It’s almost Oscar time again, time for the yearly reminder that the Academy Award seldom honors the best performances within a given year. The Oscars are akin to the claims of efficacy trumpeted by drug manufacturers based on reports they commissioned. The Oscars are really about the thing Hollywood reveres above all other things: Hollywood!
Here are my predictions for the major awards, broken down according to who will win (WW) and who should win (SW), the latter based on the actual quality of the film.
First, I predict one small surprise. It’s close to a given that whatever film is chosen as best picture will also produce the best director winner. I think that this year we’ll see a departure from this.
Second, there is no doubt of what should win (SW) most of the awards; The Artist and its cast are light years better than anything else that’s up for awards. My guess, though, is that it won’t win as many Oscars as it should.
Best Supporting Actor:
SW: Jonah Hill for Moneyball as his portrayal as the portly computer geek that convinced Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane to defy–and ultimately redefine–baseball logic.
WW: Christopher Plummer for his role as a late-in-life-come out-of-the-closet gay man in The Beginners. An okay performance, but one Plummer could have done in his sleep. Hollywood loves to show its liberal chops, though, so score one for Plummer.
Best Supporting Actress:
SW: Bérénice Bejo for The Artist. The only thing wrong with her nomination is that it should have for Best Actress. When she’s on screen, you can’t not look at her. It’s one of the most charming performances I’ve seen in years.
WW: Octavia Spencer for The Help. This wouldn’t be a travesty, as Spencer is good in her role, though it is a sort of Gone with the Wind Mammy role updated for the 1960s.
SW: Jean Dujardin for his role as a film icon in the dying days of silent movies in The Artist. But he’s French, he (literally) doesn’t speak in the film, and he’s not a Hollywood commodity.
WW: George Clooney for The Descendants. This one’s almost a lock—Clooney is everything Hollywood loves: a big star, liberal, handsome, dashing…. I like Clooney, but this was little more than a walk through in one of the most overrated films of the year. I would label this one a travesty.
Best Actress: (The strongest category by far.)
SW: Michelle Williams for My Week with Marilyn. It may be the best portrayal of Marilyn Monroe ever done. Williams makes you think she’s a person she only vaguely resembles. Williams’ work was far better than that of distinguished peers such as Meryl Streep and Glenn Close.
WW: Williams’ fabulous acting will not overcome Hollywood’s burning desire to show how “relevant” and “progressive” it is. The Oscar will go to Viola Davis for The Help. Davis is good in the role, but it’s no tour de force and, if we’re honest, we’ll admit that this role wouldn’t be nominated if the character and actress were white. Call this the fuzzy-headed liberal prize.
WW/SW: The Artist is simply too good not to win. It’s unlike everything else out there, plus it pays homage to Hollywood’s past. Any other choice is just wrong. Even Hollywood will get that!
SW: Michael Hazanavicius for The Artist. His direction is inventive, stylish, and clever. Fabulous use of light, whimsy, and intellect are present in every shot.
WW: Here’s the upset. Hugo is not the Best Picture of 2011, but Hollywood is jonesing to honor Martin Scorsese one more time before he dies, and Hugo is good enough to do the trick. Plus, this award would allow Hollywood to honor several categories it is yet to fathom: animated movies and 3-D technology. Scorcese’s 2007 Oscar for The Departed was payback for not honoring Raging Bull, and this one is compensation for not giving the nod to Taxi Driver, one of the best films of all time. Why can’t Hollywood just say “Ooops!” instead?