BEST ACTRESS – Viola Davis (THE HELP)
When I first looked at the nominees for Best Actress this year, picking the likely winner was instantaneous. But recent events have caused me to reconsider my initial thinking. First-time nominee Rooney Mara impressed many playing The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo but her competition is so fierce it would be a genuine shock if her name was called.
Three-time nominee Michelle Williams and six-time nominee Glenn Close are used to losing at these ceremonies in the past. Their luck won’t change in 2012.
For me, this category is really a two-person race. On one side, you have the most decorated actor in history, and on the other, a two-time nominee just starting to get some momentum in her career. When the nominations were announced, I felt Meryl Streep was in line for her third Oscar. But after seeing Viola Davis deliver that lovely speech at the SAG Awards and considering the fact that The Help needs to be rewarded at least once on Oscar night, I’ve strongly reconsidered my original pick.
The Help was a surprise summer blockbuster and received plenty of critical support, particularly for its cast. The Iron Lady has not fared nearly as well. Reviews have been mixed and the chances of it finding an audience as large is deeply remote. Streep doesn’t need the Oscar nearly as much as Davis and the latter will likely offer another touching acceptance speech that could be a highlight of the ceremony.
Viola Davis for Best Actress.
BEST ACTOR – Jean Dujardin (THE ARTIST)
Three longtime movie stars battle it out with two fresh faces in the race for Best Actor. Immediately discount George Clooney. He won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work in Syriana six years ago. He’s not winning another trophy this year. Mexican actor Demian Bichir shouldn’t worry too much about preparing an acceptance speech, either. Best known for his frequent appearances on Weeds, the star of A Better Life is the biggest long shot in this category this year.
Hard to believe the great Gary Oldman is up for his first Best Actor gong in 2012 after years of delivering award-worthy performances in films like JFK, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Hannibal. But it’s highly unlikely he’ll win for his work in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. This year is not his time to shine at the podium.
That leaves multiple nominee Brad Pitt and French actor Jean Dujardin. This is Pitt’s third shot at an acting Oscar (he was previously nominated in this category for Benjamin Button in 2009 and in the Best Supporting Actor category sixteen years ago for 12 Monkeys). My feeling is his slump will continue.
One of the key reasons The Artist has become so beloved by the vast majority of critics is the performance of Dujardin who has already racked up a number of accolades going all the way back to the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. Perhaps the best indication of his impending win at the Oscars is the recent Screen Actors Guild awards. Since their inception nearly 20 years ago, the Best Actor category has been a fairly decent indicator of who will win the Academy Award in the same category. 78% of the time, SAG’s choice for outstanding leading man becomes Oscar’s preference, as well. Only four times in the last eighteen years has the academy selected a different winner than SAG. The last time this happened was in 2004. (Johnny Depp took The Actor, Sean Penn The Oscar.)
Jean Dujardin for Best Actor.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Melissa McCarthy (BRIDESMAIDS)
Like the Best Actress category this year, guessing who will take home the Best Supporting Actress gong isn’t easy. In past years, there have been numerous unexpected winners which adds to the difficulty considerably. In 1997, Lauren Bacall was expected to be rewarded for her work in The Mirror Has Two Faces. Juliette Binoche of The English Patient actually won. In 2001, it looked like Kate Hudson was a sure thing thanks to her wonderful performance in Almost Famous. Pollack’s Marcia Gay Harden got the duke, instead. And just a few years ago, Michael Clayton’s Tilda Swinton shocked many by winning this prize over sentimental favourite Ruby Dee.
Looking at the ladies up for a life-changing moment in 2012 and you see the possibility of another surprise winner. Janet McNeer was previously nominated for Best Actress twelve years ago for her fine performance in Tumbleweeds. (She lost to Hilary Swank that year.) Like 2000, there won’t be nearly enough academy support for her to get to the podium.
Bérénice Bejo of The Artist looks like a huge underdog, as well. I would bet against her, too. And as for Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer, both recognized for their roles in The Help, I have this feeling, based on past history, that they’ll cancel each other out because of vote splitting.
That leaves Melissa McCarthy. She delivered perhaps the most acclaimed comedic performance of 2011 in one of the biggest commercial hits of the summer. And she’s a recent Emmy winner thanks to her work on Mike & Molly. Since Bridesmaids was overlooked in the Best Picture category, this could very well be one of the ways the academy will acknowledge its success.
Melissa McCarthy for Best Supporting Actress.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Christopher Plummer (BEGINNERS)
Four Academy favourites square off against a newbie in the race for Best Supporting Actor. Don’t look for renaissance man Kenneth Branagh to make his way to the podium. Previously nominated for Best Actor and Best Director (1989’s Henry V), Best Live Action Short (Swan Song) and, absurdly, for Best Adapted Screenplay (the 1996 version of Hamlet), his slump for academy gold will continue.
Ditto Max Von Sydow. The still incredibly hardworking Swede whose only previous nomination was for Best Actor in the late 80s (Pelle The Conquerer) will remain seated when the real winner is announced. Nick Nolte was previously nominated in that same category for his highly regarded lead performances in The Prince Of Tides and Affliction back in the 1990s. Regarding his first Best Supporting Actor nomination for Warrior, though, the third nod will not be the charm. As for Jonah Hill, his first citation for Moneyball doesn’t look like a strong bet, either.
Which brings us to Christopher Plummer. Hard to believe he was first recognized by the academy only two years ago when he was 80. In 2010, he was nominated in this category for playing the famous Russian author Leo Tolstoy in The Last Station. This year, he plays an old man finally at ease with his homosexuality in Beginners.
The time to reward him for working non-stop since 1953 (check out this insane list of credits here) and to honour a career filled with highly regarded performances (the Shakespearean-quoting Klingon in Star Trek VI and Mike Wallace in The Insider, are two of my personal faves) is now.
Christopher Plummer for Best Supporting Actor.
Here are the rest of my predictions in the remaining categories:
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – PARADISE LOST 3: PURGATORY
BEST FOREIGN FILM – IN DARKNESS
BEST FILM EDITING – THE ARTIST
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY -Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig (BRIDESMAIDS)
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon & Jim Rash (THE DESCENDANTS)
BEST MAKE-UP – ALBERT NOBBS
BEST COSTUME DESIGN – ANONYMOUS
BEST SOUND MIXING – THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
BEST SOUND EDITING – THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT – Raju
BEST ANIMATED SHORT – La Luna
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT – The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – THE ARTIST
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – HARRY POTTER & THE DEATHLY HOLLOWS, PART 2
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – THE ARTIST
BEST ART DIRECTION – HUGO
The 84th annual Academy Awards, hosted by Billy Crystal, airs Sunday night, February 26, on ABC and CTV beginning with the red carpet nonsense at 7 p.m.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, February 1, 2012