Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Ooh-la-la! This category sings with a distinctly French accent. Woody Allen’s film was shot in Paris. Martin Scorsese’s picture is set there. Terrence Malick lived there for 20 years and taught at the Sorbonne. Six years ago, Alexander Payne made a film there: Paris je t’aime. Of the five finalists, only Michel Hazanavicius shot his nominated movie in Hollywood. But of course he’s French.
The early line for Oscar swamis was that Payne would win for The Descendants, his most substantial box-office success (more than $75 million so far) in a distinguished career of semi-indie films. But Payne has lost most of the critics’ and Hollywood guild citations to Hazanavicius; and the Oscar bloom is so far off The Descendants’ rose that George Clooney, once a sure shot for Best Actor, is likely to watch The Artist‘s Jean Dujardin take the prize.
Some forecasters think the Academy might honor Scorsese for his own sweeping, beautifully illuminated valentine to old movies. But Scorsese already got his Life Achievement award in the form of Best Director and Best Picture Oscars for The Departed five years ago. That film was also Scorsese’s biggest hit ($290 million worldwide), whereas Hugo, whose budget ballooned to $175 million, has earned only $114 million globally. The burghers of Hollywood would be in no mood to validate so much red ink.
If anything is certain about an Oscar ceremony, it’s that Allen and Malick will be no-shows. (Does the Academy even hold aisle seats for them?) Hazanavicius will be there, sitting next to his wife Bérénice Bejo — also nominated for Supporting Actress in The Artist. He needn’t bother exercising Sunday morning, since he’ll be doing plenty of jogging from his seat to the stage, to accept the Best Director statuette (and probably Best Original Screenplay), or clapping his hands raw as The Artist wins Best Actor and Best Picture.