From the buzz, it looks like Frost/Nixon is in a much better position to scoop up the bigger awards, though it seems like Meryl Streep, who stars in Doubt, will probably get nominated for Best Actress (stop me if you've heard this before).
FROST / NIXON is functional, and probably could not have been anything less given the source material. howard makes no strides to elevate it or take full advantage of the cinema's unique narrative offerings, and the whole thing is entirely forgettable. 2 acting nods all but guaranteed, with pic, director, and screenplay likely in the bag as well.As usual, I haven't seen these movies (I'm POOR!!!). But a word of caution regarding Doubt, which I took of notice of as soon as I learned they were making a movie version: John Patrick Shanley himself directed it. Shanley is a brilliant playwright - a BRILLIANT playwright - but that's just it: he's a playwright. His only other foray into film direction was Joe Versus the Volcano.
DOUBT is a sliver of what it could have been. busts out of the gate strong but never finds any true footing. the last scene is a real deal-breaker. most likely to be the token film extolled for its performances but omitted from the big 3 categories. and the academy's presentation order be damned, the screenplay awards far outweigh the actor / actress categories as far as importance in my estimation.
This is not to say that this film was doomed from the start, but stage-to-screen adaptations are tricky enough, and in my opinion it's generally better to have a more experienced movie-maker at the helm. Just look at what's happened to some recent musicals that have made the jump to the big screen (Mamma Mia, The Producers). Yes, those are musicals, but the same criteria applies.
For the record, Dave Karger has Frost/Nixon third and Doubt fifth on his list of the top eight Best Picture contenders, which strikes me as about correct, except I think it's weird to have Doubt listed above The Dark Knight (#7). I do not get the feeling that Sister Aloysius has a better chance than Batman at Best Picture.
Karger is spot-on, however, in his analysis of Frost/Nixon's best bets:
Best PictureSo you wait long enough and Richard Nixon comes out on top... kinda. As for Doubt, Karger thinks is "still a contender for all the big prizes." I disagree.
It's got prestige, relevance, assured direction, and fantastic acting. The negative New York Times review stings, but most critics are loving it.
Best Director, Ron Howard
As soon as voters see his name on the credits, they'll know it'll be a confidently-directed film. Can he score his first nomination since winning for A Beautiful Mind seven years ago?
Best Actor, Frank Langella
Along with Sean Penn, Mickey Rourke, and Clint Eastwood, Langella—who's never been nominated for an Oscar—seems to have a slot sewn up.
In the end, I'd bet on at least a Best Picture and Best Actor nomination for Frost/Nixon, and Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress (Viola Davis) nominations for Doubt. I really don't expect wins for either film in the big BIG categories, though Viola Davis - who's getting rave reviews - has an interesting shot. Not the front-runner, but an interesting shot.