I don't need a calendar. I know it's October when visions of Oscar possibilities start dancing endlessly in my head. So, I wanted to throw out a couple of discussables. These are only partially formed thoughts (help me to mold them in the comments)
Could Winslet be snubbed altogether?
I know that's a terribly rude question to ask just two days after the glorious Winsletation but the Actress competition is heated this year. One of the best things about her Little Children performance, as a young mother who resents mothering at all, is that she doesn't pull any punches --she does justice to a troubled character. Academy voters sometimes back away from difficult characters but they do love Kate Winslet. She isn't snubbed often. Holy Smoke!, Jude and Quills are the only real "coulda beens" and, among those, only Quills was a snub in the traditional sense: it had awards traction and the voters did nominate it elsewhere.
Streep, Bening, Mirren, Dench, Kidman, Zellwegger, Weaver and Blanchett are all, like Winslet, respected recurrent nominees. That's a lot of "preferred women" in one year, mucho bait for Academy voters. And that's before factoring in the younger hungrier crop waiting for their first shortlisting (Gyllenhaal, Cruz, Judd, Dunst, Miller, etc...) This could get crazy. And it could get crazy depressing.
Will The Queen be a Best Pic nominee?
I need to see it again but the audience I saw it with was completely into it. The response felt similar to the opening night show of The Devil Wears Prada. You know exiting the theater that the word of mouth will take the film far. The unexpected humor in The Queen could prove a major asset. There's not much funny ha-ha in the race this year (I think Little Miss Sunshine stops at screenplay and an acting nod or two) and dramas with strong laughs could benefit from sneaky levity.
And while we're on the subject of The Queen...
Why does the media love a sure thing?
This has always puzzled me. Wouldn't a competitive race garner more eyeballs? The Brokeback vs. Crash business last year (not to open old wounds) certainly got people talking, clicking, and reading. But that seemed to me at least to be an anomaly. Usually the media prefers a stampeding frontrunner, loves to crown someone and hammer home the point over and over until the awards bodies follow suit. Everyone falls in line with the same opinion.
I bring this up because it's already easy to imagine this happening with Helen Mirren this year. But, however great Mirren is, this is B-O-R-I-N-G... especially in a 'great year for actresses.' To me the 2003 race was the apotheosis of this problem. All four acting leaders just kept winning and it became a snoozefest. Penn, Theron, Robbins, Zellweger for three months. There was perhaps an (imagined?) three-way race for Best Actor at the last minute that year but it came too little too late to disrupt the inevitable. Why do people like things predictable?