It has been a very good year for movies – and that has been reflected in the nine movies nominated for Best Picture at the 86th Annual Academy Awards. Sure there a lot of movies that could/should have been chosen to fill a tenth nomination slot (Fruitvale Station, Much Ado About Nothing, to name two), or strengthen the Best Foreign Language Film category (The Grandmaster, Stalingrad, to name two) – but overall, this year’s quality has been well represented across every category.
In any event, I’ll let Michelle make predictions for the biggest night of the year for film and give you my choices for tonight’s awards. So, let’s get started.
Actor in a Leading Role
Christian Bale in “American Hustle”
Bruce Dern in “Nebraska”
Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Chiwetel Ejiofor in “12 Years a Slave”
Matthew McConaughey in “Dallas Buyers Club”
For me, this category is as solid as it’s ever been. Anyone of these actors could win and I would not be disappointed. That said, my favorite performances came down to Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave and Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club – great performances in great, important movies.
My sense of what’s been going on throughout awards season is that McConaughey has a lock on the Oscar, but I think Ejiofor has the more difficult role, McConaughey’s dramatic weight loss notwithstanding. If I was merely predicting the Oscars, I’d go with McConaughey, but I’m not.
For me, the Oscar goes to Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Actor in a Supporting Role
Barkhad Abdi in “Captain Phillips”
Bradley Cooper in “American Hustle”
Michael Fassbender in “12 Years a Slave”
Jonah Hill in “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Jared Leto in “Dallas Buyers Club”
Not only is this a solid category, it’s as diverse a cross-section of the type of movies that were released in 2013 as it’s possible to get and encompasses my personal favorite performances in most of the films in which they are featured. That said there are three strong performances without which their respective films simply fall apart – Barkhad Abdi’s Somali pirate in Captain Phillips, Michael Fassbender’s casually evil plantation owner in 12 Years a Slave, and Jared Leto’s dying transgendered woman in Dallas Buyers Club.
Jared Leto’s Rayon is so comfortable in her skin, even in her less than optimal circumstances, that when she dons male drag to visit her father, we see her extraordinary discomfort and her utter desperation.
I say the Oscar goes to Jared Leto.
Actress in a Leading Role
Amy Adams in “American Hustle”
Cate Blanchett in “Blue Jasmine”
Sandra Bullock in “Gravity”
Judi Dench in “Philomena”
Meryl Streep in “August: Osage County”
While I’m still reeling from the lack of Emma Thompson and Scarlett Johansson in this category, there are still three performances that touched me deeply – Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine, Sandra Bullock in Gravity, and Judi Dench in Philomena.
Dench’s Philomena embodies a never give up determination and the ability to not lose faith in the face of incredible personal sorrow. Blanchett’s Jasmine’s ongoing nuclear meltdown must have been very difficult to maintain and deepen. Bullock’s Ryan Stone decides to survive after being shown to neither want to nor have any compelling reason to do so – in fact, just the opposite.
In the end, it came down to Blanchett and Bullock for me and finally, the sheer depth of Jasmine’s collapse tipped the scale for me.
Sheldon’s Oscar goes to Cate Blanchett.
Actress in a Supporting Role
Sally Hawkins in “Blue Jasmine”
Jennifer Lawrence in “American Hustle”
Lupita Nyong’o in “12 Years a Slave”
Julia Roberts in “August: Osage County”
June Squibb in “Nebraska”
There no weak performances in this category, but only one great one. Lupita Nyong’o breaks hearts as cruelly used slave Patsey in 12 Years a Slave.
My Oscar must go to Luptia Nyong’o.
Animated Feature Film
“The Croods” Chris Sanders, Kirk DeMicco and Kristine Belson
“Despicable Me 2” Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin and Chris Meledandri
“Ernest & Celestine” Benjamin Renner and Didier Brunner
“Frozen” Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Peter Del Vecho
“The Wind Rises” Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki
For the first time, I’m choosing Disney over Miyazaki, but it wasn’t easy.
I have to go with Frozen.
“The Grandmaster” Philippe Le Sourd
“Gravity” Emmanuel Lubezki
“Inside Llewyn Davis” Bruno Delbonnel
“Nebraska” Phedon Papamichael
“Prisoners” Roger A. Deakins
Emmanuel Lubezki. Gravity couldn’t even have been made five years ago, but the job of shooting characters and however few sets in a way that made them fit seamlessly with the equally impressive effects? That requires a certain kind of genius.
“American Hustle” Michael Wilkinson
“The Grandmaster” William Chang Suk Ping
“The Great Gatsby” Catherine Martin
“The Invisible Woman” Michael O’Connor
“12 Years a Slave” Patricia Norris
The trick with costume design is to fit the characters seamlessly into a world without calling attention to any one thing in particular. Corsets and big gowns aren’t too opulent in a film about Marie Antoinette; clothes made from burlap aren’t too grubby in a western.
I expect American Hustle’s Michael Wilkinson to nab this Golden Boy, but I’d give it to The Grandmaster’s William Chang Suk Ping. His costume design for a 1930s-50s China captures the stylistic mélange that exists in China – from very traditional to what was contemporary in the film’s setting – without it be jarring or in any other way awkward.
“American Hustle” David O. Russell
“Gravity” Alfonso Cuarón
“Nebraska” Alexander Payne
“12 Years a Slave” Steve McQueen
“The Wolf of Wall Street” Martin Scorsese
Alfonso Cuaron. Directing a film that is mostly not on the set is not easy. Doing it with brand new technology has to be even more daunting. Cuaron pulls it off with considerable panache.
My mythical Oscar goes to Alfonso Cuaron. Easiest pick of the evening.
“The Act of Killing”Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen
“Cutie and the Boxer” Zachary Heinzerling and Lydia Dean Pilcher
“Dirty Wars” Richard Rowley and Jeremy Scahill
“The Square” Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer
“20 Feet from Stardom” Nominees to be determined
I haven’t seen any of these films so I abstain.
Documentary Short Subject
“CaveDigger” Jeffrey Karoff
“Facing Fear” Jason Cohen
“Karama Has No Walls” Sara Ishaq
“The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life” Malcolm Clarke and Nicholas Reed
“Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall” Edgar Barens
“American Hustle” Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten
“Captain Phillips” Christopher Rouse
“Dallas Buyers Club” John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa
“Gravity” Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger
“12 Years a Slave” Joe Walker
Foreign Language Film
“The Broken Circle Breakdown” Belgium
“The Great Beauty” Italy
“The Hunt” Denmark
“The Missing Picture” Cambodia
I’ve only seen The Great Beauty – a visually lush and gorgeous film, but not a great movie, and certainly not superior to Blue Is The Warmest Color, The Grandmaster, or Stalingrad.
Makeup and Hairstyling
“Dallas Buyers Club” Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews
“Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” Stephen Prouty
“The Lone Ranger” Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny
Oddly enough, the best makeup and hairstyling this year came in Bad Grandpa – but the Academy would probably sooner spontaneously combust than give them the award. I don’t care.
My imaginary Oscar goes to Stephen Prouty for Bad Grandpa.
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
Gravity is such an unusual film that if any single piece of its innovative puzzle was missing, it wouldn’t work. Steven Price’s score is so perfectly attuned to the overall production that I can’t think of anyone who did a better job.
Steven Price gets my personal Oscar.
Music (Original Song)
“Happy” from “Despicable Me 2”
Music and Lyric by Pharrell Williams
“Let It Go” from “Frozen”
Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
“The Moon Song” from “Her”
Music by Karen O; Lyric by Karen O and Spike Jonze
“Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”
Music by Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen; Lyric by Paul Hewson
I still think Do You Want To Build A Snowman is the superior song, both in terms of sheer musicality and in terms of distilling an arc of several years into a few, heartbreaking moments. That said, of the nominees, Let It Go is the most perfectly realized and the most integral to the story.
The Sheldon Oscar goes to Let It Go, Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.
“American Hustle” Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison and Jonathan Gordon, Producers
“Captain Phillips” Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca, Producers
“Dallas Buyers Club” Robbie Brenner and Rachel Winter, Producers
“Gravity” Alfonso Cuarón and David Heyman, Producers
“Her” Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze and Vincent Landay, Producers
“Nebraska” Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa, Producers
“Philomena” Gabrielle Tana, Steve Coogan and Tracey Seaward, Producers
“12 Years a Slave” Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen and Anthony Katagas, Producers
“The Wolf of Wall Street” Nominees to be determined
I can’t even begin to analyze how I got there, this category is so strong, but as important as Dallas Buyers Club and 12 Years a slave are – and as much as enjoyed (if that’s the right word) them, the movie that took my breath away and left me with the strongest, longest-lasting impression was Gravity.
My version of the little bald golden guy goes to Gravity, Alfonso Cuaron and David Heyman, Producers.
“American Hustle” Production Design: Judy Becker; Set Decoration: Heather Loeffler
“Gravity” Production Design: Andy Nicholson; Set Decoration: Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard
“The Great Gatsby” Production Design: Catherine Martin; Set Decoration: Beverley Dunn
“Her” Production Design: K.K. Barrett; Set Decoration: Gene Serdena
“12 Years a Slave” Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Alice Baker
Gatsby and American Hustle are showy as hell; 12 Years a Slave is about a matter-of-fact as it gets; Her is a subtle, nuanced construction of a not-quite-familiar world. None of these is a loser by any definition.
Gravity, though, requires design of both a few, very extraordinarily detailed physical sets and a universe of digital ones. Plus, they have to be integrated perfectly.
Gravity – Production Design by Andy Nicholson; Set Decoration by Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard – gets my fantasy Oscar.
Short Film (Animated)
“Feral” Daniel Sousa and Dan Golden
“Get a Horse!” Lauren MacMullan and Dorothy McKim
“Mr. Hublot” Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares
“Possessions” Shuhei Morita
“Room on the Broom” Max Lang and Jan Lachauer
I’ve only seen Get a Horse. I expect it will win – it’s quite an achievement. But since I haven’t seen the other four, I abstain.
Short Film (Live Action)
“Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)” Esteban Crespo
“Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything)” Xavier Legrand and Alexandre Gavras
“Helium” Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson
“Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)” Selma Vilhunen and Kirsikka Saari
“The Voorman Problem” Mark Gill and Baldwin Li
Haven’t seen ‘em. I abstain.
“All Is Lost” Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns
“Captain Phillips” Oliver Tarney
“Gravity” Glenn Freemantle
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” Brent Burge
“Lone Survivor” Wylie Stateman
Gravity gets my Oscar for pretty much the same reasons as Original Score.
“Captain Phillips” Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro
“Gravity” Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson
“Inside Llewyn Davis” Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland
“Lone Survivor” Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow
Gravity. See above.
“Gravity” Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds
“Iron Man 3” Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick
“The Lone Ranger” Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier
“Star Trek Into Darkness” Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton
Could there be any doubt? Gravity!
Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
“Before Midnight” Written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
“Captain Phillips” Screenplay by Billy Ray
“Philomena” Screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
“12 Years a Slave” Screenplay by John Ridley
“The Wolf of Wall Street” Screenplay by Terence Winter
I give my non-existent Oscar to John Ridley. Of the screenplays nominated, his made the best movie.
Writing (Original Screenplay)
“American Hustle” Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
“Blue Jasmine” Written by Woody Allen
“Dallas Buyers Club” Written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack
“Her” Written by Spike Jonze
“Nebraska” Written by Bob Nelson
This year, no movie was more original – in every sense of the term –than Her. Spkie Jonez gets my Imaginary Oscar. No contest.