Oh Oscars. Here you are, a mere six weeks away! This time last year I was writing epic pieces on how The King's Speech didn't have a chance in hell of winning, and why The Social Network was the best ever and would easily walk away with the trophy. How quickly things turned around. This year no category is set in stone, though the Critic's Choice Awards would certainly like us to think otherwise. For those of you that aren't plugged into the scene, here's a look at what the safe bet predictions are at this time. Though, between you and me, I hope most of these drastically change by February 26th and below you'll also catch my two cents on the upset front. I should note: These were all the safe bet predictions BEFORE the Critics Choice Awards aired so….yeah. Let's just hope some of these are wrong and this year doesn't become another snoozefest.
Six Weeks Out Safe Bet: Octavia Spencer, The Help
Everyone loves The Help and Spencer was fantastic, providing a lot of the films comedy where Davis provided the heart, but still managed to be completely sympathetic in her…questionable practices. Personally, I think Chastain's role was a bit more of an acting challenge, but nailing a role simply is not something to be discounted either. Still, I wonder if a flashier role will end up upsetting come Oscar night. Something's got to be slightly unpredictable. Will this be the category to fulfill that duty?
But Don't Be Surprised If: Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
A lot of people are arguing that Melissa McCarthy has the potential to upset here, and while I think that is valid and possible, it also strikes me as just SO bizarre. Comedic performances should be appreciated and acknowledged more, yes, and McCarthy stole Bridesmaids out from under the whole rest of the cast. But to win? An Oscar? Seems more about riding the Melissa McCarthy train than really awarding her performance, and I would hate to see her reach the pique of praise in one year and than have everyone forget about her or call her overrated. Let's just calm down here a little bit, I think. Still, I would be remiss in my duties if I didn't seriously acknowledge her dark horse potential. Assuming she even gets a nomination, I can see more passion behind Academy voters checking the box for McCarthy than for the other favorite to upset and critics prize leader, Jessica Chastain.
My Hope: A category where I doubt my two favorites will be nominated, so I don't really have much at stake, but both Spencer and Chastain were fantastic, I'm happy to root for The Help picking up an award here, especially if Davis ends up not getting Actress.
For Your Consideration: Vanessa Redgrave in Coriolanus gives one of the top five performances of the year, hands down. The fact that she isn't making most short lists is absurd, and every actor should be somewhere between ashamed and offended. I find it hard to believe that ANYONE would watch Coriolanus and think Redgrave doesn't deserve a nomination. If she doesn't make the cut, mark my words, it's because no one bothered to put on the screener. Carey Mulligan also deserves a nomination here for breaking out of the box so triumphantly in Shame. She defied all expectations of what she is and can do, thanks to this fearless performance. The fact that she isn't being more seriously considered is baffling. I never thought Janet McTeer was a man for a SECOND! Berenice Bejo didn't even have to memorize lines! (Okay, that's a cheap shot, cause she was top notch at what she did do, but STILL.) Fingers crossed the actors branch doesn't go the obvious route with nominations here.
Six Weeks Out Safe Bet: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
A wonderful performance in a gem of a movie, Christopher Plummer completely vanishes and brings his recently out of the closet, dying, yet never allowing himself to not live life to the fullest Hal Fields alive in a touching, vibrant way. Every inch of his performance is grounded in reality, not remotely a stereotype, and he is a joy to watch. Plus, Plummer has never won an Oscar, only ever nominated for the recent The Last Station, and his speech at the Critics Choice Awards was aces.
But Don't Be Surprised If: Albert Brooks, Drive
Practically sweeping the critics picks, Albert Brooks is the clear upset choice here. I personally think most of the praise is coming from the fact that no one knew Brooks would or could play evil and he did it with such a surprisingly vigorous aplomb, for a lot of folks, he is the favorite to win.
My Hope: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
It's his year. Give the man an Oscar.
FYC: Nick Nolte deserves a nomination in this slot, easily over Jonah Hill, who was great in Moneyball, yes, but not Oscar great. If I had my druthers, Andy Serkis for Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Viggo Mortenson for a Dangerous Method would end up in this category as well, but pipe dreams, pipe dreams all!
Six Weeks Out Safe Bet: Viola Davis, The Help
I have a small issue with this. Viola Davis is a BRILLIANT actress who should and will win an Oscar at some point, but her role in The Help, while expertly executed, doesn't feel like a lead performance by any stretch of the imagination. If my memory serves correct, didn't Octavia Spencer have more lines and screen time? Were Davis being nominated for Supporting, I would be rooting for her, but as a lead, the whole thing rings of that "put someone in the wrong category just so he or she can win" BS, which seriously rubs me the wrong way. Still, Davis is wonderful and not gonna lie, her speech at Critics Choice swayed me significantly. Oops. She has definitely become the one to beat.
But Don't Be Surprised If: Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn
Controversial I know, to predict Michelle as an upset over Meryl, but My Week With Marilyn was tolerable and The Iron Lady was IN NO WAY TOLERABLE. I actually am tempted to use the word "hate" here. Meryl was fantastic, but can we not finally give her another Oscar for a movie that really no one should be recommending to anyone? Come on. Meanwhile, Michelle Williams lives and breathes Marilyn Monroe and dares you not to fall in love with her. She has been sweeping the critics prizes, so I think she may have more of a chance than others do, though we'll see if that probability holds up.
My Hope: This is another strange category for me. None of my actual favorites are nominated except Tilda Swinton, but she already has an Oscar, and I feel weird rooting for Williams, as much as I loved her, to beat Davis, when such a groundswell is beginning to form around the latter. I may just have to calmly let whatever happens happen here.
FYC: Glenn Close was great, and sure, it would totally suck for her to not get nominated for her passion project, but Charlize Theron, who I normally don't even LIKE, absolutely blew me away in Young Adult. The movie wouldn't have worked without her pitch perfect performance and I hate how much she is being over looked. My ideal Best Actress category would include Theron, Rooney Mara for her balls out portrayal of Lisbeth Salander in Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Elizabeth Olsen for maintaining a steady quiet bubbling fear, confusion, sadness, and desperation underneath the surface for all of Martha Marcy May Marlene and Kirsten Dunst's career defining role as Justine in Melancholia, easily the best she's ever done, and if we get right down to it, probably the best of this year too, illustrating a descent into a depression the character thought she had controlled, in a heartbreaking and all too visceral way. If you don't feel like you've suffered a relapse into manic depression yourself while watching Melancholia, you're doing it wrong. I'm told I'd put Anna Paquin in this category for Margaret if I'd seen it…but alas.
Six Weeks Out Safe Bet: George Clooney, The Descendants
I'm not as big of a fan of Clooney's performance in this as others are. Matt Patches from Hollywood.com said it really well in a recent episode of the Operation Kino podcast - Alexander Payne managed to make Jack Nicholson completely disappear in About Schmidt, which is a big reason why the movie worked and why Nicholson's performance was so astounding. But Clooney didn't disappear here. For me, at least. He almost did, he was so close, and he really did try his damnedest, but ultimately, I saw Clooney in shlubby clothing, and I'm not sure that deserves an Oscar.
But Don't Be Surprised If: Brad Pitt, Moneyball
Whether or not the film gets a Best Picture nod may change the race here, in terms of the one who has the potential to overtake Clooney, but it could be possible the Academy goes another way with Adapted Screenplay (who am I kidding, no they won't, Aaron Sorkin doesn't not win awards) yet still wants to reward Moneyball, and this this could be how. On that note, if The Artist wasn't being overpraised and presumed to win everything else, I wouldn't be surprised to see Jean DuJardin take the prize here, a la Roberto Benigni. But Pitt's been around a while and gives a lovely, subtle, no frills, spot on performance as Billy Beane and definitely has a shot at the prize. And if my hope doesn't get nominated? Pitt's easily my hope to win.
My Hope: Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Could this be the repeat of the Nicholson/Day Lewis/Brody year we've all been dying for?! I sure hope so. I love surprises and someone not even considered in the running taking out the two front runners would be fun and fitting in this strange awards season. Plus, if George Clooney has two Oscars before Gary Oldman, it's gonna make me feel really awkward inside.
FYC: Michael Shannon (Take Shelter) and I repeat, Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), deserve nominations over almost everyone else currently fighting it out for a nomination in this category. Frankly, I think Tom Hardy deserves a little bit of consideration for Warrior as well, but I know there isn't a shot in hell on that front. But as stated, my secret hope is that Oldman not only gets nominated, but wins the sucker!
Six Weeks Out Safe Bet: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
He won the Critic's Choice, predictable yet still somewhat shocking considering it came almost immediately after the impressive Scorsese tribute. Hazanavicius, whose name Jason Segel pronounced so hilariously, I've giggled every single time I've replayed it, and for all I know, it's the actual correct pronunciation, seems like a great guy, even acknowledging himself how "stupid" it is that he won Best Director, but the thing is, he's right. He brought a gimmick to life, which is cool, but I think his place as a "visionary" is being a bit overstated.
But Don't Be Surprised If: Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Hugo tackled pretty much the same subject matter as The Artist, but did it SO much better. Hugo is made by a true master and it feels that way. It's use of 3D becomes integral to the message of the story itself in a brilliantly subliminal way. It speaks of the love of film and filmmaking in a way that looks forward while looking back, instead of simply looking back. It takes the past and roots it in the future, shows how far we have come, and yet how at its center, film can and has amazed as long as it's been around. Masters have always innovated and that innovation has always touched its audiences, has made people dream, has made the world a brighter place. If you want to be reminded of the greatness of burgeouning talkies, go watch an actual burgeoning talkie. The Artist is lovely, but a pale imitation of the real thing and it teaches us nothing, though does a handy job of making us think it did. Hugo and Scorsese's specific vision goes above and beyond to teach us about George Melieus' films, the power of his innovation in a time where black and white/silent was the standard, and the BEAUTY of that innovation by letting the audiences of today feel the wave of magic through the best on screen 3D yet, that Melieus' audiences themselves felt in the early 20th century through his experiments with stretching the boundaries of what movies could be. THIS is the true film for film lovers to come out of 2011 and Scorsese, fittingly, is the one who brought it to life.
My Hope: Martin Scorsese, Hugo
FYC: Lars Von Trier will never happen, I know, but it would be nice to honor one of the auteurs who made a film this year, especially because there were so many. A surprise nomination for Nicolas Winding-Refn for Drive or a slightly less of a surprise nomination for Fincher for Dragon Tattoo would definitely be welcome.
Six Weeks Out Safe Bet: The Artist
Ugh. The presumed victor, thanks to crafty Harvey and all the charm that could be possibly be stuffed into 100 minutes, The Artist is easily the correct bet at this time. It's easy, safe and friendly, disguised as new, interesting, and edgy. I found the film to be a delight, but a little cutesy for the sake of cute, gimmicky for the sake of gimmickry. I'm not sure what it said that Hugo didn't say 1000x better and in a much more relevant way, but The Artist is capturing the hearts of critics in that rare, indescribable way. I don't want to discount the love for it, as people I highly respect have named it their favorite movie of the year, it is just another case of a slight, irrelevant film drowning out something a lot better, mostly because of Harvey Weinstein.
But Don't Be Surprised If: The Descendants
Yes, The Artist was ineligible for WGA, but in any event, The Descendants is the only film to get nominated across the board by the guilds. It's beloved on a very personal level and would be a very cool win. War Horse was considered the favorite to potentially overtake The Artist a few weeks ago, but was then shut out by both the DGA and ASC awards, so it's no longer looking good.
My Hope: Hugo
A girl can dream can't she?
FYC: You know what would be *really* cool? If somehow Warrior or Melancholia made it on to the BP list. Will it happen? Never. Same with Harry Potter, which I hoped would take the genre slot in a 10 picture year, but seems so unlikely now, especially with the new rules, that I'll just have a sad about it. The way things are going in terms of guilds however, makes me feel very positive about Girl with the Dragon Tattoo nabbing a slot. But can the academy really feel guilty about not giving it to Fincher/Social Network last year by rewarding Dragon Tattoo this year, and still not realize they are repeating their mistake if they give BP to The Artist?
To stay tapped in to the Oscar pulse, I highly encourage you to follow the Oscar list I created on Twitter, which features major experts including Sasha Stone, Dave Karger, Nathaniel Rogers, Mark Harris and more. Keep in mind, some of this might change after Sunday's Globes, despite the fact that the Globes are nothing more than sycophants and celebrities drinking together in a room, but for now, this is a fairly accurate portrayal of the state of the race.