Oscar Nominations are in!

My Dad and I do this little game every year, a sort of “side pot” before the Oscar nominations are announced. We gather our Intel and try to guess what the nominations will be for the ‘major’ categories. This year, I guessed more correct than he did, so there’s a small victory for me. Continue reading

Joe’s 86th Oscars Predictions: Part 2

Below are the second batch of my Oscar predictions. I tried to differentiate between what I think the Academy will pick vs. my personal choices.

10) Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

  • “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

11) Writing (Original Screenplay)

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

Because of WGA rules, 12 Years a Slave and Philomena were both disqualified for the WGA Awards, which were held last weekend. Those nominee slots were taken by August: Osage County and Lone Survivor. The winners that night were Captain Phillips and Her. As streamlined as the Captain Phillips script was, I do think 12 Years a Slave stands a better shot here for the Oscar. John Ridley took an intensely deep and complex true tale and crafted a moving, compelling narrative. My hope would be Linklater grabbing this for the sheer length of time he’s been able to keep the Before… characters going, and they’ve still manage to stay fresh.

For the Original category, Her should run away with it — Jonze’s story is quirky and incredibly original, and people like that in this category. Hustle was a bit meandering and not as tight as O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, Woody Allen is being plagued by recent controversy and frankly Cate Blanchett is the primary reason his movie works; Dallas Buyers Club likewise succeeds because of the acting; Nebraska is stronger in the directing than writing, although the simplicity in the story is quite appealing.

12) Music (Original Score)

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

13) Music (Original Song)

  • “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

The recent disqualification of “Alone Yet Not Alone” likely will have little to no effect on the outcome of the Song category. My personal choice is “The Moon Song” for quietly capturing the feeling of Her, but “Let It Go” is so strong, so meaningful, and so catchy that I can’t imagine it not winning on Oscar night.

For Best Score, I haven’t seen The Book Thief or Philomena, and I think the Saving Mr. Banks score is very lovely (I’ve always had a soft spot for Thomas Newman). Her‘s score I don’t remember but that’s the beauty of a subtle score is that you don’t know it’s even there, not overpowering the moment but only adding to it. That being said, I really thought there was tremendous power in Gravity‘s score, and think Mr. Price will leave with this Oscar.

14) Foreign Language Film

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

15) Documentary Feature

  • “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” Morgan Neville, Gil Friesen and Caitrin Rogers

I have not seen any of these films, unfortunately. I’m working on it, and hearing that both The Hunt and The Great Beauty in the Foreign Language category are quite great. For Documentary, I’ve heard that The Act of Killing is mesmerizing (I’m seeing this in about a week, looking forward to it) and also that The Square is impressive. 20 Feet from Stardom is apparently a crowd-pleaser, but those don’t necessarily do well in this category. I think The Square is picking up steam and will run with it.

16) Directing

  • “American Hustle” David O. Russell
  • “Gravity” Alfonso Cuarón
  • “Nebraska” Alexander Payne
  • “12 Years a Slave” Steve McQueen
  • “The Wolf of Wall Street” Martin Scorsese

I’ve spoken to several people with opposing views on this year’s nominees for Best Director, but general consensus is that Alfonso Cuaron will win. Some say it’ll be to make up for him not winning for Children of Men, others say it’ll be because Gravity took four years to make and technology was created for it, etc. Ultimately, Gravity is a finely executed vision on screen, and he will and should win.

But what of the others? Russell is a good filmmaker getting better and better with actors and storytelling, but American Hustle meandered too much — he got lost in style over storytelling. (*Interesting note, he is the only director to have TWO films with actors nominated in all four top categories, the other being last year’s Silver Linings Playbook for which Jennifer Lawrence went home with the Best Actress Trophy.)

Payne’s done better work with The Descendants and Sideways, and the pleasure of Nebraska comes from Bruce Dern, really. McQueen’s vision of American Slavery is truly shattering, and his decisions on when to hold a shot vs. fast editing are daring, original, and breathtaking (if that can be a term applied to 12 Years a Slave). Scorsese shows, again, that he is a master of the craft.

But alas, we can only have one with the trophy, and Cuaron’s execution was truly remarkable. Whatever you say of the performances or “story problems” in Gravity (at the end of the day, all movies have their problems) there’s no question that the vision of this director’s imagination was perfectly placed on screen.

17) Actor in a Leading Role

  • Christian Bale in “American Hustle”
  • Bruce Dern in “Nebraska”
  • Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf of Wall Street”
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor in “12 Years a Slave”
  • Matthew McConaughey in “Dallas Buyers Club”

Dammit, this is a tough year. First, what about Tom Hanks? Or Joaquin Phoenix? Or freakin’ Oscar Isaac??? This was an AMAZING year for acting and filmmaking all around, don’t forget it!!

On to the nominees: Bale showed his dedication to a character’s physical attributes as much as their flaws; Dern played a lost old man with more endearment than we’ve seen on screen before; DiCaprio has rarely been better and carries WOWS handsomely; Ejiofor pulls a performance for the ages, mostly in his eyes; McConaughey is having a career revival we don’t see very often, and reached deep inside for Dallas Buyers Club. This is a real tough one, but I think the Academy will give it to McConaughey because of his recent revivals and based on the fact that he’s winning most of the critics awards as well as the SAG award. I’d say he’s almost a sure bet. My personal pick is Ejiofor.

18) Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Barkhad Abdi in “Captain Phillips”
  • Bradley Cooper in “American Hustle”
  • Michael Fassbender in “12 Years a Slave”
  • Jonah Hill in “The Wolf of Wall Street”
  • Jared Leto in “Dallas Buyers Club”

Again, this year….amazing. 12 Years a Slave alone had Paul Giamatti and Benedict Cumberbatch in equally stellar roles, and who could forget Andrew Dice Clay’s heartbreaking turn in Blue Jasmine?

But I digress: Abdi came out of nowhere and held his own, stealing the scenes from Tom Hanks; Cooper held a frantic pace in a solid group of actors; Fassbender was a wall of hatred with inner disgust facing off against Ejiofor; Hill truly held up his end of the “supporting” bargain alongside DiCaprio; and Leto, of course, did the same and more for McConaughey. Leto will win (based on the track record of recent award sweeps), but I’d personally pick Barkhad Abdi. It’s rare enough that Tom Hanks doesn’t pick up a nomination, even more rare for someone to steal the show from him.

19) Actress in a Leading Role

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

This year was such a STRONG year for female parts (for both sexes, actually), and this category proves it: Adams is racking up nominations with the Academy (this is her fifth) and still hasn’t won, and she was steady in her across-the-board character; Blanchett was pitch perfect neurotic and sadly crazy; Bullock carried her movie behind a helmet and even more-so when the helmet came off; Dench (I’m hearing) is touching and full of force; Streep (I’m hearing) is still Streep at the top of her game. Blanchett has the steam, the clout, and the role of the year, and I think she’ll win here, but it’s possible for Amy Adams to pull an upset. **Note that each nominee here has already won the Oscar except Amy Adams.

20) Actress in a Supporting Role

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

This category gets tougher every year. Hawkins was a surprise nomination, but don’t discount her performance as a counter-point to Blanchett’s character; Lawrence was a joy to watch, as always, and a high point of American Hustle; Nyong’o was so incredibly powerful; Roberts (I’m hearing) really held up her own against Streep and deserves every bit of this nomination; Squibb was delightfully challenging to Bruce Dern, yet with a great character background to support her actions.

I think Nyong’o has the momentum and the depth to her role to come out with a win here, truly remarkable to hold that quality of a performance through the subject matter. Squibb and Lawrence (at opposite ends of the age spectrum) might both come away with a surprise (this category is known for it), but some might be realizing that as great a person as Lawrence is, this wasn’t her best work; and Squibb’s nomination might be enough for most voters. Jennifer Lawrence is only 23, yet this is her third nomination and she’s already won one Oscar. This fact alone might be the deciding factor for voters who feel “her time will come again”.

21) Best Picture

  • “American Hustle” Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison and Jonathan Gordon, Producers
  • “Captain Phillips” Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca, Producers
  • “Dallas Buyers Club” Robbie Brenner and Rachel Winter, Producers
  • “Gravity” Alfonso Cuarón and David Heyman, Producers
  • “Her” Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze and Vincent Landay, Producers
  • “Nebraska” Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa, Producers
  • “Philomena” Gabrielle Tana, Steve Coogan and Tracey Seaward, Producers
  • “12 Years a Slave” Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen and Anthony Katagas, Producers
  • “The Wolf of Wall Street” Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joey McFarland and Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Producers

The Big one. Here’s how I broke it down:

American Hustle: Good on style, lacking in overall cohesiveness. Better acted than full picture. It’s tied for most nominations with ten, but voters might think that’s enough to acknowledge it. I’m thinking this might be a big upset Oscar night and it’ll come away with very few wins, mainly because I think it peaked way too quickly and happened to have had its release around the time Oscar nominee process was winding down.

Captain Phillips: No nomination for Hanks or director Paul Greengrass, but the full picture is great (nomination is enough). But it did come out very early in the season, and the small backlash from real-life counterparts probably hurt it’s overall chances of winning the big one. It’s technically fantastic.

Dallas Buyers Club: No Screenplay or directing nominations suggest this was more of a momentum nomination than anything else (good acting, important story, took a long time to get made). The nomination is validation enough, and McConaughey is the real “story” here.

Gravity: Cuaron’s directing Oscar as well as some technical awards might be enough to satisfy voters, though it does have as many nominations as American Hustle and appears to be a little more respected on the technical front. It also withstood some criticism from scientists and the like regarding its’ fact-based elements.

Her: Seriously lacking in major nominations, but that’s not always a stopper (The Hurt Locker, a few years back, only had one acting mention). But no directing nod is a bit more of an uphill struggle. However, it’s focus on the meaning of love in a modern age is gaining steam with viewers and voters, and the more people see it, the more they love it.

Nebraska: Not Payne’s best material, and if they end up giving Dern his Oscar than count that as the Academy saying it’s good enough. It’s too quiet of a movie to really come away with this top award, but the Academy does really like Alexander Payne so this could be the one that reaches the goal for him.

Philomena: A surprise nomination, which is enough for most voters. Lack of directing and many technical awards, as well as lack of audience, are likely factors which will slow any momentum it already has.

12 Years a Slave: Powerful and with nine nominations it has a lot of pedigree, plus it tackles a serious part of history, a subject that is not looked at lightly, with an appealing actor as protagonist and some great technical skill. Like Schindler’s List, this will likely come away with the well-deserved victory.

Wolf of Wall Street: Faced a lot of immediate backlash and turned off a lot of older voters, but Scorsese’s resume could serve to help the movie find a win, and it arrived late in the nomination game yet still managed to score a bunch, so could momentum be gaining steam?

In the end, I personally would prefer to see Gravity or Her come away with the win, but do think that 12 Years a Slave will reach victory, and will be happy to see it. At the recent Producer’s Guild Awards, 12 Years tied with Gravity, the first time that’s happened, so the race is really narrowing.

The movie is important, extremely well made and acted, and seriously great. This award most times matches the winner for Best Director, but in this case 12 Years just carries more weight, pedigree, and seriousness than Gravity does. Also, looking at the past, Hurt Locker managed a win over the technically more elaborate box office darling Avatar, so anything is possible.