Thursday, February 23, 2012

84th Annual Academy Award Final Winner Predictions

By: Alex "The Savant" Heisman

Final predictions are always such a tricky thing. One’s mind churns rapidly before settling on a semi-coherent ultimate list of selections that you just can’t help but second-guess. Even then, a contender you wrote off before appears to be gaining steam in other’s minds. To be able to discern one’s own thoughts from the groupthink is the mark of a true Oscar prognosticator. There is also a level of pressure on my end as this is the first public instance of my give and take with Oscar.  I will probably, nay, definitely change my mind about something in the day or two between the posting of this article and the actual ceremony, although, once posted, that probably will not be reflected here. It must be stressed that these are the rankings of the strength of the contenders, not my personal preference. I apologize if this article becomes quite long, but that is par for the course. (All predictions listed in descending order of chance of winning- crappy design to list them, but it saves a LOT of space).

Best Picture

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

How long has it been since the film that truly deserves to win is actually going to? It sure seems like a long time, although, The Artist is going to right that wrong this year. No other film has garnered enough momentum to stop that train as nearest competitors The Help, Hugo, and The Descendants will just have to settle for their big wins in acting, techs, and writing, respectively. In the good old days, Midnight in Paris would be the fifth spot, the also-ran. The Tree of Life, gaining massive steam as of late, has started to rise way too late. While many bloggers cite Moneyball as their favorite movie of the year, it just doesn’t seem like anyone would actually vote for it. Extremely Loud and War Horse are non-starters.

Best Director

Michel Hazanavicius- The Artist, Martin Scorsese- Hugo, Terrence Malick- The Tree of Life, Alexander Payne- The Descendants, Woody Allen- Midnight in Paris

In a field of four masters and one newcomer, look for the previously unknown Frenchman to take it and match up with the expected Best Picture win. Scorsese, once a very close threat, has fallen recently. Malick, our favorite recluse, has turned in the most “original” directing accomplishment of the year but half are calling the film genius while the other half cries foul and declares pretension. Such a divisive split will be hard to overcome. Payne and his movie peaked way too fast, way too early. Allen’s nomination is a “welcome back!” to the category from which he has been absent since 1994.

Best Actor

Jean Dujardin- The Artist, George Clooney, Gary Oldman- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Brad Pitt- Moneyball, Demian Bichir- A Better Life

I just don’t get how many are still finding this hard to call. Dujardin stars in the Best Picture frontrunner, charms the pants off everyone, and signaled a massive shift his way when he picked up the SAG award last weekend. Clooney, who was once destined to add a Lead Acting trophy to his Supporting one, must settle for second. Some, who am I kidding- ALL, would call me crazy for putting Oldman before Pitt, yet, the overdue Oldman, with his first nomination, actually turns in a damn fine performance while Pitt ------------------------ (censored, because I really just abhor Moneyball and how awful Pitt and Hill are in it). I personally found Bichir’s performance a smidge too calculated and self-conscious, but hopefully this nomination will allow the man many more choice roles in Hollywood films.

Best Actress

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

My logical head says Davis while my emotional heart says Streep. If the Academy had just given Davis the Oscar for her stellar performance in Doubt instead of that tacky Penelope Cruz performance, we wouldn’t be having this problem now. Close and her film are dead in the water, yet it is so hard to believe that she has never won that she becomes the surprise snake in the grass contender if Streep and Davis split right down the middle (See- Best Actor 2002 when Adrien Brody pulled a huge upset and snuck right past dueling frontrunners Nicholson and Day-Lewis). Williams, once a fearsome threat, peaked with her Golden Globe win as “The Punisher” Harvey Weinstein threw all his chips behind his other, stronger contender in Meryl. Hey, Rooney! You snuck past Tilda for that fifth slot. Good for you! If you didn’t come across so arrogant and uncomfortable in interviews, maybe more people would respond to your performance.

Best Supporting Actor

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

Plummer’s had this in the bag since his film premiered in June, as Captain Von Trapp earns his second nomination after a six-decade career. In a silent performance that’s not, repeat not, featured in The Artist, von Sydow also earns only his second career nomination. If his poignant character was in a few more scenes he might actually have a chance of upsetting here. Branagh has been comfortably settled in this category for a while but he hasn’t actually won anything. In a weaker year, surprise nominee Nolte could actually have won here, while I’m required to mention Hill, my favorite “comedian” working today, because the Academy nominated him for something.

Best Supporting Actress

Octavia Spencer- The Help, Berenice Bejo, Jessica Chastain- The Help, Melissa McCarthy- Bridesmaids, Janet McTeer- Albert Nobbs

Spencer wins here for lack of a strong enough rival. Bejo cements a high standing on the coattails of the strength of her film. Chastain, who exploded into the film community with six films this year (including fellow Best Picture nominee The Tree of Life), is now well respected enough, but won’t be able to eventually overcome her co-stars’ appeal. McCarthy’s nomination is a mixed bag. Half venture that she’s the next coming of the Lord and place her in second, while the other half, myself included, feel the performance gimmicky and the nomination reward enough. Janet McTeer fought very hard for that last spot so it’s nice to see her here, yet this second nomination for her will have to suffice at just that level.

Best Original Screenplay

Woody Allen- Midnight in Paris, Michel Hazanavicius- The Artist, Ashgar Farhadi- A Separation, Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig- Bridesmaids, J.C. Chandor- Margin Call

Another tough call. The best place to reward Allen’s movie would be here. He won the Globe in a semi-surprise and this film is truly his return to form. On the other hand, The Artist is gaining so much steam, it’s hard not to predict that it would take Screenplay too. Farhadi will win over in Foreign Language Feature so the nomination here is just a reassurance of how strong the film is in that other category.  There are many flaws with the screenplay of Bridesmaids (I won’t act bitter as I have already done so with Moneyball) so the nomination must suffice. Lastly, I’m very happy to see Chandor’s timely script make the final five, but it’s ultimately too small of a film to win.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash- The Descendants, Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin, and Stan Chervin- Moneyball, Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, John Logan- Hugo, George Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Beau Willimon- The Ides of March

As we are expecting Clooney to lose Best Actor, Screenplay becomes the best, and probably only, place to reward the film in which he stars. Payne is a respected storyteller with a win already under his belt for Sideways. The next closest contender, Moneyball, is something you know I don’t like so no use commenting on it. Tinker Tailor is the wordiest and densest of all the choices, and might win due to the sheer task of whittling down the original source novel. It's unfortunate, and vulgar, to say, but widower, Straughan, lost his wife, O'Connor, to cancer before the movie was released so perhaps a sympathy vote may pull of a win. The script is not the first thing one thinks of when it comes to Hugo, as the visuals overpower it and the pacing of the film needed to be tightened. Clooney and Co. just can’t win as their film only has this one nomination.

The Rest of the Field

Animated Feature- Rango
Documentary Feature- Tricky! Erm, Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory? Not my specialty, anyway
Foreign Language Film- A Separation
Cinematography- Anything but The Tree of Life would be a scandal
Film Editing- If Hazanavicius loses Director and Screenplay, he still wins of his three nominations here
Costume Design- Really wide open category, any could take it. I select Jane Eyre, as period pieces are favored here...although, The Artist may take it in a sweep
Art/Set Direction- Hugo’s rich visuals should support a win here
Makeup- Please, please, I beg you, give Meryl’s personal makeup designer his first Oscar for the outstanding aging work in The Iron Lady
Visual Effects- Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Original Score- The Artist relies so heavily on this I can’t see it losing
Original Song- Man or Muppet, The Muppets
Sound Editing/Mixing- Some combination of Hugo and War Horse? Massively difficult and odd categories that few predict correctly.
Live Action/Animated/Documentary Shorts- Notoriously hard to predict, most experts still get them wrong anyway. I abstain.

Sound off with your own predictions or thoughts below, friend us on Facebook, and tell us how you think we are doing. I'd just quickly like to thank my buddy and co-founder of this site Paul Goldberg, my parents for taking me to all the R-rated movies when I was too young, and those fellow pundits of mine (most notably- Sasha Stone, Jeff Wells, Kris Tapley, Brad Brevet, Nathaniel Rogers, Scott Feinberg, Tom O'Neil, and Chris Beachum) that have analyzed and obsessed over these awards with me for the past six months. Through ups and downs, it's truly been one hell of a season. See you all after the fracas this Sunday night!


  1. Solid Predictions, Alex. I would like to sit down and watch Moneyball with you sometime.

    1. @ My Main Man Matt,

      Perhaps for one of those lampoon nights where I'm allowed to talk through the whole movie :) Thanks for chiming in! See you over break.

      -The Savant

  2. Alex, really well written and very interesting on all counts!

    1. @ Mr. G:

      Thank you so much! Hope you and Mrs. Goldberg enjoyed seeing some of these movies as well over the past couple of months :)

  3. I've tried to see as many of these movies as I could. Looking forward to our annual (how many?) Oscar night!