And the Oscar goes to...

And the Oscar goes to...

French silent film "The Artist" is expected to be the big winner of the Oscars this year with 10 nominations.

The prestigious 84th Academy Awards is fast approaching this 26 February 2012 (27 Feb in Asia) and with much buzz on who would win the coveted prizes of the year, movie fans and critics alike are itching to place their picks. Placing the predictions based on the previous Award ceremonies such as The Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, British Academy Of Film And Television Arts (BAFTA) and Cannes Film Festival seems to be the safest bet, however there are some that may just surprise us, especially with the nominees this year largely dominated by France, Canada, Mexico, England, Ireland and Sweden.

Best Picture

Last year "The Social Network" and "The King's Speech" battled out with rave reviews where one after the other received top honours at various film festivals, with the big win finally bestowed upon "The King's Speech" by the Academy. This year, a similar pattern emerges with "The Artist" and "The Descendants". While the latter had won best film at the Golden Globes this year, "The Artist" had bagged the highest honours at the BAFTAs- the British equilevant of the Oscars and a well-known predictor. Although audiences revved up with this year nominations with some even ruling out the nominees as 'lame', many settled for "The Artist" as their favourite after expressing dissatisfaction over the final "Harry Potter" film and "Drive" being snubbed. So who would win? Could it be a French silent film? Or will the Oscars play it safe and go with Clooney's "The Descendants", a heart-warming wholesome tale on the importance of love and family values? Don't be surprised if Scorsese's "Hugo" emerges as a dark horse though.

Best Actor

The win for Best Actor should be an interesting one. It's the year where we'll see "Ocean's Eleven" co-stars and close buddies Brad Pitt ("Moneyball") and George Clooney ("The Descendants") pitted against each other, as they also prove to be the highest rated fan favourites for a win. However as "The Artist" is expected to be in for a major Oscar windfall, lead Jean Dujardin who's described as the French George Clooney is expected to be the first ever French actor to win the honour. After all, Dujardin role has won him Best Actor at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, Screen Actors Guild and the Cannes Film Festival. While this would be Gary Oldman's ("Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy") first ever nomination over his 30 year career, it will also be Mexican actor Demian Bichir's ("A Better Life") first Academy nomination, making him the second male Mexican actor to gain the recognition since Anthony Quinn. Whether or not Bichir would make history as the first ever Mexican to win, remains to be seen.

Best Actress

Unlike the Best Actor nominees, Best Actress is a whole lot tougher to predict especially with each one of the nominees providing solid performances and none of their movies placing in the Best Picture category, save for "The Help". Oscar fans and critics at large predict that 2-time Academy Award winner, Meryl Streep would win this time with her firm portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in the biopic, "The Iron Lady", while Michelle Williams is second favourite in another semi-fictional biopic; "My Week With Marilyn". Although it seems that the nominees this year are fairly new faces to the Academy save for Streep and Williams, movie fans thought that none was wholly deserving of a win compared to last year's nominees which boasted big names like Natalie Portman, Nicole Kidman and Annette Bening. Viola Davis ("The Help") who played a strong yet soulful African American maid of the South and Rooney Mara ("The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo") who played a disturbed eccentric in the most risqué role on the list are potential blindsided surprises. An eye is also cast out for 6-time Oscar nominee Glenn Close for playing a woman living life as a man in "Albert Nobbs", however a win is predicted to be unlikely due to the lack of wins her role has generated in the past few award ceremonies held early this year.

Best Director

This would be a tough call, with Woody Allen ("Midnight In Paris"), Terrence Malick ("Moneyball"), Michel Hazanavicius ("The Artist") Martin Scorsese ("Hugo") and Alexander Payne ("The Descendants") all eyeing the prize, we would, with a heavy hearts, place our bets on Hazanavicius. The reason is simple, having won several awards for "The Artist" this year, it is only reasonable that the wins be translated for a major award recognition such as an Oscar. Observing "The King's Speech" which won best film last year, granting a worthy win to its director Tom Hopper as well, the pattern will likely repeat itself this year if "The Artist" wins Best Picture. Movie fans however say otherwise as they predict that it's about time Scorsese receives another award since his win with 2005's "The Departed", besides the 69-year-old also won best director at the BAFTAs held last week.

Best Animated Feature

Surprisingly, leading animation studios, Pixar have not made it as a nominee for Best Animation Feature this year despite its "Toy Story 3" winning in the same category last year. Making way for the gap however is two artsy foreign films, "A Cat In Paris" (France) and "Chico & Rita" (Spain) against three popular big-budgeted commercial films "Kung Fu Panda 2", "Rango" and "Puss In Boots". As the highly acclaimed French animation "The Illusionist" lost to "Toy Story 3" last year, it is expected that this year the two foreign toons would have to bow out to make way for the other more popular ones. "Kung Fu Panda 2" and "Puss In Boots" are quick fan favourites, however critics note that "Rango" may take the cake due to its eccentric imaginative storyline providing a much needed dash of originality without being a sequel, or a spin-off like the earlier mentioned two. Steven Spielberg's "The Adventures Of Tintin: Secret Of The Unicorn" which won Best Animation at the Golden Globes is infamously noted for being snubbed as a nominee, but would have gladly made it as our pick if it had.

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