February 26, 2012

Oscars '12: Who will, or should, be the winners

There are leading contenders, but that doesn't preclude an upset.

By JULIE HINDS / McClatchy Newspapers

Any year in which George Clooney and Brad Pitt are competing against each other for an Oscar, or where gender identity ("Albert Nobbs"), racism ("The Help"), post-9/11 pain ("Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"), the cost of pro sports ("Moneyball") and illegal immigration ("A Better Life") are prevalent themes can't be described as a quiet one for the Academy Awards.

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Alex Libby glances at a poster for "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," a nominee for Best Picture. Libby, of Freeport, was an assistant director on the film.

Press Herald file photo

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Asa Butterfield, left, and Jude Law, right, in a scene from Best Picture nominee "Hugo."

Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures / GK Films

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WHEN: 7 p.m. today

WHERE: ABC. Locally, the ceremony will be broadcast on WMTW (Channel 8). 


WATCH trailers from the nine best picture contenders at www.pressherald.com/life/oscartrailers2012.html 


FOLLOW features editor Rod Harmon on Twitter as he tweets during the broadcast Sunday @RHarmonPPH


And yet a silent film, "The Artist" with its 10 nominations, is the major player at this year's ultimate film event, which airs tonight on ABC.

By now, a wide audience is familiar with "The Artist," a winsome look at the rise and fall of a charismatic silent screen star. But can this ultimate underdog grab best picture honors? Or will the top prize go to weightier fare like "The Descendants," a poignant family portrait led by a surprisingly vulnerable George Clooney, or "The Help," a box-office hit elevated by the power of its three actress nominees?

Will silence be golden? Here are some predictions on what's likely to happen when the envelopes are opened.


• "The Artist"

• "The Descendants"

• "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"

• "The Help"

• "Hugo"

• "Midnight in Paris"

• "Moneyball"

• "The Tree of Life"

• "War Horse"

WILL WIN: In a year when one nominee that looks good on paper was clobbered by bad reviews (the Tom Hanks-Sandra Bullock-starring "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close") and another was under-appreciated for its classic style ("War Horse"), the competition here is mostly between the fizzy joys of "The Artist," the multi-layered drama of "The Descendants" and "The Help," and the lovely precision of "Hugo." Expect "The Artist" to prevail, especially because Oscar voters can't resist a movie that celebrates their own craft.

SHOULD WIN: "The Descendants," another excellent snapshot of the human heart from director Alexander Payne. It conveys the magnificent, tragic messiness of life through the story of a husband and father coping with revelations in the wake of his wife's devastating coma. 


• Demian Bichir, "A Better Life"

• George Clooney, "The Descendants"

• Jean Dujardin, "The Artist"

• Gary Oldman, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"

• Brad Pitt, "Moneyball"

WILL WIN: George Clooney has never been better. And goodness knows that Gary Oldman deserves to be recognized for decades of superb acting.

But when a performer commands a movie with such throwaway grace, the Oscars tend to give him the gold. Jean Dujardin, prepare to be honored for displaying world-class style, delivering sweet dance moves and making silent films cool again.

SHOULD WIN: Clooney, who succeeded by scrapping his debonair confidence and digging deep to find the place where sorrow, jealousy and wisdom meet in an average man struggling to do his best in an impossible situation. 


• 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"

WILL WIN: Although Meryl Streep is technically superb and emotionally on target as Margaret Thatcher, she is burdened with a movie that feels more like a series of quick pencil sketches than a finished portrait.

Viola Davis, on the other hand, takes viewers on a journey into the soul of her character, showing us both the guarded outward composure of an African-American maid in the 1960s South and the strength, anger, tenderness and complexity that define her inner life. For such an epic turn, Davis is bound to take home the statuette.

SHOULD WIN: Davis, a phenomenal actress who finally is getting a chance to show what she can do with a starring role. She conveyed the struggles of a woman in a specific time and place in history, yet made her character's voice speak for the timeless, universal search for equality and acknowledgment. 

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Viola Davis, left, and Octavia Spencer, right, are nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively, for their roles in "The Help."

Image courtesy of Dreamworks Pictures

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George Clooney as Matt King and Shailene Woodley as Alex in "The Descendants." Clooney is up for Best Actor for this movie, and for Best Adapted Screenplay for "The Ides of March."

Image courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures


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