The Academy Awards: Who will win; who should win

Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo star in "The Artist." SOURCE WEINSTEIN COMPANY
February 25, 2012

There will no doubt be a big downturn in Oscar viewership this year, as "Twilight" fans everywhere will sob glittery tears that their favorite film franchise received no love from the academy this go-round (fret not, gals, there's always next year!). In its absence, there is still a hearty (non-vampirey) lot of films for which to root.

Putting the snubs aside (no love for Ryan Gosling or "Drive," very little for "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and zero mention of "We Need to Talk About Kevin"), there are a few races worth watching during the broadcast Sunday, Feb. 26, on ABC. Plus, the return of safely silly Billy Crystal to hosting duties should at least provide a chuckle or two.

Let's take a look at the nominees and take a swing at what could walk away with some statuettes.

Other categories (projected winners in italics)

Best Foreign Language Film
"Bullhead" (Belgium)
"Footnote" (Israel)
"In Darkness" (Poland)
"Monsieur Lazhar" (Canada)
"A Separation" (Iran)

Original Score
"The Adventures of Tintin," John Williams
"The Artist," Ludovic Bource
"Hugo," Howard Shore
"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," Alberto Iglesias
"War Horse," John Williams

Best Original Song
"Man or Muppet," from "The Muppets"
"Real in Rio," from "Rio"

Best Art Direction
"The Artist"
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2"
"Midnight in Paris"
"War Horse"

Best Cinematography
"The Artist"
"The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"
"The Tree of Life"
"War Horse"

Best Costume Design
"The Artist"
"Jane Eyre"

Best Documentary Feature
"Hell and Back Again"
"If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front"
"Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory"

Best Documentary Short
"The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement?"
"God Is the Bigger Elvis"
"Incident in New Baghdad"
"Saving Face"
"The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom"

Best Film Editing
"The Artist"
"The Descendants"
"The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"

Best Makeup
"Albert Nobbs"
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2"
"The Iron Lady"

Best Animated Short Film
"The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore"
"La Luna"
"A Morning Stroll"
"Wild Life"

Best Live-Action Short Film
"The Shore"
"Time Freak"
"Tuba Atlantic"

Best Visual Effects
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2"
"Real Steel"
"Rise of the Planet of the Apes"
"Transformers: Dark of the Moon"

Best Picture
"The Artist"
"The Descendants"
"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"
"Midnight in Paris"
"The Help"
"War Horse"
"The Tree of Life"

Who will win: Despite it being little more than a novelty (a perfectly cute novelty, mind you, but a novelty nonetheless), "The Artist" is the most likely going to walk away (quietly, no doubt) with top honors.

Who should win: Of the remaining nominees, "The Descendants" may have appeared slight, but its acute ear for authenticity makes it feel the most real.

Best Actor
Demian Bichir, "A Better Life"
George Clooney, "The Descendants"
Jean Dujardin, "The Artist"
Gary Oldman, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
Brad Pitt, "Moneyball"

Who will win: Dujardin has been gaining momentum from the start, but longtime favorite Clooney could pull an upset here, if there is to be one on the night.

Who should win: A Clooney upset would be sweet, but another actor often overlooked for his looks is Pitt, who added humble humanity in "Moneyball."

Best Actress
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"

Who will win: Davis is the odds-on favorite for this category, edging out Streep in her 115th nomination (or something like that).

Who should win: Again, of those left to choose from, Mara gave a literally naked performance in "Tattoo" and deserves some love for her fearlessness.

Best Supporting Actor
Kenneth Branagh, "My Week With Marilyn"
Jonah Hill, "Moneyball"
Nick Nolte, "Warrior"
Christopher Plummer, "Beginners"
Max Von Sydow, "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"

Who will and should win: Plummer, who is still roaring in his 54th year of acting, and despite much acclaim has never brought home the gold. While the film is sweetly subdued, it's still his time.

Best Supporting Actress
Berenice Bejo, "The Artist"
Jessica Chastain, "The Help"
Melissa McCarthy, "Bridesmaids"
Janet McTeer, "Albert Nobbs"
Octavia Spencer, "The Help"

Who will win: Relative unknown Spencer (though she's been plugging away in films since 1996) should easily grab the statuette this year.

Who should win: McCarthy stole "Bridesmaids," which was no easy task.

Best Director

Woody Allen, "Midnight in Paris"
Michel Hazanavicius, "The Artist"
Terrence Malick, "The Tree of Life"
Alexander Payne, "The Descendants"
Martin Scorsese, "Hugo"

Who will win: While there are some heavy hitters on the roster this year, look for rookie Hazanavicius to steal it away.

Who should win:  While Allen made his best film in years with "Paris," it was Scorsese who really worked outside his comfort zone with "Hugo," and it paid off beautifully.

Best Original Screenplay

Woody Allen, "Midnight in Paris"
JC Chandor, "Margin Call"
Asghar Farhadi, "A Separation"
Michel Hazanavicius, "The Artist"
Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, "Bridesmaids"

Who will and should win: Allen's wispy world created in "Paris" is one worth revisiting time and time again.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxton, Jim Rash, "The Descendants"
John Logan, "Hugo"
George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon, "The Ides of March"
Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian, "Moneyball"
Bridget O'Connor, Peter Straughn, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"

Who will win: Payne et. al. deserve props for making Clooney's character an unlikely sympathetic one, and making his family - who live in Hawaii and are heirs to a family fortune - seem as real as the neighbors next door.

Who should win: Sorkin and Zaillian made a film about statistics one of the best baseball movies to come out since 2002's "The Rookie."

Best Animated Feature
"A Cat In Paris"
"Chico & Rita"
"Kung Fu Panda 2"
"Puss in Boots"

Who will and should win: Could it be that in a year with both a Pixar release and a Steven Spielberg-directed animated film, a Western about a philosophical gecko has a chance to take home the prize? Yes. Yes it does.