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Final 2014 Oscar Predictions

Final 2014 Oscar Predictions

Why are people talking about Oscar upsets this year? Because this intensely competitive race –prolonged by the Olympics–could yield some surprises on March 2. (See my picks below.)

But there’s a difference between a movie that shocks audiences on Oscar night, that did not rack up wins along the way and was not expected to win, and a field of contenders that spreads a smattering of winners across many categories. This year is unlikely to yield a crazy stealth candidate like “Driving Miss Daisy” or “Chariots of Fire,” that won in years when so many popular movies were duking it out with voters that a surprise candidate snuck through the middle. 

That said, frontrunners “Gravity” (ten nominations) and “12 Years a Slave” (nine nominations) are duking it out, while “American Hustle” (ten nominations) is still in the game, with actors in a David O. Russell movie nominated in all four acting categories for the second year in a row, and three BAFTA wins. Jennifer Lawrence might win that second Oscar after all. It shows strength with the Academy’s dominant actors branch. Leading the pack does not guarantee a Best Picture win, as Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” demonstrated last year. But momentum does follow perceived winners. 

There are some anomalies operating this year. First, the most popular movie, the one that is winning the most awards in the rampup to the Oscarcast as well as global box office dollars, is “Gravity.” But much like 2010, when James Cameron’s blockbuster “Avatar” went into the Oscar race with nine nominations, any sci-fi epic, no matter how artful, is at a disadvantage. That’s because snobby Academy members are obsessed with prestige. That year low-budget indie “The Hurt Locker” took home six Oscars including Best Picture and Director while “Avatar” won only three tech statues. “Gravity”‘s strength lies in the technical categories.

There was also the Kathryn Bigelow factor; the Academy was inspired to award the first woman a Best Director Oscar. This year both Steve McQueen and Alfonso Cuaron would mark firsts if they won, for a black or Latino filmmaker. Black directors John Singleton and Lee Daniels were nominated for “Boyz ‘n the Hood” and “Precious,” respectively; if “12 Years a Slave” wins Best Picture, McQueen will be the first black producer to accept the award– after five nominations. Two Latin American films have won the foreign Oscar, while Brazilian directors Héctor Babenco (“Kiss of the Spider Woman”) and Fernando Meirelles (“City of God”) and Mexican filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu (“Babel”) were nominated for Best Director. 

This year too the Academy will likely go with the smaller more artful socially-conscious movie that they admire for Best Picture–even if they don’t actually like it–over the popular sci-fi tech-driven entertainment. There’s a reason the filmmakers behind “Gravity” keep repeating that the “heart” of the movie is Sandra Bullock. They want to remind voters that more than VFX went into making this movie work. As much as I admire “Blue Jasmine” anointed winner Cate Blanchett (who has artfully dodged the now fading Woody Allen controversy) I don’t think any other actress could have pulled off Bullock’s precise athletic dramatic feat.

But “Gravity”‘s vulnerability is revealed by its lack of an Original Screenplay nomination. Oscar night will likely follow a similar pattern to the Critics’ Choice and Golden Globes (which split drama and comedy) and the BAFTA Awards. “Gravity” will rack up many wins (including Cinematography, VFX, Score, Sound Mixing and Editing, and Best Director for Alfonso Cuaron), while “12 Years a Slave” will not. Adapted Screenplay is the most likely win for “12 Years a Slave”— and Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o are still in the running–along with Best Picture.

The reason that “12 Years a Slave” may prevail over all countervailing trends is that the Academy thinks about how they want to be represented to the world. It’s not just what movie they like best. It’s what movie they want to like best.

The annual Oscar nominations are always full of surprises and this round was no exception. It was not a good day for Tom Hanks, who was a no-show in two acting categories. “Captain Phillips,” with six nominations, was revealed as a weaker Best Picture candidate, as it missed not only DGA-nominee Paul Greengrass (although last year’s director snub, Ben Affleck, went on to win Best Picture with “Argo”) but Best Actor Hanks, a shocking omission. Earning nominations were supporting actor Barkhad Abdi, writer Billy Ray and editor Christopher Rouse, usually a sign of Best Picture strength. Oddly, Ray and Rouse are strong contenders in their categories.

Dallas Buyers Club,” with strong actor support, also scored six nominations including adapted screenplay and editing.  It should win three: Best Actor Matthew McConaughey, Supporting Actor Jared Leto, and Hair and Makeup. 

Weinstein Co. could breathe a sigh of relief as not only did “August: Osage County,” U2’s Globe-winning song “Ordinary Day” from “Mandela: The Long Walk Home,” and Wong Kar-wai’s “The Grandmaster” earn nominations, but popular “Philomena” scored four, including Best Picture, Best Actress (Judi Dench), adapted screenplay (Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope) and score (Alexandre Desplat). But the “Philomena” team may have to settle for the BAFTA screenplay win.  

Arguably “Philomena” stole the thunder from Disney’s Brit entry missing from the Best Picture list of nine, “Saving Mr. Banks,” which clearly didn’t land enough first place votes. Also among the missing were Best Actress Emma Thompson and supporting actor Hanks. The film had to settle for a nomination for score for perennial Thomas Newman, who has yet to win after ten nominations. While Disney’s Frozen” should handily win the animated feature category, Pixar did not land a nomination for sequel “Monsters University,” an unusual slight.

Distributor Paramount has pushed effectively not only for its home-grown Best Picture contender “Nebraska” (which scored six nominations, including a director’s nod for Alexander Payne, presumably supplanting Greengrass, Best Actor and Supporting Actress for Bruce Dern and June Squibb, respectively, and original screenplay Bob Nelson) but late entry “The Wolf of Wall Street” landed five nods for Best Picture, Director (Martin Scorsese), actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), supporting actor (Jonah Hill) and writer (Terence Winter). Paramount slammed those nominations in over the Christmas holiday, but may not wind up winning anything.

In the documentary race, frontrunners “Act of Killing,” “20 Feet from Stardom” and “The Square” are facing off against “Dirty Wars” and “Cutie and the Boxer”; surprisingly, left off were Sarah Polley’s family memoir “Stories We Tell” (the doc branch still frowns on reenactments) and CNN hit “Blackfish.” 

And the foreign race is also close, as frontrunners and box office leaders “The Great Beauty” and “The Hunt” will be voted on for the first time by the entire Academy, from the mainstream branches to the crafts. Will they see all five or vote for what they’ve seen? That is the question. 

The full list of nominees is below, in order of their likelihood to win the Oscar.

Best motion picture of the year

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

Achievement in directing

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

Performance by an actor in a leading role

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

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

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

Performance by an actress in a leading role

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

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

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

Adapted screenplay

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

Original screenplay

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

Best animated feature film of the year

  • “Frozen” Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Peter Del Vecho
  • “The Croods” Chris Sanders, Kirk DeMicco and Kristine Belson
  • “The Wind Rises” Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki
  • “Despicable Me 2” Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin and Chris Meledandri
  • “Ernest & Celestine” Benjamin Renner and Didier Brunner

Achievement in cinematography

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

Achievement in costume design

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

Best documentary feature

  • “20 Feet from Stardom” Morgan Neville
  • “The Square” Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer 
  • “The Act of Killing” Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen
  • “Dirty Wars” Richard Rowley and Jeremy Scahill
  • “Cutie and the Boxer” Zachary Heinzerling and Lydia Dean Pilcher

Best documentary short subject

  • “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life” Malcolm Clarke and Nicholas Reed
  • “Facing Fear” Jason Cohen
  • “CaveDigger” Jeffrey Karoff
  • “Karama Has No Walls” Sara Ishaq
  • “Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall” Edgar Barens

Achievement in film editing

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

Best foreign language film of the year

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

Achievement in makeup and hairstyling

  • “Dallas Buyers Club” Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews
  • “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” Stephen Prouty
  • “The Lone Ranger” Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)

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

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)

  • “Let It Go” from “Frozen” Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
  • “Happy” from “Despicable Me 2” Music and Lyric by Pharrell Williams
  • “Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” Music by Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen; Lyric by Paul Hewson
  • “The Moon Song” from “Her” Music by Karen O; Lyric by Karen O and Spike Jonze

Achievement in production design

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

Best animated short film

  • “Get a Horse!” Lauren MacMullan and Dorothy McKim
  • “Feral” Daniel Sousa and Dan Golden
  • “Mr. Hublot” Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares
  • “Possessions” Shuhei Morita
  • “Room on the Broom” Max Lang and Jan Lachauer

Best live action short film

  • “Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything)” Xavier Legrand and Alexandre Gavras
  • “Helium” Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson
  • “The Voorman Problem” Mark Gill and Baldwin Li
  • “Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)” Esteban Crespo
  • “Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)” Selma Vilhunen and Kirsikka Saari

Achievement in sound editing

  • “Gravity” Glenn Freemantle
  • “Captain Phillips” Oliver Tarney
  • “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” Brent Burge
  • “Lone Survivor” Wylie Stateman
  • “All Is Lost” Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns

Achievement in sound mixing

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

Achievement in 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

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