This year’s Oscar® telecast promises to be steeped in nostalgia. Let’s face it, this year’s Best Picture nominees scream nostalgia – from the age of silent film in THE ARTIST to father of cinema Georges Méliès in HUGO to 1920s Paris in MIDNIGHT IN PARIS to a winning A's season in MONEYBALL to segregated bathrooms in THE HELP to World War I in WAR HORSE or to 9/11 in EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE. I could go on, but I’m confident I’ve already crossed the boundaries of good taste.
As promised, below are my Oscar® predictions for the categories you care about (at least as much as you can this year). I'm not too terribly confident in them this year. In fact, the only thing I am confident in predicting is that thanks to the preponderance of nostalgia films, this year’s Oscar telecast (with the possible exception of host Billy Crystal) will be mostly insufferable.
Here we go.
And the nominees for Best Picture are:
EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
THE TREE OF LIFE
You know it’s a weak year for the Oscars® when only one Best Picture nominee makes it onto your Top 10 list. So it should come as no surprise that MONEYBALL is the movie I’d most like to see win. But that won’t happen. If we go by total number of nominations, your best bets are either THE ARTIST or HUGO. But don’t discount such Oscar® bait as THE DECENDENTS, THE HELP and MIDNIGHT IN PARIS. Only choose one of the remaining nominees if you get great odds. THE ARTIST stands out in more significant ways than any other nominated movie (i.e., black and white, silent, made by a Frenchman), and I would put even money on it taking home the gold. My pick for an overlooked movie that should have made the list is TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY. See it if you haven’t. It puts most of these nominees to shame.
Should Win: MONEYBALL
Will Win: THE ARTIST
Overlooked: TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY
And the nominees for Best Director are:
Woody Allen, MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
Michel Hazanavicius, THE ARTIST
Terrence Malick, THE TREE OF LIFE
Alexander Payne, THE DESCENDENTS
Martin Scorsese, HUGO
I look at this list and think, “Seriously, was this really the best you could come up with?” None of these guys deserve the gold this year. Okay, you could give points to Terrence Malick for ambition but, seriously, dinosaurs? And although Martin Scorsese salvaged a mess of a script, the pace was soooo sloooooow. The best director this year was Tomas Alfredson from TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY, followed closely by Mike Mills from BEGINNERS and Asghar Farhadi from A SEPARATION. But if forced to choose from the actual list I’d give it to Alexander Payne, whose own choices still surprise me even when they show up in a subpar movie. However, if asked to put money behind my choice, I’d go with Michel Hazanavicius, because the Academy does like its novelty acts.
Should Win: Alexander Payne, THE DESCENDANTS
Will Win: Michel Hazanavicius, THE ARTIST
Overlooked: Tomas Alfredson, TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY
And the nominees for Best Actress are:
Glenn Close, ALBERT NOBBS
Viola Davis, THE HELP
Rooney Mara, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
Meryl Streep, THE IRON LADY
Michelle Williams, MY WEEK WITH MARILYN
I only saw three of the nominated actress performances this year and, of those, Michelle Williams was my favorite. The Academy won’t honor her, convinced that her time will come some years down the road. What a great idea. Heath Ledger, anyone? The same could be said of Rooney Mara, but her role (not to mention the movie) was too unsavory to clinch anything beyond a nomination. In any other year, Glenn Close might walk away with the gold to honor her career achievements. Not this year. It comes down to Streep and the marvelous Viola Davis. I think Davis will win, but I would argue that her role is more supporting than lead. Because Tilda Swinton won a supporting actress Oscar® a couple years back, the Academy chose to ignore her amazing work in WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN. That’s a shame.
Should Win: Michelle Williams, MY WEEK WITH MARILYN
Will Win: Viola Davis, THE HELP
Overlooked: Tilda Swinton, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN
And the nominees for Best Actor are:
Demian Bichir, A BETTER LIFE
George Clooney, THE DESCENDENTS
Jean Dujardin, THE ARTIST
Gary Oldman, TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY
Brad Pitt, MONEYBALL
I’ve seen all but Demian Bichir’s performance. The same can probably be said of the Academy. Of the remaining, I would be thrilled to see Gary Oldman win but must confess my heart resides with Brad Pitt. This may be his one and only chance to go home with the gold and I, for one, would give it to him. As to who will win, you’re looking at either George Clooney or Jean Dujardin. I’m going with Dujardin, because he has an accent and Clooney won supporting actor not too long ago. Michael Fassbender gave some fantastic performances this year, and none better than in SHAME. I guess the NC-17 rating gave the Academy pause as well.
Should Win: Brad Pitt, MONEYBALL
Will Win: Jean Dujardin, THE ARTIST
Overlooked: Michael Fassbender, SHAME
And the nominees for Best Supporting Actress are:
Bérénice Bejo, THE ARTIST
Jessica Chastain, THE HELP
Melissa McCarthy, BRIDESMAIDS
Janet McTeer, ALBERT NOBBS
Octavia Spencer, THE HELP
This may be the strongest overall category. Of the performances I’ve seen (sorry, Janet McTeer) my favorite is that of Melissa McCarthy, who steals every scene she’s in. If she were to win, it would be a huge upset. But I feel confident that Octavia Spencer will walk away with the statuette. And that will be fine, too. Though it would be hard to choose which nominee to drop, Carey Mulligan should have been recognized for a fearless performance in SHAME.
Should Win: Melissa McCarthy, BRIDESMAIDS
Will Win: Octavia Spencer, THE HELP
Overlooked: Carey Mulligan, SHAME
And the nominees for Best Supporting Actor are:
Kenneth Branagh, MY WEEK WITH MARILYN
Jonah Hill, MONEYBALL
Nick Nolte, WARRIOR
Christopher Plummer, BEGINNERS
Max von Sydow, EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE
This is another strong category. And once again I haven’t seen one of the nominees -- Max von Sydow, for a reason that begins with Stephen and ends with Daldry. I wouldn’t mind at all if Nick Nolte were to pull an upset, but Christopher Plummer has the momentum and, truth be told, deserves the award. If we could have squeezed in a sixth nominee, Patton Oswalt deserved at least a nod for his underrated work in YOUNG ADULT.
Should and Will Win: Christopher Plummer, BEGINNERS
Overlooked: Patton Oswalt, YOUNG ADULT
And the nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay are:
George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon, THE IDES OF MARCH
John Logan, HUGO
Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan, TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY
Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash, THE DESCENDENTS
Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, Stan Chervin, MONEYBALL
This is a very weak category (see the On The Page Oscar® podcast posted on my blog and Facebook pages last week for a more complete discussion). The only writers who deserve a win are Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan and Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin and Stan Chervin. Of those two I like O’Connor & Straughan best. As to who will win, I’m sorry to say that the most likely recipient will be Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash. That’s better than the other two scripts, which were both messes. And while Pilar Alessandra (On The Page) may disagree with me, I would have preferred John Romano’s adaptation of THE LINCOLN LAWYER to at least three of the nominated scripts.
Should Win: Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan, TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY
Will Win: Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash, THE DESCENDENTS
Overlooked: John Romano, THE LINCOLN LAWYER
And the nominees for Best Original Screenplay are:
Woody Allen, MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
J.C. Chandor, MARGIN CALL
Asghar Farhadi, A SEPARATION
Michel Hazanavicius, THE ARTIST
Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig, BRIDESMAIDS
Although stronger than the adapted category (again see the On The Page Oscar® podcast for a more comprehensive discussion), there are only two truly worthy scripts: Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig’s hilarious female-driven comedy and Asghar Farhadi’s riveting domestic drama. If forced to choose I would have to go with Farhadi, but if Mumolo & Wiig were to accept the prize, I would be equally thrilled. Sadly, this is unlikely to be the case. Although there’s an outside chance that screenwriter Hazanavicius will benefit from a potential sweep by THE ARTIST, I consider it more likely that Allen gets the consolation prize. The Academy’s biggest oversight this year may be Mike Mills and his lovely script for BEGINNERS.
Should Win: Asghar Farhadi, A SEPARATION
Will Win: Woody Allen, MIDNIGHT IN PARISOverlooked: Mike Mills, BEGINNERS
This wraps up The Pope's Picks for 2011. Thanks for reading this far, and we'll see you in 2012.