The nominees for the 2012, 84th Annual Academy Awards have been released and the film industry is already buzzing with speculation on who will take home the Oscar on February 26th. Here’s my two cents about the nominees, who got snubbed, and an early (tentative and subject to change!) prediction about who could take home the gold. I only reviewed the nine most-talked about categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Cinematography, Best Lead Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Lead Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Adapted Screenplay. I will include every category in my official prediction post, which will come when the Oscars get closer.

Could "The Artist" be another "Slumdog Millionaire"-esque Oscar-sweeper?

Contenders: “The Artist,” “The Descendants,” “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” “The Help,” “Hugo,” “Midnight in Paris,” “Moneyball,” “The Tree of Life,” “War Horse”

Didn’t Make the Cut: “Drive”, “The Ides of March”, “Young Adult”, “Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy”, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “My Week with Marilyn”, “Bridesmaids”

Thoughts: No surprises here. Five of the films tote big-name directors: “The Descendants” (George Clooney), “Hugo” (Martin Scorsese), “Midnight in Paris” (Woody Allen), “Tree of Life” (slightly lesser known Terrence Malick), and “War Horse” (Steven Spielberg). Three films were based on best-selling books: “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” “Moneyball,” and “The Help”. And the remaining film, “The Artist”, has always been seen as an awards contender ever since it’s release. The Academy remained predictable as ever this year for the Best Picture noms.

Every movie fan is bound to have at least a few films that they’re annoyed didn’t get picked, and this year mine were “Drive” and “The Ides of March.” “Drive”featured excellent cinematography, a catchy soundtrack, a unique story and a killer performance by Ryan Gosling (also ignored by the Academy this year, we’ll get to that later). “The Ides of March,” was easily my favorite film of the year. It was an edge-of-your-seat thriller that kept you guessing and featured another great Ryan Gosling performance, as well as excellent writing and supporting appearances by George Clooney, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Early Prediction: I think Best Picture will come down to a fight between “The Artist” and “The Descendants.” “The Descendants” took home two Golden Globes (Best Picture and Best Actor – Drama) a few weeks ago, but “The Artist “boasts a whopping ten Oscar nominations to “The Descendants”‘ five. In the end, I see “The Artist” eventually going home with the gold. I’ve yet to see it, but the film is a classic case of the artsy, indie film that voters just love to throw awards at.

George Clooney in "The Descendants"

Contenders: Demián Bichir (“A Better Life”), George Clooney (“The Descendants”), Jean Dujardin (“The Artist”), Gary Oldman (“Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”), Brad Pitt (“Moneyball”)

Didn’t Make the Cut: Ryan Gosling (“Drive “or “The Ides of March”), Leonardo DiCaprio (“J. Edgar”), Michael Fassbender (“Shame”), Michael Shannon (“Take Shelter”)

Thoughts: The only real surprise amongst the five nominees is Demián Bichir for his role in “A Better Life”. I vaguely remember seeing the trailer for this film, but that was the last time I had heard or thought about it until Bichir got this nomination. The performance must be a doozy for him to knock out the likes of DiCaprio and Fassbender. After leaving Ryan Gosling out of the race for the second year in a row (he wasn’t nominated for “Blue Valentine “last year, though Michelle Williams was), I’m beginning to wonder what the Academy has against the guy. As “The Hollywood Reporter” points out in it’s Oscar snubs article, it was a great year for Gosling, who had three really good films – “Drive, The Ides of March, “and “Crazy Stupid Love.” “THR” goes on to speculate that his lack of a nomination might have to do with him not making the rounds and doing the awards circuit to promote himself and lobby for a nomination. Which makes me mad, because the Academy should be voting on an actor’s performance, not the number of appearances he makes or parties he attends.

Early Prediction: Clooney and Pitt both gave the best performances of their careers this year, but again I think this category comes down to “The Descendants “vs. “The Artist. ” I’ve yet to see “The Artist “so I can’t say who I think deserves it, but at this point I’ll call Jean Dujardin the winner. We may have another “Slumdog Millionaire -“style Oscar-sweeper on our hands with “The Artist”, and it doesn’t help that Clooney already has an Academy Award under his belt (a Best Supporting Actor for 2005’s “Syriana”).

Side Note: How is this Gary Oldman’s first Oscar nomination, ever? That just seem so wrong…

Kenneth Branagh as Sir Laurence Olivier in "My Week with Marilyn"

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Contenders: Kenneth Branagh (“My Week with Marilyn”), Jonah Hill (“Moneyball”), Nick Nolte (“Warrior”), Christopher Plummer (“Beginners”), Max von Sydow (“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”)

Didn’t Make the Cut: Albert Brooks (“Drive”), Armie Hammer (“J. Edgar”), Andy Serkis (“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”), Patton Oswalt (“Young Adult”)

Thoughts: Who would’ve thought the pudgy kid from “Superbad “would be an Oscar contender? I certainly didn’t, and I’m still not sure he belongs up there with the likes of Kenneth Branagh and Christopher Plummer. Sure, Hill did a decent job in “Moneyball,” but I certainly didn’t leave the theater thinking it was an Oscar-nomination-worthy performance.

I actually would’ve preferred it if Andy Serkis had gotten the nom over Hill. This could have been the Oscars in which motion-capture performances were finally given their due. Say what you will about the goofy “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”, but if you see the work that goes into Serkis’ role as Caesar the ape it’s really impressive. This was a chance to right the wrong of Serkis never receiving a nomination for his landmark performance as Gollum in the “Lord of the Rings “trilogy.

Early Prediction: I’d say this category boils down to a Plummer vs. Branagh match-up. This is Plummer’s 2nd nomination and Branagh’s 5th, and neither has yet to win an Oscar. Plummer was good in “Beginners,” but Branagh was exceptional as Sir Laurence Olivier in “My Week with Marilyn.” Gold goes to Branagh.

Glenn Close as Albert Nobbs

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Contenders: Glenn Close (“Albert Nobbs”), Viola Davis (“The Help”), Rooney Mara (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”), Meryl Streep (“The Iron Lady”), Michelle Williams (“My Week with Marilyn”)

Didn’t Make the Cut: Shailene Woodley (“The Descendents”), Charlize Theron (“Young Adult”), Tilda Swinton (“We Need to Talk About Kevin”), Kirsten Dunst (“Melancholia”), Elizabeth Olson (“Martha Marcy May Marlene”)

Thoughts: Tilda Swinton’s absence from the list of nominees seems to be on the list of everybody’s top “Oscar snubs” this year. This category could be a tight one, with all very transformational roles in the running – Streep portraying Margaret Thatcher, Williams playing the iconic Marilyn Monroe, Rooney Mara almost unrecognizable as hacker Lisbeth Salander, Davis as maid/nanny Aibileen Clark, and Glenn Close as woman pretending to be a man.

Early Prediction: This one should be Glenn Close‘s – this is her sixth Oscar nomination and she’s yet to win. Meryl Streep has been nominated a whopping 17 times but she’s also already won twice. This is Michelle William’s third nomination (no wins yet) and Viola Davis’ second (no wins yet either). Close seems overdue for a win, and her role seems to be the most challenging since she’s essentially playing a man. Plus, Williams and Davis are younger and have more of their careers ahead of them.

Octavia Spencer as Minny Jackson in "The Help"

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Contenders: Bérénice Bejo (“The Artist”), Jessica Chastain (“The Help”), Melissa McCarthy (“Bridesmaids”), Janet McTeer (“Albert Nobbs”), Octavia Spencer (“The Help”)

Didn’t Make the Cut: Shailene Woodley (“The Descendants”), Cary Mulligan (“Shame “or “Drive”), Marion Cotillard (“Midnight in Paris”), Melanie Laurent (“Beginners”)

Thoughts: What’s that, a surprising Oscar nomination?! I didn’t think such a thing existed. But wouldn’t you know, the Academy catches us napping and actually nominates Melissa McCarthy for “Bridesmaids.” I still haven’t seen the movie, but regardless of what I end up thinking of it, I still love this nomination.

First off, it’s a nomination for a woman in “a comedy film”. That’s almost unheard of at the Oscars, and to see a comedy get two nominations (“Bridesmaids “also got a nom for Best Original Screenplay) is really refreshing. Even if the movie loses both categories, I still hope that their inclusion marks a new era in which comedies will be given more credit and eventually, maybe even a few awards. I’m not saying that “The Hangover “should have been up for Oscars, I’m just saying that I feel there are some really exceptional comedies of late that it wouldn’t hurt to recognize with a few nominations.

Secondly, Melissa McCarthy has been nominated for being a “funny” woman. I’m not sure when the last time was that a Supporting Actress nominee came from a comedy film (if it ever has happened, that is). This nomination carries on the message that “Bridesmaids “has carried from the start: that women can be just as funny as men and just as successful in the comedy genre.

Early Prediction: It was big enough for the Academy to nominate Melissa McCarthy in the first place, so I don’t see her then taking home the Oscar as well (as cool as that would be). Due to the recent “Artist “blitz this awards season, I think Bérénice Bejo might have this one in the bag. Plus, critics weren’t big fans of “The Help “or “Albert Nobbs” (which scored 62/100 and 55/100, respectively, on Metacritic).

Woody Allen directs Owen Wilson and Carla Bruni on the set of "Midnight in Paris"

BEST DIRECTOR

Contenders: Martin Scorsese (“Hugo”), Michel Hazanavicius (“The Artist”), Alexander Payne (“The Descendants”), Woody Allen (“Midnight in Paris”), Terrence Malick (“The Tree of Life”)

Didn’t Make the Cut: Nicolas Winding Refn (“Drive”), George Clooney (“The Ides of March”), David Fincher (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”), Bennett Miller (“Moneyball”), Clint Eastwood (“J. Edgar”), Steve McQueen (“Shame”), Jason Reitman (“Young Adult”)

Thoughts: God I hope Terrence Malick doesn’t win. Much to the anger of pretentious/artsy-film-lovers everywhere, I heartily disliked “The Tree of Life”. To be honest, I’m pretty disappointed with the nominees this year. Looking at the rather long list of directors who missed out, I’d prefer most of them over those who have been nominated. Again, it’s a damn tragedy that Winding Refn and Clooney were left out. But it’s no use crying over spilled milk, so if I have to pull for one of the nominees, it would be Alexander Payne. “The Descendants “is the best film that received nominations this year (besides “Ides of March”), so I’d like to see Payne take home the statue.

Early Prediction: Besides “The Artist “having a recent hot-streak and touting the 2nd-most nominations this year with 10 (just behind “Hugo”‘s 11), I think the Academy might vote for the newcomer this year and go with Hazanavicius. Payne already has an Oscar, which he won for the last film he was nominated for – 2004’s “Sideways”. Scorsese is in the same boat, with an Oscar for “The Departed”, and Malick has been nominated twice before. So at this point, I’m calling this another victory for “The Artist”.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Contenders: “The Artist,” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “Hugo,” “The Tree of Life,” “War Horse”

Thoughts: To be honest, I’ve only seen one of these nominees – “Tree of Life. “As much as I disliked the film, the one thing I appreciated was that it truly was beautifully shot. It’s not an exaggeration at all to say that you could pause the film at any point, and the frame you froze on could hold its own as an incredible still photo hung on the wall of a photography exhibit somewhere. I’d have to see the other movies to be sure, but my guess is that “The Tree of Life “has this year’s best cinematography.

Early Prediction: A fight between “The Artist” and “The Tree of Life,” with “The Artist” winning out. A more informed prediction is still-to-come.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Contenders: “The Descendants,” “Hugo,” “The Ides of March,” “Moneyball,” “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”

Thoughts: I’d love “The Ides of March” to win the one category it’s up for, particularly because I think it is the most worthy amongst the fellow nominees. But it’s doubtful that’s going to happen, so if “Ides “can’t win, I’m rooting for “The Descendants”. It was an excellent script, and it would be really awesome to see one of the co-writers, Jim Rash, to win an Oscar. Some people may be more familiar with Rash as the character Dean Pelton on NBC’s “Community”, which is my favorite current TV show.

Early Prediction: With the film sitting well on it’s other four Oscar nominations, I think “The Descendants” is the one to beat in this category. “Tinker” could give it a run for it’s money though.

Could "Bridesmaids" be an Oscar winner?

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Contenders: “The Artist,” “Bridesmaids,” “Margin Call,” “Midnight in Paris,” “A Separation”

Thoughts: Go “Bridesmaids!” It feels odd to be cheering for a film that I’ve yet to see and could possibly even dislike once I see it. But in rooting for “Bridesmaids,” I’m rooting for the comedy genre in general, which I think is an important cause. Plus, wouldn’t it be refreshing to see an upset (gasp!) at the Oscars this year? Down with predictability!

Early Prediction: Like Melissa McCarthy’s nomination for her performance in “Bridesmaids”, I have a feeling a nomination is as far as this film is going to go. “The Artist” is certainly the talk of the town right now and far more prominent than “Midnight in Paris” and the indies “Margin Call” and “A Separation”. I’m chalking this one up to another one for “The Artist.”

About The Author

Bell Peloquin is a Blast staff writer. He writes the Film and Television Buzz blog.

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