1. Best Actress
This is a pretty close call for me between Viola Davis of "The Help" and Rooney Mara of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." I had the chance to see both of these movies and read the books upon which they were based. In fact, these are two of the best books I have read in the last several years. I would recommend both books and both movies to anyone interested. That said, I can't help but compare Rooney Mara's performance as Lisbeth Salander to the performance given by Noomi Rapace in the Swedish version of the movie. While Mara was excellent, she just wasn't quite as believable as Rapace. In contrast, Viola Davis was truly excellent as Aibileen, the narrator and star of the story. She really brought the book's character to life, and for that reason Viola Davis is my pick!
2. Best Supporting Actress
This is another close call, with two actresses from "The Help" (Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer) nominated along with Melissa McCarthy from "Bridesmaids." While both Chastain and Spencer were excellent, and "The Help" was one of the best movies I have seen in a long time, I'll be pulling for Melissa McCarthy this year. Bridesmaids is probably one of my favorite movies of all time - it is SO funny. My very favorite scene in the film is when, after Maya Rudolph's disastrous bridal shower, Kristen Wiig is driving back to Milwaukee when Melissa McCarthy pulls up beside her in her minivan, filled with puppies in berets that were given out as party favors at the shower. I don't remember laughing that hard at the movies ever before or since. Melissa McCarthy is my pick!
Just a quick note: I'm not particularly watching either of the Best Actor categories this year. While many of the nominees are favorites of mine, I actually haven't seen any of the movies for which they were nominated, with the exception of Moneyball. While I enjoyed that one, it was not the best performance I've seen by either Brad Pitt or Jonah Hill.
3. Best Picture
With 9 nominees, this is a particularly tough call. As I have already mentioned, I loved "The Help." The movie was almost as good as the book - though not quite. I think the best movie I saw this year was actually Midnight in Paris. I'm not really a Woody Allen devotee - I'm not especially familiar with his work. I was just so impressed with the story and the way it was told. It was a movie unlike any other I have ever seen. Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams were excellent, and the time-traveling aspect was fascinating, especially in a city with as much history as Paris. Gosh, even the movie poster was cool! It was a true adventure and I hope its excellence is recognized this evening!