Some thoughts on the five Oscars anyone cares about

Friday February 24th 2012

So, what have you got planned next Monday morning between the hours of 1am and 5am? Well you better cancel it, because if you’re anything like me you’ll want to be glued to your Sky-enabled television/highly illegal internet stream for the biggest event on the Hollywood calendar: the Oscars. Or as we call them in the industry, The Acardermee Awarrs.

As ever, the ceremony is sure to overrun by 1-2 millennia as the producers desperately try to cram in all the technical awards they can with glorious disregard for audience figures, but let’s be honest, it’s these five we’re actually excited about:

Best Picture

Hugo, The Tree of Life, War Horse, The Descendants, The Help, Midnight in Paris, The Artist, Moneyball, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Miraculous horses, noble victims of prejudice, plucky underdog baseball teams: this year’s Best Picture category is an embarrassment of Oscar bait riches. Nonetheless, it’s nice to see that the as-many-as-10-nominees system is still ushering in a few less likely contenders, in the form of experimental arthouse opus The Tree of Life and (don’t crucify me here) genuinely charming Woody Allen wank session Midnight in Paris. Of course, there isn’t a chance in hell that the award’s going to anyone except The Artist, but given that the last dead cert winner was 2009’s Slumdog cunting Millionaire, we should think ourselves very, very lucky.

Best Actor

Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Solider Spy), Brad Pitt (Moneyball), Demián Bichir (A Better Life), Jean Dujardin (The Artist), George Clooney (The Descendants)

First off, let’s take it as read that none of us know Demián Bichir from Adam. Like the rest of you, I missed Chris Weitz’s A Better Life when it had its minuscule eOne release in July of last year, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to the Odeon Panton Street (where it’s currently playing as a ‘catch up’ for confused Oscar pundits) for anything that isn’t Margaret. So, of the four ‘proper’ nominees, my pick — and the obvious winner — is old Jean. You just know he’s got an awesome ‘lol it’s a silent movie’ joke saved up for Sunday.

Best Actress

Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs), Viola Davis (The Help), Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn), Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)

As much as I’d love to see Glenn Close walk away with an Oscar for Nobbsy, in which she successfully manages to underplay a reanimated corpse, this is a certified two horse race. In one corner, Meryl Streep plays beloved prime minister/dairy thief Margaret Thatcher; in the other, Viola Davis inhabits yet another of her signature po-faced roles: that of saintly maid Aibileen Clark in The Help. If you ask me, Streep’s is the superior performance, but Davis — backed up by the sheer momentum of The Help That White People Gave Black People In The 60s — has it in the bag.

Best Supporting Actress

Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids), Jessica Chastain (The Help), Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs), Octavia Spencer (The Help), Bérénice Bejo (The Artist)

With the nomination one-two-punch of Chastain and Spencer, the tide could be turning in The Help‘s favour in the Best Supporting Actress category (I guess that’s what you get for jamming in as many auxiliary characters as possible with little concern for subtlety, motive or coherence). Nonetheless, I’m still holding out hope for Bejo, if only because I’m hoping for a live rendition of that impossibly delightful little dance she does in The Artist. And dismiss McTeer all you like, but her brief appearance in Nobbsy did grace 2011 with its most spectacular (and contextually valid) boob flash scene.

Best Supporting Actor

Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn), Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close), Christopher Plummer (Beginners), Nick Nolte (Warrior), Jonah Hill (Moneyball)

And people say it’s a problem that the Academy is made up exclusively of old white guys! This roster of Caucasian talent includes not one but two octogenarians (by comparison, this year’s oldest Supporting Actress nominee is 50) meaning that a win for either would constitute the oldest Oscar win of all time, beating out 80-year-old Jessica Tandy’s Best Actress win for Driving Miss Daisy. And as it happens, Plummer is all but guaranteed to do just that with his heartbreaking performance in Beginners — a great film that’s been sadly overlooked in all other categories this awards season. Still, part of me hopes that Branagh comes away with it, purely because it might give Jennifer Lawrence another chance to wheel out her fabulous pronunciation skills. “Kinnith Brarrrnarrr”.