Friday, February 28, 2014

2014 Oscar Predictions


That I only realized a few days ago that the Academy Awards were this Sunday can't be a great sign, either for my attentiveness or the nominated films, which just haven't filled me with the same level of enthusiasm as last year's crop of contenders. And moviegoers unfortunately seem to be agreeing, as the majority of the films have seen far less of a box office bump than expected. It seems like just yesterday everyone was furiously debating Zero Dark Thirty, arguing whether Argo was a worthy Best Picture winner and speculating at Jennifer Lawrence's chances of taking home Best Actress. For me, there's been little of that excitement surrounding this year's race and I've even been a bit let down by some of the more popular nominees.

The good news is that this race is the most unpredictable it's been in a while, with the eventual Best Picture winner hardly set in stone, even as we head down the final stretch.  But as much as we all like to complain that our favorites are left out, these are some great films here, and we should be thankful that the Academy (for all the criticism they receive) do shine a much needed spotlight on quality work. As for the actual show, I just hope it isn't a slog and we're in for some real surprises. Having not yet seen all the nominees, I'm mostly dispensing with the "should win" in favor of attempting to get inside the mind of an Oscar voter (as scary as that seems) and predicting what will.  Below are those predictions, along with some accompanying analysis for the major categories.

*Predicted Winners

*Updated 3/2/14

“12 Years a Slave”
“American Hustle”
“Captain Phillips”
“Dallas Buyers Club”
“The Wolf of Wall Street”

*American Hustle feels like it's out of the game, having peaked too early and lacking the necessary substance to take home the big prize. With Nebraska and Dallas Buyers Club, their nominations are reward enough, while "Philomania" definitely won't be runnin' wild on Oscar night. The overpraised Her just isn't the type of movie that wins Best Picture. The Wolf of Wall Street completely deserves it but is too polarizing and Captain Phillips is unfortunately most voters' second or third choice. This leaves two contenders that each face some obstacles. 12 Years a Slave covers a topic that might be too difficult for (primarily white, older) voters to stomach and Gravity is an effects-driven 3D movie that doesn't hold up as well at home. What's promising for its chances is that while the film's set set in space, it isn't science fiction, nor does it contain a single idea worthy of discussion afterwards. Sadly, this makes it an ideal winner.

When in doubt, the Oscars always go for the safest, least offensive choice. In theory, the uplifting Gravity should take it. But something's stopping me from picking it. I just can't see the Academy choosing a big budget, high-grossing, 3D space movie as Best Picture. There's just not enough depth to it. 12 Years is important, epic and historical and we know from past years that's a "can't miss" proposition for voters. They can feel good about themselves rewarding it, while Gravity picks up all the technical awards and Cuaron wins for 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”

*Cuaron's going to win this and I'm not so sure how I feel about that considering his direction of Bullock actually prevented the actress from giving a performance that would've insured her a second Oscar. Also, with these types of effects driven vehicles, we're never sure how much of its success can be attributed to the visual effects team. In this case, it's likely a lot. But no other director here (aside from maybe McQueen) stands much of a chance. David O. Russell's day is coming. Just not yet. The Best Picture and Director categories "usually" match but I'm thinking this will be one of those strange years we have a split. The situation definitely call for it. 

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”

*Alright, alright, alright. For McConaughey, this Oscar will be as much a reward for The Lincoln Lawyer, Magic Mike, Bernie, Killer Joe, The Paperboy, Mud, The Wolf of Wall Street and that little show he has on HBO as it is for Dallas Buyers Club. He's essentially getting a career achievement award for three years worth of work in which he resuscitated a career clinging to life support. Few would argue he deserves it. So does Leo, but McConaughey's riding all the momentum now. He can put this Oscar on a mantle where it'll await company from the Emmy he'll  receive for True Detective, which most will be watching instead of this telecast.

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”

*This one should be wide open, but it isn't. In a perfect world, Jonah Hill would win, but most voters probably think a second nomination is reward enough for now. No biggie. In a couple of years he'll probably be nominated for his role as suspected 1996 Olympic park bomber Richard Jewell (in a movie I've been patiently waiting 18 long years for someone to make). So there's that to look forward to. But this one belongs to Leto, who's playing a transgender with AIDS. With a part like that, does it even matter how the performance was? There's also a built-in comeback story, with the actor/musician having not made a film in 6 years. He'll win easily.

Amy Adams, “American Hustle”
Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”
Judi Dench, “Philomena”
Meryl Streep, “August: Osage County”

*Even more of a lock than Best Actor. It's Cate Blanchett's to lose, regardless of whatever Woody Allen did or didn't do twenty years ago. Bullock won too recently. Streep's mandatory inclusion for anything is starting to become the Academy's longest running joke at this point. Dench is actually a bigger threat than people think, while 5 (!) time nominee Amy Adams is probably Blanchett's stiffest competition. She won't win though. Blanchett's performance is just too strong. That they're rewarding an excellent actress who deserves recognition is just icing on the cake. This outcome was a foregone conclusion months ago.

Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”
Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”
June Squibb, “Nebraska”
Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County”
Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine”

*In a category famous for upsets, this is the night's closest race. Any of these women can win (well, except Julia Roberts). It's really between J-Law and Nyong'o and it's very, very close. On one hand, I can't see them giving Lawrence an Oscar two years in a row. Then again, it's Jennifer Lawrence. But you'd figure this is as good a category as any to reward 12 Years, while also endorsing a promising newcomer. I'm going with Nyong'o but using a pencil. I could easily change my mind before the show.

“American Hustle” – Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
“Blue Jasmine” – Written by Woody Allen
“Her” – Written by Spike Jonze
“Nebraska” – Written by Bob Nelson
“Dallas Buyers Club” – Written by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack

* I guess we'll leave the debate as to whether Blue Jasmine should even qualify as an original screenplay for another time. This is very close between American Hustle and Her, with the latter having an edge since Jonze's script is ultimately what that film's best remembered for. With Hustle, it's more the performances. I'm not even that big a fan of Her but will have to admit the screenplay is incredibly inventive and intelligent. If it deserves to win anything, it's this.

“Before Midnight” – Written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
“Captain Phillips” – Screenplay by Billy Ray
“Philomena” – Screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
“12 Years a Slave” – Screenplay by John Ridley
“The Wolf of Wall Street” – Screenplay by Terence Winter

*This and Best Editing are the categories Captain Phillips really has a chance at. But once again you can file a potential 12 Years victory here under "it has to get something else," if it also wins Best Picture.  Similarly, Adapted Screenplay seems like a worthy consolation prize should the film fall short in the bigger categories.

“The Grandmaster” Phillipe Le Sourd
“Gravity” Emmanuel Lubezki
“Inside Llewyn Davis” Bruno Delbonnel
“Nebraska” Phedon Papamichael
“Prisoners” Roger A. Deakins

*This seems as good a time as any for the Academy to create some kind of separate category for effects driven films. Of course, the big joke is that we already have that category. It's called "Best Visual Effects." I'm just not sure how comfortable I am having the great Roger Deakins lose for the 11th time to a movie mostly shot on sound stages against a green screen while other deserving contenders like Spring Breakers, Rush and The Bling Ring are left out altogether. It just seems more like technology than cinematography. I'm fine with them honoring it. Just not here. Which means Lubezski will probably win.

“Alone Yet Not Alone” from “Alone Yet Not Alone”
Music by Bruce Broughton; Lyric by Dennis Spiegel
“Happy” from “Despicable Me 2”
Music and Lyric by Pharrell Williams
“Let It Go” from “Frozen”
Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
“The Moon Song” from “Her”
Music by Karen O; Lyric by Karen O and Spike Jonze
“Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”
Music by Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen; Lyric by Paul Hewson

*Now that everyone has heard Pharrell's "Happy" and knows how good it is, it's kind of unbelievable voters would even consider giving this to anything else. But that's the Academy for you. Frozen's probably winning, even if I hope I'm wrong. It also wouldn't surprise me if U2 pulls this off given the prestige factor. This and the Documentary category are the only instances where I can honestly say the Academy infuriates me by consistently failing to nominate the best contenders and making head-scratching decisions on an annual basis. Luckily, the original songs are actually being performed on the show this year. I just wish (with the exception of "Happy") that they were better.

“The Croods”
“Despicable Me 2”
“Ernest and Celestine”
“The Wind Rises”

Michael Wilkinson, “American Hustle”
William Chang Suk Ping, “The Grandmaster”
Catherine Martin, “The Great Gatsby”
Michael O’Connor, “The Invisible Woman”
Patricia Norris, “12 Years a Slave”

“The Act of Killing”Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen
“Cutie and the Boxer” Zachary Heinzerling and Lydia Dean Pilcher
“Dirty Wars” Richard Rowley and Jeremy Scahill
“The Square” Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer
“20 Feet from Stardom” Nominees to be determined

“CaveDigger” Jeffrey Karoff
“Facing Fear” Jason Cohen
“Karama Has No Walls” Sara Ishaq
“The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life” Malcolm Clarke and Nicholas Reed
“Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall” Edgar Barens

“American Hustle” Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten
“Captain Phillips” Christopher Rouse
“Dallas Buyers Club” John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa
“Gravity” Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger
“12 Years a Slave” Joe Walker

“The Broken Circle Breakdown,” Belgium
“The Great Beauty,” Italy
“The Hunt,” Denmark
“The Missing Picture,” Cambodia
“Omar,” Palestine

“Dallas Buyers Club” Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews
“Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” Stephen Prouty
“The Lone Ranger” Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny

John Williams, “The Book Thief”
Steven Price, “Gravity”
William Butler and Owen Pallett, “Her”
Alexandre Desplat, “Philomena”
Thomas Newman, “Saving Mr. Banks”

“American Hustle”
Production Design: Judy Becker; Set Decoration: Heather Loeffler
Production Design: Andy Nicholson; Set Decoration: Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard
“The Great Gatsby”
Production Design: Catherine Martin; Set Decoration: Beverley Dunn
Production Design: K.K. Barrett; Set Decoration: Gene Serdena
“12 Years a Slave”
Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Alice Baker

“Feral” Daniel Sousa and Dan Golden
“Get a Horse!” Lauren MacMullan and Dorothy McKim
“Mr. Hublot” Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares
“Possessions” Shuhei Morita
“Room on the Broom” Max Lang and Jan Lachauer

“Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)” Esteban Crespo
“Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything)” Xavier Legrand and Alexandre Gavras
“Helium” Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson
“Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)” Selma Vilhunen and Kirsikka Saari
“The Voorman Problem” Mark Gill and Baldwin Li

“All Is Lost” Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns
“Captain Phillips” Oliver Tarney
“Gravity” Glenn Freemantle
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” Brent Burge
“Lone Survivor” Wylie Stateman

“Captain Phillips” Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro
“Gravity” Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson
“Inside Llewyn Davis” Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland
“Lone Survivor” Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow

“Gravity” Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds
“Iron Man 3” Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick
“The Lone Ranger” Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier
“Star Trek Into Darkness” Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton

No comments: