The Envelope's Gold Standard columnist Glenn Whipp is sweeping through all 24 Oscar categories this week, predicting the winners. Check previous posts for tips on marking your Oscar pool ballots for the music categories, short films, sound races, animation, documentary and foreign films, visual crafts and the screenplay and editing races.
Here, a look at the four acting categories.
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Demian Bichir, “A Better Life”
George Clooney, “The Descendants”
Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
Gary Oldman, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
Brad Pitt, “Moneyball”
And the winner is … Dujardin. It’s not just because he won the SAG Award (and cried while accepting it!), though his victory there indicates the strength of his position. The actors branch makes up more than a fifth of the academy’s membership. The last seven SAG lead actor winners have gone on to win the Oscar. And beyond that, “The Artist” has found favor with other guilds, indicating a broad support for the film itself that gives Dujardin a leg up here.
As for Clooney, he delivered a moving, nuanced turn in “The Descendants” that may well rank as the best work of his career. The problem is, Brad Pitt did the same in “Moneyball.” Academy voters inclined to reward subtlety could go for Pitt, Clooney or even first-time nominee Gary Oldman. But Dujardin carries “The Artist” in a way that is unlike any of the other actors here. That distinctiveness, combined with the Academy’s nutty love for the movie, gives him the win.
Unless … Voters decide they’d rather hear Clooney’s self-deprecating humor than Dujardin’s thick accent from the podium, denying France its first-ever winner in this category.
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
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”
And the winner is … Davis. God knows, Harvey Weinstein and his minions went into full-court press mode to get Streep her third Oscar, not to mention her first victory since “Sophie’s Choice.” Streep’s image has been so inescapable that it wouldn’t have been surprising to walk into an Outback Steakhouse and find a menu touting Cast "Iron (Lady)" Skillet specials.
Will it work? Academy members still go the career-achievement route when voting (see Bullock, Sandra), just not as often as they used to. (To which we say: Hoo-ah!) Davis won SAG, a Streep-friendly group that has gone with her (“Doubt”) when the academy didn’t. Davis also stands as the only nominee whose film received a best picture nomination. And every time she speaks from the podium, she gives us all the more reason to celebrate both her and her work in the movie.
Mara’s courage and ferocity in “Dragon Tattoo” struck a chord with many voters. Williams arguably does more bringing Marilyn Monroe to life than Streep did with Thatcher. But as we’ve been saying all along: It’s Davis’ year.
Unless … Outback’s Thatcher Tri-Tip tastes better than it looks on the menu.
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Kenneth Branagh, “My Week With Marilyn”
Jonah Hill, “Moneyball”
Nick Nolte, “Warrior”
Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”
Max von Sydow, “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”
And the winner is … Plummer. Much has been made of the fact that both Plummer and von Sydow were born in 1929, as if that’s somehow going to split the octogenarian vote. Look at the AARP-sanctioned slate here. Hill’s the only nominee under 50, and he’s not going to win for a role that had him (quite skillfully, mind you) reacting and observing (with impeccable timing) more than stirring the waters. (Huh … maybe he should siphon more votes.)
Plummer has never won, receiving his only other Oscar nomination two years ago for “The Last Station.” But those voting for him aren’t saluting his body of work. They’re lauding his beautiful turn in “Beginners,” an elegiac performance that particularly hits home with older academy members. After winning nearly every other trophy, Plummer will not be denied here.
Unless … That surprise best picture nomination for “Extremely Loud” portends another shocker with a win for Von Sydow.
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Berenice Bejo, “The Artist”
Jessica Chastain, “The Help”
Melissa McCarthy, “Bridesmaids”
Janet McTeer, “Albert Nobbs”
Octavia Spencer, “The Help”
And the winner is … Spencer. Here again, there’s the presence of another common competitor that, in theory, could dilute the vote. But because Spencer and her “Help” costar Chastain deliver very different turns playing dissimilar characters, the much-cited Costar Competition Conundrum shouldn’t put much of a ding in the likelihood that Spencer wins.
Unless … It’s a really big night for “The Artist,” in which case, Bejo will have the last wink.
Octavia Spencer: 'I'm done with bad parts'
Viola Davis' 'miraculous and amazing' career path
Christopher Plummer on his 'explosion' of great roles
Oscars 2012: Cheat Sheet | Key Scenes | Pundit's picks | Ballot
-- Glenn Whipp
Photo: Jean Dujardin in "The Artist." Credit: The Weinstein Co.