In Which I Try To Predict The Oscars…Again.

February 27, 2014

I don’t really care about the Oscars. I never watch them, the fashion doesn’t interest me, the speeches usually don’t impress me, and at the end of the day I don’t really think any of us care who or what goes down in film history as being the “best” of a given year. Honestly, if you held a gun to my head I couldn’t even remember the last five best picture winners. When did “Crash” come out? I remember that was an upset…

Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop me from being a movie guy. I like watching all the films people think are the best in a given year. It’s way easier to find joy in watching Oscar-nominated movies than it is listening to Grammy-nominated albums. Plus, you know, screeners. It makes it a lot easier to run down the list of nominees when you don’t have to pay to see them all in theaters. My enlightened position (I’ve seen most of the nominees!) allows me the opportunity to make bold predictions about what I think will happen tomorrow night when the winners are announced. And since I am a contrarian by nature, I’m pretty sure nothing that I liked will win. So take these “predictions” with a grain of salt. I hate 99% of the movies I watch, and anything I liked is probably too weird or unconventional to win such a safe, conservative award like an Oscar. In fact, I don’t even care who wins. I’m only posting this because I know people are going to be Googling around for Oscar predictions tomorrow, and pretty much every other website on the Internet has felt the need to post their own picks/explanations this week. Hell, my “picks” aren’t even what I think is going to win, but rather what I’d like to see win. So keep that in mind when you’re reading this. Have I complicated this enough for you yet? Good.

Okay, here are my picks for the eight major categories plus Best Original Score. Feel free to submit your own picks via the comments section. I’ll post my opinion of what I think should win, but if there was a better option that WASN’T nominated I’ll be sure to include that as well.

Best Picture:

  • American Hustle
  • Captain Philips
  • Dallas Buyers Club
  • Gravity
  • Her
  • Nebraska
  • Philomena
  • 12 Years A Slave - I saw all of the nominees except for Philomena, and this was the one that most-deeply affected me. I suppose the presumptive favorite is American Hustle because it won the Globes, right? Well, I thought that film sucked. I thought it was a complete mess, terribly directed, overly complicated story-wise, with some stellar acting performances. Without all those huge names cast against one another it would have been a complete joke. But Amy Adams and Christian Bale specifically were great in their roles. If there’s a dark horse I guess it would be Nebraska. I’m also of the opinion that Her — while a beautiful looking film — was not worthy of a nomination. It really wasn’t that good. I’d be happy if Slave, Gravity, or even Dallas Buyers Club won the big award. I liked Wolf also, but it did run a wee bit long for my taste. Alas, Slave was the one that I walked away from thinking, “Okay, that’s a landmark film. That’s a memorable cinematic experience, oh, and I NEVER have to see it again.” Brutal but brilliant.
  • The Wolf Of Wall Street

Directing:

  • David O. Russell (American Hustle)
  • Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity) – In spite of its week story, I have a feeling this could be the most-rewarded film of the year. There’s a reason it received so many nominations. Hands down it’s going to win all the sound awards, and although Bullock is not going to win as best actress (not by a longshot) I think the work Cuaron did here is more than worthy of some recognition. Plus, he’s only been nominated for writing before (I think) and the field is heavy with multiple nominees like Scorsese (eight nominations, one win), Russell (nominated twice), and Payne (nominated twice). Which means the only other newcomer is McQueen, who I could also see winning. If Russell wins it’ll be an affront to the art of filmmaking. Seriously. American Hustle was a runaway train he didn’t seem to care getting back on the rails. How can you reward that? Payne could be a dark horse, too.
  • Alexander Payne (Nebraska)
  • Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave)
  • Martin Scorsese (The Wolf Of Wall Street)

Actor In A Leading Role:

  • 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) – Mostly because I want to find out if he opens his speech with “Alright-Alright-Alright!” But also because he killed it in this role. I didn’t even care about the weight loss aspect — bullshit factors like that mean little to me. I didn’t care about Christian Bale in The Machinist, I think if you watch a movie and are impressed by someone’s ability to either gain or lose weight for a role you’re watching a movie incorrectly. Based solely on performance my vote would go here. The only other actor I can really see winning this category is Chiwetel Ejiofor, and I think 12 Years A Slave would pretty much have to run the table (ie. win all four major awards) for him to wrestle this away from McConaughey. Oh, and how Robert Redford wasn’t nominated here and DiCaprio was is beyond me. Were he one of the nominees, he would likely get my vote. I thought All Is Lost was actually one of the strongest movies I saw all year. Best score by a landslide, too, but more on that later…

Actress In A Leading Role:

  • Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
  • Amy Adams (American Hustle)
  • Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) – I didn’t even see this movie, and the only nominees in this category I saw where Bullock and Adams. I suppose you could give it to Adams because her performance was great in spite of the material she had to work with, but everyone is pretty adamant that this category is a lock for Blanchett. There’s always the Meryl Streep card, which seems to get pulled in any year when there isn’t a runaway favorite in this category, but I think there’s enough support behind Blanchett to keep that from occurring this year.
  • Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
  • Judi Dench (Philomena)

Actor In A Supporting Role:

  • 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) – Here’s why. The first time Leto appeared on the screen (I didn’t know he was in the film ahead of time) I looked at him, and then I paused the movie and turned to my movie-watching companion and said, “Ugh. Really? Now I’m not going to be able to focus on anything besides Jared Leto’s stupid performance for the rest of the film.” And then — wouldn’t you know it — at some point I completely forgot it was JARED FUCKING LETO and all my pre-existing biases about his acting ability vanished. For that reason alone I think he deserves to win. Jared Leto honestly made me forget that he’s Jared Leto. If he weren’t nominated I’d be tempted to give it to Jonah Hill, but again if the Oscars become a 12 Years A Slave coronation I could see Fassbender winning too.

Actress In A Supporting Role:

  • Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
  • June Squibb (Nebraska)
  • Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
  • Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
  • Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years A Slave) – Again, I think she’s a presumptive favorite in this category, and aside from her and Squibb and Lawrence I didn’t see the other two films so I can’t really comment on those nominees. But of the three, I absolutely believe Nyong’o was the standout performance. Also, I’m starting to get very tired of this Jennifer Lawrence thing that seems to happen during awards season. It’s hard not to be jaded, but this whole simple girl-next-door schtick she has going on all the time has to be an act, right? Nobody is that wide-eyed and mystified by their own celebrity. Part of me thinks the voters like to reward her for her performances just to hear her awkward homespun speeches. I’m sure they play well in Middle America. And while I’ll agree she was deserving of the honor for her part in Silver Linings Playbook, I don’t think this is nearly that impressive a performance, and she was probably the flattest of all the major roles in American Hustle. It’d be cool if June Squibb won, but I doubt she will.

Writing (Original Screenplay):

  • Bob Nelson (Nebraska)
  • Spike Jonze (Her)
  • Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine)
  • Eric Warren Singer et. al. (American Hustle)
  • Craig Borton et. al. (Dallas Buyers Club)  - Touchy subject matter expertly navigated by the writers. Much like David O. Russell being nominated for American Hustle, the fact that those writers were also nominated for that film is shocking to me. They took an already convoluted and confusing story and turned it into something that was barely comprehensible even to those in the audience who walked in understanding the real story. Sadly, people liked the mood and the costumes and the horrible ’70s soundtrack enough to disregard the plot. I also think Her is overrated in almost every aspect (again, I hope it wins an award for its visuals and design — the melding of LA and Singapore was spectacular and the colors throughout the film made for a beautiful backdrop that was unfortunately juxtaposed to a kind of dull story), and although I really like Spike Jonze I don’t think this was his best work. I didn’t see Blue Jasmine but with all the recent press he’s received I can’t see Woody Allen winning an award this year.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay):

  • Richard Linklater et. al. (Before Midnight)
  • Billy Ray (Captain Phillips)
  • Steve Coogan et. al. (Philomena)
  • John Ridley (12 Years A Slave)
  • Terence Winter (The Wolf Of Wall Street) – If you want to honor this film (and I believe it deserves to be) this is a safe place to cast a vote. You wouldn’t be condoning the actions of those who inspired the film as much as you would if you awarded it best film, director, or actor(s). You’d simply be saying that the story of what happened was translated to the big screen successfully. Does that make sense? I think it makes sense. I liked The Wolf Of Wall Street. I like hatable characters and I thought it was a fun movie-watching experience (if a bit long), but I can see why voters might not be quick to cast a vote for a film that — on the surface — takes a somewhat lighthearted approach to depicting real-life people who did bad things. So, yeah, by rewarding the writer who adapted the story I think you can successfully honor a film without glorifying the people who inspired it.

Best Original Score:

  • John Williams (The Book Thief)
  • Gravity (Steven Price) – If you read this blog regularly you know I already cast my ballot for the best film music of 2013. That said, I have a problem with this category in that I think some worthy composers were robbed of nominations that were awarded to safe choices. As someone who receives pretty much all of the Best Oscar Score CDs each year I have a chance to listen to dozens of them in the time leading up to the Oscars. I think John Williams is a tired, throwaway nomination. I think Thomas Newman is as well. I’ve heard both the scores. I would call them middling. I think Alex Ebert should have been nominated for All Is Lost. He won the Golden Globe award for his work, and deserved to be recognized by the Academy. I also think Hans Zimmer should have been nominated for 12 Years A Slave. Although he’s getting to be one of those “Let’s just nominate him” guys in this category every year, his score was way better than Newman’s. Was Oblivion eligible this year? I would have given that film a nomination as well for its score. That said, I think Steven Price should win this one in a landslide. I’m waiting for Mondo or Death Waltz or Invada to put that thing out on vinyl. It’s so, so good.
  • Her (William Butler, Owen Pallett)
  • Alexandre Desplat (Philomena)
  • Thomas Newman (Saving Mr. Banks)

Hans Zimmer – Solomun Northup [MP3]

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