Saturday, March 1, 2014

Final Oscar Predictions

It's almost here...and over.  This exceedingly long awards season (prolonged a week further thanks to the Winter Olympics) will come to a conclusion in nearly twenty-four hours time and well, it's been a bit of bumpy ride.  2013, by most accounts an above average (if mildly over-praised) calendar year comes to a close with many races still fairly tight.  Will surprises abound?  I suppose they already have considering the Best Picture prize is still not the for-sure guarantee that it usually is the night before Hollywood's biggest night.  And for all the nuttiness that occurred last season, the 2013 awards season has been even more rule-breaking and slightly infuriating-- yes, Ben Affleck's lack of a Best Director nomination was unprecedented, but Argo was a clean-sweeper once the guilds had their say.

2013 is way more nutballs by comparison with 12 Years a Slave and Gravity as the dueling, flip-a-coin frontrunners, while wily American Hustle hopes to messy up Oscar predictions even further-- the David O. Russell con job raked in 10 nominations (the most ever for this year-- tied with Gravity.)  While a great many races appear almost neatly settled, there's still quite a few of those nagging categories that will leave us in suspense until the envelope is open...and Best Picture is one of them.  Phew!  Here's my feeble attempt to break down the 2013 Oscar race.  I will go in the order in which the Oscars where presented at last years ceremony.

Five dudes, all of whom are in movie nominated for Best Picture, compete and four of them will in all likelihood graciously clap when Jared Leto's name is called for Dallas Buyers Club.  Surprisingly, a challenger never really took shape throughout the season as Leto streamlined through the awards circuit winning nearly everything in sight.  Even, if only for a second, he looked vulnerable after a bit of fuss to his Golden Globe speech spelled slight trouble, the actor and 60 Seconds From Mars front-man adjusted and never looked back.  Barkhad Abdi recently won the BAFTA (a prize that Leto strangely wasn't up for) for his role in Captain Phillips and Michael Fassbender looked a threat before the race started for 12 Years a Slave and his adamant, non-campaigning fuss, but neither looks to challenge.
Prediction: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

The short films used to be a sore ache in the Oscar prediction game, but after least years decision to open up voting to all Academy members added with the slight uptick in notoriety for shorts (all of them were granted brief theatrical releases this year), perhaps that's a thing of the past.  This year, the frontrunner is likely Get a Horse, the bouncy old school meets new school Mickey Mouse hybrid that played in front of Frozen.  It is easily the most seen of the five films and, as a novelty, would provide Mickey his first Oscar-winning vehicle ever.  Feral and Mr. Hublot have fans and warm critical notices, but expect Get a Horse to triumph.

Prediction: Get a Horse

Things looked dire in this category until Frozen blew in and became a worldwide phenomenon, nearly ensuring an animated feature Oscar for the Mouse House on top of its (almost) billion dollar gross.  The art housers admire The Wind Rises but this looks to be one of the easier predictions of the evening.

Prediction: Frozen

The last few years, the Cinematography Oscar has been in a bit of rut, honoring effects-heavy behemoths like Avatar, Hugo and Life of Pi sparking a debate as to the efforts of the Director of Photography versus a film's visual effects artists.  Well, with Gravity so far ahead of the pack this year, that debate will linger at least a year longer, but the silver lining is that multiple nominee, but Oscar-less Emmanuel Lubezki (the poet who shot Y Tu Mama Tambien,Children of Men, The Tree of Life, The New World, Sleepy Hollow) will garner a statue, and that's a good thing.  The competition is impressive (Inside Llewyn Davis, The Grandmaster, Nebraska and Prisoners), but this is one (of potentially very many) awards in the bag for Gravity.
Prediction: Gravity

Well, The Lone Ranger had those exciting train sequences and Iron Man 3 featured that pretty incredible Malibu estate destruction sequence and The Hobbit had Smaug and Star Trek Into Darkness, well, was nominated.  Gravity had this category in the bag likely the second the idea popped into Alfonso Cuarón's brain.  You can bet the house of this one.  Also, it the only Best Picture contender in the field, and Picture nominees have prevailed here ever since The Curious Case of Benjamin Button won in 2009.

Prediction: Gravity

This is one the only below-the-line category that Gravity isn't nominated for, so this could be a place for the Academy to share the wealth a bit with Best Picture nominees 12 Years a Slave (CDG winner) or American Hustle (all that 70s-era cleavage), but my hunch is that The Great Gatsby, with it's more-is-more, Spectacular! Spectacular! designs, will win out.  Costume Design is one of the few areas the Academy has, more often than not, went for the most-of versus most nominated (recent winners include Anna Karenina, Marie Antoinette and The Duchess.)

Prediction: The Great Gatsby

Give the Academy a bit of credit (or something) for outside the box thinking with Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa netting an Oscar nomination, of course Make-up and Hairstyling has seen more than its fair share of wacky one-offs (Click, Norbit.)  Still this one is likely an easy win for Dallas Buyers Club.  Would have been a real race had American Hustle ("Explosion at the Wig Factory") or The Great Gatsby been invited to play.

Prediction: Dallas Buyers Club 

The hardest of the short categories, as the slate is varied, but not all-together strong.  The French Just Before Losing Everything should win, because it's the best (to my estimation, by far), but faces stiff competition from The Voorman Problem (the only short in English and featuring famous players-- including The Hobbit's Martin Freeman) and mostly, from my presumed best bet to win, Hellium, the effects-heavy sentimental favorite about a dying child.
Prediction: Hellium

On the other hand, the documentary short slate is pretty terrific across the board, with a deserving case to be made for each of the five contenders.  The favorite to win is The Lady in Number 6, a profile of the oldest living Holocaust survivor (who passed away last weekend.)

Prediction: The Lady in Number 6

The Act of Killing was my favorite film of 2013 and is deserving is so many ways.  If the critics were choosing or if I were allowed to rule the Oscar universe, it would handily win in a heartbeat.  However, it's a dense, haunting mindfuck of movie, one that leaves the viewer provoked and bothered and with a, well, less than thrilling view of humanity-- it's third place at best by my estimation.  The Square, on the other hand, is bracing and topical and alert and clear-eyed about Egypt's presently terse condition and extraordinarily well made and presented with a hopeful optimism of the future-- it's a strong second place, or perhaps spoiler (it won the DGA award recently-- that helps.  Then there's 20 Feet From Stardom, a lighter but Academy-friendlier tale of back-up singers that's been promoting for this award since it opened last summer-- it's the most seen of the nominees likely by far and with Documentary open to all Academy member, your likely winner.

Prediction: 20 Feet From Stardom

A tougher category to gauge as there's no Amour-like steamroller this year, and with the entire Academy (for the first time) able to vote on foreign film, anything may happen, there's no rules to lean on to.  The Hunt had a summer release and earned strong reviews, The Broken Circle Breakdown seems like a film right up the Academy's alley, but The Great Beauty (Globe and European Film Award winner) evokes Fellini and may take it because it likely is most seen of the group (at present time, Great Beauty has grossed more stateside than any of the five nominees.)

Prediction: The Great Beauty

It would be really cool if Inside Llewyn Davis, which featured Oscar Isaac's beautiful voice to such great extent, could contend here, but it's Gravity all the way.

Prediction: Gravity

The sound categories usually match up (except for last year and that crazy Sound Editing tie that ruined Oscar predictions for everyone) and they usually match up in nominees too.  Four of the five films garnered both categories.  Assume Gravity wins both.

Prediction: Gravity

Oy!  This is the biggest headache of the year.  All season, Lupita Nyong'o and Jennifer Lawrence have volleyed back and forth, back and forth.  Flip a coin and pray.  It's almost to point that I want to put my hands up, cry "Uncle" and proclaim that June Squibb will triumph over the two dueling ingenues merely out of rebellion.  And hey, it may just happen if votes get siphoned off one another in such a way.  Between Jennifer Lawrence (biggest movie star of the now + Globe win + BAFTA win) and Nyong'o (biggest fashionista of the 2013 awards circuit + SAG win + Critic's Choice win), it really is just too close to be absolutely sure, but Lawrence did just win and back-to-back Oscars for a 23-year-old seems like possibly just too tall an order, even for someone on top of the world.
Prediction: Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave

It seemed like Gravity would sail through Film Editing in a breeze, and along with it Alfonso Cuarón would follow James Cameron and win prizes for both Direction and Editing, until it didn't.  There is a case made for each of the nominees, all of whom are Best Picture nominee (except perhaps for Dallas Buyers Club, which surprised a nod here and should just enjoy the mention.)  In a share the wealth kind of move, Captain Phillips, looks to upset here, just as it did at the ACE Eddie Awards.

Prediction: Captain Phillips

A toss-up.  A win for 12 Years a Slave may call a tight Best Picture race or a win for American Hustle could give it a prize somewhere, but Gravity may squeeze a win in a sweep.  Then there's The Great Gatsby, with its opulence and utter big-ness that may appear to eye candy-ish to ignore.  Then there's Her, which is wonderfully designed and would be my pick in a heartbeat, but is likely too subtle to win.  This category has shown a bit of personality in recent years with Hugo, Avatar and Alice in Wonderland winning, but last year, Best Picture also-ran Lincoln won for more subtle historical drapery.  I'm going with Gatsby, but only slightly.

My prediction: The Great Gatsby

Gravity's score is loudest and the showiest, but you can't count out Saving Mr. Banks or Philomena and their respective composers-- Thomas Newman and Alexandre Desplat-- both multiple nominees with zero statues quite out either.  I'm rooting for Her and Arcade Fire's blissfully melancholic score, but Gravity is the safest bet.

Prediction: Gravity

"Alone Yet Not Alone" gave this category an unnecessary jolt of controversy, and with it's nomination rescinded, it mark's a decent four-nominee race with Frozen's "Let it Go," a chart-topping, million YouTube coverer phenom.  It's ahead, but watch out for U2's Golden Globe winning "Ordinary Love" or "Happy" from recent Grammy winner Pharrell Williams.  Her's lovely "The Moon Song," a quirky ditty be stills my heart.
Prediction: "Let it Go," Frozen 

Before Midnight would be my favorite here in a cakewalk, but my vote matters nil, so look for 12 Years a Slave to claim a victory here, perhaps more so out of default than pure love and respect for the film.  The writer, John Ridley, crossed picket lines during the writer's strike a few years back, which likely merits him not everyone's favorite, but the film is big and important and a win here would be the easiest validation for 12 Years in such a highly competitive race.  Some pundits are pointing to Philomena to upset here, but I don't quite buy the "Philomania."

Prediction: 12 Years a Slave- John Ridley

I may be in tears (either way, perhaps) over the eventual outcome of this race.  Spike Jonze won the Golden Globe, Critic's Choice and the WGA Award for his wonderfully (and perfectly original) Her, but American Hustle (along with it's 9 other Oscar nominations) look likely to prevail here.  It's the only race American Hustle (outside of Supporting Actress) really has much of chance and all that love (especially from the actors) likely cement it a win.  I...just...can't.

Prediction: American Hustle- Eric Warren Singer & David O. Russell 

There's still lingering doubts over what will win Best Picture, but Director isn't under no such debate as this rule-bending year will reward Alfonso Cuarón for the technical mastery of his Gravity.  With the DGA in toe, along with nearly every other prize this season, it would be hard-pressed to predict anyone else.  While Steve McQueen would be the first black director to win the Directors prize, Cuarón would make history too-- he'd become the first Hispanic director to claim a statue, so there's that too.

Prediction: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity

"Alright, alright, alright." Matthew McConaughey, afresh with his renaissance and adorned with his True Detective skills appears likely to emerge on top for his performance in Dallas Buyers Club.  At this point, it kind of seems inconceivable that anyone can challenge despite the efforts of a top-notch field and one of the most competitive races of the season (or any season) and one that's been a cliffhanger from the start.
Prediction: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

Not even the Woody Allen drama could put a dent on Cate Blanchett's bid for the Best Actress Oscar.  She's been the frontrunner since Blue Jasmine opened last summer and has won virtually everything in sight.  She's too far ahead, too respected, too Cate Blanchett to be defeated.  Amy Adams, you're likely officially overdue.
Prediction: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

It's still a bit unnerving (and kind of exciting) that for the first times in eons, the top award, can't be seen a mile away-- it really all the PGA's fault and that blasted tie.  And so Gravity and 12 Years a Slave come to top award both rallying for the driver's seat, as American Hustle tries to lunge forward with a surprise attack.  However, if there's been one constant this awards season (starting at the Golden Globes and continuing through the Critic's Choice, PGA and BAFTA), 12 Years a Slave has ended the night with the big win, despite little or no heat prior.  In a bid for the Academy to "do the right thing" or perhaps my mind is just shot, I expect 12 Years to narrowly squeak by.
Prediction: 12 Years a Slave

Agree?  Disagree?  Voice off in the comments and let's complain or congratulate one another right afterward.                         

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