I’m not making any “Will Win” picks because A) I haven’t seen enough of the nominees to accurately judge all of them, B) I don’t feel very passionate about many of the nominees, and C) Let’s be real, it’s a pretty locked-in field already.
I couldn’t narrow down any category to just one winner. It was a really good year for film and there are a lot of movies and people that deserve awards. Also, I’m indecisive and have commitment issues. So my multiple picks for each category are actors, actresses, or films that would make me happy if they won. For some, there are two I think deserve it. For others, there are significantly more than two. I’m also not sticking to the actual nominees and including any and all people and movies I feel are worthy.
I haven’t seen Philomena, Dallas Buyers Club, Blue Jasmine, Captain Phillips, or Nebraska.
Ben Garbow’s Oscar Picks (Sort Of)
There are five films that I feel deserve the award, all completely different but all fantastic for their own distinct reasons. Gravity, for its groundbreaking visuals and making me hyperventilate in my seat; Her, for its impeccable production and being wholly unique; Inside Llewyn Davis, for its heartbreaking perfection and amazing music; 12 Years a Slave, for its historical importance and fantastic performances; The World’s End, for its surprising look at alcoholism and being the best comedy I’ve seen in years; and The Place Beyond the Pines, for its breathtaking scope and story.
Inside Llewyn Davis
12 Years a Slave
The World’s End
The Place Beyond the Pines
Gravity couldn’t have come from any filmmaker other than Alfonso Cuarón. It’s everything he does—insane long takes, uncompromising sound editing—taken to an otherworldly level (pun intended). Spike Jonze has established himself as one of the most unique filmmakers out there. Her is his magnum opus, bursting with heart, humor, weirdness, science fiction, and high-waisted pants. Finally, it takes quite a vision to hold together a two-and-a-half-hour epic spanning multiple generations, and the way Derek Cianfrance holds The Place Beyond the Pines together with dexterity and beauty is a wonder.
Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Spike Jonze, Her
Derek Cianfrance, The Place Beyond the Pines
This is such an insane year for male performances. Oscar Isaac, Joaquin Phoenix, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Leonardo Dicaprio were all unbelievable in their respective roles, and in a less crowded year they would all easily be front-runners in this race. Add in two criminally overlooked performances in a criminally overlooked film: Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper in The Place Beyond the Pines. But I want to talk about a performance that I think was just as good as all of these: Simon Pegg in The World’s End. Pegg was cast against type as deadbeat alcoholic asshole Gary King, and seeing him play a character his comedic counterpart Nick Frost would normally play is a breath of fresh air. The climax of the movie also brings a chance for Pegg to prove that he has dramatic acting chops—and boy, does he. But if I had to pick one, it would be Oscar Isaac as Llewyn Davis.
Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis
Simon Pegg, The World’s End
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Joaquin Phoenix, Her
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Bradley Cooper, The Place Beyond the Pines
Ryan Gosling, The Place Beyond the Pines
Adèle Exarchopoulos, for giving life to the sprawling three-hour romance epic Blue is the Warmest Color. Her performance has a brutal honesty to it—you can see it as she slurps her spaghetti, as snot pours from her nose as she sobs during a fight. Blue is the Warmest Color was like watching real people going about their daily lives, and Exarchopoulos was the character of Adèle. Oh, and she’s only 20. The only other woman I can see even coming close to Exarchopoulos is Amy Adams in American Hustle. She gave a performance with such a level of maturity—and that’s weird to say for an actress as experienced as her, but maybe I’ll always see her as the princess in Enchanted.
Adèle Exarchopoulos, Blue is the Warmest Color
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Best Supporting Actor
Again, another tough category. What a year for male performances. Daniel Bruhl is mesmerizing as the cold, calculating Formula One driver Niki Lauda. Michael Fassbender is horrifying as a ruthless plantation owner. Jonah Hill is ridiculous as a cocaine-addicted stock broker. How can you compare roles as different as these?
Daniel Brühl, Rush
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
Best Supporting Actress
Léa Seydoux is deserving of just as much praise as her counterpart for Blue is the Warmest Color. Emma’s maturity and groundedness served as an excellent counterbalance for Adele’s spontaneity and innocence. I’m hesitant to even call Seydoux a supporting actress. There’s a reason the Palme D’Or was presented to both actresses as well as the director. Again, there’s only one other performance that was even close to Seydoux’s. Lupita Nyong’o nearly brought me to tears in 12 Years a Slave.
Léa Seydoux, Blue is the Warmest Color
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Best Original Score
Mike Patton’s score for The Place Beyond the Pines shifts between moods and genres with almost manic qualities, but it has one main theme running through the entirety of the score that reappears in different incarnations. This is also one of the very few times a description of a film’s music could also serve as a summary of the movie’s plot, and that is no small feat. The other standout musical score this year for me was one that everyone has been talking about: Steven Price’s Gravity. For Alfonso Cuarón, sound is important. (For further information, see Children of Men.) And for an Alfonso Cuarón film set in space, where there is no air for sound waves to vibrate, sound is everything. Price’s intense, paranoid score for Gravity only amplifies the craziness we see going on before us. And it would be remiss not to at least mention Arcade Fire’s understated yet gorgeous music for Her.
Mike Patton, The Place Beyond the Pines
Steven Price, Gravity
Owen Pallett and Win Butler, Her
(Spoilers for Gravity, The Act of Killing, Her, The World’s End, The Place Beyond the Pines, and Inside Llewyn Davis)
This is a category I made up. This is my list. I can do what I want. Best Scene is exactly what it sounds like: the best scene in a movie this year. It’s a scene that made you cry, that made you cry with laughter, that took your breath away. There are six I’d like to mention: the nauseating, horrifying, anger-inducing final 20 minutes of the groundbreaking documentary The Act of Killing, from when Anwar finally comes to terms with what he’s done, through the really, really fucked-up waterfall scene, through the dry heaving on the balcony; when Theodore and Samantha have sex for the first time in Her, when the camera fades to black and we only hear the sounds of two lovers on equal terms; when Gary and Andy tell The Network to “fuck off back to Legoland” in The World’s End; the final motorcycle chase in The Place Beyond the Pines, for producing a real sense of speed better than any film I’ve seen in a while; the circular finale of Inside Llewyn Davis, from when Llewyn kicks the cat back inside the apartment, through his emotional rendition of “Fare Thee Well,” through his getting the shit kicked out of him (again?) in the alley; and, of course, the entire opening continuous shot in Gravity, in all its mind-blowing glory.
The first 20 minutes, Gravity
The last 20 minutes, The Act of Killing
The first sex scene, Her
The Network, The World’s End
The motorcycle chase, The Place Beyond the Pines
The end, Inside Llewyn Davis