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Perhaps at this moment you are saying to yourself, "What the hell has all this got to do with the Academy Awards?"

Prediction - 2014 Oscars



I’ve actually caught six of the Best Picture nominees this year, which is better than my usual tally come Oscar time. Last year my picks were hopelessly inept, so let’s see if I can be even more off-the-mark about Sunday’s winners.


Best Picture

Winner: Gravity
I’d like to Win: The Wolf of Wall Street

So I haven’t seen Philomena (if I’d known it would be the token Brit flick nominee I might have bothered to give it a look when I had the chance), Dallas Buyers Club (it may be in the offing in a couple of weeks) and Her. I’m fairly confident none of these will take gold next Sunday. Nebraska is also comfortably out of the running, and I suspect that The Wolf of Wall Street is a little too extreme to win out. In my review, I said I didn’t think it deserved Best Picture and I stand by that comment. But there’s a difference between that stance and it being the best out of its fellow contenders. There are a number of very good films in this year’s line up but out of those I’ve seen there are no great ones.

It’s been suggested that a late-game resurgence for Captain Phillips is possible, but I can’t see it really gaining much momentum. Which brings it down to Gravity, 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle. If it wasn’t for the make-believe-but-real ’70s glory bestowed on Argo last year, I’d suggest Hustle was the safe bet. And it might still win as the most popular, Tinseltown dress-up box movie with a touch of The Sting (remember how that won but didn’t deserve to?) 12 Years a Slave could capture the serious, issue-led Hollywood vote (which can be revolve around anything from an affliction to a prejudice to a topical theme). We’ve seen that in the past decade with Crash, The Hurt Locker and (to an extent) The King’s Speech. It might be time for another, but I have the sense 12 Years a Slave invokes respect rather than adoration and I wonder if that’s enough. I’m as doubtful about Gravity winning, as it’s sci-fi (well, just about) and the lesser of the trio in storytelling terms. But Gravity’s the choice that wouldn’t feel as predictable as Hustle or 12 Years, a bit like The Return of the King winning a decade ago. So like Lincoln last year, prepare for Gravity not to win.


Best Director

Winner: Alfonso Cuarón
I’d like to Win: Martin Scorsese

I don’t even know how Alexander Payne got on this list, as he’s done better work on better films and not a whole lot really stands out about Nebraska other than that it’s in black and white (so, Best Cinematography?) More deserving of recognition would have been Paul Greengrass’ work on Captain Phillips; not a great film, but a great piece of filmmaking. There’s nothing very special about David O Russell’s affected vision for American Hustle, so I’d be surprised if he was recognised. McQueen is a great director, but he’s possibly at his best not trapped in material quite so linear. I think he’s the runner-up here, however. The winner looks set to be Cuarón, not just for his technical virtuosity but for being a consistently intelligent mainstream director (although this may be his least smart movie). He bags it even if Gravity doesn’t take picture. But my pick is definitely Scorsese. To an extent he (like Greengrass) exceeds his subject matter, but isn’t that usually the case these days?


Best Actor

Winner: Matthew McConaughey
I’d like to Win: Leonardo DiCaprio


This may be a two-horse race between Ejiofor and Matthew McConaughey. The smart money is on Matt, in the full flush of a career resurgence and flaunting one of Oscar’s great loves; extreme physical transformation as a badge of acting prowess (not that it’s not, but they do love the obvious). Bale has already won with a Russell movie, and his turn in this one is a little too broad and theatrical for serious consideration. Dern has too much competition for the lifetime achievement award, but it’s great to see him in the running. DiCaprio gets my vote; he’s brilliant, hilarious and makes it all look so easy. But I’m not sure a film with all that unwholesome behaviour is the one to bag him an Oscar. I’m certain 12 Years will be recognised in some capacity, but where I thought Chiwetel was a shoe-in at one point, now I’m less certain. So Ejiofor or McConaughey. I’m torn.


Best Actress

Winner: Cate Blanchett
I’d like to Win: Amy Adams

Judi Dench and Meryl Streep are de factos in any lead or supporting category, and I think it’s safe to say that both will have to be content with a predictable nomination and no more this year. Sandy Buttocks supports Gravity sensationally well, but she isn’t always served by the scrappy dialogue. She also has a Best Actress win only four years ago. I think it’s between Cate Blanchett and Amy Adams. A few weeks ago it was between Cate Blanchett and Cate Blanchett. The question will be whether the adverse publicity Woody Allen’s received of late will affect the voting. I think it might, but probably not sufficiently to stem the tidal wave of feeling in her favour. I’ve yet to see Blue Jasmine, and I’m sure she deserves the recognition, so I’m picking Adams (Cate’s won an Oscar already, and she’s sure to be nominated many times more). This is her fifth nom, and first in a leading capacity; if by some chance she takes the podium I think you’ll be able to put it down to anti-Woody sentiment.


Best Supporting Actor

Winner: Jared Leto
I’d like to Win:  Michael Fassbender

This is an interesting category. It’s one often weighed down by predictable favourites and old hands hitherto unrewarded. This year the only safe choice is Cooper’s FBI guy in American Hustle, and I think he’ll take a distant fifth. Jonah Hill gives great false teeth in The Wolf of Wall Street, but I think his showy role there isn’t quite as interesting as in his previous nomination for Moneyball. Michael Fassbender getting a win would be about as unlikely as Joseph Fiennes for Schindler’s List, but he gets my vote for a surprisingly textured display of villainy. So I’ve narrowed it down to Barkhad Abdi and Jared Leto. Leto’s had the lion’s share of the awards this year, and I’m not sure Oscar will upset that. Abdi has a BAFTA to his name, but who pays any attention to the BAFTAs (no matter how much they ask to be listened to)? Compelling as Abdi is, I’m also left wondering if he’s a one-hit wonder and I suspect that factor may work against him.


Best Supporting Actress

Winner: Lupita Nyongo’o
I’d like to Win: Lupita Nyong’o

It would be a bit greedy of Jennifer Lawrence to gobble up a Best Supporting Actress Oscar only a year after getting the main title. I wouldn’t put it out of reach, as she’s wonderful in American Hustle and she’s probably loved just as much as Tom Hanks was when he took his back-to-back wins. June Squibb is equally attention grabbing in Nebraska, but I think she and Julia Roberts are outsiders. Sally Hawkins? Maybe, but Blanchett will be getting all the Blue Jasmine attention. So I’m going for Lupita. Not only does she really deserve it, but the supporting categories are often the chance to validate a rising star.


Best Original Screenplay

Winner: American Hustle
I’d like to Win: Pass

I’ll forgo a personal choice here, as I’ve only seen two of the nominated films, and I don’t think either are that deserving. I do think Hustle will take it, though, as it will be something of a consolation prize for the absence of greater glory. Woody winning again? Nah, especially not right now. Nebraska is too similar to previous Payne pictures. Her or Dallas Buyers Club might surprise, but the former may be too quirky and the latter is really tipped for its performances more than its writing (rightly or wrongly).


Best Adapted Screenplay

Winner: 12 Years a Slave
I’d like to Win: The Wolf of Wall Street

I nearly passed on this one too, even though Philomena’s the only one I haven’t seen. Before Midnight has moments of brilliance, but occasionally its student philosophising sits uncomfortably with the older more jaded areas it’s exploring. Captain Phillips’ least virtuous aspect is a script that hits you too hard with a “tale of true-life heroism”. The Wolf of Wall Street is fitfully outstanding, but it’s utterly undisciplined. 12 Years a Slave fails to effectively translate that this all happened over 12 years, which is kind of fundamental. So none of them are great screenplays. I’m picking Wolf because if you cut out the fat you might have something closer to greatness.


Best Cinematography

Winner: Gravity
I’d like to Win: Inside Llewyn Davis

I don’t see Prisoners taking home even a technical award. The Grandmaster is an outside possibility. Nebraska’s look really didn’t impress me all that much. If Gravity takes it there will be lots of comments about virtual cinematography (does it count?) but it does appear to have momentum. My pick is Bruno Delbonnel’s work on Inside Llewyn Davis.


Best Costume Design

Winner; The Great Gatsby
I’d like to Win: The Great Gatsby

Baz Lurhmann’s movie has been singularly shut out of any significant recognition, probably rightly so (but I did like The Great Gatsby). An award that usually seems to come down to who can remake the best period costumes, as evidenced by all this year’s nominations. Or fit out Tim Burton movies. Hustle looks like its duds came off the peg at the local fancy dress shop, two of the others are duking it out for 19th century authenticity and one is 1930s. But Gatsby is most colourful and we like bright shiny things.


Best Sound Mixing

Winner: Gravity
I’d like to Win: Inside Llewyn Davis

This is where toss-ups start to take over. I’m saying no to Lone Survivor and The Hobbit on the grounds of common sense. I think the other three all have a strong chance. Gravity seems like a safe bet, or maybe Captain Phillips.


Best Film Editing

Winner: Captain Phillips
I’d like to Win: Gravity

I suspect this one too is between Gravity and Captain Phillips, but I’m going to side with Greengrass’ fast and furious approach courtesy of Christopher Rouse. The one I’d really pick is absent, though (The Wolf of Wall Street).


Best Sound Editing

Winner: Captain Phillips
I’d like to Win: Pass

It probably seems likely that if one wins one sound category, it will win the other too but it doesn’t happens as often as it does. So to speak. I have no idea really, nor particular investment. It has its faults, but the technical accomplishments of Captain Phillips aren’t among them.


Best Visual Effects

Winner: Gravity
I’d like to Win: Gravity

There’s no question that this one’s in the bag. I actually think that the others, barring Hobbit, may all be consistently more top notch, and I’d perversely love to see The Lone Ranger win an Oscar, but Gravity’s effects more obviously service story, tone and atmosphere.


Best Make-up

Winner: Dallas Buyers Club
I’d like to Win: The Lone Ranger

Jackass winning an Oscar? I guess it’s possible, and make-up can easily become a best latex award. Dallas Buyers Club should get it, but I’m rooting for The Lone Ranger (again).


Best Production Design

Winner: The Great Gatsby
I’d like to Win: The Great Gatsby

Hmmm. I think Gatsby or Gravity. Those, and Her, took awards from the Art Directors Guild, but I don’t know where Her will get a look in. Another where I don’t have a strong opinion. I don’t want to see Gravity sweep the  floor, though, and it’s not the production designer’s fault that Lurhmann shoots like he’s eaten too may sweets.


Best Original Song

Winner: Despicable Me 2 (Pharrell Williams: Happy)
I’d like to Win: Despicable Me 2

Yeah, maybe Frozen will win. But it’s typical Disney formula song writing. Happy gets into the brain. The song from Her is kind of irritating, and U2’s one is their own formula beaten to death. Please Mr Kennedy should have been nominated, though.


Best Original Score

Winner: Gravity (Steven Price)
I’d like to Win: Gravity

Never bet against John Williams, but I’ll falling with Gravity.


Best Animated Short

Winner: Get a Horse!
I’d like to Win: Feral

Room on the Broom might be aping the style and success of The Gruffalo a bit too much to find favour (it’s also been on TV in Britain). Get a Horse! is really obvious conceptually (but nostalgia, recognition and stylistic flourish might win out).  Feral looks most interesting and least calculated.


Best Documentary Short

Winner: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
I’d like to Win: Pass

Holocaust pics are always good for an Oscar win, right?  And The Lady in Number 6 is an uplifting Holocaust short. What could be more laudable? Cavedigger looks interesting, but it’s not got a big issue behind it. Facing Fear, Karama Has No Walls and Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private jack Hall can all make a claim to tackling some weighty subject matter.


Best Live Action Short

Winner: The Voorman Problem
I’d like to Win: The Voorman Problem

It’s a likely crowd-pleaser, with recognisable faces (Martin Freeman, Tom Hollander) and a bit of light relief (as opposed to That Wasn’t Me). Maybe this year’s Franz Kafka’s It’s A Wonderful Life.


Best Documentary Feature

Winner: The Act of Killing

I’d like to Win: Pass


The Act of Killing has the highest profile, although Dirty Wars might have some support (it’s the one I’m most interested in seeing). The others are a doc about backing singers, one about the Egyptian revolution and a critically acclaimed feature about a boxing painter. The Act of Killing is one that has really broken out this year to become a talking point, so it really ought to win, tackling its subject matter in a unique and sometimes astonishing way (but see the cinema release rather than the director’s cut, I’d suggest).


Best Foreign Language Film

Winner: The Great Beauty
I’d like to Win: Pass

I’ve only seen The Hunt out of these, but I’m guessing it’s between The Great Beauty and The Broken Circle Breakdown. The Missing Picture and Omar come with Cannes laurels, but I think Beauty probably passes for the Academy’s idea of what great European cinema should be.


Best Animated Feature

Winner: Frozen
I’d like to Win: Pass


I don’t think The Croods or Despicable Me 2 stand any chance, Miyazaki’s always possible, but it’s Frozen’s win.

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