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Winners predicted for Oscars

Brad Pitt portrays the life of Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane. "Moneyball" is predicted to win Best Writing Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars. (photo/ joreviews.com)

Last week I took a look at Best Picture, the lead acting categories and Best Director. Since then, the Directors Guild Awards and the SAG awards were given out. The only thing worth noting is that Michel Hazanavicius won the DGA award for Best Director.

Historically, the DGA award has been a near perfect indicator of the eventual winner of the Oscar for Best Director (and Best Picture tends to go hand in hand with Best Director). I believe that, unlike last year, the Academy will agree with the Globes on this one.

Best Supporting Actor:

Kenneth Branagh – My Week with Marilyn

Jonah Hill – Moneyball

Nick Nolte – Warrior

Christopher Plummer – Beginners

Max von Sydow – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Of all the major categories this year, the supporting actor categories probably got the most wrong. While Best Picture essentially got about 70 percent of the nominations right, it seems like the supporting actor categories completely missed the mark in almost every way.

The only people who deserve to be here are Plummer and Branagh. Plummer, in a touching and charming performance as an out-gay elderly man, is the clear front-runner in this category, winning the SAG and Golden Globe, and Branagh, while he has yet to gain any actual award traction, was excellent as Laurence Olivier in "Marilyn."

From there, the other nominations are a little strange. Nolte was quite good in "Warrior," but really it should be Tom Hardy receiving the nomination in his place. Hardy was the stalwart core of that film – he deftly balanced the quiet rage of an Iraq war vet with the tragic sadness of an aimless fighter.

Von Sydow seems to simply be receiving perfunctory nomination here – it essentially came out of the furthest of left fields (as did Extremely Loud's nomination). Jonah Hill was good in "Moneyball," but there are too many other qualified performances to warrant him receiving this nomination.

This category also contains the biggest, most unforgivable snub of the year – Albert Brooks for "Drive."

I understand "Drive" not receiving a nomination: While it's easily one of the best films of the year, it's not exactly the kind of film the Academy usually appreciates. But Brooks was so phenomenal, so utterly and extraordinarily captivating as gangster Bernie Rose, that the Academy's failure to nominate him is perhaps its biggest snub in years. Academy, you royally screwed this one up.

Prediction: Christopher Plummer. Betting against him at this point is like betting against the Harlem Globetrotters.

Best Supporting Actress:

Berenice Bejo – The Artist

Jessica Chastain – The Help

Melissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids

Janet McTeer – Albert Nobbs

Octavia Spencer – The Help

This category is a little "iffy" as well, but not as bad as Best Supporting Actor. Bejo deserves to be here, and while I wasn't a big fan of Bridesmaids, McCarthy gave easily the finest performance in that critical darling. McTeer is good in "Nobbs," but as I said with Glenn Close, I felt the film to be too boring and dry to really warrant any attention beyond perhaps a nomination for Close.

Spencer is the clear front-runner here, winning the Golden Globe and the SAG. While she was incredibly charismatic and effective in "The Help," the unfortunate reality is that she’s essentially playing a stereotype – it's hard to decide if her character's constant praise of fried chicken and her frequent "mm-hmms" are funny or borderline racist.

I'm not entirely sure of where Jessica Chastain came from, but Hollywood is certainly better off because of this beautiful, talented actress bursting onto the scene. While I'm ecstatic she has a nomination, she, along with Spencer, is essentially just embodying a caricature. Chastain was better in "Take Shelter," but her best performance was her ethereal, quasi-divine performance in "The Tree of Life."

Working with the actual nominees, I'd personally have to give to Bejo. She is a perfect foil for DuJardin in The Artist, and it's impressive how well she embodies the spirit and form of a Golden Era actress. However, if I could shuffle the nominations, I’d give the award to Chastain for "Tree of Life."

Prediction: Octavia Spencer. It's a solid bet, she has a lot of momentum at this point.

Best Writing

Original Screenplay

The Artist – Michel Hazanavicius

Bridesmaids – Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo

Margin Call – J.C. Chandor

Midnight in Paris – Woody Allen

A Separation – Asghar Farhadi

This is an incredibly competitive category. It's also a very diverse category; we have the standard, expected nominees of "Midnight" and "The Artist," but it's nice to see the Academy recognize a comedy ("Bridesmaids"), a lesser-known film ("Margin Call") and a foreign masterpiece ("A Separation").

"Midnight" is Allen's wittiest film in years, and truly demonstrates a return to form for one of Hollywood's masters. "Margin Call," while its second half fails to be as captivating and engaging as its first, still contains some Aaron Sorkin-esque spitfire dialogue, and some excellent narrative structure.

"A Separation" is an absolute treat – a touching, brilliantly constructed film that, like last year’s "Blue Valentine," takes a microscope to what it really means to love, and to fall out of love. Its screenplay is a lesson in restraint and subtlety. "Bridesmaids" is quite funny, but I personally found it to only be half as truly clever as some people believe.

This brings us to "The Artist." A screenplay without words is actually difficult to create – how do you transmit your themes or points without allowing your characters to speak?

However, I still believe "A Separation" to be the better screenplay here. "A Separation" pulls off almost the impossible task of analyzing (without judging) the motives and motions of characters who are either madly in love or finding their lives dissolving as a result of losing that love. If I gave out the Oscar, Mr. Farhadi would be my choice.

Prediction: "The Artist." Almost every year, the ultimate Best Picture winner also takes home either Best Director or Best Adapted or Original Screenplay. The last time a film won Best Picture without winning either Director or one of the writing categories was "Chicago." Since I’m picking Scorsese to take director, I’m going to have to go with "The Artist" to take this one.

Best Writing

Adapted Screenplay

The Descendants – Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash

Hugo – John Logan

The Ides of March - George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon

Moneyball – Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan

Really this category is a race between "Moneyball," "The Descendants," and "Hugo." "Hugo" was probably the most challenging to create, while "Moneyball" effectively turns a cut-and-dry book into a fascinating, never-boring film.

"The Descendants" is probably Payne’s least successful work – it doesn’t have the precise wit of "Sideways" or the tragic awareness of "About Schmidt." It’s much better acted than it is written.

"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," while one of the best films of the year, was admittedly occasionally dense and confusing. Even if the film does well at the BAFTAs (which I believe it will), it doesn’t have much of a shot.

"The Ides of March" is a very good film, with pitch-perfect dialogue and performances, but it has no award momentum at all, and is essentially in last place in this race.

"Moneyball" would be my choice here. The screenplay is the perfect combination of Sorkin's traditionally excellent dialogue and Zaillian's knack for excellent storytelling.

Prediction: This is a very close call. I’m going with "Moneyball" on this one, but "The Descendants" could definitely take it as well.