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Posted at 10:07 AM ET, 02/25/2012

Oscar predictions: Could Brad Pitt really win best actor? And will Viola Davis be named best actress?

With the Academy Awards set to take place Sunday, we are rolling out predictions all week long and naming the films, actors, directors and writers most likely to win in eight major categories. This post tackles the lead acting categories.


(Video/image edited by Jayne Orenstein/The Washington Post)

Of all the races at this year’s Academy Awards, the lead acting ones might be the toughest to call. In both cases, five nuanced and very deserving performances have been nominated. And in both cases, one could make a strong case why one person over another looks poised to win.

In our ongoing video series, Post film critic Ann Hornaday and I attempted to predict which man and which woman would be standing on the Kodak Theatre stage with an Oscar in hand come Sunday night. Our answers, especially in the best actor category, might surprise you.

Watch the video below, then read my short rundown of who will win, should win and was wrongly overlooked by the Academy.

More Oscar predictions:

Best director

Best original and adapted screenplay

Best actor

The nominees are:

Demian Bichir, “A Better Life”

George Clooney, “The Descendants”

Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”

Gary Oldman, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”

Brad Pitt, “Moneyball”

Who will win: Everyone has been saying this is a two-man race between Clooney and Dujardin. (See? ABC News just said it again earlier this morning.) But on zero basis other than gut instinct (and, admittedly, a selfish desire to be surprised by something on Oscar night), I’m calling this one for Brad Pitt. My rationale: He’s a major movie star who has never won an Oscar and also, as a producer, does an awful lot to make sure all kinds of films get made in Hollywood. In addition to the fact that he affably and admirably anchored “Moneyball,” his colleagues might want to recognize his contributions to the industry. Also, did I mention that I really want to be surprised by something on Oscar night?

Who I’d like to see win: I know this is a wishy-washy answer, but I’d be happy to see any of these guys win. Bichir would be nice because it would be truly unexpected; Oldman would be satisfying because, for God’s sake, why hasn’t he won this thing before?; Pitt I’ve already covered; a Clooney win would mark his first lead actor Oscar, and for a role that showed him at his most emotionally vulnerable; and a Dujardin victory would be a demonstration of how fully he won over hearts in “The Artist." Plus, he might tapdance. I can’t root against any of these options.

Who should have been nominated but wasn’t: Joseph Gordon-Levitt for “50/50.” I know I’ve been on a kick about this film getting shut out of Academy Award nominations. But I thought Gordon-Levitt gave such a subtle, authentic and moving performance in this movie that I was sad he got overlooked.

Best actress

The nominees are:

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”

Who will win: Viola Davis. Like the best actor race, the predicting masses have been saying this comes down to two people: Davis or Streep. And I think Davis is going to beat out Streep’s take on Margaret Thatcher based not only on the quality of the performance but also how deftly she’s handled her award season campaign. If she does, she will be only the second African American woman — Halle Berry being the first — to claim victory in this category.

Who should win: Viola Davis. “The Help” was filled with fine performances, but Davis’s was the most layered and the one most crucial to the film. In short, she was phenomenal.

Who should have been nominated but wasn’t: Elizabeth Olsen for “Martha Marcy May Marlene.” Perhaps enough Academy voters didn’t see this movie, but Olsen have one of the most effortless portrayals of the year as an addled woman trying to readjust to normalcy after life on a twisted commune.

By  |  10:07 AM ET, 02/25/2012

Categories:  Oscars | Tags:  Awards Season

 
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