Winners and losers

For a silent movie, The Artist is generating a lot of noise.

Winners and losers

Despite losing out to The Descendants at the Golden Globes, Michel Hazanavicius’s paean to the Golden Era of Hollywood took home a bundle of awards at the Baftas (including Best Film, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay), and is currently a staggering eight-to-one on to win the Oscar for Best Picture.

Don’t go betting the mortgage just yet, though.

The Golden Globes aren’t always the most reliable guide to how the Oscars will pan out, as director James Cameron found out to his cost in 2010, when his epic sci-fi flick Avatar won the Golden Globe but lost out on Oscar night to his ex-wife’s Kathryn Bigelow gritty Iraqi war drama, The Hurt Locker.

It’s also true that The Descendants, which leads a chasing pack that includes The Help, Hugo and War Horse (the latter pair directed by Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, respectively), is the kind of movie Hollywood likes to reward: a thoughtful, adult meditation on the Big Questions of life, starring a classic Hollywood movie star in the shape of George Clooney.

The fact that The Descendants is a ‘talkie’, and thus more customer-friendly than the silent movie The Artist, may also play in its favour.

On balance, though, a beautifully made feel-good movie like The Artist that reminds Hollywood of how glorious it once was will probably triumph. And, given that the Best Director Oscar almost inevitably follows the Best Picture award, Michel Hazanavicius should secure the Academy Award for Best Director.

George Clooney goes up against his good pal Brad Pitt (Moneyball) in the Best Actor category, although it’s The Artist’s Jean Dujardin who should run Clooney closest for the Oscar (Gary Oldman, for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Demián Bichir for A Better Life make up the rest of the nominees).

A serial nominee for Best Actor, Clooney should finally add to his Best Supporting Actor statuette (for Syriana, 2006) for his role in The Descendants.

Meryl Streep has been sweeping all before her for her portrayal of a vulnerable Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, but Viola Davis is the favourite to win the Best Actress Oscar for her role in The Help.

That movie’s credentials as a heartwarming tale of battling segregation in the Deep South should see Davis edge out Streep, in the process burnishing Hollywood’s liberal credentials, with Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn), Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs) and Rooney Mara (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) all long-shot outsiders.

The Help has a strong chance of taking home the Best Actress in a Supporting Role category too, with Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer accounting for two of the five nominations. Bérénice Bejo will be entitled to be disappointed if she doesn’t win given her very fine turn in The Artist, but Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) and Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs) are long-shots. Expect Octavia Spencer to pip Jessica Chastain on the night.

Kenneth Branagh provides some Irish interest in the Best Actor in a Supporting Role running, for his portrayal of Laurence Olivier in My Week with Marilyn.

He is joined by Nick Nolte (Warrior), Jonah Hill (Moneyball) and Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), and while von Sydow’s mute performance has been garnering some very positive word of mouth, Christopher Plummer is a whopping 25-to-1 on to take home the Oscar for his joyful portrayal, in Beginners, of a dying octogenarian who comes out of the closet.

Apart from Kenneth Branagh, there are some other nuggets of Irish interest scattered throughout the awards. Albert Nobbs was filmed here in Ireland, and was co-written by novelist John Banville. Meanwhile, Pentecost and The Shore have both been nominated in the five-film list for Best Short Movie category.

Written and directed by Peter McDonald, Pentecost tells the story of a young altar boy (Scott Graham) who is forced to serve at an important mass, but who finds himself in a moral minefield. The Shore, directed by Terry George, is set in post-Troubles Belfast, and stars Ciarán Hinds, Conleth Hill and Maggie Cronin.

The Academy Awards will be presented tomorrow night at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles.

Highlights will be shown Monday, 9pm on RTE Two.

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