Spotlight: Oscar Predictions 2014
If you missed the film staff giving their Oscar predictions on our podcast earlier this week or have no time to listen to an hour-long episode, we present to you Pop GO’s official Oscar Predictions 2014 spotlight!
Find out who film experts Paolo, Steve and Matt, as well as editor Ernie, have officially predicted for every single category in this year’s 86th annual Academy Awards, which airs this Sunday, March 2, 4 PM PT, on ABC.
(Note: Official predictions for the 9 detailed categories were made by their respective authors. What/Who Should Win are personal picks and NOT official picks.)
- 12 Years a Slave
- American Hustle
- Captain Phillips
- Dallas Buyers Club
- The Wolf of Wall Street
Steve: Ever since the Academy took the drastic step of expanding the nominees for Best Picture back to pre-1944 levels that can vary from 5-10, the number of movies nominated for Oscars has shrunk. There’s a fantastic article you can read about this phenomenon here , but it’s basically a nice way of saying that while there are more Best Picture nominees now, there just aren’t as many movies being recognized. And with nine nominees this year, it’s been a three-horse race since day one.
While Her, Nebraska, Philomena, and Captain Phillips are all great films in their own unique ways, they’re not going to be recognized here, and at least three of those won’t be recognized at all. I’m still baffled by the inclusion of the weak filmmaking in Dallas Buyers Club and the overall baffling The Wolf of Wall Street, but none of that matters. This is a race between the zany showmanship of American Hustle, the technical wizardry of Gravity, and the horrifying but important 12 Years a Slave. And for my money, that word “important” is what it all boils down to.
The Academy is nothing if not full of people that tend to reward films they find “important” or “message movies,” and their rewarding of the race-baiting Crash eight years ago proved that they certainly favor films that will make them look good in doing so. The phrase “white guilt” will be bandied about a lot, but that’s only a small part of it. The Academy’s preferential voting system, where they must rank all the nominated films in order on their ballot, will allow those who wish to reward a film they find superior a first place vote, but all of those second and third place votes will give 12 Years a Slave an insurmountable victory. The rest of the nominees should just start boning up on their “it’s an honor just to be nominated” speeches.
PREDICTION: 12 Years a Slave
What Should Win: 12 Years a Slave (Paolo, Matt); Gravity (Ernie); Her (Steve)
- Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)
- Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)
- Alexander Payne (Nebraska)
- David O. Russell (American Hustle)
- Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Paolo: Not since James Cameron’s Avatar has a film revolutionized the visual and visceral moviegoing experience the way Gravity did for audiences. While the film’s initial premise is simple, Cuarón’s execution is utterly flawless in terms of his direction. With so few cuts and edits, no film in recent memory has easily held me captivated in just plain astonishment at the feats Cuarón achieves with what looks like relative ease. The many shots he is able to incorporate into the film are just jaw-dropping to take in, and though he himself states that he took liberties with some of the physics, this is undoubtedly the most accurate space film to date.
Gravity is just that impressive a film and only enhanced by its release in 3D IMAX. Few directors have managed to fully utilize the technology for the benefit of a movie, but the few that have did so in ways that elevated their films to new levels, and that is exactly what Cuarón did with Gravity. The film is just simply breathtaking from its opening shot of the Earth to its closing scene. To take away your eyes from the film for even just a second feels like a total waste of your money because it is a visual spectacle unlike anything you have seen before.
Despite a category that is incredibly strong this year that features of the likes of Martin Scorsese, Steve McQueen, David O. Russell and Alexander Payne, Cuarón is easily the favorite to win the award.
PREDICTION: Alfonso Cuarón
Who Should Win: Alfonso Cuarón (Ernie, Paolo, Steve); Steve McQueen (Matt)
- 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)
Steve: Considering that the Best Actor race was more or less over and done with by the time Oscar night rolled around for the last few years, this is the first time since 2008, when Sean Penn won his second Oscar for Milk, that we have a real contest in this category. This race really took root at this year’s Cannes Film Festival when Bruce Dern won the Best Actor prize for his performance in Nebraska, and while he comes into this race as a sentimental favorite, the last one of those that won Best Actor was Art Carney for Harry & Tonto back in 1974. It happens frequently in the Supporting categories, but look to Richard Farnsworth, Frank Langella, Peter O’Toole, and a dozen others for examples of this not playing out for the old timers.
Scoring his second nomination, and a surprise one at that, is Christian Bale in American Hustle, who did characteristically strong work, but the nomination is his reward here, as he is the longest of long shots. Chiwetel Ejiofor did tremendous work in 12 Years a Slave, but until the BAFTA awards, he hadn’t won a single Oscar precursor, and though he will likely find himself in this race again in the future, it just doesn’t appear to be his year.
That brings us to the dogfight in this race, Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club versus Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street. This is Leo’s fourth nomination, and one of the best performances of his career, making a lot of the talk revolve around the fact that he hasn’t won yet. However, voters watching his film will also see a fantastic performance by Matthew McConaughey, and that sort of versatility, particularly within the same year is what wins Oscars. The momentum is on McConaughey’s side, but if there’s an upset, it will be DiCaprio.
PREDICTION: Matthew McConaughey
Who Should Win: Bruce Dern (Steve); Leonardo DiCaprio (Ernie); Chiwetel Ejiofor (Matt, Paolo)
- Amy Adams (American Hustle)
- Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
- Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
- Judi Dench (Philomena)
- Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
Matt: As for the nominees in the Best Actress category, the competition is extremely fierce, and all but one of them has a chance of winning the Oscar. In terms of who I want to win the role and why, I think Sandra Bullock should take the gold home; no questions asked. The reason why Bullock deserves the Oscar more than any of her competitors is because what her role lacks in depth, it has merit in how universal her role is to every human being who watches her. Bullock’s character in Gravity represents a human being who both is under the most dangerous situation imaginable and has the specter of death ready to take her at any second. The only thought and goal she has is the will to survive and, hopefully, come out alive — something which all human beings can relate to.
Amy Adams’ nomination in American Hustle represents the Academy’s depressing willingness to bite on to anything that reeks of Oscar bait, without any thought given to the possibility that said Oscar bait performance might not actually deserve it. Meryl Streep’s nomination for August: Osage County, the definition of an overacting role if ever there was one, is one more example in the overflowing pile of evidence that the Academy is biased in their blind love for Streep and will give her a nomination for anything she ever does. Judi Dench’s nomination in Philomena is near the top in terms of the actress who has the biggest chance of winning the Oscar simply due to how emotional and moving both her role and the movie she is in is — something which is very unlike the roles she has played in the past. The last remaining actress who is neck and neck with both Bullock and Dench in terms of who is the likeliest to win (and my prediction) is Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine. Her portrayal of someone who clearly has severe mental issues is extremely sincere and accurate and I would not be surprised if she took the Oscar home.
PREDICTION: Cate Blanchett
Who Should Win: Sandra Bullock (Matt, Paolo); Judi Dench (Steve); Meryl Streep (Ernie)
Best Supporting Actor
- 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)
Paolo: Like many other categories, this year the Best Supporting Actor race is filled with a group of solid nominations, with the sole exception of Jonah Hill. That being said it, is still a two-horse race between Michael Fassbender and Jared Leto.
While Fassbender is my personal preference to win, I have to go and predict that Jared Leto will take the award. Leto’s turn as Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club would be a well-deserved win because, quite honestly, this is Leto’s best performance as an actor to date. What he is asked to do, who he is asked to portray and the transformation that he goes through to take on the role is simply astounding. Body transformations for roles are always a shock to take in. When you think of body transformation, you have to think of Christian Bale in The Machinist, and while Leto doesn’t quite go as far, he does go to some pretty extreme lengths. The amount of dedication to work through those conditions is always something to consider, but to only credit that part of his performance as the driving factor for his win is a mistake.
Leto does an incredible job of painting a sympathetic portrait of Rayon, who is suffering from AIDS and quite simply has many scene-stealing moments in the film. From his desire to live longer, to his meeting with his father, Leto’s performance is just a moving force in Dallas Buyers Club, and another reason why the film was nominated for Best Picture.
PREDICTION: Jared Leto
Who Should Win: Barkhad Abdi (Steve); Michael Fassbender (Ernie, Matt, Paolo)
Best Supporting Actress
- Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
- Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
- Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
- Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
- June Squibb (Nebraska)
Matt: There were many great supporting roles for women this year and the Academy has made (mostly) good choices in their nominations. I personally thought the actress who was the most deserving of the Oscar for this category this year was Lupita Nyong’o as Patsy in Steve McQueen’s gut-wrenchingly visceral film 12 Years A Slave. My reason for choosing her is because, for a screen debut, this might be one of the most electrifying that has been seen in many years. Every time she is on the screen, you cannot take your eyes off her and you believe her at every single minute. The fact that she is based on an actual person, combined with the fact that her portrayal is so unbelievably real makes her performance all the more great. I do not know about you, but it says something about the courage, potential range and credibility of an actor or actress who is willing to go to such dark and vulnerable places, all in service to a movie.
As for the other nominees in the category, I shall be brief in my coverage of them. Jennifer Lawrence, I think, is the one who deserves the Oscar the least. Aside from not being an Oscar-worthy role, it comes off as a role that screams for an Oscar. June Squibb in Nebraska was quite good in her role as foul-mouthed, force of nature; if she wins, I will not be disappointed. Julia Roberts’ nomination in August: Osage County is something of a shock to me because all she did was chew the scenery and is completely undeserving of an Oscar. Sally Hawkins’ role in Woody Allen’s film Blue Jasmine was a very good role, but I have the least amount of stakes in her getting the win because she is absolutely outclassed by her competitors.
PREDICTION: Lupita Nyong’o
Who Should Win: Lupita Nyongo’o (unanimous)
Best Adapted Screenplay
- 12 Years a Slave (John Ridley)
- Before Midnight (Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke)
- Captain Phillips (Billy Ray)
- Philomena (Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope)
- The Wolf of Wall Street (Terence Winter)
Steve: Looking to the precursor awards for an answer to this riddle won’t do much good. The Golden Globes have only one screenplay race and rewarded Her, and the strange rules of the WGA disqualified the two front-runners, 12 Years a Slave and Philomena, rewarding Captain Phillips instead. Captain Phillips is a very good film, but no one walked away from it talking about the script. The Wolf of Wall Street is as divisive as any script written this year and is honestly one of the weakest elements involved in its creation. It’s nice to see a deserving film like Before Midnight in the race, but with no other nominations, it’s likely to be a bridesmaid once more, like its predecessor, nominated in the same race in 2004.
Which brings us inevitably back to 12 Years a Slave and Philomena. John Ridley’s tremendous script for 12 Years a Slave is actually one of its most solid elements, and voters checking the box for it in the Best Picture race will likely seek to reward it once more here, likely giving it enough votes to win. However, the older Academy voters have been enraptured by Philomena, and since it’s an underdog in every other race it’s competing in, they could choose to reward Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope’s wonderfully written script in this race, making it a lovable underdog of sorts. But it is still the underdog, so look for 12 Years a Slave to come out of this race on top.
PREDICTION: 12 Years a Slave
What Should Win: 12 Years a Slave (Matt, Paolo); Captain Phillips (Ernie); Philomena (Steve)
Best Original Screenplay
- American Hustle (Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell)
- Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen)
- Dallas Buyers Club (Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack)
- Her (Spike Jonze)
- Nebraska (Bob Nelson)
Matt: Many great original scripts have been turned into equally great movies this year, and I have to say the Academy chose wisely (mostly) in their final decision on the nominees for Best Original Screenplay. I have to say right now, that the script which I feel should win the Oscar, far and away, is Her, penned by the film’s director, Spike Jonze. The reason why is because what Spike Jonze has accomplished with his love story that, on paper, sounds like a very skeevy and hard idea to pull off, has blown me away. Despite the nature of Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johanssons’ romance, I was amazed by how taken I was by how realistic and authentic it was. The story of Her is also extremely prescient and I guarantee that similar romances will begin 5-10 years after this film comes out, and we can look back on this film as precursor to what eventually will be.
You all know how I feel about American Hustle by this point, so do not be surprised when I say that I hope that the movie does not win the screenplay. Nebraska is a movie that I really loved a whole lot and its screenplay was impeccably written (and this is coming from an amateur screenwriter). Although I would be disappointed if Nebraska won the award, I would not be too upset as Nebraska’s script is extremely well-written and it deserves an award of some kind in the long run. Both Dallas Buyers Club and Blue Jasmine have scripts that are of equal merit in my mind, and it would not be a loss if either of them won in the long run.
Overall, the Best Original Screenplay has a hot competition on its hands, and it is hard to tell who will come out as the winner. My money is riding on Her, but every one of the movies that are not American Hustle has a good chance of winning.
What Should Win: Her (unanimous)
Best Animated Feature Film
Paolo: Typically speaking, Best Animated film is a bit of wash of a category most years, with a clear favorite year in and year out. That is once again the case this year, with Disney’s Frozen as the clear favorite to win the Oscar — and for good reason.
By Disney standards, this is absolutely their best princess film since the 90s, combining splendid animation, great characters, a riveting plot and great music. Frozen’s biggest success, however, isn’t in just how enjoyable an overall experience the film is, but how it completely flips the typical conventions of princess films on their heads. Credit has to go to Jennifer Lee and her handling of the characters. Anna and Elsa move beyond being typical tropes to being well-rounded characters with both their strengths and faults. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the film was Olaf the snowman. Thinking he would be a Jar Jar Binks type of character based on a teaser trailer, he genuinely surprised me to be the most lovable aspect of the film. The earnestness and naivety of his character completely contrasts the wisecracking, smart aleck type of sidekicks that have been a staple of Disney films over the last few years.
What Should Win: Frozen (Paolo, Steve); The Wind Rises (Ernie, Matt)
Full Staff Predictions
(Updated as of 11:05 am PT)
Picture: 12 Years a Slave (Paolo, Steve); Gravity (Ernie, Matt)
Director: Alfonso Cuarón (unanimous)
Actor: Christian Bale (Matt); Matthew McConaughey (Ernie, Paolo, Steve)
Actress: Cate Blanchett (unanimous)
Supporting Actor: Bradley Cooper (Matt); Jared Leto (Ernie, Paolo, Steve)
Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o (unanimous)
Adapted Screenplay: 12 Years a Slave (unanimous)
Original Screenplay: American Hustle (Ernie); Her (Matt, Paolo, Steve)
Animated Film: Frozen (unanimous)
Cinematography: Gravity (unanimous)
Costume Design: 12 Years a Slave (Matt); The Great Gatsby (Ernie, Paolo, Steve)
Production Design: Her (Matt); The Great Gatsby (Ernie, Paolo, Steve)
Documentary (Full): 20 Feet from Stardom (Steve); The Act of Killing (Ernie, Matt, Paolo)
Documentary (Short): The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life (unanimous)
Editing: 12 Years a Slave (Matt, Paolo); Gravity (Ernie, Steve)
Foreign Film: The Great Beauty (Ernie, Paolo, Steve); The Hunt (Matt)
Makeup & Hairstyle: Dallas Buyers Club (unanimous)
Original Score: Gravity (unanimous)
Original Song: “Let It Go” from Frozen (unanimous)
Short Film (Animated): Feral (Matt); Get a Horse! (Ernie, Paolo, Steve)
Short Film (Live-action): Helium (Matt); The Voorman Problem (Ernie, Paolo, Steve)
Sound Editing: Gravity (unanimous)
Sound Mixing: Gravity (unanimous)
Visual Effects: Gravity (unanimous)
[Images via Oscars]