There was a lot of agreement among the returning Daily Star panelists for their picks for the 84th Academy Awards on Sunday, but there were some exceptions.
Although Hartwick College theatre director Ken Golden said that "its a very difficult year to pick," with little consensus from earlier award shows, two films dominated the choices. "The Artist," a silent film about two actors who find their careers and the relationship influenced by the coming of talking pictures attracted a lot of attention. So did "The Help" a movie set in Mississippi in the 1963. The awards will be aired starting at 8:30 p.m. Sunday on ABC.
The tally from the panel, every member of which shared their views last year, was nearly unanimous for "The Artist." The choice was easy for Joe Stillman, a film director and producer of La Paloma Films in Oneonta. "To say it is the best picture is a bit like separating water and oil," he said. "It's easy to do because it is the quintessential masterpiece," he said. It's very different from the others, while being "the ultimate statement to an industry that we all have grown to love."
It was also the choice of Paul Jensen, film professor emeritus at State University College at Oneonta.
"The most interesting thing about the Oscars this year is that two of the best picture nominees, "The Artist" and "Hugo," deal with the film mediums past," he said. He found it particularly interesting that "The Artist," a French film, deals with the American film industry and much of it was even filmed in the United States. The American film, "Hugo," deals with French film pioneer Georges Méliès.
"It's a real labor of love," Golden said in also selecting the film. WDOS radio host "Big Chuck" D'Imperio said if it wins as he predicted, "it would be the first silent movie in 85 years to receive the honor -- the last one being 'Wings' in 1927."
The Daily Star columnist Maggie McVey was the only dissenting voice, choosing "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close." With the subject 9/11, "this movie was one of the most poignant I've seen in a long time," she said.
Voting was similar for "Best Director," with Michael Hazanavicius getting the votes of four panelists for "The Artist." Golden said "You feel like he had the dream to make this movie for years. It's interesting and very different."
Stillman agreed, saying "anyone can direct a film but only visionary filmmakers create movies that defy convention."
The director was also the choice of Jensen.
On the weight of the 10 Oscar nominations and the momentum from earlier award shows, D'Imperio agreed witht he choice.
The lone dissenter was McVey, who chose "The Descendents" director Alexander Payne.
His selection of detail helps "paint" the story of lead character Matt and his role as sole caretaker for his children, she said.
There was a little more diversity of choice in this categories, with D'Imperio choosing George Clooney in "The Descendants." He won the award in 2005 for best supporting actor in "Syriana," when Clooney also played the antithesis of what is thought of as the suave, debonair, handsome leading man. "When he plays against type, he wins," D'Imperio said. Golden also admired Clooney's taking on a role that was "a real stretch." But with Gary Oldman in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," and Jean Dujardin in "The Artist" giving good performances, he wasn't that sure about his choice.
Dujardin was the choice of two panelists. Stillman said he creates "a character that literally transforms us into the 1920s." Despite some notable performances by other actors, his portrayal of a "has-been" movie star is "head and shoulders above the rest."
McVey chose Oldman. The overall plot of the film is "extremely engrossing," and the casting was well done, including Oldman's role as George Smiley.
D'Imperio chose Viola Davis for her role in "The Help." In 2008 she was nominated for best supporting actress in "Doubt," where she was on the screen for 10 minutes, he said. "Now that we have a full display of her talent, she will certainly win it."
Stillman said despite Meryl Streep's incredible performance in "The Iron Lady," for which she was nominated in this category, Viola Davis is the standout.
Her performance "gives us a glimpse into how incredibly difficult it must have been to be in that position during those times."
In choosing Streep, Jensen said that one factor was that over her substantial career she has consistently faced major challenges and triumphed. She has done this so often that her achievements can be taken for granted. Her work hasn't been ignored, because she has been nominated for Academy Awards 17 times, he said. However, she hasn't won the award since 1983, for "Sophie's Choice."
"It's almost as if she does such good work so regularly that everyone assumes she'll win one next time," he said. "I'm guessing that her peers are finally thinking, 'Shouldn't next time be this time?'"
Streep was also the choice for McVey, who said "As always, Meryl has outdone herself." Her portrayal of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is "simply captivating."
Golden said the choice in this category was hard, with Streep and Davis both deserving it. But since Streep hasn't won in a number of years. "It's another coin toss, but you shouldn't bet against Meryl."
Best supporting actor
In what was otherwise a tough year, Golden said that Christopher Plummer's performance in "Beginners" is the only easy choice this year. With some consensus from other award shows, "don't bet against him," he said. All but one panel member agreed. McVey said, "I've always been a fan of Plummer, and I believe it's high time that his talent is recognized by the Oscars." His performance as Hal, a man who admits his homosexuality late in life, after the death of his wife, is "phenomenal and makes perfect sense," she said.
The choice for D'Imperio was between two "war horses." Plummer and Max von Sydow, who was also nominated in the category for his work in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, are both 82 and have never won an Oscar before, with decades of great movies in their past. It's a "sentimental choice," in either case, but D'Imperio chose Plummer calling it a "daring role."
Stillman cast the lone vote for von Sydow, whose portrayal of a grandfather who cannot speak says "volumes without words" about a man trying to come to grips with his past, and a relationship with his grandson, who lost his father in the events of 9/11. "This journeyman actor deserves the statue for a great performance that says so much without ever speaking a word," he said.
Best Supporting Actress
The vote for Octavia Spencer from "The Help" was nearly unanimous, with only one dissenting vote.
Stillman said, "I was knocked out by Berenice Bejo's in "The Artist," but he had to vote for Spencer. "When an actor or actress becomes the character they portray, they cross the boundary between someone on the page of a script and an individual we come to know and understand. It is magical when that happens," he said.
D'Imperio said, "she really carried the movie." Golden chose Octavia Spencer, though Jessica Chastain, also in "The Help," was very good, he said.
McVey showed her independent views by choosing Melissa McCarthy in "Bridesmaids."
"The hilarity of McCarthy's performance is unbelievable and her character made the movie."
Anyone who can't get enough of the glitz and glamor of the Academy Awards can tune in to the Red Carpet show on ABC at 7 p.m. Sunday.