LOS ANGELES — Associated Press movie writers David Germain and Christy Lemire are boringly in lockstep on their picks for this season's top Academy Awards categories, depriving them of their usual snide debate over who's going to win.
Both predict the silent film "The Artist" will win for best-picture prize and for director Michel Hazanavicius. They also expect "The Artist" star Jean Dujardin to claim best actor, with "The Help" co-stars Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer earning the actress honors and Christopher Plummer taking supporting actor for "Beginners."
Here are their thoughts, with both sounding off on best picture, Lemire offering her take on best actor and supporting actress, and Germain giving his opinion on best director, actress and supporting actor.
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Nominees: Best Picture: "The Artist," "The Descendants," "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," "The Help," "Hugo," "Midnight in Paris," "Moneyball," "The Tree of Life," "War Horse."
GERMAIN: The buzz began at Cannes, as last May's crowd considered the prospects of "The Artist," a last-minute addition to the world's most prestigious film festival competition. Here's what the Cannes festival program promised for this throwback to silent cinema: "Hollywood 1927. George Valentin is a silent movie superstar. The advent of the talkies will sound the death knell for his career and see him fall into oblivion. For young extra Peppy Miller, it seems the sky's the limit — major movie stardom awaits." Before "The Artist" premiered, Cannes critics asked one another, "Do you suppose it's really silent?" And they thought: "How unlike the usual Cannes snoot-fest. This one actually could be fun." Well, "The Artist" has been great fun ever since, winning Jean Dujardin the Cannes best-actor prize as George, launching him and fellow Oscar nominee Berenice Bejo to worldwide celebrity, and charming fans with its grand black-and-white visuals, its sweet comic melodrama, its rich score and sound effects, its show-stopping dance numbers and its adorable canine co-star Uggie. Writer-director Michel Hazanavicius delivers a glorious dose of nostalgia with hip, modern flair, creating what will be the only silent film to win best picture since the first year at the Oscars 83 years ago. For the principals of "The Artist" — Hazanavicius, Dujardin, Bejo, Uggie — major movie stardom no longer awaits. It's here.
LEMIRE: I am not nearly as enamored of "The Artist" as Dave is. I think it's a very lovingly crafted, meticulously detailed gimmick. It's sweet but it drags; the dog is the best part. But everyone in this town is clinging to the nostalgia this film offers, pining for the moment in history that it captures, so I'm just going to have to surrender to the juggernaut and acknowledge that it's going to win best picture. For a little while last year, it looked like "The Descendants" was your front-runner; many consider it Alexander Payne's best film. If it were up to me, "The Tree of Life" would win; Terrence Malick's gorgeous meditation on the origin of the universe is the real accomplishment here — gorgeous, ambitious and challenging. I'm just happy it was nominated. "Hugo," Martin Scorsese's first film in beautifully immersive 3-D, is a great visual achievement and should do well in the technical categories (it leads all films with 11 nominations). The heavy-handed "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" doesn't even belong here.
Nominees: Michel Hazanavicius, "The Artist"; Alexander Payne, "The Descendants"; Martin Scorsese, "Hugo"; Woody Allen, "Midnight in Paris"; Terrence Malick, "The Tree of Life."
GERMAIN: At the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Kristen Wiig and her "Bridesmaids" co-stars Maya Rudolph and Melissa McCarthy came up with a funny drinking game involving the last name of Martin Scorsese, whose pronunciation they hilariously debated. Good thing awards season has given presenters plenty of chances to practice pronouncing the name of the directing front-runner Scorsese's up against. Michel Hazanavicius has gone from solid success at home in France with his "OSS 117" spy romps to international innovator for his crazy little idea to resurrect the silent film. Hazanavicius came up with a lovely story lovingly told, combining sumptuous music, stylish costumes, gorgeous black-and-white images and only the barest whisper of spoken dialogue into an experience that's nothing short of transporting. Charles Chaplin continued making silent films well into the sound era, and Mel Brooks scored a comic hit with his spoof "Silent Movie." But no filmmaker of modern times really took silence seriously until Hazanavicius, who bucked every trend of kaleidoscopic color, ear-shattering sound and digitized 3-D visual spectacle to make old Hollywood fresh and new again. For that, and for the great film he made, he'll get his Oscar.