Alright, alright, alright. After a long-winded Academy Award ceremony, barely held together by a scrambling Ellen Degeneres, we can finally confirm our suspicions that the 2014 Oscars held little surprises. In fact, it was probably the most straight forward year in Oscar prognosticating in a long time. I personally went 22 for 24, missing out on Live Action Short (a miss I hardly lament) and Documentary. I went with The Act of Killing knowing it was the underdog but I also really just didn’t want to put my money on 40 Feet from Stardom as I thought it was the least provocative of all five docs this year and would stand for a very uneventful win. Well, considering the course Ellen chartered the ceremony in, I ought to have seen uneventful in my future.
As expected, the musical numbers dragged their feet and did little more than add valuable time onto an already long-winded ceremony. The addition of Bette Midler and Pink, whose performances seemed better suited for a old folk’s home than a hurried primetime broadcast, hardly helped to distract from the fact that Lana Del Ray was shafted from the event. Just as Ellen never quite managed to have a handle on her material, the shamble from act to act showed the seams of the event coming unfurled, a clear sign of lazy production and careless direction. While the final picks themselves proved uneventful at best, the presentation of them was even more yawn-inducing.
The highlights came in the form of the four acting acceptance awards with Lupita Nyong’o offering up an eloquent speech the likes of which had the world eating from the palm of her hand. J La may be America’s sweetheart but you better believe that Lupita just made sure that no one forgets her name. An earnest and family-dedicating speech from Jared Leto showed a man who, despite all the attention he’s received this year still seems genuinely humbled by such an award. Cate Blanchett, skirting around mention of Woody, took the opportunity of her win to steer her speech into a poignant tidbit on how cinema with a female lead is not niche. For its brevity and pointedness, Blanchett had us all ears and earned our attention. However my favorite bit of the night probably came at the hands of Matthew McConaughey sermonizing about heroes then painting a potrait of his dad sauntering around the afterlife sans pans and slugging a shitty beer. In that speech, he embodied the McConassiance and I think has us all waiting to see what he’ll do next.
When all was said and done, Gravity took home the most with seven awards (mostly on the technical side but a nod to Cuaron for Director is hardly one to balk at) and Dallas Buyers Cluband 12 Years a Slavetook three each.
As for the contest, in first place we have the lovely Astrea Campbell-Cobb who went 21/21 of the major categories and only missed the Live Action Short. Good on ya! You have a Blu Ray of 12 Years a Slavewith your name on it. In second place, we have Preston Nicholson who got 20/21 and 2/3 of the shorts. Although there were a number of other contestants who got the same stats, Preston beat the others too it, posting the second day of the contest. He will receive the Best Picture nominee from last year of his choice. Congratulations guys!
Below you’ll find the winners and nominees of each category and at the bottom of the page you’ll find the actor’s acceptance speeches to revist or watch if you missed them the first time around.
WINNER: 12 Years a Slave
Nominees: American Hustle; Captain Phillips; Dallas Buyers Club; Gravity; Her; Nebraska; Philomena; The Wolf of Wall Street; 12 Years a Slave
WINNER: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Nominees: Christian Bale, American Hustle; Bruce Dern, Nebraska; Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street; Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club; Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
WINNER: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Nominees: Amy Adams, American Hustle; Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine; Sandra Bullock, Gravity; Judi Dench, Philomena; Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
WINNER: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Nominees: 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
WINNER: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Nominees: Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine; Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle; Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave; Julia Roberts, August: Osage County; June Squibb, Nebraska
WINNER: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Nominees: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity; Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave; Alexander Payne, Nebraska; David O. Russell, American Hustle; Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
Animated Feature Film
Nominees: The Croods; Despicable Me 2; Ernest & Celestine; Frozen; The Wind Rises
WINNER: The Great Beauty
Nominees: The Broken Circle Breakdown, Belgium; The Great Beauty, Italy; The Hunt, Denmark; The Missing Picture, Cambodia; Omar, Palestine
WINNER: Her, Spike Jonze
Nominees: American Hustle, Eric Singer and David O. Russell; Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen; Dallas Buyers Club, Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack; Her, Spike Jonze; Nebraska, Bob Nelson
WINNER: 12 Years a Slave, John Ridley
Nominees: Before Midnight, Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke; Captain Phillips, Billy Ray; Philomena, Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope; 12 Years a Slave, John Ridley; The Wolf of Wall Street, Terence Winter
Nominees: The Book Thief; Gravity; Her; Philomena; Saving Mr. Banks
WINNER: Let It Go, from Frozen
Nominees: Alone Yet Not Alone, from Alone Yet Not Alone; Happy, from Despicable Me 2; Let It Go, from Frozen; The Moon Song, from Her; Ordinary Love, from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Nominees: The Grandmaster; Gravity; Inside Llewyn Davis; Nebraska; Prisoners
WINNER: The Great Gatsby
Nominees: American Hustle; The Grandmaster; The Great Gatsby; The Invisible Woman; 12 Years a Slave
WINNER: 20 Feet From Stardom
Nominees: The Act of Killing; Cutie and the Boxer; Dirty Wars; The Square; 20 Feet From Stardom
Documentary Short Subject
WINNER: The Lady in Number 6
Nominees: CaveDigger; Facing Fear; Karama Has No Walls; The Lady in Number 6; Music Saved My Life; Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall
Nominees: American Hustle; Captain Phillips; Dallas Buyers Club; Gravity; 12 Years a Slave
Make and Hairstyling
WINNER: Dallas Buyers Club
Nominees: Dallas Buyers Club; Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa; The Lone Ranger
WINNER: The Great Gatsby
Nominees: American Hustle; Gravity; The Great Gatsby; Her; 12 Years a Slave
Nominees: All Is Lost; Captain Phillips; Gravity; The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug; Lone Survivor
Nominees: Captain Phillips; Gravity; The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug; Inside Llewyn Davis; Lone Survivor
Nominees: Gravity; The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug; Iron Man 3; The Lone Ranger; Star Trek Into Darkness
Animated Short Film
WINNER: Mr. Hublot
Nominees: Feral; Get a Horse!; Mr. Hublot; Possessions; Room on the Broom
Live-action Short Film
Nominees: Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me); Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything); Helium; Pitaako Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?); The Voorman Problem
Boy oh boy, the 86th Academy Awards are bearing down now and it’s time to start pulling my hair out deciding what awards going to go and why. Hours spend bargaining and equivocating all probably for nothing. The problem with predicting the Oscars is that the damn thing is anything but a science so as much as we try and prescribe logic and historicity to turn our prognostication into an a+b=c type formula, there’s literally no saying what will actually be written in those ballots until they’re open and read. For however much we like to talk about the Academy like they’re a hive mind collective all zipping and swarming as one, they’re really just a bunch of guys and gals who probably don’t pay nearly as much attention to their roles as we do.
Having said that, it’s still a blast to be a part of the ceremony and it’s, for all intents and purposes, the culmination of a year of cinema, a reminder of how great movies can be and how old-fashion the taste of the Academy is. Though there will likely be many moments this Sunday where we all throw our arms up and shout and curse at the screen, we’ve gotta remember that you often have just as much luck betting on horses than you do at the Oscars. That doesn’t discount the fact that there are certain trends within a year and those trends often equate to an Oscar.
But before I can even launch into my list of suspected winners, I would like to note how caution I am about my picks this year. Moreso than most, I have this feeling in the back of my mind that this year is gonna throw a wrench in things and totally skew a whole different direction than many of us expect. As it is now, I have zero wins for American Hustle and that literally terrifies me. Although I didn’t fall in love with the Hustle, a lot of people did and I’m worried that it sneaks in from its cozy third-place position and pulls a couple of fast punches. As for Gravity, I currently have it basically winning anything technical but feel that’s a fairly safe bet and wouldn’t be that shocked if some of those got picked off by the likes of Captain Phillipsor even Lone Survivor. Sad though it may be, I also wouldn’t be shocked if 12 Years a Slave got completely shut out. I’m crossing my fingers here but hoping that the odds are not ever in J La’s favor.
Without further adieu, let’s get to the actual predictions…
Picture: ’12 Years a Slave’
Since early on in the year, it’s 12 Years a Slave that everyone’s been talking about, waiting for the inevitable upset to roll around and tip it off its high horse. And yet, seven months after its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival, 12 Years a Slave is still considered top dog. What it really comes down to though is: are Academy members even watching this movie? The biggest hurtle 12 faces is, ironically enough, word of mouth. With all the talk of how difficult a film it is to watch, reports have surfaced that a sizable percentage of Academy members hadn’t even seen the film. Major cop out that this certainly is, it poses a situation in which Gravity, as an easy crowd favorite, could sneak in and get the unexpected populist win. Is it a better film? No. Is it more important? Certainly not. But there’s no whipping and it doesn’t remind us of how shitty America’s past is so it could just be that easily digestible win. That and space. So while I’m putting down 12 Years a Slave, I can’t help but feel like Gravity might float into the spotlight and nab the big win.
Actor: Matthew McConaughey ‘Dallas Buyers Club’
Chiwetel Ejiofor, my how you have fallen. Although Ejiofor easily gives the most soulful and likely difficult performance in this entire category, the love for Matt McConaughey knows no bounds. Piping hot right now from the hit HBO series True Detectiveand coming off a streak of sleeper hits, the transformation we’ve seen from shirtless romcom beau to dramatic yellow king has ripely coined the term ‘McConaissance’. And for this McConaissance, he shall be awarded, and all will be good. Although his performance in Dallas Buyers Clubmight not strictly speaking be the best of the year (or even his best of the year), this victory feels more like a compilation award for his last few years, a sum total of his recent work. It’s for Ron Woodruff in Dallas Buyers Club and Mark Hannah in Wolf of Wall Street and Mud in Mud and Dallas in Magic Mikeand Rust Cohle in True Detective (and a pat on the head for no longer working with Kate Hudson.) And while I admit that I’d love to see Leonardo DiCaprio walk away with Oscar gold, I have little doubt that this is McConaughey’s night to shine. Alright, alright, alright.
Actress: Cate Blanchett ‘Blue Jasmine’
Even with the looming threat of Woody backlash, I’m still partial to thinking that Cate Blanchett has no chance of losing this category. On the road to the Oscars, she failed to miss out on even one precursor award, including the SAG, which is often the biggest predictor for the Academy Awards down the road. Her contenders are undeniably tough, and in another year each could have taken home the win, but Blanchett’s steamrolling is unlikely to run out of zest in the homestretch. If the tides do turn, it’s likely Amy Adams or Judi Dench who will benefit, though I’m sure such a situation comes with the knowledge that they profited off of a sticky situation.
Supporting Actor: Jared Leto ‘Dallas Buyers Club’
Another lock of a category, Jared Leto‘s turn as a transvestite with HIV will almost certainly be enough to encourage him to clear a space on the cabinet for his inevitable trophy. Top marks are deserved as Leto nearly stole the show from co-star and likely winner Matt McConaughey. Although there’s slim chance that Leto walks away empty-handed, if he did, it’s likely Michael Fassbender who will take up the mantle of Best Supporting Actor for his poisonous performance as a callused slave owner. Personally, I would love to hear Jonah Hill‘s name called and see the looks of shock spread like a wave across the crowd. If so, I would fully expect a wacky, Qualudde-induced acceptance speech.
Supporting Actress: Luipta Nyong’o ’12 Years a Slave’
What a toss up this one is. On the other hand, Lupita Nyong’o benefits from throwing down an absolutely haunting performance of the most dramatic varietal. But again, the thing working against 12 Years is how difficult it is and Nyong’o is arguably the hardest person to watch in the whole film. So will the Academy then find it appropriate to award Jennifer Lawrence who’s eagerly waiting in the wings? Hopefully not. Lawrence is certainly fun in American Hustle but nowhere near the caliber of Nyong’o, or many of the other performers in this category. Add that to the fact that she won last year and a Lawrence win seems out of the question. Nonetheless, I can’t shake the feeling that her earnest charm might have been enough to swoon voters into writing her name on the ballot. Strange though it may seem, this is definitely one of the most hotspot categories and could easily go against me Sunday night.
Director: Alfonso Cuarón ‘Gravity’
This award is hardly worth a breakdown as Cuarón is a tsunami right now, plowing through every ceremony without signs of slowing. Though many would argue that Steve McQueen deserves this award, there’s no denying that what Cuarón achieved in Gravity was monumental. It’s just a shame that he wasn’t able to achieve as much emotionally as he was visually and that’s what keeps me from feeling that this win shouldn’t be as cut and dry as it’s turning out to be. For my money, Children of Men is the far superior film and features much better directing from Cuarón but I guess that is the nature of the Academy: no one wins for their best work.
Documentary: The Act of Killing
A toss up the caliber of Gravity vs. 12 Years, The Act of Killing is the far superior film to contender 20 Feet From Stardom but the subject matter (which is essentially genocide) could be too off-putting for the notoriously thin-skinned academy. Stardom looks inside the industry, a tactic the Academy loves to reward, and though it has some potency to it, lacks the focus and effect that Act of Killing packs. Added to the fact that a musical documentary (Searching for Sugarman) won last year, I’m hoping that The Act of Killing has a slight edge. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I hope not. Having seen all five of this years nominees before the ceremony (*pats self on back*) I would be surely disappointed in a 20 Feet win as I find it the lesser of the five by a good arm’s length.
Film Editing: Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger ‘Gravity’
Traditionally, film editing has gone hand-in-hand with the best picture winner but that hasn’t quite been the case over the past five years. With my compass constantly in flux over whether 12 Years a Slave or Gravity will take BP, I wonder if this might go to one of the other contenders as a bit of tip of the hat to them and so they don’t go home completely empty-handed. A Captain Phillips win would likely be the only one of the night (unless it pulls off a sound award) but Phillips seems to have all but fallen off the radar entirely so I doubt it’ll do anything here. American Hustle could always swing in and grab this but that would be nothing short of moronic as the editing here is as messy as the over-celebrated screenplay and one of the big reasons the film fell on its face at times. In the end, I’m offering it to Gravity because of how tight and suspenseful the film feels throughout and it’s easy to point to strong editing for such.
Foreign Language Film: ‘The Great Beauty’
Of the five nominees, I’ve seen three (The Hunt, The Great Beauty, The Broken Circle Breakdown) so I feel that I have a pretty good handle on what the Academy’s looking for this year and have little doubt that The Great Beauty will be their prized gem of a non-English film. The Academy is overwhelming made up of old, white, powerful men and The Great Beauty is a movie about an old, white, powerful man…and yet it’s so much more. While I loved The Hunt, I would be happy to see The Great Beauty win big here and fully expect it to do so.
Makeup and Hairstyling: ‘Dallas Buyers Club’
This category I don’t quite understand (Why are makeup and hairstyling grouped together? Who’s voting? Why are the films that are nominated nominated in the first place?) but feel that the Academy doesn’t really understand it either. The winner always feels out of left field, which makes me a little nervous putting Dallas Buyers Club in first. But when you factor in the fact that Dallas‘ makeup budget was a pithily $250 dollars and then see what they did with that, it’s hard to doubt that this film deserves a win here. Even with that knowledge though, I still have a feeling that turning Johnny Knoxville into an old man might be enough to coax the Academy into giving a movie with the word “Jackass” in the title an Academy Award.
Original Score: Steven Price ‘Gravity’
Somewhat of a boring selection, Steven Price is joined by composer regulars John Williams, Alexandre Desplat and Thomas Newman who all seemed to nab a slot in this category by name recognition alone. The only interesting choice that I see is William Butler and Owen Pallett of Arcade Fire for their work in Her but they unfortuantely don’t stand much of a chance for the win. Since Gravity depended so much on score, Price was the go-to man responsible for holding the viewers exactly where Cuaron wanted them and he did his job aptly. For it, he’ll likely win his first Academy Award. I can’t help but note that missing entirely from this category is Hans Zimmer who apparently composed too many great scores this year to be selected for just one.
Production Design: Catherine Martin ‘The Great Gatsby’
If there’s one thing that Baz Luhrman got right with his adaptation of The Great Gatsby, it was the production design. Rich, colorful and lavish in ways that blew our imagination wide open (in 3D, no less), the glory of doing a 2013 adaptation is that it allowed us a glimpse into the unhinged festivities that F. Scott Fitzgerald so prosaically wove. From Martin’s sets, we felt like we were there, living out the glory days of the roaring 20s in all its wild majesty. When it comes down to it though, this award could end up leaning towards American Hustle, 12 Years a Slave, Her or even Gravity and I don’t think anyone would be the least bit surprised. Regardless of any issues that I had with any of those films, the one thing that was never lacking was production design. That being the case, I can’t think of an outcome here that I would lament.
Animated Feature: Frozen
Although cult love for Miyazaki (and this being his farewell film) may translate into a surprise win for The Wind Rises, the writing is on the wall for Disney Animation Studios to walk away with their first Best Animated Feature since ever (the category only launched in 2001) for Frozen. Since this year didn’t feature a lot of impressive animated films, the list of contenders feels slight and, outside of the aforementioned two, none of the others much stand of a chance at all. It is worthy of note that Pixar did not make the cut this year and hopefully that’ll be the kind of blow they need to spur them back into the realm of what once made them so beloved.
Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki ‘Gravity’
You can pretty much close the books on this one as Emmanuel Lubezki is looking pretty, pretty good for an assured victory here. His work on Gravity was epic when it needed to be and up close and personal when required. If anyone is gonna sneak in around Lubezki here though, I’d like to be to Roger Deakins, whose camerawork is always the star of whatever project he works on. However, I feel that if we are in store for an upset, the name Philippe Le Sourd of The Grandmasterwill be the one getting pulled from the envelope.
Original Song: “Let it Go” Frozen
If you heard me on the In Session Film Podcast last week, you’ll know that I heartily disapprove of this category in general. Aside from the embarrassing travesty that was giving the fifth slot to unheard of “Alone But Not Alone” and then later yanking it for ethical reasons, the songs chosen for the title “Best Song” really baffle me. Left out were all the actual “best” of the year with Lana Del Ray‘s “Young and Beautiful” joining the sidelines where all of Inside Llewn Davis‘ tunes slumped. I don’t dislike “Let it Go” and know it’s exactly the kind of poppy brand of sing-a-long that’s made Disney the icon that it is, but it’s still not even my favorite song from Frozen. As for the U2 song, spare me. And Pharrell William‘s ‘Happy’ is just more poppy top 40 junk that should never be confused with the label “best.” Karen O‘s ‘The Moon Song’ is my favorite on this shameless list but doesn’t actually stand a chance of winning. I’m willing to wager that Idina Menzel wins for ‘Let it Go’ but U2 did take the prize last month at the Globes. Depending on how star-fucking the Academy is feeling, they might just slink in for the win.
Costume Design: Catherine Martin ‘The Great Gatsby’
Although Patricia Norris could score for her period costumery of 12 Years or Michael Wilkinson could see his gaudy 70s suits and pin-up dresses take the cake for American Hustle, I’m thinking that Catherine Martin wins for combining the best of both worlds in The Great Gatsby. Although riddled with narrative issues, there’s no denying the grandiose of Gatsby and that’s in large part thanks to the costumes. The party scenes alone see many different lavish styles, it’s almost as if we’re on some chic runway, and when added to the scene where Leonardo as Gatsby literally makes it rain clothes, I’m thinking the academy will look to The Great Gatsby, if for nothing more than the fact that it goes out of its way to recognize the beauty of its clothing.
Writing Original Screenplay: Spike Jonze ‘Her’
This should be a no-brainer but a win for Spike Jonze is surely an uphill battle no matter he’s category in. Contending against Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell’s script for American Hustle, Jonze has visibility working against him but raw talent working for him. If you put their scripts side-by-side, there’s no way that anyone would deny that Jonze’s is superior to Singer and Russell’s work but, unfortunately, that’s not common practice for Academy voters. More often than not, their final call is a gut reaction based on feelings for a particular film rather than the individual components that make them up. So overwhelming love for Hustle might turn the tide against Her. In my mind, Jonze most certainly deserves a victory for his ambitious and perfectly executed script and I’m willing to stand beside him, even if his ship does sink.
Writing Adapted Screenplay: John Ridley ’12 Years a Slave’
Battling chief contenders Philomena and The Wolf of Wall Street, John Ridley‘s penmanship on 12 Years a Slave seems to have a good amount of steam going into the awards. After losing the WGAs to Captain Phillips though, I’m still not quite sure what to do with this category. Philomena could always sneak in for its fanciful blend of drama and comedy but I feel that it’s a little too slight for a win and also has the fact that it’s recently been called “anti-catholic” working against it. As far as I see it, I would love Terrence Winter to nab the win for his work on Wolf, as I think what he had to achieve my turning Jordan Belfort’s autobiographical memoirs into a scathing inditement of the man is a feat in and of itself.
Visual Effects: Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, David Shirk and Neil Corbould ‘Gravity’
I’m so confident in this one that if I’m wrong, I will shave my head. Seriously, I’m that sure. I would say hold me to it but you’re not going to have to because Gravity already won. Bank it.
Sound Editing: Glenn Freemantle ‘Gravity’
It seems a safe bet to put Gravity in the lead in any of these technical categories at this point and although the distinction between sound editing and sound mixing may be slight (editing involves the creation of sounds while mixing is how they’re placed together), it’s a distinction that I think the Academy themselves often fail to understand and kind of just wing it when naming their top slots. So with that in mind, with the masterful soundscape that Gravity was, I think sound wizard Glemm Freemantle win see a trophy in his near future. Captain Phillips and Lone Survivor both stand a decent chance but Gravity is on such a roll that I think voters will have been so used to writing its name by now that they’ll do it out of habit.
Sound Mixing: Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro ‘Gravity’
That silent explosion scene alone is likely enough to win Gravity this techie award. Utilizing the vacuum of space as a voice in the film really elevated the terror and isolation of Gravity‘s experience so I’m wagering it has a great shot at winning this sound category as well. Other contenders include Inside Llewyn Davis, which did a great job incorporating folk music into the texture of the film’s sonic sphere, and Lone Survivor which turned sound into pain in a way we thought unimaginable.
Documentary Short Subject: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
I’ve yet to see any of these so I’m taking a shot in the dark and going with what I’ve heard the most buzz for. Plus, The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life focuses on the last living Holocaust survivor, Alice Herz-Sommer, which is always an extra check mark for awards attention. Don’t hold me to it though.
Short Film (Animated): Get A Horse!
The only short of them all that I’ve seen is Get a Horse! and I will rightfully admit that I loved watching this fun little rumpus take full advantage of 3D. As for the voters, I’m thinking that the nostalgic factor alone will help it gallop to a win.
Short Film (Live Action):
It’s at this point that I start questioning the need for the shorts segment of the Academy Awards. First of all, hardly anyone actually sees these things and, this year especially, those that have had had nothing particularly positive to say about the batch. I can more see the need for an animated section here but I feel like live action segment in particular is the most useless of all the Academy Awards. Helium‘s apparently pretty dec so sure, that’ll win.
At the end of the day, that leaves a tally of one win for everything excluding the following:
Gravity – 7 12 Years a Slave – 3 Dallas Buyers Club – 2 The Great Gatsby – 2 Frozen – 2
Remember to enter our Oscar Prediction Contest if you haven’t already and be sure to tune in to the Academy Awards 7 PM this Sunday on ABC. I’ll be live tweeting the Oscars so make sure to follow @SSRdotcom and check it occasionally to hear some live updates.
Oh what a year it has been, a fact cemented this morning with the announcement of 121 Oscar nominations. Noticeably absent were a host of Academy kings and queens like Tom Hanks, who was originally looking at two potential nominations and would up with none, and Hank’s Saving Mr. Banks co-star Emma Thompson, who became a runner-up to the five ladies who secured Best Actress noms. Missing out on the expected nominations, Saving Mr Banks is definitely the biggest snubbed film as it failed to secure even one nom while it almost looked like a frontrunner at one point.
For best picture, I nailed seven of the nominations but left out Philomena, which edged out Inside Llewyn Davis and Banks. Alexander Payne took a spot in the Best Director category that many expected to head towards Paul Greengrass. The absence of both Hanks (Captain Phillips) and Robert Redford (All is Lost) opened up spots for Christian Bale (American Hustle) and Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street). And while my predictions suffered for not including either, all in all, I’m really happy with those switches as I believe Bale and DiCaprio put in two of the best performances of the year.
A couple pleasant surprises include Jonah Hill‘s Best Supporting Actor nomination and Her scooping up a few extra awards with Best Original Song and Production Design.
Amongst those films noticeable absent across the board are Inside Llewyn Davis, which only scored two nominations (Best Sound Mixing and Best Cinematography), and The Butlerwhich didn’t see a single nom. It seems like Dallas Buyers Club got some last minute wind beneath its wings to edge out Davis in just about every category I had it positioned for nomination.
But the biggest snubs seem to come from 12 Years a Slave, which still managed nine nominations. Most notably Hans Zimmer was passed up for his score and Sean Bobbitt who served as DP on 12 Years and was thought to be a sure contender in the cinematographer field both left empty handed. Alex Ebert, who just won a Golden Globe for his All is Lost score, was also surprisingly passed up. And though I’m not shocked, it was disappointed to not see Lana Del Rey‘s stunning “Young and Beautiful” left out of the Best Original Song category.
Leading the scoreboard, both Gravity and American Hustle each have ten nominations and stunningly director David O. Russell continues his streak of just crushing it and garnishing his actors nominations in all four categories. As if he wasn’t already an actor’s dream director, he’s become so adept at scoring noms for his performers now that any future performer in an O. Russell film is essentially assured a nomination. And while American Hustlesuddenly looks like the one to beat, Gravity is still poised to strike down competition in all the technical fields.
Taking Hustle and Gravity‘s domination into account, 2014 certainly signals a mood shift for the inherently old-timey Academy. More than ever, this set of nominations is a populist collection, leaning heavily towards mass approval and away from the eclectic little indies that the mainstream doesn’t often stray into. What will this mean when award times come? Most likely a bent towards the breezy, the easy, and those that don’t wallow in the muds of slavery.
So let’s get down to the actual nominations. Without a doubt, we’re in store for an interesting season. I’ve highlighted those that I predicted in green.
BEST PICTURE American Hustle 12 Years a Slave Her Gravity Nebraska Saving Mr Banks The Butler Captain Phillips Philomena
BEST DIRECTOR Steve McQueen Alfonso Cuaron David O. Russell Martin Scorsese Alexander Payne
BEST ACTOR Chiwetel Ejifor Christian Bale Bruce Dern Matthew McConaughey Leonardo DiCaprio
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR Jared Leto Bradley Cooper Michael Fassbender Barkhad Abdi Jonah Hill
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Lupita Nyong’o June Squibb Julia Roberts Jennifer Lawrence Sally Hawkins
BEST EDITING Gravity 12 Years a Slave Dallas Buyers Club American Hustle Captain Phillips
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY Nebraska Her Dallas Buyers Club Blue Jasmine American Hustle
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY 12 Years a Slave Wolf of Wall Street Before Midnight Captain Phillips Philomena
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM The Hunt The Missing Picture The Broken Circle Breakdown The Great Beauty Omar
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY The Grandmaster Gravity Inside Llewyn Davis Prisoners Nebraska
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN 12 Years a Slave The Great Gatsby American Hustle Her Gravity
BEST SOUND MIXING Gravity Captain Phillips The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Lone Survivor Inside Llewyn Davis
BEST SOUND EDITING Gravity All is Lost Captain Phillips The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Lone Survivor
BEST COSTUME DESIGN Michael Wilkinson “American Hustle” William Chang Suk Ping “The Grandmaster” Michael O’Connor “The Invisible Woman” Catherine Martin “The Great Gatsby” Patricia Norris “12 Years a Slave”
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE William Butler and Owen Pallett “Her” Steven Price “Gravity” Thomas Newman “Saving Mr Banks” Alexandre Desplat “Philomena” John Williams “The Book Thief”
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE The Act of Killing Cutie and the Boxer Dirty War The Square 20 Feet From Stardom
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE Frozen Despicable Me 2 Ernest and Celestine The Croods The Wind Rises
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS Gravity Iron Man 3 The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Star Trek into Darkness The Lone Ranger
BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING Bad Grandpa Dallas Buyers Club The Lone Ranger
BEST ORIGINAL SONG “Let it Go” – Frozen “Happy” – Despicable Me 2 “The Moon Son” – Her “Alone Yet Not Alone” – Alone Yet Not Alone “Ordinary Love” – Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
For their nominations, certain actors, directors have already spoken out in gratitude.
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave “I’m really chuffed with the Oscar nomination especially being recognised alongside such great actors. It’s a real honor.”
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave “I’m extraordinarily happy for all the cast and crew of our 12 Years a Slave family. This has been an amazing ride, and to receive nine nominations from the Academy is testament to all of the hard work. And for that I am truly grateful.”
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave “At no point during filming, in the sweltering heat of New Orleans, did any of us ever foresee the journey this film would take us all on. Steve McQueen created an entire family to tell one man’s tale and I am delighted that so many of this family have also been recognized today. I am hugely grateful to the Academy for this great honour, and, of course, to Solomon Northup for sharing his story through his breathtaking book.”
John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave “It feels very special, but I just really appreciate how people have responded to Solomon Northup’s story and his life. I’m just so happy for the whole crew and cast who brought Solomon’s memoir to the screen. It’s been a great year for film, and for people to consider 12 Years a Slave to be among the best is more humbling than you can imagine.”
Amy Adams, American Hustle “I’m very honored to be nominated alongside such inspiring actresses. Congratulations to the cast and crew of American Hustle and Her, two films that I’m incredibly proud to be a part of.”
David O. Russell, American Hustle “First of all, I want to congratulate all of the nominees from all of the films. We are all blessed to be in this business, telling stories. In American Hustle, we tried to create characters and a world that the audience would find romantic and moving and real. I am so thrilled for my partners – my actors, my producers, Eric Singer, and the craftspeople from the film – who were honored today. They gave it their all; they poured their passion into the movie and I am truly thankful to them.”
Dana Brunetti, Captain Phillips “We’re so incredibly proud of this film and the team we assembled both in front of and behind the camera. Simply put, we could not have done it without the enormous talent of Paul and Tom. It was an honor to be able to tell the heroic story of Captain Richard Phillips and the US Navy SEALS who rescued him.” –
Michael DeLuca, Captain Phillips We are grateful to the Academy for the recognition and for the privilege of being included in an amazing field of movies this year. It’s all a testament to Paul Greengrass’ artistry and Tom Hanks’ craft and commitment.
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips “I am truly honored to have been nominated by the Academy this morning. This has been a life changing experience for me. I would like to congratulate all of the nominees this morning, especially the team from Captain Phillips who were recognized. My performance is a testament to the vision of our incredible director Paul Greengrass, and our other Captain — the generous, amazing, and inspiring Tom Hanks.”
The time of year has come to compile the infamous top ten list, summing up the best of the best from throughout the year. And while I’m not going to pretend that I haven’t been piecing one together over the past three months, it is still an act of brain wracking and constant change that is in part requisite and in part cathartic. For most of us, the top ten list is the Everest of the movie year. And so, from the 150+ movies I’ve seen in 2013, narrowing it all down to ten is no cake walk but the process of distilling down to a minute selection is a great opportunity to revisit and reflect on some of the greats of the year.
Striking the right balance between “favorite films” and “quality films” is as crucial a factor in the construction of this list as taking into account how likely I’ll be to enjoy this film down the line. Sufficed to say, it’s more than just recounting the grades that I’ve handed out throughout the year and jamming them into a linear position.
All five of the films which I seated with an A+ made the list but, strangely enough, not one film I granted an A to had what it takes to really cross enough into the “favorite” category. More than anything, this list is comprised of the films that I enjoyed the most, have affected me most strongly, that I have reflected on again and again, and see myself watching over and over again. But to make sure that I acknowledge those lingering on the precipice I’m also going to get into the runner-ups that didn’t quite push the envelope quite far enough.
For every victor that made its way into this highly subjective top ten list there is that barrage of those that didn’t quite make the cut; those that flirted with the top ten and got left on the editing floor.
I’ve included two of these close call lists and have detailed them in no particular order: Honorable Mentions; more genre movies who I want to tip my hat to as they were all movies I thoroughly enjoyed at the theater; and Outskirts; those that were just on the tipping point of the TT but just didn’t have the oomph to push them into them over the cuff.
Populaire Frozen Stoker The World’s End Elysium Oblivion Rush Mud Blackfish This is the End
All is Lost The Hunt The Conjuring Laurence Anyways Captain Phillips Prisoners What Maisie Knew Fruitvale Station Frances Ha Only God Forgives
With that out of the way, join me on page two to count down the first five of the Infamous Top Ten List…
10. THE SPECTACULAR NOW/SHORT TERM 12
I figure I needed to shake things up somewhere down the line and why not start early and throw a tie in to throw people off? It’s been many months since I watched both of these coming of ages gems and, after much figuring, tweaking, and re-figuring, I found acknowledging one without the other was somewhat disingenuous to what I’m trying to accomplish with this list. So I went with the ol’ cop-out tie. Both took razor sharp looks at youth in society, both saw surprising, great performances from their young stars, and the direction of each meant the exposure of directors surging with storytelling prowess and emotional honesty. Aside from being a really honest teen drama, The Spectacular Nowhad the type of heart that made it stand out through the year.
“Dodging the stuffy trappings of many coming-of-age tales by reworking their stereotypes to its benefit, The Spectacular Now eclipses expectation. Instead of avoiding clichés entirely, Ponsoldt uses them to his advantage. And while the framework for the genre has clearly already been established, it rarely results in something this good and all around meaningful. It joins the ranks of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Superbad as timeless films about the difficulty of transition and the promise of human connection while carving out enough of a name for itself to be remembered years down the line.” Full review here.
And while The Spectacular Now challenged us to look at high school sagas in a way that recognizes the dormant maturity and incumbent stress of our schooling years, Short Term 12 looked at a group of under-appreciated social workers, who like trashmen, take the leftovers of society’s unwanted, misplaced, and abandoned children and how difficult running an underfunded facility like Short Term 12 is for these criminally under-supported caretakers.
“Thanks to a charged-up level of emotional maturity, the film tackles difficult issues with careful footing – immediately establishing a reverent tone, dipped with charm and laced with smiles. The psychological trauma uncovered within the character’s brick-walled hearts is likewise handled with tender precision. Each reaction the film garnishes is no accident. Every bit has its place, a building block towards a grand scheme that ultimately delivers a big pay-off for those willing to engage in the bumps along the road.” Full review here.
Both were staggering achievements that most likely won’t be find footing in many other Top Ten lists so I’m glad that I can include them both amongst mine. Going forward though, I promise, no more ties.
9. OUT OF THE FURNACE
Another criminally underrated film of 2013, Out of the Furnace is certainly no walk in the park and I could have my arm twisted to say that it’s the darkest entry on this list (many of you will probably cry heretic but just roll with me here.) Bleak and unblinking, Scott Cooper‘s follow-up to the overrated Jeff Bridge‘s drama Crazy Heart cuts to the bone of issues bubbling over in America and did it without spoonfeeding them down your throat. Stir that in with a career best performance from Christian Bale, an unforgettable villain courtesy of Woody Harrelson and the best scene involving a hot dog of all time and Out of the Furnace earns its place on this man’s list.
“Out of the Furnaceis not the movie you expect, it’s not quite the movie you think you want, and it’s certainly not a movie you’ll see coming, but it is one of the best movies of 2013. Petering along a solemn road of America as industrialized hellhole, the jet-black tone and snail’s pace cadence of the film may prove too overbearing for some but those willing to dive into the mire will find a film overflowing with themes of chaotic grace, personal sacrifice, ego death, spiritual deterioration, and unbounded duty. Many similarities to early Kurosawa samurai films and Drive – which itself is largely plotted like a samurai film – emerge and make the film rich with subtext, even though unearthing that subtext is a bit of a harrowing chore.” Full review here.
Keeping in line with movies that harness the allure of the darkly comic, Nebraska hangs tight with its mix of banal humor and caustic sentimentality. Bruce Dern‘s Woody is as iconic and memorable a character as 2013 has seen and his strange blend of cluelessness and strong moral foundation seed just the right type of fundamental irony to reap rich comedy and drama from. But beneath the black humor of Nebraska is a nagging sense of urgency – this is a film that, no matter how small the scope may seem, is monumentally characteristic of society at large. Themes of economy, family, and destiny give the film purpose and secure it amongst the top shelf of 2013.
“Nebraska starts with the old school painted mountains of the Paramount logo, a veiled reminder of the golden days of the USA, and jumps into an austere black-and-white landscape of Montana as Bruce Dern‘s Woody Grant stumbles down the snowy strip of government manicured grass between some train tracks and a largely vacant highway. Convinced he has won a million dollar prize, Woody’s intent on claiming his winnings in Nebraska even if that means walking the entire eight hundred mile trip on foot. A reminder of how off the tracks his life has veered, Woody sees his not-too-good-to-be-true grand prize as a means to a life he never had – a golden ticket to meaningfulness and utility long lost.” Full review here
As much as I wanted to fall head over heels for Gravity, I did have some standing flaws with its narrative. But those weren’t quite enough to overshadow just how marvelous a technical achievement Gravity truly is. Looking over 2013’s films that really wowed me, it’s impossible to not place this in the forefront. The fact that I saw it twice in the course of a week alone is enough to substantiate my ranking of this film amongst the best of the best, narrative issues aside. While it lacked the intellectual oomph and metaphorical undercurrents I was crossing my fingers for, the visual palette that Alfonso Cuarón played with here is easily the year’s best and some of the most impressive and immerse camerawork of all time.
“Gravity is pure entertainment done right and it’s achieved with transcendent technical mastery. Seamlessly blending nail-biting moments of suspense with quiet character moments in the vacuum of space, Cuarón has achieved a rare technical feat that sometimes overwhelms its lingering emotional subplot. But more than anything, it is a staggering success and one that will be appreciated by all. Cuarón has definitely chartered a new course here, setting the effects bar higher still than films like Inception or Avatar. Gravity is simply a game changer.” Full review here.