As the 84th Academy Awards nears, Lee Hannon offers his biting appraisal of thisyear's runners and riders.
It was once said every country gets the circus it deserves. Spain gets bullfights. Italygets the Catholic Church. America gets Hollywood.
So with less than 72 hours to go before Tinseltown's annual back-slapping carnival, where themovie industry congratulates themselves on who they think did best, let's take a look at thisyear's contenders for Oscar glory.
Be under no illusion, the 84th Academy Awards has nothing to do with what moviegoers thinkshould be given the industry's highest honor. They have already spoken loudly with theirwallets, but looking at this year's nominations, their votes seem to have fallen on deaf ears.
Not one Best Picture nomination was in the box office Top 10.
If the usual predictors, pundits, publicists and so-called Oscarologists are to be believed,echoed by the cacophony of media claptrap, we are indeed entering a night of nostalgiahonoring the 1920s, silent movies, two dogs, a horse and all things French.
Don't get me wrong. I see nothing wrong with rewarding a Frenchman for staying silent for onehour and 40 minutes, but if the producers of the normally predictable three-hour snooze-festwant to reinvigorate their dwindling audience in 225 countries worldwide, they better have a fewsurprises up their sleeve.
If the anointed front-runner The Artist, a film set in the silent movie era about a screen idol w##fuses to adapt his style to the talkies, scoops all the gongs, then I swear; the dog gets it and Iwill only communicate via black and white flash cards in traditional Chinese characters for thenext month.
If Hollywood truly wanted to pay homage to the beauty of the golden age, then Botox would goout of business in the land of nip and tuck.
The plastic-fantastic who get to grant Oscar dreams are the 5,765 voting members of theAcademy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, an organization as secretive as the CIA, but whohave the power to vault an actor to stardom and add millions to a movie's box office receipts.
The Academy has changed the rules this year, allowing up to 10 movies to be nominated forbest picture instead of five. They have attempted to clamp down on the lavish parties formembers - a longtime Hollywood ritual where heavyweights such as Harvey Weinstein mightgive helpful advice on using pens and ballot paper geography.
The parties may have ended, or at least gone underground, but Weinstein's whispers arealways heard far and wide.
There have only been six occasions since 1948 when the winner of the Director's Guild ofAmerica has not gone on to win the corresponding Academy award.
They picked first time nominee Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist. Winning history also favorslinking Best Director to Best Picture. There have been 85 Best Picture winners, of which 62 alsowon for Best Director.
But the Screen Actors Guild, the biggest voting bloc in the Academy of nearly one quarter,chose the civil rights drama The Help for its top honor.
This almost certainly guarantees come Sunday that there will be surprises in store, which hasn'thappened since two gay sheepherders romped their way to the Oscars as favorites picking upevery fringe award along the way, only to saddle broke back to the mountain without a gongafter Crash performed one of the biggest upsets in Academy history in 2005 by winning BestPicture.
It is going to be an interesting year. My only hope is that they keep the animal stars of thisyear's movies away from the flash-frenzy hoopla. We can't have Uggie and Cosmo, the JackRussell terriers, and the colt Joey trotting and barking along the red carpet. What's the point ofBrad Pitt and Angelina Jolie?
They would also be peeing and pooping everywhere. That would make life difficult for thethousands of journalists covering the yearly love-in to differentiate between the usual bull thatpermeates the air of Hollywood Boulevard. The animals. I was talking about the animals.
An injection of comedy is certainly needed in a show that has become synonymous with beingpredictable, boring, out-of-touch and long-winded.
So I am staking my bet on George Clooney winning Actor in a Leading Role for his work in TheDescendants as a rich Hawaiian landowner whose wife is in a coma after a boating accident.
Clooney has only ever won one Oscar for his supporting role in Syriana in 2005, despite threenominations in this category. He has become something of a Hollywood legend in recent yearsafter a meteoric rise from the TV hospital drama ER to movies in the early 1990s.
The year 2012 could be Clooney's year. I also believe the movie could win Best Picture and willwin Editing and Best Adapted Screenplay. Original Screenplay should go to Woody Allen forMidnight in Paris. Had he not cast Owen Wilson, other awards may have followed.
But Actress in Leading Role should go to Meryl Streep, who followed the offensive, butbrilliantly accurate maxim about award-winning performances, voiced in the comedy TropicThunder - "never go full retard".
It is a magnificent biopic performance of Britain's former prime minister Margaret Thatcher asshe battles dementia with vivid flashbacks to her time in power, and it will be Streep's 17thOscar nomination. It has been 30 years since she was won for Sophie's Choice.
But she will face very tough competition and may be beaten by Viola Davis for her role in TheHelp as a black maid who helps an aspiring writer pen a tell-all about working for white peoplein the civil rights-era Mississippi.
It is also a close race in the award for Actor in a Supporting Role, but Christopher Plummerlooks set to beat Max Von Sydow - both age 82 for his role as a widower coming out of thecloset in Beginners. Von Sydow's performance in Extremely Dull and Incredibly Boring, orwhatever it's called, is equally worthy and whoever wins will also take on another record as theOscar's oldest winning actor.
Octavia Spencer will win Actress in a Supporting Role for her role as Minny Jackson in TheHelp.
And this is where the awards for the remaining categories might break with convention. MartinScorsese with War Horse could easily trump The Artist in the Directing, Art Direction and Soundawards, leaving Cinematography to the beautiful, but weird The Tree of Life.
Once again, China has been left out of the Foreign Language award category for Flowers ofWar, about the brutal 1937 Japanese invasion of Nanking, China. The box office receiptsamount to more than any movie in the Best Picture category.
In fact, since 1979, China has submitted 25 movies to the Academy Award for Best ForeignLanguage Film, receiving only two nominations, both by director Zhang Yimou for Ju Dou in1990 and Hero in 2002.
The true results will be known by around noon on Monday. Until then we have the unenviabletask of second-guessing Hollywood and guess what, I just changed my mind. Viola.
My only hope is we say Au Revoir to this faux nostalgia and Oscar history does not look back tothe future too much. With pleasure.