The Oscars return with all the spectacle, drama and long-winded thank you speeches that make it Hollywood's favorite night of the year. With the throwback silent film The Artist expected to sweep the awards, Sunday night's results will either be extremely repetitive or come as a huge shock. Here are our favorite clips from all nine films that are nominated for the Best Picture award, and our predictions about which film will win, as well as who deserves to win and why.
The Artist: This joint project between French and American studios is the clear Oscar winner. The Artist, a beautiful and perfectly executed story about the Hollywood transition from silent films to talkies in the 1920s, will overcome its one weakness (its un-American-ness), thanks to its charm and the fact that it pays tribute to Hollywood. The movie stars John Goodman alongside French actors Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, all in non-speaking roles, of course. The Artist will most likely win, and it deserves to, even though the whole affair will essentially boil down to Hollywood patting itself on the back.
Hugo: Hugo, veteran director Martin Scorsese's first foray into children's films, was filmed in mind-blowingly beautiful 3-D. Unlike The Artist, which celebrates Hollywood, Hugo, though also essentially a movie about movies, digs deeper, sending its protagonists on an adventure through Paris that leads them to uncover a mystery about the first great filmmaker, George Melies. Hugo won't win, it's a kids movie after all, with a hodge-podge of a cast, but in many ways it out-maneuvers The Artist.
The Descendants: A long shot for the best picture category, this drama/comedy has a great shot at winning George Clooney the Oscar for best actor, though in that category he'll face off against Jean Dujardin in The Artist, who has been sold to America as the French George Clooney.
Tree of Life: Far too bizarre a film to win a consensus within the academy, Tree of Life is director Terrence Malick's latest magnum opus, and it spans time, space and possibly alternate dimensions to create a confusing but beautiful tableau of life and the universe. The clip below features a scene that both confused and delighted audience members, and which features dinosaurs. Malick, who has been releasing one beautiful film every ten years or so, deserves the Oscar for best director, but even that may be a long shot.
Midnight in Paris: A cute and enjoyable but quickly forgettable film about Owen Wilson travelling back in time in Paris and mingling with his favorite early 20th century artists. Woody Allen's latest film doesn't even have a long shot at winning, and it's appearance on the list represents the problem with the academy's decision to increase the number of movies nominated for best film, especially in a lackluster year like this one.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: Based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, this quirky drama stars Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock with an autistic child protagonist played by Thomas Horn. Set in post 9/11 New York City, the film tracks a young boy as he follows a set of clues across the city left behind by his father, who dies in the World Trade Center attack. This film definitely falls into the not-even-a-long-shot category.
The Help: Based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett, The Help tells the story of a young white woman in the South who uses journalism to expose the hypocrisies of segregated America. The Help has its best shot at the Oscar with Octavia Spencer's nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Moneyball: Moneyball, which stars Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, manages to make sports interesting thanks to a sharp script by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network), but the film has little chance of winning the award for best picture, though Sorkin may end the night with an Oscar for best adapted screenplay.
War Horse: Steven Spielberg's second film of the year, following the animated TinTin in 3D, follows a horse through WWI Europe as it reveals the humanity present on both sides of the conflict. Spielberg has become increasingly irrelevant in recent years, and this film has an extremely slight chance of winning the award for Best Picture, despite the fact that the clip below is very well done.