Oscars 2011. Tinsel Town is full of new, young samurais, some of who may surprise us in a year or two. But for us old guys, it’s safe to see there are no new Polanskis or Coppolas, no “Godfathers” or “Bonnie and Clydes” or “Chinatowns.” But at least we still have Woody and Scorsese and Terence Malick. We can at least hope the “Artist’s” Hazanavicius and “The Descendents” Alexander Payne have future surprises in their man-bags.

Some nominations don’t surprise, others do, and some are silly. To nominate the TV special “Bridesmaids,” is it someone’s idea of a joke? It’s a long SNL skit. And setting a place at the grownups’ table for young Jonah Hill along side Plummer, Von Sydow and Nolte, is just silly.

Here then, are the thoughts of one critic, one life-long film buff and movie historian. Many will disagree, some will not. It’s sort of a free country.


WHO WILL WIN: “The Artist,” because Hollywood’s younger crowd is into it, and there was a place on the menu, and in America’s appetite, for a feel-good dinner. It sort of deserves all of the bumper stickers being pasted on it: “Charming, vivacious, quirky and fun.” But for this reviewer, there was no “there” there. There’s a reason we don’t make silents anymore. Buster Keaton is dead.

THE MAYBE: “The Descendants,” because the people in the seats love Clooney and love conquers all. It has the right proportions of heart tugs, smiles and in the final scene, tugs at the heart strings of “Green” folks everywhere.

WHO SHOULD WIN: “THE HELP,” clear and away the strongest contender. It has the strongest story line and the richest characters, not to mention those little OMG surprises that make us all sit up and applaud.

BUT WATCH OUT FOR: Woody’s “Midnight In Paris.” It has its own magic. It speaks of our secret dreams, to escape into the rich, colorful past and have a glass with Papa at the Deux Magots. Watch how Woody made the transitions into the past without special effects. One minute we were in the present and then with a toll of bells in a church tower, we were gone. Not a terribly strong cast but for Marion Cotillard, whom I suspect, Hemingway was talking about when he said, “You’re beautiful, like a May flower.”


WHO WILL WIN: Michel Hazanavicius because that’s where the parade is going. I’ve learned to believe in the quirkiness of parades, religious, political and certainly, cinematic.

THE MAYBE: Martin Scorsese for “Hugo.” I have not seen the film — only clips — and this pick is based on tweets from Hollywood and that mysterious, elusive feeling called “the hunch.” It’s Scorsese. Do we need a better reason?

SHOULD WIN: Woody for “Midnight In Paris.” For no other reason than that I love Woody.

WATCH OUT FOR: Terrence Malik. He can sucker punch the best of them.


WHO WILL WIN: George Clooney for “The Descendants.” As I said, it’s the year of Clooney. He’s this generation’s Cary Grant and deserves his awards. To paraphrase Shakespeare, the camera fell in love with him the first time it saw him, and he smiled, because he knew. May he live and prosper as long as Grant. This is a good film, well-directed and written, but best picture?

THE MAYBE: Jean Dujardin because of those young samurai voters.

SHOULD WIN: Gary Oldman for “Tinker-Tailor.” Oldman is the master of doing something important while appearing to be doing nothing at all. That’s what screen acting is all about.


WHO WILL WIN: Christopher Plummer for “The Beginner.” He really doesn’t deserve it for this silly part. They tied a scarf around his neck to show us he’s gay? Please. He’ll get it anyway. He gets to die in the film, he’s 83 and almost everything he’s ever done has been better than most. See him in “Dragon Tattoo.” That’s screen acting.

THE MAYBE: Max Von Sydow because he too, is 83 and he’s great. Even his feeblest work, such as “The Emperor Ming” in “Flash Gordon,” makes nominee Jonah Hill look like the hall monitor in junior high. Max is gold.

SHOULD WIN: Max Von Sydow.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN AT THE PARTY: Albert Brooks in “Drive.” A comic playing a really bad man and still makes us laugh.

Albert has always had that role in him and we finally got to see it. Shakespeare would have loved to have had Albert. Albert is long overdue for a Kennedy Award.


THE WINNER: Meryl Streep in “The Iron Lady,” because she’s been nominated 17 times and she may refuse to show up anymore. I tend to think, that like Rooney Mara in “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” she’s playing the makeup. Casual moviegoers are often fooled by that. Rooney might have won my tattooed heart, but Noomi Rapace owns it.

THE MAYBE: Viola Davis in ” The Help.” Viola shows up on the set, the camera rolls and she just stands there in her beautiful black skin and “becomes.” We, unable to breathe, know at once that we are in the presence of greatness. How can they not give it to her? Because it’s Hollywood, or as Robert Towne explained, “It’s Chinatown, Jake.”

SHOULD WIN: Viola. Hands down.

WATCH OUT FOR: Michelle Williams. Her Marilyn was spooky and dead on target.


WHO WILL WIN: Octavia Spencer in “The Help.” If you saw the film, no explanation is necessary.

THE MAYBE: Jessica Chastain in “The Help.” To understand, compare this role with hers in the “Tree of Life.” Screen acting.

SHOULD WIN: Octavia Spencer.

WATCH OUT FOR: Melissa McCarthy. There is such a thing as “Luck of the Irish.”


WHO WILL WIN: Faxon and Rash’s “The Descendents.”

It stays remarkably close to the book. Voting writers like that.

THE MAYBE: “The Ides of March.” Clooney, Heslove and Willimon. Clever, sharp dialogue.

SHOULD WIN: “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.”


WHO WILL WIN: “Margin Recall” by J.C.Chandor

Because it’s intelligent, salient, crisp, clever and shocking. The winning touch is Jeremy Iron’s boardroom speech. That’s good writing.

THE MAYBE: Iran’s “A Separation,” for the same reasons.

MY PICK: “Margin Call.”

CINEMATOGRAPHY: “The Tree of Life.” Emmanuel Lubezki.

COSTUMES: “Hugo” Sandy Powell

MUSICAL SCORE: “War Horse” John Williams.

ART DIRECTION: “Hugo” Dante Ferretti.

MAKEUP: Albert Nobbs, Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew Mungle.

J.P. Devine is a former stage and screen actor.

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