Even with its fair share of snubs and oversights, and a few dubious nominations to boot, the Oscars this year still has plenty of interesting films battling for Oscar gold. Leading the pack, Alexander Payne's dramedy "The Descendants" and Michel Hazanavicius' entertaining silent homage "The Artist" both have plenty of support, and everyone seems to love Martin Scorsese's "Hugo," making for a three-way race for the biggest prizes of the night. Here's a look at what to expect from the biggest categories on Oscar Sunday.
What will win - "The Artist"
More than anything, "The Artist" just looks and feels like a Best Picture winner. Blending nostalgia for the silent era with a great lead performance by Jean Dujardin and a humorous, energetic screenplay, "The Artist" was beloved by art house audiences from the get-go at Cannes, making it an awards favorite all the way back in May.
The Academy will vote for a downer on occasion, but uplifting movies like "Shakespeare in Love," "A Beautiful Mind" and "Slumdog Millionaire" tend to do very well when going up against darker films. The only downside for "The Artist" is that it didn't do much damage at the box office, but "The Hurt Locker" proved that isn't always a deciding factor and the other major competition didn't do much in theaters either.
What should win - "The Descendants"
"The Artist" is a good choice for Best Picture, but Alexander Payne's razor sharp comedy "The Descendants" should get some votes as well. Payne proved that he still can dial up the laughs with a blend of quirky characters and humorous dialog, though "The Descendants" is more than a clever, deadpan comedy. Not only is George Clooney at his best but Shailene Woodley, as his outspoken teenage daughter, helps turn routine material into a unique comedy that earns its big, dramatic emotional scenes. Also with a chance is Martin Scorsese's "Hugo," which could sneak in for a win if voters are split between the other two.
Who will win - Michel Hazanavicius
Even getting a unique project like "The Artist" financed is nearly miraculous, and Hazanavicius made a great looking film that manages to be both entertaining and poetic. Also in the mix is Martin Scorsese, who should have more than one Best Director Oscar and many voters would love to reward him a second gold statuette to make up for not recognizing him earlier. Alexander Payne deserves kudos as well for "The Descendants," as does Terrence Malick for his bold and occasionally brilliant "The Tree of Life," but Hazanavicius looks like the clear favorite.
Who should win - Michel Hazanavicius
Hazanavicius deserves the Oscar love, and it would just feel wrong to give it to Scorsese for a 3D film after he was skipped over for "Raging Bull," "The Last Temptation of Christ" and "Goodfellas."
Who will win - Jean Dujardin ("The Artist")
The silent era was mostly about its stars, as directors didn't have nearly the impact they would have in other eras. Without a natural, emotive performance from Jean Dujardin, "The Artist" would have never worked. An energetic, non-American actor previously unknown to the public is also right up the Academy's alley, making Dujardin an easy choice.
Who should win - Jean Dujardin
Clooney is great in "The Descendants," but Dujardin makes "The Artist" tick. It's not easy to get modern audiences to care about a protagonist who speaks only a couple of words in the entire film.
Who will win - Viola Davis
Viola Davis has been a great actress for a while now, and in a way it's just as well that she finally gets some real recognition for a movie as loved as "The Help." Meryl Streep was as good as expected in "The Iron Lady," though not many really liked the movie, and Michelle Williams' portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in "My Week with Marilyn" just wasn't popular enough to gather much Oscar buzz. Viola Davis is in perfect position to scoop up Oscar gold.
Who should win - Michelle Williams
Williams is one of the most diverse and interesting actresses in the movies today, something she shows once again in her powerful performance as icon Marilyn Monroe. Though Davis is a fine actress, she's upstaged in her own film by Octavia Spencer, who is just about a lock to win Best Supporting Actress.
Best Adapted Screenplay:
What will win - "The Descendants" (Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash)
Alexander Payne already won this award for "Sideways" and his acerbic, humorous screenplay for "The Descendants" (which he wrote along with Nat Faxon and Jim Rash) is a major reason why "The Descendants" worked so well. "Hugo" also features a good screenplay but is overshadowed by Scorsese's energetic camerawork, and not enough people liked "The Ides of March" to help it beat out "The Descendants."
What should win - "The Descendants"
It all begins with thoughtful, often hilarious dialog and a series of well-drawn characters, which starts well before the cameras start rolling.
Best Original Screenplay:
What will win - "Midnight in Paris" (Woody Allen)
It looks like Woody Allen is in perfect position to grab yet another statuette for Best Screenplay, which he already has two of ("Annie Hall," "Hannah and Her Sisters"). Though nominated 15 times for the category, Allen hasn't won since "Hannah and Her Sisters" in 1987 and the Academy would love to honor one of the all-time greats at least one more time. Getting him to actually show up for the ceremony is a different matter.
What should win - "The Artist" (Michel Hazanavicius)
Hazanavicius makes it look effortless in "The Artist" and his screenplay is as impressive as his visual creativity behind the camera. Woody Allen is one of the greatest screenwriters in film history, but his "Midnight in Paris" isn't even in the ballpark of his best films and never reaches the poetic levels of "Hannah and Her Sisters," "Manhattan" or "Crimes and Misdemeanors." Iranian film "A Separation," a favorite in Best Foreign Picture, also boasts a smart, compact screenplay that deserves some attention, but a win here is unlikely.
by RTT Staff Writer
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