Dissecting the Oscars: All the Rest

"You better be behind me..."
“You better be behind me…”

Originally, my intention was to dedicate a full column to each major category before the ceremony next Sunday. It’s already Wednesday, so I’m forced to cram. Without further ado, here are my predictions.

BEST PICTURE

12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
Nebraska
Philomena
The Wolf of Wall Street

Truth to be told, I would be okay with any on this titles winning as long as American Hustle doesn’t (and to a lesser extent, the sanitized for your viewing pleasure Dallas Buyers Club). Hustle is an unbelievably overrated flick, with four leads that more than act, strut like peacocks. The film lacks a cohesive script and is further damaged by substandard editing. Gravity, on the other hand, is 90 minutes of absolute joy. It’s a film that pushes the limits of the format in a way not seen since Kubrick.

Should win: Gravity. Will win: 12 Years a Slave. Should have been nominated: Before Midnight.

BEST ACTOR

Christian Bale (American Hustle)
Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
Leonardo DiCaprio (Wolf of Wall Street)
Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

So Matthew McConaughey lost a gazillion pounds to play an AIDS patient. Good for him, but a performance should be judged by more than cosmetic prowessness. Leonardo DiCaprio owned Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street: He was dynamic, fearless and ultimately compelling in spite of the moral bankruptcy of his character. Ejiofor and Dern’s work was remarkable, but hardly as riveting as Di Caprio.

Should win: Di Caprio. Will win: McCounaghey. Should have been nominated: Robert Redford (All Is Lost).

BEST ACTRESS

Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
Judi Dench (Philomena)
Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)

Let’s start by eliminating Streep and Adams. Both chomped the scenery in movies that weren’t very good to start with. Dench is superb underplaying her intelligence and willfulness, but is no match against Blanchett and Bullock groundbreaking performances. I’ll give it the edge to Blanchett because she had a good script to work with and run with it.

Should and will win: Cate Blanchett. Should have been nominated: Julie Delpy (Before Midnight).

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
Jonah Hill (Wolf of Wall Street)
Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

Let me save you time: American Hustle deserves nothing, so I’m not even going to discuss the film’s nominations (it’s an “Emperor’s New Clothes” kind of situation). Michael Fassbender, a veritable force of nature, it’s likely to be bypassed for being too mean. Jonah Hill, whose acting chops are not all that, has the good fortune to find roles appropriate for his limited set of skills. They all are likely to be “also runs” next to Jared Leto, whose fine features make him look stunning with heavy make-up.

Should Win: Hill. Will win: Leto.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
June Squibb (Nebraska)
Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)

Lawrence and Roberts: Awful (J-Law peaked on Winter’s Tale. Her association with David O. Russell has stunted her acting abilities). Squibb: A cartoon. Sally Hawkins is wonderful in Blue Jasmine, but her performance is too understated and the Academy is likely to miss it. Nyong’o has a more showy role and her most direct rival (Lawrence) already won an Oscar just last year.

Will win: Nyong’o. Should win: Hawkins.

BEST DIRECTOR

Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street
David O. Russell (American Hustle)
Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)
Alexander Payne (Nebraska)
Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)

Since 12 Years a Slave is going to win Best Picture, odds are Alfonso Cuarón will receive this award as a consolation prize. Gravity is a master class of directing: Having to deal with a number of variables and technology created specifically for this movie, Cuarón’s vision alone is worth of praise. Honorable mention to Martin Scorsese, who demonstrated more stamina and joie-de-vivre than filmmakers half his age in The Wolf of Wall Street. As for Russell, stop encouraging. He is the worst.

Should and will win: Cuarón.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

David O. Russell and Eric Singer (American Hustle)
Bob Nelson (Nebraska)
Spike Jonze (Her)
Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack (Dallas Buyers Club)
Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine)

American Hustle aside, this is a really strong category. Her is tremendously original; Nebraska is a heartfelt exploration of a life wasted; and Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine is lively and dark (too bad all the molestation allegations are likely to take votes from him). Dallas Buyers Club is too episodic to be considered a serious contender. But after losing all the other awards, Hustle will take this one as consolation.

Should win: Her or Blue Jasmine. Will win: American Hustle (ugh).

AND THE OTHERS…

Best Foreign Film: Will win: Italy, The Great Beauty. Should win: Denmark, The Hunt.

Best Documentary Feature: Will win: The Act of Killing. Should win: 20 Feet from Stardom.

Best Animated Feature: Will win: Frozen. Should win: Ernest & Celestine (it’s amazing).

Film Editing: Will win: Gravity. Should win: Captain Phillips.

Best Song: Will win: “Let It Go” (Frozen). Should win: “The Moon Song” (Her).

Best Original Score: Will win: Steven Price (Gravity). Should win: William Butler and Owen Pallett (Her).

Best Costume Design: Will win: The Great Gatsby. Should win: 12 Years a Slave.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Will and should win: Dallas Buyers Club.

Best Production Design: Will win: Gravity. Should win: Her.

Best Sound Editing: Will and should win: Gravity.

Best Sound Mixing: Will win: Gravity. Should win: Inside Llewyn Davis.

Best Visual Effects: Will win: Gravity. Should win: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Best Short Film, Live Action: Will win: Helium. Should win: Just Before Losing Everything.

Best Short Film, Animated: Will win: Get a Horse! Should win: Mr. Hublot.

I’ll be sharing my impressions of the 86th Academy Awards this Sunday (7pm Saskatchewan time) at prairiedogmag/live-blogging-the-oscars. Cheerio.

Author: Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Journalist, film critic, documentary filmmaker, and sometimes nice guy. Member of the Vancouver Film Critics Circle. Like horror flicks, long walks on the beach and candlelight dinners. Allergic to cats.

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