Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Remembrances: On the 84th Nominees



To remember. To create a history. To relive an experience. To suddenly have the past, as Walter Benjamin might suggest, "flash up" for a moment, hoping and waiting to be grabbed.

This is what unites this year's Academy Awards. The act of remembering, the act of creating a personal or collective history.

We see this most explicitly--or perhaps most pervasively--in our two Best Picture frontrunners: The Artist and Hugo. The former is constructed head to foot to look like something it isn't--a movie from the late-20s/early-30s. It's a feat of reconstituted aesthetics that brings with it the weight of mythologies about the movie industry's conversion to sound and a purely romantic ode to something past. The latter explores the technology of "the future"--3D cinematic space--by traveling to the past and reframing one of cinema's earliest technicians as a romantic martyr. In a more childlike, eyes-wide-open way, Hugo is the better movie about the magic of movies.

But the Best Picture race offers more outside of this hermetic seal of "movies about movies," even if there's virtually no chance for anything else to win. The Tree of Life is a movie of filmed memories and interior recollections, childhood approached from middle age. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close uses the shared memory of 9/11 as a space for a child to overcome his own personal loss (and boy, does it exploit that image). Midnight in Paris is about nostalgia--a particular kind of memory that distorts history. In that film, Allen explores a dislocation of place and identity, a soul trapped between multiple time periods and moments of history. War Horse takes place in World War I--a historical film--The Descendants has the spectre of a deceased family lineage hanging behind George Clooney's decisions. The Help reframes history from the perspective of white guilt and a search for a black voice (as problematic as its racial politics are). Billy Beane's memories of his own personal defeats haunt the narrative of Moneyball.

But as these films look toward the past, they also look at the future. Moneyball is about re-inventing the wheel and worrying about what that re-invention means for a whole institution. The Tree of Life pushes, in one majestic finale, from the past to the present to the future. Hugo has one foot in its diegetic past and another toward us in the theater: Scorsese seems to be asking, what will the films of tomorrow look like? Where is our magic? Ditto The Artist, a film that reads almost like a plea to remember "film for film's sake" at a moment where Kodak has filed for bankruptcy and the industry braces to switch almost completely to digital.

Every year I have people ask me why I care at all about the Oscars. After all, I haven't really agreed with them much since 2007, and I've become intensely indifferent about the actual winners in that time. But who they pick fascinates me because I see it as the story the industry wants to tell itself about itself. If they pick The Artist, or if they pick Hugo, that will say something about the industry's panic about moving into an era that is post-film. When "films" cease to really be "films." Of course, whether that's an empty gesture or not remains to be seen. Will they be like the Hollywood Foreign Press and help increase funding for film preservation? The Academy is many things, but it is first and foremost a symbol of what the industry stands for.

Overall, this is a really bizarre year for Oscar. They can nominate both The Tree of Life and Extremely Loud for their top prize. One is an oblique art house film, the other a straight-down-the-line-conventional three-hankie-weepie. They can nominate a performance as subtle as Gary Oldman's in Tinker Tailor and not nominate Michael Fassbender for, well, any of his four roles. They can nominate Rooney Mara in Dragon Tattoo but not its screenplay.

There are some great surprise nominees in here--Malick/Tree of Life and Oldman/Tinker's screenplay are chief among them. I have many films I adore--Hugo, Moneyball, Midnight in Paris--in the thick of the race. But overall, this was a year where Oscar played it safe. Buzzed performances like Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt's in Young Adult--daring, bracingly dark comedic performances--are slighted, while conventional "Oscar Roles" like Branagh's and Nolte's are front and center. Movies that "The Internet" (bloggers, digital critics, IMDb-active 18-49 year olds) loves like Drive and Melancholia are all but absent, while Big Hollywood gets its obligatory slots in the Sound and VFX categories (Bigger is Better, right?). John Williams gets TWO scores (including one that sounds remarkably like Apollo 13), while Trent Reznor gets the shaft. And at the end of the day, even the most successful film of the year--Harry Potter--can't crack out of the hell the Academy's relegated it to for the past ten years.

I'm not trying to beat a dead horse when I bring up last year's show, but this is really the leftovers of The King's Speech winning those prizes. It brings them back to the center of their taste spectrum. It's not a tragedy if The Artist wins Best Picture, or if The Descendants wins Best Picture. They're both fine movies, maybe even great in their own ways, but they are particular kinds of movies that make those years like 2007 seem all the more anomalous.

"The trick is not minding," so the saying goes. And truly, I don't mind. I can't be bitter when Terrence Malick and Martin Scorsese are both nominated for Best Director. I can't be upset when Rooney Mara got her nomination, Moneyball earned six, and Hugo stands atop the pile with 11 nominations. It's just when you step back and look at the picture as a whole, you have to imagine what it could have looked like.

These are the kinds of memories the Academy wants to cultivate. The kind that show variation and a willingness to sort of think outside their box, but without being bold enough to cast the ballot that really breaks down even one of that box's walls.

Oscars: Category-by-Category Response

You can see the nominees in my post below. This is purely reaction, speculation, cursory thought:

Best Picture: Um. Wow. It almost went according to plan, and then they announced The Tree of Life and I jumped so high I think I almost hit my ceiling. That might be an exaggeration, I don't know. Then they announced Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and I was kind of depressed but still happy with myself because I predicted it in the 9th slot. Then I realized The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo didn't get in. Frankly, that an organization can nominate The Tree of Life and Extremely Loud for the same award blows my mind, so far away are they on the cinematic pole--art house event and overly sentimental weepie--that it almost perfectly illustrates how truly confused this Academy is becoming.
My Prediction: They nominated 9, and I "officially predicted" 8 nominees, so I'm pretty happy I actually almost got that right. Outside of that, I went 8/9, putting in Dragon Tattoo and missing The Tree of Life.

Best Director:  Again, I did a little victory dance when I heard Terrence Malick's name. Then I realized I didn't hear Fincher's name. It's a hugely bittersweet moment to me (and kind of a bitch-slap to Fincher after last year), but I guess I should stay positive.
My Prediction: 4/5 (5/5 with my alternate)

Best Actor: Congrats to the people who actually called Demian Bechir's nomination. That one was a total shocker. Outside of that, I'm so thrilled that Gary Oldman is actually nominated for an Academy Award. Yes, you may not have realized it, but he's never been NOMINATED for one. So that in and of itself is huge. I'm proud of myself for NOT picking Michael Fassbender (even though I'm sad he didn't get in, especially with the year he had), and I'm thrilled DiCaprio's hokey J. Edgar performance got the shaft.
My Prediction: 4/5

Best Actress: I felt so damn good when they read this one out. Not only is Rooney in (which, in my mind, both makes Fincher's omission both okay and all the more horrific), but I picked this one perfectly, resisting my temptation to slide Tilda Swinton in the 5th slot.
My Prediction: 5/5

Best Supporting Actor: Honestly, I'm ashamed the Academy didn't nominate Albert Brooks. It's THE quintessential supporting role, people! I'm shocked Max von Sydow actually couped a nomination, but at least he's the best part of that thoroughly middling film. I also picked Armie Hammer over Nick Nolte, because I had NO idea the Acad would actually snub J. Edgar completely.
My Prediction: 3/5

Best Supporting Actress: I know this is kind of silly, but the fact Shailene Woodley did NOT get nominated for The Descendants shows--to my mind--the film cannot win. It needed THAT nomination in particular to make a statement. Other than that, this one was easy to call.
My Prediction: 4/5 (5/5 with alternate)

Best Original Screenplay: I'm not surprised 50/50 didn't make the cut (it's not an Academy-type movie), but I'm thrilled J.C. Chandor's Margin Call took that crowded and competitive fifth slot. Great writing, and a really pleasant surprise.
My Prediction: 4/5

Best Adapted Screenplay: Well, this category went in a totally different direction. First off, I cannot tell you how happy I am that Tinker Tailor is nominated. Having said that, how in the WORLD can you nominate Ides of March ahead of Dragon Tattoo? If anything, I figured Zaillian's script would get in (big blockbuster novel, smart adaptation, big movie). Also, can we officially declare The Help DOA in the Best Picture race? No nod here thrills me, and dooms the film.
My Prediction: 3/5

Best Foreign Language Film: Kind of pissed about Pina not making it here, but it's nominated in Doc, so I guess it's okay. This one was straight down the line.
My Prediction: 4/5

Best Animated Feature: Talk about a political statement. Two of the movies nominated haven't even opened in New York and had no buzz. No Tintin, no Pixar. Something's going on in that animation branch.
My Prediction: 3/5 (4/5 with alternate)

Best Documentary: This is where I just throw my hands in the air and give up. If you've been following the Oscar commentary anywhere on the web, you probably heard all the roars of condemnation over this category this year. They need to fix how stuff gets nominated in this branch.
My Prediction: 2/5

Best Art Direction: I really botched this category. My bad. It's weird that War Horse is in and Tinker isn't, don't you think?
My Prediction: 2/5 (3/5 with alternate)

Best Cinematography: Nailed it.
My Prediction: 5/5

Best Costume Design: Nods for Anonymous and W.E.? They really just want to make this "the category period films go to die."
My Prediction: 3/5

Best Film Editing: Ah, yes. The elusive "Film Editing" prize that collapses the Best Picture race into four contenders, and keeps The Descendants rumbling in the conversation. Don't ask me how these statistics work. They just do.
My Prediction: 5/5

Best Makeup: Kind of surprised to see Harry Potter show up here. But hey, good for it. Ralph Fiennes's nose deserves the attention.
My Prediction: 2/3

Best Original Score: Proud of myself for calling Tintin as my alternate, and I guess we can go back to saying John Williams owns this category? Sad that Dragon Tattoo didn't get in (too good?) but I'm okay with Tinker Tailor taking that spot.
My Prediction: 3/5 (4/5 with alternate)

Best Original Song: This is so stupid. Two nominees? How is this allowed to change every single year? If I were Elton John, I'd be furious. I'm sure Madonna is.
My Prediction: 1/2 (that just feels silly to write)

Best Sound Mixing: So happy to see Moneyball in this category (hooray for actually recognizing how good its sound design is!). I put Pirates and Harry Potter in ahead of Transformers, thinking they'd be tired of those robot noises. Guess not.
My Prediction: 3/5

Best Sound Editing: Oh look, Drive's ONLY nomination! What a freaking shame.
My Prediction: 2/5 (3/5 with alternate)

Best Visual Effects: Can we make up our mind if this is 3- or 5-film category? It throws off all my predicting.
My Prediction: 2/5

So how'd I do?
Overall, I correctly predicting 72 of 104 nominees, which comes out to 69%. If you factor in my "alternates" in my predictions, that bumps it up to 78 out of 104, or 75%.
In the "Top 8" categories I predicted 35 of 44 nominees (37 if you include my alternates), which comes out to 80% (or 84% with my alternates).
I completely nailed three categories (five if you include my alternates), and dipped into the dread 2/5 on four.

This was a really bizarre morning (I'll touch on that in a piece later today, hopefully), but this was a really poor showing for me. Last year, I got 79% of my predictions (86% with my alternates), and if you factored my alternates into my top 8 predictions from last year, I got 96%.
Oh well, every year can't be as easy to spot as 2010. Live and learn!
 

84th Annual Academy Award Nominations



Best Picture

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


Best Director

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




Best Actor

Damien Bechir for A Better Life
George Clooney for The Descendants
Jean Dujardin for The Artist
Gary Oldman for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt for Moneyball

Best Actress

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




Best Supporting Actor

Kenneth Branagh for My Week With Marilyn
Jonah Hill for Moneyball
Nick Nolte for Warrior
Christopher Plummer for Beginners
Max von Sydow for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Best Supporting Actress

Berenice Bejo for The Artist
Jessica Chastain for The Help
Melissa McCarthy for Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer for Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spenser for The Help




Best Original Screenplay

The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius
Bridesmaids, Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumulo
Margin Call, J.C. Chandor
Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen
A Separation, Asghar Farhadi

Best Adapted Screenplay

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




Best Animated Feature

A Cat in Paris
Chico and Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots
Rango

Best Documentary Feature

Hell and Back Again
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Pina
Undefeated  



Best Foreign Language Feature

Bullhead (Belgium)
Footnote (Israel)
In Darkness (Poland)
Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)
A Separation (Iran)


Best Art Direction

The Artist, Laurence Bennett, Robert Gould
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Stuart Craig, Stephenie McMillan
Hugo, Dante Ferretti, Francesca Lo Schiavo
Midnight in Paris, Anne Seibel, Helene Dubreil
War Horse, Rick Carter, Lee Sandales



Best Cinematography

The Artist, Guillaume Schiffman
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Jeff Cronenweth
Hugo, Robert Richardson
The Tree of Life, Emmanuel Lubezki
War Horse, Janusz Kaminski

Best Costume Design

Anonymous, Lisy Christi
The Artist, Mark Bridges
Hugo, Sandy Powell
Jane Eyre, Michael O'Connor
W.E., Arianne Phillips




Best Film Editing

The Artist, Annie-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius
The Descendants, Kevin Tent
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
Hugo, Thelma Schoonmaker
Moneyball, Christopher Tellefsen

Best Makeup

Albert Nobbs, Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Nick Dudman, Amanda Knight and Lisa Tomblin
The Iron Lady, Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland




Best Original Score

The Adventures of Tintin, John Williams
The Artist, Ludovic Bource
Hugo, Howard Shore
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Alberto Iglesias
War Horse, John Williams


Best Original Song

"Man or Muppet" from The Muppets
"Real in Rio" from Rio 



Best Sound Mixing

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Bo Persson
Hugo, Tom Fleischman and John Midgley
Moneyball, Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, Dave Giammarco, Ed Novick
Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush, Peter J. Devlin
War Horse, Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson, Stuart Wilson

Best Sound Editing

Drive, Lon Bender and Victor Ray Ennis
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Ren Klyce
Hugo, Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty
Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
War Horse, Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom



Best Visual Effects

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler, John Richardson
Hugo, Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossman, Alex Henning
Real Steel, Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor, Swen Gillberg
Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White, Daniel Barrett
Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Dan Glass, Brad Friedman, Douglas Trumbull, Michael Fink

Monday, January 23, 2012

84th Oscars Nominations Predictions




Final Oscar Nom Predictions

Best Picture

The Artist
The Descendants
Hugo
The Help
Midnight in Paris
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Moneyball
War Horse
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Bridesmaids

Alternate: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Explanation: Since the Academy is doing “five to ten” nominees, I’ve gone ahead and included 10. My official prediction is that they will nominate eight films, and I’ve ranked this slate in the order of likelihood, meaning War Horse should be seen as the official cut-off of my prediction, but were it to extend to nine, ELIC would be in, and if 10, Bridesmaids would get in.

Best Director

Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
David Fincher, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Alternate: Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life

Best Actor

George Clooney, The Descendants
Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Edgar
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Gary Oldman, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Brad Pitt, Moneyball
Alternate: Michael Fassbender, Shame

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 Marilyn
Alternate: Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin

Best Supporting Actor

Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Albert Brooks, Drive
Armie Hammer, J. Edgar
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Alternate: Viggo Mortensen, A Dangerous Method

Best Supporting Actress

Berenice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Octavia Spenser, The Help
Shailene Woodley, The Descendants
Alternate: Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs

Best Original Screenplay

50/50
The Artist
Bridesmaids
Midnight in Paris
A Separation
Alternate: Win Win

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Descendants
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The Help
Hugo
Moneyball
Alternate: War Horse

Best Foreign Language Feature

A Separation
Bullhead
In Darkness
Monsieur Lazhar
Pina
Alternate: Superclasico

Best Animated Feature

The Adventures of Tintin
Arthur Christmas
Cars 2
Puss in Boots
Rango
Alternate: Kung Fu Panda 2

Best Documentary Feature

Buck
Paradise Lost 3
Pina
Project Nim
We Were Here
Alternate: Bill Cunningham New York

Best Art Direction

Anonymous
The Artist
Hugo
J. Edgar
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Alternate: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Best Cinematography

The Artist
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Hugo
The Tree of Life
War Horse
Alternate: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Best Costume Design

The Artist
The Help
Hugo
Jane Eyre
My Week With Marilyn
Alternate: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Best Film Editing

The Artist
The Descendants
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Hugo
Moneyball
Alternate: Drive

Best Makeup

Albert Nobbs
Hugo
The Iron Lady
Alternate: The Artist

Best Original Score

The Artist
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Hugo
War Horse
Alternate: The Adventures of Tintin

Best Original Song

“Lay Your Head Down” from Albert Nobbs
“Hello Hello” from Gnomeo and Juliet
“The Living Proof” from The Help
“Life’s a Happy Song” from The Muppets
“Man or Muppet” from The Muppets
Alternate: “Masterpiece” from W/E

Best Sound Mixing

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Hugo
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
War Horse
Alternate: The Adventures of Tintin

Best Sound Editing

The Adventures of Tintin
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Transformers
War Horse
Alternate: Hugo

Best Visual Effects

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Super 8
Alternate: War Horse




Sunday, January 15, 2012

Golden Globe Predix


Best Picture, Drama

The Descendants
The Help
Hugo
The Ides of March
Moneyball
War Horse

Will Win: The Descendants
Should Win: MoneyballWhy? In many ways, I can see this going to The Descendants, Hugo, or The Help in equal measure. The Globes do love Scorsese (more on that below), but in the top category I remain convinced that Payne's dramedy is about to break through the ceiling and become the potential spoiler for this year. And George Clooney's involved.

Best Picture, Comedy/Musical

50/50
The Artist
Bridesmaids
Carnage
Midnight in Paris
My Week With Marilyn

Will Win:
The Artist
Should Win: Midnight in ParisWhy? The Artist is the horse to bet on, and its international status should play well to the HFPA. Still, I can't help escape the feeling that if a major upset will happen, it will be here. The HFPA also goes for Woody a lot. There's a fraction of a chance, but hey, The Artist has to stop short sometime. Right? Right?

Best Director

Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris
George Clooney for The Ides of March
Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist
Alexander Payne for The Descendants
Martin Scorsese for Hugo

Will Win: Martin Scorsese
Should Win: Martin Scorsese
Why? Michel Hazanavicius is the big frontrunner after a mildly shocking win at the Critics Choice on Thursday. But as much as I suspect the Globes will love The Artist, I can't help feel Director will be headed somewhere else. Mainly because of how textured and rich Scorsese's work in Hugo is, but partly because the HFPA has been very vocal about their support for him in the last decade. It's a down-to-the-wire category that could still go all over the place before the Oscars.

Best Actress, Drama

Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis in The Help
Rooney Mara in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady
Tilda Swinton in We Need to Talk About Kevin

Will Win: Viola Davis
Should Win: Tilda Swinton
Why? I think Viola Davis deserves this award, and even though the HFPA are star-whores, they've award Meryl Streep so many times that I think their love for the film (it has multiple nods - Iron Lady does not) will outweigh their Streep obsession. In reality though, these are five fine performances that deserve the award in their own ways. I'd give my vote to Swinton, who is the most revelatory and devastating.

Best Actor, Drama

George Clooney in The Descendants
Leonardio DiCaprio in J. Edgar
Michael Fassbender in Shame
Ryan Gosling in The Ides of March
Brad Pitt in Moneyball

Will Win: George Clooney
Should Win: Brad Pitt
Why? I've a feeling the Oscar is going to be a drag-down, knock-out fight between the two A-list superstars. George Clooney's film is in a better position than Pitt's, even though Pitt has received far less awards attention in his career and, I think at least, gives far and away the better performance.

Best Supporting Actor

Kenneth Branagh in My Week With Marilyn
Albert Brooks in Drive
Jonah Hill in Moneyball
Viggo Mortensen in A Dangerous Method
Christopher Plummer in Beginners

Will Win: Christopher Plummer
Should Win: Christopher Plummer
Why? I could see this going to Brooks or Plummer, with Mortensen as a super-upset (something the Globes aren't really famous for as of late). At the end of the day, Brooks gives a ferocious little performance, but Plummer towers over Beginners. In a career with very little recognition, he deserves this one.

Best Supporting Actress

Berenice Bejo in The Artist
Jessica Chastain in The Help
Janet McTeer in Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer in The Help
Shailene Woodley in The Descendants

Will Win: Jessica Chastain
Should Win: Shailene Woodley
Why? I've heard the rumbles for Octavia Spencer, but I don't buy it yet. Awarding Chastain lets the HFPA signal out an actress who had at least four (I could be miscounting) movies come out this year. She is the breakout story. On the other hand--if the Globes go wild for Descendants, you could hear Woodley's name, and if they fall out of their chairs for The Artist, you could hear Bejo.

Best Actress, Comedy

Jodie Foster in Carnage
Charlize Theron in Young Adult
Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids
Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn
Kate Winslet in Carnage

Will Win: Michelle Williams
Should Win: (Abstaining)
Why? I still haven't seen Marilyn or Young Adult, the two frontrunners of this race, so I can't really comment. The Carnage performances cancel each other out, but if it wasn't for the heat behind Williams I could reasonably see Kristen Wiig winning this. The love for Bridesmaids right now is kind of astounding.

Best Actor, Comedy

Jean DuJardin in The Artist
Brendan Gleeson in The Guard
Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 50/50
Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris

Will Win:
Jean Dujardin
Should Win: Jean Dujardin
Why? This is not a great slate of nominees. Everyone in the organization will vote for Dujardin. Only conceivable upset is Gordon-Levitt, if they're in the mood to star-whore.       

Best Screenplay

Midnight in Paris
The Ides of March
The Artist
The Descendants
Moneyball

Will Win: The Descendants
Should Win: Moneyball
Why? This is a really tricky category. By the time we get to the Oscars, it will probably be Midnight vs. Artist in Original Screenplay and Descendants vs. Moneyball in Adapted. That's just where I think it's headed. So when you level the playing field, who comes out on top? All four of those have legitimate shots, but I'm giving the slight edge to Payne's script just because I expect it to clean up here. I'd love nothing more than for Moneyball to keep winning, though.

Best Foreign Language Film

A Separation (Iran)
The Flowers of War (China)
The Kid With a Bike (Belgium)
In the Land of Blood and Honey (USA)
The Skin I Live In (Spain)


Will Win:
A SeparationShould Win: (Abstaining)
Why? I've heard from a few of the bloggers that Angelina Jolie's Land of Blood and Honey could be a legitimate upset, but the love that's forming around A Separation just feels too great to deny.    

Best Original Score

The Artist
W.E.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Hugo
War Horse

Will Win: The Artist
Should Win: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Why? The music of The Artist is pretty phenomenal, classic Hollywood stuff that (almost) perfectly narrates the movie (except for that scene. You know the one). But the music of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo so rethinks how we hear film music, how they work in a movie like that, and the kinds of emotion they emit. It's the year's towering achievement of composing, if you ask me.

Best Animated Feature

The Adventures of Tintin
Arthur Christmas
Cars 2
Puss in Boots
Rango

Will Win: RangoShould Win: Rango
Why? Because Tintin is so internationally-oriented, you might expect a win from the Foreign Press Association. But it's hard to get past how tepid it's been received State-side, whereas Rango has gone on to be a commercial and critical success. In a lineup that simply looks mediocre, Rango really stands out.

Best Original Song

"Hello Hello" from Gnomeo and Juliet
"Lay Your Head Down" from Albert Nobbs
"The Living Proof" from The Help
"The Keeper" from Machine Gun Preacher
"Masterpiece" from W.E.     

Will Win:
"The Living Proof"
Should Win: (Abstaining)
Why? The Help has more overall support than probably all of these films combined. I could see Madonna winning, though. Just because.