23 January 2014

2014 Oscar Nominations and Predictions - Let the Crapshoot Begin!

After sitting on the Academy Award Nominations for a week I think I'm really on to something here. No, it will be a crapshoot as always. My best year predicting winners was 2012, where I scored 16/24. Last year I got 14 correct. But this year! This year, my friends, I am going to bat 1.000. I swear.

The Oscars are kind of pointless, though, you know? The best film of the year doesn't win - the film that best positions itself in the hearts and minds of voters wins. And honestly, how many of you are out there re-watching, quoting or even still thinking about The King's Speech (2010), The Artist (2011), or even Argo (2012)? Oscars don't prove quality, longevity, or cultural significance. Then why bother with this at all? Because of huge heapings of arbitrary self-importance, that's why - and for the slim chance that future DVD releases Bad Grandpa can label it as an Oscar-winning film. Let's begin.

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

Predicted Winner: 12 Years a Slave

This is ending up being a pretty heated race between Slave, Hustle, and Gravity. I may be more inclined to suggest Hustle as the forerunner right now based on its impressive runs at he SAG. Then again, you've got Slave tying Gravity at the PGAs. It's a mess. I'm inclined that the large acting section of the Academy leans towards 12 Years a Slave more than Cuaron's film. It's also had the most buzz since September. Still, this is wide open.

Best director
Steve McQueen: 12 Years a Slave
David O. Russell: American Hustle
Alfonso Cuaron: Gravity
Alexander Payne: Nebraska
Martin Scorsese: The Wolf of Wall Street

Predicted Winner: Alfonso Cuaron

We'll have a better idea of this after the DGAs this weekend. I am predicting a split between Best Picture and Director, with Cuaron nailing this for the complex filmmaking experience of Gravity, as well as a bit of a consolation prize for losing Best Picture. This could easily be completely reversed.

Best actor
Bruce Dern: Nebraska
Chiwetel Ejiofor: 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey: Dallas Buyers Club
Leonardo DiCaprio: The Wolf of Wall Street
Christian Bale: American Hustle

Predicted Winner: Matthew McConaughey

We're truly in an age of McConaughey. Not only is the dude playing exactly the kind of role the Academy digs (historical biopic tangling a tough issue that also involved a ton of weight loss), he pulled it out of his own recently resurgent persona. Despite some damn good competition, he's also been rolling in the awards like the good ol' boy he is. Let the McConaissance reign.

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

Predicted Winner: Cate Blanchette

This may be the oldest batch of Best Actress nominees in years, and so it comes with some tremendous pedigree. Everyone here except for Amy already owns a gold statue, although Cate and Judi don't have a Best Actress one. This is looking more and more like Cate's race to lose, though it's really one of the movies with a lower profile on this list.

Best supporting actor
Barkhad Abdi: Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper: American Hustle
Jonah Hill: The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto: Dallas Buyers Club
Michael Fassbender: 12 Years a Slave

Predicted Winner: Jared Leto

After an awkward Golden Globes acceptance speech, Leto has righted his ship a bit after the SAGs. There isn't a ton of suspense here, although Fassbender deserves to sneak in for the upset. I still think Jonah Hill deserves this one for going absolutely crazy, and his analogous character in Goodfellas (1990) did earn Joe Pesci a statue. I think this still has a bit of wiggle room, but for now Leto is the safe bet.

Best supporting actress
Jennifer Lawrence: American Hustle
Lupita Nyong'o: 12 Years a Slave
June Squibb: Nebraska
Julia Roberts: August: Osage County
Sally Hawkins: Blue Jasmine

Predicted Winner: Lupita Nyong'o

This is really coming down to Nyong'o vs. J-Law, and they couldn't be happier. Seriously. Nyong'o gave the sort of breathless performance that is really deserving of this, and it's tough to argue that Lawrence did a better job here than in Silver Linings Playbook (2012), which you have to compare her to. Then again, Christoph Waltz basically turned in two identical characters (albeit on different sides of good and evil) that earned him two statues, so you know the Academy likes cozying up to people it likes. This goes back and forth a bit, but right now it's Nyong'o's to lose.

Best original screenplay
American Hustle: David O. Russell and Eric Warren Singer
Blue Jasmine: Woody Allen
Her: Spike Jonze
Nebraska: Bob Nelson
Dallas Buyers Club: Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack

Predicted Winner: American Hustle

I think that this will serve as a nice consolation for Hustle after it loses Best Picture and Best Director, although despite its recent gains, it's headed in the opposite direction of positive attention online lately as it something like Her, which both nabbed this award at the Golden Globes and just had this nifty documentary put out by Lance Bangs. I think that Her is a much more interesting film, one that will stand the test of time better, and even one that is better written, but like I said, none of that matters.

Best adapted screenplay
12 Years a Slave: John Ridley
Before Midnight: Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater
The Wolf of Wall Street: Terence Winter
Captain Phillips: Billy Ray
Philomena: Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope

Predicted Winner: 12 Years a Slave

This isn't that difficult to figure out. Although Wolf is probably the steepest competition, the praise (or hate) of this film hasn't really been in the writing. Slave is slow and meditating, but the dialogue is punctured and real, which is impressive considering it takes place 170 years ago.

Best animated feature
The Wind Rises
Despicable Me 2
Ernest & Celestine
The Croods

Predicted Winner: Frozen

If the Academy leans towards Miyazaki, who has never really been acknowledged by the organization, I can see The Wind Rises grabbing this. Frozen, however, is just far to easy to nominate and adore for it to go home in this category empty-handed. Notably absent is Pixar's effort for 2013, Monsters University, which perhaps signifies that their dominance in this category is truly over.

Best foreign feature
The Hunt (Denmark)
The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium)
The Great Beauty (Italy)
Omar (Palestinian territories)
The Missing Picture (Cambodia)

Predicted Winner: The Great Beauty

The Great Beauty is getting more praise and buzz than anyone else in this group, and after it won over Blue is the Warmest Color (2013) at the Golden Globes it's almost a sure thing here. Of course, I know nothing about the rest of these nominees to even guess a possible upset, but shouldn't that suggest that The Great Beauty is destined for more greatness?

Best documentary feature
The Act of Killing
20 Feet From Stardom
The Square
Cutie and the Boxer
Dirty Wars

Predicted Winner: An Act of Killing

I was also surprised that Blackfish (2013) was snubbed here after it actually made some waves (oh ho!) in people's actual lives and attitudes like few movies, let alone documentaries actually do on a wide level. Maybe after The Cove (2009) the Academy thought it had already honoured enough documentary subjects concerning people endangering aquatic mammals. I say, it's never enough. An Act of Killing has the second most buzz of any doc this year. Let's go with that.

Best production design
12 Years a Slave: Adam Stockhausen and Alice Baker
The Great Gatsby: Catherine Martin and Beverley Dunn
American Hustle: Judy Becker and Heather Loeffler
Gravity: Andy Nicholson, Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard
Her: K.K. Barrett and Gene Serdena

Predicted Winner: The Great Gatsby

Many are predicting Gatsby here, which is shaping up to be that weird kind of shitty movie that racks up bizarre quasi-technical awards like this and costuming. If Gravity or Slave start rolling, though, this is an easy pick-up on the way to a sweep.

Best cinematography
Gravity: Emmanuel Lubezki
Inside Llewyn Davis: Bruno Delbonnel
Nebraska: Phedon Papamichael
Prisoners: Roger Deakins
The Grandmaster: Phillippe Le Sourd

Predicted Winner: Emmanuel Lubezki

I would have immediately thought this one would go to Sean Bobbit for 12 Years a Slave for the gorgeous way that picture looked, but he's no where to be found. There's a nice nod to Roger Deakins here, who hasn't won an Academy Award in 11 nominations, including his favored work last year for Skyfall (2012). Lubezki, though, isn't really a slouch either, with five nominations and no wins. If the Academy really feels like they slighted Deakins last year he may walk away with this, but if you play the odds, he's got to lose, right?

Best costume design
The Great Gatsby: Catherine Martin
12 Years a Slave: Patricia Norris
The Grandmaster: William Chang Suk Ping
American Hustle: Michael Wilkinson
The Invisible Woman: Michael O'Connor

Predicted Winner: American Hustle

This is another one of those categories that Gatsby may walk away with, especially because it's looking to turn into one of those doofy Anna Karenina (2012) - kind of flicks that dominates these categories. It's just good enough to be popular and respected, but not really of the cut for Best Picture. Even with all that, though I'm going out and suggesting that Hustle pulls a mild upset here and gets some recognition for the all-around insanity that was their hair, make-up, and outfits. No hair and makeup nods, so here you go.

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

Predicted Winner: Gravity

I don;t think there is much competition here - Gravity could win really from its lack of editing, as Cuaron likes to do. He could be one of those rare individuals to go home with two separate statues on the same night, which seems likely. Really, Cuaron has been making crazy good films for years, mostly thanks to his editing style, and this should serve as a nice acknowledgement for that.

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

Predicted Winner: Dallas Buyers Club

So, yeah, Bad Grandpa needs to win this and Johnny Knoxville needs to collect the award as Irving Zissman. The much safer bet is the more prestigious Dallas Buyers Club, though, with the other films being a bit lowly for the Academy to acknowledge in its stead. Still, I have said for years how surprisingly good the Jackass old people make-up is and how much studios can learn from them. Will that be credited? This is the biggest award of the night.

Best music (original score)
Gravity: Steven Price
Philomena: Alexandre Desplat
The Book Thief: John Williams
Saving Mr. Banks: Thomas Newman
Her: William Butler and Owen Pallett

Predicted Winner: Gravity

There's no obvious great score from this list, but Gravity is certainly the film with the highest profile. It's tough to picture Her leaving with nothing, though, and if Hustle succeeds in snatching its Original Screenplay award, I can see it pulling a little upset here. How many points do I get for conditional picks?

Best music (original song)
Frozen: "Let it Go" by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom: "Ordinary Love" by U2, Paul Hewson
Her: "The Moon Song" by Karen O, Spike Jonze
Despicable Me 2: "Happy" by Pharrell Williams
Alone Yet Not Alone: "Alone Yet Not Alone" by Bruce Broughton, Dennis Spiegel

Predicted Winner: "Let it Go"

C'mon "Let it Go"....Bono doesn't need another award. "Let it Go" is actually the perfect Oscar song - it's important in the context of the film, stands as an integral character and plot moment, and is actually fun to listen on its own weeks after the film hit theaters. It was also on the number one album in the country for a bit there - upstaging Beyonce deserves an Oscar, folks. I am scared to death that this goes to Bono, basically because he's the New York Yankees of Awards Winning. And such a piece of shit.

Best sound editing
All Is Lost
Captain Phillips
Lone Survivor
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Predicted Winner: Gravity

So we're approaching "default to Gravity" mode with these technical categories. The arrangment of sound is pretty spectacular in the space epic and this is definitely in the vein of other winners that were pretty epic in scope like Skyfall, Inception (2010), and The Dark Knight (2008). Thank goodness the Academy finally got a big accessible sort of sci-fi movie that wasn't really trying to be a blockbuster to through all these kinds of awards at this year.

Best sound mixing
Captain Phillips
Lone Survivor
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Predicted Winner: Gravity

There is some possibility that Inside Llewyn Davis saves face here after not getting any other nomination(Not even for "Please Mr, Kennedy"), but if no one liked it enough to be nominated, no one's going to like it enough for it to win anything. Winners for Mixing don't always match up with winners for Editing, but they usually do for the big blockbuster-y type films and Gravity ought to clean this out, too. And to think, The Desolation of Smaug may have actually stood a chance.

Best visual effects
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Star Trek Into Darkness
Iron Man 3
The Lone Ranger

Predicted Winner: Gravity

Speaking of Smaug, that's about Gravity's only competition here. The effects for everything else aren't even that good - at least Pacific Rim really wowed us. But if Gravity deserves any statue this night, it's for the absolutely mind-blowing special effects that made this a worthwhile film to see in theaters and only in theaters. Let's do it, Hollywood.

Best short film, live action
"Aquel No Era Yo" (That Wasn't Me)
"Avant Que De Tout Perdre" (Just Before Losing Everything)
"Pitaako Mun Kaikki Hoitaa?" (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)
"The Voorman Problem"

Predicted Winner: "The Voorman Problem"

Time for the super-crapshoots. I like that name, Voorman. Sounds good. Why is there so many foreign entries this year? Go Voorman.

Best short film, animated
"Get a Horse!"
"Mr. Hublot"
"Room on the Broom"

Predicted Winner: "Get a Horse!"

"Get a Horse!" played before Frozen and was actually a really engaging piece of meta-film that played with and contrasted black and white filmmaking with computer animated 3D work effortlessly, uniquely, and quickly. It was also pretty funny. It's almost too clever for its own good with the amount of creativity the characters display while using the strengths and limitations of their own medium to thwart or help each other. It rules and will win.

Best documentary short
"Facing Fear"
"Karama Has No Walls"
"The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life"
"Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall"

Predicted Winner: "The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life"


So there you have it folks. I guarantee this list to be 100% accurate come March 2nd. Actually just about everything can change. If I bat .500 I'm pretty excited. Now let's all drink to our own self-congratulation.

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