His wit is obviously still as sharp as the blades he wielded in the unlikely role of a scary mob boss in “Drive,” not dulled by this devastating disappointment.
But Brooks was not the only one unjustly snubbed in the 84th Oscar race. What of Tilda Swinton’s implosive portrait of a mother burdened with a profoundly bad boy in “We Need to Talk About Kevin”? Or Michael Shannon’s heart-shredding turn as a man imagining the approach of an apocalyptic storm that’s going to destroy everything he loves in the little-seen drama “Take Shelter”?
We might also question the exclusion of Shailene Woodley’s wise-beyond-her-years teen daughter in “The Descendants” and Michael Fassbender’s tortured sex addict in “Shame.”
We could go on, but there are some worthy contenders this year, so here’s how I’m calling the winners of Sunday night’s Hollywood showdown.
“Drive” should be parked at the top of this category, but Nicolas Winding Refn’s noirish crime-thriller-with-a-soul was apparently dismissed by Academy voters as just another ultraviolent, car-crashing guy movie. Most members were feeling sentimental this year, so the nominated nine include the maudlin “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” the epic family fare of “War Horse,” and two sweet love letters to the movies themselves, “The Artist” and “Hugo,” which were bound to get love in return (10 noms for the former, 11 for the latter).
There are deserving films of emotional and topical weight, such as “The Help,” about black housemaids and the white women who employed them in the early ’60s South, and “The Descendants,” a comedy-drama about a Hawaiian land owner coping with family crisis. But the heartstring-plucking “The Artist” has the added novelty of being silent and in black-and-white, which seems to be capturing the affections of the Oscar gods.
Should win: “The Descendants.”
Will win: “The Artist.”
¿Quien es Mas Macho? George Clooney o Brad Pitt? It might not make much difference, because while the two “Ocean’s 11” buddies are duking it out for the Best Actor trophy, Jean Dujardin just might silently steal away with the prize for the ability he displayed in “The Artist” to speak volumes with his soulful eyes and eloquent gestures, without uttering a sound. Gary Oldman’s perfectly-pitched stillness as a cunning but desperately lonely spymaster was gold-worthy in “Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy,” and Pitt hit a homer in the sports drama “Moneyball.” But Clooney has never locked into the humanity of a character with more depth and sensitivity than he displayed as a Hawaiian landowner with serious family issues in “The Descendants.”
Should and will win: George Clooney.
Glenn Close just wasn’t believable as a man in “Albert Nobbs,” but Rooney Mara was supremely convincing as a female street tough in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” Meryl Streep
delivered a dead-on feature-length impression of Margaret “The Iron Lady” Thatcher and Michelle Williams did much the same portraying Marilyn Monroe in “My Week with Marilyn.” But “The Help” glowed with the gravity and grace of Viola Davis’ African-American housemaid suffering the humiliations inflicted by white Mississippi housewives in the early 1960s. She won a lot of hearts, including those of many Academy voters, no doubt.
Should and will win: Viola Davis.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Even more amazing than funnyman Albert Brooks’ against-type turn as a murderous menace in “Drive” is the fact that he’s not among these nominees. That’s a criminal oversight. The five contenders who did make the cut certainly gave noteworthy performances, particularly Kenneth Branagh playing his personal idol Laurence Olivier in “My Week with Marilyn,” and Jonah Hill as the nerdy baseball recruiting consultant in “Moneyball.” Nick Nolte always looks good playing his rough-edged, weather-
beaten self and Max von Sydow was yet another silent wonder as a mute in “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” but with Brooks unjustly absent from the picture, Christopher Plummer is the outstanding competitor here, having already won several honors for his widower who comes out of the closet at age 75 in “Beginners.”
Should and will win: Christopher Plummer.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Academy voters gave a rare nod of respect to a comedic performance for Melissa McCarthy’s fat-joke-sensitive member of the wedding in “Bridesmaids,” Berenice Bejo managed to say it all with her bright eyes and dazzling smile in the silence of “The Artist” and Janet McTeer was the single saving grace of “Albert Nobbs.” Even more remarkable was seeing Jessica Chastain prove her versatility yet again in “The Help,” her fifth movie in a banner year that included memorable turns in “Take Shelter,” “The Debt,” “The Tree of Life” and “Coriolanus.” But Octavia Spencer has already proven to be an awards magnet for her angry African-American maid with a wicked sense of vengeance in “The Help,” and she’s about to add another trophy to her mantle.
Should win: Jessica Chastain.
Will win: Octavia Spencer.
I’m going to go with the way things ought to be. The director of the year’s Best Picture should win for helming that picture. Of course it often doesn’t happen that way, which is one of
the great mysteries about how the minds of Academy members work. But the new kid on the block, Michel Hazanavicius, has already taken top honors at the Directors Guild Awards, which bodes pretty well for a directing Oscar win for “The Artist,” his black-and-white valentine to America’s silent era, although “Hugo,” Martin Scorsese’s fanciful, family-oriented 3-D billet-doux to early French cinema, has the veteran craftsman running a very close second.
Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” was an imaginative but lightweight adult fairy tale, Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life” was an artful meditation on existence and mortality that meandered between powerful and plodding. In “The Descendants,” Alexander Payne brought out the best in George Clooney while painting a painfully funny and moving portrait of a shattered family slowly beginning to pull itself together again. But Hazanavicius has it.
Should win: Alexander Payne.
Will win: Michel Hazanavicius.
Quick guesses in other categories:
Best original screenplay
Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris.”
Best adapted screenplay
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Payne, “The Descendants.”
Best animated feature
Best documentary feature
“Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory.”