We’re a little under 24 hours away from the arrival of the 2014 Oscar nominations: tomorrow morning at 8:30 a.m. EST/5:30 a.m. PST, Chris Hemsworth will drag his space viking physique out of bed to join Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs in reading out the nominations. We made our predictions yesterday, and as you’ve seen, many of the categories are still in flux, with the potential for lots of shocks and surprises to follow tomorrow morning.
But what of the poor films and performers who were never really in the hunt? Oscar prognostication is valuable in many ways, but there’s a slight sense that it leads to a narrative that’s hard to break out of—if enough people say that a film’s an Oscar nominee, do the Academy follow suit? (We’re planning an experiment for next year, by using the term “Best Picture front-runner ‘I, Frankenstein‘ as often as possible” and seeing what happens.)
Back in November and December, we spent some time highlighting the performances that we thought were deserving of being at least in the conversation. We’ll see tomorrow if the Academy were listening (spoiler: no, they weren’t, they were watching “Saving Mr. Banks“), but to bring us into the home stretch before the nominations, we thought we’d pick out some of our favorites again, as well as talk about a few other nominations that we’d love to see (but are, frankly, very unlikely to). Take a look below, and let us know your own wish-list in the comments section.
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Best Supporting Actress: Joanna Scanlan – “The Invisible Woman”
Among a very fine cast led by the terrific (and also awards-worthy) Felicity Jones, the absolute stand-out of Ralph Fiennes‘ underrated biopic of Nelly Ternan, the long-time mistress of Charles Dickens, is a face who may not be especially familiar to American audiences—Joanna Scanlan, who plays Dickens’ wife Catherine. Scanlan is best-known in the U.K. for her amazing performance as civil service jobsworth Terri in Armando Iannucci‘s “The Thick of It,” and as the co-creator and star of dark nursing comedy “Getting On” (recently remade by HBO). But given the comic nature of those parts, she’s a rather unexpected face to see in a role like this; a woman whose marriage has been sexless and loveless for so long that she’s become cold out of self-preservation but who can’t disguise the deep hurt when she finds that she’s been betrayed. Scanlan only has a few brisk scenes, and is mostly absent from the second half of the film, but she makes an indelible and crucial impression on the whole: one scene in particular, as she comes to Ternan to deliver a present from Dickens that was delivered to her by mistake, is one of the most heartbreaking, generous and powerful bits of acting I’ve seen all year. Unfortunately, Scanlan’s low profile, and the lack of heat on the film as a whole, will see her overlooked.
Best Supporting Actress: Adepero Oduye – “12 Years a Slave”
Bar Brad Pitt‘s distractingly saintly late-game cameo, almost every performer in “12 Years a Slave” could make a strong argument for picking up an acting nomination: it’s an ensemble of such depth and diversity that an Oscar-nominated actress can crop up almost unnoticed in the opening scenes (yep, that’s “Beasts of the Southern Wild” star Quvenzhane Wallis as Solomon Northup’s daughter). The film looks like it’ll lead to nods for Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and, in the Supporting Actress category, breakout star Lupita Nyong’o, but there’s plenty more where they came from. In terms of supporting actresses in the film alone, Sarah Paulson continues to demonstrate what an asset she is to filmmakers with her loathsome, but recognizably human mistress, and Alfre Woodard risks walking away with the whole film with an enormously impressive one-scene cameo, one of the movie’s highlights. But if we had to pick one other actress to join Nyong’o as a nominee, it’d be Adepero Oduye. The actress deserved awards attention a few years ago for her role in Sundance breakout “Pariah,” which sadly didn’t break into the awards race (though she picked up a Spirit Award nomination), and her role in “12 Years a Slave” is an unshowy one: she plays Eliza, a free woman captured alongside Ejiofor’s Northup, and separated by Paul Giamatti‘s demonic slave trader from her children. It would be easy for the part to be nothing but weeping and wailing, but Oduye does a remarkable job with only a few short scenes in painting the true depths of Eliza’s despair, while also going toe-to-toe with Ejiofor as she points out the kind of complacency he falls into early on. Being smaller than Nyong’o’s part, it’s been overlooked in the awards season, but hopefully it’ll remind filmmakers of Oduye’s talent going forward.
Best Supporting Actress – Amy Adams – “Her”
Amy Adams may or may not turn out to be an Oscar nominee tomorrow—in the lead category, for the first time—for her performance in David O. Russell‘s “American Hustle,” but she’s hardly new to the supporting category: she’s been nominated four times, though has never won. But neither of these things should mean that her turn in Spike Jonze‘s “Her,” which we’d argue is an even better performance than her one in “American Hustle,” should be overlooked. An entire world away from her British-accent-adopting hustler/survivor in the David O. Russell film, she plays one of the quartet of women (along with Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde and, of course, the vocal chords of Scarlett Johansson) on which the film pivots, in this case a close friend of Joaquin Phoenix‘s Theodore, who has her own marital difficulties and her own burgeoning relationship with an A.I. She’s, ultimately, a sort of device, allowing parallels to be drawn with Theodore while serving as an added love interest for when it all goes sour with Samantha. But Adams does an enormous amount in terms of turning Amy into a real, fleshed out person, who, like Phoenix’s character, is a little beaten down by life, capable of great anger or sadness but still warm and alive. It’s one of our favorite Adams performances to date, and off the back of her wildly different turns in “The Master” and “American Hustle,” is essentially proof that Adams should pretty much be in everything.
Best Supporting Actor – Jake Gyllenhaal – “Prisoners”
While it was warmly received at Telluride and Toronto, awards buzz dissipated quickly for “Prisoners,” which, while liked by critics and audiences, was likely ultimately too pulpy to make much of an impression on a competitive race. It’s a shame, because while the film’s occasionally silly in its plotting, it’s one of the more absorbing and well-made pure thrillers in recent years, and Jake Gyllenhaal gave a legitimately awards-worthy performance in it. On paper, the ludicrously named Detective Loki is a cliché: a loner cop who’s solved every case he’s ever had, and isn’t going to let his latest one defeat him. But Gyllenhaal makes it something stranger than the archetype: with a blinking tic, tattoos and borderline Asperger-y social skills, he hints at a darker past a long way from his current path of law and order, one that the performance and film is smart enough to keep in the margins. Almost every choice the actor makes is a little unexpected, and his off-beat rhythms clash beautifully with Hugh Jackman‘s terrifying, grief-stricken revenge-bear. Clearly, Gyllenhaal and “Prisoners” director Denis Villeneuve have found fruitful collaborators in each other, as Playlisters who saw their other film together, “Enemy” (due for release next year), suggest it’s something to get equally excited about. But for now, we’re just pleased that the actor was able to elevate material that might have been by-the-numbers into one of the more exciting performances of the year.
Best Supporting Actor – Ben Foster – “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”
Quietly, for fifteen years or so, Ben Foster has been doing absolutely sterling work on a consistent basis, standing out even in questionable affairs like “Hostage” and “360.” He might well be in the awards running for real next year, playing Lance Armstrong for Stephen Frears, but he certainly deserves to be in the conversation this time around. Though he’s also put out strong work in “Lone Survivor” and “Kill Your Darlings,” his performance in “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” is certainly the best in that film, and might be the best of his career to date. The focus of David Lowery‘s film is on the one-time runaway lovers played by Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara, but the real heart of the picture is Foster’s Patrick Wheeler. Patrick is a police officer who was wounded by a shot from Mara’s Ruth during their stand-off, though he believes it was fired by Affleck’s Bob. The years pass, and Patrick has befriended Ruth, and, being desperately in love with her, clearly wants more. Decency is a difficult thing for an actor to play without seeming dull, but Foster manages it here: Wheeler is a genuinely good man, one that represents a new life for Ruth, and there’s a quiet stoicism to the way that he conducts himself that’s deeply moving. The film subtly shifts its attentions to him as it closes, to the extent that you end up wishing that the focus had been on Foster throughout: it’s the best kind of supporting turn, the one that feels like it could be a lead in a different movie.
Best Supporting Actor – Kyle Chandler – “The Wolf of Wall Street”
This year saw the Academy add a branch for casting directors, which has only intensified long-brewing talk that the Oscars should introduce a category honoring the often unsung people who fill movies with actors. No movie made that argument better this year than “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and the work of casting director Ellen Lewis. Scorsese’s latest picture has a ridiculously deep bench, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill doing career-best work, and with a whole host of unexpected figures turning in stellar performances, from veterans Rob Reiner and Joanna Lumley, to breakout star Margot Robbie, to smart filmmaker cameos like Spike Jonze and Jon Favreau, to the mostly unknown faces like P.J. Byrne, Aya Cash, Kenneth Choi and Henry Zebrowski, mostly drawn from the comedy world, who play Jordan Belfort’s co-workers. But one of our favorite performances in the film comes from an actor who isn’t exactly doing something unexpected. The idea of Kyle Chandler playing a straight-arrow FBI agent is sort of a no-brainer, but the actor takes minimal screen time and turns what could have been a generic role into something delightfully specific. The scene where he comes face-to-face with Belfort on the yacht is a terrific bit of writing, and an even better bit of acting, Chandler’s Jimmy Stewart-esque aw-shucks facade gradually slipping to reveal the utter contempt that he holds for Belfort and those like him. Between that and his impressive performance in “The Spectacular Now,” it’s increasingly clear that Chandler’s capable of much more than just being Coach Taylor.
Best Actress – Brie Larson – “Short Term 12”
Honestly, what’s the point of even holding an awards ceremony in the year 2013 if you’re not going to recognize one of the standout performances of the last twelve months? It’s not to say that Cate Blanchett, Judi Dench, Emma Thompson et al. aren’t deserving, but the slim likelihood of recognition for Brie Larson‘s thunderbolt of a performance in indie sleeper “Short Term 12” is the sort of thing that makes us want to tune out every ceremony between now and the end of February. Larson’s been an actress of clear promise for a little while now, with striking turns in the likes of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” “Rampart” and “21 Jump Street,” but they barely hinted at the kind of range and depth the 24-year-old actress demonstrates in Destin Daniel Cretton‘s film as Grace, the supervisor of a foster-care facility with her own troubled history in the system. Seemingly playing older than her years, there’s something deeply selfless and maternal about Grace, but with actual motherhood fast approaching, and a reminder of her own childhood popping up in the face of fiery abuse victim Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever, who’s also great), the solid, responsible sense of composure falls away to reveal the fiery, fragile person underneath. Larson has to turn on a dime to pull off the many different facets of the character, and does so without the strain even nearly starting to show. She might not be a nominee now, but expect many to come over the years.
Best Actress – Adèle Exarchopolous – “Blue Is the Warmest Color”
It would be so easy for “Blue Is the Warmest Color” to be overshadowed by the endless chatter around it—the Steven Spielberg-endorsed Palme d’Or win, the explicit sex scenes, the feuding between its directors and stars. That it can stand away from those elements is a testament to the extraordinary performances from its two leads, and in particular from newcomer Adèle Exarchopolous as protagonist Adèle. Exarchopolous was only 18 when the film shot, with only a handful of performances behind her, so it’s not surprising that she’s enormously convincing as the younger version of Adèle: hungry for life and love, searching out her place in the world, so full of longing that she might burst. Her chemistry with Léa Seydoux‘s Emma is immediate and palpable, to the extent that you wouldn’t dream of questioning the loss she feels later when the relationship is done. It’s in that latter section of the film that Exarchopolous really shines, though: skipping ahead several years to find the pair happy, settled but a little bored, the teenage actress is never less than entirely convincing as a twenty-something schoolteacher, the fulfillment of the promise that she held. Who she’s grown up to be is very impressive, but you can see why she starts to stray. And when she does and it all falls apart, she pulls off one of the most painfully recognizable pictures of heartbreak we’ve seen in a long time, just about holding it together at work before collapsing when left on her own. Is it any wonder that Spielberg’s jury elected to give her and Seydoux their very own Palme d’Ors to go alongside the film’s?
Best Actress – Julie Delpy – “Before Midnight”
It’s almost impossible to pick a favorite from Richard Linklater‘s ‘Before’ trilogy as the films are so tied in with each other, each one growing in stature because of what came before, and retroactively, what comes after. But it’s probably fair to say that the performances have only grown in power, with “Before Midnight” seeing both leads deliver iterations of Jesse and Celine that are richer and more complex than those that came before. Ethan Hawke is wonderful, of course, and Julie Delpy is delivering work that’s as good, if not better than her on-screen partner. Now over 40, Celine isn’t quite living the fairy tale: she has her daughters with Jesse (Hawke), but he’s still torn over being separated from his son by a previous marriage, and may have cheated on her. Furthermore, she’s on the brink of betraying her ideals to take a job with the French government. Since “Before Sunset,” Delpy made two couple-centered travelogues of her own, “2 Days In Paris” and “2 Days In New York,” and though those films are quite different, comedies owing more to Woody Allen than to Linklater, you can feel their influence in Delpy’s performance—there’s a certain neuroticism to Celine that’s set in with middle age that we haven’t seen from her before, as well as a savage, sharp wit that’s capable of truly wounding Jesse when she turns on him. Every time we see these characters, they become more and more fascinating—do the Academy really want to wait another nine years to honor Delpy? Though she’s at least likely to be nominated, alongside Hawke and Linklater, for writing the screenplay to the film (but even that isn’t a certainty).
Best Actress: Scarlett Johansson – “Her”
Yes, we’ve practically got the whole cast for “Her” in this piece, deal with it. Look, we think a lot of people are very worthy in Spike Jonze’s movie, but if we had to pick one and only one it would be the unsung heart and soul of the picture: Scarlett Johansson. Spike Jonze’s ambitious “Her” is a love story about a lonely man going through a divorce and his computer, or rather his iPhone, or rather the artificial intelligence Operating System of his futuristic personal device (like a 5.0 of Siri of the future). So the usually brooding Joaquin Phoenix pulls off one of the most charming performances of his career, genuinely likeable and optimistic, especially for a man that is heartbroken (nice to see a non-sad sack) and Johansson, well she’s not even on screen. In fact, she wasn’t even the original actress to voice the O.S. (that was Samantha Morton). Through trial and error and acute refining, Jonze had to recast the O.S. with Scarlett Johansson and reverse engineer the picture, recording new voice work to fit the already-shot performance by the lead male (Phoenix). That in and of itself is an extremely daring and tricky task, but not only does Johannson’s breathy performance work, it’s actually a huge part of why the movie works and emotionally connects like it does. “Her” is a love story between two people, both discovering new things about themselves and in the case of Johansson, waking up to the fundamental discoveries of joy, wonder, sadness, and all spectrums of the emotional color rainbow. Her character is essentially like an infant joining the world, but with a hyper-intelligent synaptic engine to orient her immediately to all these new found revelations. And of course, we all glean this with Johansson never appearing onscreen, but just due to the nuanced inflections and emotions conveyed through her voice. It’s quite startling when you think about it. The Academy is likely not going to give her a nomination here, it’s too game changing and it’s likely something they cannot wrap their heads around. But chances are if you love Spike Jonze’s “Her” an integral reason why is Scarlett Johansson.
Best Actor – Robert Redford – “All Is Lost”
For a moment there, it appeared as if Robert Redford, along with old timer Bruce Dern were going to be the lock of all solid locks for this year’s Best Actor category, but a few things happened in this very tight race. 1. Redford barely campaigned. 2. Dern campaigned like there was no tomorrow. 3. Leonardo DiCaprio entered the race with his wicked “The Wolf of Wall Street” performance 4. Everyone underestimated the Academy’s love for “Dallas Buyers Club” and Matthew McConaughey’s excellent performance. That coupled with the fact that the studio Roadside Attractions has far less money to campaign against vs. Paramount, Focus Features, Fox Searchlight, and Sony Pictures and you have one rather amazing performance by one Robert Redford looking like it’s on the outside. Let’s not forget: Redford barely utters a word within the movie, aside from some cuss-word freak-outs and a spare line of voiceover at the beginning, but expresses everything about what the character is going through: suffering, regret, existential ruminations of his life and impending death and resignation without speaking any dialogue. It’s an impressive, incredible feat of understated acting and it very much looks like it’s going to go unrewarded tomorrow which is a huge shame.
Best Actor – Oscar Isaac – “Inside Llewyn Davis”
It’s almost absurd that Oscar Isaac is on this list. In any other year, the actor would surely be a shoe-in for a nomination, but with the competition so stiff, and the star still a relative unknown, he’s sadly likely to be frozen out. We won’t stop crossing our fingers until it’s all done, though, because almost no one is more deserving than Isaac. The film is the Coens‘ most focused character study since “Barton Fink,” and it needed an actor of immense talent to hold the screen throughout. Fortunately, they found one in the shape of Isaac. In his hands, Llewyn Davis is an infuriating, arrogant, impossible figure, but also a deeply sympathetic one. The performer’s careful to show Llewyn’s talents, even if they’re limited, and for all his more asshole-ish qualities, it’s always clear how deeply wounded he is by his lack of success, by the suicide of his musical partner, by the fact that he’s in love with someone who mostly has only contempt for him. It’s a fully realized character at every level, and Isaac makes unexpected and inspired choices at every opportunity. He might not end up with a nomination, but he’ll be remembered decades from now for this one.
Best Actor – Joaquin Phoenix – “Her”
He might have an off-puttingly odd public persona, but that doesn’t mean that Joaquin Phoenix isn’t making a pretty strong case for being one of the most gifted actors of his generation. The star was always alarmingly talented, but since his return from his self-imposed exile (for the documentary “I’m Still Here,” it turned out), Phoenix has blossomed into a truly remarkable performer, with “The Master” and “The Immigrant” both providing stellar showcases for his skills. Unlike with Paul Thomas Anderson’s film last year, Phoenix is extremely unlikely to get a nomination for Spike Jonze‘s “Her” this time around, if only because of the strength of the competition, but he’s as deserving as anyone. It’s a character just as insular as Freddie Quell, but Theodore Twombly is a much warmer presence, quietly heartbroken and desperate for connection. So much has been said (rightly so) about Scarlett Johansson‘s vocal performance as Samantha, and it’s an impressive partnership (especially given that Phoenix was acting opposite a different actor during the shoot), but the film simply doesn’t work without Phoenix’s face, which is front-and-center for virtually the entire film. And despite his reputation, Phoenix makes Theodore relatable, sweet and, actually, rather ordinary. Which is in itself rather extraordinary.
Best Actor – Isaiah Washington – “Blue Caprice”
It takes a pretty special performance to come back from scandal, and whatever his previous sins, Isaiah Washington gives that kind of turn in “Blue Caprice.” The actor’s barely figured in any significant work since he was fired from “Grey’s Anatomy” in 2007, but Alexandre Moor‘s retelling of the real-life Beltway Sniper killings puts him front-and-center as serial murderer John, and reminds us all of how impressive he could be at his best. He has a thin veneer of charisma on the surface—just enough that you can believe he can lead his surrogate son into terrible acts—but underneath is a terrifying and broken man, a portrait of evil and mental illness, or somewhere in between, that’s not quite like any seen before on screen. Even if the film had found a wider audience, it’s likely that Washington’s baggage would have prevented a nomination, but if he keeps letting the work speak for itself like this, a full-on comeback could be on the way.
Best Director – J.C. Chandor – “All Is Lost”
Happily, Alfonso Cuarón looks to finally be recognized with a directing nomination last year, thanks to his bravura work on the stunning “Gravity.” But it’s a shame that Cuarón’s success has caused the filmmaker behind another hugely impressive and ambitious survival picture to be overlooked, because J.C. Chandor‘s work on “All Is Lost” is equally worthy of nomination. Chandor picked up an Oscar nod for the screenplay of his first film, “Margin Call,” but seems to have been out to prove that he was a filmmaker, not just a writer with his follow-up: while the financial drama was dialogue-driven, “All Is Lost” is all action with only a few spoken lines of dialogue. Chandor’s clearly a fine director of actors, his experience with the previous film carrying over to a very fine turn from Robert Redford, but he’s grown immensely as a filmmaker, carefully parceling out the storytelling in a clear and direct way, and despite the limited locales, constantly finding new ways to frame Redford and his surroundings. Bar some occasionally questionable effects work (probably limited by budget), the technical work across the board is incredibly strong—Chandor uses sound and music better than filmmakers with three decades more experience than he has—and he knows how to end something on an ambiguous note without it frustrating. “Margin Call” made him a promising filmmaker, but “All Is Lost” cemented him as one of our most exciting young talents.
Best Original Screenplay – Asghar Farhadi – “The Past”
If we had to pick a favorite unexpected Oscar nomination from the last few years, we’d be very tempted by the Best Original Screenplay nomination for Asghar Farhadi‘s “A Separation“—an almost unprecedented nod in a mainstream category for an Iranian movie, but a very welcome one, given that it was one of the very finest scripts, and best movies, of the past decade. The director’s follow-up, the French language “The Past,” isn’t as perfect at its predecessor, but what is? Comparisons aside, it’s still a moving and deeply humane piece of work, again displaying that Farhadi is someone that anyone with aspirations to write should be paying attention to. Again playing in territory that’s close to melodrama, and with a tight fat-free nature reminiscent of the proverbial well-made stage play, “The Past” might deal with some soapier subjects than “A Separation” (a wife in a coma!), but Farhadi writes every character as a fully-dimensional human being so it never risks becoming hysterical or implausible. You understand completely why every character does what they do, or says what they say, and a fascinating and rich tapestry of guilt, heartbreak and melancholy unfolds. We can only assume that Farhadi won’t be nominated because it risks making his fellow nominees look bad.
Best Cinematography – Bradford Young – “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”
It’s a hugely exciting time in the cinematography world, but no one—no one—is a more promising talent right now than Bradford Young. Having broken through with the likes of “Pariah” and “Restless City,” Young had a terrific 2013, with both “Mother of George” and “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” looking gorgeous from the first frame to the last. It’s the latter in particular which might serve as the peak of Young’s stellar career to date. Terrence Malick comparisons abound for David Lowery‘s breakthrough feature, and that’s not an unfair comparison, with Young making full use of autumnal magic-hour landscapes. But its use of darkness was truly remarkable: Gordon Willis and Vilmos Zsigmond might be more appropriate comparisons for the under-exposed, woozy half-light that much of the film takes place in. And all on 35mm, too: while some of the more exciting DoPs out there have never worked on anything except digital, it’s thrilling to see someone like Young producing such glorious work with old-school techniques. Young’s still not well-known enough, and the film too unlikely to make an impression with the Academy, for a nomination this year, but with Ed Zwick‘s “Pawn Sacrifice” and J.C. Chandor‘s “A Most Violent Year” on the way, it’s surely only a matter of time.
Best Cinematography – Emmanuel Lubezki – “To the Wonder”
Despite five nominations, the great Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki has never won an Oscar, though that should be rectified this year thanks to his work on “Gravity.” It’s overdue, and it’s doubly appropriate given that he could have been nominated twice over this year, thanks to equally spectacular and very different work on Terrence Malick‘s “To the Wonder.” The film divided critics, and was mostly ignored by audiences, but few who caught it would argue that Lubezki’s images weren’t consistently gorgeous: the director and DoP doubled-down on the style from “The Tree of Life,” with a restless, ever-moving camera that twists and wanders like a dancer, but isn’t afraid to come in close and pick up the tiny details—intertwined hands, hair in the wind, water coming in over sand. No one captures natural light like Malick, and Lubezki’s so in sync with him at this point that they feel virtually inseparable. Even if they don’t like the whole—and plenty don’t—anyone who saw the film is sure to find some of its images seared into their brains months later, and to us, that’s a sign of a beautifully photographed film. Hopefully Lubezki and Malick will find their way back to nomination with the upcoming “Knight of Cups” or its untitled companion film.
Best Editing – Jennifer Lame – “Frances Ha”
Comedy is often ignored when it comes to the Editing Oscar in favor of flashier action or thriller pictures, which is odd, because it might be the genre in which editing makes or breaks it—it’s no coincidence that a great comedy filmmaker like Hal Ashby started off in the cutting room. The difference between great comedies last year—”The World’s End,” “The Wolf of Wall Street“—and the bad ones—most of the others—so often comes in the editing, and this was never more true than in “Frances Ha.” The cutting in the film is so precision-timed and perfectly-executed that we assumed that Noah Baumbach had brought in some legendary veteran to edit his secret project, but in fact, it was newcomer Jennifer Lame, who had only a single feature under her belt before that and was only promoted because original cutter Tim Streeto dropped out to work on “Boardwalk Empire.” But she and Baumbach clearly work beautifully together (the film took a year to cut, but it shows in how finely tuned it is), and she’s now set to work on his next two features.
Best Original Song – “Doby” – “Anchorman: The Legend Continues”
“Anchorman: The Legend Continues” was somewhat mixed as a follow-up to a legitimately great comedy, but it had a bold third act, and in particular, the most hilariously absurd, strange and overlong tangent in recent memory, which we’ll call the “Lighthouse Blues” section of the movie. And at its center is “Doby,” a loving and moving tribute Ron Burgundy sings with his family to a pet great white shark. Sounding strangely like a mid-period Nick Cave ballad, stuffed with hilarious lyrics, and culminating in a children’s choir, it’d undoubtedly bring down the house (or just confuse the hell out of everyone) if it was performed at the Oscars, but unfortunately, it’s likely to miss out on an Original Song nod. Bo-ring.
Best Original Score – Jóhann Jóhannsson – “Prisoners”
Perhaps one of the most underrated scores of the year, and even one you might not remember so much, is Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson’s chilling score for Denis Villeneuve’s crime drama “Prisoners.” The film centers on a father (Hugh Jackman) whose daughter and her friend are suddenly abducted during the cold, late fall in the suburbs of Pennsylvania and the vigilante-like lengths he goes to in attempts to return them to safety. Chasing down the suspects is a young, brooding detective (Jake Gyllenhaal) who is just as determined to find the missing children. “Prisoners” is gray, dark and brooding. A man begins to lose his soul, his family and all hope as the hours the children have been missing begin to add up insurmountably. Jóhannsson’s score is thus akin to an unforgiving chill that burrows into your bones, a haunting hymnal of death, a dread that creeps into your soul that will never let go once it consumes you. It is perhaps then one of the year’s scariest scores and yet it acts nothing like a horror score; it is ghostly church organs, throbbing cello drones, chimes that glisten like you can feel their breath in the frigid air. The “Prisoners” score is the sound of your tomb being closed as snowflakes gently fall from the sky, melting into the ground never to be seen again; eerie psalms acting as preludes to the forever darkness.
Best Picture – “Inside Llewyn Davis”
It’s rare that we remember quite such a large disconnect between critics and Academy members on a potential contender as the gulf that appears to have sprung up with “Inside Llewyn Davis.” Writers, this one included, mostly did backflips over the Coens‘ latest, and it was widely expected to be a Best Picture nominee. But once voters and audiences started watching it, it was clear that they weren’t responding in the same way—finding the film chilly and its central character unsympathetic. We’re not saying that they’re wrong, but, well, they’re wrong: “Inside Llewyn Davis” is one of the very best films by two of our very best filmmakers. Rich and complex like an especially good novel, and with a melancholy tone reminiscent of “Barton Fink” and “A Serious Man,” it’s undeniably a little bleak, but about as funny as a bleak film could be. And the Coens’ clearly share a love for their broken, bitter protagonist, and an empathy for his struggle and failures that may not be shared by Academy voters whose own difficult days are long behind them, not least because he’s played by Oscar Isaac (who, see above, is goddamn amazing). Every performer, from Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan to Garrett Hedlund and John Goodman, does stellar work; it looks beautiful, courtesy of Bruno Delbonnel; and it sounds doubly wonderful, thanks to its authentic and brilliantly performed folk soundtrack. We know we shouldn’t take the Academy as a measurement of quality, but the idea that this isn’t one of the best films of the year is, frankly, an absurd one.
There are lots of other performers and films that we’d love to see recognized from our earlier For Your Consideration pieces. When we took a look at the Supporting Actresses, we highlighted Sally Hawkins from “Blue Jasmine” (who’s gathered steam since, and actually has a decent chance of making the cut), Mickey Sumner from “Frances Ha” and Kaitlyn Dever from “Short Term 12,” while also mentioning Maria Bello and Viola Davis from “Prisoners,” Alexandra Maria Lara from “Rush,” Kristin Scott Thomas from “Only God Forgives,” Reem Abdullah from “Wadjda,” Maggie Siff from “Concussion,” Ellen Page from “Touchy Feely,” Rooney Mara from “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints,” Joanna Vanderham from “What Maisie Knew,” Pauline Burlet from “The Past” and Emma Watson from “The Bling Ring.”
For the Supporting Actors, we shone a light on “Short Term 12” ‘s Keith Stanfield, “Spring Breakers” ‘ James Franco and “Mud” ‘s Ray McKinnon, with “Parkland” ‘s James Badge Dale, “About Time” ‘s Bill Nighy, “Saving Mr. Banks” ‘ Jason Schwartzmann, “The Place Beyond The Pines” ‘ Emory Cohen, “Computer Chess” ‘ Myles Paige, “This Is The End” ‘s Danny McBride, “Iron Man 3” ‘s Ben Kingsley, Moises Arias from “The Kings of Summer” and in particular, “Pain & Gain” ‘s Dwayne Johnson.
For our expanded piece on our Best Actress favorites, we named Julia Louis-Dreyfus from “Enough Said,“ Greta Gerwig for “Frances Ha,” Berenice Bejo from “The Past,” “Touchy Feely” ‘s Rosemarie DeWitt, “Wadjda” ‘s Waad Mohammed, “Side Effects” ‘s Rooney Mara and “Mother Of George” ‘s Danai Gurira, while Olivia Wilde from “Drinking Buddies,” Lake Bell from “In A World,” Amy Seimetz from “Upstream Color,” Felicity Jones from “The Invisible Woman,” Mia Wasikowska from “Stoker,” Amy Acker from “Much Ado About Nothing,” Lumita Georghiu from “Child’s Pose,” Alice Lowe from “Sightseers,” Veerle Baetens from “The Broken Circle Breakdown,” Robin Weigert from “Concussion“and Kathryn Hahn from “Afternoon Delight“ were the equally worthy runners-up (next time someone tries to tell you that there’s a shallow pool for Best Actress, show them this list, before or after slapping them in the head).
And for Best Actor, we named Mads Mikkelsen from “The Hunt,” “A Hijacking” stars Pilou Asbaek and Soren Malling, Jack Reynor from “What Richard Did,” Ethan Hawke from “Before Midnight,” Toni Servillo from “The Great Beauty,” Ali Mosaffa from “The Past” and Hugh Jackman from “Prisoners,” with Conner Chapman of “The Selfish Giant,” Dane DeHaan from “Kill Your Darlings,” Chris Hemsworth from “Rush,” Michael Shannon of “The Iceman” and Tony Leung of “The Grandmaster” also getting mentions.
Who do you hope gets nominated tomorrow? Let us know in the comments section below.