Monday, February 20, 2012

Oscars 2012 Educated Guesses

Best Animated Feature
A Cat in Paris
Chico and Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots

Who Will Win: The people who vote on the nominations in this category are unusually good at tracking down under the radar animated films. Can you imagine two equally obscure live-action films finding their way into the Best Picture race? That said, I suspect A Cat in Paris and Chico and Rita are still too tiny to actually pull off the win. That makes it a battle of the CG cartoons, and Rango was much more acclaimed than the remaining two films. It should win pretty handily.

My Choice: I'd like to see one of the two little films win, just to encourage more distributors to take a chance on outside the box stuff.

Best Original Screenplay
Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist
Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig for Bridesmaids
J.C. Chandor for Margin Call
Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris
Asghar Farhadi for A Separation

Who Will Win: Can a screenplay with almost no actual spoken dialogue win? Probably not, though The Artist will surely be rewarded elsewhere. The screenplay for Bridesmaids could be a surprise win since the movie's success opened the door for women to appear in movies (Wait, it didn't? Well, some of the media coverage could have fooled me). I think a comedy will win, but that comedy is Midnight in Paris. It has a few high-profile nominations that indicate wide support and it was a very compact, enjoyable little movie. Woody Allen probably won't show up to collect it, but I think he'll still be the winner.

My Choice: Chandor.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash for The Descendants
John Logan for Hugo
George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon for The Ides of March
Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin for Moneyball
Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Who Will Win: This is quite close. The Descendants, Hugo or Moneyball could all pull it off. Tinker Tailor doesn't appear to have much momentum and while The Ides of March had a lot of good dialogue, I don't think I was alone in wishing it had more to say about today's politics instead of devoting its story to a Clinton-esque sex scandal. I'm leaning towards Payne and company, given that The Descendants is one of the major Best Picture contenders and this is likely its best chance for a win.

My Choice: Descendants was a good story, but the script had some sit-com-ish moments and I'm really getting sick of George Clooney doing smug voiceover for every Oscar-bait movie he appears in. My choice would be Logan for Hugo, a movie that gave a kids story a truly epic scope while adding in some lessons on the history of early film as well.

Best Supporting Actress
Berenice Bejo for The Artist
Jessica Chastain for The Help
Melissa McCarthy for Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer for Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer for The Help

Who Will Win: Spencer has dominated the pre-Oscars award shows (I call them "the playoffs") and will likely continue her winning streak. It's the kind of endearing, feisty and humorous performance the voters love - Not everyone could make the line "You two are giving me heart palpitations" so hilarious. Two of her competitors are fairly close, though not within the realm of an upset. Bejo gave a lovely, expressive performance in The Artist while McCarthy was far and away the best part of Bridesmaids. Still, this category has lost a bit of its potential for upsets over the last couple of years and Spencer is a safe bet.

My Choice: I'm a pretty big fan of this whole group. Spencer is a deserving winner, though I wish the Academy would just embrace a fully comedic performance and give it to McCarthy.

Best Supporting Actor
Kenneth Branagh in My Week With Marilyn
Jonah Hill in Moneyball
Nick Nolte in Warrior
Christopher Plummer in Beginners
Max von Sydow in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Who Will Win: This category sometimes turns into the "Veterans Achievement Award" and that's definitely what's going on this year with Christopher Plummer, who has been an absolute steamroller in the playoffs. However, this one may be closer than his other wins thanks to von Sydow, another octogenarian actor whose huge body of work is arguably even more tremendous. The fact that neither of these men has won yet is downright sad, but I suspect Plummer will triumph again. The other three, deserving as they may be, are not even close.

My Choice: Um, excuse me, where is the nomination for Uggie the Dog from The Artist?! I'm a big Max von Sydow fan and his wordless performance in Extremely Loud... was masterful. Yet I also find myself rooting for Jonah Hill, who was surprisingly subtle while still being genuinely funny.

Best Actress
Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis in The Help
Rooney Mara in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn

Who Will Win: Meryl Streep's inevitable third Oscar will have to wait at least one more year, because this year it's all about Viola Davis. The Help has a strong ensemble cast of mostly women and that's paying big dividends this year. Williams is overshadowed by Streep when it comes to impersonating famous folks and I haven't read anything even kind of enthusiastic about Close's movie. As for Rooney Mara, if Noomi Rapace (the original Lisbeth Salander) couldn't even get a nomination for the original Dragon Tattoo film, I can't see a scenario where she wins for the remake. If Davis wins, she will be only the second black woman to do so in Oscar history (The first was Halle Berry).

My Choice: Davis's performance truly was exceptional and elevated the entire film. This is one instance where a near-certain outcome is appropriate.

Best Actor
Demian Bichir in A Better Life
George Clooney in The Descendants
Jean Dujardin in The Artist
Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt in Moneyball

Who Will Win: This one is close. Clooney and Dujardin have been splitting the playoff honors while Bichir has built up a surprisingly strong following and could potentially upset both of them. This is Oldman's first nomination (shocking, isn't it?) but his movie hasn't generated enough excitement. I think Brad Pitt will win this award someday, but his work is some of the most subtle of the bunch. I'm leaning towards Dujardin because of his Screen Actors Guild victory and the overall support for The Artist, but this one is going to be suspenseful right up until the envelope is opened.

My Choice: Dujardin. It was fantastic work and totally evocative of the silent movie era the movie paid tribute to.

Best Director
Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris
Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist
Terence Malick for The Tree of Life
Alexander Payne for The Descendants
Martin Scorsese for Hugo

Who Will Win: You too can make very accurate predictions for Best Director following a simple one-step process: pay attention to who wins the Director's Guild award. Seriously, it almost always lines up with the Oscars and this year the winner was Michel Hazanavicius. The ingenuity which created The Artist has served him well so far and the accoldates look to continue on Oscar night.

My Choice: I'm a little torn. Like most of the other Academy, I was definitely impressed by The Artist but I was also blown away by what Scorsese did with Hugo. Seeing a film that actually had good 3-D visuals felt like catching a glimpse of the Loch Ness Monster, not to mention how well he re-created the production of classic silent films in the movie. I suppose I'm rooting for him, but since he finally claimed his long overdue win in 2006 it's a pretty stress-free situation for this humble movie buff.

Best Picture
The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Help
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
War Horse

Who Will Win: In 1929, the silent film Wings won the very first Best Picture Oscar. 84 years later, it looks like we'll have another. Still, let's work backwards.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has been the whipping boy of this award season, widely derided by critics and pundits for its ample quirkiness and its treatment of very sensitive material (9/11). Leaving aside my pet peeve of people putting way too much stock in a film's rating on Rotten Tomatoes (seriously it's just a number, go see a movie yourself before you pass judgment on it), it's hard to imagine it could actually win. The Tree of Life is also quite polarizing. For every person who had a religious experience watching it, there's another who found it dull and incoherent. War Horse certainly feels like a traditional Best Picture winner, but it never seemed to develop all that big of a following. Midnight in Paris is a comedy (and actually funny, unlike most "comedies" that show up in this category) so that handily seals its fate. Moneyball has a lot more gravitas than most sports movies, but it's still too unsentimental to grab the big prize.

The Descendants had some nice momentum around Christmas, but that seems to have died down a bit. Hugo has the most nominations, but none in acting. It's hard to manage a Best Picture win without that, though not impossible (Return of the King did it). So it looks like a win for The Artist, but that film has one serious challenger in The Help, a well-meaning racial drama following in the foosteps of Crash or Driving Miss Daisy. This kind of movie is never to be underestimated, but what may relegate it to second place is the lack of a nomination for its screenplay or direction. This indicates its support is primiarly confined to the actor's branch. Another factor is the backlash against its more patronizing elements (articulated well by this image). Meanwhile, The Artist is nicely represented in many different categories. A pretty safe bet, but not totally certain.

My Choice: The Artist was a delightful experience and the movie is hard not to like, but I'm more enthusiastic about the similarly-themed Hugo. It had grand visuals, an underrated ensemble cast and a story full of surprises.

That's it until the big day on February 26.