Credits: (REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)
French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius will almost certainly cop an Oscar as best director before his silent film The Artist goes on to win as best picture. Expect the amiable fellow to deliver a charming speech in good English, along with a shout-out in French to folks back home.
The same night, blase American filmmaker Woody Allen will likely win his third Oscar in the best original screenplay category. This time for creating the giddy romantic comedy, Midnight in Paris. In what may serve as poetic justice, if not irony, Allen will edge out Hazanavicius, who was also nominated in the same category. As was the duo of writer-producer Annie Mumolo and writer-producer-actress Kristen Wiig for Bridesmaids, so this category is nothing if not quirky and interesting.
Hazanavicius had created The Artist out of thin air because he is fascinated with Hollywood silent cinema, while Allen wrote Midnight in Paris to explore his affection for France's multinational arts culture of the 1930s.
The timing is predictable. After Allen has beaten Hazanavicius for the screenplay Oscar earlier in the evening, he will fall to Hazanavicius in the directors' race. But Allen may not give a damn either way, win or lose. He certainly won't be at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood for the ceremony. Allen is famous for never showing up when in competition. Instead, he has often channelled his inner Sidney Bechet and played clarinet in a jazz club on Oscar night.
For the record, Allen holds an Oscar nomination record. Midnight in Paris is his 15th citation for writing, all for original screenplay. Seven times, he was also nominated as best director, winning only once. That was for his comedy classic Annie Hall, for which he also earned his only best actor nomination. The seven noms as best director is third all-time. Allen is tied with Martin Scorsese (a follow nominee this year) as well as past legends Fred Zinnemann and David Lean. They trail William Wyler's 12 and Billy Wilder's eight.
Hazanavicius, in his first introduction to Oscar, has a chance in three categories. In addition to personal noms for direction and original screenplay, the versatile Hazanavicius is also nominated for film editing. The Artist is a cottage industry product, not a big studio production.
The expected wins by Hazanavicius and Allen are reinforced by the results of other awards and by critical weight. GoldDerby, one of the leading critical polling websites, has made them the odds-on favourites in their categories. More significantly, Hazanavicius has already won the Directors Guild of America award. While the DGA nominees were slightly different -- David Fincher got in for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, pushing aside Oscar nominee Terrence Malick for The Tree of Life -- that should not affect the Oscar race. DGA winners usually triumph at the Oscars (although not always).
As for the Screen Writers Guild awards, they are being held Sunday, one week before the Academy Awards. So that will blunt suspense, too. These results often point towards the Oscar winners (although not always).
In the best adapted screenplay race, The Descendants is the frontrunner for an Oscar. It was adapted from the novel by Kaui Hart Hemming by director Alexander Payne and the screenwriting team of Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. At the end of the night, Payne and company might have to be happy with this win, plus the best actor Oscar that George Clooney will take for his lead role in The Descendants.
In another odd twist, that will mean Clooney will lose to Payne in the best adapted screenplay category. Clooney co-wrote The Ides of March -- which he also directed and co-starred in -- but he saw his political thriller marginalized by Oscar. This screenplay citation was its only nomination. Even winners can be losers at the Oscars.