12 Years a Slave

2014 Oscars Final Predictions

The day has come. Everyone’s had their say, and the Oscar nominations are only days away. In one corner we have strong consensus on some absolute great movies, movies that could sit on any year’s Best Picture list and be stronger contenders than they are here. And in the other corner you have controversy, bitching, stewing and whining that maybe just about all of these are overrated to some degree. I mean, we knew “Spring Breakers” wasn’t about to be nominated, but does the Academy really think there are 10 better movies this year than “Before Midnight”?

It’s easy to get exhausted by all the bickering, but then that’s criticism, and that’s the Oscar race. It isn’t every year that we get three, maybe four plausible winners in such a vast field.

I tend to enjoy Oscar nomination morning even more so than Oscar night itself. There are more chances for surprise, for curveballs, snubs and the opportunity to pick the winner. Maybe not everyone is aware that Cate Blanchett’s Oscar win this year will be a foregone conclusion (watch me eat those words), but there’s a lot less certainty when it’s so close to being over.

This year my predictions have gone back and forth, but not as much as you might think. Movies like “Rush,” “August: Osage County” and “Fruitvale Station” have been pushed to the margins as the months have passed, and “Her” and “American Hustle” have emerged as more than gems. But this crop of films that we started with back in October has stayed mostly constant because all of them have been as good, if not better than expected. No amount of prognosticating, statistics and snubs can take all that away.

Best Picture

  1. 12 Years a Slave
  2. Gravity
  3. American Hustle
  4. Her
  5. Captain Phillips
  6. Saving Mr. Banks
  7. The Wolf of Wall Street
  8. Nebraska
  9. Inside Llewyn Davis

This remains a race between “12 Years a Slave,” “Gravity,” “American Hustle” and to a lesser degree “Her,” and it’s most exciting to know that not one is the runaway favorite. “12 Years” may be in the lead, but “American Hustle” pulled the hat trick of being recognized by all three guilds, the DGA, PGA and WGA.

“Captain Phillips” and “Saving Mr. Banks” seem like safe fifth and sixth bets, both studio films but one with an edgy action pulse and the other a family friendly affair full of Old Hollywood nostalgia.

A bigger question mark however hangs over “The Wolf of Wall Street,” the most controversial of all the contenders, and “Inside Llewyn Davis,” which has been hit or miss. Opposite “American Hustle,” it pulled the hat trick of being snubbed by all three guilds, and yet it swept the National Society of Film Critics’ Awards.

The reason I feel both are getting in is the little movie no one is talking about, “Nebraska.” This movie has quietly remained in the hunt despite only mild notices for its actors. Alexander Payne missed with the DGA, and no critics have really come to bat for it. But is there a fear that it can’t scrape together a measly 300 1st place votes? Both “Inside Llewyn Davis” and “Wolf” have that kind of love, despite the hate, and this will be a nine horse race for the third year running.

Gravity Sandra Bullock

Best Actress

  1. Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
  2. Sandra Bullock – Gravity
  3. Emma Thompson – Saving Mr. Banks
  4. Judi Dench – Philomena
  5. Meryl Streep – August: Osage County

If I had this category my way, I’d boot Emma Thompson and Judi Dench and put in Amy Adams and Julie Delpy and beg for a sixth spot for Adele Exarchopoulos. Of those three, Adams could be the conceivable dark horse, as David O. Russell now has a history of bringing acting nominations when they’re due.

But in all likelihood, this category may match up perfectly with SAG. All five women are powerhouses with former Oscars, and only Blanchett is not eligible for National Treasure status (she however will walk away with the Oscar). If Adams does pull the upset, it may be over Streep, not Dench, despite how outrageous that seems to not nominate Meryl Streep for an Oscar in a year she stars in a movie.

insidellew

Best Actor

  1. Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave
  2. Bruce Dern – Nebraska
  3. Robert Redford – All is Lost
  4. Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyer’s Club
  5. Oscar Isaac – Inside Llewyn Davis

Each year, I allow myself one sympathy vote, one curveball prediction that I make with my heart, not with my brain. This year, I’m officially picking Oscar Isaac for “Inside Llewyn Davis” over Tom Hanks in “Captain Phillips.”

The reason my brain is against me is not just because of Hanks’ star power, but also because he’s really good. He gives the kind of workmanlike performance that actors respect and non-actors can appreciate the craft of, whereas Isaac melts into his surly, unlikeable role and makes you forget he’s acting.

And yet my brain is trying to convince me that Isaac really does have a shot. He doesn’t have the SAG, but he has three critics’ awards to Hanks’ goose egg. Some say “Inside Llewyn Davis” is in remission, but then it seems to be the focal point of the critical conversation where “Captain Phillips” is just another fall release.

The big question mark however is if it’s not Hanks who gets snubbed, but perhaps Matthew McConaughey or Robert Redford, or if it’s not Isaac that gets noticed, but perhaps Joaquin Phoenix, Leonardo DiCaprio, Forest Whitaker or even Christian Bale?

There was a point in time when this category seemed too tight to break into, despite the strength of those just out of the hunt. Now I feel as though anything can happen.

Dallas Buyers Club Jared Leto

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club
  2. Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave
  3. Bradley Cooper – American Hustle
  4. Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips
  5. Daniel Bruhl – Rush

In finalizing my picks for Best Supporting Actor, I’m attempting to look at which actor and which film has the most momentum. Jared Leto is nearly sweeping every critics’ prize there is, and Michael Fassbender and Bradley Cooper are riding the wave of their films. Barkahd Abdi is one of the most exciting newcomers in this race.

So that leaves one spot. “Wolf” is an extremely topical movie now, but Jonah Hill is not getting the Joe Pesci scene stealing attention he deserves. Will Forte won the National Board of Review way back when, and James Gandolfini is a solid third place in the critics’ awards wins. And if we really had to look at momentum, my money would be on James Franco.

Sadly it’s a joke that Franco’s brilliant work is seen as a joke, so all that’s left is Daniel Bruhl and Tom Hanks. I made a bold prediction last time that Hanks may not be nominated for anything this year, and I’m sticking by at least half of that. He will not get nominated for “Saving Mr. Banks.” Bruhl has a Golden Globe and a BAFTA nod over Hanks in each, and if “Rush” gets anything, it will be this.

August: Osage County

Best Supporting Actress

  1. Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave
  2. Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle
  3. June Squibb – Nebraska
  4. Julia Roberts – August: Osage County
  5. Oprah Winfrey – Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Like the Supporting Actor category, a cursory look at who is getting the most buzz right now would point to Lupita Nyong’o and Jennifer Lawrence easily, June Squibb in a pinch, Oprah for the star power, and in reality, Scarlett Johansson would be the one getting that fifth spot.

But that’s not going to happen. It’s a voice performance. She never appeared on camera, or on set. It’s great work, yes, and she’s the key to the movie, but the massive acting branch in the Academy, the one that didn’t nominate her for the SAG, will not see it that way. The SAG has matched up four for five in this category for the last three years, but that dark horse will not be Scarlett, and it’s not unlikely that this year, the Academy will pick Julia Roberts as well and have a perfect match.

That said, Octavia Spencer is still a formidable dark horse. Like “Rush,” if “Fruitvale Station” gets anything, it will be here.

Best Director

  1. Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave
  2. Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity
  3. David O. Russell – American Hustle
  4. Paul Greengrass – Captain Phillips
  5. Spike Jonze – Her

With the DGA officially weighing in, pundits have the tough choice of either agreeing fully with the DGA and the statistics behind them or go with their gut and point to the confusion that followed last year’s ceremony.

I’m in the latter category, and while I’ve conceded that David O. Russell and Paul Greengrass will both get in behind Alfonso Cuaron and Steve McQueen, the group that picked Michael Haneke and Benh Zeitlin will nominate a director who has a nomination, but doesn’t have auteur status the way Scorsese, the Coens and even Alexander Payne all do, and that’s Spike Jonze.

Best Original Screenplay

  1. Her – Spike Jonze
  2. Blue Jasmine – Woody Allen
  3. Inside Llewyn Davis – Joel and Ethan Coen
  4. Nebraska – Bob Nelson
  5. American Hustle – David O. Russell, Eric Singer

One interesting observation about this year’s potential Best Director nominees is that they’re all also writers. They take control of their movies and display their individual vision two-fold. Something like “Her” is inherently from the mind of Spike Jonze, and only “American Hustle” could be this madcap if David O. Russell made it. My bet is the Academy will look to these movies if their directors don’t make the cut.

And yet it’s a shame for all the fringe contenders. In another year “Enough Said,” “Frances Ha” or “Fruitvale Station” would be shoo-ins for a courtesy nomination. The Academy loves using this category to highlight certain indie fare. But this year those slots are all taken (“Nebraska” for one, whose debut script will be his first nomination, and the Coens, who have many more). Even something like “Gravity” will face an uphill battle, and some will tell you that a miss here doesn’t bode well for its Best Picture chances.

Best Adapted Screenplay

  1. 12 Years a Slave* – John Ridley
  2. Captain Phillips* – Billy Ray
  3. Before Midnight* – Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Richard Linklater
  4. Philomena* – Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope
  5. The Wolf of Wall Street – Terence Winter

Unfortunately for movies like “12 Years a Slave” and “Philomena,” they were ineligible for the WGA award, and had they received those nods despite the technicality, there would be little question about this category at all. “The Wolf of Wall Street” is the likely fifth nominee namely because there’s not enough to challenge it. Some would argue the adaptation of “August” is too faithful to a fault, and enough passionate voters may not have seen “Short Term 12” and “Blue is the Warmest Color.”

Remaining Categories 

Cinematography

  1. Gravity – Emmanuel Lubezski
  2. 12 Years a Slave – Sean Bobbitt
  3. Inside Llewyn Davis – Bruno Delbonnel
  4. Captain Phillips – Barry Ackroyd
  5. Prisoners – Roger Deakins

Best Costume Design

  1. 12 Years a Slave
  2. The Great Gatsby
  3. American Hustle
  4. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
  5. Saving Mr. Banks

Best Film Editing

  1. Gravity
  2. Rush
  3. Captain Phillips
  4. 12 Years a Slave
  5. American Hustle

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

  1. American Hustle
  2. Bad Grandpa
  3. The Lone Ranger

Best Original Score

  1. Gravity – Steven Price
  2. 12 Years a Slave – Hans Zimmer
  3. All is Lost – Alex Ebert
  4. Monsters University – Randy Newman
  5. The Book Thief – John Williams

Please please nominate Arcade Fire for “Her”

Best Original Song

  1. “Let it Go” from “Frozen”
  2. “Young and Beautiful” from “The Great Gatsby”
  3. “The Moon Song” from “Her”
  4. “So You Know What it’s Like” from “Short Term 12”
  5. “In the Middle of the Night” from “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”

Best Production Design

  1. Gravity
  2. 12 Years a Slave
  3. The Great Gatsby
  4. Her
  5. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Best Sound Editing

  1. Gravity
  2. All is Lost
  3. Rush
  4. Captain Phillips
  5. Lone Survivor

Best Sound Mixing

  1. Gravity
  2. Captain Phillips
  3. Rush
  4. Inside Llewyn Davis
  5. All is Lost

Best Visual Effects

  1. Gravity
  2. Pacific Rim
  3. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
  4. Oblivion
  5. Elysium

Best Documentary Feature

  1. Stories We Tell
  2. The Act of Killing
  3. Blackfish
  4. 20 Feet from Stardom
  5. The Square

Best Animated Feature

  1. Frozen
  2. The Wind Rises
  3. Monster’s University
  4. Despicable Me 2
  5. Ernest & Celestine

Best Foreign Language Film

  1. The Hunt
  2. The Grandmaster
  3. The Great Beauty
  4. The Broken Circle Breakdown
  5. The Missing Picture
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One comment on “2014 Oscars Final Predictions

  1. Pingback: Oscar Nominations 2014 Analysis: Full of Surprises and None | The Sanity Clause

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