(Previous Ranking: 2)
This is the closest Best Picture race we've seen in years. After bullishly sticking with 12 Years since the end of October, I'm forced to hop over to Gravity for a handful of reasons. In an unprecedented occurrence, the films split top honors at the Producers Guild, with Gravity breaking the theoretical tie by winning at the Directors Guild. Best Picture and Best Director rarely split (it's happened only six times in the last 30+ years), and with all the below-the-line prizes the film is sure to garner (think Special Effects, Cinematography, the Sound awards, etc.), it's getting harder and harder to prognosticate against.
About as close to being in the pole position as a flick can be without actually having the number one slot. Quality and important content keep it right in the thick of things, but the fact that everyone now has Alfonso Cuarón taking Director over Steve McQueen is more than a little troubling. That, and Oscar's sordid history with non-white filmmakers, and non-white subject matter, have finally forced me to knock it down a peg.
Bold prediction time: I anticipate American Hustle going home empty-handed on Oscar night, despite its generous bounty of ten nominations. The backlash has just become too strong at this point, though with nominations in seven out of seven possible major categories (you can't get in for both Original and Adapted Screenplay), it has to stay at third.
A surprise nominee in the Best Editing category, often viewed as a make-or-break citation among eventual Best Picture winners. The fact that both McConaughey and Leto are leading their respective acting races means the movie will be on people's mind's through-out the voting process. If they go with the petty logic of wanting to award something 'Important,' but find 12 Years to be too 'icky,' we could be in for a surprise.
Academy favorite Alexander Payne scored a big surprise nomination with his citation in the Best Director category. Oscar loves his films, and this picture about familial bonding, old age, and Middle America seems right up the golden man's alley. That said, this feels too small to win.
The surprise nomination for Jonah Hill in Supporting Actor showed unexpected love, all while the inconceivable omission form Best Editing took that heat right back away. The nod for Scorsese in Best Director keeps the film out of the bottom three, but with the preferential voting system in place, and conservative voters likely to slot it ninth out of nine, it's not really in the thick of the race.
Here it is, ladies and gents; the single biggest surprise of Oscar Nominations morning. Obviously the film has some passionate support... just like The Reader, The Blind Side, and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. How'd it work out for those films? Granted, Philomena has the considerable British faction of the Academy on its side, but that's about it.
Betting on a slew of older Academy members to vote for a movie about a guy falling in love with his computer would be a fool's gambit, but there must be some real passion within the voting body to have gotten Her into the big race, right? Enough to keep it out of last, anyway...
Director Paul Greengrass missing out on a nomination after being cited by the DGA is one thing, but (America's Sweetheart) Tom Hanks also getting snubbed despite guild support speaks volumes. Strange to say about a film competing for Best Picture, but signs point to Oscar only bearing lukewarm feelings toward Captain Phillips.
A few weeks ago, Cuarón won at the DGA: in the guild's 65-year existence, their selection has matched Oscar's all but seven times. I'd call that a pretty strong indicator.
2. Steve McQueen---12 Years a Slave (Previous Ranking: 1)
Lord knows 12 Years is still in this thing. If the film starts taking over on Oscar night, don't be surprised if McQueen comes along. Let's agree that the race component is a moot point: yes, McQueen would be the first African American to ever win Best Director, but Cuarón would be the first Spanish-born. History (and headlines) will be made regardless.
3. David O. Russell---American Hustle (Previous Ranking: 3)
Both this year and last, Russell directed films that received nominations in each of the four acting categories; no other director has ever done it twice in their entire career. Ever. It's an unprecedented accomplishment in thespian rapport, but this still doesn't feel like his year.
4. Martin Scorsese---The Wolf of Wall Street (Previous Ranking: 5)
I'm sticking with the preferential voting system hurting the film at large, but this is Marty we're talking about. He directs the living hell out of the movie, and after over 40 years of filmmaking greatness, it's easy to imagine them handing him a second Oscar to pair with his honor for The Departed. Probably not this year, but still...
5. Alexander Payne---Nebraska
Great performances, familiar subject matter, gorgeous black and white cinematography: it's really no wonder why Payne snuck up and stole Greengrass' slot. That said, this a tough race, and if he couldn't take home the golden man for more widely-lauded efforts like Sideways and The Descendants, I'm not thinking he does it here.
What once felt like the Oscars' most wide-open race has been hijacked by the Math Mac (I swear, I will get that nickname to stick). Storming through the globes, SAG, and various critics awards, any previously stated fear that the Academy might still think of him as a romantic comedy actor has been eliminated. That said, he's still got some awfully stiff competition here.
2. Leonardo DiCaprio---The Wolf of Wall Street (Previous Ranking: 5)
Again with the preferential balloting as it concerns Wolf; Leo's Jordan Belfort drops F-bombs with a cinematic-history-making frequency, yet his dirty mouth is the absolute least of his offenses. If they forget to vote for the performance and go straight to the character, DiCaprio is dead in the water. That said, he's fantastic in the picture, and the 'Leo is overdue' narrative has already been at work for a few years now.
3. Chiwetel Ejiofor---12 Years a Slave (Previous Ranking: 3)
Anchor of the biggest film represented in this race, Ejiofor will remain in the conversation until they open the ballot. As is the case with McQueen, a 12 Years sweep could realistically carry him to the podium.
4. Bruce Dern---Nebraska (Previous Ranking: 2)
A veteran whose willingness to campaign for the award will keep him on Oscar's mind. I'm certainly not predicting it, but is it so far-fetched that an overdue actor performing for an overdue director in a beloved movie could sneak up, and steal this thing?
5. Christian Bale---American Hustle (Previous Ranking: 9)
This is what I wrote about Bale's chances the night before the nominations were announced: "How much do you guys love American Hustle? Enough to sweep me in?" The answer, apparently, is a lot, but he remains the lone actor with virtually no shot to win.
Cate had this thing in a walk... until the Woody Allen-Dylan Farrow story blew up. She's still decidedly the favorite, but the scandal has opened the door for challengers. It's not right that one man's transgressions should effect another actress' chances, but it might be realistic.
2. Sandra Bullock---Gravity (Previous Ranking: 2)
Almost single-handedly shoulders the acting duties for the likely Best Picture winner. If she hadn't just won for The Blind Side, old Sandy would have it In The Bag. As is, she (and the others) are nipping at Blanchett's heels.
3. Amy Adams---American Hustle (Previous Ranking: 6)
She's never won, has been nominated a slew of times, and gives what many consider the best performance in one of Oscar's favorite movies. Now those are some credentials!
4. Judi Dench---Philomena (Previous Ranking: 4)
The little-movie-that-could suddenly finds itself with three nominations in major categories, with Dench's performance carrying the flick. As is the case in Best Actor, this race features four legitimate contenders.
5. Meryl Streep---August: Osage County (Previous Ranking: 5)
Quick: name the last time Streep gave a performance that screamed, 'nominate me!' that wasn't nominated. She's got no chance of winning; let's move on.
Best Supporting Actor:
Perhaps the biggest favorite in any major category, Leto has won everywhere, from critics awards, to SAG, to the globes, and anywhere else you can think of. He'll be tough to knock out at this point.
2. Bradley Cooper---American Hustle (Previous Ranking: 5)
Yeah, I know, I'm the one who just predicted an American Hustle shut-out, but here I'm going to play my own devil's advocate: no film nominated in all four acting categories has ever walked away without a win for one of its thespians. Given how tough both lead categories are (and the degree to which Lawrence doesn't deserve her nomination), I'm saying Cooper is most likely (and sticking with the shut-out).
3. Michael Fassbender---12 Years a Slave (Previous Ranking: 2)
Yes, he's shown up as a nominee everywhere under the sun, but Leto has beaten him nearly every time. Having given what is probably the showiest performance in the category, his campaign should have been in full force from the get-go. He's been passed on too many times at this point to merit legitimate faith.
4. Barkhad Abdi---Captain Phillips (Previous Ranking: 3)
If you'd told me in October that Abdi would make it, and Hanks wouldn't, I probably would have laughed in your face. His nomination is impressive... and probably his reward.
5. Jonah Hill---The Wolf of Wall Street (Previous Ranking: 8)
If you'd told me in 2008 that Jonah Hill would have two Supporting Actor nominations within five years, I probably would have laughed in your face. His nomination is impressive... and probably his reward.
Best Supporting Actress:
Lawrence is getting dangerously close, but with Nyong’o's film likely slipping in both Best Picture and Best Director, the Academy might feel the need to show 12 Years some love in another major category. Oh, yeah... and she's breath-taking in the film.
2. Jennifer Lawrence---American Hustle (Previous Ranking: 2)
I love Lawrence as much as the next red-blooded American, and the aforementioned statistic about no movie nominated in all for acting categories ever being shut out certainly give her some gas, but I personally have these three things to say: please god no, please god no, and please, god, NO!
3. June Squibb---Nebraska (Previous Ranking: 4)
Oscar obviously loves Nebraska, and is gunna have a tough time finding another major category wherein to reward it. Squibb would also be the oldest acting winner of all time; there's a lot to like here.
4. Sally Hawkins---Blue Jasmine (Previous Ranking: 6)
Congrats on your first nomination, Sally! You have about a snowball's chance in hell of winning this thing, and yet you've still got a leg up on...
5. Julia Roberts---August: Osage County (Previous Ranking: 5)
Osage is this year's My Weekend With Marilyn: a film destined for multiple acting nominations upon being announced that realistically has no chance of winning any of them.
Best Original Screenplay:
They obviously like the film (see: Best Picture nomination), and probably won't be able to reward it anywhere else. Originality tends to perform well in the Original Screenplay category, and with wins at the Globes and the WGA, Her has jumped out in front.
2. Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell---American Hustle (Previous Ranking: 1)
Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, that American Hustle. Yes, this is a golden opportunity to hand Russell his first Oscar, but many argue that the script is actually the movie's weakness. Being a ten-time nominee should have helped AH beat Her at a few of the precursors, but it really hasn't.
3. Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack---Dallas Buyers Club (Previous Ranking: 3)
Borten's 20+ year quest to write and create this movie makes for an excellent story come Oscar Sunday, and if DBC has any chance of making noise outside of Actor and Supporting Actor, my guess is here.
4. Bob Nelson---Nebraska (Previous Ranking: 2)
Alexander Payne films tend to do very well in the writing categories. Then again, they're usually written by Alexander Payne, but this is still right in the Academy's wheelhouse, and still has a pulse.
5. Woody Allen---Blue Jasmine (Previous Ranking: 4)
This is what it looks like to not have a pulse. No one in there right mind would argue BJ as Woody's best, and with the negative press he's been generating of late, they'll have to pass.
Best Adapted Screenplay:
Unlike the Original category, Adapted Screenplay tends to go to the film with the best chance at winning Best Picture. That's clearly Slave, and without a whole lot of strong competition, there's no reason to bet against the trend.
2. Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope---Philomena (Previous Ranking: 3)
Oscar obviously has some love for the film, nominating it for Best Picture over the likes of Blue Jasmine, Inside Llewyn Davis, and August: Osage County. It's probably going home empty-handed in major categories unless it can steal this one.
3. Terence Winter---The Wolf of Wall Street (Previous Ranking: 2)
Show of hands for everyone who thinks Oscar is going to reward the film with the most F-bombs in the history of cinema? Me neither, but being in the Best Picture category has me ranking it higher than the last two.
4. Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke---Before Midnight (Previous Ranking: 5)
It seems like this one should have a chance, being the third script in the series to receive a screenplay nomination and all, but where's the hype? The nomination already feels like an afterthought.
5. Billy Ray---Captain Phillips (Previous Ranking: 4)
As previously stated, the nature of Captain Phillips' nominations gives me extremely little faith in it winning anywhere. Who walks out of this movie, and starts raving about the screenplay?
Best Foreign Language Film:
2. The Hunt (Previous Ranking: 2)
3. The Broken Circle Breakdown (Previous Ranking: 4)
4. The Missing Picture (Previous Ranking: 5)
5. Omar (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
Italy is notorious for taking this one, and with the year's other buzzy foreign film (Blue is the Warmest Color) disqualified from the race, this should be an easy get for Beauty. That said, this is one of Oscar's favorite curve ball categories, so all options remain viable.
Best Documentary Feature:
2. 20 Feet From Stardom (Previous Ranking: 5)
3. The Act of Killing (Previous Ranking: 1)
4. Cutie and the Boxer (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
5. Dirty Wars (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
This category became a lot less crowded when Stories We Tell missed out on the nomination, and 20 Feet failed to show at the DGA. Netflix is pushing The Square hard, and its status as an 'important movie' that's not quite as stomach-turning as The Act of Killing gives it the edge. The top three are all within striking distance; Cutie and Dirty are just along for the ride.
Best Animated Feature:
2. The Wind Rises (Previously Ranked: 2)
3. Despicable Me 2 (Previously Ranked: 5)
4. The Croods (Previously Ranked: 4)
5. Ernest & Celestine (Previously Ranked: 6)
Frozen is waaaay out in front, and stands as one of Oscar Night's heaviest favorites. That said, a little Miyazaki might just sound good to the Academy, as well as rewarding a couple of global hits, Despicable Me 2 and The Croods.
2. Roger Deakins---Prisoners (Previous Ranking: 6)
3. Phedon Papamichael---Nebraska (Previous Ranking: 4)
4. Bruno Delbonnel---Inside Llweyn Davis (Previous Ranking: 5)
5. Philippe Le Sourd---The Grandmaster (Previous Ranking: 8)
Oscar loves his 3D epics in this category, and with snubs for both Children of Men and The Tree of Life, Lubezki is more than a little over-due. So is Deakins, but Prisoners just doesn't feel like where he finally breaks through.
2. Christopher Rouse---Captain Phillips (Previous Ranking: 2)
3. Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten---American Hustle (Previous Ranking: 5)
4. Joe Walker---12 Years a Slave (Previous Ranking: 3)
5. John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa---Dallas Buyers Club (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
Again my anti-Captain Phillips theme rears its ugly head. While Greengrass' film won top editing honors at ACE (top prize for comedy dolled out to American Hustle), I'm sticking to my guns and predicting a shut-out, with Gravity as the benefactor.
Best Original Score:
2. Steven Price---Gravity (Previous Ranking: 2)
3. Thomas Newman---Saving Mr. Banks (Previous Ranking: 4)
4. William Butler and Owen Pallett---Her (Previous Ranking: 7)
5. John Williams---The Book Thief (Previous Ranking: 6)
One of the very toughest to call. Both Newman and Desplat are overdue, but Newman winning for Banks would be like Deakins winning for Prisoners; a body-of-work award so blatant even Oscar probably can't stomach it. Price has received plenty of ink, and the Her score would make for a 'fun' choice. Williams is here because his name is Williams. I'm going Desplat, and I'm 7% sure!
Best Original Song:
2. Pharrell Williams---Happy (Despicable Me 2) (Previous Ranking: 8)
3. U2---Ordinary Love (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom) (Previous Ranking: 3)
4. Karen O and Spike Jonze---The Moon Song (Her) (Previous Ranking: 7)
Another hyper-competetive music race. Let it Go is the main song from the most successful musical in years, but the star-power of U2 combined with Mandela's recent passing have OL right on its heels. On the other hand, you can't tell me Oscar wouldn't love to bask in Pharrell's star-power, and with his song becoming a smash hit of late, I'm awfully tempted to slot it at #1, but I'll resist the urge.
Best Production Design:
1. Catherine Martin and Beverley Dunn---The Great Gatsby (Previous Ranking: 3)
2. Andy Nicholson, Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard---Gravity (Previous Ranking: 1)
3. Adam Stockhausen and Alice Baker---12 Years a Slave (Previous Ranking: 2)
4. K.K. Barrett and Gene Serdena---Her (Previous Ranking: 7)
5. Judy Becker and Heather Loeffler---American Hustle (Previous Ranking: 5)
Boy, I hope I'm wrong on this one. Gatsby won at both the Art Directors Guild and BAFTA, making it the presumptive favorite, but if either Gravity or 12 goes on a real run, expect this prize to be among the bounty.
Best Costume Design:
1. Catherine Martin---The Great Gatsby (Previous Ranking: 1)
2. Michael Wilkinson---American Hustle (Previous Ranking: 3)
3. Patricia Norris---12 Years a Slave (Previous Ranking: 2)
4. Michael O'Connor---The Invisible Woman (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
5. William Chang---The Grandmaster (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
Practical and narratively pertinent? Nah, Oscar likes some razzle-dazzle in his costumes, and Gatsby has that in spades. Hustle's wardrobe work is also splashy, I'm just going with the loudest work in a loud category.
Best Special Effects:
1. Timothy Webber, Chris Lawrence, David Shirk, and Neil Corbould---Gravity (Previous Ranking: 1)
2. Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, and Eric Reynolds---The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Previous Ranking: 2)
3. Roger Guyett, Pat Tubach, Ben Grossmann, and Burt Dalton---Star Trek Into Darkness (Previous Ranking: 5)
4. Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash, and Daniel Sudick---Iron Man 3 (Previous Ranking: 5)
5. Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams, and John Frazier---The Lone Ranger (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
The single biggest lock of the night. If Gravity loses here, I'll eat my socks.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling:
1. Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews---Dallas Buyers Club (Previous Ranking: 3)
2. Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua Casny---The Lone Ranger (Previous Ranking: 4)
3. Steve Prouty---Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
Do you really think the Academy wants people uttering the phrase 'Oscar winner The Lone Ranger,' or 'Oscar winner Bad Grandpa?' Dallas takes this one by default.
Best Sound Editing:
2. Andy Koyama, Beau Borders, and David Brownlow---Lone Survivor (Previous Ranking: 5)
3. Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff, and Peter F. Kurland---Inside Llewyn Davis Previous Ranking: 3)
4. Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith, and Chris Munro---Captain Phillips (Previous Ranking: 2)
5. Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick, and Tony Johnson---The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
A thunderous spectacle with unique sound design sounds just about right for the Academy. Also, I wonder if there's a point at which voters start getting bored, and just pencil in Gravity for every technical award in sight.
Best Sound Mixing:
2. Wylie Stateman---Lone Survivor (Previous Ranking: 5)
3. Oliver Tarney---Captain Phillips (Previous Ranking: 2)
4. Brent Burge---The Hobbitt: The Desolation of Smaug (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
5. Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns---All is Lost (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
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