LOS ANGELES (TheWrap.com) - “The Artist” will win six Oscars, “Hugo” will take home four, and “The Help” will land two of the four acting awards.
And the film I picked to win it all back in early September, “The Descendants,” will have to settle for a single win for its screenplay.
With Oscar ballots due back at PricewaterhouseCoopers by the end of the day on Tuesday, those are my best guesses as to what Academy voters will do. It’s a year where lots of big categories seem all but locked up, but also a year with confounding races in a number of categories.
I suspect that anybody scoring in the high teens (out of 24 categories) will do very well in the Oscar pool.
Here are my predictions for the major categories, in the order in which they appear on the Oscar ballot. I’ve also indicated who I’d pick if I had an Oscar vote.
Prediction: “The Artist”
Is there any doubt? The black-and-white silent film seemed utterly charming and a little slight when it debuted at Cannes - but in ensuing months Oscar voters found movies to like, but nothing to love enough to woo them away from the delightful novelty.
“The Descendants” has rallied in recent days, but it’s probably too little too late; “Hugo” has Martin Scorsese but may be too divisive to win; and “The Help” has the actors but no other Academy branch in its corner. “The Artist” gets its happy ending and barely breaks a sweat in the process.
My vote: “The Tree of Life”
Terrence Malick’s confounding epic, both personal and cosmic, was my favorite movie of the year, so I’d rank it first on my ballot even though I know that vote would end up going to my second choice, “Hugo,” as ballots were redistributed. “The Descendants,” “Midnight in Paris” and “Moneyball” follow, in that order.
Prediction: Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
This one is close, and George Clooney (“The Descendants”) has the advantage of being a very popular guy who represents the best chance to derail the “Artist” express. But the die was cast with the SAG win by Dujardin - who, the Academy can be relatively certain, will not act like an imbecile the way Roberto Benigni did when he won Best Actor in 1999.
My vote: Gary Oldman, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
He’d get my vote partly for the marvelous subtlety of his performance - conveying brilliance and total command with barely a raised eyebrow - and partly for a career that has deserved far more nominations than just this one.
Prediction: Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”
Despite the real affection for Max von Sydow that has surfaced late in the race, Plummer’s is a faux-lifetime-achievement award the Academy can feel good about - because he also happens to be funny and heartbreaking in a very good movie.
My vote: Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”
I love von Sydow too, but Plummer has the more substantial role and makes the most of it. Nick Nolte is my runner-up for the woefully overlooked “Warrior.”
Prediction: Viola Davis, “The Help”
The Academy keeps nominating Meryl Streep, and keeps finding reasons to give the award to somebody else. The “it’s been 29 years and she’s overdue!” campaign could still pull out a Streep victory, but Davis has dominated the precursor awards and been moving and eloquent every time.
My vote: Michelle Williams, “My Week With Marilyn”
In a different year, she’d be a front-runner - and just as she would have gotten my vote last year for her raw, brave and small-scale performance in “Blue Valentine,” she’d get it this year for her expansive, brave and large-scale inhabitation of Marilyn Monroe.
Prediction: Octavia Spencer, “The Help”
As big a slam dunk as there is on the Oscar ballot, Spencer has won every award so far and shows no signs of vulnerability. Even an “Artist” sweep can’t take Berenice Bejo this far.
My vote: Jessica Chastain, “The Help”
I’m not picking her because I thought she was better than Spencer in “The Help,” but because I think an amazing year ought to be recognized. So this vote also goes for “Take Shelter” and “The Tree of Life,” and to a lesser degree to “Coriolanus” and “The Debt” as well.
It’s a very odd year in the animation category, with Pixar absent, DreamWorks represented by a sequel and a spinoff, and two slots going to small European films. So a very odd year deserves, and will get, a very odd winner in Gore Verbinski’s absurdist Western.
My vote: “Rango”
It’s the funniest, most subversive, most imaginative and most twisted animated feature of the year.
Prediction: Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist” At one point, lots of people were predicting a picture/director split, with “The Artist” winning picture but Martin Scorsese taking director. But as Tom Hooper’s victory over David Fincher showed last year - and Hazanavicius’ DGA win reinforced last month - if they really love your movie, you’re going to win this award too.
My vote: Martin Scorsese, “Hugo”
He gets the (very slight) edge over Terrence Malick for brilliantly exploring a format new to him, 3D, and a piece of material very unlike his usual fare.
Prediction: “The Descendants”
Particularly after its recent wins at the WGA and Scripter Awards, Alexander Payne’s touching blend of comedy and drama seems poised to occupy the same slot that “Juno,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Lost in Translation” and Payne’s own “Sideways” did - i.e., the respected indie that wins a writing award but falls short in Best Picture.
My vote: “Moneyball”
For taking a completely unfilmable book and turning it into a very good movie - and in the process, eliminating most (if not all) of the problems that this baseball fanatic had with the material.
Prediction: “Midnight in Paris”
“The Artist” could very well steamroll through this category on its way to a dominating Oscar night, but I think the temptation to reward Woody Allen for the top-grossing movie of his career will prove irresistible. Besides, it’s got lots more words than “The Artist.”
My vote: “Midnight in Paris”
Yes, “A Separation” probably deserves it, but I find the temptation to reward Woody Allen irresistible too, for Ernest Hemingway’s dialogue alone.
In many ways, this is the single most confusing category. I’m going with “Undefeated” over “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory” and “Pina” because in a category in which voters must see all five nominees in a theater before voting, “Undefeated” is the film that packs the strongest emotional punch.
My vote: “Pina”
Wim Wenders’ modern-dance documentary is an odd hybrid, part doc and part performance art - but as a longtime fan of Pina Baush, I found it one of the year’s most original and exhilarating cinematic experiences.
Prediction: “A Separation”
Despite the way “A Separation” has dominated awards season, an upset is extremely possible, with both “In Darkness” and “Monsieur Lazhar” potentially helping the emotional beat the cerebral. But if even Golden Globes voters can recognize the excellence of “A Separation,” Oscar voters probably will as well.
My vote: “A Separation”
Editing by Chris Michaud