Who will win and why: place your bets
By Ivor Davis 02/23/2012
Aren’t we all instant experts and Oscar oracles? We see a movie and we know instantly who will take home the gold on Academy Awards night. But having covered the Oscars for more than three decades, I can attest that all is not what it seems when the votes are cast and counted. There are a multitude of imponderables: popularity vs. performance chops and a soupçon of psychology and politics, all help determine who will win.
The one thing that becomes glaringly obvious is, the best doesn’t always make it, thanks to rampant sentimentality along with the perennial question, “Have they paid their Hollywood dues?”
The skewering older voters often shun the obvious pop choice when voting. That’s why the bawdy Bridesmaids will end up . . . er, just a bridesmaid. Tradition dictates that Screen Actors Guild winners are often mirrored by the Oscars, at least in the acting department. But this year is likely to be dramatically different. I mean, Viola Davis was great in The Help, but it was an ensemble piece, whereas Meryl Streep as the British prime minister was a tour de force. So taking everything into account, I would like to suggest where you place your bets for this year’s winners. (Oops! To quote that one-time Republican presidential candidate: not winners, the Academy doesn’t like to call them winners, even though we all know that’s what it’s all about.)
So this year, the Oscar goes to . . .
A silent movie, no less. Black and white, no less. A French-made picture that cost $14 million and doesn’t feature a single knock-’em-out-of-the-box. Hugo cost 140 million, was great, inventive, a knockout in 3-D, and if anything’s going to sneak ahead of The Artist, it’s this one.
Martin Scorsese for
Close, but no cigar for Alexander Payne, who directed The Descendants, and the French director Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist. Scorsese is such a hero in Hollywood and this is about his life’s passion: the movies.
Meryl Streep in
The Iron Lady
There would be no movie without her. She’s been nominated around l7 times, but only won twice: Kramer v. Kramer in l979 and Sophie’s Choice in l982. It’s time for No. 3. Michelle Williams was fine, but the Marilyn Monroe story was a bit thin — and those kinds of tales are not Oscar material. I’d love to see Glenn Close as Alfred Nobbs sneak in, but the film hasn’t had wide recognition. And the cast members of The Help were all in it together, which works against Davis, fine as she was.
George Clooney for
Everyone loves Clooney. The role was good, and it wasn’t typical Clooney material. One could argue it wasn’t typical Oscar material, either, but the politics of Hollywood will fiercely kick in here to hand it over to George. I preferred Brad Pitt in Moneyball. And it is highly unlikely they’ll award it to the first timer, dashing newcomer and French charmer Jean Dujardin for The Artist — no track record, at least on this side of the pond.
Christopher Plummer for
I hate to follow the Golden Globes’ choice because, frankly, my firsthand experience and knowledge of those “journalists” has left me a huge skeptic when it comes to the Globes, but there’s little doubt Christopher Plummer playing a gay 70- year-old father who joyfully comes out of the closet will win. It’s a lifetime achievement award and an eye-catching role for the guy whom, you may recall, “sang” his way out of Nazi clutches with Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music back in 1965. I liked Jonah Hill in Moneyball, but not this season, and he’s also too much of a newbie to win this time out.
Octavia Spencer for
This category is tricky and often unpredictable, but because Viola Davis will go empty-handed, it’s between Jessica Chastain for her portrayal of Celia Foote in The Help (she’s in everything these days) and Octavia Spencer. My money’s on Octavia.
In the film version of the Middle East wars, it’s Iran vs. Israel. In any battle, my stake is with Israel, But not this year when it comes to the Oscars. Israel’s entry, Footnote, from talented director Joseph Cedar, is brilliant, funny, authentic and inventive, and one not to miss, but Iran’s A Separation will inch the Israelis out of the gold. Ahmadinejad 1, Netanyahu 0.
The 84th Annual Academy Awards will air on Sunday, Feb. 26, 4 p.m. pacific time on ABC.