I called this the “worst Oscar roster in recent memory” when the nominations came out a month ago. I stand by that. In the time since then, I’ve come to realize that in almost every category, the best movie/person wasn’t nominated. In a lot of categories, there are 3+ movies/people that didn’t get nominated. We’re not picking the best of anything this year. We’re picking runners-up and honorable mentions. 2012 might as well be called “the year of the also-rans”. This is definitely a year that we’ll have to revisit with the Ethels in five years.
Which makes this a tough year for predicting winners. I think the major categories are pretty well set, but the minor ones are going to be a trap for those of us participating in betting pools this weekend. I’m not nearly as confident in my picks this year as I was last year. But, for what it’s worth, here are my “will wins” and “should wins” for the 2012 Oscars. Keeping in mind, of course, that the real “should wins” comprise an entirely different nominee roster for a ceremony taking place in an alternate universe, in which The Help received zero nominations and Drive got ten, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy got eight, Win Win got six, and Tyrannosaur and 50/50 got three apiece. Also in that alternate universe, Patton Oswalt is an Academy Award nominee. I WANT TO LIVE IN THAT WORLD.
Who will win: The Artist
Who should win: The Tree of Life
I wouldn’t have even kept Tree of Life on the ballot, but since it’s here and it’s better than everything else, I’ll give it the “should win”. I would also entertain defenses of The Descendants, though. But if you’re gambling, The Artist has this on lock-down.
Who will win: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Who should win: Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life
For the same reasons as above. Would also hear cases for Alexander Payne (The Descendants).
Who should win: Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Well, the two best male performances of the year weren’t even nominated and the third best isn’t going to win. This is such a mess. How does this happen? I mean, I know how—The Fassbender’s movie was too sexy and The Gos’s too violent—but still, HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN? You’re voting for the best acting performances, not passing moral judgment. Anyway, my theory that Oldman could sneak in an upset win because enough people would be reluctant to choose between Brad Pitt and George Clooney—because they have the same friends and supporters—is paying off, but not for Oldman. No, it’s that sexy French beast Dujardin who’s benefitting from the split vote.
Who will win: Viola Davis, The Help
Who should win: Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn
Again, we’re missing the top female performances—THREE of them—but for what we’ve got to work with, Williams is the most deserving winner. Davis was really good in White Guilt: The Movie, though, and I don’t begrudge her the win. I just wish this category was made up of the legitimately best performances, not “Aww, Glenn Close finally got that movie made” and “Meryl Streep because of being Meryl Streep”.
Best Supporting Actor
Who will win: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Who should win: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
I won’t argue with this one. Plummer is excellent in Beginners and he’s had this signed, sealed and delivered since last summer. I just wish Don Cheadle (The Guard), Benedict Cumberbatch (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and Patton Oswalt (Young Adult) were nominated alongside him.
Who will win: Octavia Spencer, The Help
Who should win: Octavia Spencer, The Help
This is me just giving up. If Jessica Chastain was nominated for The Tree of Life, I’d say she should win this, but as this category stands, I couldn’t in good conscience vote for any of these people. I’m not even sure how this entire category happened. Had they been drinking?
Best Animated Feature
Who will win: Rango
Who should win: Rango
I’m okay with this category. Rango was solid and the animation was gorgeous. If you’re looking for an upset, though, it could come from A Cat in Paris.
Best Foreign Language Film
Who will win: A Separation (Iran)
Who should win: A Separation (Iran)
This is another one I’m okay with. I wish that Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In was nominated, but I wouldn’t have picked it over A Separation. Another slam-dunk for your betting pool.
Who will win: Undefeated
Who should win: Undefeated
This category is a travesty. The two best docs of 2011, Senna and Werner Herzog’s Into the Abyss were disqualified over stupid rules (that are probably changing anyway). This could be a close call with Paradise Lost 3, which has the benefit of being topical, as it’s about the West Memphis Three, but Undefeated is basically Friday Night Lights + The Blind Side but in real life. It’s heart warming and life affirming, so I think it wins.
Best Original Screenplay
Who will win: Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Who should win: JC Chandor, Margin Call
Allen gets a late-in-career Oscar thanks to the box office success and critical popularity of Midnight in Paris, his most accessible/enjoyable movie in years. I am not a Woody Allen fan, and I didn’t hate Paris, so it was definitely a decent movie. But Chandor’s script for Margin Call is insanely good and had some of the best dialogue in 2011.
Who will win: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon & Jim Rash, The Descendants
Who should win: Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughn, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
This should definitely be O’Connor and Straughn for their elegant condensation of a complex text, but I’m not going to complain about Dean Pelton winning an Oscar.
Who will win: Emmanuel Lubezki, The Tree of Life
Who should win: Emmanuel Lubezki, The Tree of Life
I’m not 100% confident in this pick, but Lubezki seems to have the momentum going into Sunday, and though Tree of Life was divisive, the cinematography was widely admired. Could be a Guillaume Schiffman (The Artist) surprise, though.
Best Film Editing
Who will win: Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Who should win: Christopher Tellefsen, Moneyball
Yet another category that could be totally redone with five more deserving nominees. Working with what we’ve got, though, The Artist is the favorite but Moneyball is my personal pick. Should The Artist not come through on this early category, look for upsets in the Director and Picture races.
Best Art Direction
Who will win: Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo, Hugo
Who should win: Stuart Craig and Stephenie McMillan, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2
Ferretti is a very well respected production designer and this would be his third Oscar. The odds are in his favor, but an HP upset would not surprise me.
Best Costume Design
Who will win: Sandy Powell, Hugo
Who should win: Michael O’Connor, Jane Eyre
The mid-Victorian fashions of Jane Eyre are not sexy—Jane is plainly dressed throughout the film and Rochester appears in varying staged of dishevelment. But O’Connor’s designs are spot-on and completely realistic. There’s no attempt to glamorize Jane, instead dressing her in the severe, unflattering colors and styles of a poor woman. Rochester’s suits are considerably more fashionable, but there’s a wear to them that speaks to a man unconcerned with fashion. But they are not flashy costumes and Hugo got to play in a fantastical version of Coco Chanel’s Paris, so it will win the Oscar.
Who will win: Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland, The Iron Lady
Who should win: Nick Dudman, Amanda Knight and Lisa Tomblin, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2
I’m not sure which was worse old age makeup—old Margaret Thatcher or old Harry Potter. Still, HP 7-2 employed spot-on makeup work throughout the series, but especially in the final chapter, when Harry seemed to age twenty years in a day after the Battle of Hogwarts. Also, Voldemort’s non-nose should be enough to get this and the VFX Oscar. Should, not will.
Best Original Score
Who will win: Ludovic Bource, The Artist
Who should win: Alberto Iglesias, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Bource’s score does a lot of heavy lifting in The Artist, as it stands in for the dialogue, but Iglesias’s jazz-inspired score for Tinker Tailor evoked the dingier side of the 1970’s beautifully. It plays like a jazz recording, not a film score.
Best Original Song
Who should win: Same
There are only two nominees and one is from the Muppet movie and is written by one-half of Flight of the Conchords. The other is from Rio and sounds like a travel agency ad. McKenzie has his first Oscar well in hand.
Best Sound Editing
Who will win: Hugo
Who should win: Drive
If there’s an upset in this category, it will be for Drive.
Best Sound Mixing
Who will win: Hugo
Who should win: War Horse
I think Hugo has both sound categories pretty well locked down, but if you’re looking for an outside chance, War Horse is your best bet.
Best Visual Effects
Who will win: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2
Who should win: HP 7-2
I’m predicting the Harry Potter upset here. The odds are on Rise of the Planet of the Apes but I’ve heard from enough disgruntled Academy voters that did not like the aggressive “Andy Serkis for Oscar” campaign that I think their annoyance will spill over into this category. Also, HP has been the biggest movie franchise for a decade and this is the last chance to give it some hardware.
Best Short Film – Animated
Who will win: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Who should win: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
I actually saw this one—it’s really good and it’s whimsical and artsy, which is right up the Academy’s alley.
Best Short Film – Live Action
Who will win: The Shore
Who should win: Oh my god who knows?
Best Documentary – Short Subject
Who will win: The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom
Who should win: Um, this one?