The Oscar ceremony is this weekend. Will you be watching? I might, though frankly, I’d rather spend the time watching a movie. Here are the nominees in each of the big categories, and my predictions and picks.
12 Years A Slave ~ Her ~ The Wolf of Wall Street ~ Dallas Buyers Club ~ American Hustle ~ Gravity ~ Nebraska ~ Philomena ~ Captain Phillips
What Should Win: There are a lot of really good movies on this list; this won’t be a year, like last year, where a film like “Argo” wins and I’m left thinking, “really, Academy? This is the best you can come up with?” I’d say 7 of these films are better than “Argo.” My favorite is “Her.” It’s both warm and smart, a heartrending, ambitiously intellectual movie. I’m glad it got nominated; I don’t think it will win.
What Will Win: “12 Years A Slave” is the kind of thing the Academy tends to favor, because a) it’s a period drama and b) it’s about a social issue that we all agree is terrible. And it’s a powerfully moving film, so I won’t cry at all to see it win. I think “Dallas Buyers Club” has an outside chance, because again, period and social issue, but frankly I was disappointed with it; it turns out to be an interesting idea for a film that doesn’t quite turn into an interesting film.
Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) ~ Christian Bale (American Hustle) ~ Bruce Dern (Nebraska) ~ Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street) ~ Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave)
Who Should Win: These are all great actors, but not great performances. I don’t love this list; most of these guys are playing caricatures more than characters, and when your outrageously bad toupee or incredibly expensive suit do most of the work for you, there’s not a lot of acting required. The exception is Chiwetel Ejiofor, who must communicate a great deal (both rage and heartbreak, intelligence and caution) in a role where he simply can’t emote unreservedly. And he succeeds. It’s a great performance, and worthy of the award.
Who Will Win: Even though Matthew McConaughey’s performance isn’t terribly nuanced or impressive, his weight loss is impressive, and the Academy loves to reward beautiful people for uglying it up. Also, McConaughy’s career revival has been the story of the year (and he has made a string of solid movies recently) and an Oscar would be the perfect climax to that story.
Amy Adams (American Hustle) ~ Meryl Streep (August: Osage County) ~ Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) ~ Sandra Bullock (Gravity) ~ Judi Dench (Philomena)
Who Should Win: Cate Blanchett channels Blanche DuBois impressively in “Blue Jasmine,” and I’d love to see her take home a trophy for that incredibly demanding performance. I’d also be happy to see Judi Dench get recognized for “Philomena.” Dench has made a career out of playing cold, hard, intelligent women; it was nice to see her play someone a little warmer and softer.
Who Will Win: I don’t see a clear frontrunner here; so maybe Blanchett will win.
David O. Russell (American Hustle) ~ Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity) ~ Alexander Payne (Nebraska) ~ 12 Years A Slave (Steve McQueen) ~ Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Who Should Win: You can say it was all visual effects, but Alfonso Cauron made the terror and emptiness of space palpable in “Gravity.” On top of that, he made perhaps the first truly classic 3D movie, where the 3D doesn’t seem like a neat trick, but an integral part of the storytelling.
Who Will Win: The Academy tends to see this category as a consolation prize for the best film that didn’t win “Best Picture;” if “12 Years A Slave” doesn’t win, Steve McQueen will win here. If it does, Cuaron has a shot. Martin Scorsese has an outside shot as well; “The Wolf of Wall Street” is his most impassioned film since “The Departed,” and it’s great to see on of our best making great movies again.
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)
Who Should Win: I don’t know how the Academy decided Bradley Cooper was supporting Christian Bale in “American Hustle,” because the movie really belongs to him. He bring such ferocious insane energy to the role.
Who Will Win: Jared Leto, probably, because of the makeup. The Academy loves that stuff.
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)
Who Should Win: Surprisingly, this category has more award-worthy performances than “Best Actress.” Jennifer Lawrence was incredibly crazy; she reveals more acting talent with each film. Lupita Nyong’o captivated with her anguished performance. And Julia Roberts, who I used to hate, was better than Meryl Streep, and that’s saying something. If any of those three win, I’ll be happy.
Who Will Win: I’d guess Lupita Nyong’o, because a) it’s a great performance and b) she’s a newcomer, really the only one in the big categories, and the Academy likes to reward newcomers, and c) she’s an ethnic minority, and the Academy likes to award minorities in supporting roles (see: Morgan Freeman, Benicio del Toro, Javier Bardem, Octavia Spencer, Mo’Nique, Penelope Cruz, Jennifer Hudson.)