It’s Oscar time once again, and what would that time be without a little speculation on who will take home the coveted little gold guys?
It seems like I say this every year, but once again, I’ve seen so few of the candidates, that I would be woefully ill-equipped to make a decision based on seeing the films in their entirety. So with that in mind, I take hold of the only format that affords me enough time to make an even minutely-informed opinion – the trailers. Below you will see my predictions for who will win, as well as my personal preferences of who should win. Let’s speculate together, shall we?
UPDATE: The actual winners have been added. Still haven’t gotten the 100% correct, but not bad this year! 22 out of 24 is my best score to date! Haven’t graded all the student predictions, but odds are, I held my title for another year. Until next year, everyone!
Who Will Probably Win: 12 Years a Slave
Actual Winner: 12 Years a Slave
This is going to be a close category this year, with several strong contenders to take the trophy. But, in trying to weigh in the politics and historical tendencies of the Academy, it seems like 12 Years a Slave will hang onto the win. It’s already a close race, but the Academy tends to lean toward films it feels have significance, specifically if they’re connected to a weighty issue – and this film fits the bill. Not to mention the Academy does not favor Science Fiction films for Best Picture. (Still bitter at Annie Hall over Star Wars.) Don’t get me wrong, 12 Years a Slave is deserving on all levels, but in a close race, you have to look for the potential distinguishers. That said, I won’t be surprised if Gravity pulls out the win.
Who Will Probably Win: Alfonso Cuaron - Gravity
Actual Winner: Alfonso Cuaron
It’s rare to see a Best Picture / Best Director split, but this year looks to be one of those years. (Unless Gravity pulls the rug out from under 12 Years a Slave.) I give a shout out to my hometown director, Alexander Payne, but even he has to acknowledge that this just isn’t his year. Cuaron has some seriously quality films under his belt, including Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Y Tu Mamâ Tambiên, and Children of Eden. But in this case, it comes down to the fact that Cuaron’s latest film just left people sitting in the theatre in awe saying “how the heck did they do that?” (Even at the shots in the trailer.) Way back when I first heard he was making a picture called Gravity with very few details being released, people were eagerly awaiting the end product. It looks like Cuaron should now eagerly be awaiting hearing his name called on Oscar night.
Who Will Probably Win: Matthew McConaughey - Dallas Buyer’s Club
Actual Winner: Matthew McConaughey
Alright, alright, alright. The man has already swept up most of the performance awards this season, and it doesn’t look like the Academy Awards will be any different. He followed the stock formula – notable physical transformation, edgy subject matter, and departure from your usual performance. Bale also pulled the physical transformation card, but he won his Oscar a few years back. I really enjoy Chiwetel Ejiofor’s work, but I don’t think it’s enough to take the trophy. Hopefully McConaughey has another loopy speech planned for us this time around.
Who Will Probably Win: Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine
Who I Want to Win: Amy Adams
Actual Winner: Cate Blanchett
Here’s the category I most want to be wrong about. No offense to Cate Blanchett, I’m sure she gave an inspired performance in Woody Allen’s latest “my life’s a hot mess” movie, but Amy Adams is due. The woman has been in more Oscar-nominated films and roles in the past few years than anyone else I can think of, but still doesn’t have an Oscar of her own. Blanchett has one. In fact, so does every other nominee in this category. So although the trends seem to be pointing toward Blanchett…. I really want to be wrong here and see Adams tearfully overwhelmed that finally after years of being the bridesmaid, she gets to be Oscar’s bride.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Who Will Probably Win: Jared Leto - Dallas Buyer’s Club
Actual Winner: Jared Leto
Talk about a role that gets the attention of the voting community. When people have to second guess who it is that’s actually playing a role, you know you’ve got a winner. Leto said something in an interview to the effect that he knew he had to play this role, like it was calling to him. My guess is it was simply repeating the word “Oscar” over and over.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Who Will Probably Win: Lupita Nyong’o - 12 Years a Slave
Actual Winner: Lupita Nyong’o
Okay, this is another close category, with a lot of debate going between Nyong’o and Jennifer Lawrence. They’ve relatively split the acting awards this season, but I want to believe that with J-La having won her award just last year, the Academy will be looking to spread their favor to more people. The sentimentalist in me would like to see June Squibb win simply to see a sweet little old lady being thankful to win an award in her 80s, but as lovable as Squibb’s performance was, Nyong’o's had the intensity of an Oscar winner.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Who Will Probably Win: Frozen
Actual Winner: Frozen
Yep. Not much to say about why. Despicable Me 2 was great, better even than the first, Ernest & Celestine has a really unique animation style, and has had some buzz worthiness, The Wind Rises was banking on the “Miyazaki’s final film” aspect carrying it to the finish line, and The Croods was…. well, it was. But Disney unleashed the full fury of its musical-making, animation powerhouse, and without a serious Pixar film (i.e. not a sequel) to compete against, it stands to take home another well-earned statue.
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY & VISUAL EFFECTS
Who Will Probably Win: Gravity
Actual Winner: Gravity
Looking to ease the pain of not winning Best Picture, Gravity is going to sweep up in a lot of other areas. Not that it isn’t completely deserving in this regard. Those sweeping vistas of space, the use of contrast in the emptiness of space with a single astronaut drifting about, it’s a very deserving category to win in. In terms of the other nominees, The Grandmaster brings back that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon meets The Matrix visual style that’s been done so many times before, Inside Llewyn Davis looks to fit in nicely with the Coen’s other films at being visually elegant, but not wow-worthy, Nebraska is unconventionally shot in black and white, but The Artist already did that for a more content-relevant reason, and Prisoners…. well, not having seen it I can only assume it does things no one has even thought of doing because otherwise it kind of showed up out of the blue in this category. Gravity should, and will float away with this category. And for Visual Effects – ditto. The others have been done before (in fact, most are sequels), this is spectacle based in realism, that leaves the audience questioning what’s real and what isn’t. And that’s the equation for Oscar gold.
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN & BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Who Will Probably Win: The Great Gatsby
Actual Winner: The Great Gatsby
What can I say, I love the work that Baz Luhrmann and company do. It’s such a vibrant, hyper-realism look and feel to everything that no matter what the content, you can’t help but just soak in the ambiance. I even found myself forgetting the film was based on a book because it all just seemed so outlandishly bold that it had to be original. Normally the way to pick the winner in Costume Design is to choose the period piece. The problem this go round is that they’re ALL period pieces. So in that case, the tie-breaker goes to the one with the boldest period, and a Baz Luhrmann 20s beats an authentic 70s any day.
Who Will Probably Win: Dallas Buyer’s Club
Actual Winner: Dallas Buyer’s Club
BEST SOUND MIXING & EDITING
Who Will Probably Win: Gravity
Actual Winner: Gravity
In space, no one can hear…. well anything, really. It’s a vacuum. But if Joss Whedon’s backing down from the choice of “silence in space” on his show Firefly when making the movie Serenity taught us anything, it’s that audiences don’t want authentic, they want immersive. Therefore the team on Gravity was faced with the task of creating it all, and in many cases, using sound to ground an otherwise intentionally-adrift bit of storytelling.
BEST SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)
Who Will Probably Win: Get a Horse!
Actual Winner: Mr. Hublot
Disney looks to take back-to-back Oscars for the Short Film (Animated) category following Paperman‘s win last year. Get a Horse! is a throwback to Mickey Mouse cartoons of yore, and apparently fully embraces the benefits of 3D movie-watching. Add to that the fact that it was placed in front of the obvious front-runner for best feature-length animated film, and you’ve got a recipe for a lot people knowing the film. Based on the trailers, Feral had a more interesting animation style, and Mr. Hublot had a very cool 3D-animated look to it, but I’m not sure they can take down the popularity of the Mouse House on this one.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Who Will Probably Win: “Let it Go” - Frozen
Actual Winner: “Let it Go”
Frankly I’ve been humming Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” for weeks now, and his site 24hoursofhappy.com is an awesome experiment in making the world’s’ first 24-hour music video. But we all know how this is going to play out, so don’t act surprised.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Who Will Probably Win: Steven Price – Gravity
Actual Winner: Steven Price - Gravity
I love movie scores. A good score can carry a film way further emotionally than so many of the other elements. If you ever get a chance to watch a scene from a movie without the music behind it, you’ll see what I’m talking about. Now, I love John Williams, but it seems like the man is just automatically guaranteed a nomination, with little chance of securing the win. Desplat won last year with The Artist, so it’s too soon for him, Butler & Palett’s music for Her fit perfectly with the quirky nature of the film, but probably won’t garner enough support, and as much as I also love Newman’s work, I would be amazed to see him take it for Saving Mr. Banks. Steven Price is an Oscar newcomer, but his music editing history is pretty notable. He worked on editing music for films such as Batman Begins, The Lord of the Rings movies, and a personal favorite, Scott Pilgrim vs the World. Although I find the score a little repetitive to listen to on its own, it sets the mood perfectly for the film, and should bring Price a little Oscar love.
CATEGORIES I DON’T HAVE A STRONG OPINION ON:
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY - Her
Actual Winner: Her
Spike Jonze is a great storyteller – make no bones about it. Whatever else the film is, whatever other categories it falls short on, this one might be where it ekes out a win.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY - 12 Years a Slave
Actual Winner: 12 Years a Slave
It’s rare for a film to take Best Picture and not win in any other categories. I’m going to throw this one in their camp to help prop up a potential Best Picture win.
BEST FOREIGN FILM - The Great Beauty
Actual Winner: The Great Beauty
Shot in the dark here. Had some of the better looking camera work in the trailer, and that super-artsy feel that gives a certain allure to foreign films.
BEST DOCUMENTARY – 20 Feet from Stardom
Actual Winner: 20 Feet from Stardom
Frankly the only upbeat nominee in the bunch. I’m voting for it simply because it’s the only one that doesn’t make me hate the crappy state of the world. Could go to The Act of Killing, but, again, that one is depressing.
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT - The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Actual Winner: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Take one super-old lady, add an overtly-charming sense of optimism, mix in a little piano-playing, add the fact that she’s a Holocaust survivor, and multiply the fact that she recently passed away, and you can just lock my personal vote in for the win. I could be wrong, but at this point, if there’s any justice in the universe, I won’t be.
BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION) – Helium
Actual Winner: Helium
It’s a film about a sick kid in the hospital. Add some cool visual effects to the heartwarmingness, and I’m willing to say it might beat out the competition.
BEST FILM EDITING - Captain Phillips
Actual Winner: Gravity
I really don’t have any idea on this one. All are valid options. But this might be one category that the Academy gives some love to a film not nominated anywhere else, and I still have a soft spot in my heart for Tom Hanks who was sadly not nominated.
And that, as they say, is that! Let’s see how we do. Last two years I scored 19 out of 24 categories correct. Can I beat my previous scores? Can I beat my students’ scores? We’ll find out tonight!