2012 Oscar Nominations & Frontrunners

And it’s official, the nominations are out for the 84th Academy Awards. This time last year, it was already down to a two horse race between The Social Network and The King’s Speech for Best Picture, and the best actor and actress awards were all but locked up by Colin Firth and Natalie Portman. This year, we have a few strong frontrunners, but the competition to take home an Oscar seems more challenging.

Could this be the year for George Clooney to nail down the Best Actor award for his performance in The Descendants? He was nominated two years ago in the leading category for Up In The Air and won a Supporting Actor Oscar for Syriana— and he has won the Golden Globe for The Descendants already. Clooney seems to be one of the Academy favorites these days, so if you had to make an early prediction, this might be a safe bet. I predict it will come down to him or The Artist’s Jean Dujardin.
Speaking of Academy favorites, is there any bigger favorite than Meryl Streep? This is now her 17th nomination, having won only twice for Sophie’s Choice in 1983 and Kramer vs. Kramer in 1980. Streep’s performance was spot on as Margaret Thatcher in Iron Lady, but there are two more to look out for in this category.

The first is Michelle Williams, who played the perfect Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn. She too has a few previous nominations for Blue Valentine and Brokeback Mountain. So she may get a few voters in the Academy thinking it is her time.

Glenn Close is in the same situation, having 5 previous nominations for the likes of Dangerous Liaisons and Fatal Attraction. Close gave a very daring performance portraying a man in Albert Nobbs. Two other actresses, Hillary Swank and Linda Hunt, have won oscars for portraying men in Boys Don’t Cry and The Year Of Living Dangerously.

And lastly, when you figure in Viola Davis in The Help, we are left with one tough category to pick. Streep has to be the odds-on favorite, but as much as the Academy likes nominating her, they also liking voting for someone else in the final ballot.

That brings us to the coveted Best Picture award. With the new nomination requirements, we have a different number of films nominated this year. The Artist (with its 1920s Hollywood glamor) and The Descendants (with its modern-day family drama) are certainly the two frontrunners at the moment. Both have already won Golden Globes for Best Picture in their respective categories. But I won’t discount The Help from the race quite yet either. Based on a bestselling novel, its humble story made audiences everywhere laugh out loud and then leave the theater touched. That combination spells success.  

If you haven’t seen some of the nominated films, get out there and go see them before Oscar night (Sunday, February 26) so you can judge for yourself. Just remember: no talking or texting during the feature presentation.

— Jim

Meryl Streep as Iron Lady: Oscar-Worthy?

With the release of Iron Lady (limited release tomorrow and wide release January 13), there is already a lot of Oscar buzz surrounding this film. The major question looming is, “Will this movie get Meryl Streep her third Best Actress Oscar– and her first since 1983 for Sophie’s Choice?”

In Iron Lady, the 62-year-old Oscar winner stars as the former British prime minister, who in 1979 became the first female to hold the position.

There have been many Best Actor and Actress awards given to actors for their roles playing real life characters. Here are my top five favorites.

1. Daniel Day-Lewis as Cristy Brown in My Left Foot (1989) – If I were to take all Best Actor and Actress winners and pick one, this might win above all. Daniel Day-Lewis is just that good as Christy Brown, who is born with crippling cerebral palsy and cast aside, believed to be mentally disabled. Thanks to his mother and his own self determination, he becomes a poet and author, all with his only usable appendage, his left foot.

2. Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen (2006) – Helen gives a very touching performance, as the year is 1997 and Princess Diana has just been killed in a car crash. Mirren’s performance perfectly depicts the royal family’s struggle with their loss, all while still trying to lead a country.

3. Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich in Erin Brockovich (2000) – In this great legal drama, Julia Roberts is perfect as a single unemployed mother who plays a pivotal role in a huge corporate case as a small-firm legal secretary.

4. Colin Firth as King George VI in The King’s Speech (2010) – England is on the verge of entering WWII and the king has just passed away. With the current heir wanting to go his own way, King Edward VIII gives way to King George II. The major problem, of course, is that King George has a speech impediment. Doing his best to work and overcome his deficiency, he delivers his speech and leads England into the war against Nazi Germany.

5. Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland (2006) – Forest Whitaker is perfect as the leader of Uganda, who after an assassination attempt, becomes more chaotic and paranoid, leaving his country in bloody ruins. A truly scary performance!

 I guess one can debate whether or not portraying a historical character is easier or more difficult than a completely fictional character. Yes, they may have more to pull from for inspiration, whether it be historical films or an interview with the real person. But it also means an actor can take fewer liberties in his or her performance. So, in my opinion, when portraying an historical figure, actors have a lot to live up to.

What’s your take on it? Who’s excited to see Meryl Streep in Iron Lady?

Just remember, no talking or texting during the movie.

— Jim