Joe’s 86th Oscars Predictions: Part 1

Hello movie lovers and friends.

So I do a thing with my family each year wherein we all pick our preferred winners for the Oscars. This is the 19th year of the Pezzula Oscars Party, and I’ll actually be in NY for the first time in about 9 years for it. Wahoo!

Being that we have over a month until the awards, I wanted to breakdown my thoughts on some of the categories before the big night. I confess I haven’t seen any of the short films or documentaries just yet, but I’m hearing they’re mostly available, if not online than at special screenings in LA (yes, it’s good to live in LA) so hopefully I can legitimately tackle those categories soon.

Just some thoughts, below, take ’em or leave ’em.

1) Visual Effects:

  • “Gravity” Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, David 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

I haven’t actually seen The Lone Ranger or The Hobbit (I know, I know), but I can’t imagine anything really tops Gravity. I’ve heard people pick apart certain shots or scenes as “obviously CG” but every movie has “that scene” nowadays — especially this set of nominees — and, frankly, the amount of work involved with Gravity is the most intricate and detailed out of all of the nominees. The one big thing Gravity has going for it is the story behind the story — the length of time it took to make the movie, the extensive behind-the-scenes videos about the four year journey to make the film, etc.

2) Sound Editing

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

3) Sound Mixing

  • “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

This nifty article helps explain why there’s two categories for sound, with this analogy particularly helpful: “Using a culinary analogy… the sound editor identifies and picks out (or creates from scratch) a film’s sonic ingredients while the sound mixer is the chef who uses those ingredients in cooking the dish.” (**Note, if any Sound people are reading this and want to weigh in on the comments below, feel free!)

With that in mind, one interesting bit is that, in any given year, there’s typically only one difference in the nominees in these two categories (in this case All Is Lost and Inside Llewyn Davis swapped spots). In my opinion, I actually think the elements of sound in Gravity were amazing and constructive to the environment, while Inside Llewyn Davis mixed the sound elements the cafe settings and highway settings to create a surreal experience within the film’s dreamlike context. Add to that the fact that Llewyn was overlooked in major categories, this might come away with the win for Sound Mixing. Those are my picks.

4) Production Design

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

Great Gatsby had some epic sets, no surprise from a Baz Luhrmann movie, and it should get the win this year. American Hustle made the most of the 70s visual aesthetic that still haunts parents’ households today. Gravity created its environment out of nothing — hey! Like Avatar! 12 Years a Slave‘s sets held emotions and tears in all of the walls, and Her managed to keep a fictional future in the realm of possibility. Honestly, I’m torn in this category, and can’t help thinking how 12 Years a Slave might take this award on the shear amount of sets involved for the small budget ($20 million). That stands out, and the sets are just as devastating, at times, as the actions of the characters. But Gatsby will likely run away with it. People tend to appreciate the way sets look through a Luhrmann lens.

5) Makeup and Hairstyling

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

Lone Ranger will likely be frowned upon as a “why?” nomination, and some might even take offense with the whole Johnny Depp playing a Native American scenario. While Bad Grandpa will be appreciated in the context (it fooled people in reality, not just through the lens) it’s a bit too much “funny” for the Academy to vote for and the nomination is “enough”, as they like to say. My money’s on Dallas Buyers Club, with “illness makeup”, Jared Leto’s daily transformation, etc. being the showy bits.

6) Film Editing

  • “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

My Uncle Billy believes that if a film wins this award, it will likely win Best Picture. Last year it was ARGO, but the year before it was Girl With the Dragon Tattoo while The Artist took the top prize. You never know. This year, American Hustle is known as meandering and lost at times, Captain Phillips drags in the middle but has a lot of footage to bounce around. Dallas Buyers Club, in my opinion, is an odd choice as the film felt standard in pacing and editing, but maybe that’s a sign of how good it is, how not-distracting it was. 12 Years a Slave might suffer, in the eyes of some voters, for remaining static in too many places — but the choice to NOT cut away in hard scenes was definitely effective. Gravity had numerous elements to juggle and seamlessly cut between, and is my pick here. I think Gravity has a great shot at most of the technical awards, to make up for its lack of acting honors, and also because it’s an amazing feat.

7) Costume Design

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

I have not seen The Invisible Woman or The Grandmaster, but Grandmaster seems pretty epic in scope and scale. Hustle‘s costumes fit the period and character personalities to a T. 12 Years a Slave‘s costumes really felt lived in and full of sweat and years, while Great Gatsby has the Luhrmann flair, but people seem to dig the Roaring Twenties, too. I’m going to go ahead and say Gatsby will come away with this one as well.

8) Cinematography

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

Anyone who has worked on a film with me knows I’m pretty clueless when it comes to the technology involved and what frame each lens is going to give you, among all the other amazing aspects involved. Again, I haven’t seen The Grandmaster or Prisoners so I’m basing this on the other nominees — but Roger Deakins has never won and this is his eleventh nomination. Llewyn Davis has some GREAT shots, which is interesting because Deakins would usually be the guy to film a Coen Bros. Movie but couldn’t because he was doing Prisoners. Nebraska utilizes black and white to show some really flat landscapes and contrasts in relationships, and Gravity creates most of its world in computers after the fact — an aspect which didn’t stop Avatar from winning this award a few years back. Also, there is a ton of new technology created just for Gravity that won’t be discounted by voters. Sorry Deakins, you’ll have to wait another year.

9) Animated Feature

  • “The Croods” Chris Sanders, Kirk DeMicco and Kristine Belson
  • “Despicable Me 2” Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin and Chris Meledandri
  • “Ernest & Celestine” Benjamin Renner and Didier Brunner
  • “Frozen” Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Peter Del Vecho
  • “The Wind Rises” Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki

Okay, to be completely fair, I’ve only seen Frozen. I think it will win. That said, The Wind Rises is Miyazaki’s final animated movie, so we might see him come away with the gold statue on that account.

Part 2 coming soon…

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