Saturday, March 1, 2014

86th Annual Oscar Predictions!

It is that time of year again, for me to dust off my crystal ball or look into my magic mirror on the wall, and try to guess what mistakes the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will make this year at the 86th annual Academy Awards tomorrow night.

If you've read my Oscar predictions in the past, you know my reasoning for deciding which film will win has nothing to do with the quality of the film, i.e. "such and such movie is good therefore it will win". The merits of a particular film has nothing to do with it winning an award or even being nominated. The Oscars are a popularity contest. The Academy is also very image conscious and prefer to make decisions based upon political correctness and liberal ideology. I apologize if I am shattering anyone's belief that the Academy only cares about the quality of the film and the outside world means nothing to them.

The voters of the Academy are, believe it or not, people. Mind you, not smart people, but people nonetheless. The social and economic conditions of the world are on their mind. Hollywood likes to present itself as a progressive institution.

This year I will do something a little different. Often readers mistake predictions with my personal choice. So, to clarify, I will offer my predictions as well as my preference. Then there will be no confusion.


And the nominees are: 12 Years A Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena and The Wolf of Wall Street

First a disclosure. I have only seen eight of the nine nominated films. The one I haven't seen is Dallas Buyers Club.

Now that that is out of the way, I would say we have a three way race between 12 Years A Slave, American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street. Wall Street because it is timely and deals with corrupt CEOs and income inequality which liberals plans on making a campaign issue. American Hustle because the Academy likes the film's director David O' Russell. Many people felt his "Silver Lining Playbook" (2012) should have won best picture last year and it has the most nominations of the night, a total of 10 (tied with Gravity). And 12 Years A Slave because it feels important and deals with race, a theme the Academy likes to celebrate. See "Crash" (2005) and "Driving Miss Daisy" (1989).

What hurts The Wolf of Wall Street is that it is a Martin Scorsese film. Yes, Scorsese is a great film-maker. One of the best working today. But, the Academy doesn't like to give him awards. They have no problem nominating him, they can't deny his talent, but, winning an award is something else. His "Taxi Driver" (1976) never won nor did nor did "Raging Bull" (1980), "GoodFellas" (1990), "Gangs of New York" (2003), "The Aviator" (2004), "Shutter Island" (2010) or "Hugo" (2011). His film "The Departed" (2006) is his only picture to date to win best picture and win a directing award for Scorsese. Even though it would send a nice liberal Hollywood message if it won, the Scorsese hurdle might be too much to overcome.

No, the Oscar will go to 12 Years A Slave. In the Academy's eyes it is a respectable choice. It is a movie which screams important and Oscar.

My Prediction - 12 Years A Slave
My Preference - The Wolf of Wall Street


And the nominees are: Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity), Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave), Alexander Payne (Nebraska), David O' Russell (American Hustle) and Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)

Generally speaking the best director Oscar winner is usually the person who directed the best picture Oscar. There have been exceptions to this rule. last year for example "Argo" (2012) won best picture but the film's director, Ben Affleck, wasn't even nominated. Steven Spielberg won the best director award for "Saving Private Ryan" (1998) when the best picture Oscar went to "Shakespeare in Love" (1998).

Still I am a man of tradition and I think history will repeat itself. The only other possible exception would be Alfonso Cuaron. Gravity was a big money maker and it is tied with the most nominations for the night. It doesn't feel like a best picture Oscar winner to me, but, the Academy may want to honor it in same way and may feel this is the way to do it, to honor Cuaron for the impressive effects used to make the movie.

My Prediction - Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave)
My Preference - Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)


And the nominees are: Christian Bale (American Hustle), Bruce Dern (Nebraska), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street), Chiwetel Ejiofer (12 Years A Slave) and Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

At one point Bruce Dern was considered a lock on this award. Many insiders in the business said it was the performance of a lifetime for Dern. Heaven knows the Academy is not above giving a "pity" Oscar to individuals they feel they wrongly passed over throughout the years. But now things don't seem so certain.

What is going to determine the outcome of this race is how well 12 Years A Slave does. Will it sweep everything it is nominated for? Will its best picture win carry over into other categories? If so, of course Ejiofer wins. If not than it is DiCaprio's to lose.

My Prediction - Chiwetel Ejiofer (12 Years A Slave)
My Preference - Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)


And the nominees are: Amy Adams (American Hustle), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena) and Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)  

Not much to discuss here. Cate Blanchett will win.

My Prediction - Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
My Preference - Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)


And the nominees are: Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), Bradley Cooper (American Hustle), Michael Fassbinder (12 Years A Slave), Johan Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street), Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

As in the best actor category this all depends on how well 12 Years A Slave does. Will Michael Fassbinder be carried in a sweep? If not his only real competition is Bradley Cooper.

My Prediction - Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
My Preference - Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)


And the nominees are: Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years A Slave), Julia Roberts (August: Osage County) and June Squibb (Nebraska)

There seems to be a growing sentimental vibe in Squibb's favor. Many feel it could be the upset of the night but I am just not convinced it will happen. Roberts has been out of the Oscar race for a very long time and I haven't heard anyone suggest she stands much of a chance. Nyong'o seems to have been carried along for the 12 Years A Slave sweep. Lawrence dominates American Hustle. I am reluctant to call it a "supporting" role

My Prediction - Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
My Preference - Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)


And the nominees are: Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine), Craig Borten-Melisa Wallack (Dallas Buyers Club), Spike Jonze (Her), Bob Nelson (Nebraska), Eric Warren Singer - David O' Russell (American Hustle)

There has been too much bad press against Allen in the news lately and it may hurt his chances. Again, the Academy is image conscious. This could be the race the Academy honors O' Russell. Still, I called Spike Jonze's Her the love story of our time and placed it on my top ten list. But does Jonze have any pull in Hollywood to get the votes?

My Prediction - Eric Warren Singer - David O' Russell (American Hustle)
My Preference - (tie) Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine) / Spike Jonze (Her)


And the nominees are: Steve Coogan - Jeff Pope (Philomena), Richard Linklater - Julie Delpy - Ethan Hawke (Before Midnight), Billy Ray (Captain Phillips), John Ridley (12 Years A Slave) and Terence Winter (The Wolf of Wall Street)

I am surprised Before Midnight managed to receive a nomination. It is a very good movie but I thought the Academy would forget about it. It was released fairly early in the year.

I am still going with my theory 12 Years A Slave will have a sweeping effect.

My Prediction - John Ridley (12 Years A Slave)
My Preference - Terence Winter (The Wolf of Wall Street)


And the nominees are: The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium), The Great Beauty (Italy), The Hunt (Denmark), The Missing Picture (Cambodia) and Omar (Palestine)

Not all of these movies are open in Chicago yet. So I am at a disadvantage. I usually am in this category. Years ago the most popular choice would win because of the Academy's rules. Voters were not obligated to see all the nominated films. Then the rules changed and since that time, once in a while, there will be an unexpected winner. The big upset was the Cannes Palm d'Or winner "Blue is the Warmest Color" wasn't nominated. That would have been the most popular foreign language film of the year and a favorite to win.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Hunt. I called it one of the best films of 2013 though The Great Beauty has a lot of support. And it is Italian. The Academy has a fondness for French and Italian cinema.

My Prediction - The Great Beauty (Italy)
My Preference - The Hunt (Denmark)


And the nominees are: The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Ernest & Celestine, Frozen and The Wind Rises

This is really a two movie race. You have the Disney film Frozen and Miyazaki's The Wind Rises. Disney and/or Pixar are usually the favorites to win. Frozen made a lot of money and some critics liked it, though it wasn't a very good year for animated movies. What makes The Wind Rises a contender is it may be Hayao Miyazaki's final film. This will be the Academy's last time to honor him. His "Spirited Away" (2002) won in this category.

My Prediction - Frozen
My Preference - Frozen

And there you have it. My predictions for the 86th annual Academy Awards. You can watch the show tomorrow night, March 2nd at 7:30 (central time) as it will be hosted by Ellen DeGeneres.