The 84th Academy Awards coverage debuts on ABC at 7 p.m. today, Feb. 26. The following are my picks for the movies that dazzled in 2011.
BEST LEADING ACTRESS
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”
This year, this category has some of the better performances. This was the year of powerful women’s roles. The roles for women were more interesting than those for men in the Best Actor category. Mara played a feminine role in a manner typically attributed to masculine characters. She is the heroine who saves the day, even saving the man in distress, an antithesis of the classic, clichéd damsel in distress concepts.
Close plays a man, a role not typically portrayed as much as men playing women. Close is at her best in a transformational manner. Williams was an attention-getter as Marilyn Monroe, and the brilliant Viola Davis was moving in “The Help.” Davis was especially moving; it was easy to care for character.
Despite the talented field of exceptional performances, the incomparable Streep is absolutely superb. She is the reason to see “Iron Lady.” Streep’s greatest attribute is her ability to make audiences believe she is indeed someone else without making her portrayals caricatures. She more than ably makes all appear too easy. This Academy Award nomination is her deserving seventeenth, which should result in being her third Oscar.
Selection: Meryl Streep
BEST LEADING ACTOR
Demian Bichir, “A Better Life”
George Clooney, “The Descendants”
Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
Gary Oldman, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
Brad Pitt, “Moneyball”
Bichir is the least known leading actor. Like the others, he is more than adequate, but “A Better Life” was not a movie many audiences had a chance to see. Oldman was great, as always. He always provides well-played performances.
Pitt is handsome, and this has carried him in movies, adding to his talents. Pitt is good in “Moneyball,” but he is the least sensational performance-wise of these talented nominees. His popularity helps with Academy voters, but his performance, again, is not on caliber with the others here.
Dujardin and Clooney are the two top picks. While Dujardin is perfect as a star in a silent film, moviedom loves Clooney. He seems like a nice guy, and he is talented, offering brilliant performances. Clooney is memorable in “The Descendants.” Like Pitt, Clooney’s popularity may win this award for him, when Dujardin is superb and slightly more deserving.
Selection: Jean Dujardin
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Kenneth Branagh, “My Week With Marilyn”
Jonah Hill, “Moneyball”
Nick Nolte, “Warrior”
Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”
Max Von Sydow, “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”