My Predictions for the 2014 Academy Awards
The Oscars are now only a few weeks away, but with the Director’s Guild and Writer’s Guild awards behind us and the favourites falling into place, it’s time to figure out who’s going to win the industry’s most famous prizes.
Last year gave us a pretty big upset in the Director category, and the films of 2013 may be setting us up for some surprises, as well. The Best Actor race is particularly heated this year (McConaughey, Ejiofor and DiCaprio are equally strong contenders), as is Best Picture (12 Years a Slave, American Hustle and Gravity are all being tossed around as the eventual winner).
Even so, after some research and quite a few educated guesses, I’ve finally drawn up my list of predictions. Below, you’ll find a complete list of who I think will win each of the major awards, as well as who I want to win, and who I think is the “dark horse” in that particular category. If you’d like to play along, draw up your own list and compare it to mine, and then tell me if I’m wrong in the comments!
Who Will Win: 12 Years a Slave
Much has been made about whether the Academy will reward a slavery-focused film that allegedly induces guilt in its predominantly white, male voters. Political considerations aside, McQueen’s film about a free African-American who is kidnapped and sold into slavery is a cinematic triumph, and more than deserves the top prize.
Who I Want to Win: Tie between Her and Gravity
Dark Horse: The Wolf of Wall Street
Who Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón - Gravity
Gravity is a nail-biting thrill ride, a searing personal story, and a remarkably beautiful piece of work. It’s also been described as a real “director’s movie”, and so is the favourite to win Cuarón the Best Director trophy – not to mention the fact that he’s already picked up the Director’s Guild prize. Cuarón laboured over the film for years, and yet kept the film (about the vastness of space) to a trim 91 minutes – even more proof of his finesse behind the camera.
Who I Want to Win: Alexander Payne (Nebraska)
Dark Horse: Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)
BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Who Will Win: Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine
The real battle in this race was between Blanchett and Adams, but the Australian actress pours so much of herself into her role as a mentally ill former socialite in Blue Jasmine that she’s almost a shoo-in for the award. Between Jasmine’s continuing mistakes (which are many) and her deteriorating mental condition, Blanchett wraps the character up in a single tragic package. We may dislike Jasmine, but Blanchett forces us to care about her – essential to any Oscar-winning performance.
Who I Want to Win: Cate Blanchett
Dark Horse: Amy Adams (American Hustle)
BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Who Will Win: Matthew McConaughey - Dallas Buyers Club
As mentioned above, the Best Actor race is one of juicier ones this year (all the better, since Daniel Day-Lewis had it all wrapped up the last time around). I’m willing to bet, however, that the Academy will once again hand the Oscar to the actor who sacrifices himself for the role. Since McConaughey lost more than 45 pounds to play AIDS sufferer Ron Woodroff, it’s safe to say he’ll be going home with the gold. (Sorry Leo!)
Who I Want to Win: Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
Dark Horse: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Who Will Win: Lupita Nyong’o - 12 Years a Slave
It’s arguable that 12 Years a Slave would not be the essential film that it is without Nyong’o’s supporting work as Patsey. While the plot follows Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) as he tries to survive - and retain his dignity - as a slave, Patsey represents all the thousands (if not millions) of slaves Northrup will leave behind if he’s able to escape. Even when Northrup finally gets his chance at freedom, Nyong’o tempers the victory with cold reality.
Who I Want to Win: Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Dark Horse: June Squibb (Nebraska)
BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Who Will Win: Jared Leto - Dallas Buyers Club
You could be excused for wondering how Leto (who I knew more as the frontman for a rock band) seemingly came from nowhere with his performance in Dallas Buyers Club. Leto has popped up all over the place over the years (Fight Club, Alexander), but here he makes a surprising shift into “serious” work. He plays a transgendered woman and AIDS patient who partners with Ron Woodroof (McConaughey) to sell unapproved (yet effective) AIDS medication. The surprise pays off: Leto melts into the character, and even though he’s up against some stiff competition, he has the category locked down.
Who I Want to Win: Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
Dark Horse: Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Who Will Win: Her - Spike Jonze
As much as I loved Her’s many competitors in the Best Picture race, Spike Jonze’s new movie definitely ranks as one of my top five films of 2013. The story of a lonely guy (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls in love (and believably so) with his computer’s artificially intelligent operating system, Her is charming, disturbing and beautiful. Strong performances and eye-catching visuals aside, Her’s script is where it really shines, and the Academy looks poised to agree.
Who I Want to Win: Her
Dark Horse: American Hustle (David O. Russell, Eric Singer)
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Who Will Win: 12 Years a Slave - John Ridley
It’s hard to argue with the current frontrunner in this category. Ridley’s screenplay not only presents a wrenching, essential story, but it weaves in many sections of striking, lyrical dialogue that plays out in such stark contrast to the brutality we witness.
Who I Want to Win: 12 Years a Slave
Dark Horse: Tie between The Wolf of Wall Street (Terrence Winter) and Captain Phillips (Billy Ray)
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Who Will Win: The Great Beauty - Italy
The buzz in the foreign language category is often difficult to pin down, but several of the industry insiders I follow are naming Italy’s submission as the current favourite. Story-wise, I’m more drawn to Belgium’s The Broken Circle Breakdown, but it’s become clear that the aging socialite hero of The Great Beauty is resonating with voters,
Who I Want to Win: The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium)
Dark Horse: The Hunt (Denmark)
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Who Will Win: The Square - Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer
After seeing several rave reviews of The Act of Killing, and reading about its bizarrely artful recreations of mass murders in Indonesia, I thought I had the winner of the Best Documentary category pegged down. With the ongoing conflicts, however, in many parts of the Middle East, it makes sense that the industry would begin to favour a doc on the 2011 uprising in Egypt. which by many accounts is one of the most emotional and well-constructed documentaries of the year.
Who I Want to Win: The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen)
Dark Horse: 20 Feet From Stardom (Morgan Neville, Gil Friesen and Caitrin Rogers)
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Who Will Win: Frozen - Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Peter Del Vecho
It’s fair to say that Disney has had this award locked down for some time - perhaps longer than many of the other movies at the Oscars. Frozen combines all of Disney’s proven experience with some truly innovative technical wizardry (the ice and snow effects involved countless hours of work). And unlike several of the other films in the category, Frozen has spawned a huge and fervent fan following (refer to the hundreds of YouTube covers of the film’s hit song “Let it Go”).
Who I Want to Win: Ernest and Celestine (Benjamin Renner and Didier Brunner)
Dark Horse: The Wind Rises (Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki)
Who Will Win: Gravity - Emmanuel Lubezki
Technical categories like cinematography and editing are always the hardest to call, but it sounds like the industry is rallying behind Gravity’s filmmakers this year. Alfonso Cuarón and Emmanuel Lubezki reportedly had to invent entirely new ways to shoot in order to capture the weightlessness and isolation of space. When not thrilling us with those terrifying sequences, they fold in shots that elegantly comment on humanity and evolution.
Who I Want to Win: Nebraska (Phedon Papamichael)
Dark Horse: Inside Llewyn Davis (Bruno Delbonnel)
BEST FILM EDITING
Who Will Win: Gravity - Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger
Another difficult category to predict, but it seems like Gravity’s year. Without Cuarón and Sanger’s tight editing, Gravity risked spiralling into an overlong epic. Instead, they respect the script and tell their story efficiently, striking a balance between art and keeping the audience engaged.
Who I Want to Win: 12 Years a Slave (Joe Walker)
Dark Horse: Captain Phillips (Christopher Rouse)
There you have it. I didn’t predict each category because I figure these are the ones most people are interested in (and frankly, the ones that can actually be predicted).
Am I right or wrong about the winners I named above? Will you be playing along to see who wins? Join the conversation about the 2014 Oscars in the comments section below!