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Gut Reaction: The 84th Academy Award Nominations

Our critic's predictions for 2012

Hugo

Hugo

Courtesy Photo
  • Hugo
  • The Help
  • The Artist
  • The Descendants
  • Moneyball
  • Beginners
  • My Week With Marilyn
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The 2012 Oscar nominations were unveiled yesterday at the ungodly hour of 5:30am during a press conference in Los Angeles, CA. My pre-teen self used to wake up early and watch the announcements live. I was young and still excited about the prospects of seeing my favorite films get rewarded for their greatness. A few resounding disappointments later and I quickly understood that the Oscars have never been and never will be a true litmus test for quality. Still, the optimist in me continues to believe the Academy might get it right each year, or at least surprise me. Thankfully, the 2012 crop has multiple nominations worth celebrating. 

Best Picture
"The Artist"
"The Descendants"
"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"
"The Help"
"Hugo"
"Midnight in Paris"
"Moneyball"
"The Tree of Life"
"War Horse"
 
Nine films were nominated this first year under Oscar’s new qualifying guidelines, and the only shocker is the critically maligned 9/11 drama Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. While the Academy has an unnatural and disturbing love for director Stephen Daldry, even the most cynical Oscar pundits wrote off his latest in the big race. Consider it a lame duck for your Oscar pool. It’s great to see Hugo and Midnight in Paris here, as many expected. Both are joyous films obsessed with historical discovery and memory. It also warms my heart that The Tree of Life was nominated here, since it’s sure to be a lasting achievement well into the next chapter of film history. If you haven’t seen Terrence Malick’s audacious, sublime, and enthralling exploration of...well...EVERYTHING, see it on the biggest screen as soon as possible!
 
Unfortunately, this looks like The Artist’s prize to lose, with maybe Hugo and The Descendants putting up the only legitimate opposition.
 
Best Director
Woody Allen - "Midnight in Paris"
Michel Hazanavicius - "The Artist"
Terrence Malick - "The Tree of Life"
Alexander Payne - "The Descendants"
Martin Scorsese - "Hugo"
 
Malick’s inclusion in the Directing category is a brave choice, especially considering Academy favorite Steven Spielberg and hot commodity David Fincher were omitted. The race will probably come down to Hazanavicius versus Scorsese. A split between between The Artist and Hugo for Best Picture and Best Director seems the likeliest scenario, so I'm going with Marty. 
 
Best Actor
Demián Bichir - "A Better Life"
George Clooney - "The Descendants"
Jean Dujardin - "The Artist"
Gary Oldman - "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
Brad Pitt - "Moneyball"
 
This category usually has a left field choice, and this year it has two! Although Mexican star Demián Bichir snagged a SAG nomination for his role in Chris Weitz’s A Better Life, few thought he’d be included over the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar) and Michael Fassbender (Shame). 
 
The Academy almost never nominates subtle lead performances, but that’s the best way to describe Gary Oldman’s masterful turn as an aging spy watching international ideology shift right beneath his feet. For a an actor who’s hammed it up more than once (The Professional, The Fifth Element), it’s wonderfully ironic that Oldman has received his first Oscar nomination for something as weathered, worn, and human as this incarnation as George Smiley. 
 
Expectedly, the dominant trifecta of Clooney, Dujardin, and Pitt rode the wave of awards/acclaim each has received over the past few months to Oscar nods. 
 
Best Actress
Glenn Close - "Albert Nobbs"
Viola Davis - "The Help"
Rooney Mara - "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"
Meryl Streep - "The Iron Lady"
Michelle Williams - "My Week With Marylin"
 
Most Oscar writers felt one young actress would sneak into this crowded field of veteran heavyweights, and low and behold rising star Rooney Mara did just that. Her serpentine performance as Lisbeth Salander in Fincher’s Dragon Tattoo remake is completely deserving, giving the film a sense of gravitas and depth the original lacked. 
 
Predictions-wise, the Academy loves it when women play men, so Glenn Close has huge upside, and of course, never write off The Meryl (receiving her record 17th nomination!) I’m putting my money on Michelle Williams for her turn as Marilyn Monroe.