Tag Archives: American Hustle

Weekend Wrap-up: The Producers Keep It Interesting

Gravity-debris-2

This weekend the first two all-important film industry guilds announced their winners: the actors (SAG) and the producers (PGA). Next weekend the directors (DGA) will follow suit. Usually between these three a frontrunner emerges which goes on to take the top prize at the Oscars.

This race is one of the tightest in years, with essentially three frontrunners. Last week I predicted that each of those three would take one of the three main guild awards: American Hustle – SAG (ensemble), 12 Years a Slave – PGA, Gravity – DGA. It was a fairly wild guess, since that kind of thing never happens. One film always takes two, if not or all three, and then goes on to win Best Picture

On Saturday night SAG Awards (scroll to the bottom to see the complete list of winners) appeared to stick to the script. All their film winners were pretty well expected. Cate Blanchett and Jared Leto continued their respective steamrolls through Best Actress and Supporting Actor. They are the 2 surest bets for winning gold on Oscar night, as nobody has been able to beat them in any of the precursors. Matthew McConaughey continued to strengthen his frontrunner status for Best Actor. The biggest excitement was Lupita Nyong’o winner for her supporting performance in 12 Years over Jennifer Lawrence. But even that wasn’t really a surprise – the two have been neck and neck all season, and many pundits (not yours truly, though) think Lawrence will have a hard time winning back to back Oscars.

Hustle took Best Ensemble, as I and many others predicted. 12 Years surely provided stiff competition, but the former was the more obvious acting showcase. And in a very tight race, that was all that was needed to pull ahead for an award that honors the actors rather than the movie itself.

Still, the SAG ensemble very often goes to the eventual Best Picture Oscar winner, so without word yet from any one else in the industry, Hustle essentially took the lead. But in a race so tight anything could happen, literally that – “anything” – was about to.

The PGA awarded an unprecedented 2-film tie! If Hustle had been one of those two films it might have held onto its frontrunner status, but it wasn’t. Gravity and 12 Years split the prize. In a sense my prediction was correct that all three films would win a major guild award, but there was no way I could’ve imagined that would happen a week before the third would even announce.

Over the last 4 years the PGA (for comparison: the Best Picture Oscar is also awarded to a film’s producers) has become THE most predictive of the guilds, since they are the only ones besides the Academy to use a complex “preferential balloting system” (as opposed to a simple weighted ballot) to determine their winners. In this system getting 1st place votes is important, but so is getting 2nd and 3rd. So a winning film has to evoke passion in a much broader cross-section of voters. “Love-it-or-hate-it” films don’t weather this process well.

Given that complex process and the PGA’s 4,700 voting members, one would think a tie is statistically impossible to come by. Yet that’s what happened, and suddenly our best predictor is useless. (Ok, not useless, but you know…)

Of course now the DGA is the key. Whoever wins that will have 2 to everyone else’s 1, and will become considered the frontrunner. I still suspect that’s going to be Gravity. Alfonso Cuaron has been picking up director prizes more consistently than other film, making his film the safest bet. But at this point the race is so convoluted that even that safest bet wouldn’t necessarily be a safe bet.

That said, Oscar voting hasn’t even started yet. By the time they do, that frontrunner, however tenuous, will be known. AMPAS, just like everyone else, likes to rally behind a winner. Chances are the majority of voters will get behind the perceived leader, making it the de facto leader, and the eventual winner.

So, while it’s still early and I reserved the right to change my mind several times in light of new information, I am now prepared to make my first official Oscar Prediction of the season:

Gravity will win the Oscar for Best Picture.

Still, it could easily go any direction, and that’s what’s so exciting. That’s why I may be having the most fun I’ve had since I started paying attention to awards season more than 15 years ago. This is fantastic!

Here is the complete list of SAG and PGA winners. (Check them against my predictions here.)

SAG

THEATRICAL MOTION PICTURES
Actor – Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Actress – Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
Supporting Actor – Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Supporting Actress – Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”
Ensemble – American Hustle

TELEVISION PROGRAMS
Actor, TV Movie or Miniseries – Michael Douglas, “Behind the Candelabra”
Actress, TV Movie or Miniseries – Helen Mirren, “Phil Spector”
Actor, Drama – Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad”
Actress, Drama – Maggie Smith, “Downton Abbey”
Actor, Comedy – Ty Burrell, “Modern Family”
Actress, Comedy – Julia Louis-Drefus, “Veep”
Ensemble, Drama – Breaking Bad
Ensemble, Comedy – Modern Family

STUNT ENSEMBLES
Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture – Lone Survivor
Stunt Ensemble in a Comedy or Drama Series – Game of Thrones

 

PGA

Theatrical Motion Pictures -TIE- Gravity and 12 Years a Slave
Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures – Frozen
Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures – We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks
Long-Form Television – Behind the Candelabra
Episodic Television, Drama – Breaking Bad
Episodic Television, Comedy – Modern Family
Non-Fiction Television – Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
Competition Television – The Voice
Live Entertainment & Talk Television – The Colbert Report
Sports Program – SportsCenter
Children’s Program – Sesame Street
Digital Series – “Wired: What’s Inside” (http://video.wired.com/series/what-s-inside)
The Davie O. Selznick Achievement Award – Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli
The Norman Lear Achievement Award – Chuck Lorre
The Stanley Kramer Award – Fruitvale Station
Milestone Award – Bob Iger
Vanguard Award – Peter Jackson, Joe Letteri and Weta Digital
Visionary Award – Chris Meledandri

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3 Films ‘Hustle’ for the Lead – Oscar Nominations Breakdown

gravity 12 years hustle split

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts ad Sciences (AMPAS) gave us plenty of surprises – both good and bad – when they announced their 86th Annual Oscar nominations this morning.

The big story is American Hustle, which tied Gravity for the lead with 10 nods each, followed closely by 12 Years a Slave with 9. Any one of them could still win, but this proves it really is a 3-way race. All 3 got the crucial Picture/Director/Editing trifecta that is often necessary to go the distance.

All 9 of the Best Picture nominees got more nominations than any of the other films. A majority of the different branches seemed to be on the same page. I feel like this kind of symmetry is actually pretty rare. (Scroll to the bottom of my complete nominations list for a list of total nominations per film.)

I’m actually pretty proud of a decent showing in my own predictions. (Scroll down to see my brag list and how I did on each category.) But there were a fair number selections and snubs that few people saw coming – including at least one that NOBODY could’ve guessed.

The Good…

  • A much stronger-than-expected showing for The Wolf of Wall Street and Dallas Buyers Club was very heartening to see.
  • Philomena for Best Pic, expected but not guaranteed.
  • American Hustle got nods in all 4 acting categories (the best thing about the movie). This is extremely rare, and yet it’s 2 years in a row for a David O. Russell film.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio for Best Actor. I predicted it, but most pundits figuring he was in 6th place. Now that he’s in, I think he actually has a decent chance for the win, though it’s still a tight race.
  • Sally Hawkins was excellent in Blue Jasmine I’m happy to see her remembered here.
  • The Hobbit’s FX and dual Sound nods. Despite the series’ chronic bloating, it still continues to break new ground on the tech front.
  • Ernest & Celestine!!!
  • Get A Horse!

The Bad…

  • American Hustle‘s tied for the most nominations makes it even more likely to steal the ultimate win from Gravity and 12 Years a Slave (two vastly superior films).
  • Zero nominations for Rush, The Butler, Pacific Rim, or The Hunger Games.
  • Captain Phillips had a worse showing than expected, with both Tom Hanks and director Paul Greengrass missing out on nominations.
  • Part of the Rush shutout, Daniel Bruhl was passed over for one of the very best performances of the year.
  • Part of The Butler shutout, Oprah Winfrey (the best part of that film) was denied.
  • The Coen Bros. missed a screenplay nod for Inside Llewyn Davis. The film itself only managed 2 mentions.
  • 12 Years a Slave’s stunning cinematography was ignored.
  •  Part of The Hunger Games shutout, the amazing costumes were not mentioned, nor the memorable Makeup & Hairsyling
  • Speaking of M&H: the Academy seemed to love American Hustle, so how did it miss out here for those amazing hairdos?
  • No love for Hanz Zimmer’s excellent score for 12 Years a Slave, or Alex Ebert’s work on All Is Lost.
  • No Pacific Rim for visual effects is a travesty. If it weren’t for Gravity, I would’ve pegged it for the de facto winner.
  • Monster’s University is Pixar’s second ever miss for Animated Feature, after Cars 2.
  • Blackfish really deserved a nomination, and it could’ve used the extra publicity to help its valiant cause.
  • Stories We Tell was also widely expected to compete for the documentary win. While I haven’t seen it yet, everything I’ve read makes me disheartened that it was left out.

The WTF??!?!…

  • Best song. This category is notorious for providing some real head-scratchers year after year. (Last year they included a little-known documentary, and the year before that they only nominated TWO songs!) This year is no different, with an unexpected snub for Lana del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful” from The Great Gatsby.
  • But the real shot of crazy here is “Alone Yet Not Alone” from a film of the same name. A film which NOBODY has ever even heard of, let alone seen. It doesn’t appear on Metacritic, Rotten Tomatoes, or Box Office Mojo. It turns out it’s a religious film with a fairly offensive sounding synopsis, made purely for the Christian market. So how the hell did it get nominated? Perhaps because one of the composers is head of the Academy’s music branch…

Brag List
79 (+ 9 alternates) correct out of 108 predictions
2 perfect categories (+ 6 with alternates)
14 categories missed only one
5 missed two
0 missed more than two
Plus I got the one animated short I predicted, Get A Horse!

My predictions, by the numbers…

Best Picture 9/9!!!
Out: Saving Mr. Banks; Blue Jasmine

Best Director 4/5 + alternate
In: Alexander Payne, Nebraska; Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
Out:  Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips; Spike Jonze, Her

Best Actor 4/5
In: Christian Bale, American Hustle; Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Out: Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips; Robert Redford, All Is Lost

Best Actress 4/5 + alternate
In: Amy Adams, American Hustle
Out: Emma Thompson, Saving Mr Banks

Best Supporting Actor 3/5 + alternate
In: Bradley Cooper, American Hustle; Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
Out: Daniel Bruhl, Rush; James Gandolfini, Enough Said

Best Supporting Actress 4/5
In: Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Out: Oprah Winfrey, The Butler

Best Adapted Screenplay 5/5!!!

Best Original Screenplay 4/5 + alternate
In: Dallas Buyers Club
Out: Inside Llewyn Davis

Cinematography 4/5
In: The Grandmaster
Out: 12 Years a Slave

Costume Design 4/5
In: The Grandmaster
Out: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Editing 4/5
In: Dallas Buyers Club
Out: The Wolf of Wall Street; Rush

Makeup and Hairstyling 2/3
In: Dallas Buyers Club
Out: American Hustle; The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Score 3/5 + alternate
In: Philomena; Saving Mr. Banks
Out: 12 Years a Slave; All is Lost

Song 3/5
In: Alone Yet Not Alone (Alone Yet Not Alone); “Happy (Despicable Me 2)
Out: Young and Beautiful (The Great Gatsby); So You Know What It’s Like (Short Term 12)

Production Design 4/5 + alternate
In: Her
Out: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Sound Editing 4/5
In: The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug
Out: Rush

Sound Mixing 4/5
In: The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug
Out: All Is Lost

Visual Effects 3/5 + alternate
In: The Lone Ranger; Star Trek Into Darkness
Out: Pacific Rim; Oblivion

Foreign Film 4/5 + alternate
In: The Missing Picture
Out: The Grandmaster

Animated Feature 4/5 + alternate
In: Ernest & Celestine; Despicable Me 2
Out: Monsters University

Documentary Feature 3/5
In: Cutie and the Boxer; Dirty Wars
Out: Blackfish; Stories We Tell

Animated Short 1/1

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What Does the Split Say?

gravity 12 years hustle split

Last night the Golden Globes decided to go with a 3-way Split, awarding their two Best Picture awards to 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle, while giving Best Director to Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity.

When it comes to the Oscars, Picture/Director splits are very rare and hard to predict (though it did happen last year). In the vast majority of cases Best Picture and Best Director go hand in hand. This makes sense: if you believe a film is really “best,” then you have to know that the director is a huge part of that.

Example: Back in 2011, by the time the Oscars rolled around, those of us reading the tea leaves had all bowed our heads to the stupid-but-inevitable fact that The King’s Speech would beat The Social Network for Best Picture, but many of us, myself included, held out hope for the vastly superior David Fincher to prevail in Director anyway. That was a bad bet – the voters liked TKS better and they rewarded director Tom Hooper for it.

So naturally it would seem to make sense that this tendency would hold true for the Golden Globes as well, right? Well, I decided to go do a little research. The results surprised me…

14 out of the 33 years the Globes have been around, they’ve awarded Best Director to a film that didn’t win Best Pic in either Drama or Comedy/Musical. Almost 50%. In fact is 50% if you just look at the last 10, when the 3-way split happened 5 times. So then the question becomes why. What the difference? What makes the HFPA more willing to “spread the wealth” than the Academy?

The more I think about it, the only answer that makes sense is the dual categories. With two Best Picture options but only one Director, they are guaranteed to have a split EVERY YEAR, in at list one of their favorite films. So if they’re comfortable not awarding one of the directors, maybe that makes it feel more OK to pass over the other one too.

So does the Globes split give us any insight into how we should expect the rest of the season to play out? Well with a 50% track record that doesn’t really seem to match up with Ocsar, the answer would seem to be no. But this year, within in the context of other awards and nominations we’ve seen so far, I do think there’s a take-away to be had.

Among the nominations and awards from various critics’ groups, 12 Years and Gravity appear to be neck and neck, with Hustle not far behind. Among the industry guild nominations so far, Hustle has hit the mark with as many if not more groups than any other. Gravity may seem behind on the guild side, but it was never going to get a SAG Ensemble nomination, and the popular opinion seems to be (however incorrectly) that its Screenplay is just as sparse as its cast and similarly unwarranted of recognition, just based on structure.

All this is to say we have a real 3-way tie on our hands. And the Globes split just confirmed it. In previous years it may not have meant much. In 2008 for example, neither Sweeney Todd nor The Diving Bell and the Butterfly were ever going to with the Oscar, and Atonement was already losing steam to No Country for Old Men. The Globes just wanted to be contradictory that year, for whatever reason. But this year their split seems to reinforce the fact that we have a real race for once. There’s no good way yet to predict which of the 3 will ultimately prevail.

And that’s exciting! This is the kind of thing that makes following the awards races fun. It’s been a long time since there was this kind of uncertainty in the Best Picture race. In various acting and other races? Sure, that happens fairly regularly. But not in Best Picture.

In a week, when the Oscar nominations come out, we may know more. And shortly after that, when the guilds begin announcing their winners, it may be all over but the shouting. But until then, I choose to embrace the uncertainty and enjoy it while it lasts. We don’t get this very often. It’s fun!

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