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Oscar picks predictability

Published February 24. 2012 05:01PM

The 84th Academy Awards promises to be predictable. Even host Billy Crystal is back. That means snarky jibes and lots of laughs.

But will Hollywood still love Oscar tomorrow?

The day after the televised ceremony, 7 p.m. Feb. 26, ABC, Kodak Theatre, Hollywood and Highland Center, Los Angeles, will there be surprises to chat about around the cyber water cooler?

It may be the last year the awards will originate from the Kodak Theatre. That's because Kodak, in its bankruptcy filing, is apparently being allowed to cancel its long-term naming-rights contact for the theater.

The year in movies, 2011, was a year when Hollywood longed for Kodak moments. The Oscar picture nominees, for the most part, looked back in nostalgia.

"The Artist" is a silent, black and white, funny valentine to the silent movie era during which the bulk of the movie's story unfolds.

"Hugo" celebrated one of the godfathers of cinema, Georges Méliès, again in an era before the pictures talked.

"The Artist," with its French director, star and actress, was a French production set in Hollywood.

"Hugo," by director Martin Scorsese, was an American in Paris telling a story about a real-life French film-maker surrounded by mostly fictional characters.

Director Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" also harked back to the pre-talkies days: Paris in the 1920s.

"War Horse" was also set in an era of silent movies, before and during World War I, and on battlefields across the continent, including Germany - and France.

What is it about Paris and last year's films? Let them eat Freedom Fries.

"Hugo" and "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" (another film that looked back and was released in the year of the 10th anniversary of 9/11) talked a lot. Max von Sydow, as The Renter in the latter film, spoke nary a word and hand-made his own title cards.

"The Help" looked back to the 1960's Civil Rights Movement.

"Moneyball" was set in a not too distant past of a decade ago: the Oakland Athletics' 2002 baseball season.

Perhaps the Oscar picture nominees reflect a yearning for the good old pre-Great Recession days.

Since everybody seemed to have lots of money in "The Descendants," it felt as though it was set in a pre Great Recession time.

What to make of "The Tree of Life"? It was about the days of future past.

The year, 2011, in movies was a year of great performances, if not great films. Seeing "The King's Speech" (2010) recently on a cable TV premium channel reminded one of how powerful a film is last year's Oscar picture recipient.


• Picture: "The Artist" Hollywood gives the silent treatment to the other nominees: "The Descendants," "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," "The Help," "Hugo," "Midnight in Paris," "Moneyball," "The Tree of Life," "War Horse."

• Director: Michel Hazanavicius, "The Artist" This is a strong category. Terrence Malick, "The Tree of Life," deserves an Oscar for audacity alone. Alexander Payne, "The Descendants," is effectively annoying. The best parts of Martin Scorsese, "Hugo," are those about Georges Méliès, especially scenes depicting the creation of his films. Woody Allen, "Midnight in Paris," was fun in a curmudgeonly kind of way.

• Actor: Jean Dujardin, "The Artist." This could have been George Clooney's year for his starring role in "The Descendants," and having written (an adapted screenplay Oscar co-nominee), directed and starred in "The Ides of March." However, Dujardin won the Screen Actors Guild lead male award, often a predictor of this category's recipient. The nominees include: Demién Bichir, "A Better Life"; Gary Oldman, semi-somnambulistic in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"; and Brad Pitt, superb in "Moneyball."

• Actress: Viola Davis, "The Help" I think Glenn Close, "Albert Nobbs," gave the year's best lead female role movie performance. A near-perennial favorite, with her 17th nomination, is Meryl Streep, "The Iron Lady." Michelle Williams, "My Week With Marilyn," got it, as well as a Golden Globe. First-time nominee Rooney Mara, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," was extraordinary. This is perhaps this year's most competitive Oscar category.

• Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, "Beginners" His win will be "The Sound of Music" (Plummer played Captain George Ludwig von Trapp in the movie). I thought Max von Sydow, "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," was marvelous. The other nominees were each exceptional: Kenneth Branagh, "My Week With Marilyn"; Jonah Hill, "Moneyball"; and Nick Nolte, "Warrior."

• Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, "The Help" Bérénice Bejo, "The Artist" is the face I remember of all the images in last year's films. That smile. Those eyes. That stance. However, Spencer was terrific and crucial to Davis's performance. Last year was the year of Jessica Chastain, "The Help" (she was in seven films). Janet McTeer, "Albert Nobbs," was amazing. Also nominated is: Melissa McCarthy, "Bridesmaids."

• Animated Feature: "Rango" This could be the Johnny Depp consolation Oscar (he voiced Rango). The little-seen (in the United States) "A Cat in Paris" (there's that Paris theme again) and "Chico & Rita" could charm, especially, the latter. The other nominees, "Kung Fu Panda 2" and "Puss in Boots," are more of this genre's typical "swoosh" over-the-little-ones'-heads adult yucks.

Box Office, Feb. 17: Movie-goers played it safe Presidents' Day weekend, as positive word of mouth for its stars, Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds, deeded "Safe House" No. 1, $24 million, $78.3 million, up from opening at No. 2 (or No. 3, depending on box office figures), taking "The Vow," to No. 2, $23.6 million, $85.5 million, and keeping "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance," opening at No. 3, $22.1 million.

4. "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island," $20 million," $53.2 million, two weeks; 5. "This Means War," $17.5 million, $19.1 million, opening Feb. 15; 6. "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace," $7.8 million, $33.7 million, two weeks: 7 ."Chronicle," $7.5 million, $50.9 million, three weeks; 8. "The Woman in Black," $6.6 million, $45.2 million, three weeks; 9. "The Secret World of Arrietty," $6.4 million, opening; 10. "The Grey," $3 million, $47.9 million, four weeks.

Unreel, Feb. 24:

"Gone," PG-13: Former Lehigh Valley resident Amanda Seyfried stars in the drama as Jill, convinced a serial killer who has previously kidnapped her has returned.

"Wanderlust," R: Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd star in the comedy about a Manhattan couple who get laid off and head for the hills.

"Good Deeds," PG-13: Tyler Perry directs and stars as a businessman who meets a single mother. Gabrielle Union and Thandie Newton also star in the comedy.

Read previous movie reviews at Email Paul Willistein at: and on Facebook.

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