Recently I’ve been watching the nominated films for the 84th Academy Awards, and this has somewhat become my yearly ritual before the awards show. My longtime friend and TV host/producer Juliette Zhuo at LA-based Chinese-language channel LA 18 thought I should share my viewing experience with her loyal Chinese-speaking audiences. As a result, several days ago I sit down with her and we casually talked about the nominated films and the upcoming awarding ceremony. I made my predictions at the show, and these predictions are not going to be 100% accurate (who could predict that Avatar would lose to The Hurt Locker last year?), but they will certainly make the watching of the upcoming ceremony (to be aired live on ABC on Feb. 26 at 4pm, Pacific Time) more interesting:
1. BEST PICTURE: Well, it will be a battle between The Artist and Hugo, with The Help as a potential black horse. It is also a competition between France and the United States, a rivalry between “the Jazz Singer” and Georges Melies. But who can resist the sweet and nostalgic temptation of the black and white/almost silent cine-darling? So, the winner will be: THE ARTIST.
2. BEST DIRECTOR: Once again, it is a battle between France and the United States, or Michel Hazanavicius vs. Martin Scorsese. The battle is going to be fierce, because theoretically Michel has the upper hand, but he is largely unknown in Hollywood and Academy members are certainly more friendly toward familiar faces. So, the winner will be: Martin Scorsese (by the way, I only liked Hugo’s first five minutes).
3. BEST ACTOR: It is unanimous, and there will be no complication. The winner will be: Jean Dujardin for his role in The Artist. George Clooney is a remote shot.
4. BEST ACTRESS: This will be a heavyweight showdown between veteran performer Meryl Streep and newcomer Viola Davis, the latter playing a 1960s’ black housemaid in America’s South and having just won the Best Actress trophy at SAG. But I was just mesmerized by Meryl Streep’s Margret Thatcher. So, I vote for Meryl Streep.
5. BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: It is a single pick, Christopher Plummer, who plays a soon-to-die gay father coming to terms with his sexual orientation at an old age in Beginners.
6. BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: No ambiguity, and the winner will be Octavia Spencer. If you’ve seen The Help, she is the most memorable character in the entire cast, sometimes funny and mischievous, but always humanly dignified and proud to be a black woman despite the circumstances.
7. BEST SCREENPLAY: Everyone loves Woody Allen, the camera-shy veteran whose films always delight the audience with their WA-style flavor mixed with irony, humor, futile desire, and urban intelligentsia. There is also something special about his sensibility of the city and city life. I hope he will someday make a film about Shanghai. So, the winner will be Woody Allen’s MIDNIGHT IN PARIS.
8. BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM: Many of my friends were disappointed with the news that Zhang Yimou’s The Flowers of War failed to secure a nomination. My view is that Zhang’s film is a decent one, but definitely not a great one. Even if Flowers was nominated, it would for sure lose to Iranian feature A Separation. I just loved the film’s everyday-ness, as if you were not watching a film, but was immersed in the daily life of the Iranian people. The eyes of the two young girls, one in her adolescence, the other a pre-school sweetie, are unforgettable. So, the winner will be A SEPARATION from Iran.