“Midnight in Paris” climbed, “War Horse” slipped and “Extremely Loud” and “The Tree of Life” disappeared
"Midnight in Paris" showed unexpected strength. "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" overcame a late start to make a case for itself. And "War Horse" and "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" don't exactly look like potential Oscar juggernauts anymore.
Those are some of the lessons to be learned from the four major Hollywood guilds, which have all released their nominations in the past month.
The Screen Actors Guild announced its choices in mid-December, while the Producers Guild and Writers Guild announced last week, and the Directors Guild on Monday.
With the four guilds all having some overlap in their membership with the Academy, the results can be sifted for a few clues as to which direction Oscar voters may go.
Biggest winners: "The Descendants," "Midnight in Paris" and "The Artist"
Two films were nominated for top honors by the DGA, PGA and WGA, along with a SAG ensemble nod: "The Descendants" and "Midnight in Paris."
The former film has been an awards favorite since it debuted at Telluride and Toronto, despite murmurs that the deft blend of comedy and drama might feel too subtle and slight for Academy voters. But it swept the guilds to secure its position as one of the top two or three contenders.
"Midnight in Paris," meanwhile, showed unexpected strength in not only scoring expected nods from the PGA and WGA, but also landing a SAG ensemble nomination and Woody Allen's first DGA nomination in 22 years.
And you might as well put "The Artist" in this unanimous camp as well, since its failure to secure a WGA nomination was certainly due to the fact that it wasn't eligible for a WGA nomination.
Three out of four ain't bad: "Bridesmaids," "Hugo," "The Help" and "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."
Let's face it – for "Bridesmaids," a raunchy R-rated comedy released in the summer, PGA, WGA and SAG nominations are better than not bad – they're borderline miraculous.
"The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" got a big boost from the guilds as well, overcoming a late release and an absence from many critics list to score with the PGA, the WGA and, most surprisingly, the DGA. The latter nomination might be a clue that the film is this year's "True Grit," which came out at the end of the year, scored a surprise nod from the directors and went on to receive 10 Oscar nominations.
(David Fincher might want to overlook the fact that it then went 0-for-10.)
As for "Hugo" and "The Help," both seem fairly secure in their Oscar chances – particularly the former, with Scorsese's DGA nomination reinforcing that his film is in the top five.
Hanging in there: "Moneyball," "The Ides of March"
The former is more of a critics' favorite, and its recognition by the producers and writers certainly kept it in the conversation.
The latter had seemingly slid off the awards radar until it showed up on the PGA list, giving it a boost that wasn't extended by later guilds.
Sliding: "War Horse"
Steven Spielberg's World War I drama looked like the stuff that Oscar dreams are made of – but maybe those are Oscar dreams from decades gone by, because the resolutely old-fashioned film landed a PGA nod but was ignored by the writers, directors and actors.
The film is still a likely Oscar nominee, but it would no longer seem as much of a surprise if Spielberg himself was overlooked by the Academy's Directors Branch.
Congrats on the WGA nomination, but don't get too excited just yet: "Young Adult," "Win Win," "50/50"
The blackly funny but uncompromising "Young Adult," the indie favorite "Win Win" and the touching commercial comedy "50/50" all scored with the Writers Guild – and none can be ruled out at the Oscars, where the Writers Branch traditionally makes a couple of nervy choices.
Still, their WGA noms should be considered in light of the fact that guild rules disqualified many of the films they'll be competing against for Oscar votes, including "The Artist," "Shame," "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," "Beginners" and many others.
Made too soon, released too late: "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"
Stephen Daldry's drama about 9/11 has stirred up controversy for its subject matter, and divided viewers: some have been deeply moved, while others felt manipulated.
It was the last of the contenders to start screening, which it did after the deadline for some critics' groups. And now it has been overlooked by all the major guilds as well.
Too arty, apparently: "The Tree of Life," "Drive"
The critics love Terrence Malick's bold, non-linear film and Nicolas Winding Refn's taut L.A. noir. The guilds don't.
It's possible the Academy's Best Picture system, which rewards love-it-or-hate-it movies, will still work to the advantage of one or both of these films. But even the one I once thought of as a sure thing ("Tree of Life") is looking more and more like a longshot.
And a final editorial comment
Hey, Oscar voters: There are lots of really good movies that the guilds have overlooked, starting with "The Tree of Life" and "Drive" and also including "Shame," "Beginners," "Warrior" and "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" (some of which did receive individual acting nominations).
You've got a few more days before ballots are due. Check 'em out.