Checking Twitter in the past few weeks has been exhausting. It seems as though every hour there’s a new Top 10 list or set of nominations from a guild or critics group being handed out.
It’s not enough to merely list the best movies of the year but to give the best cast, score, soundtrack, performances, breakout performances, breakout directors, best movie posters, most underrated, most under the radar, best documentaries, best animated films, best foreign films and so on.
Would you know that each needs to be analyzed and has an impact on this thing we call the Oscar race? Critics awards in New York and L.A. (as dictated by people who live in New York and L.A.) hold a lot of influence, while others get laughed out of the room because they’re horrible barometers for the actual Oscar winner, as evidenced by statistics and numbers that often don’t hold up to a science anyway (ask Nate Silver).
What’s worse is when many of these Oscar pundits are shocked (SHOCKED) that a given critics’ group went the way it did. It’s as though every critics group is not just voting for the things they liked but are scrutinizing the “message” that a given selection will send. “Ooh, well we can’t choose ‘Gravity’ because that’ll make us look populist, but if we choose ‘American Hustle’ it’ll look like we were goaded by the most recent press screening, so we better choose ‘Her’ so that we keep our hip, indie cred.” How dare they not go for “12 Years a Slave” like everyone was sure they must?
The point is, all of these intangible drops in the pond do color the race as a whole. If we can pick up on those trends perhaps we can better predict. Suddenly it seems as though we have at least a four-horse race between “Gravity,” “American Hustle,” “12 Years a Slave” and “Her,” as all have picked up some major victories in the past few weeks. At the same time, certain contenders like Octavia Spencer, Tom Hanks or Paul Greengrass seem conspicuously absent from major nominations while people like Joaquin Phoenix, Will Forte and those behind “Before Midnight” look a lot less hopeless.
This remains anyone’s race, but somehow this wide open field feels a lot more treacherous.
* Designates a movie I’ve seen
Bulleted entries are Dark Horse candidates ranked in likelihood of getting in
- American Hustle
- 12 Years a Slave*
- Captain Phillips*
- Saving Mr. Banks*
- Inside Llewyn Davis*
- The Wolf of Wall Street
- Lee Daniels’ The Butler*
- Dallas Buyers Club*
- Fruitvale Station*
- Before Midnight*
- All is Lost*
- Blue Jasmine*
- August: Osage County*
- The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
If you want to make this easy, look at the American Film Institute’s unranked Top 10 list for the year, and that might be your Best Picture slate right there. Each of the movies selected has had well-rounded praise. “Gravity” is getting the populist vote, “American Hustle” scored with the New York film critics, “Her” with the Los Angeles critics and the National Board of Review, while “12 Years a Slave” has scored with everyone else.
As for the rest, the remaining films are using their winter season releases to drum up steam where those like “The Butler”, “Before Midnight” and “All is Lost” have to fight their way back into a crowded room. And those movies are getting no help from places like the Golden Globes. “The Butler” picked up a goose egg of nominations. But they did manage to shove “Rush” back into the hunt.
But Steve Pond has the reason above all why the cutoff may be at “The Wolf of Wall Street”: math. The Academy has yet to nominate 10 films under the new flexible rules, and in past years when the ballots were rerun, the magic number resulted in everywhere from five to nine movies, but never 10. Things could change, but as he explains, even the sheer numerical breakdown is against such an outcome.
Best Supporting Actor
- Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club*
- Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave*
- Bradley Cooper – American Hustle
- Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips*
- Tom Hanks – Saving Mr. Banks*
- Jonah Hill – The Wolf of Wall Street
- Will Forte – Nebraska*
- James Gandolfini – Enough Said*
- James Franco – Spring Breakers*
- Daniel Bruhl – Rush*
Here’s my wild prediction for the day: Tom Hanks ends up not getting anything. Not Supporting, not Lead.
In Supporting, Hanks looks weak because he was supposed to be the arguable centerpiece as the recognizable Walt Disney, and now Emma Thompson is stealing all the thunder.
But more importantly, those nipping at his heels are no slouches. Jonah Hill is getting wildly rave notices for “Wolf,” Will Forte picked up a good looking runner up nod from the Los Angeles critics as someone doing a lot of work in a role designed to make it look like he’s doing very little, Daniel Bruhl snubbed the more star-worthy Hanks at the Globes, and James Franco has got as many critics’ prize wins as Michael Fassbender does. He’s said he’s taking this very seriously, even if not all Oscar pundits are ready to.
Best Supporting Actress
- Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave*
- June Squibb – Nebraska*
- Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle
- Julia Roberts – August: Osage County*
- Oprah Winfrey – Lee Daniels’ The Butler*
- Octavia Spencer – Fruitvale Station*
- Margo Martindale – August: Osage County*
- Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine*
- Lea Seydoux – Blue is the Warmest Color*
- Sarah Paulson – 12 Years a Slave*
- Amy Adams – Her*
- Scarlett Johansson – Her*
My belief is that “August: Osage County”, despite looking weaker by the day, will come around. Once it opens, and once Harvey Weinstein realizes it is his absolute strongest awards player, he’ll make a push for it, and those who doubted Julia Roberts would get a nomination would look foolish.
But that of course means someone must be out, and my money is now on Octavia Spencer, who at one point was a frontrunner. Her big miss was at the Indie Spirits, where they nominated her “Fruitvale Station” costar Melonie Diaz instead.
- Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine*
- Sandra Bullock – Gravity*
- Emma Thompson – Saving Mr. Banks*
- Judi Dench – Philomena*
- Meryl Streep – August: Osage County*
- Amy Adams – American Hustle
- Adele Exarchopoulos – Blue is the Warmest Color*
- Julie Delpy – Before Midnight*
- Berenice Bejo – The Past
- Brie Larson – Short Term 12
- Kate Winslet – Labor Day
As strong as this race is complete with former winners, Cate Blanchett is absolutely dominating. She’s really got this sewn up, or I can say that with more confidence than I can any other category at this point. And while many are making strongly compelling cases for Brie Larson, it seems like a Cardinal Sin that the Academy might not nominate Meryl Streep.
- Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave*
- Bruce Dern – Nebraska*
- Robert Redford – All is Lost*
- Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyer’s Club*
- Tom Hanks – Captain Phillips*
- Joaquin Phoenix – Her*
- Oscar Isaac – Inside Llewyn Davis*
- Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street
- Christian Bale – American Hustle
- Forest Whitaker – Lee Daniels’ The Butler*
- Michael B. Jordan – Fruitvale Station*
Back to my earlier prediction that Hanks might not get anything. If nothing else, he’s deserving not because he’s a legend who might need a third statue but because his work is that good. But suddenly Hanks is looking like an also-ran as critics groups split votes between him and Oscar Isaac.
Someone like Isaac will need all the help he can get, but Phoenix, DiCaprio and Bale all may have the luxury of showier performances AND the ability to play the “deserving, unrecognized lead actor” card.
Truth be told, some people are getting snubbed. Robert Redford is the one not campaigning as hard as the rest, but like his character in “All is Lost,” he doesn’t need to say much to be completely understood.
- Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave*
- Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity*
- Spike Jonze – Her*
- David O. Russell – American Hustle
- Joel and Ethan Coen – Inside Llewyn Davis*
- Alexander Payne – Nebraska*
- Paul Greengrass – Captain Phillips
- Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street
- J.C. Chandor – All is Lost*
This race remains a toss-up, as only McQueen and Cuaron have been grasping the bulk of the critics’ prizes. The biggest notice for Spike Jonze was the National Board of Review, but even he’s been ousted in various nominations by O. Russell, the Coens, Payne, Greengrass, Scorsese or in one instance, Paolo Sorrentino of “The Great Beauty.”
What could happen is that for the first time since the awards changed to 10 nominees, is a Best Director getting in whose film does not. If that were the case, my money’s on J.C. Chandor.
- Gravity* – Emmanuel Lubezski
- 12 Years a Slave* – Sean Bobbitt
- Inside Llewyn Davis* – Bruno Delbonnel
- Captain Phillips* – Barry Ackroyd
- Prisoners* – Roger Deakins
- Rush* – Anthony Dod Mantle
- Her* – Hoyte Van Hoytema
- The Wolf of Wall Street – Rodrigo Prieto
- The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – Stuart Dryburgh
- Nebraska* – Phedon Papamichael
- All is Lost* – Frank G. DeMarco
- The Grandmaster* – Philippe Le Sourd
Best Documentary Feature
- Stories We Tell*
- The Act of Killing
- 20 Feet from Stardom*
- Tim’s Vermeer
- Which Way is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington
- The Square
- God Loves Uganda
- The Crash Reel
- The Armstrong Lie
- Cutie and the Boxer
- Dirty Wars
- First Cousin Once Removed
- Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer*
- Life According to Sam
Best Animated Feature
- The Wind Rises
- Monster’s University
- Despicable Me 2
- Ernest & Celestine
- The Croods
Best Original Screenplay
- Her* – Spike Jonze
- Blue Jasmine* – Woody Allen
- Inside Llewyn Davis* – Joel and Ethan Coen
- Nebraska* – Bob Nelson
- American Hustle – David O. Russell, Eric Singer
- Enough Said* – Nicole Holofcener
- Dallas Buyers Club* – Craig Borten, Melissa Wallack
- Lee Daniels’ The Butler* – Danny Strong
- Frances Ha* – Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig
- Gravity* – Alfonso Cuaron, Jonas Cuaron
- Fruitvale Station* – Ryan Coogler
- Mud* – Jeff Nichols
- The Spectacular Now* – Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
Best Adapted Screenplay
- 12 Years a Slave* – John Ridley
- Captain Phillips* – Billy Ray
- Before Midnight* – Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Richard Linklater
- Philomena* – Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope
- The Wolf of Wall Street – Terence Winter
- August: Osage County* – Tracy Letts
- Short Term 12 – Destin Cretton
- Blue is the Warmest Color* – Abdellatif Kechiche, Ghalia Lacroix
- The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – Steve Conrad
- The Book Thief – Michael Petroni