This year, I would like to think of the crop of contenders not only having an element of surprise, but a lesson, as well, for studio execs: go back to the art form of early cinema. Many of the films nominated prove that one way to win is to make “art”, and they have done so as well as taking film as a central role in their films (see Hugo or The Artist to get my point).
So without further ado, here are my picks for this year:
My pick/Will win: The Artist
Nothing was as inventive or as creative or as wonderful as The Artist. The story of a silent movie star god who falls in the wake of the sound era is told in black and while and (gasp!) without sound silent should probably make you sleepy, but it doesn’t. Midnight in Paris would be my second choice, but it’s not as charming as The Artist.
My pick: Martin Scorsese for Hugo
Will win: Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist
Scorsese has a passion for film history and telling stories about characters growing up around tough circumstances. But a family film? Yes, it is possible. He was able to keep his film style while telling a compelling story about orphans and early cinema without guns, drugs, and sex. But the Directors Guild Association bestowed their award to Hazanavicius, who is also deserving for the prize. If the DGA has a 90% record for picking the winners in this category, then Hazanavicius it is.
My pick/Will win: Jean Dujardin for The Artist
Honestly, I don’t understand why everyone is rooting for George Clooney in The Descendants. I thought his performance was what I thought about the film in general, good but not Oscar worthy. Instead, I look to Dujardin who is a lock in this category. Not only was his portrayal of a falling silent movie star unbelievable, he won the Best Actor award at Cannes. Like Christoph Waltz in Inglorious Bastards two years ago, the Cannes acting award is a sign of good things to come. Also, Dujardin is much more attractive than Clooney.
My pick: Michelle Williams for My Week with Marilyn
Will win: Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady
I really don’t want to see Streep win for a so-so film. I’d have rather seen her win for The Devil Wears Prada, but that was when Helen Mirren dominated with a phenomenal performance in The Queen. When Streep was last nominated, she portrayed Julia Child in Julie & Julia with such overbearing happiness, it wasn’t even a realistic portrayal of Child. Viola Davis is a good opponent, but her performance in The Help lacked something My pick would be Williams who not only looked the part of Marilyn Monroe, but deserves it for, well, acting the part to a tee. The third time has got to be the charm (Williams was nominated for Brokeback Mountain and last year for Blue Valentine), but I understand that the Academy will be more in favor of Streep.
Best Supporting Actor:
My pick/Will win: Christopher Plummer for Beginners
A lackluster group makes this category an easy lock. All the other actors nominated don’t have as much bravado as Plummer’s take on an elderly gay man. Besides, is it likely that Jonah Hill will win for Moneyball? He needs more serious roles to finally nab the trophy. If Albert Brooks were nominated for Drive, I would fully support him. Unfortunately, he is not in this company of men.
Best Supporting Actress:
My pick/Will win: Octavia Spencer for The Help
Again, another lackluster group. Spencer’s performance is fine, if not restrained. I was expecting more of a blaxploitaion turn of Minny in The Help, but that would not be truthful to its 1960s setting. Berenice Bejo was enchanting in The Artist, but not enough to get the gold. Jessica Chastain would be a better pick if she was nominated for The Tree of Life and not for The Help. Melissa McCarthy’s performance in Bridesmaids is like watching her SNL episode (see Arlene and the ranch-loving lady skits). Janet McTeer’s performance is overshadowed by Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs (who is nominated in the lead actress category). It only leaves Spencer as the obvious winner in this category.
Best Animated Film:
My pick/Will win: Chico & Rita
Another possibility: A Cat in Paris
Sorry America. Our crop of nominated animated films don’t stand out. (Rango? Puss in Boots? Kung Fu Panda 2?) I give the top two spots to the competing international films. The edgier, adult Chico & Rita will probably take the prize.
Best Original Screenplay:
My pick: Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris
Will win: Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist
Allen knows how to write comedy, believable characters, tension, conflict, and the theme of life, death, and nostalgia in his films. His Midnight in Paris script enchants the viewer with the idea of time travel without making it gimmicky. However, for the past few years, the Academy voted for the screenplays for films that will ultimately win best picture (this goes to Adapted Screenplay category as well). I wouldn’t mind seeing Hazanavicius win for his script as well, but the better one is Allen’s.
Best Adapted Screenplay:
My pick/Will win: Steve Zallian, Aaron Sorkin, and Stan Chervin for Moneyball
The once hard-to-finance film had a lot of help thanks to Zallian and Sorkin who fixed Chervin’s take. With talent like that, it’s hard to make a case for the other scripts nominated. Even so, critics have been proclaiming it as the screenplay of the year. Screenplay of the year! If it’s worth high praise, then it must be a lock. This would give Sorkin his second win in a row (after last year’s The Social Network, which was also proclaimed screenplay of the year).
The rest of the awards require no explanation, but here are my choices anyway.
Best Editing: The Artist
Best Cinematography: The Tree of Life
Best Art Direction: Hugo
Best Make-up: The Iron Lady
Best Costume Design: Anonymous
Best Visual Effects: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Best Sound Editing: War Horse
Best Sound Mixing: War Horse
Best Foreign Language Film: A Separation from Iran
Best Documentary: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Best Short Film: Time Freak
Best Animated Short Film: La Luna
Best Documentary Short: The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom
Best Original Song: “Man or Muppet” from The Muppets
Best Original Score: The Artist