Will Win: “The Artist”
It’s been said before, but it deserves being said once again. In a year filled with sequels, prequels, reboots, remakes, retools and whatever other term Hollywood likes to use as a euphemism, it’s no wonder the critical community fell head over heels in love with a film that beautifully emulates a time when Hollywood was simpler and more innocent. The film leaves you with a smile but also offers up something rare — the chance to view an original silent film in a theater with a live audience. And if the film can inform even a few unenlightened viewers to the beauty of silent cinema and leave them wanting to read more into the history of cinema, then that’s a success in itself.
Should Win: “Hugo”
Despite its undeniable charms, “The Artist” simply doesn’t hold a candle to Martin Scorsese’s beautifully rendered valentine to films and those who make them. As emotionally gripping as it is visually gorgeous, “Hugo” melds history with fantasy and extreme melancholy with exorbitant joy. Anchored by an astounding breakout performance from Asa Butterfield and featuring great turns from Ben Kingsley, Chloe Grace Moretz and Sacha Baron-Cohen, the film provides an exciting 3D-addled journey through the streets and underground of 1930s Paris and subways as well as a CliffNoted history of film.
Will Win: Jean Dujardin
It’s safe to say the success of “The Artist” rides significantly on the strength of its leading man. In that regard, Dujardin delivers with flying colors. A beloved comedian in his native France, Dujardin captures both the mannerisms and acting style of a classical silent film star while never allowing his performance to fall into kitsch territory. Also, as he’s proven in countless award ceremonies, he gives one hell of an entertaining acceptance speech. For a show known for its dry, this can only be a positive.
Should Win: Gary Oldman
A film driven more by its atmosphere than any compelling narrative threads, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” was not a movie for everyone. Yet, few would dispute the merit of Gary Oldman’s brilliant, nuanced performance as a stoic British government official. Renowned for his high-octane roles, including that of a psychotic pimp (“True Romance”), a psychotic cop (“The Professional”) and a psychotic composer (“Immortal Beloved”), Oldman certainly earned the moniker “Crazy Gary.” Tailor, however, has him delivering his most subtle, subdued performance to date. In a category known for rewarding flash and bombast, Oldman dares to be quiet.
Will Win: Viola Davis
Portraying a popular character from a best-selling is a losing battle for any actor. No matter how, disgruntled readers will always gripe about how the character “was nothing like I pictured.” That’s when having an actress like Viola Davis in your film . Even if Davis does not entirely fulfill one’s image of the protagonist from Kathryn Stockett’s literary blockbuster, her performance makes it so you can never imagine the character being portrayed any other way. As Aibileen, the mild-mannered, 1960s black maid who is inspired to speak out against her repression, Davis is a master class in the “less is more” approach. What would take most actors pages of dialogue to communicate, Davis does with a lingering glance.
Best Supporting Actress
Will Win: Octavia Spencer
Contrasting with Davis’ reserved performance, Octavia Spencer’s Minny is loud, brash and won’t let anyone bring her down. Moreover, her victory would allow the Academy to award Oscars to two black actors from the same film.
Plus, having interviewed the entire cast early last summer, I can safely say she’s also one of the nicest celebrities I’ve ever interviewed. I don’t know if that counts for anything, but it should.
Should Win: Melissa McCarthy
Is there a more incompatible pair than the Academy Awards and comedy?
Providing the funniest role in what turned out to be the year’s funniest film, Melissa McCarthy hollered, swore and (in the film’s most infamous scene) defecated her way to Oscar gold.
Though voters would no doubt consider McCarthy’s nomination to be recognition enough, her performance proves that comedy is an art in and of itself.
Best Supporting Actor
Will and Should Win: Christopher Plummer
An underappreciated living legend if there ever was one, Christopher Plummer’s career spans from the classics (“Sound of Music”) to biblical epics (“Jesus of Nazareth”) to projects that, to put it lightly, squander his significant talent under a mountain of suck (“Dracula 2000”).
As an actor, Plummer’s naturally dapper, aristocratic charms — as seen in his last critically-acclaimed role in “The Last Station” — have always come with a whiff of mischief.
In telling the story of his father’s late-in-life emergence as a gay man, director Mike Mills gives Plummer the kind of rich character he’s long deserved.
With the actor now in his eighth decade, one would be tempted to characterize Plummer’s inevitable victory at this year’s ceremony as little more than a life achievement award.
To me, the award is well-earned and an inspiring example of how, even as an octogenarian, one can still discover the role of lifetime.
Will Win: Michel Hazanavicius
Hazanavicius’ ability to meticulously recreate an era served him well with “The Artist.”
More than simply recreating the feel of a 1920s silent film, however, Hazanavicius is also responsible for some one of the year’s most memorable sequences; namely, a horrific dream sequence where Dujardin’s Valentin finds himself in a nightmare where sound attacks him from all sides.
Having swept the coveted Directors Guild of America statue a few weeks back, Hazanavicius looks to be a lock for Best Director.
Should Win: Terrence Malick
Ever reclusive and ever brilliant, Malick turns every project into a lush, poetic medication on everything from nature to the purpose of existence.
His fifth film in nearly 40 years as a filmmaker, “Tree of Life” offers a complex (some might say messy) foray into those two biggest of questions: why are we here, and how do we perceive ourselves when placed against the vastness of time and space?
In place of definite answers, Malick presents the audience with a two-hour visual tone poem filled with some of the most striking images in film history. “Tree of Life” is not a narrative; it’s an experience — a biblical psalm told in pictures.
— Contact Mark Rozeman.