Note that these are selections based on what I think should win, not on what necessarily will win. Also, please remember that, all snark aside, the Oscars do matter.
PICTURE: The Descendants
Look, it’s time that we accept the sad truth: we live in a world where The Artist,a small silent movie about French people mugging for the camera, is going to win Best Picture. (And, on a side-sidenote, can we observe how ludicrous it is that supporters of so specialized a movie are trading on the traditionally populist ‘but it’s so entertaining!’ rationale?) But if anything can pull off the upset, it’s The Descendants, and it’s one of only two nominated pictures (the other being Moneyball) that ‘feels’ like a Best Picture winner. Yes, I know that ‘feeling like a Best Picture winner’ is not really a valid criterion.
DIRECTOR: Hazanavicius, The Artist
From my comments above, you may have guessed that I didn’t like The Artist. Actually, I enjoyed it quite a bit; I just can’t not grouch about the absurdity of its being the best movie of the year (or even one of the top five.) That said, it is almost certainly the most impressive feat of directing this year, taking as it does a seemingly dead form and re-energizing it into one of the most straight-up entertaining movies of the year. The Artist should not win Best Picture, but Michel Hazanavicius deserves to win Best Director.
ACTOR: Clooney, Descendants
I wanted to cast a partisan Oldman vote here just to emphasize again what a shame it is that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was overlooked in the Best Picture vote, but his (deserved) nomination still isn’t in the same class as the work that Pitt and Clooney did. Elsewhere… who is Demian Bichir? Did he secretly have a role in J. Edgar and is this then AMPAS’s way of honoring its annual find-a-nomination-for-Clint rule?
ACTRESS: Streep, The Iron Lady
I think she’ll win, but if she doesn’t, we’ll know she’s officially succumbed to the same nostalgia sickness that started to bite Peter O’Toole in the ass once he’d whiffed on the first five nominations. (You know, “Oh, if we give him this, are we really only doing it because we didn’t give it to him for playing Lawrence of Arabia? Because that was a much better role!” Etc.)
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Yes, The Descendants is a better movie, and turning the pop statistics of Moneyball into a movie is an achievement in its own right. But Tinker Tailor had the highest degree of difficulty of any of these adaptations, having to condense a labyrinthine work of genre fiction into a comprehensible-yet-intelligent two-hour thriller, and did it so successfully that you can’t even see the joins. Descendants will probably take the prize as a consolation for a Picture loss, but it should go to Tinker Tailor.
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Midnight in Paris
Ugh. I have serious reservations about this pick – I feel like I’m voting for half a movie – but Bridesmaids is the only other serious option in this category, and that movie suffers from the cardinal sin of being too long. Between the two, I’m going with Midnight because it’s the one that’s likely to win.
CINEMATOGRAPHY: The Tree of Life
A side note that has nothing to do with the movie: Why is cinematography not considered as important a category as writing? The way a movie is shot is hugely important to how we react to it. Let’s start giving our DPs a little more credit, shall we?
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Plummer, Beginners
Gay eighty-year-old cancer patient with a cute dog. Really, he wins by default: I didn’t think Hill was that great, no one saw Nolte (including me), Max von Sydow didn’t have a single line, and Branagh (like his costar Michelle Williams) could only do so much to hide the fact that the movie’s least interesting character was also its protagonist. Albert Brooks, where are you?!
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Spencer, The Help
What can I say? She was great! I wish I could vote for Melissa McCarthy as well, but you have to choose one, and I choose shit-in-a-pie over shit-in-a-sink.
EDITING: The Artist
In my opinion, this is one of the hardest categories to judge if you’re not an editor. (Which I am not.) I’m going with The Artist because its timing is so good, and because I feel like the editing must be great for it to work so much better than it should.
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: A Separation (Iran)
I have not seen any of these movies. A Separation seems to be the consensus, though, and also it seems like a good thing to support filmmakers in Iran.
ANIMATED FEATURE: Rango
Again, haven’t seen any of these, but this is the only American nominee not based on a studio franchise, and I’m running with it.
ART DIRECTION: Hugo
A lot of people loved this movie (you don’t score eleven nominations without being popular), which I still don’t quite get. That said, the production design isn’t just beautiful. It’s textured in a way that none of the other nominated films are – worthy, I have to say, of a much more compelling story.
COSTUME DESIGN: The Artist
There is no logic to this pick.
DOC FEATURE: Pina
DOC SHORT: The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom (best name of any nominee!)
ORIGINAL SONG: Man or Muppet, from The Muppets
ANIMATED SHORT: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (second best name!)
LIVE SHORT: Tuba Atlantic (third best name! Shorts take all three of the best names on the ballot.)
SOUND MIXING: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Score these as the ‘randomly checking names on the ballot’ categories. As would be the next one, if not for…
SOUND EDITING: Drive
…that soundtrack and the fact that I can’t not give a vote to Drive in its single nomination.
MAKEUP: The Iron Lady
Notably omitted, for good reason: J. Edgar.
ORIGINAL SCORE: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
None of these stood out to me (though I’m not sure what it would take for a score to stand out), but I do like how understated this score was. Like the movie it represents, actually.
VISUAL EFFECTS: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
An SFX-rich blockbuster that was actually good versus Hugo and three other blockbusters that weren’t. Apes it is.