Oscars Preview: Who Will Win (and Should Win) at the 2012 Academy Awards

Loren DiBlasi


Just when you thought you would never be able to forget the total train wreck that was James Franco and Anne Hathaway at last year’s Oscars ceremony, here we go again: The Academy Awards are this Sunday. Both devoted film freaks and casual spectators alike will be glued to their televisions, ogling at the stars, the dresses, and of course, those little golden envelopes.


Martin Scorcese’s 3D spectacular Hugo leads the nominations with a whopping 11, but not far behind is the silent charmer The Artist with 10. Also in the running for gold are War Horse and Moneyball with six nominations, The Descendants and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo with five, and Midnight in Paris and The Help with four, respectively.


So whose names will be called out on Sunday? Do they really deserve to win-- and who might spoil it for them? Let’s break down the major categories and find out.


Best Supporting Actress

Will Win: Octavia Spencer, The Help

 Octavia Spencer, a virtual unknown until she became feisty housemaid Minny in this summer’s breakout hit The Help, has entered her first Oscars race with guns positively blazing. She has yet to go home empty-handed from any major awards ceremony this season, winning the Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA awards for her strong supporting performance. Additionally, Spencer herself is a total hit with both critics and audiences, who are all watching as her star rises higher and higher. She should reach her peak when she takes home the gold on Sunday night.

Should Win: Jessica Chastain, The Help

As Minny, Octavia Spencer is everything that she should be: tough, funny, and undeniably moving. However, despite the many great supporting performances in The Help, (why no love for Allison Janney?) it is Jessica Chastain as the flighty but kind-hearted Celia who is the true standout. It may just even be Chastain’s engaging performance that helped propel Spencer, her on-screen partner, so quickly into frontrunner status. Truly, Jessica’s nomination should have been for her graceful, other-worldly turn as Mrs. O’Brien in The Tree of Life, but even though she won’t win for either  of her roles this year, their combined power has turned her into Hollywood’s newest leading lady practically overnight. This girl is talent personified; no doubt, she’ll find herself nominated again in the (probably very near) future.

 Spoiler: Berenice Bejo, The Artist

 For her role as rising movie star Peppy Miller, Bejo’s name is probably the only other one that you might hear read aloud on Sunday, although don’t count on it.


Best Supporting Actor

 Will Win: Christopher Plummer, Beginners

 He may be best known to audiences for his role in the classic epic The Sound of Music, but it is now, at the age of 82, that Christopher Plummer is gaining widespread acclaim for a very different type of role: as an elderly widower who finally comes to terms with his sexuality and is diagnosed with cancer in the tear-jerker Beginners. Ewan McGregor is fantastic as Plummer’s son and the film’s central protagonist, but as a man on the brink of death learning to find love and joy in his life, Christopher’s gently powerful performance is a true scene-stealer. Like Octavia Spencer, Plummer has won all of the major awards for which he has been nominated this year, and grabbing his first Academy Award should be a total breeze. Plummer is a true gentleman -- the type that they just don’t make anymore-- and it will be wonderful to see him so justly rewarded after such a long and illustrious career.


Should Win: Christopher Plummer, Beginners

 Is there anything else left to say? Christopher Plummer’s performance in Beginners is delicate yet strong, heart-breaking yet uplifting, and simply magnificent.

 Spoiler: An earth-shattering, monstrosity-sized natural disaster that would wipe out all of humanity in one blow. Captain Von Trapp has got this one in the bag.


 Best Actress

 Will Win: Viola Davis, The Help

 Aibileen Clark is a woman of a delicate power and internal strength; the same can be said for the woman who plays her, The Help’s Viola Davis. Davis is an actress who has had several incredible roles in her life-- she’s won two Tony awards and was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 2009 for Doubt-- but she had never gained much mainstream recognition. Instead, she’s waited patiently in the background for her time to shine, and now, it seems like that time has come. The popularity of The Help is undeniable, and it has vaulted Viola straight to the Hollywood ladder’s highest rung. After tons of buzz, plus Critics’ Choice and SAG awards to boot, Sunday night should finally find Viola bathed in the golden spotlight.

Should Win: Viola Davis, The Help

 Again, this is tough, because there was no short of fantastic performances this year by lead actresses, and not only from those nominated. Particularly impressive were Michelle Williams, in the most authentic portrayal of Marilyn Monroe achieved to date,

and relative newcomer Rooney Mara, as the tough-as-nails literary character Lisbeth Salander. However, it truly is Davis’ moment, and she proves it in The Help’s final, intensely touching scenes. Just like with her scripted lines, the lines of her acceptance speech should surely move her audience to tears.


Spoiler: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady

Leave it to Meryl Streep-- screen legend and a woman who is nominated for an Oscar every time she gets out of bed-- to sneak out this season and steal some of what was Viola Davis’ unstoppable thunder. When Davis was expected to take home the Golden Globe back in January, it was awarded to Streep instead. However, despite the fact that the margin between the two women has grown considerably shorter, the prize is still Davis’ to lose. Streep is spot-on as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, but she’s going to need to choose a role with a wider appeal if she’s going to nab her third Oscar statue.


Best Actor

 Will Win: Jean Dujardin, The Artist

 The utterly charming Jean Dujardin has been waging a non-stop charisma campaign here in America-- from the late-night talk show circuit to even an appearance on “Saturday Night Live”-- and it seems that his style and wit will carry him all the way to Oscar gold on Sunday. His dynamic performance as silent film star George Valentin was an instant hit with both critics and audiences, and with the SAG and BAFTA awards now under his belt, it would be a true upset to see someone else take home the Oscar. Additionally, as if his previous accolades were not enough of an indication, the fact that Dujardin is French, not British or American, adds extra brownie points in the eyes of the Academy. They simply love to take an exciting foreign performer-- a la` Roberto Begnini-- and turn him into a Hollywood star. It’s been 14 years since we’ve seen a non-English native speaker take home the big prize, and it looks like Dujardin has just the right je ne sais quoi in order to break the streak.

Should Win: George Clooney, The Descendants

 Now, here’s the tough part. Dujardin is certainly a shoo-in for the award, but does he truly deserve it? Of course he does. However, it has to be acknowledged that George Clooney, world’s most eligible bachelor and Academy favorite, has most certainly given the performance of his career in The Descendants. In his role as Hawaiian lawyer Matt King, he faced not only the impending loss of his wife and the task of raising two daughters on his own, but also felt the weight of a monumental decision that would forever change his family’s history; talk about pressure, for the character and the actor alike. Not everyone could have pulled the role off as George did, making Matt feel so painfully real, and taking the audience through the highs and lows of his journey with grace and ease. Not to mention the perfect delivery of the hear-breaking ‘goodbye’ scene between Matt and his comatose wife, easily one of the most stunning moments in film this year. Although he was initially the Best Actor frontrunner, he has lost most of his thunder to Jean Dujardin; ironically enough, though, the press has often called Dujardin “the French Clooney,” so it seems that no matter whose name is called out that night, George is still a winner.


Spoiler: George Clooney, The Descendants

 Despite strong performances from each of the five actors nominated, (particularly Brad Pitt) this is really a two-man race. If for some reason Dujardin goes home empty-handed, he will have Clooney to thank.


Best Director

 Will Win: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist

Thanks to The Artist, writer/director Michel Hazanavicius should find himself with a lot to celebrate on Oscar night. The momentum that has been building in his favor all season should easily carry him to a Best Director win, plus several other awards for the film. The directing in The Artist is dynamic and exciting, filled with enough twists and turns to give a contemporary edge without losing the vintage 1920s appeal. It’s a close race between the category’s two frontrunners, but Hazavanicius should come out on top.

 Should Win: Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris

 It’s not as if Woody Allen has been on vacation since his last Best Director win, which was all the way back in 1977 for Annie Hall. However, among the many, many films he’s made since then, Midnight in Paris many be the very best. Despite its (totally gorgeous) Paris setting, the film is quintessential Allen, comparable to his New York classics Hall and Manhattan. In Woody’s world, Paris is a magical wonderland, with streets that sparkle and scenes filled with one glorious shot after another. Woody Allen has not been this good in years, and if there was ever a time for a second win, it’s now.

 Spoiler: Martin Scorcese, Hugo

This one is close. While most are expecting to see newcomer Hazavanicius triumph, it wouldn’t be too shocking to see the veteran master Scorcese grab his second Best Director statue.

Best Picture

 Will Win: The Artist

 To put it simply, The Artist is without a doubt the critical darling of the year. The little French film that could has been picking up awards left and right all season, and there is no reason why the Oscar win for Best Picture wouldn’t be the icing on top of the cake. It was certainly an ambitious-- and risky-- undertaking for Michel Hazanavicius to make a silent, black-and-white film appeal to a  21st century audience, but with an eclectic cast of masterful actors including, of course, the courageous canine thespian Uggie, Hazanavicius created pure movie magic. The Artist already feels like one of the great classics of film that it so beautifully emulates.


Should Win: The Tree of Life

 While the vintage charm of The Artist is hard to deny, there was one film this year that was so ambitious, so novel, and so awe-inspiring that it toes the line between genius and insanity, and that is The Tree of Life. It is for this reason -- that it is so daring-- that it has not received the type of attention during this year’s award season that it so deserves. Films like The Artist, Hugo, and The Descendants are far safer choices. To say that Terrence Malick took a chance in making this film is an understatement; it won the coveted Palm d’Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival, but it also drew plenty of criticism for everything from its length to its non-linear narrative.


Yes, The Tree of Life can be confusing at times, and no, it is not the easiest pill to swallow, but it is rare when something truly worthwhile is. The performances from Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain as Mr. and Mrs. O’Brien are mind-blowing; the latter especially, who gives an impeccable, star-making turn as a delicate young mother aiming to raise her tree sons in the way of grace. Malick’s experiments with light, sound and movement create a pure, child-like perspective of nature that has never before been accomplished-- or perhaps even attempted-- in film. Despite all of these achievements, unfortunately,The Tree of Life still has no chance at Oscar glory. But do you even remember last year’s well-acted but unremarkable winner The King’s Speech? Probably not.

 Spoiler: Hugo

Martin Scorcese's 3D homage to cinema appeals to both critics and audiences in much of the same manner as The Artist; it holds the most nominations this year and has won several other awards already, but never for Best Picture. It is not likely that The Artist will lose, but if it does, it will be to Hugo

Author Bio:

Loren DiBlasi is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine.

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