty handed.

LINCOLN

And while we’re wishing for things, how about one more.

With the James Bond salute and the possibility of all the actors who’ve embodied the role of 007 coming on the stage, we’ve wondered why Shirley Bassey was given the single honor of performing alone at the ceremony. Why not have all the performing artists in a medley of the songs, Bassey included… with her handing over the Bond baton to Adele as she goes into her previously announced performance of her Oscar nominated SKYFALL. Goldfinger is iconic Bond to be sure, but having Duran Duran, Sheena Easton and Paul McCartney walk on stage – in a Big Hollywood surprise – would’ve been water cooler talk for weeks.

Just the thought of Bassey passing the mic to Adele would’ve reduced us to sobbing.

“We are thrilled to welcome the legendary Dame Shirley Bassey to our Oscar show,” said Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. “Her association with film music is world renowned and we are proud that she will be making her first Oscar appearance on our telecast.”

If Bassey’s solo performance is ultimately the plan for the telecast, we’re hoping show director Don Mischer doesn’t plan for too many shots of the audience – they’ll look like they’ve just had a shot of novocaine. You’ll already have the seniors wondering who Seth MacFarlane is and the below 30 crowd won’t know Shirley Bassey.

But seeing as the Geeks are big Oscar fans, the Academy has invited us into the pressroom on Sunday where we’ll bring you all the results and reactions firsthand.

Watch the 85th Academy Awards on Oscar Sunday, February 24th on ABC. Download the new app at oscar.com.

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