Tag Archives: Oscar Predictions

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

Gravity-12-years-a-slave

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

gravity-12years

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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Oscar Predictions – Acting

dallas-buyers-club-matthew-mcconaughey-jared-leto

Welcome to The Screen Life’s Oscar Predictions! This is part 5 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!

Before we begin, consider the following quandary:
American Hustle has nominees in all 4 acting categories – a rare feat, made all the more amazing in that it’s the 2nd year in a row for director David O. Russell. Logic would dictate that at least one of them has to win, right? But which one?…

Best Supporting Actor

Jared Leto has won just about every single precursor imaginable. His excellent performance has practically steamrolled this category, and there is almost no way he can lose the Oscar. If by some bizarre chance he does, look to the only nomination he missed: BAFTA. In that vacuum Barkhad Abdi scooped up the award for overshadowing a Tom Hanks at the top of his game.

Michael Fassbender seemed to be a strong contender for his powerful performance of the evil-yet-human slave owner, but his campaign never really took off. Bradley Cooper and Jonah Hill were both a bit of a surprise when nominees were announced, leaving the more deserving Daniel Bruhl (Rush) out in the cold. While Hill’s campaign has been one of the most noticeable, neither stand much of a chance to win.

1. Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
2. Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
3. Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
4. Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
5. Jonah Hill, Wolf of Wall Street

Best Supporting Actress

Julia Roberts and Sally Hawkins are both on the outside looking in, overshadowed by co-stars nominated for Lead Actress. The fantastic June Squibb has her fair share of supporters and could scoop up the trophy in a split-vote situation. But this race really comes down to a tight one between the two ingénues.

Most pundits are predicting Lupita Nyong’o to win. She has all of the buzz, the SAG, most of the critics awards, and the perfect Oscar story: young, pretty newcomer in a devastating role in a Best Picture frontrunner. Jennifer Lawrence, on the other hand, just won last year. Consecutive Oscars are incredibly rare; only 5 actors have ever done it. But hers was the best performance of her film and of this race. She also has the Golden Globe and the BAFTA and the best shot at answering that question I posed at the beginning. If she loses, Hustle will almost certainly go 0/4 and that just seems too unlikely. (I’m going against popular wisdom here, so follow me at your own risk!)

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

Best Actor

In the nominating phase, this was the most packed race of all. 8 actors all seemed guaranteed one of the 5 nods, with no real leader and nobody really sure who would be left out. In the end Robert Redford (All Is Lost), Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), Forest Whitaker (The Butler) and Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis) were all left waiting in the wings as Leonardo DiCaprio and the largely unexpected Christian Bale nabbed what at the time seemed to be the last two slots. It was Bale’s somewhat shocking inclusion that allowed Hustle its hat trick, but he’s the least likely to win.

Matthew McConaughey, on the other hand, is most likely to win, in part for a career turnaround so remarkable that it has its own buzzword. After winning the Globe and SAG, all the uncertainty fell away and he sprinted into the lead. It’s by no means a done deal, however. Bern Dern is practically the definition of “overdue”. Chiwetel Ejiofor is a great actor in the role of a lifetime, and he’s won his fair share of precursors, including BAFTA. And DiCaprio handed in the greatest and most original performance of his illustrious career. I’ve long suspected that if he somehow managed a nomination, he’d be a major threat for the win, even despite his lack of precursor awards. If it weren’t for the late surge of the “McConaissance,” I’d say the award was his.

1. Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
2. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
3. Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
4. Bruce Dern, Nebraska
5. Christian Bale, American Hustle

Best Actress

If any actor has received more laurels than Jared Leto, it’s Cate Blanchett. She’s been the frontrunner ever since Blue Jasmine premiered last summer, and nobody’s been able to displace her. That’s not for lack of trying. There was a time when Sandra Bullock seemed a serious challenger. As the sole actor for the vast majority, she IS Gravity. But her win just a few years ago is generally seen as a mistake. While this performance is far superior, the nomination seems to be largely held as vindication that her Oscar wasn’t a fluke.

Meryl Streep was once thought to be a serious contender, until her film’s tepid critical response scuppered her chances. On the other hand, Judi Dench has been making a serious surge lately, with a lot of passionate support and the great Harvey Weinstein behind her campaign. But if anybody is going to topple Blanchett, it might actually be surprise nominee Amy Adams. She grabbed the spot that seemed to be reserved for the fabulous Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks), as Hustle became a major Best Pic contender tied for the most nominations.

That brings us back to the opening question. Of American Hustle’s 4 acting nods, neither of the men have even the slightest chance. If Lupita Nyong’o does indeed win Supporting, as everyone else is predicting, then Adams is the only one left to take home an Oscar. Still, it’s an impossibly steep climb to overtake the great Cate.

1. Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
2. Amy Adams, American Hustle
3. Judi Dench, Philomena
4. Sandra Bullock, Gravity
5. Meryl Streep, August: Osage County

 

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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Oscar Predictions – Storytelling: Editing and Screenplays

Tom Hanks

Welcome to The Screen Life’s Oscar Predictions! This is part 4 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 Film Editing

Most people think of editing as a technical craft, and I suppose it is (in the sense that filmmaking in general is). But I believe this craft – the piecing together of scenes and shots in just the right way – is just as much at the heart of storytelling as the script. The most textbook example of that may be the surprise nominee Dallas Buyers Club, but that surprise probably makes it the least likely winner. 12 Years a Slave is one of the Best Picture frontrunners and could easily take it if there’s a sweep, but the work is more subtle than some of the others. A couple months ago American Hustle seemed to have an edge, but it’s lost some steam of late. (Personally I think it’s the most confused jumble in the group.) Gravity is the giant in the room, scooping up the majority of the tech fields. It could easily win, and indeed many of the prognosticators are predicting it. However, I think Captain Phillips has the biggest advantage. It beat out Gravity for the ACE Eddie. It’s an editing showcase from a highly respected Best Picture player that many feel got snubbed in a few other categories, and this is probably voters’ best opportunity to award the film. And it helps that editor Christopher Rouse is a huge name in the industry who has won here before.

1. Captain Phillips
2. Gravity
3. American Hustle
4. 12 Years a Slave
5. Dallas Buyers Club

Best Adapted Screenplay

There were a slew of fantastic scripts this year, and all 10 screenplay nominees are deserving representatives of that fact. As for a winner, though, the Adapted side appears to be a pretty easy call. Before Midnight is really in the wrong category, but it doesn’t matter, as the nomination is its reward. The Wolf of Wall Street is the best of the five, in my opinion, but hasn’t been getting as much recognition in the lead-up as the others have. Philomena just won the BAFTA and could be considered a spoiler on the merit of Steve Coogan alone. Captain Phillips won the WGA, which might make you think frontrunner. But 12 Years a Slave was ineligible for the guild strict rules. Ridley’s script is all anybody’s talking about. This may be the surest award of the night for that film.

1. 12 Years a Slave (John Ridley)
2. Philomena (Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope)
3. Captain Phillips (Billy Ray)
4. The Wolf of Wall Street (Terence Winter)
5. Before Midnight (Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Richard Linklater

Best Original Screenplay

Unlike its sister category, Original Screenplay is one of the toughest to call. It’s an incredibly tight race, with 2 films going neck-and-neck. They are all fantastic, though Blue Jasmine is like bringing up there rear, not least because of Woody Allen’s damning scandal resurfacing in the media, but also because it’s the only film not nominated for Best Pic. Nebraska, meanwhile, may be my favorite of the group, and while Alexander Payne didn’t write it himself, his films have an excellent track record in this category. The Academy clearly loves Dallas Buyers Club, which surprised in many more places than expected, and I could even see it winning if the next two split the votes and knock each other out. But those other two are way out in front: Spike Jonze’ Her is the more quirky “writerly” type of script that usually does well here. It also just recently beat out its rival American Hustle for the WGA award. But the latter tied Gravity (sadly missing here) for the most nominations, and is arguably still a close third for the Best Picture. It’s clearly beloved by the Academy, and this may be their best opportunity to finally give David O. Russell his first Oscar. Still I’m giving Jonze the edge by the ever-so-slightest of margins.

1. Her (Spike Jonze)
2. American Hustle (David O. Russell, Eric Singer)
3. Dallas Buyers Club (Craig Borton, Melisa Wallack)
4. Nebraska (Bob Nelson)
5. Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen)

 

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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