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And the Oscar goes to...

Predictions for Hollywood’s biggest ceremony

Published: Thursday, February 23, 2012

Updated: Thursday, February 23, 2012 09:02


This Sunday at 7 p.m. on ABC, Billy Crystal will host the 84th Annual Academy Awards, doling out those illustrious gilded men to the most deserving players in Hollywood from the past year. To preview the ceremony, the Daily will take you through the six main categories (Best Supporting Actress and Actor, Best Actress and Actor, Best Director and Best Picture), enumerating the favorite frontrunners and the reprehensible snubs along the way. So, grab some popcorn and get prepared for the drawn out speeches and, if we’re lucky, some wild waterworks. It’s Oscar time! Best Supporting Actress

Octavia Spencer is this year’s Mo’Nique: after a career marked by bit parts and forgettable comedic appearances, Spencer has catapulted to overnight fame after her role in “The Help” (2011). Her portrayal of forthright maid Minny Jackson has garnered critical acclaim, resulting in the first major acting awards of Spencer’s career. Having taken the Golden Globe and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award, Spencer seems like a shoo−in for the Oscar a la Mo’Nique’s triple crown run in 2009.

Not many expected Melissa McCarthy to reel in a nomination, especially considering her “Bridesmaids” (2011) character violates an Academy faux pas by defecating in a sink onscreen. Apparently, the Academy could not avoid the McCarthy bandwagon, though they may have overlooked some stunning performances. One of the biggest misses was Shailene Woodley, who flaunted her precocious acting chops in “The Descendants” (2011), meshing admirably with her counterpart, George Clooney. The 20−year−old Woodley will have to wait for her next big role to see a coveted Oscar nomination. Best Supporting Actor

The Best Supporting Actor category boils down to two 82−year−old foreign actors: the Canadian, Christopher Plummer, and the Swede, Max von Sydow. Despite the fact that both have had prolific careers and have been nominated for Academy Awards twice, neither man has ever won an Oscar. Unfortunately for von Sydow — who brilliantly portrayed the mute Renter in “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” (2011) — Plummer’s golden statuette is a bit longer overdue. In a banner year that also saw him play the Vanger patriarch in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (2011), Plummer truly shone in “Beginners” (2010) as an elderly father who reveals to his son that he is gay. Expect him to complete the trifecta sweep of a Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild Award and Academy Award.

On the other end of the emotional spectrum, this night of celebration will be one of misery for Albert Brooks. Normally known for his comedic roles, Brooks is garnering mass critical acclaim for his portrayal of ruthless gangster Bernie Rose in “Drive” (2011). But who ever heard of comedians being nominated for Oscars upon switching to more serious roles? Oh, that’s right: Jonah Hill holds a nomination under identical circumstances for his part in “Moneyball” (2011). Sorry, Albert, though many can rightfully complain about the academy’s overlooking of your achievement in “Drive,” critics would be hard−pressed to deny the five current nominees a spot on the list. Best Actress

Ranging from up−and−comers like Rooney Mara (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) to familiar staples like Glenn Close (“Albert Nobbs” (2011)), this year’s Best Actress pool is one of the strongest in recent memory. The women’s troupe is so strong, in fact, that Tilda Swinton was glaringly omitted from the lineup. Swinton took home the Best Supporting trophy several years ago for “Michael Clayton” (2007), but her latest role as a mother coping with the murderous ways of her son in “We Need to Talk About Kevin” (2011) may have been her most emotive and chilling performance yet.

Swinton definitely deserved the nod over Meryl Streep, whose over the top portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady” (2011) continues to gain acclaim, baffling average moviegoers. Alas, Streep’s unmerited nomination proves that there is nothing she can do to lose Hollywood’s unwavering support — she even managed to garner a nomination for “The Devil Wears Prada” (2008)!

Nonetheless, the story of the night will be the masterful ladies of “The Help.” After watching Spencer scoop up Best Supporting Actress gold, stay tuned to see Viola Davis as she is crowned Best Actress for her rendering of Aibileen Clark. Davis, who could have just as easily seen a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her tear−inducing role in “Extremely Loud,” hopes to ride the coattails of her SAG award to an Oscar victory. Her only true competition is Streep, Davis’ former counterpart in the film that put her on the map, “Doubt” (2008). But fans also should not count out Michelle Williams, who has seen surging support for her depiction of Marilyn Monroe in “My Week with Marilyn” (2011) following her Golden Globe win. Best Actor

Not many critics expected Mexican actor Demián Bicihr to get a Best Actor nod. But Bichir, who plays Carlos, an immigrant gardener scraping to get by in “A Better Life” (2011), certainly adds some low−budget flavor to a group of silverscreen juggernauts. Furthermore, Gary Oldman received a nomination purely out of professional respect. In one of the most egregious crimes in recent cinematic memory, Oldman had never been nominated for an Oscar until his latest role. His depiction of John le Carré’s famous protagonist, George Smiley, in “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” (2011) is not even one of his best performances, much less the best performance of the year.

Ryan Gosling could have easily supplanted either Bichir or Oldman, but critics have been disconcertingly dismissive of Gosling’s stoic performance in “Drive.” He did not even obtain a Golden Globe nomination for it, instead receiving a nomination for his other dramatic role in “The Ides of March” (2011). The only plausible rationale for snubbing Gosling in both awards shows is that his “Drive” character has very little dialogue or emotion. But ironically enough, Oscar favorite Jean Dujardin will most likely take top prize for his part in the silent film “The Artist” (2011)!

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