Oooh boy. As we approach the 86th Annual Academy Awards, I feel much less confident in my choices than I did last year. Why? Many of the categories feel very crowded, with stiff competition amongst a field high high-calibre talent. That said, I’ve seen a lot of films in 2013, and I’ve been keeping my eye on the buzz, and I think I have my predictions nailed down. So… who will win? Who got snubbed? I’ve got the answers!
…aaaaaand, unlike last year, I won’t recommend you put any money down in your office pool based on my predictions. These races are by and large too close to comfortably call!
Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
- 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
My Prediction: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
My Pick: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
The Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role is Jared Leto’s category to lose at this point. Not only was his performance in Dallas Buyer’s Club nuanced and engaging, but it also featured an actor performing outside of his normal physical comfort range. Whether you find the Academy’s love for body transformations warranted or excessive, it is hard to imagine Leto not coming out on top of this category. Michael Fassbender’s venomous turn in 12 Years a Slave and Bradley Cooper’s momentum as an actor put them as viable dark horses, however.
Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
- Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
- Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
- Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
- Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
- June Squibb, Nebraska
My Prediction: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
My Pick: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
As much as I loved Sally Hawkins in Blue Jasmine, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role is a two horse race this year. Jennifer Lawrence is riding a gigantic wave of momentum, propelled both by her own star power and by her tumultuous performance in the darling of the award season, American Hustle. That said, Lawrence took home an Oscar for Best Actress in 2013, and I’m not convinced lightning will strike twice in a row for this 23 year old. It’s almost a coin flip, but if I were putting down money, it would be on Lupita Nyong’o’s powerful performance in 12 Years a Slave.
A noticeable, yet not surprising snub in this category is Scarlett Johannson’s amazing performance in Her. The Academy doesn’t quite know how to handle performances like Johannson’s or Andy Serkis as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. In an age of evolving technology, it is a shame that virtual performances don’t have a seat at Oscar’s table.
Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
- 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
My Prediction: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
My Pick: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
And now, class, we come to one of our most tightly contested categories. Really, I could see Best Lead Actor going to any of these nominees, although my hunch is that Christian Bale is at the rear of the pack. Matthew McConaughey is the frontrunner here, but only by a nose. Between Dallas Buyers Club, Mud, and a scene-stealing supporting role in The Wolf of Wall Street, 2013 was certainly McConaughey’s year, and Oscar knows it. I wouldn’t count out Chiwetel Ejiofor’s gripping performance as Solomon Northrup in 12 Years a Slave, a film almost made for Oscar gold. DiCaprio and Dern are not quite dark horses, but not quite contenders; either could comfortably pull out the win without turning too many heads.
Of course, this category has a few noticeable snubs; Joaquin Phoenix delivered my favorite performance of 2013 as Theodore Twombly in Her, and not seeing him in this category is a disappointment. Likewise, Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips, Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis, and Robert Redford in All is Lost were all easy contenders for a nomination as well.
Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
- Amy Adams, American Hustle
- Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
- Sandra Bullock, Gravity
- Judi Dench, Philomena
- Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
My Prediction: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
My Pick: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Cate Blanchett delivered an outstanding performance in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, painting a layer of sophisticated grace over a fragile and shattering psyche. She is the obvious front-runner for Best Lead Actress, and I think her chances look pretty good. Sandra Bullock received early praise for Gravity, but I think that praise might have peaked too soon for her to have a viable shot at winning. Amy Adams stands as Blanchett’s only real competition in this category; like McConaughey, Adams had an impressive year, with critically acclaimed performances in Her and American Hustle. Plus, Adams is the only nominee in this category who hasn’t earned an Oscar in the past, and the Academy might take that into consideration.
Best Animated Feature Film
- The Croods
- Despicable Me 2
- Ernest & Celestine
- The Wind Rises
My Prediction: Frozen
My Pick: Frozen
The Wind Rises is Hayao Miyazaki’s final feature-length film, and the beloved co-founder of Studio Ghibli may pull out a win on the strength of that claim alone. Still, with The Wind Rises not receiving a North American release until February 21, 2014, the film hasn’t had a chance to generate as much buzz as it might otherwise. Anyone who has listened to the Movie Bears Podcast should know just how infatuated I am with Disney’s Frozen, and I’m not alone. Both a critical and a commercial success, Frozen is sitting in a great position to take home some Oscar gold.
Best Documentary Feature
- The Act of Killing
- Cutie and the Boxer
- Dirty Wars
- The Square
- 20 Feet from Stardom
My Prediction: The Act of Killing
My Pick: The Act of Killing
A couple of quick points before I discuss these nominees: YES, Stories We Tell should have been nominated, and its exclusion from the list is one of the biggest snubs by the Academy this year. NO, Blackfish isn’t a snub; it is a perfectly fine documentary with an interesting subject matter, but its execution leaves much to be desired. The Best Documentary category is probably a lock for The Act of Killing, a film that does exactly what an Oscar nominated documentary SHOULD: it pushes boundaries by featuring a compelling subject told in a unique way. Having Werner Herzog and Errol Morris signed on as executive producers probably can’t hurt the film’s chance, either. As much as I enjoyed The Square and Cutie and the Boxer, I can’t see any of these films besting The Act of Killing.
- American Hustle, written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
- Blue Jasmine, written by Woody Allen
- Dallas Buyers Club, written by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack
- Her, written by Spike Jonze
- Nebraska, written by Bob Nelson
My Prediction: American Hustle, written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
My Pick: Her, written by Spike Jonze
Am I foolishly letting my own preferences cloud my judgement here? Is my love of Her and my disappointment in the number of overall nominations it received influencing my pick? Probably. Her is an amazing script by an amazing filmmaker, and it certainly deserves this award. However, I could very easily see the American Hustle train steamrolling this competition.
- Before Midnight, written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and 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
My Prediction: 12 Years a Slave, screenplay by John Ridley
My Pick: Philomena, screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
I don’t think Philomena is going to get a lot of love at the Oscars this year, which is a bit of a shame; it has a very smart script which crafted a brilliant lead character for Judi Dench to bring alive on screen. I think we’ll probably see 12 Years a Slave take home the win here, although this category seems like it could go several different directions.
Achievement in Directing
- Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
- Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
- Alexander Payne, Nebraska
- David O. Russell, American Hustle
- Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
My Prediction: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
My Pick: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
This is where things get interesting. Despite phenomenal direction by Alexander Payne and Martin Scorsese, I see this one as a three-way race between Cuarón, McQueen, and Russell, a race that will likely carry over into the Best Picture category as well. This is a category where glancing to other award wins /losses can help you read the temperature of the voting Academy. Cuarón took home top honors for Gravity at the Directors Guild of America Awards. Why is this important? Well, in the 65 year history of the DGA awards, the winner also took home the Best Director Academy Award 58 times, giving us an 89% accuracy rate. So, my prediction is that Cuarón takes home the award, and I’m very happy with that. Gravity was a tense, special-effects heavy thrill ride which excited audiences and wowed critics, bridging a gap between casual and critical film goers in a way that films often forget to do.
- American Hustle
- Captain Phillips
- Dallas Buyers Club
- 12 Years a Slave
- The Wolf of Wall Street
My Prediction: 12 Years a Slave
My Pick: Her
Remember how I mentioned a three way race between Cuarón, McQueen, and Russell? Well, that translates into a three-way race for Best Picture between Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, and American Hustle. Even though Her was easily the strongest film of the year, it simply hasn’t picked up enough traction heading in to award season. Let’s take a quick peek over at the Producer Guild of America Awards, where Gravity and 12 Years a Slave tied for the top honor. Normally, this is a good measuring stick of who has momentum going in to the Academy Awards, and with Cuarón probably taking the Best Directing Award, I’m putting my money on 12 Years a Slave to sneak in the win.
Whew. We’ve said it a bunch on the Movie Bears Podcast, but this really was a good year for film. Any of the films nominated for Best Picture could have easily been strong contenders in another year with weaker competition. So… do you agree with my predictions? Am I missing something important? I want to hear your picks and your feedback in the comments!