By: Jarred Braxton and Stacey Axler
The 84th Academy Awards ceremony is less than a month away and the film industry’s finest are excited to celebrate another remarkable year in moviemaking.
A broad collection of films ranging from the visually gorgeous to a sharply designed but silent film has taken the attention of the best of the movie business. Comedian Billy Crystal is returning to host the festivities and honor the finest film achievements of 2011.
The curiosity of who will win what is rich with debate and wonder. But for the moment, Stacey and Jarred will take a moment to throw their hats into the fire and debate who will win the acting categories as well as Best Director and Best Picture. The projected winner is the nominee with the most momentum going into the Oscars.
The nominees for Best Actress in a Supporting Role are:
•Berenice Bejo, “The Artist”
•Jessica Chastain, “The Help”
•Melissa McCarthy, “Bridesmaids”
•Janet McTeer, “Albert Nobbs”
•Octavia Spencer, “The Help”
Projected winner: Octavia Spencer, “The Help”
Stacey’s Pick: Octavia Spencer, “The Help”: Without a doubt, one of the most enjoyable characters on the silver screen for 2011 was Octavia Spencer’s portrayal of Minnie Jackson in “The Help.” Spunky, feisty, and full of tough love and energy, Spencer’s characterization of Minnie provides both comic relief and emotional integrity, which definitely complements the film as a whole. Spencer easily lit up the screen in every scene she was in, and as a result, deserves the Oscar.
Jarred’s Pick: Octavia Spencer, “The Help”: Spencer’s performance as the spunky and strong-willed housemaid Minny was absolutely awesome in Tate Taylor’s period piece. Spencer has been the favorite and frontrunner in the category before the nominations were out and she deserved every accolade possible for her astounding role.
The nominees for Best Actor in a Supporting Role are:
•Kenneth Branagh, “My Week With Marilyn”
•Jonah Hill, “Moneyball”
•Nick Nolte, “Warrior”
•Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”
•Max von Sydow, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”
Projected winner: Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”
Stacey’s Pick: Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”: Christopher Plummer definitely deserves the Oscar for his portrayal of Hal, a father dying of terminal cancer in the film “Beginners.” Plummer portrays his character as both poignant and amusing, and that is often a fine line to tread in any film. In the movie, Hal comes out of the closet after his wifeGeorgiadies, and embarks in a relationship with a much younger man named Andy. Plummer aptly portrays an dying man’s renewed love of life and the appreciation of the little time people have on Earth.
Jarred’s Pick: Nick Nolte, “Warrior”: Nolte’s depth and conviction in the highly underrated “Warrior” won me over instantly. His role as a recovering alcoholic deadbeat dad to two MMA fighters was incredibly wrenching and moving and he is my favorite to win this category.
The nominees for Best Actress in a Leading Role are:
•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”
Projected winner: Viola Davis, “The Help” / Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”
Stacey’s Pick: Rooney Mara, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”: If anyone has spoken to me directly since winter break, I’m sure I have managed to talk about how much I loved Rooney Mara in “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.” Having only seen Mara in an episode of “Law and Order” and in a small role in “The Social Network” (2010), I was a little skeptical at first that Mara could portray the character Lisbeth Salander in the film—an antisocial computer hacker who can destroy anyone who crosses her path. Mara makes her character both shockingly vicious and extremely likeable—when I saw the film, people in the audience were literally cheering when Salander enacts her brutal revenge on her sadistic counselor. Mara overshadowed fellow lead in the film Daniel Craig, and she definitely stands out from the other Oscar contendors for Best Actress. The award will probably go to Meryl Streep for her role in “The Iron Lady,” but Mara deserves the accolade for her masterful characterization work.
Jarred’s Pick: Viola Davis, “The Help”: Davis’ Aibileen was the rock that held the characters together in “The Help” and Davis was entirely sublime in the role of this amazing and strong woman who was the first to take a chance in a climate that wasn’t exactly ready for change. Her performance was the best of the year in my book.
The nominees for Best Actor in a Leading Role are:
•Demian Bichir, “A Better Life”
•George Clooney, “The Descendants”
•Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
•Gary Oldman, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
•Brad Pitt, “Moneyball”
Projected winner: George Clooney, “The Descendants”
Stacey’s Pick: Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”: In my opinion, it is very hard to look at any actor in the film industry today and call that actor a leading man. Dujardin shows that he is a true leading man throughout the film. He has the whole package: he is suave, handsome, charming and expressive throughout his nearly 100 minutes of screen time. With only one word of spoken dialogue, Dujardin captivates the audience from start to finish.
Jarred’s Pick: George Clooney, “The Descendants”: Clooney was entirely down to earth in “The Descendants” as a man who is trying to keep everything together when the world looks like it is falling apart. He plays Matt King, a man who is torn between endless personally ethical dilemmas. Clooney just wouldn’t stop tugging at the heartstrings of the audience and he should be the favorite for Best Actor.
The nominees for Best Directing are:
•Woody Allen, “Midnight inParis”
•Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
•Terrence Malick, “The Tree of Life”
•Alexander Payne, “The Descendants”
•Martin Scorsese, “Hugo”
Projected winner: Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
Stacey’s Pick: Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”: Michel Hazanavicius is, hands down, the best director for any film that released in 2011. Every single executive choice he made for the film in terms of cinematography, editing, character work, meshed together to create one of the best films I have ever seen. “The Artist” was both timeless, but also new and refreshing—a tribute to oldHollywoodbut a window in the film industry of today, and element that really made the film stand out. This is the first Hazanavicius film I have ever viewed, and I sincerely hope to see more of this wonderful director in the future.
Jarred’s Pick: Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”: “The Artist” is Hazanavicius’ gorgeous love letter to the era of silent cinema and his masterpiece proves that a film without words and color can still deliver a knockout blow to the hearts and minds of the modern day moviegoer. Hazanavicius came out of nowhere and is on the verge of taking home an Academy Award for a first class job on his artistic silent film.
The nine films nominated for Best Picture are:
•“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”
•“The Tree of Life”
Projected winner: “The Artist”
Stacey’s Pick: “The Artist”: When I heard a few months ago that a silent, black and white film was coming out in theatres, I thought “well, that’s interesting…” My dismissive attitude towards the film quickly ebbed away when I actually watched the film. While silent and black and white, the film pays homage to the era of cinema (the silent movies) that slowly lost footing after the invention and rise in popularity of “talking movies.” The storyline is extremely lucid, easy to follow, and poignant—as it follows a silent film star’s descent from popularity and fame into a broken shadow of his former leading man persona. With great characters, a captivating plot, wonderful visual effects, and a great soundtrack, “The Artist” as a whole is the best film of the past year and deserves this recognition.
Jarred’s Pick: “The Artist”: The last time a silent film in black and white won Best Picture at the Academy Awards was in 1928 for “Wings,” and that was also the first Academy Award winner for Best Picture. 84 years later, I predict history to be made and to repeat itself because “The Artist” looks primed to take the movie industry’s biggest honor as it has taken the industry and the audience everywhere by storm.
The 84th Academy Awards are on Sunday, Feb. 26 at 8 p.m. on ABC.