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The winners and missed opportunities of the 84th annual Academy Awards

The night of the Academy Awards is typically one to celebrate glitz, glamour and all things cinema.

With the return of a reliable Academy Awards host in “When Harry Met Sally” star Billy Crystal, from expected winners to a few surprises, The Oracle recounts both the winners and the snubs of the 84th annual Academy Awards.

Best Picture:

It’s been said that the Best Director win is usually a good indicator of who will take the top award of the night with Best Picture, and this year’s Academy Awards was no exception to the rule.

The cast and crew of “The Artist” swarmed the stage with a glorious display of emotion, which awarded an enjoyable comedy that paid homage to Hollywood’s golden era. It’s difficult to oppose a film that’s so forthright in its jubilant nature, but “The Descendants” or “Hugo” should’ve won based on sheer craft and entertainment value.

Best Director:

While Martin Scorsese broke out of his comfort zone of crime dramas with the children’s novel adaptation “Hugo,” and fine filmmakers like Terrence Malick, Woody Allen and Alexander Payne marked their returns to the silver screen in 2011, it was a relative newcomer that swept the award right from underneath them all.

French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius took home Best Director for “The Artist,” a technically complicated film about a silent film star who loses his fame amidst the advent of sound in motion picture. It’s a tough category to choose from, but it feels like the films of Hazanavicius’ experienced contemporaries will be more thoughtfully remembered in the long run.

Best Actor:

From surprise nominations for “A Better Life” actor Demin Bichir and “The Artist” star Jean Dujardin, to a long-deserved nod for Gary Oldman in “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” to finally movie stars Brad Pitt in “Moneyball” and George Clooney in “The Descendants,” the best actor category was a packed one.

Another newcomer won the prize in the form of Dujardin, who smuggled a charming and vibrant personality into the silent role of movie star George Valentin. Yet it was surpassed by an outstanding performance by Brad Pitt as Oakland Athletics manager Billy Beane in “Moneyball” – a standout in a career of notable performances.

Best Actress:

The Best Actress category was filled with mostly veteran actresses like Meryl Streep, Viola Davis and Glenn Close, with a bit of young talent in Michelle Williams and Rooney Mara thrown in for good measure.

Streep, who hasn’t won an award since 1983 with “Sophie’s Choice,” mused on her many nominations as she stepped on stage to accept the award for portraying Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady.” Mara’s performance in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was far more engaging and ferocious, and Williams is a reliable young talent, but the Academy leaned towards the more experienced talent with this selection.

Best Supporting Actor:

There was strong competition in the Best Supporting Actor category, with past favorites like Kenneth Branagh, Max Von Sydow, Nick Nolte, as well as a newcomer in “Moneyball” actor Jonah Hill filling out the list of nominees.

As the oldest actor to ever take home an Academy Award at 82, “Beginners” star Christopher Plummer gave a gracious and thoughtful speech that paid tribute to his fellow nominees, “Beginners” cast and crew, and the Academy. Like a true gentleman, Plummer proved his win for playing an elderly man who reveals he’s long kept his sexual orientation a secret in “Beginners” was well-deserved.

Best Supporting Actress:

In an emotional, tear-filled acceptance speech, “The Help” actress Octavia Spencer took Best Supporting Actress for the adaptation of Kathrynn Stockett’s best-selling novel.

While Spencer fit in seamlessly amongst costars like Emma Stone and Viola Davis in this tale of African-American maids working throughout the civil rights movement, she certainly stood out as the most deserving amongst her fellow nominees, with only real competition stemming from Berenice Bejo’s marvelous performance in “The Artist.”

Best Adapted Screenplay:

For a category that awards the best screenplays based on existing works, there’s still a strong list of talented screenwriters making these works their own in films like “Moneyball,” “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” and “Hugo.”

Director Alexander Payne and co-writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash walked away with the Oscar for “The Descendants,” but “The Ides of March” or “Moneyball” seem like a better fit here. While it was nice to see Payne, Rash and Faxon onstage together, “The Descendants” is a film that’s better honored for Payne’s directorial prowess and Clooney’s fine performance.

Best Original Screenplay:

Perhaps Academy voters were feeling nostalgic with this choice, as the award for Best Original Screenplay went to Woody Allen for the recent “Midnight in Paris.” The film is a romantic look at the City of Love in a time when artists like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Salvador Dali roamed its streets.

While the time-traveling comedy starring Owen Wilson was a more tasteful riff on history romps like “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” it’s far from Allen or 2011’s best. Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo’s script for “Bridesmaids” or Michel Hazanavicius’ screenplay for “The Artist” were more deserving than Allen on autopilot.

Best Foreign Language Film:

Presented in a rather humorous fashion by Sandra Bullock, the Best Foreign Language Film category features an onslaught of international features from across the world, with one much discussed feature taking home the Academy Award.

“A Separation,” the Iranian film that chronicles the choice of one married couple to move to another country to help improve the living conditions of their family or look after a parent who’s suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, is quite deserving of its golden statue.

Best Animated Feature Film:

The Best Animated Feature Film category was looking a little sparse this year, with spinoffs and sequels such as “Puss in Boots” and “Kung Fu Panda 2” even making the cut.

“Pirates of the Caribbean” director Gore Verbinski walked away with this Oscar for “Rango,” about a chameleon bent on saving a small Western town of anthropomorphic characters. It’s certainly a worthy effort visually, but in a stronger year for animated films, this overrated effort may have been left at the wayside.