Gold Rush: Oscar Predictions 2012

Though so many of us take the Oscars very seriously (guilty as charged), really, it’s just a game. It’s no different than the Super Bowl, except there are about five teams playing in every “quarter” and it’s actually quite embarrassing to be wearing the same outfit as anyone else. No jerseys on the red carpet.

Naturally, I was on Team Shame until it was not-too-shockingly nominated for nothing. That happens a lot in sports — your team doesn’t make it to the playoffs. Whatever. You pick another horse and bet on that one instead. (I’m almost done mixing sports metaphors, I swear.)

The Top 10s have been posted, the critics circles and guilds have had their say on the year’s best films and performances. It’s time to forget about all those also-rans, put away those childish fantasies of Michael Fassbender at the podium, and deal with the cold, hard facts. This is it now, the end all be all as we finally turn away from 2011 and get on with 2012.

It’s no longer about who should win, but who will.

(But I’m still gonna talk about who should. Okay?)

Academy Award Predictions 2012:

BEST PICTURE

The Artist
The Descendants
The Help
Midnight In Paris
Hugo
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Moneyball
War Horse
The Tree Of Life

Will Win: The Artist. In a year in which nearly all the nominees are charming crowd-pleasers, it is the most charming and most crowd-pleasing, and perfectly encapsulates this year’s nostalgic flavor.

Should Win: The Artist? I’m a bit surprised to say it myself, but as I discussed in my rationalization of its almost-inevitable win here, it’s nice to see a silent comedy find its voice amidst more drab and predictable Oscar bait fare. The Tree Of Life may be a more artful film, but it’s already received all the critical acclaim it needs; it’s not a film that “everyone” should see as a Best Picture should be.

Better Not Win: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close should never have been nominated. Is it the weakest Best Picture nominee of all time? I don’t know, but it’s sure worse than The Blind Side.BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Max Von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Will Win: Christopher Plummer, hands down. He plays a dying gay man! The Academy loves death and gays, separately or together.

Should Win: Christopher Plummer. This is by far the weakest of the major categories, and lieu of an Albert Brooks nomination for Drive (boo hoo!), he should rack up pretty much every vote there is.

Better Not Win: Anyone else. Seriously.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Octavia Spencer, The Help
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Berenice Bejo, The Artist
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs

Will Win: Octavia Spencer. Comedic relief does well in this category, as do women of color, as do actresses you’ve barely heard of before. She’s swept up until this point, no reason to think it won’t continue.

Should Win: In many ways this was Jessica Chastain’s year, and she was one of the best things about The Help. Spencer was plenty good, too. And you gotta love McCarthy for really going balls-to-the-wall with that unique turn in Bridesmaids, stealing scenes in what was already a pretty solid movie. Still, I’d give the edge to Bejo. Peppy Miller could have come off as a shallow bitch; instead, she actually became the heart and soul of the movie. She had a certain winsome star quality visible in her very first scene.

Better Not Win: Sorry, Janet McTeer, but you didn’t have me fooled for a second dressing in drag in Albert Nobbs. But nice tits.BEST ACTOR

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

Will Win: One of the year’s most suspenseful races. There’s an off-chance Pitt could get it for one of two dramatic turns in 2011, but it looks like it’s a showdown between Clooney, the early favorite, and Dujardin, the star of the presumed Best Picture winner. Tough call! I want to say Clooney, because this year’s expected winners are otherwise short on star power, and I think the Academy might like to bring a bona fide superstar to the podium at least once in this telecast. But there’s no denying that Dujardin’s on a roll (I am amending this choice in light of the Independent Spirit Awards also giving it to him).

Should Win: Dujardin, because it’s damn hard to carry a silent movie. (A lot harder than putting on a pair of khaki shorts and reading voice over, Mr. Clooney.) I’m hoping for an upset! (But in a way, not. Because then I’d be wrong.)

Better Not Win: Clooney, because even though Oscar loves to reward a glamorous movie star for daring to go “ugly,” do those hideous Hawaiian shirts really count?

BEST ACTRESS

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

Will Win: Similar to the Best Actor race, there’s an off-chance Michelle Williams could walk away with this by default, but it’s essentially a two-horse race between Davis and Streep. Davis was in the better-loved, more widely seen film; Meryl Streep is Meryl Streep.

Should Win: Unlike the Academy, I’m generally not such a fan of rewarding great performances in mediocre movies. Which rules out… everyone. Except Rooney Mara, who is far too new to the scene to win this award, but brought a surprisingly fresh dynamic to a character we all thought we knew already. However, I wouldn’t be sorry to see Viola Davis win another Oscar, if only so that someone will finally use her in a movie that’s better than Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close or The Help.

Better Not Win: Meryl Streep was phenomenal in a phenomenally bad biopic. Look at this woman’s resume, and tell me it isn’t a crime that this would be the first movie she’s won an Oscar for since Sophie’s Choice.

*

BEST DIRECTOR

Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Woody Allen, Midnight In Paris
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Terrence Malick, The Tree Of Life

Will Win: It’s rare that this goes to a heretofore unknown filmmaker, but it’ll happen this year. None of the other films are as unanimously liked as The Artist, which really did require a keen vision (and quite a bit of restraint).

Should Win: The Tree Of Life wasn’t always coherent, but it was masterful and ambitious. Malick would be my pick, as a consolation for Best Picture going to The Artist.

Better Not Win: Sorry, but The Descendants really isn’t as good as everyone thinks it is. It just isn’t.BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Michel Hazanivicius, The Artist
Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumulo, Bridesmaids
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
J.C. Chandor, Margin Call
Asghar Farhadi, A Separation

Will Win: An Artist sweep? Not exactly. Midnight In Paris has been a surprisingly formidable awards season contender. Woody Allen has a history of snubbing the Oscars even more than they’ve snubbed him, but fans of this film will want to give it something. And Woody’s strengths arguably lie more in his writing than his direction — at least, in many films (this being one of them). 

Should Win: A Separation is the strongest screenplay overall, more for its story structure than dialogue. But it’s a bit too subtle for a win.

Better Not Win: I’d say Midnight In Paris is the weakest of these scripts — a clever conceit, sure, but certain characters were too broad, and ultimately, it was a one-joke gimmick. Still, I wouldn’t necessarily begrudge it a win.

*

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

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

Will Win: The Descendants. It’s been acclaimed, and this is its consolation prize.

Should Win: Um… none of these.

Better Not Win: The golden rule of screenwriting is “show, don’t tell,” and The Descendants breaks that in the first five minutes. I liked a number of individual scenes here, but my theory is that everybody’s eyes glazed over when they saw lots of pretty palm trees and they stopped paying attention to the actual writing.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

A Cat in Paris
Chico & Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots
Rango

Will & Should Win: Rango. Okay, I haven’t seen the others, but it’s been a reasonably weak year for animation and Rango was strikingly beautiful (in a rather ugly way) and clever.

*

BEST FOREIGN FEATURE

Bullhead
Footnote
In Darkness
Monsier Lazhar
In Separation

Will & Should Win: Again, as of now I’ve only seen the film I’m choosing. This category is unpredictable sometimes, with the popular favorite often getting snubbed in favor of something more obscure. That could happen with the Holocaust film In Darkness, but A Separation is so widely loved (and nominated in another category!) that it seems almost a sure thing.

ART DIRECTION

The Artist
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Hugo
Midnight in Paris
War Horse

Will & Should Win: Apart from a couple moments, The Artist‘s art direction wasn’t spectacularly memorable, while Hugo was huge and grandiose, which is what the Academy favors in such categories. Plus, it was 3D! And I say why not? It looked pretty artfully directed to me!

*

COSTUME DESIGN

Anonymous
The Artist
Hugo
Jane Eyre
W.E.

Will Win: Yikes! Isn’t The Artist supposed to sweep? But it’s hard to imagine anyone being truly wowed by the costumes here. It could happen, since this year’s competition doesn’t seem so fierce. But costumes look better in color, and because the other three films likely haven’t been seen by as many people, I will guess Hugo — some drab orphan garb, to be sure, but remember those flashbacks to the Melies films? It wouldn’t shock me to see Madonna’s stylish-looking W.E. take it, though the film itself has been panned.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

The Artist
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Hugo
The Tree of Life
War Horse

Will & Should Win: The Tree Of Life. Nearly every shot could be framed and hung in your living room, and even those who didn’t fall under the spell of the film’s (lack of) narrative can’t deny it was pretty to look at — and varied, what with going back to the dawn of time and all. The Artist‘s old-fashioned B&W can’t compete with that.

*

VISUAL EFFECTS

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Hugo
Real Steel
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Will & Should Win: Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. It’s actually a decent movie, and the motion-capture performance of Andy Serkis was wholly convincing.

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Hell and Back Again
If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Pina
Undefeated

Will Win: There is no frontrunner. Everybody’s calling a different horse, though the least likely candidate seem If A Tree Falls. Given all the heavy subject matter, I’m going to predict that Pina takes the statue, since The Artist has already warmed everybody up for happy, dance-y movies to make it to the podium, and 3D documentary is a bit of a novelty.

*

DOCUMENTARY SHORT

The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement
God Is the Bigger Elvis
Incident in New Baghdad
Saving Face
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

Will Win: As always, hard to say, but let’s go with Cherry Blossom. It’s about the fallout of the tsunami in Japan.

FILM EDITING

Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Kevin Tent, The Descendants
Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Thelma Schoonmaker, Hugo
Christopher Tellefsen, Moneyball

Will & Should Win: The Artist was breezy and goes down smooth. There’s more to editing than that, but the only “showy” movie here is Hugo, which dragged in some places. Without a strong reason to vote elsewhere, The Artist will find itself with yet another gold guy.

*

MAKEUP

Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle, Albert Nobbs
Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland, The Iron Lady

Will & Should Win: Well, The Iron Lady did have fantastic makeup in making Meryl Streep look old. That and Meryl’s performance are the only two good things to be said about it.

ORIGINAL SCORE

John Williams, The Adventures of Tintin
Ludovic Bource, The Artist
Howard Shore, Hugo
Alberto Iglesias, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
John Williams, War Horse

Will Win: The Artist‘s memorable, happy-go-lucky theme will trump here, with John Williams conveniently cancelling himself out. It’s a silent film, so really, the music took the foreground.

Should Win: Alberto Iglesias, for the jazzy throwback of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the best stand-alone score. (Plus, he composed a nifty one for The Skin I Live In this year, too.)

*

ORIGINAL SONG

“Man or Muppet” from The Muppets, Bret McKenzie
“Real in Rio” from Rio, Sergio Mendes, Carlinhos Brown and Siedah Garrett

Will Win: Muppets FTW, no doubt!

SOUND EDITING

Drive
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Hugo
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse

Will Win: No Artist here, since the film had only one scene of synched sound. I’m not sure the train station hubbub of Hugo is memorable enough to win votes, so I’m going to say War Horse, which featured plenty of galloping and shooting. War makes for a lot of interesting sound effects, doesn’t it?

Should Win: Drive! Well, this is the only thing it was nominated for, so naturally I’m going to pick it.

*

SOUND MIXING

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Hugo
Moneyball
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse

Will Win: Why is Moneyball here? Because Aaron Sorkin’s snappy dialogue mixed really well with… an otherwise quiet room? Ah, well. There’s a lot going on in that train station in Hugo. If voters think as simply as I do, they’ll throw a bone to Hugo here.

Should Win: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo‘s visuals and diegetic sound melded so well with the hypnotic score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, it was almost dreamlike. Plus it’d be nice if this movie won something.

ANIMATED SHORT

Dimanche/Sunday
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
La Luna
A Morning Stroll
Wild Life

Will & Should Win: Flying Books! See above. Really, how do you top that?

Short Film (Live Action)

Pentecost
Raju
The Shore
Time Freak
Tuba Atlantic

Will Win: Apparently the smart money is on The Shore, though Tuba Atlantic looks a bit like Oscar bait material too. Since I’ve seen none of these, I’ll follow the experts.

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