I’ve seen six of the nine Best Picture nominees this year, with one of the three I missed being “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” a film that has no prayer and I can’t fathom why it was nominated. Maybe it’s brilliant, but most brilliant films manage better than 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. So I’ll take their word.
Best Picture – It isn’t with much hesitation that I believe “The Artist” wins here, and I don’t really think it’s close. I know it’s a sexy pick, but so much was happening beyond a silent movie. It was a silent movie about silent filmmaking, and it’s central themes were relevant in 1930 and in 2012. I liked “The Descendants” a lot. And I loved “Moneyball,” but “The Artist” is a perfect representation of the year in film, and the Academy will eat it up. I imagine middle America will be outraged something they saw didn’t win, like “Moneyball,” “The Help,” or “War Horse.” And, granted, I missed “War Horse,” but “Moneyball” isn’t a great achievement in filmmaking, it’s simply a great movie. “The Help” was far too long and it seems to be relying on Oscar-winning cliches. “The Descendants” finishes second here, for me, because while it wasn’t a grand slam, it was a story I felt had not been told before. “The Tree of Life” was artistically gorgeous, but the plot was so abstract I would have a difficult time imagining it as something that can represent the year in film. I loved “Midnight in Paris,” but it’s not Best Picture. It was too short, it didn’t have a powerful message and Owen Wilson was in it. And Owen Wilson doesn’t win Academy Awards.
Best Director – I’m going to give Best Director to Terrence Malick for “The Tree of Life,” and it’s a race to the finish with “The Artist’s” Michel Hazanavicius for the same reason: both directors got a lot out of their casts and delivered stories with almost no words. I think Malick managed to portray a very different version of Brad Pitt than we have ever seen, a blue-collar, frustrated but loving father of the 1950′s. It wasn’t, to me, that Pitt’s character was abusive, it was that he didn’t do things with modern sensibility. And I think that’s something that may have never quite been portrayed the same. When you juxtapose this Pitt role with what we are accustomed, I feel Malick got a lot out of him. And that’s unfair to Hazanavicius, who was working with a cast of unknowns, but that’s life, and that’s my untrained, non-professional and meaningless opinion.
Best Actor – I’ll take George Clooney. I’m not convinced why I am taking George Clooney, and this will likely go to Gary Oldman or Demian Bichir, just because I haven’t seen those films. But “The Descendants” was spectacular and Clooney is the face of it. I suppose it deserves some recognition. Pitt was nominated, but for the wrong movie. As I said above, his work in “The Tree of Life” was the only thing that made the film watchable to a pedestrian film fan not interested in art. He was just fine in “Moneyball,” but I’m not sure it was the best performance of the year.
Best Actress – Enter the category I know the least about. I wish I had seen Michelle Williams performance, because I feel like, executed well, a great portrayal of Marilyn Monroe is Oscar bait. But then, there’s Meryl Streep, just peeking around the corner. I’m not going to pick Viola Davis simply because she had the only performance I saw. Besides, my instinct tells me it’ll be between the two I previously mentioned.
Best Cinematography – This isn’t particularly a household category, but I’m including it to say “The Tree of Life” will win it. I suppose “The Artist” may, but the former was nothing if not a gorgeous visual display. That and Brad Pitt are its saving grace.
Best Original Screenplay – I’d like to see “Bridesmaids” win, and so will America. But the smart prediction for the Academy is going to be “The Artist” or “Midnight in Paris.” And I’m going to choose the latter, because I really loved the “new fiction (or whatever you want to call it)” style popularized by guys like Gay Talese. And Woody Allen should be the most fun acceptance speech of the night, in a year littered with really high brow stuff. Maybe Clooney.
Best Adapted Screenplay – I didn’t read any of these books, but I’ll take “Moneyball” on a whim. Those that read it and saw the film seem to have been satisfied. And of the group, it was the most popular in book form. I’m surprised “The Help” didn’t make the cut here, but people who have read the book and seen the film seem to agree with me: the film was long. I feel this is the category I’m most likely to miss on, but it’s a “big one,” so I’ll throw a guess in the ring.