Tuesday, February 18, 2014

2014 Oscar Predictions

In the early months of awards season, 12 Years a Slave was perceived as the movie to beat. A strong January surge in popularity for American Hustle made that movie seem like a potential spoiler for 12 Years. But more recently, as various organizations have handed out their awards, Gravity has emerged from its early October release as the contender to keep an eye on.

My overall prediction for this year's Oscars is that 12 Years a Slave remains the Best Picture frontrunner, while Gravity will probably stage a mini-sweep. Let's go in for a closer look.

SOUND EDITING

  • All is Lost, Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns
  • Captain Phillips, Oliver Tarney
  • Gravity, Glenn Freemantle
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Brent Burge and Chris Ward
  • Lone Survivor, Wylie Stateman

SOUND MIXING

  • Captain Phillips, Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith, and Chris Munro
  • Gravity, Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead, and Chris Munro
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick, and Tony Johnson
  • Lone Survivor, Andy Koyama, Beau Borders, and David Brownlow
  • Inside Llewyn Davis, Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff, and Peter F. Kurland

Now for my annual recap of what exactly sound editing and sound mixing are. Sound Editing is the design aspect, the department responsible for gathering the audio recorded during production, as well as other elements that need to be created or re-recorded and then cut into the movie. Sound Mixing is the final blending and perfecting of all audio in the movie - dialogue, atmospheric sounds, sound effects, music - essentially the final soundtrack you hear.

Gravity is likely to win for sound editing. Captain Phillips should win for sound mixing.

VISUAL EFFECTS

  • Gravity, Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk, and Neil Corbould
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, and Eric Reynolds
  • Iron Man 3, Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash, and Dan Sudick
  • The Lone Ranger, Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams, and John Frazier
  • Star Trek Into Darkness, Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann, and Burt Dalton

Gravity's success is due almost entirely to its visual grandiosity. Bonus points for being the standout nominee, offering something other than the monsters and mass destruction of the other contenders. The definite winner in this category.


COSTUME DESIGN

  • American Hustle, Michael Wilkinson
  • The Grandmaster, William Chang Suk Ping
  • The Great Gatsby, Catherine Martin
  • The Invisible Woman, Michael O'Connor
  • 12 Years A Slave, Patricia Norris

I'm expecting the wild-yet-accessible style of American Hustle to win this award.

LIVE ACTION SHORT

  • "Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn't Me)"
  • "Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything)"
  • "Helium"
  • "Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)"
  • "The Voorman Problem"

I have strong opinions, mostly negative, about this year's crop of Live Action Short nominees. The one that's, in my opinion, far-and-away the best, "Avant Que De Tout Perdre," will not win. This category's winners tend to be comedies, in contrast to the Best Picture winners which so rarely are.

In the comedy department are "The Voorman Problem," which has the advantage of being English-language (as the last three winners have been), and "Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa?" which is the most straight-up comedic. I think the latter will win.


ANIMATED SHORT

  • "Feral"
  • "Get a Horse!"
  • "Mr. Hublot"
  • "Possessions"
  • "Room on the Broom"

"Get a Horse!" is going to win. You may have seen it play in front of Frozen. It's a huge crowd-pleaser, particularly when that crowd is the filmmaking community. This short pays homage to the aesthetics of early animation, then propels things forward to our modern 3-D CGI era. As the cherry on top, they repurposed original voice recordings from the 1930s, including Walt Disney himself as Mickey Mouse. Who could resist? It's not my personal favorite (that would be "Feral"), but it's clearly going to win.

FILM EDITING

  • American Hustle, Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers, and Alan Baumgarten
  • Captain Phillips, Christopher Rouse
  • Dallas Buyers Club, John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa
  • Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger
  • 12 Years a Slave, Joe Walker

The dramatic edge of Captain Phillips will most likely beat out the humor of American Hustle.


BEST SONG

  • "Alone Yet Not Alone," Alone Yet Not Alone
  • "Happy," Despicable Me 2
  • "Let It Go," Frozen
  • "The Moon Song," Her
  • "Ordinary Love," Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

The top selling soundtrack from the top grossing animated movie of the year... hands down, this is an easy win for "Let It Go" from Frozen.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

  • John Williams, The Book Thief
  • Steven Price, Gravity
  • Alexandre Desplat, Philomena
  • Thomas Newman, Saving Mr. Banks
  • William Butler and Owen Pallett, Her

With no nomination for the 12 Years a Slave score, I've got to go with Steven Price for Gravity.

PRODUCTION DESIGN

  • American Hustle, Judy Becker (Production Design) and Heather Loeffler (Set Decoration)
  • Gravity, Andy Nicholson (Production Design) and Rosie Goodwin & Joanne Woollard (Set Decoration)
  • The Great Gatsby, Catherine Martin (Production Design) and Beverley Dunn (Set Decoration)
  • Her, K. K. Barrett (Production Design) and Gene Serdena (Set Decoration)
  • 12 Years a Slave, Adam Stockhausen (Production Design) and Alice Baker (Set Decoration)

This is a tough call. Personally, I'd love to see Her win for being unique and subtle. But I have a feeling Academy voters won't feel as strongly as I do about that; they'll give it to either Gatsby or Gravity. I'm predicting Gravity to take this, as part of its mini-sweep.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • Philippe Le Sourd, The Grandmaster
  • Emmanuel Lubezki, Gravity
  • Bruno Delbonnel, Inside Llewyn Davis
  • Roger Deakins, Prisoners
  • Phedon Papamichael, Nebraska

Gravity, all the way. "But Gravity was all special effects. Why would it win for cinematography?" Shut up, you don't know what you're talking about. Emmanuel Lubezki had to create convincing lighting for an environment that he could never directly observe. He had to maneuver his camera around all the technical rigs used to make the actors look weightless. And he essentially had to learn a completely different discipline -- that of a special effects designer -- in order to create images that would integrate with the effects-heavy movie. Yes, this is the best cinematography of the year.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

  • The Wind Rises
  • Frozen
  • Despicable Me 2
  • The Croods
  • Ernest & Celestine

Although there's a slim possibility that Miyazaki's final movie, The Wind Rises, could win for sentimental reasons, Frozen was far too popular to ignore - both commercially and critically.

BEST FOREIGN FILM

  • Denmark, The Hunt
  • Belgium, The Broken Circle Breakdown
  • Italy, The Great Beauty
  • Palestine, Omar
  • Cambodia, The Missing Picture

Time for some honesty: I have absolutely no basis to predict the winner in this category. I haven't seen any of these movies (shamefully), and I don't recall hearing anything about any of them from any critics either. All I can do is Google it, same as everybody else. The L.A. Times thinks Italy's The Great Beauty will win. What can I say? Okay!

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

  • 20 Feet from Stardom
  • The Act of Killing
  • Dirty Wars 
  • The Square 
  • Cutie and the Boxer

Again, I have to cop to limited firsthand knowledge here. I've only seen one of these nominees. For this category, I'll defer to people who have presumably seen more. The Directors Guild gave the award to The Square, so I'm going to side with that.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave
  • Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke & Richard Linklater, Before Midnight
  • Terence Winter, The Wolf of Wall Street
  • Billy Ray, Captain Phillips
  • Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, Philomena

Although the Writers Guild gave this to Billy Ray for Captain Phillips, I'm pretty confident the Oscar voters will give this to 12 Years a Slave's John Ridley.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • David O. Russell and Eric Singer, American Hustle
  • Bob Nelson, Nebraska
  • Spike Jonze, Her
  • Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack, Dallas Buyers Club
  • Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine

On the other hand, the WGA gave their original screenplay award to Spike Jonze, and it's my hope and expectation that the Academy will do the same.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
  • Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
  • Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
  • Jonah Hill, Wolf of Wall Street
  • Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

In Dallas Buyers Club, Jared Leto gave what I consider to be his best performance since Requiem for a Dream. And just about everyone else seems to agree. This will be a well-earned win for him.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
  • Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
  • Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
  • June Squibb, Nebraska
  • Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine

Though technically not her acting debut, Lupita Nyong'o made a strong introduction for herself in 12 Years a Slave. I'd be very surprised if the Oscars didn't recognize that.

BEST ACTOR

  • Christian Bale, American Hustle
  • Bruce Dern, Nebraska
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, Wolf of Wall Street
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
  • Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

This is tough. Chiwetel Ejiofor is long overdue for an Oscar. But Matthew McConaughey is a comeback kid of sorts, having shown a lot of promise early in his career, getting lost in cheap romantic comedies for years, and then making a decisive turnaround a few years ago. I have a feeling the Academy is going to want to encourage him for that. Not to mention, of course, that he gave a damn good performance in Dallas Buyers Club. I think he'll be the winner here.

BEST ACTRESS

  • Amy Adams, American Hustle
  • Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
  • Sandra Bullock, Gravity
  • Judi Dench, Philomena
  • Meryl Streep, August: Osage County

Cate Blanchett has defined the term "winning streak" this year. It's impossible to ignore that she's been taking home every award. This is a field of strong contenders, but the record speaks for itself.

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
  • David O. Russell, American Hustle
  • Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
  • Alexander Payne, Nebraska
  • Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave

Okay, personal opinion time. I think Alfonso Cuarón is great. I've seen everything of his since A Little Princess (excluding Great Expectations which, of course, didn't live up to critical expectations). I think he deserves awards. But Gravity is my least favorite of his movies. Incredible technical achievement, yes. But, to me, the relentless pace of it betrays a lack of confidence in the script, and a lack of trust in the actors (who are big award winners in their own rights). I don't know. Seems like Steve McQueen ought to win it. But its looking like Alfonso Cuarón will. I just wish it had been for any of his other movies.


BEST PICTURE

  • 12 Years a Slave
  • American Hustle
  • Captain Phillips
  • Dallas Buyers Club
  • Gravity
  • Her
  • Nebraska
  • Philomena
  • The Wolf of Wall Street

This thing that used to be really uncommon -- Best Director and Best Picture going to two different movies -- seems to have been on the increase over the past couple decades. If Alfonso Cuarón wins Best Director, it looks like we'll have another split this year. While Gravity has had a strong awards showing over the past few weeks, 12 Years a Slave remains the frontrunner for Best Picture. You should place your bets there.


Or at least that's how I see it! What are your predictions? Leave your comments below.

On Oscar night, I'm sure I'll have a thing or two to say during the ceremony, so be sure to follow me on Twitter. The 86th Academy Awards ceremony will air on March 2, 2014 at 8:30 eastern/5:30 pacific on ABC.

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