Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Reevaluating My Pre-Oscar Season Predictions

Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave
It is an exciting time for Oscar fans. On Thursday, January 16, the nominations come out and we will know for sure what films made the cut. It has been a strange, rocky road that has revealed some favorites and some upsets. For those familiar with The Oscar Buzz, I published my initial predictions before the Oscar season went underway. With a little over a week before the final votes come in, I decided to revisit my predictions and see what ended up making the cut and what turned out to be surprises. The following is a re-editing of my predictions to match the conversations and my overall understanding of how I think that the race will go.

In a strange sense, it is hard to really imagine some of my predictions holding water in hindsight. However, entering September did deliver an open field where The Secret Life of Walter Mitty could prove to be an upset and Foxcatcher was still in the race. However, both have since disappeared from the conversation, or have been pushed back for a later release date. In an attempt to comprehend my traction, I decided to show my edits of the initial drafts with comments. The only coding that you will get is this: 

1. Crossed out films will reflect those that were disqualified or pushed back. 

2. Names in red have faded from the conversation despite a release. 

3 Names in blue have exceeded expectations.

I will also share how I feel the race has changed and if I agree with them.

Best Picture

1. American Hustle
2. The Butler
3. Foxcatcher
4. Fruitvale Station
5. Inside Llewyn Davis
6. Rush
7. Saving Mr. Banks
8. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
9. 12 Years a Slave
10. The Wolf of Wall Street

Potential Upsets:

1. August: Osage County
2. Gravity
3. Labor Day
4. The Monuments Men
5. Nebraska


As stated in my opening, I am surprised that The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has failed to capture the Oscar zeitgeist. Maybe it has to do with opening against The Wolf of Wall Street, which has dominated discussion and will likely not win on the grounds of being controversial. I am disappointed that Labor Day has pretty much felt nonexistent in every sense. Also, with it is a conflicting period of trying to determine just how much the Golden Globes will predict the Oscars. That alone will judge the fate of The Butler, which received zero Golden Globe nominations, but has received some from other groups such as the Screen Actors Guild. This could also be the secret element to keep Rush in the game after it failed to gain traction at either the box office or Oscar talk. However, I am excited to see that Gravity has exceeded expectations and has pretty much become one of the top contenders in the race. Of the films not listed, there is potential for Captain Phillips to sneak into the race. Her is another film that has gotten a surprise amount of acclaim and may sneak into the race, provided that it resonates enough with voters.

Best Director

1. American Hustle - David O. Russell
2. Inside Llewyn Davis - Joel and Ethan Coen
3. Rush - Ron Howard
4. Saving Mr. Banks - John Lee Hancock
5. The Wolf of Wall Street - Martin Scorsese 

Potential Upsets:

1. Foxcatcher - Bennett Miller
2. Fruitvale Station - Ryan Coogler
3. Gravity - Alfonso Cuaron
4. The Monuments Men - George Clooney
5. 12 Years a Slave - Steve McQueen


I am more excited than anything that 12 Years a Slave has captured the zeitgeist and already seems like it is going to win the top awards. I am also excited to see Gravity getting so much prestige recognition. For the most part, I am disappointed with how Fruitvale Station has faded from conversation despite it being a really effective film. American Hustle was a nice welcome change of pace for David O. Russell and brought the fun back to his films. Of the names not mentioned, I do believe that Captain Phillips remains the surprisingly effective contender of the year and Paul Greengrass is likely to sneak into the race somehow. However, this has to be Alfonso Cuaron's year for the win. No film in contention comes close.

Best Actor

1. All is Lost - Robert Redford
2. Dallas Buyers Club - Matthew McConaughey
3. Fruitvale Station - Michael B. Jordan
4. 12 Years a Slave - Chiwetel Ejiofir
5. The Wolf of Wall Street - Leonardo DiCaprio

*Foxcatcher - Steve Carrell 

Potential Upsets:

1. American Hustle - Christian Bale
2. The Fifth Estate - Benedict Cumberbatch
3. Inside Llewyn Davis - Oscar Isaac
4. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom - Idris Elba
5. Rush - Chris Hemsworth


Of the contenders, my list of potential upsets weren't that impressive. The most notable bafflement is in placing any money on The Fifth Estate, which became the embarrassment of the Fall. However, Leonardo DiCaprio also turned in one of his most physically impressive roles and almost feels like he is a lock for the category now. Of every competitor, the only one that surprised me and didn't make this list is Bruce Dern in Nebraska, which is hopefully on its way to getting a much deserved nomination. Sadly, Fruitvale Station continues to suffer from lack of buzz and I feel like Michael B. Jordan's terrific performance will go overlooked.

Best Actress

1. American Hustle - Amy Adams
2. Blue Jasmine - Cate Blanchett
3. The Past - Berenice Bejo*
4. Philomena - Judi Dench
5. Saving Mr. Banks - Emma Thompson

*August: Osage County - Meryl Streep

Potential Upsets

1. August: Osage County - Julia Roberts
2. Diana - Naomi Watts
3. Grace of Monaco - Nicole Kidman
4. Gravity - Sandra Bullock
5. Labor Day - Kate Winslet


This is probably the hardest category to predict, as so many of these contenders have played it big during awards season. With American Hustle racking up a lot of nominations and wins, it looks likely that this will be another shoe-in for Amy Adams. Cate Blanchett continues to lead the pack. Of every potential upset, the only real surprise is Sandra Bullock, who commands the screen in Gravity and is the key element to why the film is successful. She is in tough competition and with most of the names not in red, these are all people that have been controlling the nominations. With exception to Blanchett and Emma Thompson, it is looking to be a hard gamble on who will make the final cut.

Best Supporting Actor

1. American Hustle - Bradley Cooper*
2. The Butler - David Oyelowo
3. Rush - Daniel Bruhl
4. Saving Mr. Banks - Tom Hanks
5. 12 Years a Slave - Michael Fassbender

*Foxcatcher - Steve Carrell

Potential Upsets:

1. August: Osage County - Benedict Cumberbatch
2. Blue Jasmine - Bobby Cannavale
3. Inside Llewyn Davis - John Goodman
4. Labor Day - Josh Brolin
5. Spring Breakers - James Franco


The American Hustle train is likely to give Bradley Cooper another nomination, even if his performance wasn't the most noteworthy aspect of the film. However, it is interesting that after a Golden Globe nomination, Daniel Bruhl has returned to the race and may actually get far enough ahead to get a nomination. However, this is looking to be Michael Fassbender's year and with 12 Years a Slave looking to dominate, there is no stopping his definitive nomination.  Of the names not listed, the surprise upset could be Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips, who is an effectively driving force for most of the film. Of the names, I am disappointed to see David Oyelowo disappear from the race after being such an effective part of The Butler. Even Tom Hanks seems to not stand much of a chance with the race being rather crowded.

Best Supporting Actress

1. American Hustle - Jennifer Lawrence
2. The Butler - Oprah Winfrey
3. Foxcatcher - Vanessa Redgrave
4. Fruitvale Station - Octavia Spencer
5. Inside Llewyn Davis - Carey Mulligan

Potential Upsets:

1. August: Osage County - Margo Martindale
2. Blue Jasmine - Sally Hawkins
3. Her - Amy Adams
4. Nebraska - June Squibb
5. 12 Years a Slave - Lupita Nyongo


Even if The Butler isn't quite as strong in the race as it was before the season started, I do believe that there is something in Oprah Winfrey's performance that will carry her over to a nomination. I also feel like Jennifer Lawrence, despite being not the best part of American Hustle, will also sneak into the race simply because of the film's acclaim and her popularity due to her win last year. It isn't a particularly strong category, but of everyone in the running, the most surprising remains Lupita Nyong'o, who only added to the tour de force of 12 Years a Slave. She is likely to help that film receive countless wins. Also, I worry that June Squibb's performance is too nuanced and subtle to get recognized, despite being the secret weapon to the brilliance of Nebraska

Best Original Screenplay

1. American Hustle
2. Blue Jasmine
3. Fruitvale Station
4. Inside Llewyn Davis
5. Saving Mr. Banks

Potential Upsets:

1. Frances Ha
2. Her
3. The Place Beyond the Pines
4. Nebraska
5. Rush


Another hard category to pin down. This category has a lot of strong contenders and with a lot of heavyweights fighting for a nomination, it all a matter of which is the most unique. While Fruitvale Station has unfortunately dropped out of the race, we have seen the rise of American Hustle, which almost feels like a lock. Her has been surprisingly popular in the conversation and with Blue Jasmine looking to get Cate Blanchett a nomination, it is likely that its screenplay will also get a nomination. However, early favorite The Place Beyond the Pines is unlikely to fall into this field and Frances Ha could still get in, but needs to use its persuasion better. The film performed well at getting Golden Globe nominations, but needs to be able to compete with the big leagues in ways that seem impossible. Nebraska, the ultimate surprise of 2013, can still sneak in, though it may be too nuanced and subtle to get much traction.

Best Adapted Screenplay

1. Before Midnight
2. Foxcatcher
3. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
4. 12 Years a Slave
5. The Wolf of Wall Street

Potential Upsets:
1. August: Osage County
2. Blue is the Warmest Color
3. The Butler
4. Labor Day
5. The Monuments Men


Another category that Captain Phillips could sneak into. It may not be the best written screenplay, but it could still get in based on its surprise success. I do feel like August: Osage County has been towing the line with potential buzz for most of the season, though has never achieved it. The Wolf of Wall Street is byfar the most kinetic and enjoyable of the nominees and may lose due to being controversial. Of all of them, Before Midnight is the most insightful and deep of them and much like the previous film, Before Sunset, it is likely to get nominated due to the acclaim it has been building. I am not entirely sure how The Butler will play in this field. It is all dependent on if the Academy likes it enough to give it a plethora of nominations.

That is a rundown of my predictions and where I feel things have changed. I will be publishing a cleaner, less detailed list of my final predictions of the nominees later in the week. Feel free to share your thoughts and let me know what you feel turned out to be a surprise favorite during awards season and what you felt has gotten thrown by the wayside.

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