They’re coming Sunday night, Feb. 26. It’s my Super Bowl.
The only thing interesting about this category is that the still-getting-used-to-them rules have yielded the odd number of nine nominees. The larger number hasn’t seemed to solve any problems or added any value other than that more films can hit us with “Nominated for Best Picture” on their advertising.
This is really between The Artist and The Descendants. The Tree of Life, as the most ambitious and far-reaching film in the group, is the greatest work of art this year. But it’s flawed, and not accessible. Just happens to be brilliant and ground-breaking, that’s all.
Right now the ebb and flow between the other two films mentioned puts The Artist at the top at the moment. Hollywood likes fresh, and old is new again this year (The Artist, Hugo, War Horse, Midnight in Paris). Plus it’s so enjoyable, and introduces America to a trio of talent in the leads and director. It’s also no threat, as it’s a one-off. No new trend here!
Prediction: The Artist
Preference: The Artist
See above for the two dueling pics. The same holds true for the actors. And in keeping with all the “who’s on top at the moment?” changes, right now the money is on Jean Dujardin to take the prize. He’s a complete delight in The Artist, and nails the performance. It’s one of those “perfect fits” between part and actor that come by once a decade or so. As I’ve written, I know that Hollywood loves Clooney, but he is overrated, though this is likely his best performance. I don’t want him to peak yet. Keep improving, George. You’ll earn another one to put beside your supporting award for Syriana.
Prediction: Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Preference: Jean Dujardin, The Artist
This one is also between two people: Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady and her friend Viola Davis for The Help. This one is too tough to call with any certainty. I would have predicted Davis easily a few weeks ago, but Streep has won the BAFTA (“British Oscar”) Best Actress Award over Davis, and since Octavia Spencer is a lock for an Oscar, the shift might go to Streep. There are two competing pairs of tensions here: Davis turned in a beautifully subtle performance and easily deserves the award. Streep’s performance, equally worthy, was a triumph of technique and is breathtaking in its virtuosity—essentially the opposite in style and feel of Davis’. Then there is Streep’s string of nominations. Some feel since she gets nominated all the time (a clear exaggeration), that the award should go to Davis. Others just as strongly feel that with 17 nominations under her belt, a win for Best Supporting Actress and one for Best Actress doesn’t begin to do her justice. And since this is a worthy performance, the thinking goes, let’s honor it and give our greatest living actress her first Oscar win in nearly 30 years.
Prediction (with great hesitance): Viola Davis, The Help
Preference: (with some hesitance) Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Why even discuss this? This is a life achievement award for Christopher Plummer. It could have gone to Nick Nolte in Warrior—for the same lifetime reason. But the film underperformed (see it, everyone!). Max von Sydow is a greater film legend than Plummer will ever be, but Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close opened too late to get the proper attention, and then received mediocre reviews. So the nomination is his prize. And Plummer has one advantage over the other two: He wins the politically correct prize as a gay old man coming out as his life is near the end. So he has a double whammy going for him: the gay theme paired with the sick theme. That beats Nolte’s ex-alcoholic and von Sydow’s mute old man. Any of these latter two would have won in other years, especially a heavyweight like von Sydow. But this is Plummer’s year.
Prediction: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Preference: No one.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
This one is as much of a lock as Christopher Plummer. If Octavia Spencer doesn’t win for The Help, it will be one of the greatest upsets in Oscar history. It’s a wonderful performance, and shines the brighter for being in that film, and for being paired with Davis’ superior and more restrained performance: Spencer is just a little too much Wanda Sykes in her line delivery and facial expressions at time for my taste. But it’s a joy and it, with Davis’ work, anchors the film. Plus the Academy wants to honor the film, and this is one way to do it. And she has a trail of wins behind her.
Prediction: Octavia Spencer, The Help
Preference: Spencer is fine, though part of me would love to see Jessica Chastain win. She’s nominated for The Help, but an award for her this year would be for her stunning body of work in 2011. A future Oscar winner for sure.
This one will likely go to Michel Hazavanicius for The Artist. It’s a beautiful piece of directing, and some folks are loath to divide the directing award from the best picture award. But Martin Scorcese pulled off a triumph with Hugo, which is unlike any other film made this year, and Terrence Malick reached farther and more successfully than not with The Tree of Life, also unlike anything else this—or any other—year. But I think that the last two directors have their win in the nomination, and MH is the likely winner.
Prediction: Michel Hazavanicius, The Artist
Preference: Terrence Malick for The Tree of Life (never happen) or Martin Scorcese for Hugo (small chance, but unlikely)
There were many great scripts this year, and I wish there were more awards for them. Best Original: The nomination for Bridesmaids is as far as the Academy is going to go. They love Woody Allen, and Midnight in Paris is not only fresh, it’s the best thing Allen’s done in years. Best Adapted: The Descendants is on the descent, but my guess is that the Academy will rally around the script, which is more than worthy of the prize. But I think that Moneyball was a triumph of problem-solving (a movie about statistics?) and great storytelling.
Prediction: Original: Midnight in Paris
Prediction: Adapted: The Descendants
Other points of interest
In any other year, Iran’s nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, A Separation, would be a lock. With all the saber-rattling coming out of Tehran, however, the film might suffer. I doubt it, but it’s a possibility.
Hugo’s Art Direction nomination is an understatement. If it deserves any award, this is it. If that’s going to extend to Best Cinematography, I wouldn’t have any problem with that. But my slight preference for that is The Tree of Life.