The Oscars are on Sunday! I’ve already shared my complete and utter lack of enthusiasm, but I still want to have my say and show what I think will win and what won’t because if they’re going to have the damn things, no point in ignoring them, you know? Here are my picks:
Nominees: “The Artist,” ”The Descendants,” ”Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” ”Hugo,” ”Midnight in Paris,” ”The Help,” ”Moneyball,” ”War Horse” and ”The Tree of Life”
Should Win: None of the above? None of the above. I know that’s a stupid answer but whatever, it’s my list, and I don’t feel strongly about any one movie on this list being so much better than any other movie. Last year, I felt very strongly about “The Social Network,” “Toy Story 3″ and “Black Swan” being better than “The King’s Speech.” I could have passionately argued for “Inception” or “True Grit” or “Winter’s Bone.” The year before, I felt strongly about “Up” and “The Hurt Locker.” This year, while I really liked several of these movies, none of them make me feel that they deserve to win over the inevitable triumph of…
Will Win: “The Artist.” It’s a wonderfully made, technically brilliant ode to the heyday of cinema, and that combination of nostalgia and reverence for old-school Hollywood is way too powerful for Academy voters to resist. It’s a very good movie, and it’s also reliably inoffensive (unless you’re Kim Novak and therefore are easily offended). The damn thing isn’t “Crash” or anything; it’s a good movie in a weak year, and it’s also the perfect frontrunner for this year. And it’s charming! It’s thoroughly charming.
Dark Horse: I know it won’t win, but “The Tree of Life” is the most ambitious movie up there and a truly remarkable visual experience as well as a film from an auteur who doesn’t work all that much. It’s also a rambling, contemplative, plot-less movie, so again, I don’t expect it to win. If only.
Nominees: Demian Bichir, “A Better Life” - George Clooney, “The Descendants” - Jean Dujardin, “The Artist” - Gary Oldman, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” - Brad Pitt, “Moneyball”
Should Win: George Clooney, who somehow sheds a lot of his essential George Clooney-ness under the watchful direction of Alexander Payne. If Clooney didn’t already have that Supporting Actor trophy from 2005 (which was his consolation prize for “Good Night, and Good Luck”), maybe there would have been more of a groundswell for him to finally win. He is wonderful here because he reins in a lot of his natural charm and seems, yet again, like a human being rather than a movie star.
Will Win: Jean Dujardin, who is quite terrific in his role as a silent film star on the decline.
Dark Horse: This is Gary Oldman’s first nomination. That boggles the mind.
Nominees: Glenn Close, “Albert Nobbs” - Viola Davis, “The Help” - Rooney Mara, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” - Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady” - Michelle Williams, “My Week With Marilyn”
Should/Will Win: Viola Davs, because she classed up an after-school special of a movie.
Dark Horse: Michelle Williams, a three-time nominee who is playing Marilyn Monroe. It’s a shame the Academy doesn’t have some kind of weird thing for actors playing dead famous people.
Best Supporting Actor
Nominees: Kenneth Branagh, “My Week With Marilyn” - Jonah Hill, “Moneyball” - Nick Nolte, “Warrior” - Christopher Plummer, “Beginners” - Max Von Sydow, “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”
Should/Will Win: Christopher Plummer, because he has been around a long time and this category exists to reward an old-timer.
Dark Horse: Could you imagine Nick Nolte’s acceptance speech? The 14-hour telecast would be worth it if we got just two minutes if uninhibited Oscar Winner Nick Nolte.
Best Supporting Actress
Nominees: Berenice Bejo, “The Artist” - Jessica Chastain, “The Help” - Melissa McCarthy, “Bridesmaids” - Janet McTeer, “Albert Nobbs” - Octavia Spencer, “The Help”
Should/Will Win: Octavia Spencer. This is fun, all of these almost-guaranteed categories! I hope it’s as fun watching the ceremony without any hint of suspense.
Nominees: Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris” - Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist” - Terrence Malick, “The Tree of Life” - Alexander Payne, “The Descendants” - Martin Scorsese, “Hugo”
Should Win: Terrence Malick, because while his movie was divisive and a lot of people decried its lack of any sort of plot or story, the damn thing was a fantastic vision that couldn’t have come from anybody else.
Will Win: Michel Hazanavicius, because “The Artist” could have stumbled so many times between conception and execution, and he avoided every conceivable pitfall. Threading the needle like that and turning out such a well-made, enjoyable film is worth celebrating.
Dark Horse: I would actually be fine with anyone winning this category. Woody Allen is probably going to win the screenplay category, so he’ll be recognized there; Scorsese won this category five years ago, and while “Hugo” is terrific it doesn’t surpass what he did there. Payne, on the other hand, has turned out several wonderful films, and he always seems to tell recognizably human stories while wringing career-best performances out of actors and actresses.
Best Original Screenplay
Nominees: Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris” - JC Chandor, “Margin Call” - Asghar Farhadi, “A Separation” - Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist” - Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, “Bridesmaids”
Should/Will Win: “Midnight in Paris.” Yes, it’s slight and the dialogue is so heavily Woody Allen as to border on parody, but he excels in his wheelhouse.
Dark Horse: I guess that depends on how much voters liked “A Separation.” If there’s an “Artist” sweep across the board, it could win this category, but I feel like voters will recognize that this is their best chance to recognize “Midnight in Paris.”
Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominees: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxton, Jim Rash, “The Descendants” - John Logan, “Hugo” - George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon, “The Ides of March” - Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian, “Moneyball” - Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughn, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”
Should/Will Win: “The Descendants.” The twin plot threads of the story are woven together wonderfully, and every time the script could go for the big, flashy, loud scene, it opts for the quieter, more grounded moment.
Dark Horse: Will voters want to recognize the incredibly tortured story of “Moneyball,” a book turned into an unmakeable movie turned into an acclaimed Oscar-nominated box office hit? If so, this is their category, where they can commend the writers for reworking the screenplay into what we saw on screen.