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Player Affinity’s 2012 Oscar Predictions

Not a single one of us here in the Player Affinity Movies deparment would claim to be movie expert, but if you combine us seven of us together, that has to add up to the equivalent of a Roger Ebert, right?

For the last year, our staff has been mining the hundreds of movies released for possible 2012 Oscar contenders. Julian gave us his Oscar picks a year in advance, John covered all the buzzing films during the festival circuit and the rest of us ... we watched a lot of movies.

But the moment is finally here; it's time to make our final predictions. We've listed our individual picks with some thoughts to back them up. We guarantee nothing, but you better believe we know our stuff.

Best Picture

The Artist - John, Julian, Kieran, Max, Sam, Simon, Steven
The Descendants
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Help
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
War Horse

It's unanimous. In a year of few powerhouse Oscar contenders, a crowd favorite like The Artistcan be nearly impossible to beat. It's old-fashioned and about the film industry, which makes it an instant favorite with everyone who has a vote to give, even if there were countless better films made this year.

John: Early on, it seemed like a year with no real consensus title. But this silent movie marvel exploded out of the gate, winning almost every major critics' award, as well as the Golden Globe, PGA, and DGA. Betting against it would be Oscar pool suicide.

Julian: Harvey Weinstein did it again. This silent black-and-white flick captured the industry and critics by the heartstrings. The biggest category of the night will—as in many years past—be the least suspenseful.

Best Director

Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
Michel Hazanvicius (The Artist) - John, Julian, Kieran, Sam, Simon, Steven
Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life)
Alexander Payne (The Descendants)
Martin Scorsese (Hugo) - Max

Simon: Little-known director Michel Hazanvicius has shown his skill in simultaneously crafting a homage to silent film, a throw-back to an era and simply a noteworthy film in all regards. If The Artist takes best picture, expect the director to line up accordingly.

John: It's between the French newcomer and living legend Martin Scorsese, but history says to stick with the Directors Guild Award winner in this category, and I'm doing just that. Bravo, Michel!

Max: Even if his film doesn't win, no other director could have blended 3D technology (at its best) with a story dedicated to the earliest days of cinema, quite like Scorsese did. It was masterful on all fronts of filmmaking and Scorsese is the source.

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Demian Bichir (A Better Life)
George Clooney (The Descendants) - Max
Jean Dujardin (The Artist) - John, Julian, Kieran, Sam, Simon, Steven
Gary Oldman (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy)
Brad Pitt (Moneyball)

Simon: Perhaps the most difficult performance to give amongst all the nominees, Jean Dujardin himself carries with him a great underdog aspect in a film that does as well. This is the type of role that won awards in the silent film era, so why not again?

Julian: Yeah, Dujardin's winning because voters love the movie, but his charming performance speaks for itself… well, not literally, of course.

Max: All of Clooney's roles have a distinct air of "George Clooney," and while that presence exists in The Descendants, Clooney is able to bring true characterization and depth to an otherwise ordinary character/role. Unlike his main rival Dujardin, Clooney's performance is as layered as it is impeccably nuanced.

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs)
Viola Davis (The Help) - John, Julian, Max, Sam, Simon, Steven
Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) - Kieran
Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn)

Max: Davis has been a player for years, even if you only came to know her in 2008's Doubt. Streep has power and consistency, but Davis' has the story and role that Academy members love to reward.

Julian: Thanks to wins from the BFCA and SAG and the film’s massive box-office success, the best performance of the year is yet again the frontrunner for Best Actress, though Meryl Streep’s Margaret Thatcher impersonation poses a serious threat.

Kieran: Meryl Streep has been an Academy darling for years and it is a two horse race for Best Actress this year. Streep’s performance has been universally praised and help elavate The Iron Lady.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn)
Jonah Hill (Moneyball)
Nick Nolte (Warrior)
Christopher Plummer (Beginners) - John, Kieran, Max, Simon, Steven
Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) - Julian

John: Plummer won this award over 18 months ago, when this film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. Despite the film's low profile, no one has even come close to matching the beloved octogenarian in buzz or precursor awards.

Sam: Although Plummer’s status as a Hollywood standard that has yet to win an Academy Award is catnip for Oscar voters, his win will be nonetheless deserved. Plummer’s
turn as a father only given the chance to live openly in the twilight of his years exposes how tragedy can forever alter what you thought you knew about the people you’ve spent your whole life with.

Julian: Okay, we think Christopher Plummer has it in the bag (and he probably does), but "Extremely Loud’s" shocker nomination in the top race means something, doesn’t it?

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Bérénice Bejo (The Artist)
Jessica Chastain (The Help)
Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids)
Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs)
Octavia Spencer (The Help) - John, Julian, Kieran, Max, Simon, Steven

Steven: Other than playing a much more likeable character, Spencer is a cookie-cutter version of Mo'Nique, who dominated this category two years ago. She's cleaned up all the big awards and she's a feel-good story.

Simon: Like her co-star Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer has screen-owning scenes throughout The Help, is at the forefront of the race issues explored and simply has one of the better written characters. Only if Jessica Chastain splits The Help vote more than expected could we see an upset.

Best Original Screenplay

Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist) - Julian
Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids)
J.C. Chandor (Margin Call)
Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris) - John, Kieran, Max, Sam, Simon, Steven
Asghar Farhadi (A Separation)

You just can't compete with Woody Allen's scripts, especially when said script is his best-received film in years.

Many think that Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris script seizes this award, but would the Academy really deny the biggest frontrunner since Slumdog Millionaire a screenplay prize?

John: This one could definitely go to The Artist in a big, night-long sweep, but something tells me the film doesn't have enough ... words. So I'm going with Midnight in Paris, the only other Best Picture nominee in the field.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash (The Descendants) - Julian, John, Max, Sam, Simon, Steven
John Logan (Hugo)
George Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Beau Willimon (The Ides of March)
Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian (Moneyball)
Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) - Kieran

Steven: It's an impressive list of scripts, but The Descendants is far and away the most powerful film of them, especially when looked at in terms of its character development from Clooney all the way down, dark humor and poignancy. The Writers Guild Award just seals the deal.

Simon: Boasting a few great, key performances and a beautiful shooting style to anchor things, Alexander Payne’s The Descendants is a writer’s film through and through. Even though this is an adapted script, Payne’s fingerprints are all over this film and pretty much could give the Academy a chance to honor two “original” works in one year.

Kieran: Though The Descendants is the most likely movie to win this award, the adaptation for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy adaptation possible of that complex novel. It could cause an upset.

Best Visual Effects

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 - Sam
Hugo - Julian
Real Steel
Rise of the Planet of the Apes - John, Kieran, Max, Simon, Steven
Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Max: With motion capture becoming prominent in Hollywood and the influence of actors within it, this is as close to an Oscar as the Academy is willing to give Andy Serkis right now.

On paper, Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ motion-capture techniques would seem to be the surefire winner, but the Academy always goes for one of the Best Picture nominees. Since there’s just one to choose from, Martin Scorsese’s Hugo could easily pull off an upset.

Winners of this award over the last decade have all had substance to backup the flash, and the critical success of "Deathly Hallows – Part 2" will make it an easy choice for the Academy. That it’s the last of the well-regarded by largely unrewarded “Harry Potter” films doesn’t hurt either.

Best Original Score

John Williams (The Adventures of Tintin)
Ludovic Bource (The Artist) - John, Julian, Max, Simon, Steven
Howard Shore (Hugo) - Kieran
Alberto Iglesias (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy)
John Williams (War Horse)

Steven: It's very hard to imagine that a silent film, which relies completely on music, could lose this category, let alone the silent film nominated and likely to win Best Picture. What's more, The Arist boasts the only score of the bunch with any replay value.

Simon: The music in this silent throwback could have been plucked straight from any classic feature, but it is very much its own and compliments the many emotions explored effortlessly.

Kieran: The Artist is the favorite to win Best Score, but there is a lot of love for Hugo and the Academy may try to find a way to award it. Howard Shore did produce a incredible, fitting score for that movie.

Best Animated Feature

A Cat in Paris
Chico and Rita - Sam
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots
Rango - John, Julian, Max, Simon, Steven

Simon: In an oddly weak year for animated films, Rango is the only North American entry that is original and the only one that goes in a very unique direction. Foreign nominees A Cat in Paris and Chico and Rita could pull an upset, but I doubt if enough Academy voters saw either to inflate them to a win. This is Rango’s race to lose.

Steven: With two foreign films fighting each other and two DreamWorks films fighting each other, odds-wise you would pick Rango even if it weren't clearly the year's best animated offering. It also helps that the film had unique animation, an existential vibe and also served as homage to Sergio Leone Westerns. Oh, and it's won mostly every award up to this point. This for a film about to become a year old.

Sam: Pixar’s absence would cause for a sigh of relief for Dreamworks and Nickelodeon were there entries this year a bit stronger. Instead, expect the recently released Chico and Rita to woo voters with its artisanal 2D animation and love story set to the sweet, sweet sound of Cuban jazz.

Best Documentary Feature

Hell and Back Again
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front - Julian
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory - John, Sam, Simon
Undefeated - Steven

Sam: All the nominees are uncharacteristically focused in nature, but Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory has the benefit of relevancy. The release of the West Memphis 3 last August gives a level of resolution uncommon to most documentaries, and should stay in voter minds as a satisfying, if not necessarily happy, conclusion to the West Memphis 3 saga.

Steven: I haven't seen any of these, so you can discount my pick entirely, but I do know one thing: The Weinstein Company distributed Undefeated. Easily the most aggressive Oscar-campaigning studio ever, you can be sure TWC got this underdog sports flick into the hands of every Academy voter it possibly could. The film is also the only feel-good doc on the board.

Best Foreign Language Feature

Belgium (Bullhead)
Canada (Monsieur Lazhar)
Iran (A Separation) - John, Julian, Kieran, Max, Sam, Simon, Steven
Israel (Footnote)
Poland (In Darkness)

Kieran: A Separation is the favorite to win Best Foreign Language Feature for one main reason, it is the movie that the Academy is most likely to have seen and liked.

John: It's one of the year's best reviewed films, and it won almost every major award for foreign-language features. But this category often surprises, so don't count out In Darkness or Monsieur Lazhar.


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