Each year I publish my Oscar predictions. I do so in a most straight-forward manner. My track record is pretty impressive (if I do say so myself) and more often than not, I end up with a better record than most national movie critics. What I never do, is mislead myself or the readers. Sandbagging is not my thing … Lou Holtz showed me what a poor quality that can be.
I can honestly say that this year provides less clarity, more uncertainty, than any year in recent memory. Numerous categories have no real front-runner, and some have not just two, but three or four potential winners … even in some of the high profile categories! As you might imagine, that makes a high number of accurate predictions extremely unlikely. That’s not sandbagging, but rather full disclosure on this year’s predictions.
My theory on the elevated uncertainty stems from what I have labeled an extraordinary year for the number of good, quality, watchable movies … and an absolute void of truly great ones. There are nine nominated for Best Picture, and I would venture to say that not one will live on as a “must-watch” for the next 10 or 20 years (like say The Godfather or Lawrence of Arabia).
Below you will find my Predictions (my expected winner), my Preferences (my personal choice were I voting), and a brief description of each category. After the ceremony, I will post a recap, regardless of my record, and provide some insight and observations. Here’s hoping you enjoy.
This is an incredibly tight race between 12 Years a Slave (the traditionally favored historical drama) and Gravity (the box office bonanza). A 3D sci-fi movie has yet to win the big award (Avatar, Hugo, Life of Pi), but Gravity could be the first. Because of how tight this is and the convoluted Academy voting methods, we can’t rule out American Hustle sneaking in and taking the statue. Gravity is the one movie that could get on a roll and rack up a big number of Oscar wins.
Prediction: 12 Years a Slave (mostly because I’m not a big fan of Gravity)
Preference: Nebraska (my #2 film of the year)
No matter the Best Picture winner, I fully expect Mr. Cuaron to win this award. He was the driving force behind a technical marvel that raised the bar for future sci-fi films. David O Russell once again proved he is a dream director for actors, while Martin Scorcese had the most fun he’s had in years. Steve McQueen directed the most powerful film, but Cuaron was ground-breaking.
Prediction: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity (yes, I am predicting a rare split between Best Picture and Best Director)
Preference: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Matthew McConaughey has reinvented himself as an actor and is on quite a career roll. If you haven’t seen him in HBO’s “True Detective”, you are really missing out. He has even inspired a new word, McConassaince. This is a ridiculously strong category with five worthy nominees, especially Chiwetel Ejifor. Christian Bale is the only one in the group who has won an Oscar. It’s been 35 years since Bruce Dern’s last nomination, and this is Leonardo DiCaprio’s 4th nomination (no wins yet).
Prediction: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Preference: Matthew McConaughey (I thought he was even better in Mud)
BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Another very strong category, but one in which Cate Blanchett has been the favorite for months. Only a tidal wave of backlash against Woody Allen can stop her. If that happens, 5 time nominee Amy Adams slides right in. She is the only non-Oscar winner in the group.
Prediction: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Preference: Judi Dench, Philomena
BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
This is one of the three picks closest to “a sure thing” on the ballot. After touring with his rock band for 6 years, Jared Leto thought he would jump back into this acting thing. He delivered what is probably the year’s best overall performance from any actor. Any other year, Barkhad Abdi or Michael Fassbender would have had my vote … they both frightened me!
Prediction: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Preference: Jaret Leto
BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
There is no wrong pick here (except of course, Julia Roberts). June Squibb stole every scene in Nebraska, Sally Hawkins brought humanity to Blue Jasmine, and Jennifer Lawrence was stunning in American Hustle. Newcomer Lupito Nyong’o is the one who captured our heart in 12 Years a Slave.
Prediction: Lupito Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Preference: Jennifer Lawrence (this would be back-to-back Oscar wins for the 22 yr old)
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
This is another of the 3 picks closest to “a sure thing”. It’s been 14 years since Disney has won this category, and this year they have a $1 billion box office, critical raves and many entertained families. Anything other than Frozen will be a shocker. I am abstaining since I have not seen any of the nominees, though I am a fan of animation.
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE FILM
20 Feet From Stardom is my favorite movie of the year, but it has tough competition from critic favorites The Act of Killing and The Square. Both of these are extremely powerful and should be seen, but my pick is both insightful and crowd-pleasing. The prediction is based on the strong word-of-mouth and the all-out marketing blitz… including The Super Bowl.
Prediction: 20 Feet From Stardom
Preference: 20 Feet From Stardom
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)
Yet another impressive category, this time featuring the legendary John Williams with his 49th Oscar nomination. Yes, 49! Also on the ballot are two who are long past due for a win, Alexandre Desplat (6 nominations in 8 years) and Thomas Newman (10 nominations). Riding the expected wave of Gravity, look for Steven Price to take the win.
Prediction: Steven Price, Gravity
Preference: Alexandre Desplat, Philomena
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)
Neither celebrities nor pop/rock stars have a strong track record with the Oscars, so don’t expect the hot-on-the-charts Pharrell Williams or rock gods U2 to eclipse “Let it Go” from Frozen. While I have heard all the songs, I did not see all the movies, so I am abstaining (the category is supposed to reward the best use of song within the movie)
Prediction: “Let it Go“, Frozen, sung by Idina Menzell
Gravity is the odds-on favorite to win this award since it was so extraordinary to look at on screen, and none of us are smart enough to know how much was special effects. My personal favorite is Roger Deakins, whose fantastic camera work elevated Prisoners from TV movie to nail-biting thriller.
If the voters can get over the divisiveness brought on by Baz Luhrmann’s interpretation of The Great Gatsby, and not get caught up in straight-lining their ballot for Gravity, the obvious choice here is Gatsby. However, there is no way to know if either of those things will happen. Gravity may continue its roll and well, Old Sport, Gatsby could get shut out.
Prediction: The Great Gatsby
Preference: The Great Gatsby
Another of the incredibly tough categories to predict with three worthy nominees. 12 Years a Slave could get some love here just to offset the Gravity blitz, but American Hustle and The Great Gatsby were absolutely spot on in capturing their eras. Any of these three would make worthy winners, as would The Grandmaster.
Prediction: American Hustle
Preference: The Great Gatsby
Oscar voters tend to favor the rapid-fire cuts of action movies, but my preference was the expert and story-enhancing editing on display during American Hustle.
Prediction: Captain Phillips
Preference: American Hustle
SHORT FILM (DOCUMENTARY)
Alice Herz-Sommer was 109 during filming and passed away last week at age 110. Her story is fascinating and blends her indomitable spirit, her world class piano talent and her Holocaust survival story. Would you vote against this lady? I certainly won’t. I’m not sure how, or even if, this one will get distribution, but I highly recommend you track it down.
Prediction: The Lady in Number 6
Preference: The Lady in Number 6
SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)
I didn’t find the nominees to be as strong as years past, but it’s pretty hard to imagine Disney’s Get a Horse not winning. It has the advantages of retro-Mickey Mouse and showing prior to the mega box office hit Frozen.
Prediction: Get a Horse
Preference: Room on the Broom (charming bedtime story with a message)
SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)
Again, not as strong as other years, but I expect the Oscar voters will defer to the project featuring the well known actors, rather than the touching and hyper-sensitive story of a terminally ill boy.
Prediction: The Voorman Problem
MAKE-UP AND HAIRSTYLING
Since somehow the wig expo known as American Hustle did not receive a nomination, let’s go with the great work in Dallas Buyers Club … rumored to have a make-up budget of $250 (or a week’s worth of lipstick for Sandra Bullock)
Prediction: Dallas Buyers Club
Preference: Dallas Buyers Club
The sound editor gathers the ingredients; the sound mixer makes the soup. Gravity had very unusual sound needs … we had to believe the characters were in space.
The sound editor gathers the ingredients; the sound mixer makes the soup. The sound of Inside Llewyn Davis perfectly captured the Greenwich Village feel for me, while I have serious doubt about how much on set sound Gravity actually used.
Preference: Inside Llewn Davis
The single biggest “sure thing” of the night. This category describes the movie Gravity. It is a unique and revolutionary viewing experience (in 3D, on a huge screen). For those who are waiting to watch it on their home TV, I predict much disappointment.
WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)
This looks to be a close race between Her and American Hustle. Her seems to be the most unique, but I had zero connection to the film, the characters or the story (yes, I am the only one on the globe who feels this way). Nebraska seems so small in comparison, but the genius is in appearing effortless while so many emotions are flying.
Preference: Nebraska (Bob Nelson’s personal project)
WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)
Four very powerful and personal stories: a free man turned slave, a woman’s quest to find her son, a ship captain’s horrific ordeal, and a despicable con artist on the road to ruin. I think this comes down to a toss-up between Soloman Northrup vs Philomena Lee.
Prediction: 12 Years a Slave
Preference: 12 Years a Slave
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Italy’s entry The Great Beauty is the most visually stylish, and the other four are pretty much downers in tone. Still, I found The Hunt (Denmark) with Mads Mikkelsen (a great performance) to be mesmerizing.
Prediction: The Great Beauty
Preference: The Hunt
If you would like to see my “BEST of 2013” list, please visit: http://moviereviewsfromthedark.com/annual-bests-2/best-of-2013/
As always, your feedback is welcome. Enjoy the Oscars!