Every year a lot of great films aren’t eligible to be nominate for an Academy Award. This happens because some companies don’t bother making sure to be eligible because they know they have no shot at nominations. Three films that I would’ve strongly considered for some of the awards below, that weren’t eligible this year, are Beyond the Hills, Laurence Anyways and Upstream Color.
Best Picture is the award each year, above everything else. I rarely find myself agreeing with The Academy on their choice. In fairness, I usually find that to my surprise, my #1 film is at least nominated (three of the last five years). This year, my #1 film, The Past, has been completely left off from The Academy. This is not much to my dismay though, as Gravity was a very close second place. As for what will win? I don’t know, it’s a very hard year to predict. The stats suggest Gravity with a slight advantage, but logic sways towards American Hustle for its fun nature (i.e. Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech) or 12 Years a Slave for importance (The Hurt Locker, Schindler’s List). I really just don’t know, but I’m betting on 12 Years a Slave or Gravity because, well, I just can’t believe that The Academy could award Best Picture to American Hustle. Between the two, my money would be on the prestige picture.
Will Win: 12 Years a Slave
Should Win: The Past or Gravity
It is extremely rare that Best Picture and Best Director don’t go to the same film, but this year could be a rare exception (over the last 25 years, the two have matched 19 times). Since Gravity won the DGA award, it will probably win Best Director. Honestly this year, who knows? I’d follow history and choose the DGA winner. Even beyond that, Gravity is recognized for having tremendous beauty and for its director’s fierce battle to make the film he wanted to make by working in difficult strange conditions and creating new technology.
As for who should win, it’s hard to say. Every year when I sit down to ponder this question I’m befuddled by the amazing set of choices. Directing is such a wide-ranging job. Do I recognize being able to work well with actors? Do I measure them by the uniqueness and/or effectiveness of their images? Do they get extra credit for writing? This year I’m stuck between three directors. My third choice is Harmony Korine for Spring Breakers. What he does with this film is unique and remarkable. The images he crafted are so distinct and have stuck with me for the last year. It took incredible audacity to even try to make this film. Second, is Asghar Farhadi for The Past. Farhadi doesn’t have the uniquely remarkable imagery of films like Spring Breakers. As I said in my review of The Past, Farhadi has a quietly powerful presence with complexity of thought, depth of feeling, patience, and profound understanding that comes from the nuance of his camera movements, pacing, and ability to get amazing acting performances from less experienced performers. However my number one for this year is Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity. The images he constructed will stick with me for the rest of my life. I’m not even counting the lengths he went to in order to get the film made the way he made it. Cuarón is an asset to cinema history.
Will Win: Gravity
Should Win: Gravity (the rest of my nominees would vary significantly though – Farhadi for The Past, Cianfrance for The Place Beyond the Pines, Korine for Spring Breakers and Jonze for Her)
Best Original Screenplay
Writing is always a challenge to award because you’re essentially awarding your perception of the writing when thinking about the final film. You don’t know what the director/editor cut out, you don’t know what was ad libbed, and you don’t know what kinds of visual notes were in the screenplay. So how do you judge? It’s difficult. Judging by its success at previous awards ceremonies, I’m guessing Her will win the Oscar although American Hustle has strong support. I loved Her, and its sci-fi angle was surprisingly successful. Generally Jonze’s writing isn’t this intellectually stimulating as he’s just more interested in emotions, so it’s refreshing and exciting to know he’s capable of this. The most ingenious piece of writing this year was easily Upstream Color, so it kind of kills me not to choose it. However, I pick Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines for its elegant three-part epic story. I know this film can be a bit obvious, but I’m okay with that. What it takes the time to illustrate is important and realized stunningly.
Will Win: Her
Should Win: The Place Beyond the Pines
Best Adapted Screenplay
The same complications for analyzing Original Screenplay apply here, but are compounded by the question of analyzing the adaptation process or just the screenplay. Is it fair to judge when I’ve experienced some of the source material but not all? For example, I’ve read Northup’s 12 Years a Slave and take issue with several changes that McQueen and Ridley made to the story (chiefly taking away Northup’s reflections and replacing them with events/thoughts/feelings that make it more of “the” slavery story rather than Northup’s story). That being said, it’s a mostly faithful and remarkable adaptation especially in terms of visualizing Northup’s text. By contrast, I have no idea how Philomena does or doesn’t differ from its source material.
All precursors suggest that 12 Years a Slave is a shoo-in for this award. My personal pick is Before Midnight, for many reasons. The way it builds on the first two films was perfectly done, its effective dissection of early middle-aged parenthood, its ability to be lyrical yet also realistic in its dialogue. That said, I won’t be disappointed when 12 Years wins the award on Sunday.
Will Win: 12 Years a Slave
Should Win: Before Midnight
The acting awards aren’t as important to me as directing and writing. They are definitely important, and acting is difficult, but I’m personally not as passionate about this aspect of the art. My expectation for Best Actor must be McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club, since he’s the favorite. Who should win is a difficult choice between Oscar Isaac for Inside Llewyn Davis and Michael B. Jordan for Fruitvale Station. Isaac has the rare skill of being an amazing actor and performer. Jordan takes a very politically sensitive role and plays it with grace. My choice is Isaac for acting and singing at an A+ level, being necessary to the mere existence of one of this year’s best movies (without someone like Isaac, the Coens were going to drop the film).
Will Win: Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club
Should Win: Oscar Isaac for Inside Llewyn Davis
I can’t understand why the shoo-in pick for this year, since May, is Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine. It’s an excellent performance, but a little too exaggerated and movie-like for me. The one performance that I can’t shake, more than any other, is Adèle Exarchopoulos in Blue is the Warmest Color. Whether it was in one of the famous long sex scenes or eating spaghetti sloppily, Adèle is transfixing. She may be one of the finest actors of the upcoming generation, as she was 19 during the filming of Blue.
Will Win: Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine
Should Win: Adèle Exarchopoulos for Blue is the Warmest Color
Best Supporting Actor
The distinction between supporting and lead roles is always somewhat controversial. What is supporting and what is lead? The distributor makes the distinction and chooses how to market the actors (Academy members get a DVD of the film in the mail, and on the package it will say “For your consideration: Matthew McConaughey for Best Actor and Jared Leto for Best Supporting Actor). Oddly this year is very uncontroversial. The heavy favorite to win is Jared Leto so that’s certainly who I’m expecting to win. There is no clear dark horse, which makes it even more of a shoo-in. As for my favorite, I’m choosing two. If I had to pick, it’s Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave. He delivers a powerful performance that does something rare: he shows the true horror people are capable of, while also highlighting that the person committing that “evil” is in fact a human being. I’ve never seen a plantation owner depicted who really felt like a human being, not a caricature of evil. A close second often unmentioned is Vithaya Pansringarm, who plays the villain in Only God Forgives. His performance is absolutely chilling; one of my favorite villains in years.
Will Win: Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club
Should Win: Michael Fassbender for 12 Years a Slave or Vithaya Pansringarm for Only God Forgives
Best Supporting Actress:
In terms of supporting performances, Michael Fassbender’s greatest rival is his absolutely stunning counterpart Lupita Nyong’o. She will win and deserves to win. As amazing as Lupita is, I can’t shake Pauline Burlet in The Past. As I said in my review of The Past, I felt this character so strongly that I haven’t been able to shake her. Burlet and Nyong’o were both nobodies a year ago, and now they have delivered two of the best performances I’ve ever seen. They’ve given us human beings.
Will Win: Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave
Should Win: Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave and Pauline Burlet for The Past
Cinematography has become controversial in recent years. Cinematography traditionally has to do with a human being working on lighting and stuff like that. People get upset that movies like Avatar and Gravity get acclaim in this arena, when much of their cinematography is “animation” and not “cinematography.” I couldn’t care less about traditional definitions. As far as I’m concerned, Best Cinematography should be awarded to the best motion picture photography regardless of how it’s created. There was a lot of remarkable cinematography this year, as always. Gravity is visual storytelling at its absolute best. It’s a movie whose success is deeply rooted in cinematography, and not because it’s gorgeous (which it is). The space setting is used to make the audience understand Stone’s feelings, her grief and suffering. There was a lot of outstanding cinematography, but for me nothing touches Gravity.
Will Win: Gravity
Should Win: Gravity
Best Documentary and Best Foreign Language Film
These categories are always weird. There are tons of amazing films in each every year and the choices feel somewhat arbitrary. The selection process is fairly suspect so I don’t take them very seriously.
In the Documentary category, I’m very disappointed by the set of nominees. However, my will win and should win is absolutely The Act of Killing. This film will shake you to the bone. Beyond that, I wish At Berkeley or The Crash Reel were nominated.
Will Win: The Act of Killing
Should Win: The Act of Killing
Foreign film is even more ridiculous than documentary. There are so many remarkable films each year that just don’t appeal to the Academy for reasons that are beyond me. How is The Past not nominated here? Blue is the Warmest Color? Blue wasn’t eligible, but for silly reasons. Sigh. The Past is of course my favorite foreign film of the year as it was among my “Should Win” choices for Best Picture. I can barely guess what will win. The Great Beauty seems too detached and vapid, The Missing Picture is too strange, The Broken Circle Breakdown is unrelentingly tragic and Omar is too pro-Palestinian (so I hear). For these reasons, I’m guessing The Hunt will win for being the most appealing as a straightforward moral drama. This too may be controversial for Academy members, as it relays a story in which a man is falsely accused of child molestation. For The Hunt’s relevance to the recent Woody Allen debate, some Academy voters will find it particularly engaging and others particularly disgusting. This category is difficult to predict, partly because it’s not made up of the top foreign films of the year. It’s a weird mix that is born by a weird and unusual selection process.
Will win: The Hunt
Should win: The Past
Haven’t seen: Omar