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Colin Covert, Star Tribune (Minneapolis), Published February 25 2012

Oscars: Not who will win, but who should win

Following tonight’s Academy Awards, some filmmakers will be the toast of Hollywood. Others will merely be burned. And given the Oscar voters’ penchant for eccentric decisions (Roberto Benigni has a best actor statuette, folks), the talk around the water cooler Monday will center on how they messed up once again.

Let’s set the record straight before the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences weighs in. Here’s who really deserves to win a 2012 Oscar.

Best Picture

“The Artist.” This ridiculously cheerful black-and-white silent film isn’t just a love letter to bygone Hollywood, it’s a celebration of the values behind classic screen entertainment. It’s the best film of 2011 by way of 1929.

Best Director

No one did a better job than “The Artist’s” Michel Hazanavicius, who pulled off his eccentric project with emotional innocence, technical sophistication and crowd-pleasing gusto. As the film’s co-writer and co-editor, he deserves an unusually large share of the credit for a triumphantly executed cinematic high-wire act.

Best Actress

Viola Davis has spent a long time as that anonymous player on the sidelines who makes her scenes crackle with excitement. Her performance in “The Help” is poignant and flawlessly authentic. Playing a humble segregation-era maid in a civil-rights drama is a role that involves an array of sticky issues, artistic and political. Davis overcomes every challenge and gives the film its beating heart.

Best Actor

Let’s move past the injustice that Ryan Gosling somehow couldn’t get nominated for any of his three excellent 2011 performances and declare “The Artist’s” Jean Dujardin the most deserving nominee. No actor faced a greater degree of difficulty. He won the Screen Actors Guild competition in January and ought to win again.

Supporting Actress

Octavia Spencer was “The Help’s” comic relief, and her performance was sassy, heartfelt, powerful and varied enough to make Oscar voters overcome their aversion to humor.

Supporting Actor

Kenneth Branagh’s performance as Laurence Olivier in “My Week With Marilyn” dug into the core of a brilliant but fading performer’s ego, pomposity, wisdom and regret. The sight of British theater’s “new Olivier” deconstructing the original is a spectacle deserving of a bow in the spotlight.