See my picks for the remaining categories along with analysis, here.
Movies are an art, not a science. And yet The Academy, save for a few eye rolling hiccups each year, operates like clockwork. Predicting the winners at the Oscars is as simple as playing the horses at the track, so here’s your betting form for the big race on Sunday night.
The Artist: 80%
I was once in the camp that a silent film, no matter how good, could never win Best Picture in 2012. But now my odds hardly reflect how one-sided this race has become. Even though it’s a French film, “The Artist” is universal. It’s a crowd-pleaser, a star-maker, and the only Best Picture nominee filmed in Los Angeles. From the Golden Globe to the Director’s Guild to the surprising BAFTA win, the question is not if “The Artist” will win but how many Oscars it will win.
Actually trumping “The Artist” in nominations and taking its cinematic nostalgia trip one step further, “Hugo” and a sweep of technical awards may propel this film to a Best Picture win.
The Descendants: 7%
Be it “The Social Network” or “Up in the Air,” critics and Academy voters respond to the 21st Century darling of the year, and Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants” is that film.
Midnight in Paris: 1.5%
The Help: 1%
The Tree of Life: 1%
War Horse: .5%
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: .25%
To address the remaining nominees, I don’t want to say they don’t stand a chance, but who am I kidding? If you had five nominees this year, your contenders outside of the top three would be “Midnight in Paris” and “The Help,” maybe “Moneyball.” So that says something for their chances. The other completely outside chance would be “The Tree of Life,” an important film that a number of critics have made a case for to win the Oscar based on how significant such a victory would seem in terms of cinema history. I don’t want to make any sort of case for “Extremely Loud,” but being here was its first big surprise, and winning could be its second.
Jean Dujardin: 45%
Jean Dujardin proved in “The Artist” he had as much natural screen presence as any movie star, and his recent media blitz (see him dancing in black and white on SNL) has proved he has all the charm and charisma of a French George Clooney. And did you see him accepting the Golden Globe with Uggie the dog? Boy, do I want to see that again!
George Clooney: 40%
Clooney’s performance in “The Descendants” is his most human, his most fragile and his best. He’s got an Oscar, but not for Lead Actor, and the Academy loves him.
Brad Pitt: 10%
Brad Pitt too has been making the media rounds for his portrayal of Billy Beane in “Moneyball.” There’s the thought that he should also be nominated for Best Supporting Actor for “The Tree of Life,” and that alone would earn him the right to an Oscar. He’s also gotta be the most famous actor on the planet who’s never won.
Gary Oldman: 2.5%
Demian Bichir: 2.5%
Viola Davis: 60%
Viola Davis went toe to toe with Meryl Streep once before in “Doubt,” and since then she’s proved to the world she’s an actress who has been working hard for a big break for a long time. She’s also the best part of “The Help.”
Meryl Streep: 30%
Despite the awfulness of “The Iron Lady,” the Academy knows Streep is as much of an iron lady as Maggie Thatcher, and her wins for the Globe and BAFTA have made this a race. Year after year we say, “Is she really going to win her third Oscar for this of all things?” Yes, maybe.
Michelle Williams: 8%
Michelle Williams is in my book an actress who deserves an Oscar, and in spirit, part of this celebration of the movies would go to her character, Marilyn Monroe.
Glenn Close: 1%
Rooney Mara: 1%
Best Supporting Actor
Christopher Plummer: 90%
If Christopher Plummer wins for Best Supporting Actor, he’ll be the oldest Oscar winner of all time at 82. His touching, soul-searching performance in “Beginners” reflects the talents of an elderly actor finding himself at the top of his game.
Max von Sydow: 5%
Plummer isn’t the only potential record-setter. Max von Sydow, also at 82 and another treasured actor of old, is the heart of “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” If he wins, it won’t have been “Extremely Loud’s” only surprise.
Kenneth Branagh: 4%
Jonah Hill: .5%
Nick Nolte: .5%
Best Supporting Actress
Octavia Spencer: 75%
Like her co-star Davis, Octavia Spencer is a veteran actress finally making herself known in a big way. Her character in “The Help” gives the film a large dosing of spunk, and she’s swept most of the awards in her wake, including the important SAG award.
Berenice Bejo: 15%
If “The Artist” goes on a roll, Berenice Bejo could be a surprise winner Sunday evening. Like her character Peppy Miller, Bejo is born to be a star.
Jessica Chastain: 5%
Jessica Chastain was in nine movies in 2011. An award for her would really recognize all her great work. Too bad she’s nominated for “The Help.”
Melissa McCarthy: 4%
Could Melissa McCarthy be this year’s Marisa Tomei? Tomei didn’t flirt with a nerdy air marshal or have diarrhea in a sink, but stranger things have happened.
Janet McTeer: 1%
Michel Hazanavicius: 80%
History has it that the winner of the Director’s Guild Award always ends up winning the Oscar as well. Hazanaivicius’s film expresses a brave directorial vision to channel his love for film in an unconventional manner, and this will just be one of “The Artist’s” many victories.
Martin Scorsese: 10%
If Martin Scorsese is the surprise winner Sunday night, it’s for many of the same reasons Hazanavicius would win, but more importantly because he is, after all, Martin Scorsese.
Alexander Payne: 5%
Would letting him win Best Director be an apology for him not winning Best Director for “Sideways?” I doubt it.
Woody Allen: 2.5%
Terrence Malick: 2.5%
It isn’t often that there’s a category where not one, but two of the nominees will be complete no-shows. Whether the reclusive Malick or the indifferent Allen actually has a shot is not something I’m going to lose sleep over.
So for those of you keeping score at home after following my picks I made yesterday in all the smaller categories, I’ve got five Oscars going to “The Artist,” including Best Picture, and another five going to “Hugo,” all those in technical categories. “The Help” will get two for acting, and the rest will be spread out. If you’ve got other picks, let me know what and why in the comments.