Prediction Playbook: 2014 Academy Awards

OscarsPrediction2014

What. A. Year. The number of quality films that came out this past year was staggering. In fact, the strength of the year was almost a shame, as many well-deserving films were unjustly snubbed because of a Hollywood numbers game.

The fact that there were so many great films on the Academy’s radar will undoubtedly hurt those that weren’t nominated, as audiences seek to see everything that’s been given the proverbial “seal of approval.” And while that’s a coup for small films like Nebraska that could never generate big crowds before the nominees were set, it’s also a death knell for extraordinary films like Inside Llewyn Davis and Fruitvale Station that shouldn’t have been ignored*.

*Which is why we’re including a ‘Snubbed’ category for every award.

Best Director

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

Who Got Snubbed: It’s not very often that a film like Her comes around in which a director can create a world so effectively. But alas, Spike Jonze’s remarkable work goes unrecognized here in what can really only be called shocking.

Who Should Win: No one gave us more fun than Russell, no one made us gasp like McQueen, Scorsese was in classic form and Payne captivated us with his slow but every so beautiful piece of art. But the fact remains that no film stretched the boundaries of what we thought was possible while sitting in the cinema seats than that of Cuaron’s Gravity.

Who Will Win: It’s the classic battle between substance (McQueen) and pure visual achievement (Cuaron). We saw the same thing with Katherine Bigelow and James Cameron, but the lines are more blurred now, Gravity holds up as a film on its own better than Avatar did. It’ll be close, but it’ll be Cuaron.

Best Supporting Actress

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

Who Got Snubbed: Oprah Winfrey seemed set for her first nomination in 28 years for The Butler. Alas, it was not to be. That’s ok; I think she’ll probably get over it.

Who Should Win: It’s a battle between the truly great but ultimately hard-to-watch performance of Nyongo’o and the can’t-take-your-eyes off enjoyable work of Jennifer Lawrence. If this is just on acting, it has to be the newcomer Nyongo’o who, as a slave named Patsy endured the worst of conditions, forcing the rookie to go to places emotionally where few have gone before.

Who Will Win: Everyone and their dog is in love with Lawrence these days and it’s honestly hard to blame them. She’s a rising star who can virtually do anything and she was exceptional as a crazy housewife in the year’s most enjoyable film. Can’t help but think she squeaks this one.

Best Supporting Actor

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

Who Got Snubbed: Daniel Bruhl for his magnificent work in the intense Rush, a very good film that got pushed out of the pack in a tough year.

Who Should Win: It’s another two-horse race as the brilliant Fassbender goes against Leto who literally and figuratively transformed himself to play transgendered AIDS victim Rayon. This category is always tough, but you’ve gotta think that in any other year Fassbender as the horrific slave-owner Edwin Epps walks away with it. His performance is gritty, intense and heartbreakingly believable.

Who Will Win: Anyone who has seen Dallas Buyers Club knows that this race was over the moment Leto put on the makeup. Unrecognizable, Leto completely chameleons into his role in such a game-changing way that it’ll be impossible for the Academy to resist. The actor apparently didn’t break character once during filming. Game, set and match. The win will leave Fassbender still searching for that elusive first Oscar. Can’t wait to see what he comes back with next.

Best Actress

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

Who Got Snubbed: Although Saving Mr. Banks was basically Hollywood masturbating to itself, Emma Thompson was irresistible as the impossible-to-deal-with author of Mary Poppins P.L. Travers. Even better? Her candor at the Golden Globes. God, she seems fun.

Who Should Win: Blanchett for embracing her inner Woody Allen. As a convicted money launderer’s ex-wife, she’s at turns hilarious, real and heartbreaking. It’s easily the most complicated female performance of the year.

Who Will Win: Oh boy, this is a tough one. Does the Academy go full frontal on their love for American Hustle and throw this one at Adams? Is Meryl in line for her 98th win? In the end, this probably comes down to Bullock vs. Blanchett. For her part, Bullock holds Gravity together among all the mind-dazzling special effects. Couple that with the Academy’s love for her and she’ll be hard to beat. But for my money, it’ll be Blanchett.

Best Actor

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

Who Got Snubbed: A couple here, including Tom Hanks, Forest Whitaker and up-and-comer Michael B.Jordan. But it has to be Joaquin Phoenix for his exceptional work in Her. At times creepy, at times unbelievably emotional, his performance as Theodore Twombly is one for the ages; a must-see! It’s a criminal injustice that he wasn’t nominated.

Who Should Win: Back in September it seemed like Chiwetel was going to walk to an Oscar. As Solomon Northup in the true story of his kidnapping and forced slavery, Ejiofor is simply brilliant. Back then it was hard to imagine anyone even coming close to challenging him.

Who Will Win: Audiences will lament DiCaprio missing out on Oscar gold once again, but this was never going to be his year. As Ron Woodruff in Dallas Buyers Club, McConaughey came out of the blue and has emerged as the man to beat. Fresh off a Golden Globe win and universal acclaim for his role in the true story of Woodruff’s fight to smuggle unapproved pharmaceuticals into Texas, McConaughey is undeniably hot right now. He also starred in critic’s darling Mud and is turning heads in HBO’s True Detective. The fact that his performance as Woodruff is one for the ages certainly doesn’t hurt. I’m going to stick to my guns though and say it’ll be Ejiofor. His performance was too intense, too heartbreaking and too real. Too good for the Academy? Maybe, but I’ve got faith.

Best Picture

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

Who Got Snubbed: Since the Academy’s move from a set list of five nominations for Best Picture (like every other award) in 2009 to a system that in recent years has allocated 8 or 9 consistently, we have typically gotten a watered-down category where films like The Blind Side and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close somehow slip on the radar, generating the millions of dollars that come with being able to flaunt “ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE” on a billboard.

This year, however, some very deserving films didn’t make the cut with Inside Llewyn Davis being the most noticeable miss. How a perfectly-crafted, impeccably-performed piece of art doesn’t make this list is a wonder and a shock. No film has ever made me want to leave the theatre after ending just to get in the line for the next showing more than this classic from the Coen brothers.

Who Should Win: I was in Toronto for TIFF when I saw 12 Years in a theatre full of critics. And I’ve never seen a drama that has elicited such a reaction from a crowd before, or since. The gasps were audible, the horror literally leaving people who do this for a living in tears. No one moved until the credits were completely over, unable to fully comprehend the emotion of what we just saw.

Who Will Win: Since it hit screens, the consensus has been unanimous that it was always going to be 12 Years. American Hustle delighted, Gravity stretched minds, but in the end, that consensus never really wavered. Congrats Steve McQueen, you’ve made the film of the decade.

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Want to place your bets? Let us know your Oscar predictions.
Feature image sourced on WeHeartIt.

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