Column: Take our Oscar challenge for chance at $100 gift card

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY | Times/Review web editor Grant Parpan thinks Jean Dujardin, will win the Academy Award for“The Artist." Who do you think will win?

We will enter the names of all readers who guess the correct winner at Sunday’s Academy Awards in each of the following categories — Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress — into a random drawing for a $100 gift card to Mattituck Cinemas. We will only accept answers left in a comment below, and Times/Review employees are not eligible to compete. Click here for a complete list of nominees. We will not accept comments posted after 7 p.m. Sunday. Limit: One entry per person.

My friend Matt and I are obsessed with the Academy Awards.

Some guys go hunting. Others fishing. We watch movies and talk about them endlessly.

Every time one of us sees a movie we shoot the other guy a text message. Usually they simply say the name of the movie and a very brief description.

“The Tree of Life, garbage.”

“The Descendants, tour de force.”

We’ve been movie obsessed since before I could shave, though Matt had the ability to grow a full Rollie Fingers in second grade. As we got to high school we’d write our own scripts and even film a few scenes before our girl-obsessed minds turned to mush.

While we never did become the filmmakers we once dreamed of being, our love of movies never faded, even as our love for some of those girls did.

Every year we still get together on Oscar Sunday to watch the show. Since I moved down the road from him four years ago, we joke that we should roll a red carpet from his house to mine on the big day, though we always back off that idea when we realize it would play out like a really well-dressed game of Frogger on our busy street.

The faces at our annual Oscar party have changed 10 times over in the 15 years since we started getting together. So have the menu and the atmosphere. One thing that remains constant is that Matt and I will both be there and we’ll be battling it out for bragging rights in our Oscar pool.

Most of the time Matt wins, and I believe that’s because he votes with his mind and not his heart. I wanted so badly for Amy Ryan to win for “Gone Baby Gone” in 2008, but he knew Tilda Swinton — the least deserving Oscar-winner of all time, in my opinion — was poised for the upset for “Michael Clayton.”

One factor that has helped me catch up to him in recent years has been the birth of his two children. I recently heard a comedienne joke that “kids are like a DWI from life.” So while Matt’s sitting at home with a suspended license from cinema, I’m munching on popcorn and taking all the movies in.

As I write this column, I’ve seen all but three of the films nominated in the eight major categories. By Sunday, I’ll have seen them all.

Here are some of my Oscar picks for 2012:

Best Picture

Will win: “The Artist”

Should win: “The Artist”

Should have been nominated: “A Separation”

“The Artist” is what movies are, or at least should be, all about. Movies are for having an experience. For many people, that means seeing lots of action or laughing their butts off. For others, it’s about feeling moved and shedding a tear. What made “The Artist” so special for me was that I felt completely immersed in a movie I enjoyed like none other this year without laughing too much or feeling super depressed. It was an experience, and one that left me with a smile almost as big as the one on the star’s face. “A Separation,” meanwhile was the best true drama I’ve seen in several years. The even-handed domestic drama from Iran is a lock for Best Foreign Language Film.

Best Actor

Will win: Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”

Should win: Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”

Should have been nominated: Michael Shannon, “Take Shelter”

Often, when I’m trying to decide who I think should win the Oscar, I ask myself: “Could anyone else have played that part as well?” I can’t for the life of me picture anyone else in Dujardin’s role. I think the same can be said of George Clooney in “The Descendants” and Brad Pitt in “Moneyball,” but nobody was as solid in as challenging a role as the star of “The Artist.” Meanwhile Michael Shannon is quietly becoming the best “Oh, that guy’s in this” actor of his generation. “Take Shelter” is a dark film that wasn’t made for the masses, but it was also my favorite sleeper film of 2012.

Best Actress

Will win: Michelle Williams, “My Week with Marilyn”

Should win: Viola Davis, “The Help”

Should have been nominated: Elizabeth Olsen, “Martha Marcy May Marlene”

This is the toughest category to handicap this year and the most wide open Best Actress has been in recent memory. Three different actors won Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild awards, so I’d say it’s down to them — Meryl Streep for “The Iron Lady,” Viola Davis for “The Help” and Michelle Williams for “My Week with Marilyn.” With three nominations and no wins, a lot of people will be pulling for Williams. “The Iron Lady” is one of the three films I have not yet seen, so I can’t fully judge this category, but Davis really stood out for me in “The Help,” a large cast with lots of strong performers. One drawback for her might be that she wasn’t exactly the lead, though she played a key part in a large ensemble. Meanwhile, if I had a vote for nominees and wanted to pick someone from a famous family to get a nod, I would have chosen Olsen — younger sister to Mary-Kate and Ashley — over Rooney Mara.

Best Supporting Actor

Will win: Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”

Should win: Nick Nolte, “Warrior”

Should have been nominated: Viggo Mortensen, “A Dangerous Method”

I loved Christopher Plummer in “Beginners.” I think he is a lock and a deserving winner for a powerful performance in an underrated film. But Nolte was the only reason to watch “Warrior,” a melodramatic love letter to mixed martial arts. Mortensen, meanwhile, has reached the upper echelon of great Hollywood actors. He’s so good at playing European and has such an ethnic name, most moviegoers don’t even realize he’s an American born in New York.

Best Supporting Actress

Will win: Octavia Spencer, “The Help”

Should win: Jessica Chastain, “The Help”

Should have been nominated: Jessica Chastain, “Take Shelter”

This is by far my least favorite category this year, with no real standouts among the nominees. The best supporting female performance for me this year came from Chastain in “Take Shelter,” though she got nominated for her work in a different film. That said, I’d still like to see her take home the little gold bald guy.

Best Director

Will win: Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”

Should win: Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”

Should have been nominated: Bennett Miller, “Moneyball”

“The Artist” is too unique a vision for Hazanavicius to not win. But dare I suggest that Miller pulled off the more impressive feat by crafting a really enjoyable movie about front office brainiacs in baseball? Silent films have been good before, but a great movie about sports nerds? That has never been done.

Mr. Parpan is the Web Editor for Times/Review Newsgroup. He can be reached at 631-298-3200, ext. 266, or [email protected].