It’s here, that day in the Hollywood calendar when Eddie Murphy finds himself with yet another day off. Yes, the 84th Academy Awards is this evening, and after last years Hathaway/Franco debacle, Billy Crystal is back as host for the ninth time. Chances are it’ll be a more familiar affair with less singing and less slurring than in recent years. Of course, the reason you’re reading this post is you want to know who the winners and losers will be so I’ll crack on quickly so you can shoot off down to Ladbrokes for a last minute flutter. If you’ve been keeping abreast (yes Owen, a breast), of movie news lately you’ll know that The Artist has been picking up awards like Eddie Murphy picks up transvestite prostitutes. It’s difficult to see tonight being any different but there may just be one or two surprises. At least there might be in the categories where Michael Hazanavicius’ film isn’t nominated.
Best Motion Picture of the Year
With a very specific nine nominees in this category it’s easier to rule pictures out than in. Firstly, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is without question is one of the most divisive films of the year and was openly booed when it’s nomination was announced. It, along with The Help, The Tree of Life, Midnight in Paris and The Descendants have picked up under five nominations in total so it’s safe to rule them out. Similarly, Moneyball and Warhorse have amassed only six. This leaves only two possible out comes; Scorsese’s Hugo or The Artist. Both films are love letters to the medium itself so there’s the chance of an upset, but with award show momentum in it’s favour, not to mention the ‘gimmick factor’, I think producer Thomas Langmann will walk away the statue.
Head – The Artist
Heart – Hugo
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
When the nominees were announced people were frantically IMDbing Demián Bichir, and I think recognition is the real prize for the Mexican actor. A lot of chatter around Brad Pitt’s nomination relates to why he was nominated for Moneyball rather than The Tree of Life , and with that in mind it’s unlikely Pitt will accrue enough votes to win. Gary Oldman was unable to pick up the BAFTA despite the home advantage, so his chances in Hollywood look slimmer than ever. That leaves Clooney vs Dujardin in a straight up Hollywood vs Europe fist fight. Personally, I think Clooney has the more challenging, nuanced role and to say he knocked it out of the park is an understatement. That’s not to say Dujardin wouldn’t deserve the award equally. His dialogue free performance brings with it it’s own challenges, I just think Dujardin had a template from which to work.
Head – Jean Dujardin
Heart – George Clooney
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
This is certainly one of the tighter categories. Personally I’d rule out Rooney Mara purely for the reason that if Noomi Rapace was overlooked surely Mara cannot be awarded for what is, let’s face it, a solid, but fundamentally inferior performance. On the surface Michelle Williams is an outsider but when you consider that this is now her third nomination in six years, it would seem that she is destined to win a statue. Of course, she won’t win this year because if nothing else she’s up against five time loser Glenn Close. Despite picking up five nominations in the eighties Close is yet to win and unfortunately, unless the Academy is feeling controversial she’s probably going to fall at the sixth hurdle as well. Hilariously though, despite having two Awards on her mantle piece already, Streep is in fact the categories biggest loser having missed out on no fewer than fifteen separate occasions. In contrast, Viola Davis has only lost out once. In 2009, both Davis and Streep were nominated for Doubt and both lost out (to Penelope Cruz and Kate Winslet respectively). Although it’s undoubtedly going to be a close run thing this year, I think the previous awards shows have signalled the over riding consensus.
Head – Viola Davis
Heart – Viola Davis
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
This category it would seem, is another two horse race. Christopher Plummer and Max von Sydow are two of cinema’s elder statesmen. Both 83 and both with one previous nomination to their name, it would seem they are leading the pack this year. Everyone knows that Hollywood loves a good come back narrative (see Micky Rourke in 2009) but more often than not, a nomination is all the rejuvenated actor can hope for. Nick Nolte returned to the fold with a solid performance in Warrior but it certainly wasn’t enough to take home this award. Like Oldman, Kenneth Brannagh failed to pick up the BAFTA in his homeland so he’s unlikely to cause an upset here. If anyone was a revelation this year it was unquestionably Jonah Hill who’s responded to his various nominations with an impressive display of humility and if that was the deciding factor, he’d certainly be in with a shout. Unfortunately it’s not, but it’ll certainly be interesting to see where his career goes from here.
Head – Christopher Plummer
Heart – Christopher Plummer
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Like the Lead Actress category this had the potential to be a close run thing. Melissa McCarthy’s ‘surprise’ nomination is testament to her performance in the brilliant Bridesmaids , but it’s unlikely the Academy will break the habit of a life time and commend such an openly comedic performance. Janet McTeer was another surprise nomination, and if Glenn Close doesn’t win for lead, she’s unlikely to win for supporting. This is also likely to be one of the ten nominations where The Artist doesn’t come out on top. Despite arguably being equally as good as Dujardin in the film, Bérénice Bejo has missed out at previous award shows due to the sheer quality of her rival performances. It’s The Help that makes up the other two nominations with Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer both up. When you consider that Chastain could conceivably have been nominated for three separate performances (The Help, The Tree of Life and Take Shelter) you’d think she’d be a shoe in, but like cast mate Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer has been cleaning up in the run up to tonight and it’s unlikely anything will change in the next twelve hours.
Head – Octavia Spencer
Heart – Melissa McCarthy
Best Achievement in Directing
If you ask me, and by reading this far you technically did, Terence Malick’s nomination is a joke. Of course I’m being somewhat polemical but that doesn’t detract from the fact that The Tree of Life was the kind of product I’d expect from a first year film student with rich parents and a new digital SLR. Woody Allen has also been nom’d for one of the prolific directors better outings in recent years however, he’s much more likely to take home a writing award. The same can be said for Alexander Payne who’s also unlikely to come out on top of Hazvanavicius and Scorsese. In the past this award tends to go hand in hand with Best Film so really, there’s only likely to be one winner. Whilst Scorsese should be awarded for his fusion of nostalgia and technology (Hugo demonstrated that 3D can enhance the story telling process as opposed to just the money making process), you cannot deny the gutsy drive of Hazanavicius’ silent movie.
Head – Michel Hazanavicius
Heart – Michel Hazanavicius
Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
This is one of the harder to predict categories of the night. At the Golden Globes, Woody Allen walked away with best Screenplay but he’s nominated in the ‘Original’ category so he’s not a contender. At the BAFTAs, the home bias worked in the favour Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy despite the films somewhat incomprehensible plot. I suspect that this will work against Tinker tonight and I think it’s also safe to rule out the underachieving Moneyball and The Ides of March. Whilst both Hugo and The Descendants are worthy adaptations it’s likely that the Academy may just lean in favour of Alexander Payne’s movie in light of the fact that it is likely to have pipped in a number of other categories.
Head – The Descendants
Heart – The Descendants or Hugo
Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
What this category comes down to really is semantics. Can a dialogue free movie really be awarded an Oscar for Best Screenplay. Obviously, to anyone who’s ever written a screenplay, the answer is yes. Margin Call and A Separation were both deserved nominees but don’t realistically stand a chance. Bridesmaids is also unlikely to come out on top but if McCarthy gets a shock win in the supporting category we could potentially see a shock here as well. Realistically though, this is between Midnight in Paris and, you guessed it, The Artist. Woody Allen won the Globe and is little less than an American institution but only time will tell if that’s enough to topple the seasons dominating picture.
Head – The Artist
Heart – Bridesmaids
Best Animated Feature – Rango
Best Foregin Language Film – A Separation
Best Cinematography – The Artist
Best Editing – Hugo