Oscars 2014: Predictions and My Favorites

2013 was considered by almost everyone as an awesome year for movies. I saw many more movies this year than I have previously, and I agree with this sentiment. So, I am actually interested in the Oscars on Sunday. Here are my predictions for some of the major categories, and my personal favorites in those categories. (NOTE: I didn’t see every movie nominated for these categories, though I did see a lot of them.)

Best Supporting Actor:

Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Prediction- Jared Leto. Although I didn’t like this performance at all (way too over the top), it seems like Leto is a lock.

My favorite- Michael Fassbender. Fassbender was excellent in this great movie, but has very little chance of winning. Mark Harris on Grantland made an interesting point about Fassbender, saying that the Academy will not want to make itself look bad by giving a white performer from a movie about slavery an Acting award.

Best Supporting Actress:

Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
June Squibb, Nebraska

Prediction and my favorite- Lupita Nyong’o. Great performance here. I think that the Academy will want to reward one of the actors from 12 Years a Slave, and I think Nyong’o is in the weakest category of the actors.

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, and Richard Linklater, Before Midnight
Billy Ray, Captain Phillips
Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, Philomena
John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave
Terence Winter, The Wolf of Wall Street

Prediction and my favorite- 12 Years a Slave. Powerful script, with some great, subtle passages. The tension between the white slave owners and the slaves is so noticeable, and not just through the visuals.

Best Original Screenplay:

Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell, American Hustle
Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine
Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack, Dallas Buyers Club
Spike Jonze, Her
Bob Nelson, Nebraska

Prediction- American Hustle. An Academy favorite, though I didn’t like it very much.

My favorite- Her. I really liked this movie, although the screenplay was not amazing. It was certainly good. My favorite screenplay of the whole year was Inside Llewyn Davis, which did not get a single nomination in a major category.

Best Actor:

Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club- Excellent performance, and the probable winner. The Academy loves when someone has to change their appearance for a role. Recent examples of this include Anne Hathawy for Les Mis and Christian Bale for The Fighter.  McConaughey carries this movie.

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street- Maybe Leo’s best performance, up there with The Departed and Blood Diamond. Magnetic, charismatic, shocking, Leo proves again that he can play a movie star role with the skill of the best character actor around.

Christian Bale, American Hustle- My least favorite nominee out of the 4 that I saw. He was fine, but was nowhere near the class of the other 3, and American Hustle was the worst movie out of 12 Years, Wolf and DBC.

Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave- An amazing, reserved performance. Ejiofor will probably lose out to either Dicaprio or McConaughey in the end because his performance was much less flashy, and the voters will probably want to reward multiple movies with the top award instead of giving everything to 12 Years.

Bruce Dern, Nebraska

Sidebar: Oscar Issac for Inside Llewyn Davis was totally ripped off for his amazing job as the title character, somehow putting some humanity into a dreadful, horrible person. And he sings live during the movie. Probably my favorite performance of the year.

Best Actress: only saw one of these performances (Amy Adams in American Hustle) so I can’t say which my favorite was. That being said, it seems like Cate Blanchett is a lock for Blue Jasmine.

Best Director:

Alexander Payne, Nebraska- Didn’t see it.

Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street- Scorsese directs another great movie here, although one that is probably too polarizing to win Scorsese the award. Some classic Marty touches here.

David O. Russell, American Hustle- I like Russell a lot. I think he does a really good job in Silver Linings Playbook and The Fighter. But he can’t find a movie plot or any kind of climax here in the mess on display. 

Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave– A remarkable job, but one that won’t win him the award. McQueen puts a remarkable stamp on the movie, overseeing some amazing shots of the swamplands in Louisiana and depicting the struggle of slaves in such an intense, vulnerable way.

Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity– This technical masterpiece will win Cuarón the award. Without him, Gravity could not exist. He is truly a visionary filmmaker, previously making my favorite movie, 2006’s Children of Men. His extraordinary cinematography is on display here again.

Best Picture:

Dallas Buyers Club– Very good movie, though probably doesn’t deserve to be nominated. Without McConaughey, it flops.
Nebraska– Didn’t see it.
Captain Phillips– Great movie, but no chance to win. A couple of stellar performances, particularly from Tom Hanks and the nominated Barkhad Abdi.
Philomena– Didn’t see it.
The Wolf of Wall Street– a glorious debauchery, with Leo at his finest and excellent performances from the supporting class, including Johan Hill, McConaughey (this guy owned 2013, and has started out 2014 well with True Detective) and a great cameo from Rob Reiner. Too polarizing to win, although in 20 years may be the 2nd most remembered movie from 2013.
Her- Cool atmosphere, with some awesome performances, especially from Rooney Mara and Scarlett Johanson. Spike Jonze does a great job of setting this futuristic atmosphere where technology is sentient.

American Hustle– a mess of a movie that would crash without the great performances, especially from Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, and Bradley Cooper. But the two leads (Christian Bale and Amy Adams) aren’t as good as the Academy says, and there is very little climax. A lot of show, but little substance.

Gravity-  A visual masterpiece, although not a good enough movie to win. Some great cinematography, but the script is weak, which will hurt it come Sunday.

12 Years a Slave– The best movie of the year, and should certainly win the award. This movie is extraordinary, combining great performances with an amazing script and and vibrant atmosphere. In a year when many of the other favorites (Hustle, Wolf, Gravity, DBC) were flashy, 12 Years will win off of the back of its reserved script which is far more powerful than any other script this year.

Final note: Inside Llewyn Davis was totally ripped off. I think that it is the only movie that compares to 12 Years. It has amazing things to say about life in general, and making art in particular. And some great backup performances from John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, Justin Timberlake, and Carey Mulligan. The Coen brothers have made some fantastic movies, from The Big Lebowski and No Country for Old Men to Fargo, but I think that this is their best movie.

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