I haven't seen all of the pictures or the performances that are up for Academy Awards this year, but I have seen a few that I think worth mentioning because I thought they were so great. And because they're underdogs, chances are they won't get much mention either tonight or after tonight. But I strongly recommend checking these out.
1. Demian Bichir, Best Actor, "A Better Life". This is an amazing performance by Bichir, who up until this point may have only been known by people for his role in "Weeds." The movie, about an illegal immigrant who is trying to make a better life for himself and his son by putting everything he has into a landscape business in Los Angeles, is gritty and tough, and some of the scenes take place in LA but could be on another planet. Bichir's facial expressions during some of the worst moments are heartbreaking, yet I can't remember a character so noble and heroic.
2. Best movie and screenplay: "Midnight in Paris." What a great, old fashioned, charming movie. The story line is surprisingly simple and not really novel by any means, but the combination of the time period (1920s Paris), the characters (F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, just for starters), and the performances, especially by Marion Cotillard, are pitch perfect. I have to say that many times Woody Allen's characters are so pretentious and removed from the average American life that I want to barf, but in this movie it works - Rachel McAdams and her parents play upper class elitists superbly and are perfect contrasts to the sensibilities of Owen Wilson. Who ever knew Owen Wilson had such range? Every writer who has ever suffered writer's block should see this movie.
3. Jessica Chastain, Best Supporting Actress, "The Help." Chastain plays the outcast wife Celia Foote, the floozy with a heart of gold who hires - in secret - the maid played by Octavia Spencer, and who is trying to understand why she is so shunned by the rest of the town's socialites. All of the attention will be on Octavia tonight, and rightly so, but Jessica's role is actually one of the best in the movie and head and shoulders above some of the other wife characters that were actually more like caricatures.
That's all for now. I'm looking forward to seeing a lot of the other movies that I haven't yet - "The Artist" especially. As for tonight, I'll be cheering when Billy Crystal is center stage again. It's been a looooong drought without him.