Tag Archives: Best Picture

The Oscars Split: 12 Years a Slave wins Picture, Gravity wins Director

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The old rule that you can’t predict a split has been broken. By and large most awards-watchers predicted 12 Years a Slave to win Best Picture and Gravity‘s Alfonso Cuarón to take Director. Many of the most seasoned and widely respected pundits said that was unlikely and impossible to predict. I almost changed my predictions to Gravity all the way, but I stuck to my guns instead. And guess what… It happened!

Gravity, due to it’s technical prowess, walked away with 7 wins overall, more than any other film this year. 12 Years a Slave, despite taking the top prize, tied with Dallas Buyers Club for a distant second place in total wins. Both won 3. Frozen and The Great Gatsby each won 2, while Her and Blue Jasmine just took 1 apiece. The rest of the Best Picture nominees all went home empty-handed, including Captain Phillips, NebraskaPhilomena, The Wolf of Wall Street, and perhaps most surprisingly, American Hustle, which had initially tied Gravity for the most nominations (10). 

See the full list of winners here.

Overall, I went 19/24 in my predictions. Honestly, for such a tight year with so many amazing films, there weren’t a lot of surprising wins. What surprises we did get were mild ones that many saw coming.

The biggest shock (aside from American Hustle‘s big ol’ goose egg) was honestly Gravity’s Editing win, which wasn’t shocking at all. Many were predicting ACE winner Captain Phillips to take it, but the major technical marvel in the race could not be ignored. Her‘s Original Screenplay win over American Hustle lowered some pundits’ scores, just as Jennifer Lawrence’s Supporting Actress loss to Lupita Nyong’o lowered mine. But to be honest both races were neck-and-neck, and either had a great chance at winning.

The only other races I missed were in Foreign and two of the Short Films. I should have seen The Great Beauty coming (and honestly almost changed my prediction this morning). It’s won more precursors, but I was convinced by some pundits who thought it too abstract and esoteric to win. I was surprised yet thrilled to see the lovely Mr. Hublot win Animated Short over the more widely seen Get a Horse! And I was disappointed to see the technically proficient but narratively flat Helium win Live Action Short over one of the best films of the year (of any length) in Just Before Losing Everything.

The show itself was a pretty good one. While not necessarily all that memorable, it moved along at a good clip and Ellen Degeneres kept it light and enjoyable throughout. The producers made some good decisions that improved on previous years. The Original Song performances were great (although U2’s sound levels could’ve been better mixed). The introductions of the Best Picture nominees were made in groups of three, which certainly saved time. Eventually I’d like to see those intros scrapped altogether, but at least it’s a small step in the right direction.

Another small step in the right direction was the vague “Heroes” theme and it’s montages. While still wholly unnecessary, at least the montages were short and few, and they didn’t seem quite as random as similar ones in recent years. The Wizard of Oz tribute was pretty random, but I liked Pink’s performance.

Something I really liked was the choice to go from In Memoriam directly into Bette Midler’s song. In the past the segment has always been followed by a commercial break, leaving the somber mood to be jarred by obnoxious local TV ads. This felt much more smooth, and also allowed for a segue into more presentations before going to another break.

The standout speeches of the night were given Jared Leto (starting the night off perfectly), Kristin Anderson-Lopez and newly crowned EGOT Robert Lopez for Frozen‘s “Let It Go,” and Lupita Nyong’o. Matthew McConaughey’s speech was odd and a little off-kilter, but ended up rather endearingly quirky. And finally, BRAVO to the producers for not being to trigger happy about having the orchestra play winners offstage. The only ones that got played off were a couple of the short film winners (who were struggling with language barriers).

Ellen’s jokes were pretty on most of the night. She’s a great comedian, and her banter with the crowd was fun. I’m not sure how I felt about pointing out that many of the actors like Amy Adams never went to college. Either she’s embarrassing them or telling the general audience that that’s ok, but there’s no middle ground and since the joke fell flat, it felt pretty awkward and uncomfortable. But I loved the “possibility” bit – “Possibility #1: 12 Years a Slave wins Best Picture. Possibility #2: You’re all racists.” That’s how to be funny and pretend edgy, without actually being edgy. That’s what the Academy was looking for, and that’s what they got.

All in all, I had a fun night. What about you? How did you like the show? What did you love? What did you hate? What was meh? Let me know in the comments or on the Facebook page.

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Gravity or 12 Years A Slave: Making Oscar History Either Way

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As discussed in yesterday’s final Oscar Predictions entry, this year’s top prize comes to two major frontrunners. It’s so close that honestly nobody really knows how it will turn out. (Some will guess right, but they don’t have any more insight than anybody else.) It’s the closest race we’ve seen since 2000’s Gladiator vs Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon vs Traffic. It could conceivably be even closer, but American Hustle seems to have lost a little steam in recent weeks. Still we’re left with two generation-defining films, both of which would make history if they were to win.

Gravity would make history by being the first 3D film ever to win Best Picture. It would also be the first sci-fi/space movie. Genre films tend to get a bad rap with the Academy elite, but that’s not impossible to over come. A decade ago the third Lord of the Rings movie became the first fantasy film to win. The 3D thing is the bigger get. It’s the new(ish) technology that seems determined to change the way audiences approach movies, possibly at the expense of films with smaller budgets. It’s understandable that industry voters might be wary. But then again, it’s movies like this, that go so far beyond their technical achievements to touch something primal and human in all of us, that have the ability to move us forward. It’s no surprise that a director like Alfonso Cuarón is behind this – he has always had an amazing talent for bringing humanity to genre.

12 Years a Slave would make history be being the first film to win written and directed by back filmmakers and starring a mostly black cast. It would also be the first film since Gone With the Wind to even touch on the subject of slavery. In 86 years of Oscar history, this is an embarrassing statistic. Slavery isn’t just a “black thing”; it’s a huge tragic piece of history for every American. Not only that, but modern-day slavery continues throughout the world. Like Gravity, it takes a film like this that touches on universal human themes to bring us all together, to move forward as one.

As unlikely and rare as it would be, I’m predicting a split: 12 Years a Slave will win Picture and Cuarón will win Director. That could mean the history-making story of either could be seen as being a little stunted. We would still be 86 years into Oscar history without a single black director having won. (Steve McQueen is only the 3rd ever even nominated.) And we would still not have a 3D sci-fi/space Film in the list of Best Pictures.

That may be how we remember this year in the future, but that’s also missing the picture entirely. 2013 was a truly incredible year for filmmaking. There were literally dozens of amazing films, any of which would have made worthy winners. That no fewer than two groundbreaking works of art have made it this close to the big prize is nothing short of astounding.

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Oscar Predictions – Picture and Director

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Welcome to The Screen Life’s Oscar Predictions! This is last in a 6-part series, in which you will find a quick breakdown of each category, accompanied by ranked predictions. Also be sure to check out the complete OSCAR PREDICTIONS page (in the menu up top), which will be continually updated throughout the week. This is your grand guide to this Sunday’s big night!

Best Director

Martin Scorsese and Alexander Payne crafted incredible films – #1 and #2 respectively on my Top 10 List. Nevertheless, they’re all but sitting this one out. This is a close 2-man race, with a third nipping right behind their heels. That third is David O. Russell who, with his third nomination in only 4 years, already feels overdue for an Oscar. Many believe this is his crowning achievement (though not yours truly), but as American Hustle’s buzz has quieted a bit, so has his chances to win here. That leaves the other two to duke it out.

Steve McQueen has created a groundbreaking, monumental achievement. He is only the third black director ever nominated and the first to get anywhere close to winning. He could definitely win this. Splits between the picture and director are very rare and nearly impossible to predict, so if his film wins, he could easily scoop up this award as well.

Alfonso Cuarón is not making it that easy, however. He too has created a groundbreaking, monumental achievement. Plus, he has swept the director awards in nearly every precursor imaginable, including the all-important DGA. All signs seem to point to his direction. If Best Picture is still murky, Best Director is just a little clearer. Not clear, mind you, but clearer.

1. Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
2. Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
3. David O. Russell, American Hustle
4. Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
5. Alexander Payne, Nebraska

Best Picture

And finally we come to the biggest question mark of the season. That the ceremony is 2 days away still nobody really know who is going to win is incredible. Add to that the highest quality line-up of nominees in years (8 of these 9 movies made my Top 10 List), and we have the most fun and exciting awards race in recent memory.

What we do know, for the most part, is who’s not going to win. So let’s start there.

Her and Philomena both have a great deal of passionate supporters. The former has a nice bunch of critics’ awards, and the latter has the full attention of the great Harvey Weinstein campaign-machine (admittedly having an unusual off-year). But they are bringing up the rear of this powerful pack. Just ahead of them is Dallas Buyers Club, with far more nominations than expected and 2 likely acting wins. Nebraska is the kind of touching and hilarious film no one can not adore, and managed to wrestle a director nomination away from Captain Phillips.

If I were voting, The Wolf of Wall Street would be #1. If it had been released sooner it might have been more of a contender. As it is, much of the initial scandal has subsided and more people are appreciating its brilliance. Captain Phillips seemed doomed after Tom Hanks and director Paul Greengrass were shutout, but ever since then it has picked up several guild awards in the tech categories. If it weren’t for that missing director, I’d be tempted to put it ahead of American Hustle. That film, meanwhile, at one time appeared to be locked in a 3-way dead heat for the win. After multiple top awards from critics, winning the SAG ensemble, and tying Gravity for the most nominations, Hustle was really “hustling”. But ever since the other 2 tied for the PGA, it lost a bit of mojo and hasn’t picked up much since then.

The Top Two…

That PGA tie was basically a microcosm for the entire season. The PGA is the only other award besides the this one to use a preferential balloting system, which makes ties particularly difficult, and yet it still happened. Gravity and 12 Years a Slave have been sharing the top spot ever since their premiers within days of each other back in Telluride. Every time one appeared to gain the edge, the other pulled right back up. There hasn’t been a race this close since 2000’s Gladiator vs Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon vs Traffic. And if you think of Hustle as still being in the mix, it’s even closer.

Gravity might appear to have the slight edge with that DGA win. The DGA is still the biggest and best predictor for the Best Picture Oscar, even more so than Director. As I mentioned, splits between picture and director are rare and impossible to predict. (Last year was a very unusual exception.) Generally voters will vote the same for both. So by that logic we may see our first ever 3D sci-fi Best Picture winner.

But despite all of Cuarón’s directing victories, 12 Years a Slave has continued to win the top prize just about every time. It’s taken the vast majority of every “Best Picture” award out there. The only thing it has really lost is that ½ PGA. What’s more, it still has all the buzz it’s ever had. Despite missing out on some of the tech guild awards, it hasn’t appeared to lose any momentum.

What it really comes down to is that none of the predictors are really telling us anything. The only choice is to go back to the first awards – the critics’ awards. Ever since the King’s Speech/Social Network nightmare, the critics have seemed less important, but this year they’re the only steady trend we have to go by. And that trend is clear: Cuarón for Director and 12 Years a Slave for Picture. A split.

As crazy as it sounds, that’s what I’m predicting.

1. 12 Years a Slave
2. Gravity
3. American Hustle
4. Captain Phillips
5. The Wolf of Wall Street
6. Nebraska
7. Dallas Buyers Club
8. Philomena
9. Her

 

Check out the other parts of the Oscar Predictions Series here:
Intro
Part 1 –  Animated, Foreign, Doc, and Short Films
Part 2 – Technical Categories (Cinematography, Costumes, Makeup, Production Design, and Visual Effects)
Part 3 – Sound and Music
Part 4 – Storytelling (Editing and Screenplays)
Part 5 – Acting
Part 6 – Picture and Director

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Alfonso Cuarón Wins DGA, Gravity Takes Lead for Oscar

Gravity-2Alfonso Cuarón won the Outstanding Director of a Motion Picture prize at the Director’s Guild Awards last night. With that win we now have a frontrunner for Best Picture at the Oscars, but it’s still a tenuous lead.

The DGA’s were the third of the three most important guild awards to announce, after last week’s SAG and PGA ceremonies. In a sense, my outrageous prediction that each of the top three films would win one of those – American Huslte for SAG, 12 Years a Slave for PGA, and Gravity for DGA – actually proved true! But that’s not the whole story, as the PGA awarded a tie to both 12 Years AND Gravity. That means instead of a 3-way tie, the latter has a narrow half-point lead going into the home stretch.

History tells us that whatever wins the DGA will win BP at the Oscars. Recent history tells us the same for PGA. On top of that, we know Picture/Director splits at the Oscars are extremely rare and hard to predict. With that in mind, after straying out on a limb to predict that crazy guild split, I’m going to quit while I’m somewhat ahead play it safe for my Oscar prediction. I predict Gravity will win Best Picture and Best Director.

Still that is a very tough call to make. Its lead is slight at best. It’s also missing an all-important screenplay nomination. (It’s very rare for a film to win BP without being at least nominated for its screenplay.) Many pundits are still predicting a split, with 12 Years taking BP. But going back to history again, usually when there’s a split, the DGA winner actually ends up going on the win Picture, not Director.

This is an unprecedented quandary. Hell, even Hustle could still slip in and steal all the glory. But in the sea of uncertainty, I feel safest anchoring my predictions to Gravity.

The next most important guild awards are the ACE Eddies (American Cinema Editors). Being a very showy technical piece, Gravity is expected to win that too. Going forward it looks like it’s lead will get continually stronger as it expectedly sweeps the more minor technical guilds – Cinematography, Sound, etc.

Here’s the full list of DGA winners…

Feature Film – Alfonso Cuarón, “Gravity”
Documentary – Jehane Noujaim, “The Square”
Movies for Television and Miniseries – Steven Soderbergh, “Behind the Candelabra”
Dramatic Series – Vince Gilligan, “Breaking Bad” – “Felina”
Comedy Series – Beth McCarthy-Miller, “30 Rock” – “Hogcock!/Last Lunch”
Variety/Talk/News/Sports — Regularly Scheduled Programming – Don Roy King, “Saturday Night Live with Host Justin Timberlake”
Variety/Talk/News/Sports — Specials – Glenn Weiss, “The 67th annual Tony Awards”
Reality Programs – Neil P. DeGroot, “72 Hours” – “The Lost Coast”
Children’s Programs – Amy Schatz, “An Apology to Elephants”
Commercials – Martin de Thurah, Epoch Films
“The Man Who Couldn’t Slow Down,” Hennessy VS – Droga5
“Human Race,” Acura MDX 2014 – Mullen
Robert B. Aldrich Award – Steven Soderbergh
Frank Capra Achievement Award – Lee Blaine
Franklin J. Schaffner Achievement Award – Vincent DeDario
Diversity Award – Shonda Rhimes & Betsy Beers

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Weekend Wrap-up: The Producers Keep It Interesting

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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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