COLUMN: Sunday’s Academy Awards might bring surprises

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Cannelton blogger would give best-picture award to ‘The Tree of Life’ but expects Oscar to go to ‘The Artist’

By ERIC HARRIS, Film Reviewer

The Academy Awards are this Sunday so it’s time for me to weigh in once again with my thoughts, predictions and personal picks for the ceremony.

In general, I’m not too upset with the nominees this year. Sure, there are plenty of snubs I could (and will) comment on, but the Academy has become so predictable that it’s hard to even get worked up about the movies and actors that didn’t make the cut.

That written, I still got a little miffed when Michael Fassbender wasn’t nominated for “Shame,” but I’m sure he’ll get his award some day. He turns in too many quality performances not to get noticed eventually.

I thought “Drive” was the best movie of the year, though it was too strange to appeal to the Academy, yet “The Tree of Life” got some love. I was still angry when Albert Brooks didn’t get a Best Supporting Actor nod, especially when Jonah Hill inexplicably came away with a nomination.

I was shocked to see “The Adventures of Tintin” left out of the animated race, though there are plenty of people who didn’t like that film nearly as much as I did. I could go on, but those were my main gripes. Now for the actual nominees, starting with the biggest category.

Best Picture

Nominees: “The Artist,” “The Descendants,” “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” “The Help,” “Hugo,” “Midnight in Paris,” “Moneyball,” “The Tree of Life,” “War Horse”

As with last year, there are more nominations this year so it would take up too much space to comment on each film individually. This is really a race between “The Artist” and “The Descendants,” anyway. I liked both of these films (“The Descendants” made my Top Ten), but I don’t feel that either of them deserve the honor of Best Picture. Out of the nominees, my favorite was “The Tree of Life.” But people in the industry cannot express their love for “The Artist” enough. The silent film gimmick wore a bit thin on me, but I can see how some people could fall in love with it. “The Descendants” is touching and funny, but no one is gushing over it like they are “The Artist.” It’s pretty much a lock that a silent film will win Best Picture this year (among other awards).

Prediction: “The Artist”

Pick: “The Tree of Life”

Best Actor

Nominees: Demian Bachir, George Clooney, Jean Dujardin, Gary Oldman and Brad Pitt

This is another race between “The Artist” and “The Descendants” as it is down to Jean Dujardin (a well-known French actor, but a newcomer to American audiences) and George Clooney. I think “The Artist” is going to nearly sweep all the categories it’s nominated in, so I’m going with Dujardin for this one, though Clooney does have a very good chance.

In all honesty, I was just glad to see Gary Oldman get noticed for his rare reserved performance in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” a movie I absolutely loved.
Prediction: Jean Dujardin

Pick: Gary Oldman

Best Actress

Nominees: Glenn Close, Viola Davis, Rooney Mara, Meryl Streep and Michelle Williams

This is kind of a boring category because heavy hitters Glenn Close and Meryl Streep are nominated. It just seems natural for it to go to Streep, though there is a lot of “Help” love out there for Davis. I was happy to see Rooney Mara get the nod for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” though my favorite female performance, Kirsten Dunst in “Melancholia,” wasn’t even nominated.

Prediction: Meryl Streep

Pick: Rooney Mara

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Kenneth Branagh, Jonah Hill, Nick Nolte, Christopher Plummer and Max von Sydow

This is typically the no-brainer category and that’s still the case. Although it isn’t as obvious as previous winners like Javier Bardem, Heath Ledger, Christoph Waltz and Christian Bale, it is still a safe bet that Christopher Plummer will be taking home the award for his work in “Beginners.”

As for the rest, I’ve already stated my disdain for Hill’s inclusion (not that he’s a bad actor, it’s just it was such a nothing role), but I was glad to see Nolte’s name show up for “Warrior,” a film more people need to see.

Prediction: Christopher Plummer

Pick: Nick Nolte

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Berenice Bejo, Jessica Chastain, Melissa McCarthy, Janet McTeer and Octavia Spencer

This one is really up in the air, but I’m sticking with my “Artist” theory and going with Bejo to keep the sweep going. I thought she did a fine job so her win wouldn’t bother me, although I would rather see Chastain or McCarthy win it. McCarthy would be a refreshing pick because it would give a comedic performance some rare prestige. Chastain almost deserves it simply because of her staggering amount of work released this year – six movies.

I preferred her performances in “The Debt” and “The Tree of Life” over “The Help,” though. Speaking of “The Help,” Spencer might be able to pull off this win, as well. McTeer might, too, for that matter; it’s just that hardly anyone has seen “Albert Nobbs” and I haven’t heard much about it at all. So this one is kind of a coin flip for me.

Prediction: Berenice Bejo

Pick: Jessica Chastain

Best Director

Nominees: Woody Allen, Michel Hazanavicius, Terrence Malick, Alexander Payne and Martin Scorsese

Yes, you guessed it: I’m going with Hazanavicius for “The Artist.” If for no other reason than people have already had to master the pronunciation of his name for all the other awards he has won. My favorite director for the year wasn’t even nominated (Nicolas Winding Refn, “Drive”), so this category doesn’t hold as much importance this year, especially since Scorsese has his Oscar already.

It would be nice to see any of these guys win it, though. Allen made a very enjoyable film with “Midnight in Paris,” easily one of his best in years. Payne has solidified himself as a gifted filmmaker with “The Descendants.” And Malick, my pick from this group, has crafted yet another mood poem of a film that has left viewers completely divided as usual.

Prediction: Michel Hazanavicius

Pick: Terrence Malick

So there you go; my predictions for this year’s Academy Awards. As you can probably tell, I didn’t see eye to eye with the Academy this year, but I take that as a badge of honor these days. I did find it a bit hard to make my predictions this time around, though. That is mainly because nothing just screamed out “Oscar winner!” this year. To be honest, I’m not terribly excited about these awards at all because my opinions are so completely different from the Academy’s. I’ll still be watching Sunday, though. Who knows, maybe Billy Crystal will keep things lively enough to make me care about all of these awards I disagree with.

Harris of Cannelton is a movie buff and blogger who posts reviews of films at www.canneltoncritic.com.