Oscar buzz is a funny customized thing. For some films it simmers continually, sauteeing the film until it's golden. Other films ride choppy waves feeling alternately like very big deals, empty threats or troubled half successes. More often than not, especially for the small film without marquee names, the buzz tends to be intermittent, giving off staccato sparks fueled only by those traditional pit stops on the road to Oscar: festival premiere, early reviews, trailer, actual release, precursor trophies. It's this track that An Education, the story of a teenage girl eager to begin her adult life in 60s London, will obviously be working since its star, Carey Mulligan, is currently "unknown" in the larger sense (but probably won't be by the end of the year).
One gets the sense that people will keep forgetting about this movie, or shoving it to the minor buzz side as each of the Baity behemoths arrive with massive P&A budgets and traditional Oscar names fueling their hype. After reading reviews and watching this comprehensive trailer (I'm guessing they're giving the film away but, given its genre, the experience will all be in the nuances of the telling which you can't get until you're in the theater anyway) I'd say it's best not to underestimate it.
Picture (yes) Director (maybe) Adapted Screenplay (of course) Actress (duh) Supporting Actor (Alfred Molina, yes), Supporting Actress (hmmm). Some people love Rosamund Pike in the movie but there's also the perennial joy that is Emma Thompson is what looks like an ace bit part (bit parts do the trick every so often). Mulligan's mom is played by the underappreciated Cara Seymour, whose face is exceedingly familiar to moviegoers who seek out interesting films, even if her name isn't. Her filmography is damn impressive: American Psycho, Dancer in the Dark, Adaptation, Gangs of New York, Birth, Hotel Rwanda, The Savages, etc...
About Peter Sarsgaard's Oscar chances as the charming rake who beds the high school girl? I REFUSE TO DISCUSS IT. I've become paranoia that my love for Sarsgaard has been a jinx upon his Oscarability. It's not OK to live in a world where his Shattered Glass performance didn't register with film industry professionals as one of the year's best. Six years on and that one still aggravates [note to self: blog fodder, 'ten worst snubs of the decade']. What on earth does Hollywood have against the Sarsgaards, anyway? His wife also can't get arrested by the Academy despite being one of the best and the most electric actresses in the world.