So it is that the one year we didn't stick to our frilliest-always-wins guns here, allowing ourselves to be blinded by the sheen of Keira Knightley's emerald green dress from Atonement, we came up short. So, Anonymous for the win, right? That's what my gut told me the morning the Oscar nominations were announced, except it wasn't a good sign when the Costume Designers Guild didn't follow suit by also nominating Lisy Christl's garbs, and the last time a film won an Oscar without the guild's seal of approval was, inexplicably, Moulin Rouge. Though Anonymous remains, on paper at least, the likeliest seeming winner, unlike recent victors in this category about royal women (from Marie Antoinette to The Young Victoria), the film may suffer in the end from the lack of QT afforded to its single greatest asset: Vanessa Redgrave.
A film that isn't short on queeniness in front of and behind the camera is W.E. At least that's what we've heard about Madonna's film, which has remained practically anonymous to audiences, even critics, thanks to the Weinstein Company's callous, if not unexpected, release strategy. Only one of three films nominated for an Oscar this year that I haven't seen, which prevents me in good faith from rallying behind it, W.E. has been almost universally panned since its Cannes premiere, a fact that's being used as a strike against it in this category by those who seem to have forgotten that Elizabeth: The Golden Age won this award five years ago. And now W.E. is the winner of the CDG award for Excellence in Period Film. Clothes unseen, that's almost enough to color me swayed, except Harvey Weinstein might squeal, "Over my own dead body!"
Skipping right over Jane Eyre, the only contender in this category that probably doesn't stand a chance, we come to The Artist, the consensus pick here for most gurus of gold, except if you've been following our predictions coverage since day one you know that we're not buying a sweep for the film, mini or major. We've derided Oscar's fanaticism in the past, but rarely has the Academy allowed its passion for a given film to spread across countless categories like a contagion, and when it does (The Return of the King), it's typically to the displeasure of practically no one. So even if Academy members who are hot for The Artist can summon the courage and dignity to acknowledge that Michel Hazanavicius's film doesn't have the finest screenplay or cinematography, there's no reason to believe they'll opt for its black-and-white tuxedos and flapper dresses when they can be seduced by more colorful, ostentatious razzle dazzle.
That leaves Hugo. The film enters the race with more nominations than any other film, poised to win in not only the same categories as The Aviator, but in two or three beyond. Like Martin Scorsese's previous awards war horse, Hugo is a film adrift in a sea of artifice so meticulously arranged from top to bottom it inspires awe, if not the necessary populist passion to carry it to a victory in the categories that The Artist will surely win. It's a movie lover's dream that vibrantly evokes the fabulist sets of Georges Méliès's iconic silent films, a vision realized by Scorsese with the help of Sandy Powell, a giant in her field with three Oscars already to her name. In short, this is a film with the pedigree of a winner.
Will Win: Hugo
Could Win: W.E.
Should Win: Hugo