Thursday, February 27, 2014

Final Oscar Predictions 2014

No worthless blabber from me this year, there’s way too much ground to cover and not enough time to cover it, so I’m going to just jump head-first right into my official Academy Award predictions. I will not guarantee that you’ll win your office pool with these, but I can guarantee that I’ve spent more time researching these predictions than just about anyone who doesn’t do this professionally and who's not actually a certified lunatic.

(Cracks knuckles)

BEST PICTURE: 12 Years a Slave

% Sure: 51.5
Could Win: Gravity
Should Win: 12 Years a Slave
Should Have Been There: Before Midnight
Comments: Welp, for the first time since I’ve been doing this there appears to be an actual race for the Best Picture award. The Producer’s Guild, usually the best indicator of what will end up winning Best Picture, somehow managed a tie between Gravity and 12 Years a Slave this year. However, the Director’s Guild gave their biggest prize to Alfonso Cuaron for his directorial achievement with Gravity. The last time the Director’s Guild gave their top prize to a movie that DIDN’T go on to win Best Picture was in 2005, with the Crash over Brokeback Mountain debacle. And it’s only happened three other times since 1989. And yet...

12 Years a Slave FEELS way more like a Best Picture winner, doesn’t it? I want to quickly compare a few movies:

12 Years a Slave
Driving Miss Daisy
Chariots of Fire
In the Heat of the Night

What do all these films have in common? Well, firstly, none of them won the Director’s Guild Award for their year, but then went on to win Best Picture at the Oscars. Secondly, they all involve race/culture relations (with all except Chariots of Fire being about black/white relations in America).

So I find it interesting that in many cases, the Academy voters have felt some sense of duty to be on the “right” side of history when it comes to casting a vote for their top award. Yeah, Gravity is a groundbreaking and enjoyable film, and they can still award it with a Best Director Oscar. But when it comes to the top prize, the award everyone will remember, the award that defines them as an awards body?

It HAS to be the movie depicting the horrors of slavery in America, right? The one perceived as more important?

So even though I’ve debated this in my head a million times, and even switched my vote while writing this column 800 times, it eventually came down to “which film would I feel more stupid for being wrong about?” And there’s where I found my answer. 12 Years a Slave is my official prediction.

BEST DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
% Sure: 85
Could Win: Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Should Win: Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Should Have Been There: Derek Cianfrance, The Place Beyond the Pines
Comments: Won’t bore you all again with a long-winded, metric-based discussion of why this award has to go to Cuaron, but I don’t see any way that he loses this.

BEST ACTOR: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
% Sure: 75
Could Win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Should Win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Should Have Been There: Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis
Comments: I have a sneaking suspicion about Leo’s chances here, but only two actors have ever won an Oscar without getting a Screen Actor’s Guild nomination, of which Leo didn’t. Christoph Waltz managed to pull it off last year for only the second time ever, but the odds are clearly against it. Having said that, this category has the biggest possibility for a surprise upset, as I could legitimately see any of the four other nominees stealing it from McConaughey.

BEST ACTRESS: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
% Sure: 98.5
Could Win: Amy Adams, American Hustle
Should Win: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Should Have Been There: Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha
Comments: Recent Woody Allen controversies withstanding, Dame Blanchett has this award in the bag.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
% Sure: 99.5
Could Win: Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Should Win: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Should Have Been There: Bradley Cooper, The Place Beyond the Pines
Comments: The most sure-fire bet of all the acting awards.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Lupita Nyongo, 12 Years a Slave
% Sure: 60
Could Win: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Should Win: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle (though Lupita would be a very worthy winner)
Should Have Been There: Margot Robbie, The Wolf of Wall Street
Comments: Bit of a two-way race here between Nyongo and last year’s Best Actress winner, miss J-Law. Which is exactly the reason I don’t believe she will win this year.

% Sure: 55
Could Win: Her
Should Win: Blue Jasmine
Should Have Been There: Frances Ha
Comments: The debate with this prediction is that it I think Her could very well win, but then that means American Hustle racked up 10 nominations and went home empty-handed (unless, as I note above, J-Law pulls off her second straight Oscar win). And wonky things always seem to happen in the screenplay categories.

% Sure: 75
Could Win: Philomena
Should Win: Before Midnight
Should Have Been There: Before Midnight got the nomination, and that’s the most important thing.
Comments: A Best Picture winner rarely loses this award (it happened in 2012 with The Artist, but, that was a silent film).

% Sure: 80
Could Win: The Wind Rises
Should Win: Whoops...didn’t see any of these.
Should Have Been There: I literally didn’t see a single animated film this year. Totally unacceptable.
Comments: The Academy usually likes to reward more artistic films like The Wind Rises with a nomination, but that seems to be as far as they’ll go. It finally appears to be Disney’s year.

% Sure: 55
Could Win: The Act of Killing
Comments: The Act of Killing is great and you should watch it on Netflix streaming as soon as you get a chance. Does not seem to be an “Academy” movie to me. Which is why a lot of people are predicting The Square, a cultural documentary about Egyptian revolutionaries. It’s really too bad that Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell couldn’t manage a nomination, because I think it would have gone on to win. Okay, it’s clear that I’m just stalling and I have no handle on this category whatsoever. Next.

% Sure: 50
Could Win: The Broken Circle Breakdown
Comments: Usually there’s a clear winner in this category, but it appears to be a race this year.

% Sure: 95
Could Win: Prisoners  
Should Win: Gravity
Should Have Been There: To the Wonder, obviously. But I also wish 12 Years a Slave could have made it in (let’s be honest and admit that Nebraska would not have been here if it weren’t in black and white).
Comments: Emmanuel Lubezki, director of photography on such films as The Tree of Life, Children of Men, and this year’s To The Wonder, looks to win his first award for Gravity after having been previously nominated five times without a win. Rarely do Best Picture nominees lose to non-Best Picture nominees in this category, and the only other Best Picture nom here is Nebraska. Gravity has this one in the bag.

% Sure: 68
Could Win: 12 Years a Slave
Should Win: Her, obviously
Should Have Been There: The Wolf of Wall Street
Comments: Gatsby appears to satisfy the tech award category mantra of “Best = Most” and the always-gaudy Baz Lurhmann seems to have done just that this year with a quantity over quality approach to his adaptation of the Fitzgerald novel. Four Best Picture hopefuls are waiting in the wings with Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle and Her all exhibiting worthy work, but there doesn’t seem to be a clear frontrunner among them to topple Gatsby.

% Sure: 70
Could Win: American Hustle
Should Win: 12 Years a Slave
Should Have Been There: The Wolf of Wall Street and Her
Comments: See above. Costume and Production Design seem to go hand-in-hand fairly often, though I’m wondering if some voters will cast their vote for the glitzy costume-work in Hustle as a consolation prize for missing out on other top awards.

% Sure: 95
Could Win: Actually Bad Grandpa might have a chance.
Should Win: Dallas Buyers Club
Should Have Been There: 12 Years a Slave (I’m sorry, I’m trying to keep my personal biases out of this, but, sorry.
Comments: Best Picture nom against non-Best Picture noms. Easy money. Moving along...

% Sure: 68.5
Could Win: Captain Phillips
Should Win: I’ll let Gravity have this one even though I loved the editing in 12 Years a Slave.
Should Have Been There: Both the crisply-moving Frances Ha and the wonderfully drawn-out The Wolf of Wall Street exhibit how important editing is to telling the type of story you want to tell. They each worked wonderfully for opposite reasons, and both deserved to be in this field over the severely undercooked American Hustle, which might be the single worst nomination in any category this year.
Comments: Look out for Captain Phillips, as the last Paul Greengrass film to be nominated here won the award (The Bourne Ultimatum).

% Sure: 10,320
Could Win: A short film that I just made on my iPhone about me doing the dishes, because it literally has as much of a chance as winning as anything else not named Gravity.
Should Win: Gravity

% Sure: 97.5
Could Win: Captain Phillips
Should Win: Gravity
Should Have Been There: The Conjuring
Comments: Best Picture hopeful that’s also a big blockbuster = lots of Oscar wins in technical categories. This is a tried and true Oscar rule.

% Sure:
Could Win: Lone Survivor
Should Win: Gravity
Should Have Been There: who cares.
Comments: Last year, Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall tied to squeeze this one out over the otherwise heavily-awarded Life of Pi, but it seems like Gravity is such a tech-monolith this year that I don’t anticipate that will happen with, say, Lone Survivor (also, Zero Dark Thirty had a lot of other nominations and was a Best Picture contender, so that means something there, I think).

% Sure: 60
Could Win: Her
Should Win: Gravity
Should Have Been There: Not a great year for original scores, but I liked both Her and Gravity pretty well.
Comments: Don’t have a great feel for this category. It’s mainly a case of “no other good nominees” that will probably propel Gravity toward one of it’s many wins of the night.  

BEST ORIGINAL SONG: “Let it Go” from Frozen
% Sure: 95
Comments: Whatever. Always my least favorite category of the night.  The tween and gay faction of viewers will enjoy this win.

% Sure: 85
Comments: Disney will kick off their two-win night with an award for this fun little short film (barring an Original Score win for Saving Mr. Banks).

% Sure: Whatever.
Comments: The only English language short film. Next.

BEST DOCUMENTARY, SHORT SUBJECTS: The one about the 109 year old Holocaust survivor seems about right. No other commentary necessary.

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