Academy voters don't particularly like to reward comedies, but they are nuts about movies spotlighting characters battling their not-so-beautiful minds. How will that dichotomy affect David O. Russell's exuberant "Silver Linings Playbook," which deals with the relationship between a bipolar man and his despairing neighbor? Time to check in with the Oscar 8-Ball, that magical portal into the minds and hearts and, in the rare applicable instance, the souls of academy members and how they'll be voting this awards season.
It is certain: "Silver Linings" established its Oscar momentum at the Toronto Film Festival, winning the Audience Award and an enormous amount of goodwill from journalists who couldn't resist its charms or its stars. That the movie succeeded shouldn't have surprised because writer-director Russell has proved himself to be almost unequaled in his ability to integrate comedy into deeply serious subjects. More likely, it was the revelatory work of its leads -- Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, playing the film's lost-soul lovers -- that turned heads. Lawrence displayed a comic brio never before glimpsed, as well as expertly conveying her character's aching fragility. Cooper, meanwhile, put across a range of conflicting impulses and emotions. A best picture nomination seems assured, as is Lawrence's second lead actress nod.
Cooper's path to the final circle will prove more challenging. Putting Daniel Day-Lewis and Denzel Washington in, four actors -- Cooper, John Hawkes, Joaquin Phoenix and Hugh Jackman -- are vying for the category's final three slots.
You may rely on it: Continuing the welcome career revival that began with "The Fighter," Russell seems likely this year to at least win his first screenplay nod for his work adapting Matthew Quick's novel. And, playing Cooper's angry, loving dad, Robert De Niro will receive his first Oscar nod in 20 years. Welcome back, Bobby D.
Signs point to yes: Russell should win his second nom for directing, but the category is jam-packed with previous winners and nominees. Some deserving director will be shut out. Depending on the number of movies vying in the best picture category, editor Jay Cassidy could well receive his second nomination for the artful way he helped keep the movie's ins and outs and what-have-yous seamlessly meshed together.
Don't count on it: Jacki Weaver won an Oscar nod two years ago as the crime matriarch in "Animal Kingdom." The Aussie actress showed a sweeter maternal side here, but doesn't have enough key moments to return to the supporting actress category.