2012 Oscars forecast

Jean Dujardin, left, and George Clooney pose at the 31st Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon in Beverly Hills, Calif., Monday, Feb. 6, 2012. © AP Photo by Chris Pizzello.

Some years the Oscars are so predictable you wish you could cash in on your picks. This year, I am happy none of my money is riding on the awards because there is some close competition, particularly in the lead acting categories.

Yes, it wasn’t the greatest year for movies. And yes, the Academy is probably too old, too male and too white. But it is Oscar weekend, so it’s time to make some predictions.

Best Picture: I am officially sick of the expanded best picture field. Give me a break. It’s a bone the Oscars throw to a few films to make the ceremony more interesting, though we all knew, for instance, The Blind Side had no chance of winning in 2010. And the Academy doesn’t even throw its bones well. If it had, Harry Potter and the Deatly Hallows, Part 2, would be a contender. It capped off an epic franchise millennials, in particular, will treasure for life, and it was a great movie. But the aging Academy probably wrote it off as kids stuff – and what is Hugo, except directed by Scorsese? – and failed to even give it the honor of being nominated. The Artist, despite growing grumbling that it represents the Academy’s nostalgia fix this year and was more gimmick than great artistry, seems to be a lock.

Presdiction: The Artist

Jean Dujardin in "The Artist." © AP/The Weinstein Company photo.

Best actor: I always take the Screen Actors Guild Award as a bellwether of the acting Oscars, and that would say Jean Dujardin is our man. But a lot of people keep saying this is Clooney’s year to add a best actor Oscar to the supporting actor honor he won in 2005. While some may debate The Artist‘s relevance in the 21st century and write it off as a gimmick, you have to hand it to Dujardin: not every one could carry a silent film these days, and he did it brilliantly. You also have to think, this is probably his one shot at Oscar. I sort of liken it to Roberto Benigni’s 1999 Oscar for Life is Beautiful. It was a lovely, unique performance by a gifted European actor who probably won’t be back in this race. Clooney, on the other hand, has become a perennial at the Oscars, so chances are, there will be more opportunities to honor him. So, with apologies to our Bluegrass State native, I am betting on Dujardin.

Prediction: Jean Dujardin

Viola Davis in "The Help." © AP/Miramax Film Corp. photo by Andrew Schwartz.

Best actress: Here, we have a woman who has almost become too much of a perennial. I saw an actress in Entertainment Weekly say Meryl Streep gets nominated every year, explaining her vote for The Help‘s Viola Davis, who was, as always, outstanding. Yes, Streep has been nominated 17 times and won twice. But the last time she won was 20 years ago. What does she have to do to win again? Some would say turn in an amazing performance like she did in The Iron Lady playing iconic British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Initially, I thought this would be Streep’s year to get Oscar No. 3, but the energy really seems to be behind Davis, who I can’t argue with. But like I said: What does Meryl need to do to be honored for that latter part of her career? Maybe turning in an amazing performance in August: Osage County will get it.

Prediction: Viola Davis

Christopher Plummer. © AP photo by Frank Franklin II.

Best supporting actor: Both of the supporting categories have fun nominees. In this case, it is that Jonah Hill will be able to put the words “Oscar nominated actor” in front of his name from now on for his role in Moneyball that tapped his funny side but also brought out a greater depth of humanity than his comic turns. But if there is any competition here, it is between the older guys: Christopher Plummer, who comes out as openly gay man after the death of his wife in Beginners, and Max Von Sydow, who becomes a companion to a boy who lost his father in the World Trade Center on 9/11 in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Both have one previous nomination, but Plummer looks like the safe bet to win this time as he has rolled up almost all of the precursor awards, including the Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe awards for this part.

Prediction: Christopher Plummer

Octavia Spencer. © AP photo by Victoria Will.

Best supporting actress: Similarly, Octavia Spencer has rolled up most of the precursors for her performance in The Help. Also, the movie got the SAG award for performance by a cast, so the fact that there seems to be a lot of love for this movie’s performances bodes well for a Help sweep in the actress categories. If there is an upset possibility, it would probably be Janet McTeer for Albert Nobbs, a highly regarded film that will probably have to settle for the honor of being nominated. The fun nominee here is Melissa McCarthy, an Emmy winner for her performance on the CBS sitcom Mike and Molly, for her turn in Bridesmaids.

Prediction: Octavia Spencer

Best director: Some years, you can separate the best picture and best director trophies. This year, I don’t see how. The Artist was a product of the vision of Michel Hazanavicius, who also wrote the screenplay and edited the film. Even if there’s an upset in best picture, Hazanavicius should win here.

Prediction: Michel Hazanavicius

Best screenplay (adapted): We’ll get into this one this year since our home state man George Clooney is up for the prize for The Ides of March along with his regular collaborator Grant Heslov. In this category, Clooney’s competing against his other film, The Descendants, and director/writer Alexander Payne along with Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. They look to be the favorites to win here, though I would love to see Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin get it for Moneyball, a great book I never saw becoming a movie.

Prediction: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash

Best screenplay (original): This is a really interesting category. You have the silent film in contention with Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris, Annie Mumolo and Saturday Night Live star Kristen Wiig for Bridesmaids, the movie that proved women can make gross-out comedies too, J.C. Chandor for the Wall Street-greed drama Margin Call and Asghar Farhadi for the Iranian divorce drama A Separation. What’s your favorite flavor? I’ll go with the Writer’s Guild who gave the award to Woody, who will probably be playing his clarinet somewhere when his name is called.

Prediction: Woody Allen

Note: I haven’t done this in a while, but I am going to live blog during the Oscars Sunday night, so check in and comment.

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