These things will happen tomorrow (and a few others might, as well)

Tomorrow, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Tom Sherak and former Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence will open up a few envelopes and read a few words. One pair of words that they will read over and over and over (I’m guessing 11 times in all) will be “The” and “Artist.”

We know this because we’ve been there before. No one was surprised when “The King’s Speech” was nominated. Or “Avatar.” Or “The Lord of The Rings: The Return of The King.” Or “Braveheart.” Or “Titanic.”

The fact that the Oscars are the last and most important in a long string of award shows adds to their prestige but also makes them predictable. After all, the people voting are just that: people.

We know what they will vote for because they already have. Precursor awards given out by The Screen Actors Guild, the Directors Guild, the Producers Guild and many more make multiple nominations for “The Artist” tomorrow a safe (but unrewarding) bet.

And we know a few other things, as well. Christopher Plummer (“Beginners”) will be nominated for Best Supporting Actor. At least one of the ladies from “The Help” (Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain) will get a Best Supporting Actress nod. Jean Dujardin’s nomination for Best Actor has been set in stone for a while now.

But what about the things we don’t know? That’s where there’s room for surprise, both positive and negative.

Sure, everyone can agree that “The Artist” is a likeable, charming, maybe even great film. But is it a cinematic achievement on one level with Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life”? Is any film from last year?

Should the Academy fail to nominate “The Tree of Life” for Best Picture, and at this point I’d say that’s more likely than not, I’m certain it will go down as one of the greatest Oscar snubs in history since, fittingly enough, Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which, in 1969 was nominated for Director, Screenplay, Art Direction and Special Visual Effects (for which it won) but not Best Picture. (Who was, you ask? “Funny Girl,” “The Lion in Winter,” Rachel, Rachel,” “Romeo and Juliet” and, the winner: “Oliver!” Obviously “2001” didn’t stand a chance.)

Speaking of history: it may be written tomorrow if Andy Serkis is recognized for his motion capture-aided work in “The Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” Actors of the old guard may look at his performance as ‘cheating,’ but is it really that different from actors undergoing physical changes through heavy make-up or prosthetics? Serkis’ Ceasar shows an emotional depth, a believability that is lacking in even some of the human characters in that same film. Of course the end product would not be possible without the WETA magic at work, which is why I hope they will get a SFX nomination. But underneath it all and shining all the way through is Andy Serkis.

We will know more tomorrow. Here are a few more surprises I’m rooting for.

Nominees for the 2012 Academy Awards will be announced on January 24, 5.30am PST. (That’s 14:30 Uhr for my German readers.)

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