And the winners will be....

Film critic Hannah Brown gives her (usually spot-on) picks for this year’s Academy Award recipients.

Oscar statue  300 (photo credit: REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)
Oscar statue 300
(photo credit: REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)
If the Academy rules allowed dogs to be nominated for Oscars, there is little question that Uggie, the canine from The Artist, would win Best Actor hands down. And when a dog, no matter how gifted a thespian he is, delivers the most talked-about performance of the year, well, it wasn’t the best year for movies.
As the nominees begin streaming down the red carpet this year for the Oscar broadcast of the 84th Academy Awards, some TV viewers won’t tune in due to bad memories of last year’s disastrous telecast in which Anne Hathaway and James Franco were the most pallid hosts ever. The Academy responded by booking the beloved Billy Crystal to host the show for the first time since 2003, a move that is at the very least a step in the right direction. So Billy’s the clear winner, but what about the other categories?
■ BEST PICTURE: In the end, the enjoyable but cutesy novelty The Artist, a mostly silent film that pays tribute to the silent film era, is likely to take the big prize. Several directors who started in the 1970s have films among those nominated: Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris), Martin Scorsese (Hugo), Steven Spielberg (War Horse) and Terrence Malick (Tree of Life). But these films were admired more than they were loved, which is equally true for The Help, a drama of race relations and female bonding in the US South; Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, a story about the aftermath of 9/11; and The Descendents, which features a pained George Clooney in aloha wear.
Moneyball is a very funny film about the business of baseball, and comedies don’t tend to win Oscars.
So that leaves The Artist as the one film that was entertaining and highminded (due to its black-and-white cinematography and reverence for film history) enough to take home the statuette.
Winner: The Artist
■ BEST ACTOR: George Clooney has one of those roles actors love in The Descendents, playing a man grieving for his comatose wife and coming to terms with her infidelity. Can there be anyone in the Academy who does not look forward to the sight of Clooney in a tuxedo grinning at his Oscar?
Winner: George Clooney in The Descendents
■ BEST ACTRESS: Meryl Streep doing an accent and playing a real person (as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady)? Nice, but we’ve seen it. For decades, the Academy ignored African-American actresses, but that won’t happen this year. Viola Davis has a leading role as a maid in The Help, and she is wonderful in it.
Winner: Viola Davis in The Help
■ BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: The most hotly contested race, this pits two beloved veterans who have never won – Christopher Plummer in Beginners and Max von Sydow in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – against each other. But Plummer’s role is more central.
Winner: Christopher Plummer in Beginners
■ BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Would I like to see Melissa McCarthy (Sukie on The Gilmore Girls) win for Bridesmaids? Yes, but she’s up against a scene-stealing minority character actress, Octavia Spencer, from The Help.
Winner: Octavia Spencer in The Help
■ BEST DIRECTOR: The guy who directed the Best Picture winner nearly always wins this award, too.
Winner: Michael Hazanavicius, The Artist
■ BEST SCREENPLAY (Original): Movies about literary history make Hollywood folk feel as if they still read books, so Woody Allen’s tale of a fantasy trip to Paris in the 1920s has the edge.
Winner: Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
■ BEST SCREENPLAY (Adapted): Alexander Payne has won this before (for Sideways in 2005), and The Descendents is the kind of highminded, star-driven drama that Academy voters like.
Winner: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash for The Descendents
■ BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: Of course, it would be wonderful to see Joseph Cedar win for Footnote. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t see it happening. Footnote is a complex story about two not totally likable characters, and the Oscars favor those who are likable.
A Separation, the nominee from Iran, has a similar problem. In Darkness, a true story of Jews hiding out in the sewers of Lvov during the Holocaust, seems to have a better chance.
Winner: In Darkness
The Oscar ceremony begins, in local Israel time, at 3:30 a.m. on Monday. It airs live on HOT 13. There will be a rebroadcast of the highlights on HOT Gold at 10 p.m. on Tuesday.