THE TREE OF LIFE - Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography
Oh baby. Best film of the year nominated for best film of the year? That's what I call a good surprise. I'm glad that Fox Searchlight did what they could to bring this into the game (as for "Margaret," such wonders were not pulled off). If this film fails to win an award out of these three, I'll be very, very disappointed - Cinematography at least is a must. I doubt it'll take the gold, but who knows. I'm not sure if the film editing Oscar prediction still works (i.e. that a film must be nominated in that category to win big), but I'm hoping that it doesn't. This is a truly terrific film that deserves only the best.
George Clooney, The Descendants - Best Actor
My favorite male performance of the year, along with one that was unfortunately snubbed (I'll get to that later on), was given by this man, who almost made "The Descendants" into a worthy film. No other performer drew me in quite as much. He got off to a rocky start, but from a certain point onwards, I was hanging on his every emotion. I have yet to see Demian Bichir in "A Better Life," but I feel fairly confident in championing Clooney over the rest of the field (though I do like Jean Dujardin very much as well).
Christopher Plummer, Beginners - Best Supporting Actor
An Oscar-y performance, to be sure, but a devastating, human one that also fits in room for sweetness. People may criticize the McGregor/Laurent section (unjustly, in my view) but most are warm to Plummer's extraordinary work. If he wins, it'll be a great moment for someone so deserving.
Berenice Bejo, The Artist - Best Supporting Actress
As lukewarm as I am on the spectacularly overhyped film she's in, I must say that Bejo gives quite the charismatic supporting performance. She provides, along with Dujardin, the spark to keep the film from being insufferable. Quite a task, pulled off nicely; it's not her fault that the movie doesn't reach heights.
Asghar Farhadi, A Separation - Best Screenplay
So the campaign for Farhadi to get some writing honors did work. I've been underplaying this movie since I saw it at the New York Film Festival, with extremely high expectations that weren't exactly met (as it is a brilliantly-acted yet flawed piece). However, the punching quality of the dialogue provided much of what I liked about "A Separation" as a whole. I wasn't nearly as moved by "Midnight in Paris" or "The Artist," and I expect the same for "Margin Call" and "Bridesmaids."
FOOTNOTE - Best Foreign Film
Don't think we have to worry about "A Separation" losing to fellow SPC slate-mate "Footnote," but I'd be oh so happy if that were the case. Apparently the supposed lack of stakes got to some people, who've deemed it "forgettable" and "insignificant," but I found the film's ideological pull too strong to dismiss.
PINA - Best Documentary
The best use of 3-d I've seen yet. Not sure if "Pina" is a great "documentary" per se, but it's an excellent film experience, and I'd be glad to see it recognized in any category.
Michael Fassbender, Shame - Best Actor
Oscar chickened out at the last second on possibly the strongest performance of the year. I've felt less confident about it watching out-of-context trailer clips, but, boy, when I saw it at Telluride, I was blown aback. Far superior to Gary Oldman's work in "Tinker Tailor," and better also than Brad Pitt's in "Moneyball." I wonder if a Steve McQueen film will ever receive an Oscar nomination. I wonder if an NC-17 film will ever receive another Oscar nomination. A nod for Carey Mulligan or Nicole Beharie would have been nice as well.
Shailene Woodley, The Descendants - Best Supporting Actress
I care a little bit less about this than other snubs; however, Woodley is better than everyone in her category except perhaps Bejo. A second power supply for "The Descendants."
THE TURIN HORSE - Best Foreign Film
Better than every nominee in its category. Better than almost every best picture nominee. Of course, it couldn't get nominated, though. It's too rough.