Here's who we would nominate in some key categories.
It happens every year--great performances, personal favorites and hidden gems get passed over by the Academy en route to the Oscars. The following are some deserving 2012 movies and performances we'd love to see nominated, though they probably don't have a ghost of a chance. If we ran the show though, things might be a little different....
Chronicle, Best Picture; Josh Trank, Best Director
No superhero-themed movie has ever been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, but the way director Josh Trank, who deserves Best Director consideration for constructing Chronicle, pieces the story together, some recognition would be nice. Then again, if Christopher Reeves as Superman nor any of Christopher Nolan's Batman films can earn a nomination, chances are pretty slim for Trank and his teenage mutant superheroes.
The Avengers, Best Picture
You could certainly nitpick this movie apart but the fact still remains that The Avengers was one of the most entertaining movies of 2012. Don't mistake our inclusion of this film in the Best Picture category as a suggestion that we think it should win. It does, however, deserve consideration to join the selection as one of the 10 best films of the year. We doubt there are many fanboys among the 6,000 Academy voters though.
The Forgiveness of Blood, Best Foreign Feature
Joshua Marston remains one of the most underrated contemporary filmmakers working the indie scene. He first caught our attention in 2004 with Maria Full of Grace and after a series of TV projects, he finally returned to film with the powerful The Forgiveness of Blood, focusing on an Albanian family caught in a blood feud. Amour may deservedly be the odds on favorite in the foreign film category, but Blood would certainly be a worthy contender.
Bernie, Best Picture
With his recent Golden Globe nod Jack Black remains a dark horse for a Best Actor nomination, but will Academy voters look to honor Bernie with a Best Picture nomination? Not likely. Black himself is a long shot simply by being a comedic actor playing a dramatic role. But because of Black's career-high performance and the supporting work from Matthew McConaughey and Shirley MacLaine, Bernie should be considered one of the best films of 2012.
21 Jump Street, Best Adapted Screenplay
This category is pretty much locked up with the likes of Lincoln, Les Miserables, Argo, Silver Linings Playbook and Beasts of the Southern Wild almost assured nominations. But think back to when you first heard about this movie. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum?! But with a thoroughly entertaining and hilarious script (and great performances), 21 Jump Street managed to surprise everyone as one of the early hits of 2012 and prove writer-star Jonah Hill as a real talent.
Jason Clarke, Best Supporting Actor, Zero Dark Thirty
You could literally go down the list of actors in Zero Dark Thirty and heap a nomination on almost every person in the cast. While the film will certainly get a fair number of nominations, Jason Clarke's performance as interrogator Dan will most likely get passed over. While Jessica Chastain delivers an excellent, thorough, over-arching character portrayal throughout the film, Clarke brilliantly carries the crucial first act of the movie on his shoulders.
Ethan Hawke, Best Actor
Horror movies are a dime a dozen and while most of them focus on jump-scares and gore to frighten viewers, Sinister relied on Hawke's utterly convincing portrayal of a dodgy writer (and a few twists and turns) to deliver its jolts. The Best Actor field is pretty much set, of course, with Daniel Day-Lewis leading other contenders that include Hugh Jackman, John Hawkes, Bradley Cooper and Joaquin Phoenix. Hawke's inclusion would certainly be a nice awards season plot twist though.
Mads Mikkelsen, Best Actor; Alicia Vikander, Best Actress
The film is still making the rounds in select theaters and while the prospect of facing a two-and-a-half hour Dutch movie may seem daunting, A Royal Affair is one of the most immersive and entertaining films from last year. Mikkelsen gives another commanding performance and Vikander delivers a star-making portrayal as Queen Caroline. We highlighted it as a Sleeper to See back in November.
Matthew McConaughey, Best Actor; Gina Gershon, Best Supporting Actress, Killer Joe
Whether audiences were scared away by the NC-17 rating is up for debate, but this dark comedy from director William Friedkin saw a couple of excellent acting performances. While McConaughey could potentially nab a supporting nomination for Magic Mike, Gershon give an excellent performance as Sharla, who conspires with Joe, her husband and stepson to collect cash from a hit on her stepson's mother.
Kevin Hart, Best Supporting Actor, Think Like a Man
OK, you can lower your eyebrows. Give credit to the way writers Keith Merryman and David Newman adapted Steve Harvey's best-selling book which allowed comedian Kevin Hart to showcase his skills, capped by a hilarious bathroom phone call (pictured) among other memorable scenes. Unfortunately the Academy rarely rewards comedy despite many great comedic performances that deserve recognition. This was one of them.
Emma Watson, Best Supporting Actress; Ezra Miller, Best Supporting Actor, The Perks of Being a Wallf
While Logan Lerman (left) does a respectable job as the film's "wallflower," the real stars of this movie are Watson (right) and Miller (center), both delivering strong, vulnerable supporting performances that the Academy will surely ignore. Miller has picked up some end of the year honors from various critics' societies, but the chances of him sneaking in among the likes of Tommy Lee Jones, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Robert De Niro are pretty slim.
Rebel Wilson, Best Supporting Actress, Pitch Perfect
How good was Rebel Wilson as Fat Amy in Pitch Perfect? So good that if you say the name of the movie, you're more than likely going to associate her with it before star Anna Kendrick. This is nothing new though. Wilson has been stealing scenes and playing the supporting role for a couple years now, most notably breaking out in 2011's Bridesmaids.
Sam Rockwell, Best Supporting Actor, Seven Psychopaths
All praise to Christopher Walken for his excellent supporting performance in Martin McDonaugh's Seven Psychopaths, but the real star here is Sam Rockwell, an actor continually ignored by the Academy. Rockwell is the true psychopath in this movie and he plays his character with delirious glee and wit.
Tom Hardy, Best Supporting Actor , Lawless
Remember Lawless? Once thought to be a possible awards contender with acting talent that included Jessica Chastain, Gary Oldman and Tom Hardy, the movie disappeared quicker than a truckload of Bondurant liquor. Hardy's mumbly Forest Bondurant exudes a quiet strength throughout the film and gives a performance likely to be overlooked, much like his portrayal of Dark Knight Rises villain, Bane.
Aubrey Plaza, Best Supporting Actress, Safety Not Guaranteed
A quirky romantic comedy like Safety Not Guaranteed needs a believable female lead and Aubrey Plaza delivers. Making the jump from TV's Parks and Recreation, indie It Girl Plaza plays a disillusioned college grad who interns for a Seattle magazine. She joins a three-person team to investigate a cryptic classified ad and in the process, falls for our quirky time-traveler, Kenneth. Her curiosity propels us along to figure out if Kenneth is telling the truth and wonder if these two end up with one another.
Susan Sarandon, Best Supporting Actress, Jeff Who Lives at Home
While Jason Segel and Ed Helms bicker amongst one another for a majority of the movie, their mom, Sharon (Sarandon), tries to manage the two of them while at the same time deducing the identity of her secret admirer. When she figures it out, it's a moment in the film both beautiful, disappointing, surprising and touching. Sarandon could sneak in based on name recognition, but there's been no awards campaign on her behalf, so a nomination, unfortunately, is unlikely.
The Secret World of Arrietty, Best Animated Feature
Like most major categories, the animated features are pretty much set with ParaNorman, Rise of the Guardians and a trio of Disney films; Wreck-It Ralph, Frankenweenie and Brave. But Arrietty deserves consideration for its lush artwork and unique storyline written by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki. Unfortunately, the film failed to make the final cut of eligible entries.