Theaters were filled with very good movies in 2011. Greatness, however, was hard to find.
Sure, there were great moments and great individual performances, but as for feature-length perfection, well, let's just say there's some filler amongst the nine Best Picture nominees.
Still, 2011 offers some very competitive Oscar races. That means real drama for movie lovers, right down to the final six minutes of tonight's four-hour broadcast — when seven of the major awards are announced in one breathless monologue by Billy Crystal.
Here's one man's view of how things will turn out:
What will win: The momentum behind the retro French silent film "The Artist" is unstoppable by the likes of "Hugo," "The Help," "The Descendants" and "Moneyball." The biggest slam dunk of the night.
What should win: "The Descendants" is very good, but it's a small movie. "Moneyball" is very good, but it's about baseball statistics. "The Artist" is inventive, unique and has the fewest flaws — unless of course you consider the lack of sound and dialogue a flaw.
Who will win: Could there be an Adele-like sweep by "The Artist?" It's entirely possible. This is a a two-man race between "The Artist's" Jean Dujardin and George Clooney. The academy loves George Clooney.
Who should win: George Clooney really is outstanding as the bewildered, betrayed husband in "The Descendants."
Who will win: The category is loaded this year, with five really strong performances. Viola Davis, however, figures to bring home the trophy for her determined maid in "The Help." Meryl Streep will show a stiff upper lip as the close runner-up in "The Iron Lady," but this will mark her 16th Oscar loss and a 30-year drought since "Sophie's Choice."
Who should win: Fierce and vulnerable at the same time, Rooney Mara was searingly good — and completely unforgettable — as Lisbeth in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."
Who will win: I wouldn't recognize Michel Hazanavicius if he hit me with a Renault, but it's going to be a very good night for "The Artist."
Who should win: I'll go with the Academy on this one, too. Michel Hazanavicius over a so-so Martin Scorsese and a thoroughly confusing Terrence Malick.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Who will win: Max Von Sydow is generating quite a bit of sentimental old-timer buzz … but, unfortunately for him, Christopher Plummer is also 82 years old and was a little bit better.
Who should win: As interesting as it would be to see the speech, it's not going to be Nick Nolte. I'd like to see Kenneth Brannagh get a nod sometime, but Christopher Plummer is deserving for "Beginners."
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Who will win: Octavia Spencer is the front-runner for "The Help," but Jessica Chastain is going to split votes for the same film, opening things up for a crowd-pleasing acceptance speech by "Bridesmaids" scene-stealer Melissa McCarthy.
Who should win: Octavia Spencer is the front-runner for a reason. She was the strongest performer in a movie filled with them.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Who will win: Did anyone mention that it will be a big night for Michel Hazanavicius and "The Artist"?
Who should win: It's about time for Woody Allen — history's most nominated writer-director — to win another Oscar, this time for "Midnight in Paris." But academy voters just hate it when a winner doesn't show up to make a speech.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
What will win: George Clooney will get some on-stage company with Alexander Payne and his co-writers from "The Descendants."
What should win: Come on. Aaron Sorkin and friends took a book about baseball statistics — "Moneyball" — and made it into a watchable movie. Impossible.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
What will win: Just thought it should be pointed out that the academy, in its infinite wisdom, incorporated certain rules which made just two — yes, two — songs eligible for this award. Seems hard to believe there were only two good songs in all of moviedom this year. I flipped a coin, and the winner is "Man or Muppet."
What should win: Whatever the other side of the coin says.
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