It's that time of the year again, the statues are polished, the envelopes licked, the suits and gowns shipped out for one more run. That's right kids, the Academy Awards are here once again for its 84th year, equipped with extra Billy Crystal to make up for a distinct lack of Sacha Baron Cohen. Will The Artist clean up? Will Scorsese's magical, family, odyssey Hugo triumph? Will The Tree of Life annoy the masses and clinch the Best Picture prize? Can Clooney or Oldman finally get their much deserved Best Actor statues which are long overdue? Is there any point of the ladies turning up for Best Actress when Meryl Streep is in the running? All this and more in my yearly Oscar preview...
Here's my breakdown of the 'big six'...
The Tree of Life
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Midnight in Paris
It's an interesting, if not a terribly inspired Best Picture list for the Oscars this year. Some glaring omissions in the form of Drive, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and We Need To Talk About Kevin makes you wonder if the Academy had bothered their arse to see every film submitted, as much as I have to not see Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - read the book, hated the book, moving on. If the Golden Globes and BAFTAs are any indication in these affairs - they usually are - there's no reason why The Artist can't make it a hat-trick of award successes. Predictable? Yes. Deserved? Very much so.
Perhaps just behind with an outsiders chance would be the beautiful Scorsese fantasy, Hugo and to a lesser extent Woody Allen's triumphant return to form with Midnight in Paris. Though I'd love to see the internet scorn if The Tree of Life manages to miraculously get the coveted prize. War Horse was maybe too guilty of playing out like an exercise of 'Oscars by Numbers' to get it this year, despite it being a thoroughly entertaining film. Same would apply to The Help too in my opinion.
That said, I'm pleasantly surprised to see Moneyball get there, as I don't honestly believe it deserves the flaming it got when it was originally nominated. One final thought though, I know there's not a 10 picture minimum on this category, but one wonders why they didn't throw a tenth film on the list just to make it an even number? Perhaps it says more about me that I'm more bothered by that seemingly anyone else...
Pick :: The Artist
Worth a punt :: Hugo
Woody Allen - Midnight in Paris
Michel Hazanavicius - The Artist
Martin Scorsese - Hugo
Terrence Malick - The Tree of Life
Alexander Payne - The Descendants
The most surprising inclusion on this list was yet again Terrence Malick for The Tree of Life, that said despite being, in a narrative context, an incoherent mess in parts I can see why he was included. Directors should be celebrated for showing off ambition and creativity like that, something which provokes such extreme reactions. They're the films which last a lifetime. Glaring omissions would be Tomas Alfredson for his incredible work on Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Lynne Ramsay's exclusion for the haunting We Need To Talk About Kevin which perhaps isn't helping the stereotype that the Best Director category of the Oscars - The Hurt Locker not counting - is still very much an all boys club.
Woody Allen is probably due a lifetime achievement award (which he won't turn up for) soon and realistically has made better films than Midnight in Paris, so once again this is going to be between Scorsese - who won the Globe in January - and Hazanavicius - who nabbed the BAFTA. Since it was Scorsese's turn a few years ago for The Departed, and since Hollywood loves a film about...er...Hollywood, I think Hazanavicius will deservedly take the spoils for this one too.
Pick :: Hazanavicius
Worth a punt :: Scorsese
Demian Bichir - A Better Life
George Clooney - The Descendants
Gary Oldman - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Jean Dujardin - The Artist
Brad Pitt - Moneyball
Bet Ryan Gosling figured at one stage he couldn't lose with this, until the nominations were released. I said back in September, when I reviewed Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Gary Oldman was very much the man I would back for Best Actor at any award ceremony he was nominated for in the fantastic turn as the iconic spy George Smiley, frankly little has made me change this opinion. If The Artist was released any other year you would probably feel, having missed out on it for Up in the Air, this was Clooney's year.
Not quite sure why Brad Pitt is in there for Moneyball, not because he was terrible, far from it, just it was hardly as earth shattering as the rest of the nominees or even in terms of other performances by Pitt. If he wasn't winning it for Benjamin Button (which I was never a huge fan of to begin with anyway), he's not winning it for Moneyball. I'm more than happy to see the status quo remain with a Dujardin win here, a new star in Hollywood has indeed arrived. Or a new European villain for every upcoming action film, time will tell on that one...
Pick :: Dujardin
Worth a punt :: Oldman
Glenn Close - Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis - The Help
Meryl Streep - The Iron Lady
Rooney Mara - The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Michelle Williams - My Week With Marilyn
It's hard to see past Meryl Streep for any category she finds herself in these days. However I'll humour you for one moment... somewhere Noomi Repace is wondering what Rooney Mara did that she didn't to deserve a nod for TGWTDT. Oh yeah that's right, she spoke in English. As countless films show, the Oscars love a good biopic so in another year Michelle Williams is probably a good bet for her turn as the rather sweet and tragic Marilyn Monroe. If the Academy had a sense of humour they may have put Glenn Close in the Best Actor category, for the sheer banter of it all.
Would yet again like to voice outrage for the absence of Tilda Swinton for We Need To Talk About Kevin and Olivia Colman for her stand out role in Tyrannosaur. Also I'm surprised Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet didn't get nods for their hilarious performances in Carnage and Charlize Theron for the fantastic Young Adult.
Pick :: Streep
Worth a punt :: Viola Davis
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Kenneth Branagh - My Week With Marilyn
Jonah Hill - Moneyball
Nick Nolte - Warrior
Christopher Plummer - Beginners
Max von Sydow - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Cynically one feels because Plummer and von Sydow, stalwarts though they are, are playing colourful old men they'll probably nip ahead with this one. I was genuinely happy to see Nolte in this category for Warrior as his turn as the recovering alcoholic father of the main protagonists was extremely heartfelt. Jonah Hill got a lot of needless flak when he was named in this category back in January, I would like to know how many of the people who were outraged by that had actually seen Moneyball. As a Northern Irishman it's always good to see Kenneth in there and could be a decent bet for his turn as the godly Laurence Olivier.
Pick :: Plummer
Worth a punt :: Branagh
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Berenice Bejo - The Artist
Jessica Chastian - The Help
Melissa McCarthy - Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer - Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer - The Help
Really the odds are with The Help in this category. Octavia Spencer has taken, as far as I'm aware, the Globe and the BAFTA for her appearance in The Help. Personally speaking I'd absolutely love to see Bejo take it for The Artist. The film's timeless charm is just as much to do with her delightfully graceful contribution as it is Dujardin's. Melissa McCarthy would be a brilliant choice for her outrageous and shameless turn in Bridesmaids plus it would be nice to see the Academy show their appreciation towards the comedy genre for a change...
Pick :: Bejo
Worth a punt :: Spencer
And here's my picks for the rest...
Best Original Screenplay :: The Artist
Best Adapted Screenplay :: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Best Animated Feature :: Rango
Best Foreign Language :: A Separation (only because The Skin I Live in was amazingly left out)
Best Documentary :: Hell and Back Again (where was Being Elmo?!)
Best Documentary Short :: The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom
Best Live Action Short :: The Shore (because it's set in my beautiful home country)
Best Animated Short :: La Luna (because Pixar dropped the ball with Cars 2...)
Best Original Score :: The Artist
Best Original Song :: Man or Muppet from The Muppets (shame they won't be performing it live)
Best Sound Editing :: Drive (because it shockingly was omitted from the big categories)
Best Sound Mixing :: Hugo
Best Art Direction :: Hugo (it looked beautiful...)
Best Cinematography :: The Tree of Life (because you can at least give it that...)
Best Makeup :: Albert Nobbs (it's Glenn Close...as a bloke!...)
Best Costume Design :: The Artist, but Jane Erye is good because this category loves a period costume drama...
Best Film Editing :: The Artist
Best Visual Effects :: Rise of the Planet of the Apes, because it's use of SFX was infinitely more impressive than Harry Potter, Transformers and Reel Steel combined. Though I do love Hugo...
And that's that. If I decide to stay up - which I probably will - join me on twitter for endless wit as the night progresses as I declare my outrage for once again getting it so wrong in the technical categories and being sadly unsurprised by the results of the 'big six'.