Okay, let’s talk about the Oscars. I’ll pick all of the categories. For the top six I’ll say who I think will win and whom I want to win, and I’ll give some commentary. Overall there’s no one picture that strikes me as dominant, and while several are Oscar worthy, it’s hard to see any of them becoming the next great classic of American Cinema. All in all this year’s winners will be more like Ordinary People and less like The Godfather. Okay, here goes. Correct picks in green, incorrect in red.
Who will win: 12 Years a Slave
Who I want to win: Nebraska
Early indications are that the race boils down to American Hustle and 12 Years a Slave, the two best picture winners from the Golden Globes. 12 Years a Slave won BAFTA, so I think it is the favorite to win best picture. I had some problems with the perspective of the narrative as I discussed before, but it is a worthy picture. Truth is, none of the films nominated are likely to stand the test of time, even though all of them are quality films. I liked Nebraska because of its cinematic beauty and its economy of story and dialogue. It is too small of a movie to win, but you should go see it if you haven’t.
Who Will win: Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyer’s Club)
Who I want to win: Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
Okay, in fairness I didn’t see McConaughy’s film, but he’s a good actor and if he wins, I’m sure he’ll deserve it. Of the other four, for me it’s a toss-up between Leonardo DiCaprio and Bruce Dern. I’m going with Dern because he did so much more with less. DiCaprio’s role required a lot of him, sure, but Dern is able to convey so much just by looking out a car at the open sky. That takes talent. As an aside, Tom Hanks deserved a nomination for Captain Phillips.
Who will win: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Who I want to win: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
I never saw Blue Jasmine, but every indication is Blanchett is going to win for the role, and good, I’m glad. I’m glad partly because I wasn’t overly impressed by the other nominees here. Amy Adams gets credit for playing against type, but I never understood what was so enthralling about her character. I walked out of both Gravity and August: Osage County thinking I finally understood what it meant to “chew the scenery.” Judi Dench is Judi Dench, but I’m going with Blanchett.
Best Supporting Actor
Who will win: Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
Who I want to win: Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
The performances in this category are stellar and in many ways drive the films in which they appear. Fassbender makes 12 Years a Slave work as well as it does, but Captain Phillips would be nothing without Abdi. In his first screen role, Abdi is captivating in his ability to bring a range of emotions and vulnerability to a role that runs the risk of being one-dimensional. It’s even doubly impressive given his relative inexperience. Sadly, it’s hard to see how a white-washed Hollywood will have much use for Abdi going forward, but I hope screenwriters are paying attention and write compelling roles for him.
Best Supporting Actress
Who Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Who I Want to Win: June Squibb (Nebraska)
There are indications that Lawrence’s talent combined with her popularity makes her an unstoppable juggernaut when it comes to these things. If she wins my major complaint would be how much alike this role is to her winning role in last year’s Silver Linings Playbook. She does Suburban Crazy well, but I think she do more. June Squibb is delightful in Nebraska. Her scene in the graveyard as she taunts dead relatives and old lovers is as funny and poignant as anything I saw from 2013. Anyone here would be a worthy victor, but I’m on Team Squibb.
Who will win: Alexander Cuarón (Gravity)
Who I want to Win: Alexander Payne (Nebraska)
Directing is about vision, not just visuals. Gravity is a very cool movie to watch, no doubt, and Cuarón is the one who makes that possible. But I can’t forgive him the ham-fisted “rebirth” plotline that has Sandra Bullock emerging back into the world weak, naked, and wet. Subtlety, Mr. Cuarón, learn a little subtlety! Payne is the artist whose vision and visuals most impressed of this group. He refuses to treat the viewer like a child while making a film that is effortless in ability to captivate its audience. He deserves the award. As a side note on David O. Russell, American Hustle borrows so much from Scorsese’s cinematic style, especially from Goodfellas, that if he wins when nominated against Scorsese, it will be an outrage. No one can out-Scorsese Martin Scorsese.
My Picks for The Rest (without comment)
Best Animated Feature: Frozen
Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity)
Costume Design: Michael Wilkinson (American Hustle)
Documentary Feature: The Act of Killing
Documentary Short Subject: “Facing Fear”
Film Editing: Joe Walker (12 Years A Slave)
Foreign Language Film: The Great Beauty
Makeup and Hairstyling: Adruitha Lee and Robin Matthews (Dallas Buyers Club)
Original Score: Thomas Newman (Saving Mr. Banks)
Original Song: “Let It Go” (Frozen)
Production Design: Adam Stockhausen and Alice Baker (12 Years a Slave)
Animated Short Film: “Possessions”
Live Action Short Film: “Helium”
Sound Editing: Glenn Freemantle (Gravity)
Sound Mixing: Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland (Inside Llewyn Davis)
Visual Effects: Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, David Shirk, Neil Corbould (Gravity)
Adapted Screenplay: Terence Winter (Wolf of Wall Street)
Original Screenplay: Spike Jonze (Her)