The year was rough in terms of box office (off over 15% in ticket sales from 2010, and the nominees for Best Picture this year made a fraction of what last year's set of films made. However, a small group of films that paid homage to early cinema ("The Artist" and "Hugo") and a few well-made dramas and comedies rounded out some pretty fierce categories this year.
As obvious as it may sound, it is pretty shocking that for the first time since 1927 a silent film will win Best Picture. The adulation the film pays to the early cinema of Hollywood has been taken as a due love letter by many critics and Academy members. With the money and power of Harvey Weinstein behind it, this film looks unstoppable.
Michael Hazanivicius, "The Artist"
I am rooting for Martin Scorsese to win here for "Hugo," but with wins from the DGA and BAFTA, it seems as if the French director will triumph here.
Jean Dujardin, "The Artist"
With his surprise win at SAG and BAFTA, Dujardin best known for a series of French spy capers may become the first French actor to win the top prize. George Clooney could sneak in here, but the goodwill felt towards Dujardin and Uggie seems fit to propel the man and his dog to the stage of the Kodak Theatre tomorrow night.
Viola Davis, "The Help"
Though the film is controversial and seems to argue that black people will do jsut fine if they ally themselves with white people, no one can argue that Davis' performance is not a tour de force. since no one has seen Glenn Close's "Albert Nobbs," and Meryl's "Iron Lady" has languished, Davis will triumph here.
Best Supporting Actor
Christopher Plummer, "Beginners"
He has won virtually every award this season and this will serve as a lifetime achievement award for the "Sound of Music" vet.
Best Supporting Actress
Octavia Spencer, "The Help"
I desperately want Janet McTeer of "Albert Nobbs" to win, for that was the best performance by far put on the screen this year. However, it seems that academy members have not been fast in rushing to see this particular indie and it has no steam behind it. Spencer's comic part in "The Help" has been popular with audiences and even some critics have noted that her performance gives an actual edged black voice to the film. With wins across the board, Spencer in her breakthrough part will take home the statuette.
Best Original Screenplay
"Midnight in Paris," Woody Allen
Allen has not won an Oscar since "Hannah and Her Sisters" in 1986. Allen's ode to American modernism and the City of Lights has become one of the most successful films of his career and the Academy will anoint him again for it.
Best Adapted Screenplay
"The Descendants," Alexander Payne
There was a point in November when it seemed "Descendants" was going to be the film to beat. It was the favored candidate for Actor, Director, Screenplay and even Picture. Now that we are at Oscar weekend the only category where it seems poised to win is in the screenplay category.
"Man or Muppet," "The Muppets"
Since the music branch, which has been a mess since the 1970's, decided to nominate only two songs in this category, it seems pretty evident that Kermie and the gang will triumph here. It's a shame that songs from films like "Gnomeo and Juliet," "Albert Nobbs," and "The Help" couldn't be nominated, so we could have some music performances at this year's awards.
Ludovic Bource, "The Artist"
With the hoopla over Kim Novak saying she felt "raped" by the makers of "The Artist" because they referenced part of Herrmann's theme for "Vertigo," the score of the silent was necessary for the film and made people think about sound in a way far different from your typical blow-em-up flick.
Emmanuel Luzbeki, "Tree of Life"
Even though Terence Malick's film had more detractors among its viewers, the film was admittedly beautiful, and should triumph in this category. Luzbeki has been nominated several times before and this should be his first win.
To make a silent film palatable to today's audiences, it needs a tight script and even tighter editing which allows for the easy comprehension of the plot without dialogue.
Best Visual Effects
A gorgeous film that believes that effects aren't always about explosions.
Best Art Direction
The recreation of the turn-of-the-century Gare Montparnasse is breathtaking.
Best Costume Design
Academy voters love period pieces for this category and "Jane's" moody clothes told an appropriate story about its characters.
Glenn Close's and Janet Mcteer's transformations looked so normal and unassuming that it looked almost as if there was no makeup.
Best Sound Editing
I think Fincher's "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" will win here, but since "Drive" was my favorite movie of the year, I want it to win in the sole category for which it was nominated.
Best Sound Mixing
"Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"
Sound and camerawork conspired to create one creepy view of Sweden.
Best Documentary Short
This heart-wrenching look into Pakistani women who were the victims of acid attacks (usually by husbands or scorned lovers) and the attempts to repair their injuries through plastic surgery may have issues with its first-world view of third-world women and the concomitant epistemological and ethical quandaries arising from the imposition of western rationality on "Oriental" issues, but the film sheds light on the problems of women who are denied their voice (cf. Gayatri Spivak).
Best Documentary Feature
This category is difficult. The directors of "Purgatory 3" actually through their tripartite series on the 'West Memphis 3" helped them attain freedom from a prison sentence imposed on innocent young men painted as satanic murderers. The Academy, through its mission statement of helping bringing new understanding of the world through film, found a movie that can be argued had a real-world impact. Wim Wenders, however, crafted one of the most beautiful films about dance in 3D, expanding our vision of how the human body can be represented on screen. I will go with Wim.
Best Animated Feature
I am thrilled that the dull, clunking "Tintin," helmed by Spielberg failed to make it into this category. Thankfully that means the cute and well-crafted Gore Verbinski piece, "Rango" will be able to take its well deserved award.
Best Foreign language Film
"A Separation," Iran
The Iranian family drama seems like a surefire bet in this category, but this category is notoriously difficult to predict because to be able to vote one must be certified as having seen all 5 films and special screenings, thus a small portion of members actually vote in this category, throwing all tools for prediction out the window.
Best Live Action Short
Enjoy the show, folks!