octavia spencer*On May 16, 1929, the first Academy Awards were staged in Hollywood at the Hotel Roosevelt.

Wings, a silent film, won the Oscar for Best Picture that night, a feat which would never be repeated, given the impending innovations in sound technology that ushered in the age of the talkies.

But, as they say, wait long enough, and everything comes back into style, and such is the case with The Artist, a nostalgic throwback that’s the prohibitive favorite to prevail at this year’s ceremony. Who’d a thunk that a black & white, silent flick from France would eclipse powerhouse productions by the likes of Spielberg and Scorcese.

However, the movie will meet some tough competition in the Best Actor category, where I’m picking popular George Clooney to eke out a victory over virtual unknown Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist’s pantomiming protagonist. I also see perennial-nominee Meryl Streep (17 times) squeaking by The Help’s equally-deserving Viola Davis for Best Actress, more for her 29-year drought than for her spot-on impersonation of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.

Best Supporting Actor is difficult to handicap, too, since four of the entrants, Nick Nolte, Christopher Plummer, Max von Sydow and Kenneth Branagh, have each enjoyed multiple Oscar nominations, but never won. My gut tells me that Plummer gets the proverbial “body of work” vote. As far as Best Supporting Actress, Octavia Spencer (pictured above) will triumph, since nonpareil comic performances like Melissa McCarthy’s in Bridesmaids continue to be underappreciated by the Academy.

Besides peering into my crystal ball to forecast the winners, I have also indicated below which nominees in the major categories are actually the most deserving. And because so many great performances are invariably snubbed by the Academy, I also point out who has been overlooked entirely.

Overall, look for The Artist to garner five or six Oscars which, while not exactly a sweep, will still be better than next-best Hugo’s trio of statuettes in technical categories. The 84th Academy Awards will air live on ABC on Sunday, February 26th at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT, and will be hosted by Billy Crystal.

 

Best Picture

Will Win: The Artist
Deserves to Win: The Artist
Overlooked: Bridesmaids

 

 

Best Director

Will Win: Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Deserves to Win: Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Overlooked: David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

 

 

Best Actor

Will Win: George Clooney (The Descendants)
Deserves to Win: Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
Overlooked: Ryan Gosling (Drive)

 

 

Best Actress

Will Win: Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)
Deserves to Win: Viola Davis (The Help)
Overlooked: Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids)

 

 

Best Supporting Actor

Will Win: Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
Deserves to Win: Max von Sydow (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
Overlooked: Albert Brooks (Drive)

 

 

Best Supporting Actress

Will Win: Octavia Spencer (The Help)
Deserves to Win: Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids)
Overlooked: Carey Mulligan (Drive)

 

 

Best Original Screenplay

Will Win: Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
Deserves to Win: Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo (Bridesmaids)
Overlooked: Lars von Trier (Melancholia)

 

 

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Will Win: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (The Descendants)
Deserves to Win: Steve Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin and Stan Chervin (Moneyball)
Overlooked: Tate Tatlor and Kathryn Stockett (The Help)

 

Predictions for Secondary Categories

Animated Feature: Rango
Art Direction: Hugo
Foreign Language Film: A Separation
Cinematography: The Tree of Life
Costume Design: The Artist
Documentary Feature: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Film Editing: The Artist
Makeup: The Iron Lady
Original Score: The Artist
Original Song: “Man or Muppet” (The Muppets)
Sound Editing: Hugo
Sound Mixing: Hugo
Visual Effects: Rise of the Planet of the Apes