Critics always like to describe any given year as one of two things – a good year or a bad year for movies. It’s a highly subjective and fairly ridiculous thing to do really. I like to say that it’s almost always an interesting year at the movies and I would say that 2011 is no exception. Though the Academy made a handful of rather glaring errors with this year’s nominations the majority of their picks are pretty sound. And with the big night quickly approaching I thought it was finally time for me to break out my predictions for the 2012 Oscars.
Winner: The Artist
I’m predicting as I think most are, a win for The Artist. While we’re on the topic I’d like to talk a little about the backlash regarding The Artist with a lot of critics who liked the film saying that it’s been overrated. A lot of people are calling the film slight. The film is predominantly a comedy and personally, I think this scoffing at the film’s possible Oscar domination is a disservice to the film. The Academy tends to ignore comedies and to win an Oscar for comedy film or performance is very difficult. Happily, Bridesmaids scored two huge nominations this year and The Artist, because it’s silent, black and white, and has a stretch of drama in it, was able to woo the Academy into receiving 10 nominations. I feel like critics are writing The Artist off as an important film because it’s very carefree and light on its feet for the most part. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a stunningly good film. Similarly some critics have said that while it’s silent and black and white it doesn’t make any kind of statement on silent films. Does it really have to? I say no. I say the real accomplishment is making a silent, black and white film that is appealing and enthralling to modern audiences. The Artist accomplished that in spades. I know that films like The Tree of Life have more weight to them and inherently feel more “important” because they’re full of drama and exploration of life’s big questions but I don’t feel like a film has to do that to be great or to be an Oscar winner. I loved The Tree of Life. I loved The Artist. Ultimately comparing two films that are so disparate becomes an exercise in futility but it is what it is. For me, watching The Artist in a darkened theater I felt like I was experiencing something. I felt that buzz of excitement you got when you see your very first movie in a theater. It was special. It was wonderful.
Winner: Jean Dujardin – The Artist
This pick might come back to haunt me. A lot of folks are predicting a win for George Clooney for The Descendants. Personally I think these guys are neck and neck in terms of the race. It could go either way. I’m going to follow my heart and go with the French charm of Mr. Dujardin. Additionally, while I thought Clooney was very good in The Descendants I thought he gave a better lead performance in Michael Clayton. I found Dujardin to be much more consistent and his role to be more finely crafted than Clooney’s. We’ll see if the Academy agrees with me or not. Every time I think about this race I come out with a different conclusion but I’ve got my fingers crossed for Dujardin!
Winner: Viola Davis – The Help
This is another neck and neck race between Davis and Meryl Streep who hasn’t won an Oscar in decades despite many a nomination. Davis has only been nominated once before in 2009 for Doubt. While many are saying Streep is great in The Iron Lady (I personally haven’t seen it), a lot of critics are saying that she was better as Julia Child, a role she was nominated for in 2010. The Academy has a habit of rewarding actors and actress for lesser work as a bit of a consolation prize for prior losses in better roles. This normally happens when an actor, actress or director has never won. (i.e. Martin Scorsese wins for The Departed after losing for Raging Bull and Goodfellas, two better films) Though Streep hasn’t won since 1982’s Sophie’s Choice, she has two Oscars already. Davis has a goose egg. I think the edge has to go to Davis and though I have mixed feelings on The Help I definitely think she deserves it.
Winner: Christopher Plummer – Beginners
If anyone else’s name is read on Sunday evening there will be an audible gasp from the audience. Christopher Plummer has deservedly won every single award possible going into the Oscars so his win is pretty much locked down. It’s a shame that this category, despite the inevitability of Plummer’s win, isn’t as interesting a group of nominees as it could be. Albert Brooks (Drive), Patton Oswalt (Young Adult), and long shot Andy Serkis (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) were all snubbed. I love that Nick Nolte received a nomination for the under-seen, underrated, underappreciated, under everythinged, Warrior but Jonah Hill as wonderful as he was in Moneyball and Max von Sydow, as well respected and amazing as he is in general, could have been left off this list pretty easily. Hill especially I feel is being rewarded more for surprising people and going against type than the actual caliber of his performance.
Winner: Octavia Spencer – The Help
I think I might be in the minority on this but I can’t help but think that as good as Spencer was in The Help, and as much as you enjoy and root for her character, she’s a little one note. I would be more inclined to give this award to Melissa McCarthy for Bridesmaids or Berenice Bejo for The Artist. Regardless this category is a total lock and Spencer will take home the Oscar. I’m certainly not mad about it. There have been way more egregious Supporting Actress wins in the past and Spencer is very, very good in The Help.
Winner: Michel Hazanavicius – The Artist
I have to say as much as I am charmed by Hazanavicius and The Artist I would really love to see Terrence Malick win this award for Tree of Life. That seems like a total long shot however. This award seems to be between Hazanavicius and Martin Scorsese. Scorsese has a strong chance given that Hugo leads all films with the most nominations. However, he won not that long ago, as I mentioned earlier, for The Departed. To see him win for The Departed and Hugo, ultimately two B level films in terms of his body of work, seems unlikely. Woody Allen, is much more likely to take home Original Screenplay honors than this award and there’s no indication that Alexander Payne is really in contention either. I think that Michel Hazanvicius is a really creative and gifted filmmaker so I would certainly be happy with his likely win here.
Winner: Woody Allen – Midnight in Paris
It’s interesting. Midnight in Paris is not Allen’s best film and I’m not sure it would even crack the prolific director’s top 10 best films. However, it is one of his best films in years and I’m sure that’s why it’s the heavy favorite in this category. Anyone who’s read my Midnight in Paris review, however, knows that the first third of the film is almost excruciating to watch in terms of the two-dimensionality of some of the characters. If it were up to me, as much as I got a warm fuzzy feeling from Paris overall, I would actually give this award to Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo for Bridesmaids, a film that I felt was almost perfect from a writing standpoint as it perfectly balanced outrageous, raunchy comedy with well developed characters and a little sentimentality for good measure. The real surprise here will be whether or not Allen shows up to the ceremony.
Winner: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash – The Descendants
I feel that the popular consensus is that Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, who have won quite a few of the awards going into the Oscars, have this category in the bag. I think, however, that it may count against them that Sorkin just won an Oscar last year for The Social Network. Furthermore, if the Lead Actor category goes in favor of Jean Dujardin, I think that the probability is higher that The Descendants will win its only award of the night in this category. I’m going with my gut on this one.
Winner: Ludovic Bource – The Artist
Despite the controversy surrounding the inclusion of Vertigo’s Love Theme in its score it seems entirely likely that The Artist will win this award. John Williams, with two nominations, and Oscar wins in the double digits, likely cancels himself out and though Howard Shore’s Hugo score is great and I’m partial to Shore’s work, Bource’s score is simply exceptional. Alberto Iglesias, nominated for Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy, is an innovative and gifted composer. His score for The Constant Gardener is one of my absolutely favorite works in recent memory. However, Bource has been consistently winning throughout award season so to see anyone else pick up this award would be quite the surprise.
Winner: Man or Muppet – The Muppets
Even if there were 13 nominees in this category instead of two I would be predicting and rooting for a Man or Muppet win. I often wake up singing this song for no reason whatsoever. It is without a doubt in the top 2 or 3 scenes in The Muppets and absolutely deserves to win.
Rango is a weird, dark and altogether quite different “children’s film”. It was really nice to see an animated film do something that seemed so off the beaten path compared to other animated films released this year. Without Pixar in the race this year Rango is a strong front runner for sure and the win would be well deserved. There is always the possibility that a late dark horse entry like A Cat in Paris or Chico and Rita could come out of nowhere with a stunning surprise but I’d say this is as close to a lock as possible.
Winner: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
I haven’t seen all the documentary features this year but I’ve seen the majority. Perhaps because I’ve been following the story of the West Memphis Three the longest, I’m a little biased in this choice but it is certainly the best of the nominated documentaries I saw. If this film or If a Tree Falls win I’ll be happy but ultimately this is a category that got a lot of flack this year. Stunning documentaries like Senna, Bill Cunningham New York, The Interrupters and Project Nim weren’t even on the shortlist of considered films. Had they been included this would be a completely different race and I’d likely be predicting a different winner but still hoping that Paradise Lost won.
Foreign Language Film
Winner: A Separation
I’m disappointed to admit that I have not seen a single Foreign Language nominee this year. It’s always difficult to see these films and often I only see between one and three depending on their availability. A Separation, the strong frontrunner is actually playing about 10 minutes from my home but despite my best efforts I have not had a chance to see it. Not only is A Separation nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, but for Best Original Screenplay as well. That’s not something that happens very often at all.
The short film categories are always tough to pick because it’s pretty hard to see them. Like A Separation, all three of these categories were screening pretty close to me. Unfortunately trying to fit in the limited screening times proved extremely difficult.
Winner: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Animated short is the only short category that I have heard much debate over. Pixar, failing to gain an Animated Feature nomination, is nominated for its short, La Luna. You might think that being a Pixar short gives a film a lock but it really doesn’t. Pixar doesn’t win the animated short category very often. With that in mind, they may win this year because they didn’t have another nomination. Interestingly enough however, the man behind The Fantastic Flying Books, William Joyce, worked for Pixar previously as a designer. From that perspective Joyce’s short may have the edge. We’ll have to wait til Sunday to see. It may be a bit of a toss-up between the two front runners but I’m willing to put my money on Mr. Morris Lessmore.
Winner: The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom
Live Action Short
Winner: The Shore
Winner: Tree of Life
If you’ve seen Tree of Life you know why this film needs to win this category. If you haven’t seen this film, see it. Even if you hate it, it will give you quite a lot to talk about. I could see War Horse sneaking out a win as I’ve heard that film is also beautifully shot but I think Tree of Life is quite the achievement when it comes to cinematography.
For the most part when it comes to technical/artistic awards your guess is as good as mine. While I understand what goes into these trades it’s extremely hard for me to judge one film’s sound editing over another for example. I typically go with the popular consensus when I choose winners in these categories and with that in mind I don’t have much to comment on regarding the technical and artistic categories with the exception of Visual Effects.
Winner: The Artist
Winner: The Iron Lady
Winner: The Artist
Winner: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
I never thought I’d have so much investment in the visual effects category. But with four films I really enjoyed, three of which I outright loved, and one god awful one, I’m really interested in how this category turns out. I think that despite strong contention from the final Harry Potter film, Planet of the Apes will win here. First of all, the ape effects in this movie were remarkable. Second, this will be the Academy’s way of awarding a consolation prize to the film after the strong push for Andy Serkis’ Supporting Actor nomination. The Academy definitely sees Serkis’ performance as more of a visual than an acting achievement which is something I’ve gotten into some very heated discussions over.