Oscar Horse Race: Can ‘The Help’ unseat ‘The Artist’?

Thelma Adams
Coverage of The 84th Annual Academy Awards®

We're all about art and movies here at Yahoo! But, when you sit around with your friends, and dish the Oscar race with four weeks to go is there a feeling that you're underwhelmed? Maybe you'll TIVO? That is so not where we want to be right now, even if we're constantly griping about how all the movies we loved somehow fell by the wayside — too tart, too tough, too violent, or too toasty. Where for art thou, Viggo? O, Tilda, most radically crabby of mothers!

Still, we'll continue to report on the external reality of Hollywood as it honors the bests of 2011, while patting itself on the back for its exquisite taste.

Best Picture: Like, really, "The Artist?" It's charming as a Jack Russell puppy and Jean Dujardin's smile, but as lasting as Reddi-Wip. It's not the silence, or the black and white; it's the lack of deep imprint, of emotional charge, positive or negative, that makes us feel like this is a middle-brow artist, not a Da Vinci. That said, with "The Help" crew rolling up the acting awards, and the SAG ensemble win, and inhaling $170 Million at the box office, it could very well be the movie to beat. Pity "The Descendants," that seemed so strong out of Toronto and Telluride. Its fortunes seem to be falling, not rising.

The Yahoo! Best Actress Roundtable Dishes >>

Best Director: This is the place where "The Artist" director Michel Hazanavicius has the lock. He won the Directors Guild of America prize over Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Woody Allen, and Alexander Payne. I feel the sorriest for Payne, who has created a terrific body of original American work and shouldn't have to wait until he's Scorsese's age to be recognized. As for "The Help," Tate Taylor was never in this race. His direction is workmanlike. He actually puts the story above his own ego. And that serves the movie, underlying all the other honors.

Best Actor: You could have knocked me over with that perverse little SAG statuette on Sunday night when Dujardin beat out Clooney for the actors' award. Does this really mean that George is out of the race? The reality is that it's very, very tight — and that win for Dujardin tipped the balance ever so slightly away from Clooney. Does George really have to take another loss with grace? I certainly hope not. Maybe his acting, co-writing and directing "The Ides of March" will tip this one winnable race in his favor.

Best Actress: Like the actor race, this one is neck-and-neck: Viola Davis or Meryl Streep? Their friendship will be tested in the next four weeks as they both bend over backwards both to express how they don't mind if the other woman wins and, that, down deep, they really want to win it themselves. It's a difficult act to pull off — that's why they're at the top of their field. At this point, Viola has the multiple nominations for "The Help" working to her advantage — and her SAG award; Meryl has seventeen nominations and the fact that she hasn't won since 1983 working in her favor. Tough, but point to Davis this round!

Oscar Outrages: Best Picture >>

Best Supporting Actor: I'm still hurting from the Academy overlooking Albert Brooks for "Drive." Not as much as he's hurting, but still….he's Nemo's dad! It's like shooting goldfish at the Petco. Brooks was the only man between Christopher Plummer and the Oscar for playing a father who has a gay spring in the winter of his life. No one else stands a chance, unless it becomes a battle of the overlooked octogenarians and Max von Sydow pulls ahead for "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," a movie that got more attention than Plummer's "Beginners." These actors go way back: von Sydow was playing Jesus in "The Greatest Story Ever Told" in 1965 when Plummer was Captain von Trapp in "The Sound of Music."

Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer. "The Help." It's a lock. Spencer's co-star and fellow nominee Jessica Chastain will smile graciously from "The Help" seats knowing that Spencer has paid her dues, and her win is a triumph for the film as a whole. Berenice Bejo is riding on "The Artist" updraft, but won't win. Melissa McCarthy? Honor just to be nominated — and taken seriously for a comic role. Janet McTeer? Honor, and a series of borrowed long dresses; she's a great, generous actress who needs a better film to display her talents.

We'll shake up our Magic Oscar 8 Ball again in two weeks and see if we're still standing by these predictions, or if there's been a tilt in the odds. In the meantime, Yahoo! movies will continue to cover the landmarks, detours and tourist traps on the road to the Oscars. The 84th Academy Awards will be held at Hollywood's Kodak Theater and broadcast on Sunday, February 26th on ABC.

See the trailer for 'The Artist':

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