2014 Oscar Predictions — The Big Ones

The Oscars are upon us and it is time for me to give my educated opinions and suggestions for this year’s race.  I will follow suit and complete a “should win” and “will win.” As always, my should win is really just a personal favorite of the category; whereas, will win is my educated and well-researched prediction. In the past, I have completed ballots to keep track for myself or to play a good, clean game with my dear friends, competing for bragging rights, of course. The stakes are higher this year and I’ve entered myself in a pool. Let’s hope that I have finally put my talents to good use and I will come out on top.

Best Picture
American Hustle; Captain Phillips; Dallas Buyers Club; Gravity; Her; Nebraska; Philomena; 12 Years a Slave; The Wolf of Wall Street
Should Win: Let’s go through this list, shall we? I was able to catch Gravity, Nebraska, and 12 Years a Slave early in the season at the Telluride Film Festival, including myself in some of the first audiences of these films. I love this because it gives me the opportunity to see them for what they are, without any critic and friendly opinions in my head as I enter the theatre. Nebraska is a delight. With its typical Alexander Payne flair, it’s a lovely combination of humor and depression. I understand Gravity’s technical achievements and I do not want to discount that, but I hated this film. It had to be one of the worst screenplays I have ever experienced. If Murphy’s Law were a film, it would be Gravity. Sandra Bullock’s character Ryan left much to be desired. I didn’t find myself getting caught up in her hardships. I mean, really, I could have cared less if she made it out or not. 12 Years a Slave left me feeling a whole lot of emotions, mostly embarrassed. This film is all around incredible in its storytelling, acting, directing, and technique. Although it felt a little too studio for Steve McQueen (I preferred some of the more drowning choices in Shame), I have nothing negative to say. The only other film that I have negatives feelings for is American Hustle. Costuming, acting, music… fantastic! Actual storyline and writing of the film? Terribly boring. What even happened in this movie? Moving on, Captain Phillips was action-packed and kept me at the edge of my seat, but did nothing for me otherwise. Dallas Buyers Club showcased some great performances. I enjoyed the music and the editing was my favorite component. Her was an original and interesting concept and I found the film to be quite poetic; however, there are two films that have stuck with me. That is, Philomena and The Wolf of Wall Street. I expected Philomena to be a dry British film, but I found Judi Dench’s character to be both honest and a pleasure to observe. The story was heartbreaking and I found myself connected to the characters, crying when maybe they should be. The Wolf of Wall Street gets my pick though. Attach my favorite filmmaking pair to an unlikable protagonist in a raunchy 3 hour comedy and I’m hooked. I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun at the movies. This story, by all definition, shouldn’t work and yet, I find myself enamored with this man and his life, both cheering on his bad deeds and hating him for his choices. Everyone is interpreting this film as controversial, but my opinion of it is not. It was my favorite film of the year.
Will Win: This is a tough call. If Gravity wins, I might find myself as disgusted with the Academy as I was when Crash took the prize over the much-deserved Brokeback Mountain (No, I will never let it go). The race is between three films: American Hustle, Gravity, and 12 Years a Slave. The hype for American Hustle has dwindled, so we are looking at the films that tied at the PGA: Gravity and 12 Years a Slave. 12 Years a Slave is most likely going to pull through on this one. It’s too important.

Best Director
David O Russell, American Hustle; Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity; Alexander Payne, Nebraska; Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave; Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
Should Win: I don’t have a clear favorite in this category. Marty is my go-to guy, but is this his best film? I mean, let’s get real. The Wolf of Wall Street is not Goodfellas. It’s not Raging Bull. It might not even be The Departed. It’s easy to lean towards Marty because his film was my favorite of the year and typically these categories go well together. However, my pick is either David O. Russell (come on, he brought out some great performances with his cast) and Steve McQueen. Although I felt like his direction has succeeded in his past films, I still cannot deny that I loved the prolonged scene of Soloman hanging from the tree and how that was cinematically handled. It has stuck with me.
Will Win: We are going to make history on Oscar night. Alfonso Cuaron is going to take this prize and become the first Mexican to hold the Best Director Oscar statue.  If there is an upset, it goes to McQueen who will become the first black director to hold the statue. Cuaron is swept all of the major directing awards, including the most important at the DGAs. You are safe putting Cuaron on your ballot.

Best Actor
Christian Bale, American Hustle; Bruce Dern, Nebraska; Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street, Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave; Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Should Win: Christian Bale left much to be desired.  Bruce Dern tore me apart in every way possible. Chiwetel Ejiofor is powerful as Soloman. For me, though, this race is between Leo and Matthew. Matthew made me feel terribly anxious, particularly in the scene in his doctor’s office discussing the research he has done for medication. She tells him that the FDA has not approved those drugs. The panic in his voice and mannerisms were so real to me. Despite Matthew giving the performance of his career, there is someone more important out there. That important man is Leonardo DiCaprio. My favorite actor killed it in The Wolf of Wall Street. A fan of the film or not, you cannot deny that. He has been snubbed enough, can we please PLEASE just give him an Oscar already? This is long LONG overdue. For the Quaaludes scene alone, he deserves maybe a lifetime achievement award or something, no?
Will Win: Matthew McConaughey is pulling ahead in this race. Once tight with Chiwetel and Leo, he is entering March as the clear front runner. Thanks to the SAG Awards and the Golden Globes.

Best Actress
Amy Adams, American Hustle; Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine; Sandra Bullock, Gravity; Judi Dench, Philomena; Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
Should Win: It is a joke to me that Adele Exarchopoulos of Blue is the Warmest Color did not receive a nomination. In my opinion, she gave the female performance of the year. Sandra doesn’t belong in this category. Other than that, there is not much to talk about. Cate Blanchett is sweeping the season and cleaning up. It’s deserved. She’s fantastic. Woody Allen knows how to write and direct for women in the best way possible. I’m glad for that. She was a pleasure to watch.
Will Win: No question. It’s going to be Cate Blanchett. Some people are throwing out Amy Adams’s name, but they are being way too hopeful. Stick with Cate.

Best Supporting Actor
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips; Bradley Cooper, American Hustle; Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave; Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street; Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Should Win: This is yet another clear race. Not because Jared Leto’s performance was so strong, but because all of the other performances are lacking. Jonah Hill’s work is expanding and improving, but he’s not all the way there yet. We’ve seen Cooper and Fassbender give their “winning” performances in other roles (see: Silver Linings Playbook and Shame). As for Abdi, I’m sorry, but you will forever be typecast or we will never see you again. I don’t think this is it for you.
Will Win: All signs point to Jared Leto. Don’t expect an upset in this category.

Best Supporting Actress
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine; Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle; Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave; Julia Roberts, August: Osage County; June Squibb, Nebraska
Should Win: Julia Roberts is back and with a FLAWLESS middle part. While everyone is having the Lupita/JLaw debate, I’m over here thinking about June Squibb. I know I can’t be the only one. She stole the show in Nebraska. My copilot in film festivals and I both agreed that we’d be expecting a nomination for this lady and I am sticking with my love for her in Nebraska. Lupita is fearless, particularly in the whipping scene, and while J Law adds much of the comedic elements, I still felt like she was too young for her role in American Hustle. GO JUNE SQUIBB, GO!
Will Win: Like I said, this race is between JLaw and Lupita, and it might be the closest race of the night. My ballot still sits empty and I might never be comfortable with my decision. If we are going by numbers, JLaw has it. However, judging by the SAG awards, I think Lupita has this one. I’d go with Lupita Nyong’o.

Best Original Screenplay
American Hustle; Blue Jasmine; Dallas Buyers Club; Her; Nebraska
Should Win: For this category, I am torn between Blue Jasmine and Her. Woody Allen is an incredible screenwriter and he nails it every time. I apologize for the spoiler, but I did find it odd that Jasmine was lacking any character development. She started and ended the film in the same state, but it was also quite genius. He explored his supporting characters and led us to believe that Jasmine’s story was really beginning post-film. Despite my love for Woody Allen, I am going to go with Her for the sole reason that I have never seen anything like it. Not only is the concept completely unique and original, but I found the writing to be quite beautiful to the ears. I think this film should win just for the letter writing on its own. Spike Jonze dove into the story so quickly that I felt almost violated by what was happening with the characters, but the early exposure was what got me through the rest of the film.
Will Win: This is a race between Her and American Hustle. Her has picked up the majority of major awards and I don’t think this will be different. Her is too original to lose the original screenplay award.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Before Midnight; Captain Phillips; Philomena; 12 Years a Slave; The Wolf of Wall Street
Should Win: I’m going to ignore all other films and talk about one very important one. That film is Before Midnight. I am obsessed. When I was in Telluride, I was lucky enough to catch a discussion with Michael Fassbender and Steve McQueen. Fassbender was discussing McQueen’s use of long takes in his films and how this makes performing both challenging, yet easier. It was easier to remain in character without a director yelling cut every 30 seconds, yet challenging to hold a strong performance for a prolonged period of time (compared to other films). If you explore the duration of cuts among cinema’s history, you will find that they have been significantly reduced. Maybe it’s my love for avant-garde cinema or old films, but I love love love a long take. This film is FULL of them. It is essentially three or four long takes and that is all. I believe you can really showcase a performance with this filmmaking technique. Not only can you showcase a performance without the ability to cut during a 15-minute span, but you can’t edit the writing. It is what it is, and it is BEAUTIFUL. There was something about listening to Celeste and Jesse’s raw conversations that made me feel like movies can actually depict real life situations. Love stories are not a meet-cute, a montage, a break up, and a make up. The writing in this film explores what it really feels like to be in a committed relationship. I can’t wait for Oscar season to be over so that I can watch the first two of this “franchise.”
Will Win: Philomena will be offering the only upset to this category, but I think 12 Years of Slave has it.

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Can We Just Shut Up About Gravity?: Oscar Nominations 2014

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There are 58 Oscar nominated films this year. I’ve seen 12 of them. No one talk to me before March 2nd. You would think with a trip to Sundance, LA Film Fest, and Telluride, I would have made more of a dent, but apparently I was seeing the wrong films.

Sundance nominated films:
Before Midnight
Cutie and the Boxer
20 Feet From Stardom
Dirty Wars
The Square

LA Film Fest nominated films:
The Act of Killing
Ernest & Celestine

Telluride nominated films:
12 Years a Slave
Gravity
Nebraska
All Is Lost
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Invisible Woman
The Wind Rises

Telluride continues to prove to be the best bet for the Best Picture winner. We still have over a month left of the race, but it’s looking like it’s going to be 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, or American Hustle. Can we all just shut the fuck up about Gravity though? I am THRILLED that it did not get nominated for Screenplay. When I heard it was a contender, I thought I was going to pull my hair out. Thankfully, because of it’s horrendously simple dialogue, it was left out of that competition. As it should be, it was nominated for several special effects categories.

When I first read the nominations this morning, I was disappointed by the lack of surprises. If I lived in a perfect world, Adele Exarchopoulos would have received a Best Actress nomination for Blue is the Warmest Color. Of course, it was left out of the Foreign Language category due to some “small print,” causing it to be ineligible. I hoped the Academy would hook this girl up with a nomination. Academy, I get it. Judi Dench and Meryl Streep are legends and they don’t fuck around. Blanchett apparently gives the performance of the year and is unstoppable. Amy Adams was a nice surprise, but please don’t sit there and honestly tell me that Sandra Bullock was better in Gravity than Adele Exarchopoulos in Blue. She is a goddess. Her performance was so raw and real, easily my favorite of the year. She led me to feel exactly what her character was feeling. As if I was discovering myself and revisiting a broken heart all over again, Blue is the Warmest Color was brilliant because of her fearless and emotional performance.

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Adèle Exarchopoulos in Blue is the Warmest Color

Alas, Best Actress in a Leading Role was a tough race this year, as was Best Actor in a Leading Role. These categories are where we find our “biggest” surprises. No Emma Thompson. No Tom Hanks. No Robert Redford. Who do we have though? Leonardo DiCaprio. Just give this man an Oscar already. Maybe a little bit of tears came out of my eyes when he lost for The Aviator, which until I saw him in Wolf of Wall Street held my personal award for Best Performance by Leonardo DiCaprio. Will the tears reappear on March 2nd? I certainly hope not. Leo knocks it out of the park in Wolf. He is so deserving. I just can’t watch him lose anymore. I won’t stand for it.

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Margot Robbie and Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

The documentary and foreign language categories seem the most off to me. Blackfish was not a shoe-in by any means, but with all of the buzz it’s been receiving, who knows? I thought we would see The Crash Reel, Tim’s Vermeer, and maybe Which Way Is the Front Line From Here? I have only seen one on this list: 20 Feet From Stardom, so there is a good chance that I will change my mind after I watch the other four. As for Foreign Language, The Wind Rises seems to be missing. It was only nominated for Animation. Is there a rule that it can’t be nominated for both? Is that what’s happening here? Must be.

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20 Feet From Stardom

Well, I’m way behind in the race myself, and I don’t have a strong favorite to win just yet. Mostly because two of my favorite films of the year were not nominated (The Spectacular Now and The Past). Right now, I would be happy to see Wolf of Wall Street take the prize. We’re going to ignore Shutter Island’s existence and I’m just going to say that you can never go wrong with a DiCaprio/Scorsese picture. Well acted, well directed, well paced. It made three hours feel like three minutes and I laughed the whole way through. Also, how is Margot Robbie only 23? Come on. If I want to be realistic, my ballot is going to say 12 Years of Slave. Telluride films win always.

Hopefully this list will be updated frequently as I get through these films, but for now, here is the list of the 58 nominated films for the Academy Awards. You can find the full list of nominations here: http://oscar.go.com/nominees

  1. 12 Years a Slave
  2. American Hustle
  3. Captain Phillips
  4. Dallas Buyers Club
  5. Gravity
  6. Her
  7. Nebraska
  8. Philomena
  9. The Wolf of Wall Street
  10. Blue Jasmine
  11. August: Osage County
  12. The Croods (animated feature)
  13. Despicable Me 2 (animated feature)
  14. Ernest & Celestine (animated feature)
  15. Frozen (animated feature)
  16. The Wind Rises (animated feature)
  17. The Grandmaster
  18. Inside Llewyn Davis
  19. Prisoners
  20. The Great Gatsby
  21. The Invisible Woman
  22. The Act of Killing (documentary feature)
  23. Cutie and the Boxer (documentary feature)
  24. Dirty Wars (documentary feature)
  25. The Square (documentary feature)
  26. 20 Feet From Stardom (documentary feature)
  27. CaveDigger (documentary short)
  28. Facing Fear (documentary short)
  29. Karama Has No Walls (documentary short)
  30. The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life (documentary short)
  31. Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall (documentary short)
  32. The Broken Circle Breakdown (foreign language)
  33. The Great Beauty (foreign language)
  34. The Hunt (foreign language)
  35. The Missing Picture (foreign language)
  36. Omar (foreign language)
  37. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
  38. The Lone Ranger
  39. The Book Thief
  40. Saving Mr. Banks
  41. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
  42. Feral (animated short)
  43. Get a Horse! (animated short)
  44. Mr. Hublot (animated short)
  45. Possessions (animated short)
  46. Room on the Broom (animated short)
  47. Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me) (live action short)
  48. Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything) (live action short)
  49. Helium (live action short)
  50. Pitaako Mun Kaikki Hoitaa (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?) (live action short)
  51. The Voorman Problem (live action short)
  52. All Is Lost
  53. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
  54. Lone Survivor
  55. Iron Man 3
  56. Star Trek Into Darkness
  57. Before Midnight