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Hugo Tag

“Top 10 lists now?” I hear you say. “Isn’t February 26 a little…late?” Actually, right on time, given tonight’s big event, and I don’t mean the latest episode of The Walking Dead, not that I’d blame you for switching over amidst what it likely to be a corpse of an Oscar competition. Or, if you ask me, premature–I really should do these in July or August, when I’ve had more of a chance to see a fuller spectrum of what 2011 had to offer under optimum conditions (The acclaimed Certified Copy stuttering and buffering on Netflix Instant doesn’t count as an “optimum condition,” but the upcoming Criterion Blu-ray would.) Come to think of it, 2021 may be the best time, when it’s possible to take a big picture look at the big pictures to see what really held up. (Gosford Park, from 2001, yes; A Beautiful Mind, not so much.)

But you’ve got to take a stand sometime. The nice thing about doing it now is that you don’t have to elaborate on your choices too much, so here it goes, from 1 to 10, with some elaboration:

A Separation. I pegged this as my best picture of the year in October, and like The Social Network in 2010 it didn’t budge. Sometimes you just know these things. In release now so seek it out.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Even viewed as a screener this leapt out at me. Quite a stunning feat of adaptation.

Hugo. A good year for Marty, with this and the fine documentary George Harrison: Living in the Material World, which is on HBO Go.

1/2 Melancholia. All of Kirsten Dunst’s amazing performance. Kiefer Sutherland’s surprisingly withdrawn one. The incredible prologue. The sound design. The ending. (The wedding, Lars von Trier’s typically weirdo casting of everyone else, expendable.)

Here we go with my annual Oscar predictions. In 2010, I got 17 right, but last year I did much better, with 20 right out of 24. This year I am posting my predictions one week before I normally do, as I will be on a cruise during the week leading up to the big night, Sunday February 26. In fact, this will be the first time I can remember that I won’t be able to watch the show live, all because of my cruise. I know, poor me. I shall post my final tally in the comments as soon as I can. And as always, good luck in your Oscar pools!

BEST PICTURE
The Artist (Thomas Langmann, producer); The Descendants (Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor); Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (Scott Rudin); The Help (Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan); Hugo (Graham King and Martin Scorsese); Midnight in Paris (Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum); Moneyball (Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt); The Tree of Life (Sarah Green, Bill Pohlad, Dede Gardner and Grant Hill); War Horse (Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy)

PREDICTION: The Artist. With both the Producers Guild of America award and the Directors Guild of America award, The Artist looks poised to win Best Picture. If there’s an upset here it will likely be Hugo.

BEST ACTOR
Demián Bichir for A Better Life; George Clooney for The Descendants; Jean Dujardin for The Artist; Gary Oldman for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; Brad Pitt for Moneyball

PREDICTION: Jean Dujardin. If you’d asked me a month ago, I’d have been certain this is Clooney’s year to win. But The Artist and its star are gaining momentum, especially with Dujardin’s win at the Screen Actors Guild awards. As many SAG members are also Academy members, I’m going with Dujardin.

BEST ACTRESS
Glenn Close for Albert Nobbs; Viola Davis for The Help; Rooney Mara for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady; Michelle Williams for My Week With Marilyn

PREDICTION: Viola Davis. The notion that “Meryl Streep wins every year” is pretty much not true. She’s only won the leading actress Oscar one time, for Sophie’s Choice (1982) and she also took home the supporting actress Oscar once for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979). A more accurate observation would be “Meryl Streep gets nominated every year but hardly ever wins.” In fact she currently holds the record for acting nominations with 17, second to Jack Nicholson with 12. While Streep’s chances of winning are better than normal this time, I still think Viola Davis will take home the Oscar. And with her recent win at the SAG awards, it’s even more likely that this is Davis’s year to win.

Our aging masters are getting in touch with their inner children this year. Woody Allen’s fantasy-tinged Midnight in Paris has a lightness of spirit and a sense of play that audiences embraced, giving its 75-year-old director his biggest popular success. Resisting a walker and cane the 65-year-old Steven Spielberg has back-to-back family pictures out at Christmas, The Adventures of Tintin (a smash hit overseas) and, in a more serious vein, War Horse, waiting for his closeup after its successes in print and onstage. It’s not just the early bird dinner crowd who are in on the act this season–Stephen Daldry, 50, presents his adaptation of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, a boy’s-eye view of 9/11, and Cameron Crowe returns to the movies with kids and animals with We Bought a Zoo.

Leave it to Martin Scorsese to raise the  bar high for his peers. Scorsese, 69, has a 12-year-old daughter, and parenting comes before auteurism. (“No, sweetie, you can’t see The Departed. Not Shutter Island, either. Maybe the next one.”) Or perhaps they fused. I think he saw Brian Selznick’s award-winning children’s novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret (written by a relative of the maverick producer David O. Selznick) and realized that a book so steeped in movie lore had to be made into a movie, and that he had to make it. And so we have Hugo, the best Christmas gift