In which I revise my Oscar picks

When the nominees for this year’s Academy Awards (well, OK, technically last year’s awards) were announced a month ago, I brazenly posted my list of predicted winners.  Now that a few more awards shows have come and gone with their helpful dollops of prognostic data, let’s see where those picks stand.

For Best Supporting Actor, I picked Christopher Plummer for “Beginners.”  After having now taken home both the SAG Award and the BAFTA, he’s a sure thing.  No change from previous prediction.

The same certitude applies to Supporting Actress. which will go to Octavia Spencer for “The Help.”  She’s won everything, and she’s a lock for the Oscar.  Bet your house.  Sadly, I predicted that the Academy would give a rare win for a comedic role to Melissa McCarthy for “Bridesmaids.”  It looks like her nomination is going to be reward enough.  Change to Spencer from previous prediction.

In a hat trick of boring predictability, Jean Dujardin has won everything under the sun for “The Artist,” and is a shoo-in for the Best Actor win.  Bet your mother’s house.  I had predicted Brad Pitt for “Moneyball,” so that’s another one I’m revising.

The only acting race with any uncertainty is Best Actress.  Viola Davis was my pick for “The Help,” which I think is still the way to go.  However, Meryl Streep took home the BAFTA for “The Iron Lady”, so there’s a split between the two major predictor awards.  I think Streep’s win was very much related to the role she played and it being a British award.  In the end, no change from previous prediction.

For Best Director, I picked Alexander Payne for “The Descendants” (more on which later).  The award frequently goes to an established director, and Payne is well-respected for his body of work and hasn’t won yet.  Still, it looks like I’m going to have to change this one.  Given all the love being shown to “The Artist” and the win for its director Michel Hazanavicius at the Directors Guild Awards, I’m changing my pick to him.  Better luck next time, Alexander.

On that note, since I wrote the last Oscar post I’ve seen three of the Best Picture nominees — “Moneyball,” “The Help” and “The Descendants.”  Unfortunately, I haven’t seen “The Artist” which still seems the most likely winner, given its wins at the BAFTAs and DGAs.  I’m sticking with it, even though it lost to “The Help” at the SAG awards for Best Ensemble, which is usually a strong predictor for Best Picture.  I think the latter win was because “The Help” is loaded with very well-respected actresses, while “The Artist” stars two relative unknowns in the US, but it’s still the favorite based on its overall popularity.

Of the three nominated films I saw and their nominated performances, “The Descendants” was easily the best.  I was actually reluctant to see it, as I really disliked the (in my opinion) highly overrated “Sideways,” which had the same writer and director.  It is a magnificent film, and a deeply touching portrait of a flawed but thoroughly decent man.  It is generous with its characters, offering them nuance and depth.  George Clooney does a wonderful job in the lead role, and though I haven’t yet seen “The Artist” I think it would be heartily deserved if he were to win.  As for my previous pick of Brad Pitt, he does a very fine job in “Moneyball,” but Clooney’s performance is simply better.

I liked “The Help,” but couldn’t get past my trouble with a major plot point.  Suffice it to say that the story hinges on an incident involving an adulterated baked good, which I found totally unbelievable.  That said, both Davis and Spencer deliver great performances (particularly the former), so I’ll be happy to see them win.  However, Jessica Chastain’s passable performance isn’t really award-worthy, and her nomination should have gone to the marvelous Shailene Woodley for “The Descendants.”

Anyway, I’ll have thoughts on the winners, outfits and show in general on Monday morning.  No matter how long it goes or how lame it is (and it is metaphysically impossible for it to be worse than last year), you can bet I’ll be watching until the end.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. Having read the novel before seeing the movie, “The Help” is one of the best film adaptations I have seen.

    Why is the “terrible awful” unbelievable? Granted, I’m not a doctor, but . . .

    • [Warning — reply is vaguely spoiler-adjacent!]

      I do not believe, given the very precarious social situation of the character who perpetrated the “terrible awful,” that said character would have done something so incredibly risky, the repercussions of which could have been truly catastrophic for her. The power differential between the perpetrator of the “terrible awful” and the victim was so great that it was an act of extreme (and, in my opinion, unbelievable) foolhardiness for the perpetrator to have actually done it.

      I had other mild quibbles with a few other plot points, but that one was impossible for me to swallow. If you will.

  2. True, but it was certainly characteristic of said character to do something so brazen and risky.

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