Hollywood will rise early Tuesday morning: At 5:30 am PST, the 2012 Oscar nominations will be announced by Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence (a previous Best Actress nominee for Winter's Bone) and Academy President Tom Sherak. With A-listers George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Meryl Streep all in contention and buzzy films like The Artist and The Descendants expected to duke it out for the most nods, here are five burning questions leading up to the big reveal:
1. How many Best Picture nominees will there be?
Anywhere between five and 10 movies will qualify, thanks to this year's new, complicated nominating system: A film needs to be ranked number one on the ballots of at least five percent of voters to be nominated. That means, says Tom O'Neil at Goldderby, that The Artist, The Descendants, The Help, Hugo, and Midnight in Paris are "virtually guaranteed of noms." Six other films could feasibly earn a slot, O'Neil predicts: Moneyball, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Tree of Life, Bridesmaids, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and War Horse. Despite all the "hype surrounding the Academy's new rules," says Dave Karger at Entertainment Weekly, I think there will only be five Best Picture nominees after all. Yet "seven likely nominees is the number everyone in town has repeated to each other in hopes that it's at least that, says Gregory Ellwood at HitFix, who pegs Moneyball and Bridesmaids to join the five "sure things."
2. Which film will receive the most nods?
"Over the past 20 years, the movie with the most bids has won Best Picture 15 times," says O'Neil. The Artist and The Descendants are "undoubtedly the two favorites" to reap the most nominations, says Ben Skipper at Yahoo. Roger Ebert at The Chicago Sun-Times puts his money on The Artist, noting effusively that it is "so doggoned much fun."
3. Will the polarizing Tree of Life be shut out?
Don't count out Terrence Malick's hugely divisive Tree of Life just because it was snubbed completely by the Golden Globes and several other major awards groups, says Michael Rechtshaffen at the Toronto Sun. It still has enough passionate supporters to earn a nom in many top races, including Best Picture. A possible parallel: Last year, the Coen Brothers' True Grit was "completely locked out" by the Globes, but "went on to receive a whopping 10 nominations." I wouldn't be surprised, says Guy Lodge at HitFix, if Brad Pitt lands "a surprise second nod for Best Supporting Actor" for Tree of Life, on top of his inevitable Best Actor nomination for Moneyball.
4. Could Bridesmaids really be nominated for Best Picture?
It may once have seemed implausible that the summer's raunchy R-rated comedy could be an Oscar nominee for Best Picture, but the film's awards season momentum for Bridesmaids has "been steadily climbing for weeks," says Bruce Kirkland at The Toronto Sun. It's this year's "standard-bearer for non-art films," says Jim Slotek at The Toronto Sun. This could be "the year that broad comedy crashes the party." In any case, says Karger. The "industry affection for Bridesmaids" ensures nods for scene-stealer Melissa McCarthy in Best Supporting Actress and writers Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig in Best Original Screenplay.
5. Will Ryan Gosling surprise?
After a banner year, Ryan Gosling deserves Oscar recognition for delivering a trifecta of brilliant turns in Drive, The Ides of March, and Crazy, Stupid, Love, says Skipper. His best chance is a Best Actor nod for "out-acting his veteran co-stars in The Ides of March." The growing "lack of enthusiasm" for Leonardo DiCaprio's performance in J. Edgar could pave the way for Gosling to sneak into a race that's had the same five contenders (Clooney, DiCaprio, Pitt, Shame's Michael Fassbender, and The Artist's Jean Dujardin) nearly all season, says Moira MacDonald at The Seattle Times. Unfortunately, Gosling may be splitting the vote and "canceling himself out between The Ides of March and Drive."