2013 was a great year for film. When so many are decrying the death of cinema, movies like these remind us that there are plenty of ideas and adventures left to explore. This year in particular we were treated to many films that break the traditional mold of Oscar fare. What was once a celebration of old, dry, period set dramas is now recognizing a younger and more diverse group of filmmakers. Here is the list of those films I believe will be honored this year at…
The 86th Annual Academy Awards
(P.S. – I didn’t include the nominees for short films because…well, nobody really cares about the short films.)
Writing – Original Screenplay
Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell, “American Hustle”; Woody Allen, “Blue Jasmine”; Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack, “Dallas Buyers Club”; Spike Jonze, “Her”; Bob Nelson, “Nebraska.”
While other films on this list such as Dallas Buyers Club, Blue Jasmine and American Hustle may have more memorable scenes and dialogue, I think the concept of Her will win the hearts of the Academy and show some love for a film that won’t win much else.
Writing – Adapted Screenplay
Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, “Before Midnight”; Billy Ray, “Captain Phillips”; Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, “Philomena”; John Ridley, “12 Years a Slave”; Terence Winter, “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
Because I believe 12 Years a Slave will also receive Best Picture, I think the Academy will also recognize the ability to adapt a relatively unknown work of American Fiction into a masterpiece. Out of the nominees, 12 Years a Slave will arguably have the most staying power thanks to its memorable scenes, characters and dialogue.
“Gravity,” ”The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” ”Iron Man 3,” ”The Lone Ranger,” ”Star Trek Into Darkness.”
As you will see, I have Gravity sweeping the technical categories. Visual Effects is a no-brainer as virtually everything except the actor’s faces were computer generated. (Legend has it that a reporter even asked Alfonso Cuaron about the difficulties of shooting in space.)
“Captain Phillips,” ”Gravity,” ”The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” ”Inside Llewyn Davis,” ”Lone Survivor.”
While the prominence of music in Inside Llewyn Davis may be a factor, the impact of the sound design for Gravity is unparalleled. With so few lines of dialogue and the black background of space, sound shines as a major force in Gravity.
“All Is Lost,” ”Captain Phillips,” ”Gravity,” ”The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” ”Lone Survivor.”
See rationale for Sound Mixing.
“American Hustle,” ”Gravity,” ”The Great Gatsby,” ”Her,” ”12 Years a Slave.”
This may be a long shot but I see The Great Gatsby taking a surprise win here for its expansive Art Deco inspired design. American Hustle and Her would be my backup picks, however American Hustle’s visual signature is more related to hairstyling (for which it isn’t even nominated) and costume design. Her could sneak in a win for its ability to craft a believable near future where technology is woven through every aspect of our lives. However, because The Great Gatsby’s production design is far more bombastic, I think it’ll ultimately take home the Oscar.
Music – Original Song
“Alone Yet Not Alone” from “Alone Yet Not Alone,” Bruce Broughton and Dennis Spiegel; “Happy” from “Despicable Me 2,” Pharrell Williams; “Let It Go” from “Frozen,” Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez; “The Moon Song” from “Her,” Karen O and Spike Jonze; “Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen.
This is essentially between “Let it Go” and “Happy”. I have Happy winning because well…I like it better. Because of its recognition outside of the film community, I think the Academy will see it as having a larger impact and more success.
Music – Original Score
“The Book Thief,” John Williams; “Gravity,” Steven Price; “Her,” William Butler and Owen Pallett; “Philomena,” Alexandre Desplat; “Saving Mr. Banks,” Thomas Newman.
Her had the most memorable score out of any of these films and I believe that will earn William Butler and Owen Pallett an Oscar.
Makeup and Hairstyling
“Dallas Buyers Club,” ”Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa,” ”The Lone Ranger.”
While the makeup and hair in Bad Grandpa and The Lone Ranger were noteworthy, they aren’t “respectable films” which will undoubtedly hurt them. Plus, we have to acknowledge the power of the story behind Dallas Buyers Club’s makeup budget. The makeup artist, Robin Matthews had an unprecedented $250 for the entire film’s makeup and prosthetics. When they ran out of money, Matthew’s had to borrow cornmeal from her mother to do a rash on Jared Leto’s face.
Foreign Language Film
“The Broken Circle Breakdown,” Belgium; “The Great Beauty,” Italy; “The Hunt,” Denmark; “The Missing Picture,” Cambodia; “Omar,” Palestine.
To be honest, I haven’t seen any of these and The Broken Circle Breakdown is the only one I’ve heard of…so let’s give it an Oscar.
“American Hustle,” ”Captain Phillips,” ”Dallas Buyers Club,” ”Gravity,” ”12 Years a Slave.”
Again, this being a technical award and Gravity being such a technical movie, I have to give it to Gravity. The anxiety and tension we feel throughout Gravity is largely a result of fantastic sound design, visual design and yes…editing.
“The Act of Killing,” ”Cutie and the Boxer,” ”Dirty Wars,” ”The Square,” ”20 Feet from Stardom.”
The Act of Killing has gotten the most press by far and I believe to have made the largest social impact of any of the films on this list. For that reason, it gets an Oscar.
“American Hustle,” ”The Grandmaster,” ”The Great Gatsby,” ”The Invisible Woman,” ”12 Years a Slave.”
Many have criticized American Hustle for relying too much on costume design and aesthetics, however we can’t criticize it without recognizing it. Whether it’s the pervasive use of leisure suits or side-boob, American Hustle has best Costume Design written all over it.
“The Grandmaster,” ”Gravity,” ”Inside Llewyn Davis,” ”Nebraska,” ”Prisoners.”
Another technical award and another win for Gravity. Although Inside Llewyn David might beat it because it wasn’t recognized in other categories and Prisoners may be a huge upset out of sheer respect for it’s unrecognized master Roger Deakins. Prisoners isn’t exactly a great film, but Deakins who has shot more amazing film than any living soul has been nominated for Cinematography 11 times, and has never won. Perhaps he’s due.
“The Croods”; “Despicable Me 2”; “Ernest & Celestine”; “Frozen”; “The Wind Rises.”
The Wind Rises is arguably the better picture, but Disney has clout in the states and Frozen is a much more accessible film.
Actress in a Supporting Role
Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine”’; Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”; Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”; Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County”; June Squibb, “Nebraska.”
Critics say this is ultimately between Jennifer Lawrence and Lupita Nyong’o . I say Jennifer Lawrence has had her Oscar love and the Academy will vote for the more touching performance.
Actor in a Supporting Role
Barkhad Abdi, “Captain Phillips”; Bradley Cooper, “American Hustle”; Michael Fassbender, “12 Years a Slave”; Jonah Hill, “The Wolf of Wall Street”; Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club.”
The Academy loves a physical transformation, period pieces and big showy performances, which is why I think Jared Leto will take home the golden statue.
Actress in a Leading Role
Amy Adams, “American Hustle”; Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”; Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”; Judi Dench, “Philomena”; Meryl Streep, “August: Osage County.”
Cate Blanchett probably deserves the Oscar more for her performance, but because Amy Adams has been nominated 5 times (in her short career) and has never won, I think the Academy will want to honor her past performances with a win for her role in American Hustle.
Actor in a Leading Role
Christian Bale, “American Hustle”; Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”; Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street”; Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”; Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club.”
Similarly to Amy Adams, Leo has been nominated 5 times and has also never won. Unlike the best actress category though, best actor is completely up for grabs. All these men give extraordinary, memorable performances that would earn them an Oscar in lesser years. This year however I think they’ll show their love for Leonardo DiCaprio’s balls to the wall performance in The Wolf of Wall Street.
David O. Russell, “American Hustle”; Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity”; Alexander Payne, “Nebraska”; Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”; Martin Scorsese, “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
Steve McQueen may very well win for 12 Years a Slave, but I feel like the Academy still views him as an outsider, unlike Alfonso Cuaron who has shown he can bridge the gap between studio fare, (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) independent drama, (Y Tu Mamá También) and now spectacle with Gravity. Plus, I think the Academy feels guilty for snubbing his directorial efforts on Children of Men, which in my book adds up to an Oscar.
“American Hustle,” ”Captain Phillips,” ”Dallas Buyers Club,” ”Gravity,” ”Her,” ”Nebraska,” ”Philomena,” ”12 Years a Slave,” ”The Wolf of Wall Street.”
What a tough year. The academy is notorious for picking slow, plodding, depressing movies and while my pick is certainly depressing, it also has created the largest social impact of any of these movies. 12 Years a Slave is the hands down favorite for Best Picture and I’m not going against the tide on this one.