Wow. It seems like it’s been forever since the Golden Globes, right? I guess this is what happens when the Winter Olympics take over the world. It’s been a long month; and although not much has happened in this month to truly change the race significantly, that doesn’t take away how “out in the open” this race is. Personally, I find the “Gravity vs. 12 Years a Slave vs. American Hustle” competition to be more compelling and interesting than the “Argo vs. Lincoln” was last year, mostly because Gravity and 12 Years a Slave aren’t your typical “Oscar baity” films. Gravity is a science fiction thriller with a female lead that has done a very nice job picking up directing and technical precursors. 12 Years a Slave is a somewhat uncomfortable (in a good way) film about slavery where most of the main characters are “unlikable” (to say the least). Either one of these wins (particularly Gravity) would be a pretty historic win. American Hustle is probably the “safest pick” but…after losses at the PGAs and the BAFTAs, a Best Picture win would be small surprise (I write knowing full well it won the Golden Globe and the SAG with 4 of the actors taking up the 4 acting categories but still…) This is an interesting race and I would be surprised if someone ended the night with their predictions 100% right.
Anyway, here are my final predictions (who should win via ranking, and who will win)…
Best Picture: My Ranking:
- The Wolf of Wall Street
- 12 Years a Slave
- Dallas Buyers Club
- Captain Phillips
- American Hustler
Even less than a week away from the big ceremony, this ranking is still very tentative. It’s strange…but out of the nine nominees, there really isn’t that one film that TRULY stands out. There’s no Silver Linings Playbook (for me). There’s no The Help and The Descendants (again, my opinion). There’s no The Kids Are All Right. There’s no Precious. There isn’t that one special film that is my absolute favorite for the year. Honestly, I’d say the top 3 are in their own clump. And then I’d say the bottom 2 movies are also in their own clump, with the movies in the middle interchangeable. For some reason, The Wolf of Wall Street got pretty mixed reviews, but I absolutely loved this crazy, wild movie. Even at three hours, this movie never slowed down. I never felt bored. My attention was never lost. I think it’s a movie that more people will respect in the future (which is why I’m glad the Academy gave it some key nominations this year).
Gravity and 12 Years a Slave are incredibly respectful front runners and either winning would make me happy. Gravity is feat in both special effects and story telling, while 12 Years a Slave might be the best, more realistic depiction of slavery on film since Roots (yeah! I said it!) Captain Phillips has a ton of thrilling moments (those last 15 minutes are truly spectacular). However, I think the movie could have been condensed a bit (so it did run into the same “lulls” that WOWS could have had). American Hustle pretty much has all the right ingredients of a great film. David O. Russell truly knows how to extract powerful performances out of his actors (4 acting noms 2 years in a row, y’all!) And the movie looks great – from the costumes to the hair to the editing. However…while there were some really great individual scenes (pretty much anything involving Louis CK and Jennifer Lawrence), I just wasn’t that captivated by the story itself. And, personally, I didn’t always understand what was going on. The story was just too complex for me. It’s not a bad movie…it just wasn’t great for me.
Who Will Win? It’s weird. It seems like, no matter what, 12 Years a Slave is always able to win the big award in the end. I think if the BAFTAs and the Golden Globes can give this movie Best Picture, then I think the Academy can follow suit too. I think it also helps that the movie has a big ensemble cast while Gravity is essentially “one and a half” person play. Although it’s a strong contender, American Hustle winning would be a “Crash-sized” surprise.
Best Director: My Ranking:
- Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity)
- Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)
- Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)
- David O. Russell (American Hustle)
- Alexander Payne (Nebraska)
It’s really between the top 2 for me. When I was discussing the Golden Globes, I gave the opinion that I would a little happier if Steve McQueen won. 12 Years a Slave is a difficult, yet thoughtfully theatrical, look into the deep, dark world of slavery. However…I think what Cuaron does is more innovative and “different.” I think having an entire movie take place was a pretty risky thing to do, yet Cuaron pulls it off perfectly. Either win would be fine. But…Cuaron wrote the screenplay for Y Tu Mama Tambien (he unfortunately didn’t win an Oscar for that) so…I think I’m more sentimental for Cuaron.
Who Will Win? Cuaron has been sweeping the precursors so he’s a semi-safe bet so far. If the Academy goes really gaga for 12 Years a Slave, then the movie could snag this award too. However this could be an interesting year where there’s a “Director/Picture” split (it happened last year…but last year was weird.)
Best Original Screenplay: My Ranking:
- Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine)
- Spike Jonze (Her)
- Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack (Dallas Buyers Club)
- Bob Nelson (Nebraska)
- Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell (American Hustle)
Sigh…controversy notwithstanding, Blue Jasmine really was one of my favorite films of the year – and it’s certainly my favorite film nominated in this category. I thought Allen’s portrait of this hot mess of a woman was very captivating. However, I have to admit, since it would be awkward if Allen actually won, then even I would fill in Jonze’s circle on the voter ballot. Hey! Allen already has enough Oscars. And it’s not like he would be there to accept it anyway! Her is certainly one of the strangest, yet most human, movies of the year. Even underdog Dallas Buyers Club would be a worthy winner here.
Who Will Win? Spike Jonze seems to be the front runner to most people, but I think I’m going to predict David Russell this time. Surprisingly, he hasn’t won an Oscar yet. American Hustle has 10 Oscar nominations this year…it has to win something. Considering it’s not much of a front runner anywhere else, this category might be the film’s best chance at winning an Oscar. I just have a gut feeling that it’s Russell’s time to win…and Her is too weird for the older voters.
Best Adapted Screenplay: My Ranking:
- Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke (Before Midnight)
- Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope (Philomena)
- Terence Winter (The Wolf of Wall Street)
- John Ridley (12 Years a Slave)
- Billy Ray (Captain Phillips)
Every time I get annoyed over Julie Delpy’s Best Actress snub, I try to remind myself that she at least got nominated here along with her also deserving co-star. That uncomfortably long hotel scene is probably my favorite single movie scene from this year. It’s just fascinating how much that argument progresses. It’s masterfully written (and acted). In second place is Philomena, an underrated movie that hits all the right notes. It’s funny. It’s sad. It’s sentimental…but not too goopy. Although, to be honest, I always find it hard to judge this category when I haven’t read any of the original material (although Before Midnight isn’t technically “adapted”…it’s a sequel, so only the characters are technically adapted.)
Who Will Win? Since the WGAs have weird eligibility rules, I can’t take the results this year too seriously. In any case, I think the Best Picture front runner will win this category. So, congratulations, John Ridley.
Best Actor: My Ranking:
- Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
- Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
- Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
- Christian Bale (American Hustle)
- Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
As much as I love Dallas Buyers Club, I do not want to live in a world where Matthew McConaughey has an Oscar for his first nomination while DiCaprio loses for the 4th time. No, I do not think the Oscars should be a “Lifetime Achievement Award.” But I say all this with the full belief that DiCaprio gave the strongest performance of the year – male or female, leading or supporting. It is a powerhouse performance. It’s a long, hectic three hour movie and he practically appears in every scene. I just don’t think the other actors in this category worked as hard as DiCaprio. If DiCaprio can’t win, then Ejiofor would make a worthy winner. I think his best scene is the scene where his character practically loses hope in returning home, so he tearfully burns the letter that was supposed to save him. And, obviously, McConaughey is a complete revelation in both Dallas Buyers Club and even in his small role in TWOWS. However, I’m really hoping the Academy makes the right decision here.
Who Will Win? Let’s face it, Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) is too unlikable, too manic a character. Matthew McConaughey has done a very nice job sweeping the major precursors. But my gut is telling that the first front runner in this category, Ejiofor, will get the last laugh and win the Oscar. But, ultimately, this is a race between the AIDs victim and the slave.
Best Actress: My Ranking:
- Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
- Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
- Judi Dench (Philomena)
- Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
- Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Like Leading Actor, this category has a clear “best.” Fortunately, the best in this category is also the front runner for the win so…yay! Cate Blanchett gives a true tour-de-force. She’s loud. She’s abrasive. She’s teary. She’s conniving. Blanchett was given a truly meaty role…and she ate every last piece of that meat. That last scene where Jasmine mumbles to herself haunted my dreams for days after I first watched the movie. She deserves this win. She deserves a Lead Oscar. And I don’t think a polarizing controversy involving a family she has no relation with should jeopardize that. However, I do have to say that Sandra Bullock is very underrated for this role. I know people really want Blanchett to win…but Bullock does an excellent job considering the fact that she performed most of the movie in front of a green screen. She won’t get the Oscar…but she deserves her props. And if Blue Jasmine hadn’t been released this year, I would have gladly given Bullock a second Oscar.
Who Will Win? Cate Blanchett is having a “MoNique-sized” sweep. If she doesn’t win, it’ll be the biggest shock since Eddie Murphy losing for Dreamgirls (that still pisses me off). However, if voters get caught up in the recent tabloid drama, then perennial Oscar loser Amy Adams will be next up (like she always is). Unfortunately, she gives the weakest performance in American Hustle (not entirely her fault).
Best Supporting Actor: My Ranking:
- Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street)
- Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
- Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
- Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
- Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
Sometimes the Oscars aren’t about “Who’s the best?” It’s more about creating a good story. And nominated Abdi gave us a good story. It’s a modern Cinderella story. It’s noble that voters (with the help of every other awards group before it) were able to step out the box and nominate an African with an accent and an interesting face in his first acting role. However…was his performance really that great? On the other end of the spectrum, while I didn’t much think he was all that great in Moneyball, I was pleasantly surprised Jonah Hill got a nomination for TWOWS…and I think he’s the best in the category. The scene where his character reveals he’s married to his cousin is the first of many great scenes involving Hill. Hey! Instead of awarding two male actors from DBC, let’s award the superior performances from TWOWS.
Who Will Win? I really believe Jared Leto was robbed 13 years ago for Requiem for a Dream. And I’ve enjoyed his work since then. This is another great performance by him. I don’t really think Leto’s truly given a baity scene (and my excitement for the performance has softened this last month), but it’s a quiet performance full of conviction. Leto does a brave thing by playing this role ,and it won’t be bad if he’s awarded for it.
Best Supporting Actress: My Ranking:
- Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
- Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
- June Squibb (Nebraska)
- Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
- Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
I don’t cruise around the Gold Derby Forums much anymore, but when I did late last year, I ran across a post that said that Nyong’o didn’t deserve the win because all her character does is get whipped. Clearly this troll hadn’t actually watched the movie. Did he watch the scene where Patsey asks Solomon to kill her to escape the life of a slave? Did he watch the scene where she tearfully explains to her master why she needed soap to clean her body? Did he watch all those subtle, quiet moments where one facial expression by her gave us a thousand words? This isn’t a performance that everyone appreciates…but I’m glad award voters seem be on the right side. I adore Jennifer Lawrence and I was rooting for her to win last year. However, I rather her second Oscar be for a stronger role. Julia Roberts is a great representation for a film I find very underrated (and she pretty much gives her best performance since Closer). However, I think Juliette Lewis (from the same movie) would have been a more inspired choice.
Who Will Win? At this point…it’s between Jennifer Lawrence and Lupita Nyong’o. Lawrence seems to be favored by international voters, while fellow actors and American critics have preferred Nyong’o. Even veteran June Squibb is still a strong contender. However…to be honest, this is the “easiest” place for an African (American) actress to win an Oscar. If Octavia Spencer can win an Oscar, then I’m putting my money on Nyong’o. Also, do you think voters will want to give Jlaw two Oscars in a row?
Best Animated Film:
Who Will Win? A few days ago, I had a weird dream that Despicable Me 2 won the Oscar and that everyone was really mad and…yeah, that’s about it. Despite my dreams, this is definitely Frozen‘s to lose. Frozen got great reviews, did well in the box office and music charts. This is not a category where voters take risks so it would pretty surprising if Miyazaki’s last film ends up winning.
Best Foreign Language Film:
Who Will Win? With Blue is the Warmest Color not eligible, there isn’t really that foreign film that seems to be connecting with American audiences (like Amour and even A Separation definitely had more of an impact with American audiences than any of the films nominated here). So…I don’t know…this seems like a pretty open category. The Great Beauty seems poised to win. However, I think this could be the year for another “Departures-level” surprise here. So, I’m officially predicting The Hunt, starring Hannibal star Mads Mikkelsen.
Best Original Song: My Ranking:
- “Let it Go” (Frozen)
- “Happy” (Despicable Me 2)
- “The Moon Song” (Her)
- “Ordinary Love” (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom)
God, I love “Let it Go” (the original Idina Menzel version…the Demi Lovato cover is…I can’t get through that ish). It’s such a rousing song. When Idina sings “The cold never bothered me anyway,” I literally get shivers. It is far away the best song in this category. I will have a problem if the baity U2 song with good intentions wins this because voters are lazy. “Let it Go” deserves to be awarded the same way “Under the Sea,” “Beauty and the Beast, “A Whole New World,” “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and “Colors of the Wind” were awarded.
Who Will Win? Alas, I wouldn’t be surprised if U2 wins this the same way they weirdly won the Golden Globe. But I’m going stick with my original prediction. “Let it Go.”
Best Documentary: The Act of Killing
Best Original Score: Gravity
Best Sound Editing: Gravity
Best Sound Mixing: Gravity
Best Production Design: The Great Gatsby (12 Years a Slave is close though)
Best Cinematography: Prisoners (Roger Deakins needs his first win)
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Dallas Buyers Club (would not be surprised if Bad Grandpa surprises though.)
Best Costume Design: The Invisible Woman (voters like period and fluffy gowns)
Best Film Editing: Gravity
Best Visual Effects: Gravity
OK…and those are my predictions. Thanks for reading. I am definitely looking forward to this Sunday.