By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com February 24, 2012 at 3:49PM
We've written, by vague estimates, something close to 80,000 words on the Academy Awards in the last six months. That's novel-length. And in two days time, it'll all be done, with the ceremony finally taking place at the no-longer-Kodak Theater at around 5pm PST.
As such, we're not going to bother you too much with small talk: below, you'll find my final predictions for who's going to win on Sunday night. Tomorrow, the Playlist's boss man will weigh in with his own picks. And on Sunday, we'll be live-blogging the ceremony and winners, before final analysis comes in on Monday morning. Have a good Oscar weekend, boys and girls.
Best Documentary Short
"The Barber Of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement"
"God Is The Bigger Elvis"
"Incident In New Baghdad"
"The Tsunami & The Cherry Blossom"
Unclear on what's what here? Well, we've got Robin Fryday's "The Barber of Birmingham," about the elderly former civil rights activist of the title; "God Is The Bigger Elvis" by Rebecca Cammisa, about a movie-star (and Academy member) who became a monk; James Spione's "Incident in New Baghdad" about the killing of unarmed civilians by a U.S. army helicopter in 2007; "Saving Face" by Daniel Junge about Pakistani women who've been subject to acid attacks; and "The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom" from last year's feature documentary nominee Lucy Walker ("Waste Land") focusing on the terrible Japanese tsunami of last year. That film seems like the probable winner, but the excellent "Saving Face" or "Incident in New Baghdad" might well end up taking it as well.
Prediction: "The Tsunami And The Cherry Blossom"
"The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr. Morris Lessmore"
"A Morning Stroll"
As ever, this category sees a mix of relatively new talent and, well, Pixar. There's the charming, but lightweight Canadian hand-drawn animation "Dimanche" from debut director Patrick Doyon; wistful CGI animation "The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr. Morris Lessmore" from children's author William Joyce (the upcoming "Rise of the Guardians"), which feels very much in step with "Hugo"; New Yorker adaptation "A Morning Stroll" by Grant Orchard, which has a highly individual look and nods from Sundance and BAFTA; the near-experimental Canadian film "Wild Life" from Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby (who were nominated before) and Pixar's outstanding "La Luna," perhaps the company's best short to date. With Pixar absent for the feature prize, we think this could be their year in the shorts, but there's a certain bias against them, so don't be surprised if one of the others (most likely Morris Lessmore) takes it instead.
Prediction: "The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr. Morris Lessmore"
Best Live-Action Short
Unusually, there's two films from relatively established names in the category this year, both coincidentally from Ireland: "Hotel Rwanda" director Terry George, whose "The Shore" stars Ciaran Hinds as an Irishman returning home, and is rather pat and sentimental, and "Pentecost," from actor Peter McDonald, which is sweet enough, but inconsequential. Max Zähle's India-set "Raju" is more serious fare, although it's the kind of film that feels like a feature pushed into short length, which may hurt it. The Norwegian "Tuba Atlantic" is far more impressive, a dark comedy that displays real skills from director Hallvar Witzø. But, if the award goes the way it has in recent years, it's the crowd-pleasing U.S. short film that'll win out, in this case Andrew Bowler's "Time Freak," an entertaining sci-fi comedy that feels a little short, but should win over voters.
Prediction: "Time Freak"
"Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Pt. 2"
"Rise of the Planet of the Apes"
"Transformers: The Dark of the Moon"
This one's a little tricky to call. "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" has the most impressive work, certainly, but the motion-capture debate still divides voters, and in the last three years, it's always been the Best Picture nominee in the category that's won out -- "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Avatar" and "Inception" -- showing that sometimes, voters will just tick the film they feel is the most prestigious. That being said, it was blockbusters for the four years before that, so we're going to stick with WETA's monkeys.
Prediction: "Rise of the Planet of the Apes"
Best Sound Editing
"The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo""
"Transformers: The Dark Of The Moon"
Best Sound Mixing
"The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"
"Transformers: The Dark of The Moon"
Academy voters (who are predominately actors) know about as much about the intricacies of sound design as you or I do, and so voters tend to either pick the film they like the most, or for a noisy action movie that's fairly respectable (see recent wins for "The Bourne Supremacy," "The Dark Knight," "The Hurt Locker" and "Inception"). Not a lot here ticks every box, so we're going to assume that the general technical love for "Hugo" carries through here.
Prediction: "Hugo" (for both)
"Man Or Muppet" - "The Muppets"
"Real In Rio" - "Rio"
As we've discussed before, we don't care much most years, and we care even less considering what a dog's dinner this category is this time around. "Man or Muppet" is most likely, but it's possible that "Rio" sneaks in instead.
Prediction: "Man Or Muppet" - The Muppets
Ludovic Bource - "The Artist"
Alberto Iglesias - "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
Howard Shore - "Hugo"
John Williams - "The Adventures Of Tintin"
John Williams - "War Horse"
Williams cancels himself out with the double nomination (and, while he can't have that many scores left in him, they're bound to have another opportunity with "Lincoln" next year), so this is really, as with most below-the-line categories, between "The Artist" and "Hugo," and we're 98% certain that Ludovic Bource will win here.
Prediction: Ludovic Bource - "The Artist"
"Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Pt. 2"
"The Iron Lady"
Another rather thin category, but "The Iron Lady" is the showiest here, thanks to the old age work, which always proves popular.
Prediction: "The Iron Lady"
Best Art Direction
Laurence Bennett, Robert Gould - "The Artist"
Stuart Craig, Stephenie McMillan - "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2"
Dante Ferretti, Francesca Lo Schiavo - "Hugo"
"Midnight In Paris"
Rick Carter, Lee Sandales - "War Horse"
If "Hugo" wins a single award this year, it's this one: the film's magnificent real-life sets are the kind of thing the category thrives on, so it's got it in the bag -- while the work on "The Artist" is strong, it doesn't wow in the same way. If the silent film does win here, it means it's winning everything.
Prediction: Dante Ferretti, Francesca Lo Schiavo - "Hugo"
Lisy Christl - "Anonymous"
Mark Bridges - "The Artist"
Sandy Powell - "Hugo"
Michael O'Connor - "Jane Eyre"
Arianne Philips - "W.E."
More often than not, costume goes hand in hand with art direction, but whereas the production design is fairly locked down, virtually anything (yes, even "W.E.") is a viable winner here. Ultimately, we suspect it's going down to "Hugo" and "The Artist," and ultimately, we're going to go for the Scorsese movie, if only because a friend of ours worked in the wardrobe department on the movie, so we feel loyalty demands it.
Prediction: Sandy Powell - "Hugo"
Anne-Sophie Bion & Michel Hazavanicius - "The Artist"
Kevin Tent - "The Descendants"
Kirk Baxter & Angus Wall - "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"
Thelma Schoonmaker - "Hugo"
Christopher Tellefsen - "Moneyball"
On merit, this would be between 'Dragon Tattoo' and "Moneyball," but despite their problems (respectively, a rather more modern style than the films it's paying homage too, and a very languid pacing in places), this once again comes down to "The Artist" and "Hugo." Thelma Schoonmaker's a beloved figure, but comes in for criticism in some circles, so we're going to stick with the Best Picture frontrunner in this case.
Prediction: Anne-Sophie Bion & Michel Hazavanicius - "The Artist"
Guillaume Schiffman - "The Artist"
Jeff Cronenweth - "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"
Robert Richardson - "Hugo"
Emmanuel Lubezki - "The Tree of Life"
Janusz Kaminski - "War Horse"
One of the more open categories, only 'Dragon Tattoo' and 'War Horse' don't stand a chance. Many are predicting Emmanuel Lubezki, but we just feel it's not going to be his year ("Gravity" could do the trick next time around). We're deeply torn, otherwise, between Schiffman and Richardson, and neither would surprise us, but we think that Richardson's 3D, which has given stereo photography a new respectability, will edge out "The Artist."
Prediction: Robert Richardson - "Hugo"
"Hell And Back Again"
"If A Tree Falls: A Story Of The Earth Liberation Front"
"Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory"
Oh, Christ. This is the one that we genuinely have no idea about: only "If A Tree Falls" strikes as unlikely to win, but then in this category, nothing would surprise us. A few years ago, "Hell And Back Again" would have been the lock, but probably not this year, and while "Paradise Lost 3" caps off a truly impressive trilogy, our gut says the complexities of the case, and the follow-up nature of the film, will stop it from winning out. So we're going with "Undefeated," which seems to have had a swell behind it in recent weeks.
"A Cat In Paris"
"Chico & Rita"
"Kung Fu Panda 2"
"Puss In Boots"
Had only one of "A Cat In Paris" or "Chico & Rita" been nominated, we could have absolutely seen whichever made it pulling an upset in this category. But as it is, the stunning visuals and quirky nature of "Rango" is sure to bring that home.
Best Foreign Language Film
All logic would seem to point towards "A Separation" in this category, the film having won every precursor award to date. But logic is not the friend of the foreign language branch, so, while the film is still within reach of a win, we're looking for Canada's "Monsieur Lazhar" to make an upset. But neither "Footnote" nor "In Darkness" should be counted out.
Prediction: "Monsieur Lazhar"
Jim Rash, Nat Faxon, Alexander Payne - "The Descendants"
John Logan - "Hugo"
George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon - "The Ides Of March"
Steve Zaillian & Aaron Sorkin - "Moneyball"
Peter Straughan & Bridget O'Connor - "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
We'd been on the "Moneyball" train for the longest time, but with "The Descendants" picking up at the WGA and the USC Scripter awards over the weekend, that has to be the assumed frontrunner, particularly as it looks likely to be something of a consolation prize for the film. Maybe Zaillian and Sorkin can surprise, but it's unlikely.
Prediction: Jim Rash, Nat Faxon, Alexander Payne - "The Descendants"
Best Original Screenplay
Michel Hazanavicius - "The Artist"
Kristin Wiig & Annie Mumulo - "Bridesmaids"
J.C. Chandor - "Margin Call"
Woody Allen - "Midnight in Paris"
Asghar Farhadi - "A Separation"
This one's a little trickier: the silent nature of "The Artist" means the juggernaut hits something of a stumbling block in the category, although it did manage a BAFTA win, for what it's worth. But we feel that the Academy will want to reward Woody Allen for his quote-unquote return to form (don't forget, he's nominated in the directing category too), and this is the place to do it. Possible shock winner: "A Separation," but it's extremely unlikely.
Prediction: Woody Allen - "Midnight In Paris"
Kenneth Branagh - "My Week With Marilyn"
Jonah Hill - "Moneyball"
Nick Nolte - "Warrior"
Christopher Plummer - "Beginners"
Max Von Sydow - "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close"
At no stage since last March have we ever thought this was going to be anyone but Plummer, and nothing's changed since then. If this doesn't happen, we'll eat a DVD copy of "Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe"
Prediction: Christopher Plummer - "Beginners"
Best Supporting Actress
Berenice Bejo - "The Artist"
Jessica Chastain - "The Help"
Melissa McCarthy - "Bridesmaids"
Janet McTeer - "Albert Nobbs"
Octavia Spencer - "The Help"
At various points, this looked like a three-horse race, but the weight of momentum behind Spencer is such that she's all but certain to win here. If Bejo does upset here, it's an indicator that "The Artist" is on course to win eight or nine prizes.
Prediction: Octavia Spencer - "The Help"
Demian Bichir - "A Better Life"
Jean Dujardin - "The Artist"
George Clooney - "The Descendants"
Brad Pitt - "Moneyball"
Gary Oldman - "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
George Clooney seemingly had this in the bag for the longest time, but a run of precursors, most notably the SAG, and a canny series of public appearances, including a Funny or Die video and SNL cameo, has meant that Dujardin's taken the lead. A Clooney win isn't beyond the realms of possibility -- some point to his beloved place in the Hollywood community as a big advantage -- but we think he'll have to wait for another year.
Prediction: Jean Dujardin - "The Artist"
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"
Did a BAFTA win for Meryl Streep change anything here? No: she had the home-crowd advantage (in the British subject matter) there, but this has looked like Viola Davis from very early on, and her moving speeches have seemingly sealed the deal. Not quite 100% locked, but about 95%
Prediction: Viola Davis - "The Help"
Michel Hazanavicius - "The Artist"
Alexander Payne - "The Descendants"
Martin Scorsese - "Hugo"
Woody Allen - "Midnight In Paris"
Terrence Malick - "The Tree Of Life"
Even when the nominations were announced, this seemed more open than the other big prizes, but DGA and BAFTA wins have helped to show the way towards a very likely win for Michel Hazanavicius. "The Tree of Life" is too divisive, and Scorsese won five years ago, so the chances of anyone but the Frenchman winning are slim.
Prediction: Michel Hazanavicius - "The Artist"
"Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close"
"Midnight In Paris"
"The Tree of Life"
And so we come to the crunch. We tried to hypothesize a few months back a number of scenarios in which "The Artist," which has been the front-runner for months, might end up being beaten. And barring something unforeseen, it won't be -- indeed, we're more certain of that than it winning director or actor. More than anything else, all of its competition seem to have too many negatives against them. Frontrunners have been beaten before, but it would number among the biggest shocks in Oscar history if that were the case.
Prediction: "The Artist"