Oscars 2012: George Clooney vs. Brad Pitt?

Posted Jan. 23, 2012, at 3:43 p.m.

SEATTLE — On Tuesday, a lot of people — in Hollywood and elsewhere — will be waking up early. The Oscar nominations will be announced at the ungodly hour of 5:30 a.m. Pacific time (8:30 EST) by actress Jennifer Lawrence — a nominee last year for “Winter’s Bone” and star of the upcoming “The Hunger Games” — and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Tom Sherak.

What names will be called? Who’ll be this year’s biggest snub? (Last year, in my book, it was Christopher Nolan being left off the director list for “Inception.”) Who’ll surprise? Who’ll make the most humble early-morning thank-you speech? A few predictions:

Best picture

The rules changed two years ago in this category to allow 10 nominees instead of the customary five, and this year they’ve changed again: This time, a film must get more than 5 percent of the first-place votes on the nominee ballots in order to make the list, which could result in anywhere from 5 to 10 films nominated. So it’s an open question how many slots there will be. I’m predicting eight, for no particular reason.

Sure things: “The Artist,” “The Descendants,” “The Help” and “Midnight in Paris.” I’ll be very surprised if these four don’t make it to the ballot. And “War Horse,” an Oscar-friendly movie if ever there was one, is likely to be there, too.

Not so certain: Will “Hugo” make the list or be dismissed as a children’s film? Will “Moneyball,” though liked by all, be the first choice of enough voters? Does “The Tree of Life” have enough fans to make up for its many detractors? And are all those people who think “Bridesmaids” has a shot crazy? So many questions.

Probably not: “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” though it initially seemed like an awards contender, has received little support in the Oscar run-up. And quite possibly the violence in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” may keep the film too far down on the list of most Oscar voters.

Best director

Sure things: Well, the Directors Guild of America nominees are as good a place to start as any, as they generally mirror the Oscar noms for at least four out of five. And the five are Woody Allen (“Midnight in Paris”), David Fincher (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”), Michel Hazanavicius (“The Artist”), Alexander Payne (“The Descendants”) and Martin Scorsese (“Hugo”). All but Hazanavicius are previous DGA nominees — and previous Oscar nominees.

Not so certain: It seems unlikely that Academy favorite Steven Spielberg (“War Horse”; not “The Adventures of Tintin”) would be left off the list — but which of the above gentlemen would he bump off it? Likewise Terrence Malick (“Tree of Life”) or frequent nominee Clint Eastwood (“J. Edgar”).

Probably not: Previous nominees George Clooney (“The Ides of March”) and Jason Reitman (“Young Adult”). Not their year.

Best actor

Sure things: Don’t cry for Clooney; he’s sure to get an invitation for “The Descendants,” which some are calling the performance of his career. (I wouldn’t argue.) His “Ocean’s 11” buddy Brad Pitt should turn up as well, for his movie-star turn in “Moneyball,” and Jean Dujardin should pull off the impressive feat of being nominated without saying a word, for his silent role in “The Artist.” (Reason to root for Dujardin: At last week’s New York Film Critics’ Circle dinner, The New York Times reported that Dujardin did a quite decent Robert De Niro impression — “You talkin’ to me?” — addressed directly to De Niro. That takes nerve.)

Not so certain: Will enough Academy voters watch “Shame” to elevate Michael Fassbender to this list? Was “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” just too confusing to earn a nod for Gary Oldman? Will the general lack of enthusiasm for “J. Edgar” prove fatal for Leonardo DiCaprio? Is Ryan Gosling canceling himself out between “The Ides of March” and “Drive”?

Probably not: Owen Wilson was utterly charming in “Midnight in Paris” — but my guess is not enough voters will notice. And Paul Giamatti, who has a history of being ignored in this category (“Sideways”), will likely suffer the same fate for his wonderful work in “Win Win.”

Best actress

Sure things: Go ahead and reserve seats at the Governor’s Ball for Meryl Streep (“The Iron Lady”) and Viola Davis (“The Help”) — this is perhaps the safest bet of the entire ballot, and the statuette’s surely going to go to one or the other. (Fun Oscar prep: Watch them going head to head, splendidly, in their one mutual scene in “Doubt” a few years back.)

Not so certain: Three of the following five women are likely to fill out the ballot: Michelle Williams (“My Week With Marilyn”), Glenn Close (“Albert Nobbs”), Tilda Swinton (“We Need To Talk About Kevin”), Charlize Theron (“Young Adult”) and Kirsten Dunst (“Melancholia”). The question is, which three?

Probably not: I’d love to see Mia Wasikowska recognized for her lovely performance in “Jane Eyre,” or Elizabeth Olsen for her electric work in “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” but it seems unlikely.

Best supporting actor

Sure things: Elder statesmen do well in this category, so expect to hear the names of Christopher Plummer (probably for “Beginners,” not “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) and Max von Sydow (“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”). Kenneth Branagh also seems likely on the ballot for his skillful impersonation of Sir Lawrence Olivier in “My Week with Marilyn.”

Not so certain: I’m hoping the Academy will realize that it’s their last chance to honor Alan Rickman’s oozingly perfect work as Severus Snape; this time in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2.” Also with a decent shot: Albert Brooks for his unlikely turn as a villain in “Drive”; Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud in “A Dangerous Method”; Jonah Hill as a fish-out-of-water math whiz in “Moneyball.”

Probably not: Despite a groundswell of support for Uggie, the Jack Russell terrier who so charmingly played the role of the dog in “The Artist,” it seems likely that only two-legged performers will be nominated.

Best supporting actress

Sure things: I still think she’s got a lead role, but Octavia Spencer is sure to turn up in this category for “The Help.” Jessica Chastain’s a likely nominee as well, though whether it’ll be for “The Help,” “Tree of Life” or “Take Shelter” is uncertain. Also a safe bet, though silent: Berenice Bejo, in “The Artist.”

Not so certain: Janet McTeer should get some support for her gender-bending role in “Albert Nobbs.” This year’s Hailee Steinfeld Representative of Youth might well be Shailene Woodley, for “The Descendants.” It’s hard to bet against Vanessa Redgrave, but voters may not have watched “Coriolanus,” which doesn’t have much buzz. Conversely, the popularity of “Bridesmaids” might vault Melissa McCarthy onto the ballot.

Probably not: Past Oscar winners such as Kate Winslet (“Carnage”), Marion Cotillard (“Midnight in Paris”) and Judi Dench (“My Week With Marilyn”).

Elsewhere

Bet on “The Descendants” and “Midnight in Paris” to make the list for adapted and original screenplays, respectively; “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” to be a presence in the technical categories; and those adorable songs from “The Muppets” — most likely “Man or Muppet” and-or “Life’s a Happy Song” — to turn up on the best song list.

And then, let the campaigning season begin … the Oscar ceremony itself is just a month away. I’ll be up early to check out the nominees; see you then.

Academy Awards

Nominations for this year’s awards will be announced at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday on E! The awards telecast begins at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26, on ABC.

 

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