It's been an entire year, though, and in just a couple of days (January 24, to be exact), the 2012 Academy Award nominees will be announced, which means it's time for my predictions. Having up to 10 Best Picture candidates takes much of the fun out of trying to predict them, so I'll leave that to other bloggers and just say that in 2012, it will be The Artist vs. Hugo, with The Artist likely to be this year's The King's Speech.
And since I'm more interested in the art of acting than that of directing, I'll only say that Best Director is a two-man contest between Martin Scorcese (Hugo) and Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist). I'm giving the edge to Scorcese because I couldn't bear to sit through another acceptance speech by Hazanavicius, whose European "charm" we'll already have to endure -- again! -- when The Artist takes Best Picture.
Which leaves the acting categories among the major Oscar races. Here's who I predict will be invited to the 84th Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles on February 26 as nominees.
Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs)
Viiola Davis (The Help)
Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)
Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin)
Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn)
Let's discuss: Nods for Streep, Davis and Williams are as certain as death, taxes and Helen Mirren being the sexiest woman in the Kodak Theatre if she shows up as an Oscar presenter. Frankly, I think Streep gave half a great performance. If only her movie had focused strictly on the iron lady and left the old one out of it. Close made a valiant effort, but her performance just didn't make a convincing case for Albert Nobbs' manhood.
Meanwhile, Swinton's numb, grieving mom reminded me a lot of the one that earned Nicole Kidman a nomination last year for Rabbit Hole, but her stoicism never completely crossed over into the full-on rage that would have made her character seem like a real live woman and not just a sort of screen archetype, a martyr suffering for someone else's sins. I'm still rooting for her to make the shortlist, though, because the former Best Supporting Actress deserves to sit at the leading-ladies table for once.
In a perfectly fair world, Streep and Close would sit this one out (Streep will have other shots for her third Oscar, and Close could snag Best Original Song for the tune she co-wrote for her film and finally get the Oscar that has unfairly eluded her for nearly three decades), and Charlize Theron (Young Adult) and Kirsten Dunst (Melancholia), who should have been this year's Natalie Portman, would be in it to win it.
Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
George Clooney (The Descendants)
Michael Fassbender (Shame)
Ryan Gosling (Drive)
Brad Pitt (Moneyball)
Let's discuss: Poor Leonardo DiCaprio. If it were 2010, the star of Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar would be a shoo-in, but I think Invictus may have marked the unofficial end of Eastwood's long run as an Oscar-bait director. As for Gosling, after snubbing him in 2011 for Blue Valentine, doing so again after he had such a great year as the star of three well-received films, would be like a vote of disapproval from Oscar, especially since his Blue Valentine costar is going to get her second nomination in a row. Wasn't losing People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive title to Bradley Cooper punishment enough?
If Fassbender gets in, it will be the most beautiful Best Actor line-up ever, but I wouldn't complain if a less conventional looker -- 50/50's Joseph Gordon-Levitt or Woody Harrelson, who owned Rampart's corrupt cop with a heart of tarnished gold -- takes his spot.
Berenice Bejo (The Artist)
Jessica Chastain (The Tree of Life)
Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids)
Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs)
Octavia Spencer (The Help)
Let's discuss: Sorry ladies who are not named Octavia Spencer. You don't stand a chance against The Help's comic relief, who was equally affecting in her dramatic moments. The only thing that could make me care about this category would be the surprise inclusion of Melancholia's Charlotte Gainsbourg and/or Bridesmaids' Rose Bryne instead of McCarthy (no offense to McCarthy, an ace TV star whom I've been loving long time).
Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn)
Albert Brooks (Drive)
Jonah Hill (Moneyball)
Nick Nolte (Warrior)
Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
Let's discuss: It's Plummer vs. Brooks, but let's face it: It should be Plummer's to lose -- and it probably is. He played a gay man coming out of the closet in his twilight years without a hint of camp or cliche. If the avuncular Brooks hadn't been cast so wildly against type, would he even be in the running? His mob boss in Drive was menacing enough, but didn't Joe Pesci used to do that sort of thing in his sleep?