Artist

I think I accorded myself pretty well last time I came out and boldly predicted this year’s Oscar nominations. It’s part science, part luck, and I’m an amateur at all of this – an aspiring film buff who’s learning to love the game (and love-hate how simultaneously bafflingly old-school and surprisingly cool [rarely] the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences can be).

Considering that, I made some kind of outta-left-field choices that paid off. Rooney Mara in! Gary Oldman too. And Nick Nolte. That said, there was something to surprise tucked away in every category I predicted.

I could not have foreseen Michael Fassbender, this year’s “it guy not named Gosling” getting left off in favor of little-seen-but-much-appreciated (and not seen by me) Demian Bechir from “A Better Life.” And I thought Rooney Mara would knock Glenn Close out of the race – instead she took out Tilda Swinton.

I had heard that Shailene Woodley of “The Descendents” (perhaps known to you from her lead role in “The Secret Life of the American Teen,” a fascinatingly terrible ABC family show and a really poor indicator of how good Woodley is in this film) might be in danger of losing a spot in the best Supporting Actress race. I chose to ignore those predictions, but, sadly enough, it came to pass. I was pulling for a Woodley win, but now I’ll just have to drag people to see this movie with me to show people how wrong the Academy voters were in this instance.

Most of the harrumphs on nomination day surrounded Albert Brooks not being nominated for “Drive.” He was elbowed out by Max van Sydow, who, if you’ll recall, I had hoped would maybe get left behind. He wasn;t, and instead of taking out Nick Nolte, he took out Brooks, who was a favorite to potentially take the award.

And then there was the Best Picture race. If you called nine Best Picture nominees, you are genius or a psychic. No one could have anticipated that, a year after the Academy tried to move away from a bloated 10 picture field, the voters would still split their votes so evenly amongst a group of pictures it’s hard to believe so many people would place first on their ballot.

If I had predicted a nine picture field, my seventh through ninth picks would have been “War Horse,” “Midnight in Paris” and “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” The latter didn’t make the cut. My tenth would have been “Bridesmaids” – also a swing and a miss. I’m not even sure I would have ever anticipated actual ninth nominee “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” making the cut. (And the Academy knows it, which is why there was an audible pause before they announced it and why there were only eight slots on the screen. Sneaky Academy.)

So, in every field I missed one nomination. That’s fine. That’s a batting average I’ll take. Shall I try my hand at the winners?

Best Picture – The Artist

My heart tells my The Artist backlash will win and The Descendants will traipse away with a victory. And I like The Artist. I saw it this past week and thought it was clever and moving and a deserving winner. But I liked The Descendants more and I truly believe there is a chance that film could play spoiler here. But it won’t. Backlash be damned, The Artist takes the win and tap dances off the stage with a smile.

Best Director – Michel Hazanvicius

Think the Academy will use the slot to award another deserving film, since The Artist is going to run away with the big prize? I don’t I wish it would. I’d like to see Alexander Payne take this one. Scorcese has a shot. Woody Allen and Terrence Malick have no real chance.

Best Actor – George Clooney

Jean Dujardin has largely monopolized this awards season with his charming grin and his French accent and his adorable humility. I think it ends at the Oscars. Clooney or Pitt. That’s what it comes down to. Dujardin is in it, but he’s not in it win it if you ask me. This is where “The Descendants” will get the love it deserves.

Best Actress – Viola Davis

I feel a silent but strong Streep backlash rumbling under my feet, and I think it lasts long enough to give this race to Davis. Neither movie blows you away, both performances are great, and Davis and Streep have split many of the awards up to this point. In this horse race, “The Help” being a stronger movie and Davis being a newer presence helps her win.

Best Supporting Actor – Christopher Plummer

By far the easiest call. With Brooks gone, and apparently never a true threat, there is no one to stop Plummer from taking his first Oscar at 82 for his charming performance in my favorite movie of the year, “The Beginners.” If anyone could wrest it from Captain Von Trapp’s grasp, I’d say it could be Jonah I-can’t–believe-he’s-an-Oscar-nominee-but-just-go-with-it Hill (Nolte, Von Sydow and Brannagh should probably stay home). But that won’t happen.

Best Supporting Actress – Octavia Spencer

All signs point to Spencer joining her “Help” costar Davis at the podium to accept this award and make her thank-yous. As I said, Woodley would have been my upset pick. Now its Berenice Bejo has daffily winning in “The Artist.” Winning enough to actually win? No. Melissa McCarthey in “Bridesmaids” is a classic “Be happy you’re nominated!” role. As long as everyone considers Jessica Chastain for just the role she’s nominated for – her role as a trashy but good-hearted housewife in “The Help” – and not for the whole of her work in 2011, which they could do I suppose, Spencer will be the “Help” cast member who walks away from the ceremony with a statue in hand.

Best Animated Feature – Rango

Rango was a strange film. It suffered from “Happy Feet” syndrome, veering wildly into an environmental message two-thirds of the way through a film that had largely been concerned with genre parody. That said, it was the best animated feature by miles, and with “The Adventures of Tin Tin” sitting this one out because of a presumed Academy bias against motion capture, there is nothing standing in the way from a “Rango” victory.

Foreign Language Film – A Separation

If critics are any indication (and the Documentary category should be a sign that in fact they’re not that great an indicator), the Iranian film “A Separation” has already won this award and will win it for many years to come. It is far and away the biggest deal of any of the nominees stateside and it is a huge presumptive favorite.

Best Adapted Screenplay – Moneyball

Aaron Sorkin dialogue and the uncanny ability to make nerdy things (computer programming, baseball stats) thrilling. That beats “The Descendants” here.

Best Original Screenplay – Bridesmaids

What helps “Bridesmaids” here? It is a film that demands to be recognized, and this is the easiest place to do it. The competition is pretty light here. “The Artist” is unlikely to win because it’s silent. (Not saying that’s fair.) “Midnight in Paris” is a solid contender but lacks the “Bridesmaids” buzz. “A Separation” was a surprise nomination because foreign-language scripts have a harder journey to the ballot.

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