Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"The Annual Oscar Predictions" (2014)

American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

Quite an eclectic mix of movies nominated this year ~ a historical epic drama about slavery (“12 Years a Slave”), a heart-wrenching comedy about a woman’s 50-year long search for her son (“Philomena”), a quirky science fiction (“Her”), a performance-heavy American indie (Nebraska) and a yet-another- Scorsese-Dicaprio-pairing (“The Wolf of Wall Street”) ~ all of them are cohesive, entertaining and well-crafted tales deserving of the Oscar gold in their own right. “Captain Phillips” is this year’s “Argo”, a thrilling adventure based on a true story. So is “Dallas Buyers Club”, a biographical drama that highlights the pharmaceutical industry and AIDS patients in the late 80s. 

Every year there’s at least one movie that pushes the boundaries and sets new standards in filmmaking such as “Life Of Pi” (2012), “Hugo” (2011), “Inception” (2010) and “Avatar” (2009). Believe it or not, none of these aforementioned movies were able to take home the Best Picture statue despite their nominations. This year, “Gravity” with its groundbreaking visual effects, is one hell of a spectacle but will it be able to outshine the others? We will have to wait and see. For me, it’s unlikely. Though for certain, “Gravity” will sweep the technical awards. 

Who will/should win:  “American Hustle” on the other hand is a true Hollywood flick that we’ve come to expect. Unforgettable for its star-studded cast that delivers electrifying performances, the solid script that makes us laugh, cry, get mad and fall in love with the characters despite their flaws and the genius soundtrack with both bizarre and nostalgic elements. Not to mention the dazzling costumes and the twisted end that no one could have predicted. Plus it’s epic enough and very American.

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

Who will/should win: Alfonso Cuarón has a very good chance if the voters decide to spilt their votes like they did last year for “Argo” (Best Picture) and “Life Of Pi” (Ang Lee for Best Director) but David O.Russell, having lost his Oscar already last year for his brilliant “Silver Linings Playbook” and for “The Fighter” in 2010 is locked for this category.

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

Shall we just say goodbye to Christian Bale and Bruce Dern already. Yes, they are both incredible in their respective roles but the former won his Oscar merely three years ago and the latter, mmmmm, is unfortunately featured in a lesser-known smaller-scale movie and might not have the strength to beat the Hollywood heavyweights such as DiCaprio, McConaughey or Bale. At least Dern has knocked out Tom Hanks (“Captain Phillips”) and scored a nomination. (If that’s any consolation)

“12 Years a Slave” is the star vehicle for Chiwetel Ejiofor, a theatre veteran in his native England. Thanks to the movie, folks in Hollywood now know how to pronounce his name correctly. Besides, his nomination will generate far better roles for him to play in the next five years. That is pretty much it. Unless of course, the voters want a surprise and pull a Halle Berry on us. Leonardo DiCaprio, one of the most respected actors out there, deserves an Oscar, no doubt. In fact it’s long overdue. But sadly this is not his best work and to be honest, his collaborations with Martin Scorsese (“The Wolf of Wall Street” is their fifth) usually result in an-alpha-male-yet-flawed-and-fragile-deep-within roles. It is getting boring. It’s chicken dish cooked in a different style but it’s chicken nevertheless. 

Who should/will win: Matthew McConaughey. Though this is his first nomination, “Dallas Buyers Club” is his career-best performance, strong enough to easily overtake the other four nominees. His commitment to the role of an AIDS patient is nothing short of monumental. Not only did he lose 47 pounds and become unrecognizable but also showcase such depth and range in playing the character.

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

As usual in this category, it’s too close to call. Sandra Bullock’s astronaut-in-crisis (“Gravity”) is a respectable performance that pulls the heartstrings of moviegoers and critics alike. The movie somewhat mirrors America's sweetheart's own personal life and struggles, which could also be the reason why Emma Thompson (“Saving Mr. Banks”) who deserves this nomination far more than Bullock couldn’t find her place in the category. Dame Judi had an early Oscar buzz for “Philomena” but it has fizzled out, as Blanchett belting blues is brilliant in “Blue Jasmine”. The Aussie has since bagged many earlier awards including the Globe and BAFTA. The only thing that could go against Blanchett is her association with Woody Allen. But her not winning the second Oscar won’t be too big of an upset anyway.

Who should win: La Streep knows she’s so good that in some scenes of “August: Osage County”, she even acts wearing dark Jackie-O sunglasses. The bad script couldn’t drown her either; her portrayal of a pill-popping mum is awe-inspiring and intricate, of an actress like Katherine Hepburn’s caliber. Of course if she ends up winning, that would make her tie with Kate the great for the most acting Oscar wins. In an ideal world, of course! 

Who will win:  This is Amy Adams’s fifth nomination. Adams is one of the most versatile actresses in Hollywood right now and the only Oscar-less person in the Best Actress race this year. Switching between two different accents, she is fragile, cunning, hilarious, sympathetic and unpredictable in “American Hustle”. This might just be her year. 

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

With “American Hustle”, Bradley Cooper gets to prove once again (his second consecutive Oscar nomination) that he’s more than just a pretty face. But truth to be told, his dashing good looks and swagger, even with the 70’s style disco perm, distract moviegoers from concentrating on his acting chops. Gosh, he’s so handsome! Barkhad Abdi (“Captain Phillips”) is menacing as a Somali pirate leader. So is Michael Fassbender (“12 Years a Slave”), a villain role Christoph Waltz would have liked to play and probably won his third Oscar for. But sorry, Waltz! Fassbender does it convincingly and… without the German accent.  Jonah Hill brings a much-needed comic relief in “The Wolf of Wall Street”. However, male comedians are not as lucky as their female counterparts when it comes to winning in the supporting category. Only Alan Arkin (“Little Miss Sunshine”) has won in the last two decades whereas at least 5 women have been awarded for their comedic roles. And by the way, Arkin was pretty old and they needed an excuse to give him an Oscar. 

Who will/should win: Jared Leto in “Dallas Buyers Club”. His performance as a transgender woman, Rayon is effortlessly exquisite yet strikingly memorable. His win is an easy bet, undisputed and justified.


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

Sally Hawkins’s character is a yin to Cate Blanchett’s yang in “Blue Jasmine”, delightful and downright delicate. June Squibb in “Nebraska” is such an adorable character that manages to draw both laughter and love from the audience. Julia Roberts may no longer be the highest paid actress in Hollywood but with “August: Osage County” she has proven once again that she’s still a credible actress who could hold her very own against Meryl Streep.

Who should win: Jennifer Lawrence shines the brightest in “American Hustle”. She’s so captivating and charismatic that fans of the movie wish her character should have been introduced earlier in the movie and given more screen time. Lawrence is truly the Jodie Foster of this generation and like Foster, why shouldn’t she win her first two Oscars before she turns 30. Even if it’s back to back. 

Who will win: Lupita Nyong’o has arrived. With a bang. Loud. Not only has she been robbing awards from the hands of Jennifer Lawrence. Now she’s a fashionista. The It girl. She hangs out with the coolest industry people. Her radiant face is gracing every possible magazine one could imagine. The hype around her is so immense that it could almost result in an actual win. And about her performance in “12 Years a Slave”, it’s NOBLE but somewhat MINIMAL compared to the other four nominees. But then again, didn’t Judi Dench win this same award a decade ago and she was in the movie for a combined 8 minutes? 


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

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

The Croods
Despicable Me 2
 & Celestine
The Wind Rises

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

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

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Adruitha Lee, Robin Mathews ("Dallas Buyers Club")
Stephen Prouty ("Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa")
Joel Harlow, Gloria Pasqua-Casny ("The Lone Ranger")

Best Original Score
John Williams ("The Book Thief")
Steven Price ("Gravity")
William Butler, Owen Pallett ("Her")
Alexandre Desplat ("Philomena")
Thomas Newman ("Saving Mr. Banks")

Best Original Song
"Happy" from "Despicable Me 2"
"Let It Go" from "Frozen"
"The Moon Song" from "Her"
"Ordinary Love" from "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom"

Who will/should win: No movie song in recent history has gone viral, climbed Top 20 charts, been parodied and remade as much as "Let It Go" from "Frozen" ~ Idina Menzel will sing her way to the Oscar victory. 

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