Thursday, February 27, 2014

Oscar Forecast: “Gravity” with a Likely Chance of “Slave”

UPDATE: The Oscars are over. And it's just bizarre to think that one of the most unpredictable Oscars turned into one of the most predicable ever. There just weren't ANY upsets. I got 21 out of 24 correct, only missing out on Best Picture, Editing, and Animated Shore. Ahh best picture to 12 Years a Slave. I was never all that confident in my pick for Gravity winning the top prize. But with it predicted to win a whole slew of prizes it was hard not to also pick it for the top spot. "Slave" walked away with 3 wins including supporting actress and adapted screenplay. Gravity received 7 making it the second most winning non-Best Picture winner, just behind "Cabaret"'s 8 wins in 1972. Overall it was a great show and Ellen was a great host again. Her epic selfie and pizza stunt will certainly go down in history as some of the more memorable recent Oscar moments.

This is the closest Best Picture race in all the years I’ve been watching the Academy Awards. It's enough to give someone, who cares about this sort of stuff heart palpitations. For the first time since I’ve been making official predictions I’m legitimately not sure of what’s going to win. What exactly makes it so unpredictable is the biggest question of all. “Gravity” and “12 Years a Slave” couldn’t be more different cinematically and yet they’re both audacious in concept and execution. On paper, “12 Years a Slave” feels like the typical “Oscar bait.” It’s an emotional drama based on a true historic event, slavery, (a subject matter that has yet to claim the top prize). And yet it’s brutally honest in its horrific depictions, something that’s not exactly appealing to many people. You could easily compare it to something like “Schindler’s List” but there are way more Jewish people in the Academy than African Americans. Not that something like that should really matter but it’s true. On the other hand, there aren’t many astronauts in the Academy either. “Gravity” is a thrilling space drama, the more “fun” of the two frontrunners, that many have classified as “sci-fi” and something of that genre has also yet to win the top prize. It’s a big, loud exciting film that demands to be seen on a large screen. It’s really the ultimate cinematic experience and rewards viewers who like their movies larger than life, and yet for all the “largeness” of it, it’s a simple and intimate film. It doesn’t have the “importance” factor and, unusual for a Best Picture frontrunner, only features one actor for much of its runtime and lots of silence. The modest story couldn’t even manage a Screenplay nomination too. There are things working against both films. And no one really knows for sure what’s going to happen. It didn’t’ help that both films tied (unprecedented) for the PGA award. It must be important to note that no film has won Best Picture without at least being nominated at the SAG awards for Best Cast since “Braveheart,” which was an award as elusive as ever for a film featuring only two characters. If “Gravity” begins winning award after award on Sunday it’ll most likely look unstoppable. Of course you could say the same thing about the year “Hugo” dominated; it won all the technical stuff and failed to go all the way, but it was never in the conversation anyway. Could anything really beat “The Artist” that year? The important thing to note is that can anything beat “12 Years a Slave” or “Gravity?” I doubt it. It’s still boggling my mind not knowing which film to ultimately select but like Sandra Bullock’s character says in Gravity, “either way, it’ll be one hell of a ride.”

Best Picture
Who Will Win: “Gravity.” I seriously have no clue. My gut is telling me to go with “12 Years a Slave.” It will probably win actually. And to be honest I’m not predicting “Gravity” because it’s my favorite… I’m picking it because the Academy rarely splits the Directing and Best Picture prize and they’re usually unpredictable. So if I were to predict “Slave” I’d have to predict Steve McQueen which feels foolish. Besides can “Slave” really only win Best Picture and only 1 or 2 more awards while “Gravity” is practically guaranteed at least 6 or 7 awards? Seems silly to bet against it in all honesty.
Who Should Win: “Gravity.” My favorite film the year hands down. It’s a cinematic masterpiece. It’s the ultimate movie-going experience. It’s thrilling, beautiful, emotionally satisfying. It’s everything you want in a movie.  I just can’t get enough.
Should Have Been Nominated: Blue Jasmine

Best Director
Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón, “Gravity.” I’m pretty confident here as most people are. Cuarón has crafted a truly special and unique cinematic masterpiece. And he has the DGA award to boot. A win for anyone else would be a legitimate upset.
Should Win: Alfonso Cuarón, “Gravity.” What a truly remarkable film. I’d vote for him 10 times if I could.
Should Have Been Nominated: Spike Jonze, “Her”

Best Actor
Will Win: Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club.” Alright alright alright, indeed. McConaughey has been a strong force in the pre-Oscar awards and there’s no real reason to think he can’t go all the way…. Except that, this a disturbingly strong year for male lead performances, and with the exception of maybe Christian Bale any of these could actually win here. A lot of people are behind DiCaprio, and with good reason because he’s amazing as well, but how many voters truly loved “The Wolf of Wall Street?” Ejiofor is a possibly spoiler if “12 Years a Slave” ends up being a surprise sweeper. If he were to win, the film would definitely win Best Picture. But my money is still on McConaughey. Just barely.
Should Win: Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club.” Oh man why make me choose between McConaughey and DiCaprio. They are both simply amazing in career best performances. The edge is definitely to McConaughey who you never really expect to be this amazing. I wouldn’t be upset to see Leo take the stage, as he’s long overdue and rewarding him here wouldn’t at all feel like a “make up” win
Should Have Been Nominated: Tom Hanks, “Captain Phillips”

Best Actress
Will Win: Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine.” Logic would say Amy Adams would be the frontrunner since she’s the only one nominated here who hasn’t already won, but Blanchett has been an unstoppable force all season long and nothing can derail her now (not even a controversial smear campaign against Woody Allen and his film).
Should Win: Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine.” She was absolutely brilliant in this film and it’s nice to see her being recognized for a performance that isn’t simply an impersonation ala “The Aviator.”
Should Have Been Nominated: Emma Thompson, “Saving Mr. Banks”

Best Supporting Actor
Will Win: Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club.” I’m not sure who would win if Leto didn’t take this. He, like Cate Blanchette are to the two save acting bets of the evening. The best part is that he truly deserves it as he’s the heart and soul of the fantastic “Dallas Buyers Club.”
Should Win: Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club.” I absolutely loved this film and thought Jared Leto was phenomenal.
Should Have Been Nominated: Daniel Brühl, “Rush”

Best Supporting Actress
Will Win: Lupita Nyong'o, “12 Years a Slave.” This will be the category to watch. I honestly don’t believe that “12 Years a Slave” can win Best Picture without scoring here as well. Could it honestly win Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay and not take this too? But there’s the Jennifer Lawrence factor. Everyone loves her and she’s the scene-stealer of American Hustle and with four nominations it’s got win one of them right? And there’s the fact that SHE JUST WON LAST YEAR. Lupita has the edge, but barely.
Should Win: Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle.” Jennifer Lawrence was easily my favorite part of “American Hustle” an otherwise sprawling, slightly too long and mildly perplexing film that I didn’t absolutely love but really wanted to. 
Should Have Been Nominated: Scarlett Johansson, “Her”

Best Adapted Screenplay 
Will Win: “12 Years a Slave.” Here is where things matter. “12 Years a Slave” is easily the frontrunner here and if it misses, there’s no way in hell it’s taking the top prize. If it does miss expect a win from either “Philomena” or even “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Heck, even “Captain Phillips” surprised and won the WGA award.

Best Original Screenplay
Will Win: “Her.” I’m very conflicted on this one. It’s a neck and neck race between this and “American Hustle.” The latter could easily, and actually probably will, win this but the Academy is known for rewarding offbeat truly original works in this category so “Her,” also a Best Picture nominee, would be no exception. Although, the prospects of finally being able to reward David O. Russell may be too strong to ignore. Flip a coin, really.

Best Animated Feature Film
Will Win: “Frozen.” The first of two assured wins for “Frozen.” I honestly can’t imagine something else winning, though “The Wind Rises” and “The Croods” has its fans. It must be noted that, shockingly, Disney Animation has yet to prevail in this category.

Best Cinematography
Will Win: “Gravity.” One of the surefire victories for “Gravity.” The Academy has no doubt been kind to films shot in 3D or with significant use of computer animation. How long before this category gets split into Best Traditional Cinematography and Best CG Cinematography?

Best Costume Design
Will Win: “The Great Gatsby.” Like with Production Design, I wonder if people even really like this movie enough to vote for it. It’s the most obvious nominee, though there’s actually a British costume drama in play (The Invisible Woman) which isn’t a widely seen or known film. I could easily the flashy 70s garb of “American Hustle” taking this though it feels a bit too modern to go all the way as this category is notorious for rewarding films set way, way in the past.

Best Documentary - Feature
Will Win: “20 Feet From Stardom.” Another real toss-up. The controversial “The Act of Killing” has dominated most of the early awards, but I’m wondering if the harsh subject matter will turn voters off (not to mention the subtitles). The heartfelt doc about backup singers “20 Feet from Stardom,” although ultimately a bit lightweight, is the feel-good film of the otherwise gloomy bunch of nominees.

Best Documentary - Short Subject
Will Win: “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life.” It’s about a Holocaust survivor. Enough said.

Best Film Editing
Will Win: “Captain Phillips.” This is one to watch. If “12 Years a Save” is supposedly going to win Best Picture, it’s gotta win at least one tech award and it’s hard to think "Gravity" will win most of them and then not just go all the way. But “Gravity” is known for some very long takes, which doesn’t exactly highlight the film’s otherwise tight editing. “Captain Phillips,” however, is an editing showcase. It’s a prestigious “action film” and best picture nominee helmed by the guy whose films “United 93” and “The Bourne Ultimatum” were nominated here, the later actually winning.

Best Foreign Language Film
Will Win: “The Great Beauty” (Italy). This one really is a toss-up. Academy members are no longer required to attend screenings of all five films before voting so it’s possible the most “popular” film could take it… of course, determining which one that is exactly is tough. “The Great Beauty” won the Golden Globe which helps and Italy has a particularly strong track record in this category.

Best Makeup & Hairstyling
Will Win:
Dallas Buyers Club.” I think Academy members would just feel embarrassed voting for “The Lone Ranger” or “Bad Grandpa” however deserving they would actually be. It’s hard to bet against Best Picture nominees in these tech categories.
Best Original Score
Will Win: “Gravity.” The music branch is notorious for nominating the same people whether they’ve won before (ahem, John Williams) or not (ahem, Thomas Newman). The overall Academy has a strong track record for rewarding first timers in this category and there’s no reason to think they won’t do the same this year for Steven Price’s powerful, electronic “Gravity” score.

Best Original Song
Will Win: Let it Go, “Frozen.” Disney once dominated this category. The last time a non-Pixar Disney film won was for 1999’s “Tarzan.” And they’re back in the saddle again with this delightful and powerful song that is sung in a pivotal point in the Animated Feature frontrunner “Frozen.” I’d genuinely be surprised if anything else won.

Best Production Design
Will Win: “The Great Gatsby.” I’m concerned the lukewarm reception of “The Great Gatsby” will hurt its chances but it’s definitely the flashiest of the nominees. They could easily give it to a film they simply liked better like “American Hustle” or “12 Years a Slave.” I’d love to see “Gravity” take this one, if it does it could be an early indication that a “Gravity” sweep is coming.

Best Short Film – Animated
Will Win:
“Get a Horse!” Disney broke it’s 45 year long losing streak last year with its win for the phenomenal “Paperman.” This delightful, if slight, short gets a leg up because not only does it star Mickey Mouse and a clever mix of CGI and traditional animation, but it was attached to Animated Feature frontrunner “Frozen.”

Best Short Film – Live Action
Will Win:
Helium. To quote Ms. Bullock again, “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe…”

Best Sound Editing
Will Win: “Gravity.” Remember that random tie between "Skyfall" and "Zero Dark Thirty" last year? Wow crazy stuff. Action films and war films do amazing well in this category so I could easily see something like "Lone Survivor" or even "Captain Phillips" triumphing. But “Gravity” is such a unique and celebrated film it’s definitely the frontrunner.

Best Sound Mixing
Will Win: “Gravity.” The sound design of “Gravity” is such an amazing accomplishment it should easily triumph here. It’s possible the musically charged “Inside Llewyn Davis” or the gunfire heavy “Long Survivor” could upset but don’t bet on it.

Best Visual Effects
Will Win: “Gravity.” Easily the safest pick of the evening. If anything else wins, I’ll gladly eat my own feces.

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