The list of Oscar nominees shows that 2011 wasn't an especially good year for movies.
There are nine nominees for Best Picture--the rule this year was that a movie had to get 5 percent of the overall number 1 votes to be included. But to me, THE HELP, WAR HORSE, HUGO, EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE, and MONEYBALL aren't great movies....good maybe, but not worthy of Oscar nominations. Better choices would include: THE DEBT, MARGIN CALL, YOUNG ADULT, WARRIOR, SARAH'S KEY, and LIKE CRAZY.
As things stand, the Best Picture race is probably between THE ARTIST and THE DESCENDANTS. Both are excellent. But THE ARTIST will win because the Hollywood establishment voters won't be able to resist voting for a silent film that honor's Hollywood's "glorious" past.
My choice would be THE DESCENDANTS which moved me to both laughter and tears.
But I'm pleased to see THE TREE OF LIFE among the nominees, because it's as close to being profound as films ever get.
Another nominee, MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, is a crowd pleaser that I thoroughly enjoyed.
I think George Clooney (THE DESCENDANTS) deserves and will get the Best Actor award. But I think Michael Fassbender should at least have been nominated for his terrific performance as a tormented sex addict in SHAME.
The Best Actress race is between Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in THE IRON LADY and Viola Davis as a southern maid in THE HELP. This
competition is toss up as far as I'm concerned. I like them both. Michelle Williams was amazing at recreating Marilyn Monroe's persona in MY WEEK WITH MARILYN, but I doubt the Academy will consider her Oscar worthy.
I was disappointed not to find Shailene Woodley among the nominees for Best Supporting Actress. The range of honest emotions she conveyed (as the older daughter of George Clooney in THE DESCENDANTS) was truly impressive. Since she's not a nominee, my choice is Jessica Chastain in THE HELP. Chastain created 7 different characters in movies this year and they were all well done. Octavia Spencer (also in THE HELP) is her main competition.
Christopher Plummer (BEGINNERS) seems to have the Best Supporting Actor statue locked up for his engaging performance as a 75 year old widower who comes out of the closet as a gay man even as he battles a terminal disease. I think Plummer deserves the award, but I was disappointed that Albert Brooks did not get a nomination in this category for playing a menacing gangster in DRIVE. The fine actor Kenneth Branagh is also on the list for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Sir Laurence Olivier in MY WEEK WITH MARILYN, but his performance was nothing special. I don't know why he was included.