Cue the spotlight
Holy jaysus it’s Oscar time again!
Another year fades into memory. Remember how Argo didn’t surprise anyone but Life of Pi winning best director did? Remember how Seth MacFarlane had seen people’s boobs? No, me neither. Let’s move on with 2014 so
Rudely pushed from February by the Sochi Winter Olympics (which I totally watched a minute of, honest), March kicks off with the death knell of awards season, and supposedly the tightest race in recent Oscar memory. Awards have been split between three major players thus far; the relative outsider being Gravity (superb production, but a philosophic tabula rasa), while American Hustle (lively gloss with undercooked ideas) and 12 Years a Slave (harrowing majesty) will test the Academy’s love for art versus entertainment. It really could go either way.
Ellen DeGeneres hosts again, having put in a passable performance at the 2007 awards, but the big moment will likely come when the PowerPoint of the recently deceased plays, following a series of sad and shocking deaths in the American film industry in the past months. Much of the rest of the events are unpredictable, but that’s not gonna stop me from trying to guess the winners. Here goes.
His master’s voice: Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) listens to the cruel whispers of Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender) in 12 Years a Slave
Once more the line-up is nine, suggesting the Academy really can’t decide what to do with the expanded 10-position nomination hole it’s opened up for itself. Philomena, Nebraska and Captain Phillips are strong seat-holders. Her, Dallas Buyers Club and the cruelly maligned Wolf of Wall Street remain outside bets, that could’ve had great chances with bigger buzz and better campaigns behind them. Gravity is this year’s Avatar, although with the added benefit of being a great movie; it will likely choke in the airless vacuum of being too commercial. That leaves Hustle and Slave. The chance to make a little bit of history won’t be lost on the Academy.
Should win: 12 Years a Slave
Will win: 12 Years a Slave
Starman: Alfonso Cuarón directs Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in Gravity
Alexander Payne did a solid, gentle job with Nebraska, but that film has been slid under the awards mat for months now. Scorsese has earned an Oscar for the first time in decades, but sure when has he ever been given an Oscar he deserved?! David O. Russell (American Hustle) has been lucky with the surge of positivity his film gotten, but it won’t get him anywhere in this race. It comes down to Cuarón (Gravity) or McQueen (12 Years) – either win would be historical. In such a tight year, a split seems likely.
Should win: Steve McQueen
Will win: Alfonso Cuarón
The man with the plan: Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof
Leonardo DiCaprio found a new peak in his career with The Wolf of Wall Street, but whether or not the Academy will reward him thus is uncertain given the often negative reaction that film has received. Chiwetel Ejiofor gave an overpowering performance in 12 Years a Slave, but his name remains unduly obscure in Hollywood, whereas Matthew McConaughey’s comeback, of which Dallas Buyers Club is but a brick, is now legendary.
Should win: Leonardo DiCaprio
Will win: Matthew McConaughey
Blue is the loneliest colour: Cate Blanchett as Jeanette Francis in Blue Jasmine
Should win: Cate Blanchett
Will win: Cate Blanchett
Best Supporting Actor
Trans-formation: Jared Leto as Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club
Bradley Cooper (American Hustle) once more stands in the wing, as will Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street). No, unless there’s an unexpected surge for Michael Fassbender (12 Years) or Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), this one is in the bag for Jared Leto’s impressive but unexceptional performance in Dallas Buyers Club.
Should win: Michael Fassbender or Jonah Hill
Will win: Jared Leto
Best Supporting Actress
Darling of the Academy: Jennifer Lawrence as Rosalyn Rosenfeld in American Hustle
Last year’s Best Actress winner Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle) was an early call for this one, but there is new energy behind Lupita Nyong’o for her astonishing role as an indoctrinated slave in 12 Years a Slave. As that film begins a late surge towards best picture, this award could clarify things right from the beginning of the night. Julia Roberts (August: Osage County), Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) and June Squibb (Nebraska) are all worthy but out of the race.
Should win: Lupita Nyong’o
Will win: Jennifer Lawrence
Best Original Screenplay
Recent allegations against Woody Allen have surely crippled Blue Jasmine here, while Nebraska and Dallas Buyers Club are likely to have to sit this one out. Spike Jonze’s Her has deserving energy behind it after a win at the Globes, but don’t rule out American Hustle just yet, especially if it targets a clean-up on the night.
Should win: Spike Jonze
Will win: Spike Jonze
Best Adapted Screenplay
Despite everything, Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke don’t stand a chance for their superb Before Midnight. Billy Ray’s Captain Phillips screenplay sticks out here like a sore thumb, while Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope’s Philomena is just too slight to win this one. The split comes down to Slave (John Ridley) and Wolf of Wall Street (Terence Winter). It can really only go one way I think…
Should win: Terence Winter
Will win: John Ridley
Best Animated Feature
Snow chance of losing: Disney’s Frozen
Despicable Me 2 was too slight (and racist?), while The Croods was too inconsistent; neither has the buzz behind them to pull this one off. Speaking of buzz, there’s been so little word on Benjamin Renner and Didier Brunner’s Ernest & Celestine that I’d be shocked if a single member of the Academy even watched their screener of it (assuming they received it). Miyazaki’s final film The Wind Rises is truly deserving and it would be a glorious capstone to his career, but the public adoration behind Frozen will surely propel it to victory. And in fairness, Miyazaki’s already won this Oscar; Disney has not!
Should win: The Wind Rises or Frozen
Will win: Frozen
Best Animated Short
Of this lot I must confess I have only seen Disney’s Get a Horse!, and while amusing I daren’t think of it as an Oscar competitor. The other nominees are Feral, Mr. Hublot, Possessions and Room on the Broom. I shall make a monumental guess.
Should win: Not Get a Horse!?
Will win: Room on the Broom (only because I once read my niece the book and it was lovely)
Best Foreign Language Film
La Dolce Via: Tony Servillo in The Great Beauty
Some strange nominees here, with films from Palestine (Omar) and Cambodia (The Missing Picture) in the running. The Broken Circle Breakdown is Belgium’s entry, but there’s no energy behind it. Thomas Vinterberg’s superb The Hunt has become little more than a Netflix blip, meaning Paolo Sorrentino, outrageously overlooked years back for his sensational Il Divo, will now win for his stunning but over-indulgent/rated The Great Beauty.
Should win: The Hunt
Will win: The Great Beauty
Best Documentary Feature
Hearts of darkness, minds of light: Anwar Congo and Herman Koto re-enact their dreams in The Act of Killing
Honest to god if The Act of Killing doesn’t win I will break something. Cutie and the Boxer winning might appease my wrath. The Square winning will make me break a person. Dirty Wars and 20 Feet From Stardom are also nominated.
Should win: The Act of Killing
Will win: The Act of Killing
Had better win: The Act of Killing
Best Documentary Short
Two years in a row I have succeeded in not seeing any of these! Why do I draw such attention to my own failings?
Should win: ?
Will win: CaveDigger (has the best title)
Best Original Score
This is an odd selection, with Her (William Butler and Owen Pallett) and Saving Mr. Banks (Thomas Newman) surely in the running in any other year. But in Gravity Steven Price created an aural blast that has not been experienced since Strauss was sampled in 2001. A sure-fire winner.
Should win: Steven Price
Will win: Steven Price
Best Original Song
When U2’s ‘Ordinary Love’ from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom won at the Globes, there was outrage. Frozen’s ‘Let It Go’ is not just a superb piece of music with clever lyrics, it is also a fantastic piece of storytelling in and of itself. Surely the Academy will recognise this.
Should win: ‘Let It Go’
Will win: ‘Let It Go’
Best Sound Editing
Last year I joked that nobody cared about the sound categories. But then Best Sound Editing was split between Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty and the world nearly imploded in confusion. So, let’s be serious here. Um… no, let’s just give it to Gravity.
Should win: Gravity
Will win: Gravity
Best Sound Mixing
I still can never quite work out what this award is for. But the sound in The Hobbit was pretty great, so let’s say it’ll win, if Gravity doesn’t.
Should win: Depends on what exactly is being judged…
Will win: Gravity
Best Production Design
Letting the ’20s roar: The incredible design of Baz Luhrmann’s largely misguided take on The Great Gatsby
Her and 12 Years a Slave would be very worthy winners here, but the options are so grand. Gravity is so heavily digital it should rule itself out, leaving the fight between the ultra-’70s sheen of American Hustle or the outlandish brilliance of The Great Gatsby. It’s very tight.
Should win: The Great Gatsby or Her
Will win: The Great Gatsby
Cinema software: The digital cinematography of Gravity astounds, but is it really cinematography?
Much like Avatar a few years back, I have no respect for Gravity’s inclusion here. Bruno Delbonnel should be in the running for Inside Llewyn Davis, but that film has gone down with the Academy about as well as discussions of Zionist hoodlums. This could go just about anywhere.
Should win: Roger Deakins (Prisoners) or Bruno Delbonnel
Will win: Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity)
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Styling AIDS: Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club
Good lord am I still here writing this. Um… Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa winning would be funny for all kinds of reasons. No one wants The Lone Ranger to win any awards, so it’s out. Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto did, admittedly, look like they had AIDS. That beats William Fichtner with a dodgy hairlip any day.
Should win: Dallas Buyers Club
Will win: Dallas Buyers Club
Best Costume Design
That ’70s glow: Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence all looking très chic in American Hustle
Once again it’s Gatsby versus Hustle. The former was outlandish, but the latter had more sideboob.
Should win: The Great Gatsby
Will win: American Hustle
Best Film Editing
The two big deserving films are Dallas Buyers Club and Captain Phillips, but it’s never been clear to me that the Academy understands what editing is. Will they just give it to Gravity because it didn’t need editing due to long takes? Who knows…?
Should win: Dallas Buyers Club or Captain Phillips
Will win: American Hustle
Best Visual Effects
Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble: Satellites and space stations are shredded apart in Gravity
Desolation of Smaug, Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness… hell, even The Lone Ranger! These are all deserving films. But Gravity is the one that made special effects shine this year, so it’d be an absolute shock if it didn’t take the gold.
Should win: Gravity (or Smaug)
Will win: Gravity
So those are my calls. We’ll see how right I was in about 36 hours. I’ll be live-blogging the event as always, this year from a hotel somewhere in the middle of Virginia. Don’t ask. I’ll see you then.