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Oscars 2011: Picks, Votes, Analysis, Rankings

It’s that time again. Oscar night. My favorite night of the year. This is the first year I’m really out in the deep end. Before, I was the only one amongst my circles who knew anything about the Oscars. And last year, no one read this blog, so it didn’t matter. No one still reads the blog (relatively), but the drastic increase in views (what I had in total blog views last Oscars is what I get in less than a week now. In fact, the views from yesterday total more than 60% of what I had that entire month) means that my opinion will at least be out there slightly more.

I used to treat the Oscars as a game (as they should mostly be treated the night of the ceremony, since everything’s decided by then anyway). I told all my friends that if they could outguess me, I’d give them some sort of reward, just to get them somewhat as interested in the awards as I was (plus I knew they’d never be able to do it). Now that’s over with (and my picks are on the internet), I’m much more lax about stuff. I don’t try to guess everything like I used to. I’d still love to get as close to 24/24 as I can, but I’m willing to take more chances now, rather than going with the safe stuff just to “win.” Though generally I do like to hit at least 16. To me, that’s a passing grade. (Last year, I got 17/24, and that after trying to will it to happen and taking Social Network all the way through. Had I picked to win, I’d never have done that.) This year, I might take some wild bets (i.e. disregard the possibility of a sweep) just to make it interesting. I’d like to beat last year’s 17, but I’m very prepared to do horrible. (It’s how I treat everything: assume abject failure and everything turns out okay.)

And for logistics purposes, this is basically my standard Oscar night article, in which I’ll list all the nominees, tell you who/what is most likely to win, what it’s main competition is, what the potential spoiler is, the order in which I think the nominees are likely to win, what I’d take if I were seriously playing to win, and what I have on my personal ballot. It will also count as the Oscar Quest article for this year. Before I do all that stuff I just mentioned (mostly for the big six, but I’ll do it for everything), I will do what I do for the Oscar Quest articles, which is provide some comments on the category, tell you who I’d vote for, what I think should win, and rank the nominees. We’re pulling double duty here. I’ve also added a new category, which is basically what I’d tell you to take if you wanted to win your office pool. Just so you don’t have to make sense of all the double talk and flip-flopping of the “If I Were a Betting Man” portion.

I’m also gonna do what I did last year and color-code all of the films. I really like that I did that. It made it easier to find films during the ceremony and glance at what I voted for and what I thought would win, etc.

Let’s get to it:

BEST PICTURE

And the nominees are:

The Artist (The Weinstein Co.)

The Descendants (Fox Searchlight)

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Warner Bros.)

The Help (Touchstone, DreamWorks)

Hugo (Paramount)

Midnight in Paris (Sony Pictures Classics)

Moneyball (Columbia)

The Tree of Life (Fox Searchlight)

War Horse (Touchstone, DreamWorks)

The way Best Picture voting works now is — it’s a preferential ballot. That is, you rank all of the nominees. So all voters will rank the pictures from 1-9. And the way they tally it is, they start with #1. Whichever film gets the least amount of #1 votes in the first round is out. They then move on to #2. Whichever film gets the least #2 votes is out. And this continues all the way through until a winner is decided. I haven’t read the specific rules in a while, but that’s the understanding of it I take with me to use on a daily basis. And I’d have to guess that they keep some sort of running tally somewhere. There must be some kind of weighted score involved. But generally, it’s a thorough enough process to where the film that the most people prefer is the one that wins. (Which should really tell you right there that only two films can really win this year.) It still comes down to #1 votes, but the film that gets the most #1 votes, and has a strong presence in #2 and #3 will be the one that wins. Just something to keep in mind.

As for my own personal ballot, I’m gonna do it just like the Oscar Quest articles (which, granted, I haven’t done Best Picture yet, but I think you understand how I rank stuff by now — my own personal convoluted reasoning). I’ve basically put forth my opinions on the films all year, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to know which ones I really liked (not to mention the fact that four of the films were on my Top Ten list and three more were in my 11-20). It’s all subjective anyway. Like all the Quest articles. And this list will also be based on the preferential ballot too. So that’s something I took into consideration. I ranked based on how I’d want my votes to affect Best Picture. So they might not necessarily be based on how much I liked the films. They’re how I’d want them to win as well.

(Note: Not gonna color code the truly subjective stuff, since that doesn’t matter for tonight. That just matters as part of the Quest.)

My Rankings:

1. The Artist

2. Hugo

3. Moneyball

4. War Horse

5. The Tree of Life

6. The Descendants

7. Midnight in Paris

8. The Help

9. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

That’s how I’d rank my ballot as of right now. Who knows how different it would be in five years? (It probably wouldn’t be.) But for tonight, that’s what my ballot would look like. So, in case it’s not obvious:

My Vote: The Artist

Should Win: The Artist, Hugo

And now…

Most Likely to Win: The Artist. It won the BFCA, the Golden Globe, the BAFTA, and most importantly, the PGA. In 22 years (this year is 23), the PGA and Oscar winner have only differed 7 times. Not to mention a major acting win from SAG, and countless guild wins. I think we can all agree this is the most likely film to win.

Biggest Competition: Hugo. It’s been the other critical darling of the season. It’s got the most nominations this year. It’s at the top of everyone’s lists of the best films of the year. This is your second choice. (By the way, isn’t it curious how Hugo and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close are practically the same film, in basic premise? And also which one we’d have thought would have been embraced by the Academy and which one actually was?) The momentum is solely with The Artist, but I’m figuring this will get more #2 votes, keeping it in there until the end. It seems to be more respected than loved though. You know? They like it, but not as a #1. So while this is the competition, I don’t think anything is beating The Artist. (Either way, really. As long as it’s one of the two, I’m happy.)

Spoiler Alert: I guess I have to say The Descendants, but I honestly don’t see how it’s not one of those two up there. There’s really nothing for me to say for certain this is the third choice behind those other two other than the Globe win. The third choice could be any number of films. Though this one did get those big WGA and ACE wins last week. That helps. Tree of Life has a hardcore set of followers, but how many will rank it that high? Midnight in Paris and Moneyball were really the two I was gonna put here. But I don’t know which gets more #1s. I think we can all agree it’s mostly a two horse race, but in the event something crazy happens, The Descendants is the film that’s most likely to jump up and win. They love Alexander Payne, and this is the kind of film the Academy would go for. So this is the spoiler. I think it’s more dangerous than Hugo is, which is why I put it here. The main competition doesn’t necessarily have to be strong — the spoiler is the wild card. No one knows how much of a contender it is. I think this is that. The lack of nominations and precursors for almost all the other films points to this as having more widespread support among the branches.

Rankings of likelihood to win: 1) The Artist 2) Hugo 3) The Descendants 4) Moneyball 5) The Tree of Life 6) The Help 7) Midnight in Paris 8) War Horse 9) Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

If I were a betting man: Put your money on The Artist. Don’t be crazy now. It’s won everything all the way through and might even sweep. Why would you pick anything else unless you were convinced it was gonna happen? Vote with your heart out loud, vote with your head on paper.

You Should Take: The Artist

On My Ballot: The Artist

BEST DIRECTOR

Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris

Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist

Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life

Alexander Payne, The Descendants

Martin Scorsese, Hugo

My Rankings:

1. Scorsese

2. Hazanavicius

3. Malick

4. Allen

5. Payne

It’s not a question for me that Scorsese should win. Outside of the fact that, just about every time he’s been nominated, he should have won (mostly because had hadn’t won until that point. But even still), he’s still the winner here. What he did with Hugo is just breathtaking. I think he should win even though Hazanavicius won the DGA. I love The Artist, so I’m okay with Hazanavicius being an alternate to Scorsese. These things sync up often, so it makes sense. But still, Scorsese should win this.

My Vote: Martin Scorsese, Hugo

Should Win: Martin Scorsese, Hugo

Most Likely to Win: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist. He won the DGA, and as we know, it’s synched up all but six times. That makes him an overwhelming favorite to win.

Biggest Competition: Martin Scorsese, Hugo. There’s still a possibility he might win, and some people are saying he’ll still win, despite the DGA win for Hazanavicius. He’s the only other person with a shot here.

Spoiler Alert: Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life. This is a miracle scenario. As in, it will take a miracle for it to happen. He’s the only other person worthy of this position, because if anything’s beating Hazanavicius, it’s a veteran. And Malick will get more votes than Woody for two reasons: Woody will possibly (not guaranteed, but, it’s probable) win Screenplay, and because of the nature of the film. It’s a gorgeous film, and clearly was more of a “director-ly” effort than Allen’s film. Malick is definitely your third choice.

Rankings of Likelihood to Win: 1) Hazanavicius 2) Scorsese 3) Malick 4) Allen 5) Payne

If I Were a Betting Man: You have to take Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist. You can’t not do it. All but six times. I know there’s the whole Scorsese thing, but remember how much it took them to award him the first time. This is just like last year — they love the film, therefore it wins Best Director too. We’d all love to see Scorsese win, but if that happens, it’s better to be wrong. I will happily be wrong if Scorsese wins. Put it this way — you have like a 90% chance of being right with Hazanavicius. I really want to be the person that puts Scorsese on his ballot and gets it right, but I’m gonna play it safe here, take the 90% (even though most of that ten percent happened in the past decade), and take my chances elsewhere. Might get it wrong, but in that event, I’ll have deserved it.

You Should TakeMichel Hazanavicius, The Artist

On My Ballot: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist

BEST ACTOR

And the nominees are…

Demián Bichir, A Better Life

George Clooney, The Descendants

Jean Dujardin, The Artist

Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Brad Pitt, Moneyball

My Rankings:

1. Oldman

2. Dujardin

3. Clooney

4. Pitt

5. Bichir

It was no secret that my vote was Oldman all the way. That’s still the case. The man deserves an Oscar. Clooney will get his (other one), whether it’s tonight or not. Pitt will get his eventually too. Oldman is my vote. It’s not that the performance was so amazing, it’s just that — this might be his only chance, and the man deserves it so much.

My Vote: Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Should Win: Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Most Likely to Win: I wouldn’t have believed I’d say this a month ago, but the answer is Jean Dujardin, The Artist. This isn’t locked by any means, but the SAG win means a lot. Not to mention — he’s been matching Clooney step for step all the way. They both won the Globe — Clooney won BFCA, Dujardin won BAFTA — so the real deciding factor so far has been SAG. Since 1994 (the first SAG Awards), the man who won SAG Best Actor has not won the Oscar 4 times (Benicio del Toro won in 2000, and won Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars. Russell Crowe won in 2001, which could be them making up for 2000 (or the Oscar going different because of the hissy fit he threw at the SAG Awards). Daniel Day-Lewis won in 2002, Adrien Brody shocked at the Oscars. Johnny Depp won in 2003, and that was never gonna happen). Even Roberto Benigni won SAG! So that makes Dujardin the favorite. However…

Biggest Competition: George Clooney, The Descendants. George could still take this. It’s gonna be difficult, but it’s not impossible. The thing going in his favor is the fact that SAG has over 100,000 members and the Academy has only around 6,000. The majority of those 6,000 are actors. And the Academy, unlike SAG, skews older. This could work in Clooney’s favor. Or, it could not. Since the older people might have been taken with Dujardin’s charm and vote for him anyway. That seems most likely at this point. I haven’t seen anything to suggest that Clooney’s position as a winner was anything more than assumed based on his stature and the role. So he’s the competition to Dujardin. (Kind of like Meryl is to Viola Davis.)

Spoiler Alert: Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. This might be wishful thinking. Okay, let it be. Most people would put Brad Pitt here. Either way, do you think either of those men has a chance at winning this award? No. It’s obviously between Clooney and Dujardin. So let me have my little victory, and continue thinking that Oldman might be the product of a split vote between Clooney and Pitt and sneak past Dujardin somehow. I know it won’t happen, but at least I have this spot to dream.

Rankings of Likelihood to Win: 1) Dujardin 2) Clooney 3) Oldman 4) Pitt 5) Bichir

If I Were a Betting Man: Yeah…I knew this moment would come. I’m sticking with Dujardin. I’m still not entirely convinced the SAG win means a win here (because whenever I see something about to happen that I’ll be legitimately happy about, I assume it won’t happen), but I’m willing to give it the strong benefit of the doubt. I see too many more possibilities for Clooney not to win than for Dujardin not to win. They love it when you’re charming. I’m gonna take the Benigni route (meaning “foreign actor charming his way to the podium” and not “terrible choice brainwashing the Academy into voting for him”) and say that Jean Dujardin, The Artist wins this. This goes against everything I said up until the SAG Awards, but screw it, if I’m wrong, I’m wrong. (In a way, this is a nice consolation prize for me, since despite thinking Clooney was amazing, I got tired of it being a fact that he was gonna win this. That doesn’t necessarily make it a good thing that Dujardin might win, but it is a breath of fresh air. I’d rather put it on Clooney to top this performance than on Dujardin to recreate his brilliant one.)

You Should TakeJean Dujardin, The Artist

On My Ballot: Jean Dujardin, The Artist

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

My Rankings:

1. Mara

2. Williams

3. Davis

4. Streep

5. Close

I said from the start that Rooney Mara gave my favorite female performance of the year (next to Bérénice Bejo and Shailene Woodley). She was always gonna be the vote. I don’t like any of the other performances for a win at all. So Mara is my vote all the way.

My Vote: Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Should Win: Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Most Likely to Win: Viola Davis, The Help. You got the BFCA win and the SAG win. That’s really all you need, since the Globes love Meryl and BAFTA — she was playing Margaret Thatcher. Viola’s got all the momentum, and if she doesn’t win this, despite winning SAG — that tells you there’s racism afoot. Since the actors are the majority body of the Academy and there’s a huge veteran contingency there. So my (constant) allegations of racism against the Academy — will you believe them then, if she loses? (I don’t think she’s losing, though.) She’s your favorite.

Biggest Competition: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady. Stature alone, really. Most people consider the film lacking, and I feel like most actors would, despite knowing she’s amazing, consider the performance too on-the-nose to vote for. If Tilda Swinton were nominated, I’d put her here. But we have to put Meryl here just because. I don’t really see how anyone beats Viola at this point. I’d put Michelle here, but Meryl’s stature, I feel, takes precedent.

Spoiler Alert: Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn. She * (* Harvey Weinstein) has been campaigning like crazy. (He’s also been campaigning like that for Meryl too.) You’d think they were convinced they’d get her enough votes to win or something. She’s been everywhere promoting this thing. She’ll get votes. Not enough, I think, but she’ll get them. I put Meryl ahead of her simply because she’s Meryl. The people who do vote for her, I feel, are voting for her and because Harvey said to. I don’t think anyone really considers this performance good enough to win. So, she’ll get votes, but I really wonder how many people will actually vote for her over Rooney Mara. Anyway, I don’t think anyone has this but Viola or Meryl. But she’ll be real dangerous next time, though.

Rankings of Likelihood to Win: 1) Davis 2) Streep 3) Williams 4) Close 5) Mara

If I Were a Betting Man: Take Viola Davis, The Help. Have to. The SAG win is too big. You know how many times SAG Best Actress and the Oscar have been different? 5 times. And one of those was because Winslet won Supporting for the role she won Best Actress for at the Oscars. (The other four times were 2007, with Christie and Cotillard neck and neck and Cotillard taking it at the wire, 2002, with Kidman somehow winning, 1999 with Swank upsetting Bening, and 1994, with Jodie Foster losing to Jessica Lange. Though that last one was at the first SAG Awards, and Jodie had won two Oscars within seven years of that one. Never has a veteran out and out beaten a younger actress here without just cause.) So there’s a pretty big chance Viola Davis wins this. I say take her and let Meryl beat you.

You Should TakeViola Davis, The Help

On My BallotViola Davis, The Help

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

My Rankings:

1. von Sydow

2. Plummer

3. Branagh

4. Nolte

5. Hill

Had a lot of trouble with the rankings here. There wasn’t really a whole lot of difference in my love of the performances or films (Note: I didn’t.) to rank them. So I’m doing this solely (I rarely out and out explain it like this, but this one will be so different than most of my rankings, I feel I need to) in order of how I’d vote in terms of the actor. Or rather, my main criteria is in how deserving the actor is, to me, to win this award. And then the film and the performance are also taken into account to differentiate when I need to.

I love Max von Sydow, and I think he’s every bit as worthy as Christopher Plummer. And honestly, I’d be happy with either winning. We can all be pretty certain that Plummer will win, which is really what the deciding factor was for me. I didn’t love either film, and since both men are legends and equally deserving of this award, I’m gonna show the lesser likely of the two some support, plus — he doesn’t speak in the role. I love that. I love silent performances. I always felt his performance was better than Plummer’s anyway. The majority doesn’t feel that way, but I don’t care. Max von Sydow is my vote. (Note: I wasn’t totally sold on my vote until I said that the majority felt Plummer’s performance was better. Now I am 100% resolute on my decision.)

My Vote: Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Should Win: Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Most Likely to Win: Christopher Plummer, Beginners. He’s swept everything so far. The last time (of the very few) that one person has swept all the precursor awards and then lost the Oscar was in 2006, when Eddie Murphy lost to Alan Arkin. Notice anything there? Veteran win. Plummer has this shit locked. Don’t even bother voting for anyone else.

Biggest Competition: Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. He’s another veteran. Only go with the veterans here. There’s just no other possibility. von Sydow is clearly your second choice (which tells you the likelihood of that happening). He’s gotten a huge push lately. He’ll get votes. Probably not enough, but enough to make him the competition.

Spoiler Alert: Uhh…Nick Nolte, Warrior. I really don’t see anyone but Plummer winning. von Sydow is a second choice because he’s as much of a veteran. No one else is gonna get any kind of votes. Nolte’s kind of a veteran, so we’ll put him third. I can’t imagine Branagh or Hill will get any kind of traction here. It doesn’t matter. You know who’s winning.

Rankings of Likelihood to Win: 1) Plummer 2) von Sydow 3) Nolte 4) Branagh 5) Hill

If I Were a Betting Man: Take Christopher Plummer, Beginners. Come on, now. You gonna argue with all of those precursors? Whenever someone who hasn’t won the precursors wins the Oscar, it’s usually a veteran. What does that tell you when the veteran wins all the precursors?

You Should TakeChristopher Plummer, Beginners

On My Ballot: Christopher Plummer, Beginners

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Bérénice Bejo, The Artist

Jessica Chastain, The Help

Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids

Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs

Octavia Spencer, The Help

My Rankings:

1. Bejo

2. Chastain

3. Spencer

4. McTeer

5. McCarthy

I’ve never hidden the fact that I consider McCarthy’s nomination one of the weakest acting nominations in Academy history. So she was always going #5 no matter who else was on the list. I also felt the category was very weak this year, due to lack of strong supporting female performances all around.

As for my vote — it’s tough. I loved Bejo’s performance. I fell so in love with that character. But, to me, as much as I loved her character, Jessica Chastain had an all-star year. She was amazing in The Help, amazing in The Tree of Life, amazing in Take Shelter, and also was in The Debt and Coriolanus (not to mention two other films completed for 2011 that haven’t come out yet). I don’t see how that doesn’t automatically makes her a winner here.

My Vote: Jessica Chastain, The Help

Should Win: Jessica Chastain, The Help

Most Likely to Win: Octavia Spencer, The Help. She’s got this won. The only time someone won the BFCA, the Globe and SAG and then lost the Oscar was in 1996 when Lauren Bacall lost to Juliette Binoche. It’s not happening. She’s your favorite. She will win. (Otherwise — oh yeah, racism. I flat out dare them to try to be racist here. You can’t hide this one behind Meryl.)

Biggest Competition: I guess it has to be Bérénice Bejo, The Artist. Right? I mean, Chastain had the better year (and performance) than Spencer, but I feel like it’s all about mindset. and Spencer has the win because she’s won everything and the mindset is that she deserves it. Spencer’s beaten Chastain every step of the way, so I don’t see why she’d suddenly get votes now, all of a sudden. Bejo has the sweep factor pulling for her, therefore that makes her the biggest competition here.

Spoiler Alert: Jessica Chastain, The Help. If you’re like me, and you watch every single performance with relative objectivity (if you don’t think I’m objective, try seeing some of the other people out there), I don’t see how you don’t consider Chastain the winner here, if not Bejo. Sure, Spencer was spunky and all, but all she really did in that film was bake shit into a pie. She was really good, but not win good. (Though I’m happy with the win since the category doesn’t really have a slam dunk winner (based on a singular performance). So it’s nice to see, in whatever little way possible, the racism get taken down. So I am happy about that.) Plus, Chastain had all those other great performances — I don’t see how anyone with a conscience who has seen everything doesn’t vote for her. That said, I don’t think she’s anything more than a spoiler, because Spencer’s built up too much momentum to lose, and Bejo will get more votes based solely on the sweep and love for the film. Seemingly a longshot, based on everything we’ve seen, but she is the spoiler if there is one.

Rankings of Likelihood to Win: 1) Spencer 2) Bejo 3) Chastain 4) McCarthy 5) McTeer

If I Were a Betting Man: How could you not take Octavia Spencer, The Help? She’s swept everything the way Plummer has, and that kind of sweep hasn’t lost since 1996. (Though, humorously enough, that one was an up-and-comer beating a veteran. Which really goes back to what the Supporting categories are really all about in the Academy’s eyes.) Take Spencer. Let someone else beat you.

You Should TakeOctavia Spencer, The Help

On My Ballot: Octavia Spencer, The Help

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius

Bridesmaids, Kristen Wiig & Annie Mumolo

Margin Call, J.C. Chandor

Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen

A Separation, Asghar Farhadi

My Rankings:

1. The Artist

2. A Separation

3. Midnight in Paris

4. Margin Call

5. Bridesmaids

It’s a silent film. Of course I was gonna rank that script #1. I also read the script. It’s terrific. Think of it this way — everything you see on the screen, that all had to be written down on paper. That, to me, is worth this award. I also don’t think the Midnight in Paris script is as strong as everyone is saying. I watched it again. The script isn’t really that great. I have no problem with Allen winning the award, though, since he is a legend and it would be nice. But watch the film — does it really seem like such a great script? Really?

My Vote: The Artist

Should Win: The Artist

Most Likely to Win: Yeah, I still don’t know. This is looking like a dead heat right now. I guess I have to say Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris. Because he is Woody Allen, veterans love him (hell, almost everyone loves him). I think that, despite all the statistics of how often Best Picture wins Screenplay and how beloved The Artist is, I still think Woody is most likely to win here.

Biggest Competition: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist. Clearly. I think the Best Picture winner hasn’t also won Best Screenplay only 30 times ever, and 22 times since the categories were split into separate ones in 1940. Not to mention, only 3 times since 2000. Even Crash beat Match Point. So, in all honesty, it seems like this is the most likely nominee to win. Of course, the statistic going in the opposite direction is that every time Woody Allen has been nominated for Best Screenplay and his film was also nominated for Best Picture (Annie Hall and Hannah and Her Sisters), he’s also won for Best Screenplay. Then again, that last one was 25 years ago. He is a veteran, though. That means a lot. So I see it as basically a dead heat. Each thing I write sways me back and forth between the two. But, either way, these two are your only contenders here.

Spoiler AlertAsghar Farhadi, A Separation. There’s no spoiler here. This has literally only a 1% chance of winning. I think I found out that only 3 times was the film that won Best Screenplay neither a Best Picture winner nor a Best Picture nominee. Or rather, only three times did a Best Picture winner lose Best Screenplay to a film not also nominated for Best Picture. And they were Almost Famous, The Usual Suspects and Sling Blade. All American. Also pretty sure Pedro Almodovar is the only foreign film director to win a Screenplay Oscar (at least in the last 30 years for sure). So the odds here are astronomical. The only support this seems to have is in the Screenplay branch, and then a few odds and ends elsewhere. This won’t get nearly enough votes to factor into the race. But, it’s your third choice for sure. It’s too acclaimed to not be.

Rankings of Likelihood to Win: 1) Midnight in Paris 2) The Artist 3) A Separation 4) Margin Call 5) Bridesmaids

If I Were a Betting Man: It’s categories like this that make he happy I’m not a betting man. I can’t tell which is the safe choice and which isn’t. You’d think that Woody Allen would be the safe choice, but on the other hand, the Best Picture winner is also usually the safe choice. As of right now, my gut is telling me to go with Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist. There might be a silent film bias, there might not be. I know Woody is Woody, but when Crash, one of the most divisive Best Picture winners ever, can also win Best Screenplay, over Woody Allen, with what most consider his best effort since the last time he won (alongside this one), I don’t know if that guarantees him a win. Of course, the opposite argument could be made. So I really don’t know what the answer is. It’s either The Artist or Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen. I say take one of them. Whichever one feels better to you. I flip-flopped on this one all week. Allen is the overwhelming consensus choice, but I don’t know how much of that is because he’s Woody Allen. My problem here is that if I take Midnight in Paris, I’m taking the safe choice that everyone’s taking (that’s most likely to win). If I take The Artist, and go out on a limb, I’m basically voting for a sweep. I don’t know what to do. This and Costume Design are really giving me some trouble. So you know what? Fuck it. I’m going against the grain. I’m sticking with The Artist. I’ll get it wrong. I don’t care. Everyone’s gonna take Allen. Let him win. Let him. At least if I get it wrong (and I probably will), I can go, “Well, all right, that makes sense.”

You Should Take: Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris

On My Ballot: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

The Descendants, Alexander Payn, 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

My Rankings:

1. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

2. Moneyball

3. The Descendants

4. The Ides of March

5. Hugo

Moneyball probably should win this category, because, like The Social Network, it took a subject most people wouldn’t think would make a great film and made a great film out of it. But I just loved what they did with Tinker Tailor. That’s a very dense book. So much so that it took almost five hours of a mini-series to make last time. They whittled the film down to a very tight two-hour film. It deserves this.

My Vote: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Should Win: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Moneyball

Most Likely to Win: It’s gotta be Alexander Payne, The Descendants. Has to be. He’s been nominated for three out of his five features (this, Election and Sideways), and the lack of nomination for one of them (About Schmidt) is considered a snub. That makes him an Academy favorite. Not to mention that this film is tied for fourth amongst most nominations, behind The ArtistHugoMoneyballWar Horse. It has broad support. That and the fact that he’s a previous winner (who beat a Best Picture winner when he did win), makes him a clear favorite. Will he win? I don’t know. But he’s most likely to.

Biggest Competition: Aaron Sorkin & Steve Zaillian, Moneyball. Another beloved film. It’s got more nominations than The Descendants and two top tier writers nominated. (Though I don’t think the nominees’ names are on the ballot. So that might (like Roger Deakins last year) affect things somewhat. I don’t know). This and The Descendants are your contenders. What wins out? Payne and his track record or the support for this film? Hard to tell. But these are your two big contenders.

Spoiler AlertJohn Logan, Hugo. That should tell you the likelihood of it happening. In order to win this category, a film needs widespread support, and the idea that its screenplay is top-notch. Hugo only has one of those things. The reason it’s here, though, is the widespread support for the film (11 nominations without any acting nominations is impressive). The Ides of March only has the one nomination, so it’s here because of the writers and nothing else. It won’t get votes. Tinker Tailor managed two more nominations, but clearly support is not widespread enough to where this is beating any of the other nominees. So Hugo is your spoiler. However, considering Logan lost for writing Gladiator, a Best Picture winner, and The Aviator, I don’t know if he’s got a shot here. Granted, both times he lost, he lost to Almost Famous and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, so maybe he’s got a bit of an out. Still, hard to figure this is winning here unless the film is gonna jump up and win Best Picture. Keep an eye on it, but for now, I don’t think we can consider this anything more than a spoiler.

Rankings of Likelihood to Win: 1) The Descendants 2) Moneyball 3) Hugo 4) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy 5) The Ides of March

If I Were a Betting Man: If I were a gambling man, I’d say take Moneyball. But honestly — Alexander Payne has won this before, is loved by the Academy, won the WGA — Moneyball really hasn’t won anything thus far. I really don’t see it winning here. I have to take The Descendants. I’m gonna let Moneyball beat me, because I have not seen enough of a push from that film to take a chance on it here. It’s perhaps most fitting that Moneyball doesn’t win, since Billy Beane never quite did win that last game of the season.

You Should TakeThe Descendants, Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon & Jim Rash

On My BallotThe Descendants, Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon & Jim Rash

BEST EDITING

The Artist, Anne-Sophie Bion & Michel Hazanavicius

The Descendants, Kevin Tent

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Angus Wall & Kirk Baxter

Hugo, Thelma Schoonmaker

Moneyball, Christopher Tellefsen

My Rankings:

1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

2. Hugo

3. Moneyball

4. The Artist

5. The Descendants

It’s a toss-up for me. It’s either Hugo or Dragon Tattoo. And since Wall and Baxter won last year, I don’t think I need to give it to them again. Plus, Thelma Schoonmaker had to edit Hugo in 2D and then in 3D. I think that deserves this award. So Hugo‘s my vote.

My VoteHugo

Should Win: I don’t really know if I have a preference. I guess either Dragon TattooHugo or Moneyball.

Most Likely to Win: Well, things have certainly changed with this category in the past week. I thought this was Hugo‘s category to lose. Still might be. But when Hugo lost the ACE Award, that surprised me. Really what that tells me is that The Artist, Anne-Sophie Bion & Michel Hazanavicius, has so much support that it might just go right out and win this category too. The Editors gave it Best Editing for Musical/Comedy, so there’s support there too. So I think this is now your favorite. Widespread support has this as the favorite over Hugo. I still say it’s close, but I think you have to mark this as the favorite.

Biggest CompetitionHugo, Thelma Schoommaker. Her not winning the Eddie is not huge news, since again the Editors Guild of the Academy only totals 220 people. Say the Editors do prefer The Descendants (which won the Eddie for Drama) to Hugo — will they then vote for it over The Artist, which won the Eddie for Comedy/Musical? And even if they do, that’s 220 people. Will the rest of the Academy vote for it too? So really all that tells me is to go with the films with the most support, which is why The Artist is the favorite. And Thelma has to be considered the competition, regardless of the Eddie result. One argument against her winning has to do with the fact that she’s only won three Oscars (only… I know). They were for Raging Bull, The Aviator and The Departed. The first two probably should have won Best Picture, but lost. What did they lose to? Two smaller dramas. Not very much editing in them. And The Departed did win Best Picture (she didn’t win the Eddie for that, either). So it’s hard to gauge what shot she has in the category. I say she’s right there in the running, but we have to consider the Best Picture favorite the favorite here as well. But I think she’s got a great shot here, and I still say it’ll probably take the award anyway, most likely. I might not pick that, but we still have time for me to decide that.

Spoiler Alert: The only other film that seemingly has a shot here is Moneyball, Christopher TellefsonThe Descendants winning the Eddie shouldn’t factor into things at all (not against The Artist. But if you want to put it here, be my guest. Won’t change a thing), and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo doesn’t have enough widespread support to take this, even if Wall and Baxter won last year. So by default, Moneyball becomes the spoiler. Longshot, I feel, but definitely in contention.

Rankings of Likelihood to Win: 1) Hugo 2) The Artist 3) Moneyball 4) The Descendants 5The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

If I Were a Betting Man: This was the last category I filled in. I had all these picks pretty much written up and (mostly) locked on Tuesday (with some minor tweaking here and there, but I don’t think picks were really changed all that much), but this one I kept flip-flopping on all week. I just didn’t know which way this was gonna go. This, to me, feels like the lynchpin category for the night. And you know, honestly — it’s looking like The Artist, Anne-Sophie Bion & Michel Hazanavicius. This Editing award has typically been the icing on the cake in recent years. Depending on how early they announce it, you’ll know just how the night’s going to go. If The Artist wins, then you’re looking at 6-8 Oscars for it, easy. (Night Before Note: With the announced schedule, Best Editing is given out an hour into the show, after Cinematography, Art Direction, Costume Design, and Supporting Actress. So by this point, The Artist could have 4 Oscars and be vying for a 5th. Though, it could also have 1 or possibly zero, depending on how Costume Design goes. So we could know before this. But if it goes the way I’m expecting, this will be a very big category. If it has 0-1 awards and doesn’t win this, you’ll see people start wondering if an upset is gonna happen. And if it does win, they’ll assume auto-pilot the rest of the way.) Hugo probably should win (then again, so should Moneyball and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and Descendants has support from the Editors branch, so I’m going by which film is most popular, because I have no idea what’s gonna happen. Here’s a category where the sweep works in my favor. When in doubt, take the Best Picture favorite.

You Should TakeThe Artist, Anne-Sophie Bion & Michel Hazanavicius (or Thelma. But probably The Artist.)

On My BallotThe Artist, Anne-Sophie Bion & Michel Hazanavicius

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 Kamínski

My Rankings:

1. Hugo

2. The Tree of Life

3. The Artist

4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

5. War Horse

I really like this category. But the way they shot the 3D in Hugo is too good to pass up. Sorry, Tree of Life.

My Vote: Hugo

Should Win: Hugo, The Tree of Life

Most Likely to Win: You know, I can’t really tell. I guess it has to be The Tree of Life, Emmanuel Lubezki. It won the ASC Award, which counts for something. But then again, that was just a vote of the cinematographers. The cinematographers only make up 202 of the total Academy (which is around 6,000 people). They don’t really have that big an impact at all. Very rarely do the simply out and out beautiful films automatically win. So I’m really hesitant in calling this the favorite. Just because, the film itself is very polarizing, and Hugo has a lot of support, and a lot of people are gonna remember the great job it did with the 3D. There are other factors, like The Artist also taking votes based on its popularity, but I don’t really know if this is your favorite based on anything except sheer gorgeousness. And like I said, that’s not always a guarantee. So really, I think this might be your competition. I know its beauty will make people vehemently argue otherwise, but I don’t see this as a sure thing at all. (It probably should be, but I don’t think it is.)

Biggest CompetitionHugo, Robert Richardson. My main reason for this is because again, the sheer beauty of The Tree of Life makes me think people will probably vote for it. Then again, Hugo has the most nominations, it’s beloved, I think people will probably vote for it over The Artist here the way they voted for Avatar over The Hurt Locker here (ASC gave their award to The White Ribbon that year, by the way). The 3D is too good to pass up (hell, even the 2D is pretty convincing), I feel, and that’s what will propel it to victory. Not to mention that this has much more support than The Tree of Life does (hence the 11 nominations to Tree of Life’s 3), so I really think this is your favorite, even though I’m listing it here because, again — when you think cinematography this year, these are your two films, and Tree of Life is the one that pops. Still, I think it’s one or the other. (P.S. Robert Richardson won this award in 2004 with The Aviator. Then again, he didn’t have to go up against a Terrence Malick film that year. So who knows?)

Spoiler AlertThe Artist, Guillaume Schiffman. Has to be. The sweep factor alone gives it a chance. All of my talk about Hugo and The Tree of Life — watch this sneak up and steal the award from both of them. Because you don’t know. You don’t know what happens when the general Academy gets their hands on their ballots. No one really knows what 6,000 people are gonna do. So this has just as good a chance as the other two. That said, I think we can consider this a spoiler. Because, again, when you look at how the sweeps worked in recent years — Hurt Locker swept, but lost this to AvatarSlumdog won this, but it beat the film most people thought should probably win, Dark Knight. Though Slumdog‘s cinematography was pretty top notch. Since then, nothing else has really swept (so that’s another case for this not winning) since Return of the King. So I think this is a spoiler. (I’d also mention War Horse possibly getting votes, but I think the category is so strong that it won’t get enough votes. But you never know. Just figured I’d mention it if you were feeling saucy. Cinematographers didn’t even nominate it, though.)

Rankings of Likelihood to Win: 1) The Tree of Life 2) Hugo 3) The Artist 4) War Horse 5) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

If I Were a Betting Man: The safe choice is The Tree of Life, Emmanuel Lubezki. I think. Right? Again, this is probably one of those where it’s one or the other, and either is about the same percentage as a choice. I, personally, am gonna — and I don’t think I’m really taking much of a chance here. It’s one of those things where, if I’m wrong, then I don’t look too much like an idiot (or maybe I do) since I knew what was most likely gonna win — take Hugo, Robert Richardson. I just feel like it’s gonna win, and, just like the Original Screenplay category, I just am not sold on the majority (and also don’t want to pick what the majority has for everything), and want to mix it up a bit. You should probably take one or the other, though. Unless you feel it’s a complete sweep, in which case, take The Artist. Tree of Life is the consensus winner, though, according to most people. I’m still taking Hugo.

You Should TakeThe Tree of Life, Emmanuel Lubezki (or The Artist, if you believe in a sweep or a vote split sneak-in)

On My BallotHugo, Robert Richardson

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

A Cat in Paris

Chico and Rita

Kung Fu Panda 2

Puss in Boots

Rango

My Rankings:

1. Rango

2. Chico and Rita

3. A Cat in Paris

4. Kung Fu Panda 2

5. Puss in Boots

There are tits in Chico and Rita. That was weird. How often do you see animated tits? And bush! Or an animated sex scene for that matter? (Okay, Up aside…)

(Fuck you, I went there.)

Still, without Tintin being here, Rango is your best film. It’s not even close.

My Vote: Rango

Should Win: Rango

Most Likely to Win: Rango is seriously the only film with any chance here. Academy members are biased against sequels unless they’re Pixar, so neither Puss in Boots nor Kung Fu Panda will win. It really comes down to the film that won the Annie Award and the BFCA Award, or two lesser films that not many people know about and almost certainly will have seen. This is so obviously your favorite.

Biggest Competition: No one, really. But, for appearances sake, let’s say — Kung Fu Panda 2. Just because it made a lot of money. Maybe they’ll want to reward this one because they loved the first one and because this one made more money. You never know. But I really think Rango is locked. The only reason I go with this over the two lesser-knowns is because more people in the Academy are more likely to have seen this and vote for it. (Though, honestly, I can see most people going to vote like, “Which one is going to win?” and taking Rango.” You’d be surprised how much people want to be on the bandwagon for stuff.)

Spoiler Alert: Chico and Rita. I say that over A Cat in Paris because — it’s just better animated than the other. Both are gorgeous and should be on here for that alone — I like that a statement was made against motion capture by nominating these films. This one has the stronger story and nice music in it. It’s definitely a spoiler. Don’t think more than 5% of people expect it to happen, but it’s definitely a little big dangerous.

Rankings of Likelihood to Win: 1) Rango 2) Kung Fu Panda 2 3) Chico and Rita 4) Puss in Boots 5) A Cat in Paris

If I Were a Betting Man: Take Rango. It won the Annies, and it’s been the most lauded nominee of the category. I’d be shocked if anything else won.

You Should Take: Rango

On My Ballot: Rango

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

My Rankings:

1. The Artist

2. Hugo

3. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

4. War Horse

5. The Adventures of Tintin

It’s really no contest here. The Artist and Hugo are the two best scores of 2011 for me. The reason I’m voting for (and I imagine, the Academy too) The Artist over Hugo is simply because The Artist‘s score has to do much more than Hugo‘s. That’s not to say it’s better, because I love Hugo‘s score dearly, and think it’s much more beautiful and probably better music. But The Artist‘s score has to make up for the lack of dialogue in a way. So I put that as my #1.

My Vote: The Artist

Should Win: The Artist, Hugo

Most Likely to Win: The Artist, Ludovic Bource. Like I said, it has to do so much more, and when voters think of the music, most will immediately think of this score over Hugo‘s. This is how we get most of the decisions we get. This is the favorite. I’d be shocked if this lost.

Biggest Competition: Hugo, Howard Shore. Some may think otherwise, but I think, since John Williams is nominated twice, he’ll split votes. Even so, I think this is your second choice. I think people remember the music for this. I think this is your alternate to The Artist.

Spoiler Alert: War Horse, John Williams. It’s gonna be one of the Williams nominations, and I think this will be the one. Because when it’s Williams and Spielberg, people will take notice, and because it’s a higher profile film than Tintin. Obviously it’s not a huge spoiler, since it probably won’t happen, but it’s definitely your spoiler. I think. (47 times for Williams now. 5 wins. He’s been nominated for an Oscar almost 60% of his entire life. Almost 80% since he turned 20. And he’s actually been nominated more times than the years in between his first nomination and now. That’s mastery, folks.)

Rankings of Likelihood to Win: 1) The Artist 2) Hugo 3) War Horse 4) The Adventures of Tintin 5) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

If I Were a Betting Man: Take The Artist, Ludovic Bource. All day, every day. And especially on Sunday. It’s a silent film score, and the film most likely to win Best Picture. How could they not vote for it? Take it and let something else beat you.

You Should Take: The Artist, Ludovic Bource

On My Ballot: The Artist, Ludovic Bource

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

“Man or Muppet,” from The Muppets

“Real in Rio,” from Rio

My Rankings:

1. “Man or Muppet”

2. “Real in Rio”

My Vote: “Man or Muppet, from The Muppets

Should Win: Neither of these.

Most Likely to Win: “Man or Muppet,” from The Muppets will win. This category has no dignity left. If it doesn’t win, you’ll see an RIP notice posted on this blog immediately afterwards.

Biggest Competition: Well, I’m no mathematician, but I think “Real in Rio,” from Rio is its biggest competition.

Spoiler Alert: This category sucks.

Rankings of Likelihood to Win: Nobody wins here.

If I Were a Betting Man: Take “Man or Muppet,” from The Muppets. Be optimistic about the downfall. Your choice is quick and painless or slow and agonizing. Your call.

You Should Take: “Man or Muppet,” from The Muppets

On My Ballot: “Man or Muppet,” from The Muppets

BEST ART DIRECTION

The Artist

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Hugo

Midnight in Paris

War Horse

My Rankings:

1. Hugo

2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

3. The Artist

4. War Horse

5. Midnight in Paris

Hhugo was best. It should win this in a landslide. Sorry, Hogwarts, but that train station was better.

My Vote: Hugo

Should WinHugo

Most Likely to WinHugo has to be the favorite here. It’s got the most memorable sets of any film this year (that train station and the walls behind it, not to mention Méliès’s films!), won the Art Directors Guild (which doesn’t mean too much, but does help), and even though The Artist is looking to win almost everything, I have to figure this is the favorite based on sheer quality.

Biggest CompetitionThe Artist is nipping at its heels yet again. It could easily win this based on sweep factor and popularity factor alone. It really comes down to just how much people are going to think about it as they check off their ballot. I say it’s about even right now, with Hugo‘s obviously better sets the tiebreaker. But, if The Artist wins this award, Il’l tell you right now, it’s not losing anything else. It’ll lose Supporting Actress (though maybe not, if they really love it), and maybe Cinematography and Screenplay, but everything else — watch out. This, Screenplay and Cinematography are the big three. (Editing too.) If you start to see The Artist picking up those awards, it’s over. Still, I want to think things will be somewhat interesting and that the best film will win here. I loved The Artist‘s art direction, and it wouldn’t be a horrible choice if it won, it’s just — Hugo was so much better.

Spoiler AlertHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Clearly your spoiler, since it’s Hogwarts. I think Midnight in Paris won’t get any votes, and War Horse might be somewhat of a spoiler, but I think people will consider that too much of an “outdoors” film to vote for. I think it’s a two-horse race (that pun never gets old), and it doesn’t matter what I put here. So I’ll err on the side of, Hogwarts, seven films, than on the side of, mostly outdoors, few strong set pieces here and there. Either way, I’d be shocked if anything but Hugo or The Artist won this.

Rankings of Likelihood to Win: 1) Hugo 2) The Artist 3) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 4) War Horse 5) Midnight in Paris

If I Were a Betting Man: I’m going down with the ship. I’m taking Hugo and letting The Artist beat me. If you believe they love it too much for it to lose, take The Artist. I, personally, think quality will win out and Hugo will take this. The Artist doesn’t need 9 wins. It can do with 6 or 7. But again — it’s certainly looking like a sweep. Still taking Hugo here. Go Dante!

You Should TakeHugo

On My Ballot: Hugo

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Anonymous

The Artist

Hugo

Jane Eyre

W.E.

My Rankings:

1. Jane Eyre

2. The Artist

3. Hugo

4. Anonymous

5. W.E.

I don’t really have a vote here, but I guess I’d go with Jane Eyre. I don’t know why. The Artist’s costumes were solid, but not very spectacular. Same for Hugo. Nice, but nothing really amazing. W.E. shouldn’t even be nominated. And if we’re gonna go for the two remaining period pieces, might as well go with the better film and the one that’s least “obvious.” So we’ll take Jane Eyre, only because I want my votes to reflect what seems best (since honestly, I almost just said The Artist and left it at that out of support for the film).

My VoteJane Eyre

Should Win: No preference.

Most Likely to Win: Well it seems to be either one of two films. Considering, over the past decade, the films to win this category were Alice in Wonderland, The Young Victoria, The Duchess, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Marie Antoinette, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Aviator, Return of the King, Chicago and Moulin Rouge!, odds heavily favor a period piece. That is, a Victorian or Elizabethan period piece. Throwing out Rings, since that swept, in each of the years a period piece did not win, a Victorian/Elizabethan costumed film wasn’t nominated. (Last year we had The King’s Speech, but that was 1940s. Geisha beat Pride and Prejudice, but it’s pretty clear why. The Aviator had no competition, really. Neither did Chicago, nor Moulin Rouge! (well, that anybody saw). So that means we should probably stick with tradition and say Jane Eyre is your Oscar favorite. Look at these costumes. They eat that shit up. This looks like your favorite.

Biggest CompetitionAnonymous. You know why? Because Elizabeth: The Golden Age won this category. And that film was not well-liked at all. It beat a heavily favored Atonement, a posthumous La vie en Rose nomination, a Tim Burton nomination in Sweeney Todd, and a Julie Taymor nomination in Across the Universe. Strong, but you can see where the Elizabethan preference wins out. So just because no one saw this film does not make it incapable of winning. I say this is a serious contender in this race. It’s probably less-seen than Jane Eyre, which is why I put it here, but I would not even be remotely surprised to see this win come Oscar night. (And then I get to call it “Academy Award winner Anonymous.” Which is probably not as humorous as “Academy Award winner W.E.” or “Academy Award winner “Rio.”) Look at this damn costume. This has a shot.

Spoiler Alert: Honestly, The Artist. I have a real hard time believing that to be true, especially since a Best Picture winner or nominee hasn’t won this category since 2004. So actually, they seem to like going away from major contenders here (since it’s somewhat surprising that The King’s Speech didn’t win. But maybe that’s because people were backlashing against that film and deliberately didn’t vote for it. Maybe). So maybe we should go with Hugo instead. Since, after all, the costumes were designed by Sandy Powell, who along with Colleen Atwood, is all over this category. She and Colleen Atwood account for 6 of the last 13 Best Costume Design Oscars. Plus Powell won for The Aviator. So let’s call her the spoiler. Though again, The Aviator only had to beat Troy, Ray, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events and Finding Neverland. So you had a major Best Picture contender against no costume dramas at all. It makes sense. Here, you have two. So I have a hard time seeing Hugo as anything but a spoiler. A well-positioned spoiler, I’ll give it that, but I don’t know how much of a likelihood this has to win. I guess we’ll see.

Rankings of Likelihood to Win: 1) Jane Eyre 2) Anonymous 3) Hugo 4) The Artist 5) W.E.

If I Were a Betting Man: I say take either Jane Eyre or Anonymous. As a safe choice. Which one, is up to you. I haven’t seen an Elizabethan up against a Victorian or another Elizabethan in quite a while, if ever. (Quick research shows that the last time something remotely similar to this happened was in 1998, when Elizabeth and Shakespeare in Love were both nominated. Of course, those are two Elizabethan films (same queen), and the Best Picture winner won out.) So it’s tough to know which time period they’re going to go for more. I guess I need to go with the higher profile and more well-regarded film here (since once you get past period, it does seem that films of some acclaim do also get voted for) and take Jane Eyre. But honestly I wouldn’t be surprised to see any nominee except for and including W.E. win here. Really wouldn’t. A lot of people are also picking Hugo here, and saying it’s between Hugo and The Artist, simply because they’re of higher profile. But to be honest, Best Picture nominees haven’t done particularly well in these categories when one of the typical “costume” films is nominated. I don’t see what makes this year so special in that regard. So if I’m gonna get it wrong, I’m gonna get it wrong by going with “the Academy being the Academy” (which we’ve seen to be the case every year — with Extremely Loud getting a Best Picture nomination, to The King’s Speech winning last year. The Academy will always be who they are, so I don’t see how that precludes this category), and take Jane Eyre. A lot of people see this as being between The Artist an Hugo, though. The consensus seems to be The Artist. This might be the most contentious category of anything that’s not the shorts. So there’s no shame in getting it wrong. I’m fully expecting to.

You Should TakeThe Artist

On My BallotJane Eyre

BEST MAKEUP

Albert Nobbs

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

The Iron Lady

My Rankings:

Uhh…

1. The Iron Lady

2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

3. Albert Nobbs

I just ranked in the order of how I liked them. This category’s a crap shoot.

My Vote: The Iron Lady

Should Win: Doesn’t matter

Most Likely to Win: I have to say The Iron Lady is the most likely to win. People have seen the makeup job they did on Streep. That old Thatcher they did is pretty scarily accurate. They deserve this, and I have to imagine they’ll be considered the favorite for that.

Biggest CompetitionHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Some people will want to “reward” the series. But doing it here is just laughable. The franchise hasn’t won any Oscars. So either that’s a sign that it’s “due” or that they won’t vote for it. I think this is competition to Iron Lady, but that film’s makeup job is much more visible and that film will have more support from the older members of the Academy than this will. They don’t care that it’s the last one. They don’t care about any of that stuff. I don’t think this is any better than a second choice. Of course, it is the Makeup category, so it could win. You never know. I say it’s still a second choice.

Spoiler Alert: Well clearly the only thing left is Albert Nobbs. I don’t think this has a shot in hell at winning. One, no one really likes the film. Two, I can’t think of what kind of makeup job they really did, since it was pretty clear both Glenn Close and Janet McTeer were women. They look nothing like men (except for unintentional resemblances to Conan O’Brien/William Sadler and Roy Scheider). So it’s actually kind of a joke that this is here. But I don’t think anyone votes for it over the Streep job and Potter.

Rankings of Likelihood to Win: 1) The Iron Lady 2) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 3) Albert Nobbs

If I Were a Betting Man: I say take The Iron Lady. Streep is in makeup for the majority of that movie. It’s a damn good job, too. Taking Harry Potter is taking what you’d want to happen and believing the majority of the Academy, which doesn’t care for “younger” films, will magically go, “You know, I should reward that franchise.” I don’t think it’s gonna happen. SAG is the majority of the Academy, and they saw Streep’s makeup job. They know. They’ll vote for this. Trust me. Take Iron Lady. Let Potter beat you. There are bigger fish to fry. And fish don’t fry in the kitchen.

You Should TakeThe Iron Lady

On My BallotThe Iron Lady

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Hugo

Real Steel

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

My Rankings:

1. Hugo

2. Transformers: Dark of the Moon

3. Rise of the Planet of the Apes

4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

5. Real Steel

My Vote: Hugo

Should Win: Hugo

Most Likely to Win: Gotta be Hugo, right? Again, you Apes fans — I’m talking most likely to win. As much love as there is for Rise of the Planet of the Apes, there’s more love for Hugo. In the Academy. It won Visual Effects Society, and has absolutely everything going for it. This should almost certainly win this award. (Not saying it will, because it is the Oscars, but everything I’ve seen says this wins this easily.)

Biggest CompetitionRise of the Planet of the Apes. Of course it is. Everyone realizes how great that film looked. It doesn’t have the benefit of more nominations (especially a Best Picture nomination) going for it. Older members of the Academy will not vote for this. They’ll just check off Hugo and move on. Trust me. This is no better than an alternate choice. Hugo also won the Visual Effects Society, showing its support in the very branch of the category. This is a second choice at best. (Look, I’ll eat my words if I’m wrong, but I’m gonna say I told you so if I’m not.)

Spoiler AlertHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Maybe they want to reward the franchise. Stranger things have happened here. But not often. The only time a film that wasn’t the expected (read: consensus best) winner won in recent history was in 2007, when The Golden Compass beat Transformers, which seems like them just not wanting to vote for Transformers. Outside of that, the obvious film has always won. So I’d consider this a real long shot. I was almost gonna put Real Steel here, since that film is very likable and the robots were actually very well integrated into the story, but I can’t imagine enough of the Academy has seen that film and will vote for it over Hugo or Apes. So either way, I still say Hugo takes this. (Note: The reason I don’t have Dark of the Moon here is because they passed over it twice already. What’s gonna make them vote for it this time? Nothing was done differently. Just the 3D. Which — Hugo had better 3D.)

Rankings of Likelihood to Win: 1) Hugo 2) Rise of the Planet of the Apes 3) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 4) Real Steel 5) Transformers: Dark of the Moon

If I Were a Betting Man: Take Hugo. You could also take Apes, but I said it when I broke down the category a few days ago — since the onset of modern special effects and the category as we know it today (which began with Star Wars), any time a Best Picture nominee has been nominated in the Visual Effects category, it has always won. Always. Why? Because it has the most exposure. People have seen it. So when they check off their ballots, they see a Best Picture film and go, “Oh, yeah,” and just check it off. So this has about a 90-95% chance of winning. I know people still want to take Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but me, I’m not that crazy. I still say Hugo‘s effects were better, and was never fully sold on Apes as a winner (never fully believed the apes. They looked like CG apes to me). So I say Hugo should win this easily. Not surprisingly, most people are taking Apes (which just makes it feel like one of those categories that would lead to me beating all of my friends. They’d go, “Apes can’t lose! The effects were great!” and I’d sit back quietly, with my history, knowing a Best Picture has never lost, and I’d be the only one to have it). You can take it if you want, but I think it’s a “heart” pick and not a “head” pick. If it wins, all right, but if it doesn’t, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

You Should TakeHugo

On My BallotHugo

BEST SOUND EDITING

Drive

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Hugo

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

War Horse

My Rankings:

1. Hugo

2. War Horse

3. Transformers: Dark of the Moon

4. Drive

5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

To me, Sound Mixing is more about what had the overall best sound job, and Sound Editing is about what created the best sounds. That’s how I gauged those rankings. I’m also voting for Hugo just to get it more Oscars.

My VoteHugo

Should WinHugo, War Horse

Most Likely to Win: Honestly, I have to say War Horse here. It should probably be Hugo, but I think they’re neck and neck at this point, so really which is most likely doesn’t matter so much. I wrote out my rationale down there when I made my pick, but I feel like history has determined this to be the most likely winner here. Either way, it’s this and Hugo head to head.

Biggest CompetitionHugo. Either could win. Typically, films don’t sweep these two categories unless they had a really solid sound job (or the Academy really didn’t want to vote for one of the other nominees that probably should have beaten it, but had blue people in it. I totally made that example up of the top of my head). I don’t think either Hugo or War Horse had a sound editing job that requires a win. Also, based on what has won these sound categories, the winners tend to have gotten some critical acclaim, so that’s why the obvious choice in both of these categories — Transformers, which has already been passed over twice for sound — probably won’t win. You need to be big and loud, but also liked (Inception, King Kong, etc). So I think it’s between those two. And if they want to get Hugo some extra Oscars, they’ll just check it off in both categories, which is why you would not even be remotely wrong in voting for this for both sound categories.

Spoiler Alert: I guess we have to say Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Paramount’s campaigning hard for it, and Dragon Tattoo and Drive don’t have enough widespread support (hence the lack of nominations — or major nominations (but still, Dragon Tattoo hasn’t won in any of the guilds, so the support only goes so far) for either film to challenge for a win here. This at least has a top notch sound job and a big campaign behind it. I don’t think it’ll be enough, but it’ll be enough to make it a spoiler if it does happen.

Rankings of Likelihood to Win: 1) War Horse 2) Hugo 3) Transformers: Dark of the Moon 4) Drive 5) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

If I Were a Betting Man: This is tough. Both Hugo and War Horse have support from the Sound Branch. War Horse won the MPSE main award, for Sound Effects and Foley (even though Hugo did win the Music category), but the Sound Branch is made up of both mixers and editors, so people could be voting for one film in both categories (the mixers didn’t even nominate War Horse for their award). Not to mention Hugo‘s widespread support. So that could lead to it taking both sound categories. (Plus, some people could use this category to vote for Drive, if they liked it enough, which might take some votes away from someone.) But personally, based on what I understand sound editing to be, I feel like War Horse should take this. In the last decade, the films to win this award were: Inception, The Hurt Locker, The Dark Knight, The Bourne Ultimatum, Letters from Iwo Jima, King Kong, The Incredibles, Master and Commander, The Two Towers and Pearl Harbor. I see mostly films with fight/battle sequences on there, don’t you? So, to me, the only way Hugo wins this is based sheerly on the amount of love it has. But even so — every single one of these films that won has action sequences. Therefore, really, I feel like War Horse is your obvious winner. And again, I see Transformers as a contender, simply because of the action. But you’ll also notice that most of the films that won this were also critically acclaimed (except Pearl Harbor, which, even though most of that movie wasn’t acclaimed, that centerpiece sequence was). So I still say War Horse takes this, and if it doesn’t, I’m going down with the ship. Though you might actually want to stick with Hugo, figuring it has more overall support. Most people are taking Hugo in both. They say that’s the safer choice, since if they do split, at least you get one of them right, and if you predict the split and screw it up, you get one or both of them wrong. I, however, feel confident enough in my understanding of the categories and their history to say — either Hugo is winning both of these categories, or it’ll split the way I picked it. (hugo is about 90% certain to win Sound Mixing. And I’ll explain why in a minute.) Otherwise, we’re all getting both of them wrong. To me, this isn’t much of a risk (even though there’s a decent chance I get this wrong), but apparently to other people, it is one. Either way, I’m taking War Horse.

You Should TakeHugo (Honestly, I say you should take War Horse. But it’s probably safer to take Hugo.)

On My BallotWar Horse

BEST SOUND MIXING

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Hugo

Moneyball

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

War Horse

My Rankings:

1. Moneyball

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

3. Hugo

4. Transformers: Dark of the Moon

5. War Horse

Liked Moneyball‘s sound design the best, but Dragon Tattoo is a very close second.

My VoteMoneyball

Should Win: Moneyball, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Most Likely to Win: Based on the precursors and the general stature of the film, I have to figure Hugo is your favorite. It won CAS, and is a widely beloved film (hence the 11 nominations). War Horse wasn’t nominated for CAS, so that should say something. The Sound Branch has about 400 members in it, which is like 7% of the Academy. That’s actually a nice little chunk. So since the sound mixers voted for this, and the film being what it is — a glorious use of music and sounds and the trains and clocks and all that — I think it’s your favorite.

Biggest CompetitionMoneyball is your biggest competition. Why? Aside from the fact that the sound design is incredible? Because no film in the 18-year history of the Cinema Audio Society has never been nominated for the CAS Award for Sound Mixing and gone on to win the Oscar. Only Hugo and Moneyball were nominated for both CAS and the Oscar. Now, that’s not to say it’s impossible, but since Hugo is your favorite, and it hasn’t happened in 18 years, there’s really no reason to think this year will be any different. So Moneyball is your competition.

Spoiler AlertWar Horse is your spoiler here. It won MPSE, and is a war film. However, war films generally win in Sound Editing and not necessarily here. So I think this is your other contender. I can’t tell what’s going to happen, since after all, it is the sound categories. It could win one, it could win both, it could win neither. Either way, since a percentage of the sound people prefer this, it’s got enough support to make an impact.

Rankings of Likelihood to Win: 1) Hugo 2) Moneyball 3) War Horse 4) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 5) Transformers: Dark of the Moon

If I Were a Betting Man: I feel like Hugo and War Horse are the two fighting for these two awards. Either could sweep both, or they could split. I lean toward the split. And looking at what wins the category — the last ten years have been Inception, The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire, The Bourne Ultimatum, Dreamgirls, King Kong, Ray, Return of the King, Chicago and Black Hawk Down. Four Best Picture winners, two war films with strong sound design (or rather, in one of them, they probably just didn’t want to vote for Avatar), two musicals, Kong, and two films loved by a percentage of the Academy (Bourne and Inception. One was considered superior, the other was an upset over one of the other nominees in this very category). It’s questionable as to what will win. I feel like the overall support for Hugo, plus the predisposition for films with music going along with great sounds, gives Hugo the edge here. I say Hugo takes this, and War Horse takes Sound Editing. That CAS thing really makes it an overwhelming favorite, and the only real question is whether or not it will also take Sound Editing. To me, that’s the only unknown. I can’t see how it loses this one.

You Should TakeHugo

On My BallotHugo

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Bullhead (Belgium)

Footnote (Israel)

In Darkness (Poland)

Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)

A Separation (Iran)

(Note: I’ve only seen one film. But it’s the film that’s probably gonna win, so, that’s good. Still, 2-5 I’m ranking totally randomly.)

My Rankings:

1. A Separation

2. Monsieur Lazhar

3. In Darkness

4. Bullhead

5. Footnote

I’ve only seen A Separation, which is one more than I normally see in this category, and I loved it. So, that’s my vote. Fortunately, most people agree with me, so I don’t feel so bad. Either way, I thought it was terrific.

My Vote: A Separation

Should Win: I can’t honestly put forth an opinion on this without having seen them all.

Most Likely to Win: One has to consider A Separation to be the overwhelming favorite to take this award. That’s not to say it’s guaranteed, since Pan’s LabyrinthWaltz with Bashir and to some extent The White Ribbon were all considered overwhelming favorites to win. That said, this is your favorite until it doesn’t win, and your job, if you think it will be upset by something, is to figure out what will beat it (and then guess that).

Biggest CompetitionIn Darkness. It’s a Holocaust film. That alone makes it the other choice. If people don’t want to vote for A Separation, and are sick of the fact that it’s going to “win,” they might go for the Holocaust film. I still don’t see how it’s possible for anyone to not vote for A Separation, but I haven’t seen any of the nominees. And either way, I think this is your alternate.

Spoiler Alert: Bullhead. I don’t know why, but once this got nominated, it had that “spoiler” feel to it. The other nominees — Monsieur Lazhar seems too light to win (even though that lightness might lead to some votes. But again, it depends on who is voting. Some people have said they really liked this), and Footnote, from what I hear, is just not as strong as the other nominees. This is apparently a very dense film, so I don’t know how many people will want to vote for it. But I feel like if there is a spoiler that’s not the obvious other choice, this is it. I don’t know why.

Rankings of Likelihood to Win: 1) A Separation 2) In Darkness 3) Bullhead 4) Monsieur Lazhar 5) Footnote

If I Were a Betting Man: Honestly, even though you have to see all five of the nominees to vote, I feel like there’s such an overwhelming amount of love out there for A Separation that people will actually go see all the nominees just so they can vote for it. Or maybe not. I don’t know. I still think it’s going to win. Those other films that lost — The White Ribbon was all perception and it makes sense that it wouldn’t win, Waltz with Bashir was considered “can’t lose” because of what it was about (even though many considered Departures a better film, and having to see all the nominees reminded people of that), and Pan’s Labyrinth might have been considered more of an “American” film than The Lives of Others (that has to be why they didn’t vote for it, right?). So I say A Separation, being a truly powerful film, will take this. (Though this is the one category where stone cold favorites tend to go down, so, don’t bet the house on it.)

You Should TakeA Separation

On My BallotA Separation

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Hell and Back Again

If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front

Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory

Pina

Undefeated

My Rankings:

1. Undefeated

2. Pina

3. Hell and Back Again

4. Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory

5. If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front

I’m basing my rankings purely on how interesting I find the material. I’ll probably only ever see one of these nominees anyway.

My VoteUndefeated

Should Win: Can’t say that without seeing them all.

Synopses on these, because I know most people have no idea what these are about:

Hell and Back Again is about a dude who has to adjust to life at home after being in Afghanistan.

If a Tree Falls is about a radical environmentalist group that has been called by the FBI the nation’s “number one domestic terrorist threat.”

Pina is a 3D tribute to a German interpretive dance choreographer.

Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory is the third entry in a series of documentaries about the West Memphis 3. This one has a happy ending.

Undefeated is about an underdog inner city football team who gets a new coach and attempts to go undefeated for an entire season.

Most Likely to Win: This is another category I hate picking. Because even when there’s a clear winner, it’s never a guaranteed. Or maybe it is. I don’t know. It’s tough to tell what the voters are gonna go for in a given year. Since 2005, you have three “lighter” docs winning: March of the Penguins, Man on Wire and The Cove (of course, The Cove isn’t exactly light, but the subject matter isn’t exactly one that normally wins this category), and then An Inconvenient Truth, Taxi to the Dark Side, and Inside Job. So, great docs that elicit emotion (or are just plain awesome), one about global warming, one about American torture, and one about the financial crisis. It really all depends on what kind of mood the voters are in. The big two entries to me are gonna be the two I list here. I don’t know what the most likely to win, so I’m just gonna list. First, is Undefeated. This is clearly a very emotional and uplifting story. From all accounts, the people who see this end up shedding more than a few tears. On the other hand, it might not be “important” enough for some members (the Michael Moores of the group). But on sheer emotional power, this is a strong contender.

Biggest CompetitionParadise Lost 3: Purgatory has the benefit of being topical. But is it a big enough issue for people to vote for it? I mean, clearly people were following it and were for the release of the boys, but look at the kind of docs that won this category. I’m not totally convinced this is such a runaway winner. Of course, it has all the markings of one, which is why a lot of people think this will win. I don’t know. But it’s impossible to tell with this category unless you see all the nominees and have a better vantage point. I am clearly not one of those people. So from the outside, this looks like a major contender.

Spoiler Alert: I’m not quite sure what to list here. Pina seems an obvious choice, given it’s sheer (alleged. Remember, haven’t seen it) beauty, and its use of 3D. Having Wim Wenders as director also doesn’t hurt. But I don’t know how many people are gonna be into interpretive dance. So I don’t think that’s it. Hell and Back Again seems to be passé. Afghanistan hasn’t won in this category in years. I don’t think they’ll go back to that, especially since it’s really only about a dude coming home and dealing with having been there. It doesn’t feel “important” enough to warrant a win (simply going by the history). So I think, by default, that makes your spoiler here If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front. Apparently it’s a very complex and unbiased film that manages to show both sides of the issue really well. So that’s good. I don’t know how voters are gonna feel about this, so maybe it wins. I don’t know. What seems to be going against it is the fact that it’s not totally topical in the sense that West Memphis 3 is, and not really as emotional like Undefeated is. So I keep seeing it as a #3. Not that it can’t win, but without knowing all that much about what’s going to happen, I have to be as empirical as possible about this. And that makes me leave it as a #3 at best.

Rankings of Likelihood to Win: 1) Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory 2) Undefeated 3) If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front 4) Pina 5) Hell and Back Again

If I Were a Betting Man: Well, this seems to be coming down to two films: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory and Undefeated. One is an “important” film about a case many politically-inclined folk were interested in for a while, and the other is an underdog tale that tugs at the heartstrings. Which mood are they in this year? Personally, I’d tell people to take Paradise Lost 3 and play it safe. I, personally, since I don’t have any interest in Documentary, and fully expect to get it wrong, am gonna take Undefeated, simply because they seem to have lightened up a bit the last few years. Of course, it would have been a more compelling argument had they chose Exit to the Gift Shop last year, but still, they’ve been pretty good about not going with a heavy hand on these. And whose to even say Paradise Lost 3 is any good? Maybe Undefeated is emotional and tells the best story, and that’s all it takes. So I’m gonna stick with the underdog. Oscar loves a good underdog story.

You Should Take: Probably either Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory or Undefeated

On My BallotUndefeated

BEST DOCUMENTARY — SHORT SUBJECT

The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement

God is the Bigger Elvis

Incident in New Baghdad

Saving Face

The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

My Rankings:

1. The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

2. Saving Face

3. Incident in New Baghdad

4. The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement

5. God is the Bigger Elvis

My Vote: Probably The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom, simply because of the title. I like that title.

Should Win: Haven’t seen them, couldn’t tell you.

In case you don’t know what these are about (and I’d wager you probably don’t), here are quick synopses of each nominee:

The Barber of Birmingham is about Civil Rights. About those who fought for the right to vote in Alabama in the 60s. Centered around one dude, who is now a barber, who was part of this fight.

God is the Bigger Elvis is about Dolores Hart (in such films as Wild Is the Wind, Lonelyhearts, King Creole and Loving You, the last two starring Elvis as her costar), who gave up acting at age 23 in order to become a Benedictine nun.

Incident in New Baghdad is about the 2007 Baghdad airstrike (where civilians and journalists were killed by army helicopters). It’s a first person account by one of the soldiers there, and apparently they also show the WikiLeaks leaked footage of the incident side by side with it.

Saving Face is a documentary about acid attacks on women in Pakistan. We follow a plastic surgeon as he performs reconstructive surgery on the women whose faces were destroyed by the acid.

The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom is about the survivors of the Japanese earthquake from last year and shows them preparing for the cherry blossom season (and basically starting over again in the wake of this tragedy).

Most Likely to Win: From what I’ve gathered, this category is, aside from being impossible to predict, often about topical things, but also shorts that are very emotional. Last year’s winner, Strangers No More, was about a school in Israel (read: conflict zone) where children from all over the world come together and learn. 2009’s winner: Music by Prudence, about a disabled woman in Zimbabwe who overcomes her disability and makes music. 2008: Smile Pinki, about a girl who has a cleft lip (in India) and whose life is changed when she gets surgery to correct it. 2007: Freeheld, about a female police officer diagnosed with terminal lung cancer who wants to give her pension to her partner, but the state (New Jersey, of course) won’t let her do it (because her partner is a woman). 2006: The Blood of the Yingzhou District, about AIDS in China. So you can see — issues, and emotion. AIDS/China. LGBT issues/terminal cancer. India/little girl ostracized because she’s different. Africa/overcoming disability. Israel/Children learning. Looking at the nominees for this year, it’s pretty clear that only one film fits this exact criteria, and that’s Saving Face. It’s got Pakistan, and women being attacked with acid. And you have the emotional story of these women, and the doctor who tries to help save them from deformity. It shows you an issue you may not know about (because it’s in a place you don’t really follow that closely), and you get an emotional hook for it. That’s the total package right there. Of course, nothing is guaranteed, but I imagine that this is about as close to a lock as you’re gonna get in the sense of it fitting what usually wins in this category. However…

Biggest Competition: There is another film that also fits the criteria for this award, and that’s The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom. You have that huge and devastating earthquake from last year (footage of which I’m sure is in the movie), which is emotional right there, having to see footage of mass destruction. I saw it on the news when it happened. It was emotional then. Now, in a controlled environment, when they can put music and voiceover on top of it, and it being about starting over in the wake of tragedy — that’s all you need. This and Saving Face are two really strong contenders, according to what usually wins here. It all depends on which one moves more voters. I can see it going either way at this point. I’d also say that there’s greater than an 80% chance that one of these two takes this award.

Spoiler Alert: It’s pretty clear, when you look at the nominees, which ones aren’t really strong in story. The Barber of Birmingham seems to have the issue at hand, but doesn’t really have a compelling or emotional * (* based on the synopsis) hook to get people to vote for it. And God is the Bigger Elvis really only has the hook of — woman leaves Hollywood to become a nun. I don’t see how that will strike a chord with anybody. Which, of course, leaves only one film left to play the spoiler, and that’s Incident in New Baghdad. It’s got WikiLeaks, it’s War in Iraq, it’s topical. However, three things, I feel, are going against it. First, Iraq stuff doesn’t win here. Rarely do they choose a big issue, since they already know about it. They usually use this stuff for Documentary Feature. Second, it seems the anger about the war has subsided. The Academy hasn’t rewarded an Iraq Documentary since Taxi to the Dark Side in 2007. Now, they’re all about the financial crisis. So I don’t see anyone biting on such a passé subject. And the third (and most important) reason why this probably won’t win, is that I can’t see what kind of emotional hook/new information this doc will have. It’s the WikiLeaks footage, which I’d guess many people know about or saw when it leaked, and it has a first-hand account of it alongside the footage. I don’t really see anything emotional there (and based on what wins, you can tell they like emotional), and it just seems like all it’s doing is stirring up “old” stuff. So I don’t think it’s anything more than a potential spoiler (and this being a Short category, they do happen). But it’s subject matter does, obviously, make it a spoiler.

Rankings of Likelihood to Win: 1) Saving Face 2) The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom 3) Incident in New Baghdad 4) God is the Bigger Elvis 5) The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement

If I Were a Betting Man: I’m gonna give you two here, since this category is very unpredictable. It really seems like either Saving Face or The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom will win. They have all the earmarks of a winner for this category. I haven’t seen either, and I don’t know who and how many people will see all the documentaries and will voting, and I don’t know which one will affect them more. Maybe I could have made a more educated guess had I seen these two, but even so — I say your winner is one of those two. Personally, Saving Face sounds like the more likely winner, but I’ve been leaning toward The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom all along, because I like the title, and the tsunami is an very raw topic. It sounds like it’s an emotional film. But I don’t know. Saving Face feels like the smarter, safer choice, but I know that if I were picking in any other year but this one (since this is the first year I feel I really know what I’m doing. Before, I never actually looked at past histories and stuff), I’d take The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom and hope for the best. Either way, I’d say one of those two is definitely going to win, and that you should take one of them. Which one is up to you.

You Should Take: Either Saving Face or The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

On My BallotThe Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILM

Pentecost

Raju

The Shore

Time Freak

Tuba Atlantic

My Rankings:

1. Tuba Atlantic

2. Time Freak

3. Pentecost

4. Raju

5. The Shore

No idea. Picked based on having seen the trailers for all of them.

My Vote: Uhh.. Tuba Atlantic. It sounds interesting.

Should Win: Can’t say without having seen them all.

I’ll give you synopses here, just so you can feel informed:

Pentecost (the trailer for which is here) is about a young altar boy in Ireland who loves watching football matches. But he gets in trouble and is banned from watching them because he screwed up a mass because of it. And then the archbishop comes to visit the parish, so the boy has to decide between going along with things or exacting some revenge. Apparently it’s light and cute but of no real substance.

Raju is (as you can see from the trailer here) about a German couple who adopt a small Indian boy, only to one day lose him while out at the market, and apparently it turns into a thriller of sorts. I can’t quite tell what the thriller aspect is, but I know they seem to like young up-and-comers here, so I think that bodes well for him.

The Shore (trailer here) is a film from Terry George (nominated twice before for writing In the Name of the Father and Hotel Rwanda), about two Irishmen who have a falling out. They are played by Ciarán Hinds and Conleth Hill. And 25 years after this falling out, Hinds returns to the village with his daughter, and finds Hill married to his former fiancée. And it’s about them working to patch up their differences.

Time Freak (trailer here) is about a neurotic dude who creates a time machine, but ends up only going back in time to the day before to fix all the little things that happened to him. It seems similar to last year’s winner God of Love. It’s only 10 minutes long, so I can’t tell if that’ll be enough for it to pull this one out.

Tuba Atlantic is (trailer here. There’s also another clip on the playlist bar on the right) about a dude who finds out he’s going to die in six days, and with the help of an “Angel of Death” (girl from the church sent to “help him die”), he gets a giant tuba (which you can see in the second clip), and tries to send a message to his brother on the other side of the Atlantic, to tell him he forgives him for a disagreement they had a long time ago.

Most Likely to Win: It seems like one most likely to win is Tuba Atlantic. It seems darkly comic, warm, and of the best quality of the nominees. That seems like the most likely winner to me. It just seems to be the complete package. Maybe they’ll wanna go darker and go with Raju or pick an up-and-comer like Time Freak, but I still say this is most likely to win based on — well, nothing, really. No one really knows how these categories work. It’s all dependent on who sees all the nominees and votes.

Biggest CompetitionTime Freak. For some reason, I feel like these young American student films do well here. Or maybe that’s just because of last year. Maybe it’s the story that matters. I don’t know. I just feel like this has a chance to upset. I feel like Terry George’s film is here on star power alone, and that it’s not that great film, and that Pentecost is too light and one-note to win (this, of course, based only on trailers and synopses). And while Raju seemed like the obvious choice as soon as nominees were announced, it feels too dark and thriller-y to vote for. But I don’t know, maybe that’s what the voters will want as an alternate to the happy-go-lucky nature of The Artist. It all depends on who’s voting. But I don’t know. I feel like Time Freak might get some votes because they like the fact that it looks like a student film. I feel like they want to reward people like that.

Spoiler AlertRaju. It’s the most polished of any of the films, next to Tuba Atlantic, so that helps it. And I feel like the rest of them aren’t what normally wins here. This has the dark factor going for it. This category is usually quite open, so anything can really take this. There’s really no argument for or against any of these films.

Rankings of Likelihood to Win: 1) Tuba Atlantic 2) Raju 3) Time Freak 4) The Shore 5) Pentecost

If I Were a Betting Man: This is the category that’s given me the most problems in the past. I’m pretty sure I guessed the only year I guessed all the shorts right in recent memory was 2007. And that’s because I went on titles alone and got lucky. But of all the years I’ve been doing this seriously, I think this is the category I do the worst in. Maybe that’ll change this year, I don’t know. But I feel like Tuba Atlantic is the film to take. That’s the one I’m taking. You could go just about any way you want here (though I’d imagine that most people wouldn’t take Pentecost). Terry George is a big name, and The Shore has star power, so maybe that will get some votes. Time Freak has that student film quality to it, which won this award last year (though I read the synopsis for God of Love, it sounded like a really sweet movie). Raju is technically polished and apparently cinematic. And dark, which none of the other nominees are. So it could stand out. I say your best bets, if not Tuba Atlantic, are Time Freak and Raju. They seem to like a good story here (at least, going by the last two years. Somewhat quirky, maybe romantic (though they did go dark a few years before that). It’s actually kind of hard to tell. I still feel this one is between Tuba Atlantic, Time Freak and Raju. And knowing my track record, I fully expect Tuba Atlantic to not win, because had I not known anything, I might have voted for that on name alone. Not to mention it looks like a story that would win. And that, based on my experience, always loses. So do whatever you like. I’m taking Tuba. (The consensus here seems to be The Shore, but maybe that’s because most people don’t know and are going with the established name. Based on what I’ve seen, that’s not the way to go. They like up-and-comers here, and not established names. Plus, Raju has always just felt like the winner.) I’m still seriously expecting to lose this one. It almost always happens.

You Should Take: Either Tuba AtlanticRaju or Time Freak

On My BallotTuba Atlantic

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM

Dimanche

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

La Luna

A Morning Stroll

Wild Life

My Rankings:

1. La Luna

2. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

3. Wild Life

4. Dimanche

5. A Morning Stroll

I’ve only been able to find a full version of The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, which you can see here: 

It’s quite lovely. I still have to assume, given Pixar’s nature, that I’d like their short best, and would probably vote for it. But for now, since I’ve only seen Flying Books, I’ll vote for that.

My VoteThe Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

Should Win: Have to see them all first.

Here are trailers and clips from all the films:

Dimanche 

La Luna

A Morning Stroll

Wild Life — can’t link directly to it, but you can find two clips of the film here.

Most Likely to Win: Ooh, this is tough. But I’m gonna say it’s actually The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. I’ve been burned far too many times voting for Pixar in this category to know that they just can’t be considered favorites. Sure, they can win, and then we’ll feel bad for not having taken them, but there seems to be some kind of anti-Pixar bias in this category. Pixar has only won this category three times: first in 1988 (which was before they were “Pixar”), for Tin Toy, then in 1997 for the great Geri’s Game, and then in 2001 for For the Birds. Since then, they haven’t won a damn thing. In 2008, they lost with the delightful Presto, and last year, they lost with Day & Night, which, to me, was their best short yet. And what did they lose to last year? The Lost Thing (which you can watch here). What did that film have that Day & Night didn’t? I don’t know. Maybe an emotional element. But La Luna seems to have that. So, I don’t really know. Either way, Fantastic Flying Books has a nice emotional hook, and is a sweet little film. The end is quite touching. (Plus the main character looks exactly like an animated Buster Keaton.) I think they’re more likely to go for this, if there is an anti-Pixar bias.

Biggest CompetitionLa Luna. It has to be. From all accounts, this might be Pixar’s best short that they’ve ever made. It seems to be about a boy going with his father and grandfather to the moon for something, and the whole conflict is the boy having to choose between the way his father does things and the way his grandfather does things, and in the end, choosing to do things his own way. It’s definitely got that emotional hook, and it looks gorgeous. Personally, I would, as I always do, consider this the favorite. But there just seems to be an anti-Pixar thing going on these days. Of course, they weren’t nominated in the Animated Feature category (further evidence of the backlash), so maybe this is a consolation prize? I don’t know. I feel like this and Fantastic Flying Books are your two contenders. This category is a shorts category, thereby making it very unpredictable. It’s gonna be one of those two, most likely, so do your best.

Spoiler AlertWild LifeA Morning Stroll seems a little too thematically weird for them, and Dimanche seems a little to plain and standard. This one seems to strike the right chord by being absolutely stunningly beautiful (seriously, watch those clips. It’s like paintings) and also having its own story to it that feels unique enough to reward. I don’t think it’ll carry the weight the other two will, which is why I’m making it a spoiler, but among the nominees, this one feels the most spoiler-worthy. In this category, you can’t count it out, but I’d still personally rather take my shot with one of the other two.

Rankings of Likelihood to Win: 1) The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore 2) La Luna 3) Wild Life 4) Dimanche 5) A Morning Stroll

If I Were a Betting Man: I’m liking this two nominees per Short category thing I’ve been doing, simply because these are so unpredictable. But I feel like having it come down to two that I can be more than 80% sure the category will come down between is a lot better than what I used to do for this category, which is pick blindly and pray for the dart to hit the board. So, I say, if you pick either The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore or La Luna, you’ve got a strong chance (if you pick the right one) of hitting this category. I can’t tell if the Pixar bias is legitimate or not. If they lose here, then I’ll know to just stay away from them in this category. Then again, this could be a short that’s too good to ignore. So I don’t know. I say it’s those two. Personally, I’ve been burned a lot here, so I think I’m gonna go with Fantastic Flying Books as my choice, because either there is a bias and I’m getting it right, or Pixar will win, and I’ll know they probably should have, and I’ll feel okay about having picked incorrectly (since I normally chalk these ones up to a loss anyway). Or, of course, something else will win and we’ll all go down. But whatever.

You Should Take: Either The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore or La Luna

On My BallotThe Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

– – – – – – – – – –

So those are my picks. We’ll see how I do.

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