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Film Feature: HollywoodChicago.com Picks the 2012 Oscar Winners

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CHICAGO – Content Director Brian Tallerico and Staff Writers Matt Fagerholm, Tim Martens and Patrick McDonald have merged their movie-loving minds and come up with the ultimate Oscar preview.

Win your office pool, impress your friends, and propose a toast to the nominees that should have been when The 84th Annual Academy Awards are broadcast on Sunday, February 26th, 2012 at 7pm CST. And be sure to use the in-feature links to see our coverage of all the nominees.

BEST PICTURE

The Artist
The Artist
Photo credit: The Weinstein Company

The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Help
Hugo
Midnight in Paris
Moneyball
The Tree of Life
War Horse

HC PREDICTIONS:
WILL WIN: “The Artist”
SHOULD WIN: “The Tree of Life”
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: “Drive”/”Melancholia”

Another year, another Weinstein dominance. Just as he did last year with “The King’s Speech,” the consensus is that Harvey and company will campaign Michel Hazanavicius’ “The Artist” to five-to-seven Oscars, including Best Picture. All four of the HC experts predict that first silent, full-frame movie in generations will win the big prize on Oscar evening. Wouldn’t it be nice if none of us agreed and we could fight it out death match style? Ah well. We’ll have to look for other categories for that kind of fun.

As Tim says, “While “Hugo” has tried to make a run at the top prize (and received the most nominations) and “The Descendants” is still a possibility, “The Artist” has rolled through award season with wins everywhere.” Matt’s a little harsh on the unanimous prediction- — ““The Artist” succeeds as an endearing, ingenious homage to the silent era that leaves the viewer feeling like a million bucks. Yet there’s little substance beneath its clever style and deliberately derivative plot line.”

As for what should win, there’s a lot of consensus there as well as three out of four think that Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” would be the best Oscar surprise of all. It’s a film that “brings awe-inspiring dimensions to even the most mundane of imagery,” according to Matt. Patrick goes with the Academy but gives a nod to Malick’s opus, saying, “Even though I thought “Tree of Life” was a more important and finely distinctive 2011 film, “The Artist” celebrates the joy of movies, the sheer pleasure of both film’s enduring history and the entertainment it has given us.”

What should have made the cut? Both Patrick and Matt show some love for Lars Von Trier’s striking “Melancholia” while Brian and Tim pick Nicolas Winding Refn’s amazing “Drive.” Tim takes it a step further, refusing to pick just one — “Maybe it is traditional to talk about one film that should have been nominated that wasn’t, but “Drive” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “Martha Marcy May Marlene” were not only better than “The Help” “War Horse” and “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” I feel all three will be remembered and enjoyed far longer than those nominees. The fact is “Drive” “Girl” and “Martha” all took major risks and should be rewarded for that, instead of the other three films that played it safe, toyed with my emotions, and left me feeling empty on nomination morning.”

BEST ACTOR

Jean Dujardin in The Artist
Jean Dujardin in The Artist
Photo credit: The Weinstein Company

Demian Bichir, “A Better Life
George Clooney, “The Descendants”
Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
Gary Oldman, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt, “Moneyball”

WILL WIN: Jean Dujardin
SHOULD WIN: (tie) Jean Dujardin & George Clooney
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: (tie) Michael Fassbender & Michael Shannon

For a few weeks late in the year, it felt like there was a race here but all four experts at HollywoodChicago.com think that the super-charming Jean Dujardin will take the prize on a wave of support for “The Artist.” Perhaps if either of the two gentlemen that HollywoodChicago.com should have been nominated had been given what they deserved, this category would be a little more competitive.

Patrick and Tim think that Michael Fassbender’s fearless performance in “Shame” should have made the short list while Brian and Matt look to another “Michael” in Chicagoan Michael Shannon’s incredible turn in “Take Shelter.” (At least the Chicago Film Critics Association not only nominated Mr. Shannon but gave him the prize for Best Actor). Although everyone agrees that this category was CROWDED. As Tim says, anyone being left out isn’t as much of a snub, “but rather an unfortunate exclusion due to a number of other great performances.”

But back to the elite few. It may be a silent cake walk for Dujardin but there’s not full agreement that he’s the most deserving. While Tim and Patrick are happy with this win, Brian and Matt hope for a George Clooney upset for a performance that Tallerico considers the best of his career. As Matt says, “It’s the actor’s most immersive portrayal since “Syriana” (which garnered him a Supporting Actor Oscar), and the most emotionally vulnerable of his career. Like Brad Pitt, Clooney is not taking his star status for granted these days, and has chosen one challenging role after another. As a father struggling to reconnect with his daughters while discovering the reasons behind his comatose wife’s infidelity, Clooney is very funny and tremendously moving, often within the same take.”

BEST ACTRESS

Viola Davis in The Help
Viola Davis in The Help
Photo credit: Disney

Glenn Close, “Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis, “The Help”
Rooney Mara, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams, “My Week with Marilyn

WILL WIN: Viola Davis
SHOULD WIN: Rooney Mara
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Elizabeth Olsen

Once again, unity reigns in the “Will Win” department as we have all given into the likelihood that Viola Davis will win an Oscar for the huge hit “The Help” (something Brian would like to point out that he’s been saying for months, even as Michelle Williams and Meryl Streep looked like possibilities at different points).

Matt and Brian give the “should win” edge to one of the most startling performances of the year, the incredible turn by Rooney Mara in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” As Matt says, “The most fully realized performance of the five nominees belongs to the captivating Rooney Mara, who commanded the screen as one of modern literature’s most iconic and enigmatic heroines. She delved into her character’s volatile rage, animalistic sexuality and startling tenderness with a boldness that places her in the top rank of her generation.” For the record, Tim thinks that the Academy will make the right choice with Ms. Davis (and Brian and Matt will be happier about it than any of the other three predicted acting winners) but Pat hopes for a Williams upset. The CFCA winner for Best Actress is easily one of the best of her generation. Win or lose, she’ll be back in this category soon.

As for who should have been nominated — where do we begin? Tim and Brian are in agreement, giving the edge to Elizabeth Olsen’s incredible work in “Martha Marcy May Marlene.” As Tim says, “She will no doubt be someone to keep our eye on in the coming years.” Brian’s #2 choice for a snub in this category is Patrick’s #1 as he notes, “Kirsten Dunst handled incredibly difficult states of being with true, raw exposure (pun intended) and was robbed.” Finally, Matt looks to the early part of the year and one of its best debuts, saying, “The mixture of confusion and anger that [Liana] Liberato projects [in “Trust”] is entirely authentic, and her cathartic breakdown in a therapist’s office is absolutely shattering. This is a lead performance in every sense of the word, and the only one this year that actually made me cry. ”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Christopher Plummer in Beginners
Christopher Plummer in Beginners
Photo credit: Focus

Kenneth Branagh, “My Week with Marilyn”
Jonah Hill, “Moneyball”
Nick Nolte, “Warrior
Christopher Plummer, “Beginners
Max Von Sydow, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”

WILL WIN: Christopher Plummer
SHOULD WIN: Nick Nolte
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Albert Brooks

Boy, it really is an incredibly boring year, isn’t it? ONCE AGAIN, all four of us see no chance for a surprise here as living legend Christopher Plummer takes home his first Oscar for one of his least-challenging roles (in Brian’s opinion). And, once again, none of us think that Plummer should be the one to win, even if we all love the man and his remarkable career.

Matt and Brian would give the trophy to another legend who has never given an Oscar acceptance speech — Nick Nolte for his comeback work in “Warrior.” Matt says, “The scenes between Nolte and Tom Hardy (as his hothead son) are so brutally raw that they’re occasionally difficult to watch, which is a sure sign of top-drawer acting.” Patrick shows his love for “My Week with Marilyn” again, giving the edge to Kenneth Branagh’s turn as Sir Laurence Olivier.

Tim refuses to play by the rules, giving the “Should Win” trophy to a man not even nominated — Albert Brooks. While Brian agrees that the “Drive” snubs in many categories will be looked at as yet-another Academy crime against film history, Matt and Patrick have less-expected choices — Mr. McDonald cites Paul Bettany’s stellar work in the ensemble piece “Margin Call” while Mr. Fagerholm praises Alan Rickman, “who delivered a decade of marvelous performances as malevolent professor Severus Snape in the “Harry Potter” film series. His syllable-twisting line delivery and hypnotic scenery-chewing were among the top reasons why fans kept coming back for more. In “Deathly Hallows Part 2,” Rickman had the formidable task of portraying the most talked-about plot twist of the entire saga. If he couldn’t pull it off, the film would’ve surely crumbled. Thankfully, Rickman exceeded all expectations, delivering a final performance of startlingly emotional power. He is the true magic of this franchise.”

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