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Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012

Predicting the 2012 Oscars

Hollywood looks to the past

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The past played a big role in Hollywood last year, and if Oscar nominations are any measure of public opinion, then a lot of us are either unhappy with the world of now or curious about the way things were. Of the nine nominees for Best Picture, only The Descendants is entirely present tense. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close comes close, focusing on one child's unusual post-9/11 experience, but even Moneyball, focused on the 2002 baseball season, reflects on a slower, quieter time before smartphones and social networking.

Consider the other nominees. The Help takes place against the emergence of the Civil Rights movement in Mississippi, circa the 1960s. The Tree of Life sets a 1950s American family drama within the story of the cosmos. The battles of War Horse occurred a century ago on the front lines of World War I, while Hugo is a history lesson on early cinema tucked into a fantasy Paris of the 1930s. The Artist even recreates the medium of silent movies by which most people picture the early 20th century. Midnight in Paris, all about a fixation with returning to a lost golden age, draws a mixed conclusion. We need the past as inspiration, but we also need to move on.

Will 2012 become the first year since 1929 that a silent movie wins Best Picture? It's a better question than asking which designer Glenn Close will choose for her gown (surely she won't come dressed as Albert Nobbs?) or even what sort of banter Billy Crystal will offer as emcee.

The competition for the golden trophies is interesting this year. Please use all predictions, especially my own, responsibly. Gambling on the outcome is always risky business.

Best Picture

Probable Winner: The Artist

My Favorite: Midnight in Paris

I love both films, but Midnight in Paris is entertainingly profound (it says something and says it well) while The Artist is merely a marvelously crafted recreation of past movies.

Best Director


Probable Winner: Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)

My Favorite: Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life)

According to the best gossip (as opposed to the other kind), this will be the year of The Artist. Will every second-stringer in Hollywood try to capitalize on it by green-lighting ill-conceived silent movies?

Best Actress


Probable Winner: Viola Davis (The Help)

My Favorite: Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)

Viola Davis' performance was marvelous in a movie in which important themes were trimmed to Hollywood size; Meryl Streep was marvelous in a movie that aspired to being a great film.

Best Actor


Probable Winner: Jean Dujardin (The Actor)

My Favorite: Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)

Let's just call it a victory run for The Actor, but be sure to check out Gary Oldman's carefully nuanced, conflicted performance in last year's best spy film.

Pictured above: Midnight in Paris
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