The Oscar Races


Emmanuel Lubezki (The Tree Of Life) vs. N/A

I think Best Cinematography is the most underrated award the Academy offers up. The average movie goer doesn't realize how important cinematography is to a movie and for those of you who don't know, a cinematographers job is to determine the look of the film. He literally sits behind the camera and is the main person filming the movie. Now the director has some say in what the cinematographer shoots and, generally speaking, the two work together. However, how a movie looks to you is because of the cinematographer.

The Tree Of Life is a critics darling and while I will never see it because it looks boring as shit, everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, says that at minimum it's beautifully shot and just looks amazing.

Not only does (I'm sure) the film look good, as I said, very few people actually know what their looking for or know what they're doing when they talk about cinematography, it makes it tough for the average Academy member to vote on this category. That's why really the only people who vote on cinematography are cinematographers and those within the guild (The American Society of Cinematographers) are really the only ones who vote for this award. And the ASC this year voted Lubezki as the best cinematographer of the year and I expect they'll do the same when it comes to the Oscars.

WINNER: Emmanuel Lubezki


Woody Allen (Midnight In Paris) vs. N/A

Leading up to the Oscar nominations, Allen was not only nominated for writing Midnight In Paris but he had won all the writing awards. Allen won the Golden Globe for writing Midnight (the Globes don't make a distinction between original and adapted screenplay) and won the Critics Choice for Best Original Screenplay. But then the Oscar nominations came out and that is when we saw how much the Academy REALLY loved Allen. Midnight In Paris was also nominated for Best Picture and Allen received another nomination for Best Director. Since the Oscar nominations came out the Writers Guild of America awarded Allen with Best Original Screenplay.

Midnight In Paris won't win any other major Oscar but I guarantee Woody Allen will get an Oscar this year for his screenplay

WINNER: Woody Allen (Midnight In Paris)


Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash (The Descendants) vs. Steve Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin, and Stan Chevrin (Moneyball)

I think The Descendants is the full on favorite but I wouldn't be surprised if Moneyball wins as I would be if Woody Allen or Emmanuel Lubezki loses.

Payne, Faxon, and Rash have won the WGA for Best Adapted Screenplay but Zaillian, Sorkin, and Chevrin won that same award at the Critics Choice Awards and neither won the Golden Globes for Best Screenplay (that went to Woody Allen, see: above).

However, The Descendants have all the momentum as the WGA win is more important for their Oscar chances than a Critics Choice win is. Not only are members of the WGA members of the Academy who also vote on Oscars (something movie critics do not) but the WGA win came out later than the Critics Choice win.

The Academy honored Moneyball with 6 nominations and The Descendants with 5 so it clearly likes both films just as equally and I think Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian are both extremely well received in the writing world (each has an Oscar for screenplay writing) but I think this is Alexander Payne and The Descendants year.

WINNER: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash (The Descendants)


Octavia Spencer (The Help) vs. Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids)

OK, realistically this is absolutely Spencer's award. She won the Critics Choice, The Golden Globe, and the SAG award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Minny Jackson in The Help. I just want to give McCarthy love not only because she was excellent in Bridesmaids but Hollywood now loves McCarthy. McCarthy won the Emmy for her role in the television show Mike and Molly mainly because she in now a bona fide movie star. I wouldn't be shocked if she is able to ride this wave of fame to an Oscar win but I think here the nomination is the win.

WINNER: Octavia Spencer (The Help)


Christopher Plummer (Beginners) vs. N/A

Albert Brooks was the best person to dethrone a Plummer win for his role in Drive, but since he (shamefully) did not even get nominated, this award absolutely belongs to Plummer. Plummer won the Critics Choice, SAG, and Golden Globes and 15 other awards (like the San Diego Critics Choice Awards) for Best Actor In A Supporting Role. The only other actor to win more for Best Supporting Actor wins was Albert Brooks (he won 17). Not only was Brooks amazing in Drive (SIDENOTE: Everyone associated with Drive got fucked by the Academy- it didn't get nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Actor, or Best Original Screenplay) but the Oscars have in recent years traditionally given awards to the great bad guys of film like Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men, Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, and Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds. However, the closest thing to a bad guy out of the five nominations in 2012 in Nick Nolte in Warrior- and he's just a shitty dad. Christopher Plummer does deserve an Oscar for his life time of work but in the context of this one year, I would have liked to seen Albert Brooks at least have a chance to win this award. Or Patton Oswalt for his amazing work in Young Adult. Or really Andy Serkis for being Caesar in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes.

WINNER: Christopher Plummer (Beginners)


Viola Davis (The Help) vs. Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)

Again, another award that is realistically not up for debate and is not a contest. Meryl Streep always has a shot at winning an Oscar because she is Meryl effing Streep but this is Viola Davis' award. Streep won the Golden Globe but Davis won the Critics Choice award and the more important SAG award.

What also helps Davis is that people and Oscar voters have not only seen The Help, but loved The Help. I'm not quite sure how many of them have actually seen The Iron Lady and liked it and I'm under the suspicion that the Academy only gave Streep her nomination just because she is Meryl effing Streep.

WINNER: Viola Davis (The Help)


George Clooney (The Descendants) vs. Jean Dujardin (The Artist)

This is the hardest main award to predict. Two weeks ago I would have said Clooney had this in the bag but now, it's a legit coin flip who I think will win. If I were a betting man this is absolutely a stay away.

Before the Oscar nominations even came out I thought this was Clooney's award to lose. Hollywood LOVES and I mean has a full on hard on for Clooney and he won the Critics Choice for Best Actor as well as won a Golden Globe for his role in The Descendants. Clooney always makes great speeches and he has never won an Oscar for Best Actor In A Leading Role (His acting Oscar win was for Syriana and that was a supporting role).

But what I missed and stupidly overlooked was that Jean Dujardian also won a Golden Globe for his role in The Artist. Clooney won for his role in a Drama whereas Dujardin won his for in role in a Comedy or Musical (which is silly because The Artist is really neither).

Then came the SAG awards came out and even though The Artist didn't win Outstanding Performance By A Cast (we'll get to that later) Dujardin did win and beat out Clooney for Best Actor.

And if there's anything Hollywood loves more than George Clooney, it's itself. And that's a huge appeal Dujardin and The Artist has (that and it is actually a good movie). So what does Hollywood do? Vote for George Clooney or itself?

WINNER: Jean Dujardin (The Artist)


Michael Hazanavicius (The Artist) vs. Martin Scorsese (Hugo)

Hazanavicius has the DGA win and the Critics Choice win working for him but the fact that Marty won the Golden Globe and has an impossible name to say or spell working against him.

The Artist could easily sweep the Oscars this year and it will be lead by winning Best Director but Martin Scorsese is like Meryl Streep, he can never be counted out. The thing working for Scorsese is that he keeps getting screwed year in and year out at the Academys. He lost directing Oscars for directing some of cinemas greats like Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, and Goodfellas. Now the Oscars made it up to him by (finally) honoring him with the award in 2006 for The Departed but the Academy still owes a lot more to Scorsese. Another thing working for Marty is that he probably did the best job in terms of directing this year. I was bored to death by Hugo but that was more of a script problem than a directing problem.

What Hazanavicius has going for him is that out of all the films that got Oscar nominations (which basically just includes Young Adult and Drive) he directed the best one.

WINNER: Michael Hazanavicius (The Artist)


The Artist vs. The Help vs. The Descendants

The last time a film won Best Picture but did not win Best Director was in 2005 when Crash won Best Picture yet Ang Lee won Best Director for Brokeback Mountain and has only happened one other time since 2001.

A lot of the reason I think Hazanavicius will win Best Director is because I believe The Artist will win Best Picture. Not only did The Artist win the PGA, the Critics Choice Award, and its Golden Glove nomination but it's actually a good film. The only reason I went in to see The Artist was because it was the Oscar front runner and I went in thinking it was going to be elitist garbage. I came out really enjoying the film. In this terrible, awful, no good year for movies, The Artists shines above the rest. Sure its partially by default but a win's a win.

What The Help has going for it is 1) No backlash like what The Artist has 2) Both average movie goers and Hollywood loved The Help and 3) It won and beat out The Artist for Best Acting Ensamble at the Screen Actors Guild eerily reminding us of 2005 when Brokeback Mountain was the clear favorite and then Crash won at the SAG awards and then (rightfully) stunned the world by winning the Oscar for Best Picture. Like 2011, 2005 was also a pretty bad year for films making it easier for an upset.

What The Help has working against it though is that it wasn't even nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay or Best Director. Paul Haggis received a nomination for both writing and directing Crash in 2005. It's hard to say you are the best movie of the year when you are both not well directed or well written. What The Help also has working against it is that a SAG win doesn't really mean all that much. In 2006, Little Miss Sunshine won the SAG award for Best Acting Ensemble when Babel was the favorite at the time yet lost the Oscar to The Departed and in 2009 when Up In The Air was the favorite and Inglourious Basterds won Best Cast at the SAG awards yet The Hurt Locker won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Both Inglourious Basterds and Up In The Air had lost steam by the time The Academy's rolled around. The Artist has not.

The Descendants still technically has a chance and has a better chance than Hugo and Moneyball and Tree Of Life and the rest of the field because it won at The Golden Globes but I still will be super surprised to see it win Best Picture. I can foresee a The Artist backlash and if it does then The Descendants will remain supreme but I wouldn't bet on it.

WINNER: The Artist