illustration by Yaron Yarden/The Explorer

The Artist

Plot: Silent film star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) sees the talkies threaten to destroy his career as the career of the beautiful Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) skyrockets.

This movie was an Oscar surprise, being that it’s a silent film. However, it is also loved by the critics, and many say a good nominee, while likely not the winner.

The Descendants

Plot: Hawaiian Matt King (George Clooney) must make an important decision regarding the sale of his family’s land to a developer and deal with his two daughters, Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) and Scottie (Amara Miller) while his wife lies in a coma after a boating accident.

George Clooney is also nominated for best actor. Judging by the fact that he won in the Golden Globes, and The Descendants won for best picture, this stands a good chance of winning the Oscar this year.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Plot: Nine-year-old Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) searches New York City for clues to a key that once belonged to his father, Thomas (Tom Hanks), who was killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11.

This nomination was surprising. For many, movies about Sept. 11 are still a little tough to sit through. However, by choosing Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock as the stars, it does have a following. It is highly unlikely this movie will win the big award.

The Help

Plot: Aspiring writer Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone) works on a book compiling the stories - both good and bad - of black maids, including Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) and Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) in Jackson, Miss., in the early ’60s.

Emma Stone has hit the movie screen and never looked back. Each project just gets better and better. While it is doubtful The Help will win, it certainly was one of the year’s best, and deserves to be nominated in the biggest category.

Hugo

Plot: Hugo (Asa Butterfield), an orphan living within the walls of a Paris train station in the 1930s, and his friend Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz) fix the broken automaton Hugo’s late father was working on and discovers a mystery surrounding the machine, Hugo’s father and Isabelle’s godparents, George (Ben Kingsley) and Jeanne (Helen McCroy).

Given that it’s a family movie, this nomination was a surprise. It’s not going to be a winner.

Midnight in Paris — The romantic one

Plot: Writer Gil (Owen Wilson) and his fiance, Inez (Rachel McAdams), travel to Paris, but while Gil’s midnight walks bring him closer to the 1920s “golden age” of Paris and the inspiration for his novel, it begins to tear his engagement apart.

It would be incredibly disappointing if this movie won. Owen Wilson was not as good as the reviews seem to indicate. In fact, the movie just wasn’t good. It had a good concept, but execution was completely lacking.

Moneyball

Plot: The movie tells the true story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), who recruits economist Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) to help him field a competitive baseball team for cheap by using mathematical analysis.

Brad Pitt was fantastic in this movie. It was well done altogether. However, Pitt stands a better chance of winning for best actor, than Moneyball does of winning the night’s biggest award.

The Tree of Life

Plot: A middle-aged man (Sean Penn) recalls his life growing up in Texas in the 1950s, which is connected throughout the movie to images of the origins of the universe.

This movie has its good points, but too often it is lacking. The concept is good, but it doesn’t deliver in the end. Just because a movie is “artsy” doesn’t mean it deserves an Oscar nod, nor does it deserve a nomination.

War Horse

Plot: Much to the dismay of the boy who trained him (Jeremy Irvine), a horse named Joey is sold to the English cavalry and sets off on a journey across Europe during World War I.

While it’s a good animal flick in the race, War Horse probably won’t be putting Oscar on the shelf.

The 2012 Academy Awards will be held on Sunday, Feb. 26 on ABC.

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