Yes I know the Oscars are a fraud, a self-congratulatory orgy of narcissism. An industry pretending it represents an art form. All that. I still like it, and I still watch. I care about film, about the art form, and I do think there’s a genuine core to the Academy Awards, a real attempt to identify and reward excellence. They don’t matter, but they also matter a great deal, an accolade given to artists by their peers. So we watch.
And half the fun, of course, is predicting who might win, who will win, all that. But I’m not going to play their game by their rules! Not me. So these are not so much my Oscar predictions, as much as the films I’ve decided have already won. I know stuff; I’m smart. If the actual Oscar voters disagree with me, they’re obviously wrong. Just as I will go to the grave insisting that Forest Gump did NOT beat Pulp Fiction for Best Picture in 1995, the voters’ actual votes notwithstanding.
I’m using Oscar.go.com’s website, and I’m going to start at the bottom of their page. So first up:
Visual Effects: Gravity. Has to be Gravity. It’s going to clean up in the technical categories.
Best Screenplay (Adapted): Tough category. I think John Ridley will win for 12 Years a Slave. But all five films nominated were wonderfully written.
Best Screenplay (Original): I can’t see the Academy ignoring David O. Russell’s smart, funny, human screenplay for American Hustle. Though I really loved Spike Jonze Her screenplay, and Bob Nelson’s taut, powerful Nebraska.
This year, I didn’t see any of the films up for Short Film (Live Action). They’re available on-line too; shame on me.
Sound Editing and Sound Mixing: both will go to Gravity.
Best Song: “Happy” from Despicable Me 2. Pharrell Williams song is amazing; his video‘s even better. But I’m also sort of rooting for “Let it Go” from Frozen, as an Oscar ‘in your face’ to the crazy lady who thinks Frozen is about gay rights.
Production Design: Gravity wins again, in a tough category. I’m sort of rooting for The Great Gatsby, though.
Short Film animated: Didn’t see them; my bad.
Foreign Language Film: The Hunt. With a stellar performance by Mads Mikkelson; I think it’s a shattering film.
Makeup and Hairstyling: The Dallas Buyers Club. This is the category in which Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa is nominated. Blarg.
Music Original Score: Alexander Desplat, for Philomena.
Documentary Feature: 20 Feet From Stardom. Wonderful film about rock’s legendary back-up singers. Loved this film, loved it. See it!
Documentary Short Subject: Didn’t see any of them; wish I had. No opinion.
Film Editing: Gravity. The film’s an extraordinary technical achievement, if not much else.
Cinematography: Phedon Pappamichael for Nebraska. A lot of the power of this wonderful film was in the starkness of the black and white photography. Plus, the guy’s name is Phedon Pappamichael.
Costume Design: Michael Wilkinson for American Hustle. The tackiness of the 70s has never been on more continuously amusing display, but the costumes aren’t parodies; they’re lived in, real.
Best Director: Alphonso Cuaron, for Gravity.
Animated Feature: Despicable Me 2. Consistently inventive and funny and warm; loved this film. Frozen was great too, though.
Actress in a Supporting Role: Jennifer Lawrence won the Golden Globe in this category, but has since asked her publicist and agent to quietly ask people not to vote for her here, which makes me like her all the more. Lupita Nyong-o will win, I think, for 12 Years a Slave. And she’ll deserve to. But my heart is still rooting for June Squibb for Nebraska. She’s tremendous in the film, and I’m sure, at the age of 84, she’s thrilled just to have been nominated. But she also genuinely deserves it; her performance is a marvel.
Actor in a Supporting Role: I’m going way out on a limb here, but Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips. As a Somalia pirate, he brought extraordinary gravity, intelligence and tragic power to the role, all the more amazing considering that he’s never acted before. I thought all five actors were great, but that was the performance that stood out for me. Jared Leto’s probably going to win, though, for Dallas Buyer’s Club.
Actress in a Leading Role: Amy Adams, American Hustle. A tremendous category, with stellar performances all the way down the line. I know that Cate Blanchett is the favorite, her performance in Blue Jasmine was terrific. But I hate it when an actor wins for a great performance in a less-than-great movie, a la Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady, a mediocre Maggie Thatcher biopic. And I didn’t think Blue Jasmine was a very good film. It’s Woody Allen’s homage to A Streetcar Named Desire, but one with no Stanley Kowalski, no menace, no danger, and no real conflict. Blanche Dubois is damaged, but she’s not crazy. Cate Blanchett’s character is just nuts. And I didn’t care. And how do you choose between Judi Dench and Meryl Streep, both at the top of their game? You don’t. You give it to the only actress in the category never to have won before. Who also, incidentally, was incandescently great in American Hustle–vulnerable, intelligent, tough, damaged.
Best Actor in a Leading Role: Bruce Dern, Nebraska. Another incredibly tough category. In this case, it features five wonderful actors who have never won before, and who give career performances. Really, I’m rooting for a five-way tie. But as much as I admire and respect Matthew McConaughey, Christian Bale, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Leonardo DiCaprio, I want the Oscar to go to Dern, a magnificent actor who has never been recognized before, and won’t again, at his age (77). What I love about Dern’s performance is it’s complete lack of sentimentality. Every chance he has to tug at our heartstrings, he resists. And we don’t really fall in love with his cantankerous old coot of a character. Better: we understand him. The other actors will have many more opportunities. It’s Dern’s turn.
Best Picture: I honestly think it’s between three films: American Hustle, Gravity and 12 Years a Slave. So here’s my reasoning:
American Hustle is a comedy. It’s smart, it’s world-wise, it’s human and real and tough-minded, but it’s still a comedy. Oscar doesn’t often award comedies.
Gravity is a technical marvel. And it’s as engrossing and exciting a picture as I have ever seen. Edge of your seat doesn’t even begin to describe it. But it’s a sci-fi film, and Oscar has never given Best Picture to sci-fi. Maybe it’s time, but the film also suffers from a kind of weightlessness, a lack of, well, gravity. It’s contentless; it doesn’t mean anything, or stand for much. It’s just a tremendously entertaining movie.
12 Years a Slave will win, I think. Has won, in my book. And deserved to.