In Hollywood, being and staying cool is paramount. I’m not talking about air conditioning (although that’s probably pretty important too). I’m talking about being hip, trendy, in-the-know, up-to-the-minute, fashionable, and, above all else, being completely blasé about fortune and fame.

On January 24 at 5:30 a.m., Pacific Standard Time, the 2012 Academy Award nominations will be announced. Soon thereafter we’ll hear from the nominees. “Oh, I slept right through it.” “I was shooting out of town and missed the announcement.” “I forgot all about it until my phone started ringing.”

Yeah, right. Short of the ceremony itself, the Oscar nominations have to be the single most exhilarating event for the movie industry. Unless you’re Meryl Streep (who, let’s face it has “been there, done that” when it comes to Academy nominations), my guess is that you make it a point to either stay up or wake up.

In case any of the aforementioned Hollywood insiders are reading, here is a list of major awards and our best guess about who will be nominated next week:

Best Supporting Actor

This year, this particular category is giving the Academy an opportunity to honor some established actors and their “body of work.” As often happens, I’m betting that an older favorite will be nominated (and win) for a recent role as well as the years of work that preceded it. Christopher Plummer will surely receive a nomination (and, I would gamble, a statue) for Beginners. My complete list includes:

  • Christopher Plummer, Beginners
  • Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn
  • Albert Brooks, Drive
  • Brad Pitt, The Tree of Life
  • Viggo Mortensen, A Dangerous Method

Other possibilities (notice that I am hedging my bets here) include: Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (sobering subject matter, aging iconic actor with that memorable Meuslix voice), Jonah Hill, Moneyball (successful gross-out comedy star in semi-serious role).

Octavia Spencer in "The Help."

Best Supporting Actress

I believe this will be a contest between two of the nominees. Bérénice Béjo is endearing in the silent film The Artist, which should be an Academy favorite because of its subject matter, nostalgic style, and overall feel-good message about the industry. But Octavia Spencer, on the other hand, represents the toughness and grit of a marginalized group—the kind of performance that makes Academy members feel good about voting; she never completely surrenders in The Help. The fact that Spencer was awarded the Golden Globe last week [see “Golden Globes for Golden Girls,” today’s post] increases her chances here. My nominees for Best Supporting Actress are:

  • Octavia Spencer, The Help
  • Bérénice Béjo, The Artist
  • Shailene Woodley, The Descendants
  • Jessica Chastain, The Help
  • Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids

Other possible nominees include Vanessa Redgrave, Coriolanus (theatrical grande dame doing nothing less than the bard), and Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs (another Brit with an impressive but under-promoted CV).

Best Original Screenplay

Again, The Artist may be the sentimental favorite. But for my vote (if, that is, I actually had one), I’d choose Midnight in Paris. Woody Allen has more screenwriting Academy Award nominations than anyone else and has won twice. Now, 35 years after Annie Hall, I think he’s written a practically perfect movie. And, my nominations go to:

  • Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
  • Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
  • Mike Mills, Beginners
  • Diablo Cody, Young Adult
  • Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, Bridesmaids

My inclusion here of the female writers of Bridesmaids and Young Adult is not merely an attempt at gender-based affirmative action. The Academy often rewards breakout box-office hits like Wiig and Mumolo’s comedic if crass chick flick. And the voters also like to confirm their own earlier decisions. The unconventional (ex-stripper) Diablo Cody was recognized a few years ago for her brilliant screenplay Juno.

Best Actor

George Clooney just walked away with the Golden Globe for his portrayal of a grieving (and also, he learns, cuckolded) husband in The Descendants. Clooney is an old-fashioned movie star: he comes from a multigenerational entertainment family; he’s a talented actor/director/writer/producer; he has rugged good looks, charm, and intelligence. Clooney, by all accounts, is one tough nominee to beat. Nevertheless, the list will probably include:

  • George Clooney, The Descendants
  • Michael Fassbender, Shame
  • Jean Dujardin, The Artist
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Edgar
  • Woody Harrelson, Rampart

That last prediction is by all means the dark horse. The Academy may very well honor Brad Pitt for Moneyball instead (and his performance in that movie is fine). But Harrelson’s mind-blowing turn as a corrupt cop is the part of a lifetime and truly deserves a nod.

Streep as Thatcher; Thatcher as Thatcher.

Best Actress

Before The Iron Lady was even released, critics were gushing over Meryl Streep’s Oscar-worthy portrayal of Margaret Thatcher. A nomination is virtually guaranteed (and the so-called—certainly deservedly—“greatest living American actress” did win the Golden Globe for the film). But, despite more nominations than any other actor ever (16 going on 17), she hasn’t won since 1982, for Sophie’s Choice. My best guess is that she may be passed over again for someone younger, newer, or simply less familiar. I’m going to cross my fingers for Ms. Streep anyway, but if I were a betting woman, I would put my money on Viola Davis. Here is a look at the probable competition:

  • Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
  • Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn
  •  Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin
  • Viola Davis, The Help
  •  Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs

Rooney Mara may or may not receive a nod for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, because of the hype (and the actress’s voluntary self-mutilation—10 piercings and counting, yikes!). And, there has been much buzz about talented (and beautiful) newcomer Elizabeth Olsen for Martha Marcy May Marlene. But either way, the evening will belong to Viola Davis. She is absolutely stunning in The Help. She has the advantage of being in a movie that dramatizes our own country’s fairly recent (and fairly shameful) past, not the political history of the country we cut ties with two and a half centuries ago.

Not likely, but this film would be an interesting dark horse.

Best Picture and Best Director

I’ll group these two über categories together because, historically, that’s exactly what happens on Oscars night. It is exceedingly rare that best picture and best director don’t leave the Kodak Theatre arm-in-arm. Here are the nominations I expect:

  • The Descendants (director: Alexander Payne)
  • The Artist (director: Michel Haznavicius)
  • J. Edgar (director: Client Eastwood)
  • War Horse (director: Steven Spielberg)
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (director: David Finch)

With additional slots possible in the Best Movie category (the current judging allows for 5 to 10 nominations, based on preliminary voting), I expect we may also see nods for Shame, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, My Week with Marilyn, and/or Martha Marcy May Marlene.

So, there you have it. From my vantage point in the local cineplex, armed with a large popcorn and a small Diet Coke, these will be the films and the film stars to watch early in the morning on January 24.  That is , if you wake up in time.

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  • Maryl January 22, 2012 at 12:35 am

    Great assessment but you didn’t mention my favorite categories. The best foreign film shortlist was announced this week and the documentaries will be released this Tuesday. “Pina” will probably be nominated in both categories. “A Separation” seems to be the shoe-in for best foreign film.

  • dore hammond January 20, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    Why not Tinker, Tailor? I thought it was great. Acting, Directing and Production Design were amazing.