George Clooney - The Descendants
Jean Dujardin - The Artist
Gary Oldman - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Michael Fassbender - Shame
Brad Pitt - Moneyball
Best Supporting Actor:
Christopher Plummer - Beginners
Albert Brooks - Drive
Jonah Hill – Moneyball
Patton Oswalt – Young Adult
Kenneth Branagh - My Week with Marilyn
This is perhaps my least favorite category, for reasons I may not even know. Perhaps it is the thought of a supporting man, just someone along for the ride, not a real man, a leading man, the annoying sidekick. Or maybe it is the bore this category usually turns out to be. We all knew Christoph Waltz was going to win last year, Heath Ledger the year before, and this year seems to have the same fate, with Christopher Plummer finally getting a much deserved Oscar. This is race is not much of one, but rather a guaranteed winner, with the competition being for places 2-5. Unless some act of God occurs, Mr. Plummer has this one locked down in his creaky old bones even tighter than Octavia Spencer has her respective statue in her ample bosom. While Mr. Branagh and Mr. Brooks seem to be a lock in this category, I am voting for the young(er) men Hill and Oswalt to overtake potential contenders like Nick Nolte, Max Von Sydow, John Goodman, or Viggo Mortensen. A nomination for Hill in combination with a nomination for Pitt could bode well for Moneyball's chances at the big win.
Viola Davis – The Help
Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady
Glenn Close – Albert Nobbs
Michelle Williams – My Week with Marilyn
Tilda Swinton – We Need to Talk About Kevin
Perhaps the most highly contested category this year is the one that I am always gravitated to the most: Best Actress. And girl, is this a close one. It is no secret that I am a sucker for divas and strong women of all modes; however, the work by the women in this category (and those who will not make the cut) was of an exceptionally high caliber this year, filled with old favorites and new talent. When making a brief list of who might even be eligible to make the cut, the numbers are astonishing: Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre), Charlize Theron (Young Adult), Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady), Helen Mirren (The Debt), Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs), Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin), Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids), Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Anna Paquin (Margaret), Kirsten Dunst (Melancholia), Viola Davis (The Help), Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy Mae Marlene), Adepero Oduye (Pariah), Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn), Jodie Foster (Carnage), and Kate Winslet (Carnage). And surely I have forgotten some. While Streep, Davis, Close, and Williams all seem a lock, the fifth and final spot is up for grabs. Earlier this year, I wouldn’t have considered this category without Elizabeth Olsen (yea, those Olsens) in her breakout performance in Martha Marcy Mae Marlene, however, that film has failed to gain traction, proving a little too indie for this year’s hard-hitting contest. I really admired Charlize Theron’s performance in Young Adult, however that film has been met with even more mixed reviews than Shame, and Ms. Theron would have needed to take out Williams at the Globes for another shot at Oscar glory (don’t worry, she’ll get revenge when her much darker Snow White and the Huntsmen obliterates Julia Robert’s whimsy Mirror Mirror in this spring’s Snow White-off). And while originally I had Ms. Mara on my top five, Tilda Swinton’s performance seems to be gathering steam faster than any of the other contenders, making this a fight of veterans, past nominees and winners. Ms. Mara should take comfort in the fact that she has two more films in her franchise, her character growing ever more complex, the taste growing closer in sight (think The Lord of the Rings final Oscar haul). One would think that Glenn Close might finally have her Susan Lucci moment and win an Oscar, but she will be passed up again by either Streep or Davis. Seeing as her last nomination came in 1989, perhaps she should be happy just to be at the party. Streep or Davis, Streep or Davis, hmmm. Davis will be aided by having the only movie included in the Best Picture category and her recent Tony win for Fences, not to mention the general feel-good quality inherent in The Help, but I believe it is time this year’s Kennedy Center honoree finally returns to the podium as a winner. While the movie she appears in seems slight in comparison, Ms. Streep’s Iron Lady is a study in character construction, transformation, and command of the camera. The detail and attention she gives to even the opening of a DVD case or cracking of an egg puts her in the pantheon of Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn. And that's before she opens her mouth, melding her voice impeccably to Ms. Thatcher's. I have betted on her before and lost, but once again, I’m going Streep.
Best Supporting Actress:
Octavia Spencer - The Help
Jessica Chastain - The Help
Megan McCarthy - Bridesmaids
Berenice Bejo - The Artist
Janet McTeer - Albert Nobbs
As I already said, this award is Ms. Spencer’s to win, no matter what anyone else has to say about it. However, there are a handful of actresses vying for runner-up. Janet McTeer seems a lockdown for her performance in Nobbs, as does Spencer’s co-star Chastain. Though a bit of a long shot, I am gunning for Megan McCarthy to find herself in this category for her captivating, shocking work in Bridesmaids, not to mention the funniest SNL episode this season. And while I’d like to consider newcomer Shailene Woodley, Carey Mulligan, or Vanessa Redgrave for the fifth spot, I have a feeling it will be Berenice Bejo for The Artist, a film that has a chance to sweep the awards. Redgrave doesn’t need it and surely Mulligan and Woodley will be back again soon. However, should Woodley sneak into the category or Clooney take the frog in his category, The Descendants may have a chance to go all the way.
Midnight in Paris
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
This category is especially difficult to call, as the list of films could number between five and ten, given a new Academy method of determining nominees. While I am considering the first five films lock-ins (the real contenders), the next five represent the films that could, and probably will, be included this year. Paris, Tattoo, and Horse seem pretty good bets, while the rest of the category could be filled with Shame, Tree of Life, We Need to Talk About Kevin, or Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close never gained the favor it sought from the critics, while Coriolanus and Martha Marcy Mae Marlene only catered to a small crowd of American movie watchers. If Hugo were not out this year, the Adventures of Tin Tin may have had a chance to get on the list. And if everyone didn’t hate Diablo Cody so much, her movie Young Adult might have made the cut, a la its predecessor Juno. In the end, I am taking a chance on Bridesmaids for its unconventional female comedy, crafty writing, and killer ensemble and the final installment of Harry Potter for its special effects, huge box office, and the ever-improving performances of its entire ensemble, not to mention the very special place that series holds in the hearts of many my age. Besides Martha Marcy Mae Marlene, the most snubbed movie of the year was Jane Eyre. A victim of poor release (summer??) and chilly English accents, this film captivated the dreary mists of the Brontë novel, featuring superb performances by Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, and Dame Judi Dench. For me this is mostly a contest between The Artist and The Descendants, with the silent movie about Hollywood barely edging out the tragic luau that is The Descendants. However, do not count out Hugo, directed by film giant Martin Scorsese, to give a strong third place finish or even take the win. With a much bigger box office and a family-friendly PG rating, Hugo may dominate the technical awards and sneak past the grown up movies for the win. Without any nominees in the acting categories, it will have an uphill battle, 3-D glasses and all.
The Academy announces its nominees tomorrow at 8:30 EST. The big awards show will take place Sunday, February 26, only on ABC.