The best films of 2011 will be honored this weekend at the 84th Annual Academy Awards.
Leading the pack of 61 nominated films with 11 nominations is "Hugo," Martin Scorcese’s first children’s film. Coming in at a close second is the French silent, black-and-white "The Artist," with 10 nominations. Last year, "The King’s Speech" took home the top prize of Best Picture as well as Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Screenplay, almost taking home the Oscar “Big Five” (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Screenplay).
Who will go home with these coveted awards this year?
Best Original Screenplay: "The Artist’s" story is refreshing, and writing an almost entirely silent screenplay is challenging. Michel Hazanavicius deserves the Oscar, but so does the master of screenwriting, Woody Allen, for the smart and comical "Midnight in Paris." Allen is an Academy favorite, with three Oscars already under his belt. And "Midnight in Paris" has become the highest grossing of his films. Expect Woody Allen to be awarded his fourth Oscar, but don’t be surprised if Hazanavicius edges him out.
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Oscar could easily go to Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash, writers of "The Descendants," adapted from the novel of the same name. "The Descendants" has been an Oscar favorite since its release and the writers have already won the coveted Writers Guild Award. However, the Oscar could also go to "Moneyball," written by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, with a story by Stan Chervin. However, Aaron Sorkin won last year’s Adapted Screenplay Oscar, so Payne and company could have the edge.
Best Supporting Actress: No question here – first-time Oscar nominee Octavia Spencer of "The Help" will go home with the Oscar for her powerful yet comedic performance as Minnie, an African American maid during the Civil Rights era.
Best Supporting Actor: Again, no question here – veteran Christopher Plummer of "Beginners" will go home with his first Oscar for his performance as Hal, who, in his elderly age, is dying and has just come out to his son.
Best Actress: This is probably the most talked about category this year, with such a powerful group of performances. It will be difficult to award just one Oscar, but Rhode Island native Viola Davis is the front-runner for her emotionally hard-hitting performance in "The Help." Veterans Glenn Close and Meryl Streep delivered powerhouse performances, as did Michelle Williams, but none so powerful as newcomer Rooney Mara in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." It is very close this year. Davis will most likely get the nod, but don’t be surprised if Meryl Streep gets it, or even Rooney Mara.
Best Actor: George Clooney of "The Descendants" was the front-runner for a long time, but then French newcomer Jean Dujardin of "The Artist" won both the Golden Globe and the Screen Actors Guild Award. "The Descendants" in general has lost a lot of steam going into the final stretch, while "The Artist" is gaining popularity. Dujardin has the edge, but there is the possibility that Clooney could win.
Best Director/Best Picture: Usually, these two awards go hand-in-hand. This year, they most likely will, going to Michel Hazanivicius and "The Artist." Hollywood is stuck right now in the era of sequels and franchises. Originality and creativity is lacking. With "The Artist," Hazanivicius not only gave the cinematic world an original and creative story, but he went back in time, paying homage to Hollywood’s great silent era. "The Artist" is an achievement in every aspect of cinema, well deserving of the Academy Award for Best Picture.
The 84th Annual Academy Awards airs this Sunday, Feb. 26 on ABC at 7 p.m. Veteran host Billy Crystal returns, hosting the Oscars for the ninth time.