Last-Minute Oscar Predictions Post 2017!

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Well, it’s finally here – the Superbowl of Cinema, the Indianapolis 500 of Film – it’s OSCAR Day!  As you can probably tell, I’m very excited! So, before I put the finishing touches on the hors d’oeuvres and my party shoes on my feet, I have time for a quick predictions post.

Here is your list of nominees in the twenty-four categories that will be televised tonight. (If you’re a novice watcher, you might want to take a nap now. We can expect the show to last until midnight.) The show should be a good one. Jimmy Kimmel is hosting for the first time. For years, his post-Oscars edition of his own show has been a highlight.

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My prognostications for what I think will win are in yellow.  If the film or performance that I think should win is different from what I believe will win, I’ve marked it in red.  I’ll update with an * for the actual winner. My average over the last few years is roughly 75%.  There appear to be quite a few “sure things” this year, so we’ll see whether or not I improve my numbers.

Best Picture

Arrival

Fences

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Hidden Figures

La La Land

Lion

Manchester By the Sea

Moonlight *

Hedging a bit, right off -the-bat? Let me explain. Hell or High Water was my favorite film of the year, followed by Manchester… and Moonlight.  Don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed La La Land, but in terms of “Best Picture”? I believe there are other films more deserving. On the other hand, can’t we all use a little bit of simple, lovely, well-made movie magic? So, I won’t really be all that upset when La La Land wins.

Best Actor

Casey Affleck *

Andrew Garfield

Ryan Gosling

Viggo Mortensen

Denzel Washington

I’m sticking with Casey Affleck, though Denzel Washington is surging in most polls.

 

Best Actress

Isabelle Huppert

Ruth Negga

Natalie Portman

Emma Stone *

Meryl Streep

I’m happy that Ruth Negga was recognized for the beautiful Loving, just as I’m mystified that her costar Joel Edgerton, as well as director Jeff Nichols and the film itself, were not.

 

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali *

Jeff Bridges

Lucas Hedges

Dev Patel

Michael Shannon

Best Supporting Actress

Viola Davis *

Naomie Harris

Nicole Kidman

Octavia Spencer

Michelle Williams

What more can be said about Viola Davis’ fierce performance in Fences? She should have been in the leading actress category and she’d still win.

Best Director

Arrival, Denis Villaneuve

Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson

La La Land, Damien Chazelle *

Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan

Moonlight, Barry Jenkins

Adapted Screenplay

Arrival, Eric Heisserer

Fences, August Wilson

Hidden Figures, Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi

Lion, Luke Davies

Moonlight, Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney *

Original Screenplay

Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan

La La Land, Damien Chazelle

The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou

Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan *

20th Century Women, Mike Mills

I’ll be very happy for Kenneth Longergan, who wrote a gorgeous movie. Would I be even happier if Taylor Sheridan’s name were to be called? Yes. Yes, I would.

Cinematography

Arrival, Bradford Young

La La Land, Linus Sandgren *

Lion, Greig Fraser

Moonlight, James Laxton

Silence, Rodrigo Prieto

Animated Feature Film

Kubo and the Two Strings

Moana

My Life as a Zucchini

The Red Turtle

Zootopia *

Foreign Language Film

Land of Mine (Denmark)

A Man Called Ove (Sweden)

The Salesman (Iran) *

Tanna (Australia)

Toni Erdmann (Germany)

Documentary Feature

Fire at Sea

I Am Not Your Negro

Life, Animated

O.J.: Made in America *

Lion, Greig Fraser

Moonlight, James Laxton

Silence, Rodrigo Prieto

Film Editing

Arrival, Joe Walker

Hacksaw Ridge, John Gilbert *

Hell or High Water, Jake Roberts

La La Land, Tom Cross 

Moonlight, Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon

Production Design

Arrival, Patrice Vermette and Paul Hotte

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Stuart Craig and Anna Pinnock

Hail, Caesar! , Jess Gonchor and Nancy Haigh

La La Land, Davis Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco *

Passengers, Guy Hendrix Dyas and Gene Serdena

Costume Design

Allied, Joanna Johnston

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Colleen Atwood *

Florence Foster Jenkins, Consolata Boyle

Jackie, Madeline Fontaine

La La Land, Mary Zophres

Makeup and Hairstyling

A Man Called Ove, Eva von Bahr and Love Larson

Star Trek Beyond, Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo

Suicide Squad, Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini, and Christopher Nelson *

Original Score

Jackie, Mica Levi

La La Land, Justin Hurwitz *

Lion, Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka

Moonlight, Nicholas Britell

Passengers, Thomas Newman

Original Song

“Audition (The Fools who Dream),” La La Land, music by Justin Hurwitz, lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

“Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Trolls, music and lyric by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin, and Karl Johan Schuster

“City of Stars,” La La Land, music by Justin Hurwitz, lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul *

“The Empty Chair,” Jim: The James Foley Story, music and lyric by J. Ralph and Sting

“How Far I’ll Go,” Moana, music and lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda

Sound Editing

Arrival, Sylvain Bellemare *

Deepwater Horizon, Wylie Stateman and Renée Tondelli

Hacksaw Ridge, Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright

La La Land, Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan

Sully, Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman

Sound Mixing

Arrival, Bernard Gariépy Strobl and Claude La Haye

Hacksaw Ridge, Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie, and Peter Grace *

La La Land, Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee, and Steve A. Morrow

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, David Parker, Christopher Scarabosio, and Stuart Wilson

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush, and Mac Ruth

Visual Effects

Deepwater Horizon, Craig Hammack, Jason Snell, Justin Billington, and Burt Dalton

Doctor Strange, Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli, and Paul Corbould

The Jungle Book, Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones, and Dan Lemmon *

Kubo and the Two Strings, Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean, and Brad Schiff

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel, and Neil Corbould

Animated Short Film

Blind Vaysha

Borrowed Time

Pear Cider and Cigarettes

Pearl

Piper *

Live Action Short Film

Ennemis Intérieurs

La Femme et le TGV

Silent Nights

Sing *

Timecode

Documentary Short Subject

Extremis

4.1 Miles

Joe’s Violin

Watani: My Homeland

The White Helmets *

It’s Here, It’s Here! It’s Finally #Oscars Day (And My Predictions Are Finally Finished!)

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Okay, I’m attempting to get my predictions in, just at the wire, which is par for my course, so here are my thoughts on the subject:

First, I think that this year, there will be no one film that runs away with all of the awards for which it has been nominated and the love will be spread around quite a bit. I like this idea. Considering all of the many movies made and how few are recognized at the big dance, a nomination should be its own reward. As someone (J.K. Simmons perhaps) said at an awards show earlier this year, if you’re in the room, you’re already a winner.

Of my favorite films this year (which are many, I can’t limit myself to just 10, and in no particular order):
Frank
The Drop
Locke
The Grand Budapest Hotel
A Most Violent Year
Boyhood
Birdman
Guardians of the Galaxy
Only Lovers Left Alive
Snowpiercer
Gone Girl
Nightcrawler
Mr. Turner
HTTYD2
Inherent Vice
The Trip to Italy

I’m amazed that so many of them are still in the Oscar mix and of course, just as surprised that so many of them are not.

Remember when Gone Girl was released and it automatically became the front-runner for Best Picture? That didn’t last long. It doesn’t take away my enjoyment of the movie though. And it will probably be remembered a lot longer than some of those films that were recognized. (Does anyone believe that The Theory of Everything bears repeat viewings?) Guardians of the Galaxy was just too popular and made too much money for anyone to “take seriously”.  It has been in the mix for a handful of technical awards, but let’s be honest. All of the technology, makeup and CGI would not have made that film what it was without the performances of Chris Pratt and company.

Snowpiercer was another film that was declared an instant classic with film scribes all over the interwebz begging for some awards recognition for the “best film of the year”.  Sorry, too “niche-y”, too sci-fi, too dystopian, too grimy, too…foreign.

Tilda Swinton, however, should have been recognized. Her part was originally written for a man. Even though it was adapted slightly for her, she spent two hours every day in the makeup chair.  How is it possible that this extraordinary talent has only been nominated for one Oscar (that she won – for Michael Clayton)?  If no one could get past her gargantuan teeth in Snowpiercer, what about for her haunting, languidly sexy vampire in Only Lovers Left Alive? How was that movie missed by so many? It is perfection.  (Full disclosure, I adore this woman. I can’t wait to see her in Judd Apatow‘s Train Wreck.)

Coulda, shoulda, woulda. In the Best Actor category, neither of the two actors who should win were even nominated. My first choice would have been Tom Hardy for Locke, a virtuoso performance in a singular film, but I’d have been happy with Jake Gyllenhaal for Nightcrawler. That said, of those actors who did manage to snag a nomination, Eddie Redmayne has the momentum after his SAG and BAFTA wins, although admittedly the latter award was given in his own backyard and it would have been a surprise if he hadn’t won. I’d much prefer, however, that Michael Keaton get the prize for what is a career defining (not to mention rejuvenating) role in Birdman. I’m against giving Oscars as career achievement awards (unless they are actually called that), but. unlike Redmayne and even Benedict Cumberbatch, journeyman Keaton created a character from scratch and made us care about him, and that’s what it’s all about.

What’s really exciting is that it’s now Oscar Day and we’re still debating these things. This is an exciting year, in my humble opinion, precisely because there are still a few question marks regarding the evening’s festivities, which means that there may yet be some surprises to be found and

Aside from the speeches, (and I won’t go into some of the wacky and unexpected examples of those, because once a name has been read, all bets are off. Whatever anyone says or does, they can’t take the statue away from you, so have it with your one-armed pushups like Jack Palance or just whoop for ten minutes like Cuba Gooding, Jr.) it seems like it’s been quite a while since any of us who pay attention to these things, was actually surprised.

But surprises can happen. There have been quite a few unexpected wins in (what seems like) the recent past. For example, Adrien Brody for The Pianist in 2002 over the likes of Jack Nicholson, Michael Caine, Nicholas Cage, and Daniel Day Lewis. Deserving or not, and I happen to think he was, no one saw that coming. Then Brody’s director Roman Polanski, upset DGA winner Rob Marshall (Chicago). this is an aberration on the order of 1999’s Shakespeare in Love win over Saving Private Ryan (what?!), not to mention perhaps the most infamous examples, Marisa Tomei in 1992 over Judy Davis, Joan Plowright, Miranda Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave (!!) and then 2004’s Crash over Brokeback Mountain. So anything is possible.

While most of us on the outside looking in this year have Best Actor down to a battle between Redmayne and Keaton, it is definitely within the realm of possibility for Bradley Cooper to sneak in and snatch it out from under them. This is Cooper’s third nomination in three years and he did the whole body transformation thing – packing on 50 pounds of muscle to play Navy Seal Chris Kyle – which the Academy loves. The one actor who appears to be out of the running completely is Cumberbatch. This after months of assumptions that he was the front-runner for The Imitation Game, which has also all but dropped out of the race. Cumberbatch has been covered in the dust of Redmayne and Keaton. I have no doubt, though, that he’ll be back for future races. Sorry Steve Carell. You are the proverbial luckless snowball.

Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor are all pretty much done deals. Despite the four other names announced in each of those categories, only one has been cleaning up at all of the under-card races. Julianne Moore (Still Alice), Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) and J.K. Simmons (Whiplash), respectively, are virtual locks to win the big one. All that’s left are those speeches. I don’t expect any of them to pull a Roberto Benigni. Too bad.

I believe it’s entirely possible that the Best Director and Best Picture races will be split, just like at BAFTA where Director was given to Alejandro Iñárritu and Pic to Boyhood, and yesterday at the Independent Spirit Awards where the opposite was true and Richard Linklater walked away with Director and Birdman, Best Picture. I’ve often said it’s illogical to nominate a film without its director, but it’s almost the norm this year: Selma without Ava Duvernay, The Theory of Everything but no James Marsh, American Sniper without Clint Eastwood– this is what happens when you expand Best Picture to as many as 12 but don’t expand the other categories! Insanity! (How then to explain Bennett Miller but no Foxcatcher?) Anyway, in the case of Boyhood’s Linklater and Birdman’s Iñárritu, if the Academy splits, it may just be a case of wanting to recognize two of the best films of the year without playing Solomon exactly, but without actually choosing.

That said, I make the call for Birdman a. because it’s a movie about actors (and they comprise the largest Academy voting bloc) and b. it has a slight edge in the guild awards. But, no matter who takes home the hardware, when it comes to these two films, fans of well-written, well-acted, well-directed, just plain well-made (and yes okay, independent) movies are the winners. Here’s hoping their success heralds a new wave of quirky, inventive, intelligent, cinematic square pegs.

On with the show:

BEST PICTURE
American Sniper
*Birdman
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash

BEST DIRECTOR
*Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Morton Tyldum, The Imitation Game
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher

I have to go with Iñárritu, because of his DGA win. It is extremely rare that the winner of the Director’s Guild Award does not win the Academy Award. BUT – see above. Linklater could pull it out.

Best Actor
Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
**Michael Keaton, Birdman
*Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

BAFTA was icing, but Redmayne won the Screen Actors Guild award. See above re: voting bloc. Academy voting actors are SAG voting actors.

Best Actress
Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
*Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Best Supporting Actress
*Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Laura Dern, Wild
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Emma Stone, Birdman
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Best Supporting Actor
Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
*J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Best Original Screenplay
Birdman, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo
Boyhood, Richard Linklater
Foxcatcher, E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman
*The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson and Hugo Guiness
Nightcrawler, Dan Gilroy

Grand Budapest will get this award not only as a consolation prize for best picture (it did after all score a great many other nominations as well), but because it’s a truly wonderful story. Wes Anderson is a very literary filmmaker. The WGA win is a harbinger unless it won only because the guild’s first choice, Boyhood, was ineligible. But I don’t think so. Nightcrawler won the Independent Spirit Award and I would not be unhappy if the Academy recognized Dan Gilroy (in place of Jake Gyllenhaal).

Best Adapted Screenplay
American Sniper, Jason Hall
*The Imitation Game, Graham Moore
Inherent Vice, Paul Thomas Anderson
The Theory of Everything, Anthony McCarten
Whiplash, Damien Chazelle

Another consolation prize since The Imitation Game scored eight noms but won’t win any other major category. And again, Graham Moore took home the WGA.award, but his closest Academy competition (The Theory of Everything) wasn’t eligible, so Anthony McCarten could steal.

Best Documentary Feature
*CITIZENFOUR
Finding Vivian Maier
Last Days in Vietnam
The Salt of the Earth
Virunga

Thanks to HBO and Netflix, I’ve seen four of the five and on the merits, this is a hard choice to make. I’m going with CITIZENFOUR because it’s a juggernaut.

Best Costume Design
*The Grand Budapest Hotel, Milena Canonero
Inherent Vice, Mark Bridges
Into the Woods, Colleen Atwood
Mr. Turner, Jacqueline Durran
Maleficent, Anna B. Sheppard

Grand Budapest, Birdman and Into the Woods all won Costume Guild awards, because they have several categories. The Academy lumps them all together. Canonero is an Academy favorite (with 3 previous wins), although so is Atwood, who also has three. I think Grand Budapest will win. Canonero’s costumes for this film re-imagined a real period in history, one that has been put on screen many times, and made them seem fresh and new.

Best Cinematography
*Birdman, Emmanuel Lubezki
The Grand Budapest Hotel, Robert D. Yeoman
Ida, Ryszard Lenczweski and Lukasz Zal
Mr. Turner, Dick Pope
Unbroken, Roger Deakins

If I were voting, I’d have to go with Dick Pope‘s gorgeous Turner-like landscapes in Mr. Turner or sentimental favorite Roger Deakins, who is nominated for his 12th Oscar. Last year’s winner, Emmaneul Lubezki, for whom this is his seventh nomination, will win again because the camera work in Birdman is still a major talking point, even among lay-people.

Best Hair & Makeup
Foxcatcher, Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard
*The Grand Budapest Hotel, Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier
Guardians of the Galaxy, Eliazabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White

Guardians could pull out an upset, but for me, this category was decided the minute I saw Tilda Swinton in The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Best Editing
American Sniper, Joel Cox and Gary Roach
*Boyhood, Sandra Adair
The Grand Budapest Hotel, Barney Pilling
The Imitation Game, William Goldenberg
Whiplash, Tom Cross

Why Boyhood? Twelve YEARS of footage. Now, I have to hand it to the editor of Whiplash as well. Miles Teller may have taught himself to play the drums for the role, but the tight editing made it fascinating, especially the finale, but still….twelve YEARS of footage. And it wasn’t just a cobbled together Frankenfilm. The result was lyrical and beautiful.

BEST SOUND EDITING
*American Sniper, Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman
Birdman, Martin Hernandez and Aaron Glascock
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Brent Burge and Jason Canovas
Interstellar, Richard King

Unbroken, Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro

This category is about creating an aural picture, that coincides with and reinforces the visual one. All of the nominees in this category are worthy. And for this reason Richard King, who created sound in the vacuum of space in Interstellar could upset, but think about what you heard when you saw American Sniper. Think about the juxtaposition of the horrors of war with what was happening at home. That is sound editing.

BEST SOUND MIXING
American Sniper, John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin
Birdman, Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga
Interstellar, Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten
Unbroken, Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee
*Whiplash, Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley

Sound MIXING is creating a balanced blend,of the sounds that the sound editor has created. So doesn’t that mean that the film which wins that category should automatically win for mixing? Not necessarily. While Sniper could win, in this particular instance, it’s important that Whiplash be recognized, particularly for a sound category, especially when that aforementioned final sequence won’t have been. The sound mix is everything to this movie. That said, I could see Birdman’s jazz percussion soundscape sneaking in a win, But we’ll go with Whiplash.

Best Visual Effects
Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist
Guardians of the Galaxy, Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould
*Interstellar, Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher
X-Men: Days of Future Past, Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer

Some pundits are going with the team from Apes, both for its incredible effects (and their ability to make us care about the motion capture apes as well as all of their CGI tricks), and for the fact that this same team was nominated for Rise of the Planet of the Apes and didn’t win. That could also be a mark in Interstellar‘s favor. Interstellar should win on its own merits though. Whatever else you liked or didn’t like about Christopher Nolan‘s megafilm, it was visually stunning.

Best Foreign Film
Wild Tales, Damián Szifrón; Argentina
Tangerines, Zaza Urushadze; Estonia
Timbuktu, Abderrahmane Sissako; Mauritania
*Ida, Pawel Pawlikowski; Poland
Leviathan, Andrey Zvyagintsev; Russia

Ida is probably the film in this category that most people have seen. It’s been available on Netflix since December and has already won quite a few awards, including yesterday’s Independent Spirit Award. It’s also good enough to have been nominated for its stunning black and white cinematography and was in the conversation, at one time, for Best Picture.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
*The Grand Budapest Hotel, Alexandre Desplat
The Imitation Game, Alexandre Desplat
Interstellar, Hans Zimmer
Mr. Turner, Gary Yershon
The Theory of Everything, Jóhann Jóhannsson

Alexandre Desplat has been another Academy bridesmaid in recent years. Eight nominations since 2007, but without a win. He works on prestige films that get Academy recognition, but he’s also just that good. That he is nominated twice this year alone is testament to both of those facts. I do think he’ll finally win, but it gets trickier when one has to choose for which film. My personal choice is The Grand Budapest Hotel. As I’ve already said, I loved the score (as I did Desplat’s work on Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. Both quirky, toe-tapping and memorable). I can’t remember the score for any of the other films, although I remember enjoying them at the time. It is possible that because Desplat is competing against himself, that he might split the vote, leaving the door open for someone else. If that’s the case, it will probably be Jóhann Jóhannsson, who won the BAFTA.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Lost Stars” from Begin Again, Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond
“Everything is Awesome” from The LEGO Movie, Shawn Patterson
*“Glory” from Selma, John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn
“Grateful” from Beyond the Lights, Diane Warren

This is another virtual lock. It not only evokes the film, but it’s a good song in its own right.

Best Animated Film
Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
*How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of Princess Kaguya

I don’t know why The Lego Movie was not nominated. Even if it had been, I’d have been rooting for HTTYD2, for sentimental reasons and because it’s a great movie. It won the Annie, as did its predecessor, but this year it will also win Best Animated Feature since it doesn’t have a Pixar entry to beat. So yay! (Although I’m still bummed about John Powell‘s score snub that year and this.)

Best Short Film – Animated
**The Bigger Picture
The Dam Keeper
*Feast
Me and My Moulton
A Single Life

I loved them all and while my personal favorite might be The Bigger Picture, which was just so damn clever, I think Feast will win because, much like last year’s Paperman, it was the most seen. It’s also very sweet and deceptively simple.

Best Short Film -Live Action
Aya
Boogaloo and Graham
Butter Lamp
Parvaneh
*The Phone Call

Boogaloo and Graham pulled out a BAFTA win, and if that seemed like a hometown favorite (about two boys and their baby chicks), I’m equally as surprised that The Phone Call didn’t win there. It stars Sally Hawkins as a mental health worker at a suicide hotline and Jim Broadbent as her caller, both actors familiar to Academy voters, plus it’s the fictional companion to Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1. (See below) For those reasons I’m going with The Phone Call, even though some are touting the virtues of Parvaneh, from Switzerland, about an Afghan immigrant who travels to Zurich.
Best Short Film – Documentary
*Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Our Curse
The Reaper
White Earth

I’ve seen the shorts programs. (Hey, if you want to prognosticate with any accuracy, you have to) and Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 is both gut-wrenching and topical. We all say we hate the war but love the warrior. We need to do a better job of proving it.

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
*The Grand Budapest Hotel, Adam Stockhausen and Anna Pinnock
The Imitation Game, Maria Djurkovic and Tatiana Macdonald
Interstellar, Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis and Paul Healy
Into the Woods, Dennis Gassner and Anna Pinnock
Mr. Turner, Suzie Davies and Charlotte Watts

Anna Pinnock is another dual nominee, but her collaboration with Adam Stockhausen on Grand Budapest should win her the award. Despite the Academy’s proclivity to give this award to a musical if one is available, the highly stylized look of Wes Anderson‘s film is its core.

There you have it, my predictions for the 2015 Academy Awards. Got ’em in, with a nanosecond to spare, but I got ’em in. So what else is new? Want to start making predictions for next year?

UPDATE: I went 21 for 24 – same as last year. I’m always surprised, not by the fact that I missed a few, but the ones that I miss. 

Oscar Nominations 2015: The Fallout

Oscars, nominations, Academy Awards, AMPAS, poster, Neil Patrick Harris

This morning, Thursday January 15, 2015, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs (along with a somnambulant Chris Pine, J.J. Abrams, and Alfonso Cuarón) stood on a mountain top (okay a stage) to hand down that august body’s nominations for the 87th annual Academy Awards. Given the complete hodge-podge and mishmash of this year’s list of nominees, seemingly culled together by blind monkeys banging away at keyboards, I can understand why they do it at the arse-crack of dawn (at least for those on the West Coast). They’re hiding under the cover of darkness.

I have to say I’m not really all that shocked by who was nominated, but rather surprised, puzzled and, yes, a little pissed-off, by who wasn’t.

One step forward and two steps back: last year I fantasized about more than one person of color being nominated for Best Actor. This pipe-dream was unfullfilled, but at least one black actor not named Denzel managed to slip past the color barrier (Chiwetel Ejiorfor), even if they did ultimately hand the prize to the middle-aged white guy. I was left with the thought that perhaps a corner had been turned and that in subsequent years we would begin to see nominees more reflective of the culture. This year is not one of those years.

Despite a mesmorizing performance by David Oyelowo as the man known as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (rather than a two-dimensional bold-faced type legend) in Selma, for which he received nothing but glowing reviews, the actor did not receive an Academy Award nomination. Neither did the film’s director Ava DuVernay, who until a week ago when the Director’s Guild also snubbed her, had been favorited to become the first African-American female director nominated.

Back when I began ruminating on the subject, I had thought that Oyelowo might just snatch the Oscar most were then already giving to Benedict Cumberbatch, the way I so desperately wanted Ejiofor to get the Oscar he so richly deserved, instead of the anointed Matthew McConaughey. (Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of both Ben and Matty, as you well know, but the award is for Best Performance, not body of work or for being an all-around brilliant actor/charming human.) Now of course, Oyelowo was ignored and Cumberbatch will almost certainly lose to either Eddie Redmayne or (more likely in this arena) Michael Keaton.

If Oyelowo was too dark for them or they couldn’t pronounce his name (O-yellow-o, and he’s been around long enough for people to get it right), the Academy could have opted for the equally deserving Guatemalan/Cuban actor, Oscar Isaac. When are they going to recognize this man? Bradley Cooper has been nominated three years in a row! After the egregious omission of Isaac’s name on last year’s list for Inside Llewyn Davis, I should have been prepared. A Most Violent Year (which incidentally included David Oyelowo in a fantastic supporting performance) probably wasn’t seen by enough voting members. I know the National Board of Review doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, but the film’s win should at least have put it on the radar. Maybe Isaac is just too good…like his costar Jessica Chastain (also denied after a year that also included The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Miss Julie and Interstellar). When we expect greatness, perhaps it’s not as likely to be rewarded? No, that can’t be right. Otherwise how the hell does one explain Meryl Streep? She made a movie? BAM! here’s a nomination!

Even if the Academy can only see white, I’m puzzled by the representatives it chose. As I mentioned on Facebook, I am a fan of both Steve Carrell and Bradley Cooper, but fake noses and weight gain/loss need to stop being reasons for nominations, let alone wins (Nicole Kidman and Matty again, respectively). I love you both, I do, but neither of you were better than Oyelowo or Isaac or Ralph Fiennes or Tom Hardy or Timothy Spall or Jake Gyllenhaal, all of whom are more deserving. JMHO.

So, moving on to Best Actress, the race boils down to Julianne Moore and four other white women. Doesn’t matter which ones. Moore, an exceptionally talented actress who has never won, has already been chosen for her role in Still Alice, a film 99.9% of the country has not had a chance to see yet. Another weird and mystical Oscar phenomenon, this one has plucked Moore’s name from the magic hat, while leaving two other actresses, Jennifer Aniston and Jessica Chastain, both in similar situations, in the lurch.  (Cake, like Still Alice has not opened yet here in Boston, a city which is usually on the 2nd rollout tier right behind NY & LA. A Most Violent Year, which I was lucky enough to see last summer, opens this weekend) Then there’s Golden Globe winner Amy Adams. Adams was, up until this morning, thought to be in a horserace with Moore. Like Moore she’s been nominated many times before, but has never won. Not even nominated. Some pundits are putting it down to the fact that reviews for Tim Burton‘s Big Eyes were decidedly mixed, even while Adams was praised, and that “it wouldn’t be worth nominating her again if she wasn’t going to take the prize”*.  Adams might disagree.

It is nice that Rosamund Pike got a nod for Gone Girl, though she’s apparently meant to carry the banner for the entire film which failed to get recognition for director David Fincher, screenwriter Gillian Flynn, or costar Ben Affleck. (Hell, I thought they’d at least nominate the Oscars’ telecast host, Neil Patrick Harris for Best Supporting Actor. He was worthy and that would have made good tv.) I adore Marion Cotillard, but her nomination was a surprise, especially for a French film that while it’s received a lot of critical praise, no one not on a list for Academy screeners has seen. However, she could have been nominated for The Immigrant and I’d have been happy, so I won’t quibble here. The category is rounded out by Reese Witherspoon and Felicity Jones, to absolutely no one’s surprise.

Best Supporting Actor does happen to include some truly great performances, including Edward Norton in Birdman and J.K. Simmons in Whiplash, but as much as I love Mark Ruffalo, I think Channing Tatum gave the better supporting performance in Foxcatcher. And anyone who knows me, knows that it is no small thing for me to praise Tatum-tot.  And don’t get me started on Robert Duvall. Another nomination for longevity.

On the distaff side, Laura Dern came out of left field to pick up her first nomination since 1992 (for Rambling Rose), after being forgotten by the Golden Globes and SAG. Keira Knightley, Emma Stone and Meryl Streep were all Globe nominated, as was Patricia Arquette, the Globe winner receiving her first Academy nomination for a film in which she gets to age twelve years on camera. Nice choices, but what a nice surprise it would have been if Tilda Swinton‘s name had been called this morning for Snowpiercer. (Although why her performance in Only Lovers Left Alive has not been part of the conversation is beyond me. Same reason Tom Hardy hasn’t been, I guess.)

There is so much head-scratching to be done over today’s announcement that I’m making myself dizzy.  Where’s JC Chandor for Best Screenplay, let alone director or Best Picture? And where’s Christopher Nolan? Remember when the interwebz declared the race over before it had even begun and Interstellar would be the winner? I don’t care what the science means and whether or not it’s realistic, it wasn’t nearly as confusing as Inception and it had the heart missing from most cold and earnest sci-fi extravaganzas.

For some odd reason, there are only eight Best Picture nods this year, when there can be as many as ten. As you can probably guess, I’m very pleasantly surprised that The Grand Budapest Hotel is among them, but the question is begged, how then, did Selma wind up as one of them?“ It’s only the fourth movie to be so nominated without first having been nominated by any of the major guilds:  the Producers Guild, the Writers Guild (for which it was ineligible), the Directors Guild and the Screen Actors Guild. The only other bone the film received was Best Original Song, a surprise to no one. This is a film that not only directed itself (like fellow Best Pic nominee American Sniper), but it also wrote itself and was acted by holograms. And then there’s Bennett Miller, who got a Director nomination, but what does that mean if his film, Foxcatcher, did not? What, exactly, is his achievement other than directing Carrell and Ruffalo to nominations of their own?

Ironically, I’m watching as I type this, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the writer/directors of The Lego Movie, accept the Critics Choice Award for Best Animated Feature. It’s ironic because while this movie has been hailed audiences and critics alike and was widely expected to take the Oscar, was not even nominated for one! (Admittedly, I will root for How to Train Your Dragon 2 for sentimental reasons as well as the fact that it’s a damn fine film.)

Another bit of irony, the above mentioned group just handed the aforementioned un-nominated Jessica Chastain its first ever “MVP Award” because of the four extraordinary performances she gave this year.  She is the epitome of class and grace, something the Academy could use some more of.

Of course, none of the above grousing means I won’t be eagerly awaiting my high holy day and preparing by watching with bated breath the SAG and BAFTA awards shows.  I’ll be back before February 22 with my predictions. (I went 23 for 24 last year, so I have a lot to live up to, even if only in my own mind LOL) We all need time to see all of those live action and animated shorts.

Here’s the complete list of nominees:

BEST PICTURE

American Sniper

Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Selma

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

BEST DIRECTOR

Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher

Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

BEST ACTOR

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher

Bradley Cooper, American Sniper

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game

Michael Keaton, Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

BEST ACTRESS

Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night

Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything

Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon, Wild

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Robert Duvall, The Judge

Ethan Hawke, Boyhood

Edward Norton, Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Laura Dern, Wild

Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game

Emma Stone, Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

American Sniper, Jason Hall

The Imitation Game, Graham Moore

Inherent Vice, Paul Thomas Anderson

The Theory of Everything, Anthony McCarten

Whiplash, Damien Chazelle

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo

Boyhood, Richard Linklater

Foxcatcher, E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Screenplay by Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guiness

Nightcrawler, Dan Gilroy

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Birdman (The Unexpected Virute of Ignorance), Emmanuel Lubezki

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Robert D. Yeoman

Ida, (Ryszard Lenczweski and Lukasz Zal

Mr. Turner, Dick Pope

Unbroken, Roger Deakins

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Milena Canonero

Inherent Vice, Mark Bridges

Into the Woods, Colleen Atwood

Mr. Turner, Jacqueline Durran

Maleficent, Anna B. Sheppard

BEST FILM EDITING

American Sniper, Joel Cox and Gary Roach

Boyhood, Sandra Adair

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Barney Pilling

The Imitation Game, William Goldenberg

Whiplash, Tom Cross

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

Foxcatcher

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Guardians of the Galaxy

BEST MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE

The Grand Budapest Hotel (Alexandre Desplat)

The Imitation Game (Alexandre Desplat)

Interstellar (Hans Zimmer)

Mr. Turner (Gary Yershon)

The Theory of Everything (Jóhann Jóhannsson)

BEST MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)

“Lost Stars” from Begin Again

“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me

“Everything is Awesome” from The Lego Movie

“Glory” from Selma

“Grateful” from Beyond the Lights

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

The Grand Budapest Hotel (Adam Stockhausen; Anna Pinnock)

The Imitation Game (Maria Djurkovic; Tatiana Macdonald)

Interstellar (Nathan Crowley; Gary Fettis, Paul Healy)

Into the Woods (Dennis Gassner; Anna Pinnock)

Mr. Turner (Suzie Davies; Charlotte Watts)

BEST SOUND EDITING

American Sniper

Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Interstellar

Unbroken

BEST SOUND MIXING

American Sniper

Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Interstellar

Unbroken

Whiplash

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Guardians of the Galaxy

Interstellar

X-Men: Days of Future Past

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

Big Hero 6

The Boxtrolls

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Song of the Sea

The Tale of Princess Kaguya

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Wild Tales (Damián Szifrón; Argentina)

Tangerines (Zaza Urushadze; Estonia)

Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako; Mauritania)

Ida (Pawel Pawlikowski; Poland)

Leviathan (Andrey Zvyagintsev; Russia)

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE FILM

CITIZENFOUR

Finding Vivian Maier

Last Days in Vietnam

The Salt of the Earth

Virunga

BEST DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT)

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Joanna

Our Curse

The Reaper

White Earth

BEST SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)

The Bigger Picture

The Dam Keeper

Feast

Me and My Moulton

A Single Life

BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)

Aya

Boogaloo and Graham

Butter Lamp

Parvaneh

The Phone Call

* Variety’s Ramin Setoodeh

Nominations, the Year That Was and Inside Llewyn Davis

poster, Oscar Isaac, Coen Brothers, movie, Inside Llewyn Davis

After much procrastination and just plain laziness, I’ve gotten my predictions for and thoughts on this year’s Oscar nominations in just under the wire.  If you’re wondering why I’m bothering at this late hour, let’s just say my OCD won’t let me let an awards season go by without sharing my opinions with the world…whether they like it or not.

Just a warning, to paraphrase Davis Guggenheim, this might get long.

I’ve decided that this post will encompass the Academy Award nominations, my “best of 2013” list and my thoughts on the Coen Brothers’ stylish urban folktale,  Inside Llewyn Davis.  While that sounds like an ambitious undertaking, given the snail-like pace at which I get these things finished, one post seemed to make more sense, especially since the three topics overlap like a cinematic Venn diagram.

With a pitch-perfect cast and the Coens at the top of their game, weaving the whole narrative with an absolutely breathtaking soundtrack produced by T-Bone Burnett, Inside Llewyn Davis doesn’t need to be flashy to be fascinating and powerful. However, its deceptively simple and subtle storytelling was snubbed by the Academy Awards. If the nomination itself is an honor, then no film has been more snubbed than this one.  For every category that I predict who will win, who should win etc.,  just know that there is an unwritten SHOULD BE IN THE RACE: Inside Llewyn Davis.

The Coens’ black comedy  was inspired by the life of folk singer Dave Van Ronk, and stars Oscar Isaac as a skilled, but self-destructive singer, who has the bad luck to be merely a decent folk singer in a Greenwich Village scene that is about to explode with the  arrival of Bob Dylan. He makes a mess of his life except when he’s onstage singing old folk and blues tunes.  Isaac carries the movie. Typically for the Coens, the film is dark and occasionally mean, but it also has heart. All it earned were Sound Mixing and a Cinematography nominations. While well earned, this thoughtful little film deserved more.

And yet I really shouldn’t have been surprised that it was excluded from the big categories like Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Picture. The Academy, while they are fans of the Coen Brothers in general, (7 of 14 directorial efforts have landed major nominations in the last couple of decades), they also prefer  flashier fare. And since they’d already recognized Philomena and Nebraska, there really wasn’t room on their plate for Inside Llewyn Davis. Just my humble opinion.

Of course that’s the down side of having such a great year at the movies:  the inevitable
disappointments in terms of any awards nominations and particularly Oscar nominations. There wasn’t enough room for  everybody. (Especially since they still haven’t changed the other categories to match the “up to” ten Best Picture slots.)

American Hustle, which is not on my “best of” list,  earned nominations for four of its “stars”, including Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. (What, no Jeremy Renner? For my money Renner’s pol with a heart of gold deserved a nod much more than Cooper’s aggressively eager Jr G-man.  It also earned nominations for original screenplay, direction and Best Picture.  I loved The Fighter. I loved Silver Linings Playbook. I did not love American Hustle. I liked it. But there were a lot of movies that I liked in 2013, none of which deserved awards attention.

For the record, my favorite movies of 2013 – in no particular order  (some of which I may revisit if they aren’t yet on DVD) – 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street, Her, Inside Llewyn Davis, Olympus Has Fallen, Labor Day, Now You See Me, Rush, The World’s End, The Place Beyond the Pines, Mud, Trance, Welcome to the Punch, Fruitvale Station and Bullet to the Head (don’t judge).

As for David O. Russell’s dramedy (it’s a comedy only in the Greek sense – all is not lost at the end. Or in the Adam Sandler  you’re only laughing because it’s sad-sense), simply saying “aaaaand GO!” is not directing, it’s letting your actors run amok. Standing back to watch the fireworks is not directing either. Knowing which takes to keep in order to assemble a semi-cohesive movie is the task of the editor, but we all know that’s ½ of a director’s job as well. Okay, so we’ll give him that.  That Russell has managed for the third time to corral as talented and versatile a group, yet again, is his true talent. As Bradley Cooper said from the stage while accepting the Best Ensemble SAG award, “he’s an actor’s director”.   Seriously, if he’s back in awards contention a year after Silver Linings Playbook, that means he had to sign Lawrence and Cooper before SLP hit it big. So he does know talent.

But when did we start to think of him as being in the same league with Martin Scorsese? “It’s a David O. Russell movie…it MUST be good. Let’s nominate it.”

His peers are still skeptical. Despite the love heaped on Silver Linings Playbook last year – a much more worthy film than American Hustle – the Directors Guild recognized Ben Affleck for Argo. The Academy, though they’d snubbed Affleck, chose Ang Lee.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Russell’s films. I’m just against anyone being nominated in any category just because it’s customary.

Pundits and prognosticators complain when one film or actor/actress etc is a shoe-in, so far out front of the pack that the opening of the envelope is a mere formality. They also complain when the preliminary awards shows (sort of like the semi-finals or the playoffs) are all over the map and we go into the Oscars without knowing exactly what’s going to happen. That’s the case with this year’s crop of nominees.   There are a few races that have what would seem to be a “front runner”, but in each instance, a case can be made for why another film or actor/actress etc will go home with the gold.

A lot of the hubbub following the nominations announcements had to do with the names not read. The Coen Brothers  Inside Llewyn Davis and it’s star Oscar Isaac were not the only big surprises.

No Oprah Winfrey for The Butler? She hasn’t been nominated  since 1985’s The Color Purple. Winfrey was at one point  seen as a frontrunner for  best supporting actress. But there’s a reason everything considered to have awards potential is released at the end of the year:  the Academy has a notoriously short memory and probably forgot about The Butler. The film and its star Forest Whitaker were  also left off, despite a strong showing at the Screen Actors Guild nominations.

No Emma  Thompson for  Saving Mr. Banks?  Everyone loves Emma Thompson! She’s
the only person to have ever won Oscars for both writing  (1995’s Sense and Sensibility) and acting (1992’s Howards End.) Considering that Saving Mr. Banks was obvious Oscar-bait about the man himself that’s a bit of a black eye for Disney (ABC’s parent company – the network which airs the Oscars) Oh well.

No Robert Redford in All Is Lost?!  Back in September,  Redford was a frontrunner for a nomination and was even predicted to win by quite a few critics. It would have been his first ever acting Oscar (he’s only
been nominated once for 1973’s The Sting.) and this movie is a one man show.  Apparently  it didn’t do so well in the translation to DVD which is how most Academy voters saw it. (Imagine if that were true of Gravity? We’d be looking at a very different race.)

No Tom  Hanks in Captain Phillips?! What the what? Yes, he’s won twice, but he hasn’t even been nominated in 13 years and most people expected him to be nominated for Saving Mr. Banks if not Captain Phillips. He was certainly deserving for the latter.

And no posthumous nomination for James Gandolfini . Now that is really odd.

Daniel Bruhl was recognized by  both the Golden Globes and the SAGs for Rush. If that film had done better box office, the Academy might have made room for him. Joaquin Phoenix carried Her, but sorry, the best actor  race was too crowded.

Michael B. Jordan and Fruitvale Station were  the indie breakouts of the year with backing from the Harvey Weinstein, but all I can think is that  its summer release date probably hurt its chances.
Some of the above I’m not convinced should have been nominated any more than most of those that were. We’re merely surprised that the above bold-faced names weren’t nominated because we expect that they will be. They are considered “Academy voter friendly”. Or rather they had been. “The Academy” is trying to change its image, to become younger and  hipper. At least Leonardo DiCaprio, who is long overdue, was recognized for his gutsy performance in  The Wolf of Wall Street (but he’s knocking on 40’s door, no matter how boyish he looks.)

The nominations, with my prediction for who WILL win and my choice for who SHOULD ** win

BEST DIRECTOR

David O. Russell

Alfonso Cuarón

Alexander Payne

Steve McQueen ** (because Best Pictures don’t direct themselves)  who assembled a truly amazing cast who gave truly astonishing performances. A lot has been made of the fact that David O’Russell directed four of his actors to nominations, when to my mind he was, for the most part, rewarded for gathering the same pretty people together yet again.  If there had been a leading actress in 12 Years a Slave, I have no doubt McQueen would have equaled Russell’s feat. Lupita Nyong’o and Michael Fassbender were (rightly) recognized, but from Benedict Cumberbatch to Paul Dano to Paul Giamatti, Alfre Woodard and Sarah Paulson, everyone gave brilliant performances. That SAG gave it’s Ensemble Award to American Hustle over 12 Years is a travesty.  JMHO.

Martin Scorsese

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Sally Hawkins- I would be “okay” with it, if she squeaked out a win.

Jennifer Lawrence – I won’t say I’m “over” JLaw, but she’s already beginning to achieve Judi Dench status at the ripe old age of 23 and this is not the role for which she wants to become ubiquitous

Lupita Nyong’o  ** – the best performance in this category. That is all.

Julia Roberts – see Judi Dench

June Squibb – can we stop giving nominations just for longevity?

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Barkhad Abdi – his first movie! The nomination is the honor

Bradley Cooper – like Lawrence, it’s the 2nd year in a row BCoop has been nominated for a David O. Russell film. But hair does not a performance make. Take a stand.

Michael Fassbender ** – best performance in this category. That is all

Jonah Hill – I have to admit I enjoyed him in Wolf of Wall Street and for the first time did not “see” Jonah Hill.

Jared Leto  – It does not take anything away from Leto for me to say that I thought Fassbender was better. Leto’s Rayon was more than just the weight loss and the wig. It was a beautiful performance. And let’s face it, beautiful goes down better . Being the delicate, perfectly made-up face of the AIDS crisis goes down a lot better than the face of pure, institutional evil. Even if that face belongs to Fassbender.

BEST ACTRESS

Amy Adams – nominated for American Hustle (as Best Actress, though given GG for Supporting) but also appears in another flick nom for Best Pic – Her.  If she won, I would perfectly okay with it. This is her fifth
nomination and she’s  the only non-winner in the category , but if Adams manages to upset Blanchett, however, it will be because of Woody Allen.

Cate Blanchett **

Sandra Bullock – she’s better in Gravity than she was in the film for which she actually won her Oscar. That’s what happens when you get it for the wrong reasons.

Judi Dench – made a movie – automatic nomination (Although that’s too simplistic. She was wonderful in Philomena)

Meryl Streep – see Judi Dench

BEST ACTOR

Christian Bale (see Judi Dench) – I’m a huge Bale fan and I think he’s another actor that is very easy to take for granted. His  in American Hustle was indelible, but his nomination was a surprise and it’s not his year. He can’t win for gaining weight  when they’re going to give it to Matthew McConaughey for losing weight.
Bruce Dern- The venerable Bruce Dern was wonderful in Nebraska. He’s a great actor whose career has largely been unsung because he’s such a great actor. But this is supposed to be about a particular performance in a particular film. (I’m going to keep saying that.)
Leonardo DiCaprio – I respect Leo. He is a brilliant actor, he’s intelligent and he uses his fame for good. He also, despite appearances to the contrary, tries to keep his private life private. Being one of the biggest movie stars on the planet makes this difficult, of course. While he’s obviously a serial model-dater and his current girlfriend is not even old enough to legally get into the clubs she and the rest of the supermodel herd frequent, I don’t find him nearly as distasteful as I do Bradley Cooper. He and DiCaprio are about the same age and so are their girlfriends. The difference is that Leo never went on record as saying that someone of Jennifer Lawrence’s age (with whom he’s made three movies – Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle and the soon to be released Serena – which actually filmed before American Hustle) was too young for him.  Lawrence is two years older than “Suki” Waterhouse- but I digress.  Leo deserves this nomination and a lot of people are saying he may upset. He was in 2 movies this year  that he carried. He is very deserving of a win. This is his fourth nomination, but he’s been snubbed more often.  (Titanic, Catch Me if You Can, The Departed, Revolutionary Road, Shutter Island, Inception,  J. Edgar and  Django Unchained – you can’t watch any of them to this day and not believe he was worthy of recognition.)  How’d he manage one this  year? He actually campaigned a little. Or did you think there was another reason he showed up on Saturday Night Live when Jonah Hill was host?

Matthew McConaughey  – I love Matty. I think I’ve made that clear. He was in about 6 movies in the last 18 months and was phenomenal in all of them. We are in the midst of “the McConaisance” – a term that became trite the instant it was picked up by People magazine. It didn’t take an Oscar nomination for a lot of us to notice that McConaughey is having a hell of a much-deserved ride. He carved this career resurgence out with his bare hands.  Dallas Buyers Club is the capper on an incredible string of performances. But if the Oscar is supposed to recognize one single achievement in one single film, then hands down it must go to Chiwetel Ejiofor. No other single performance by a male actor in any film that I saw in the past year even comes close.

Chiwetel Ejiofor **–  My reactions to his  performance as Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave have already been documented. Best performance. That is all.  No, that’s not all. I have to rant about this one for what is possibly the final time. Ejiofor didn’t just fall out of the sky, he’s got a long list of credits to his name as well, so even if we were celebrating “body of work”…  He just never had to overcome anything like Fools Gold or Failure to Launch. But if we’re giving awards for career achievement, take a look at Kinky Boots, Red Belt or Dirty Pretty Things. Hell, his first movie was Amistad, the star of which was Matthew McConaughey.

Months ago, I mentioned the possibility that this year could see more than one black Best Actor nominee. I knew it was a long shot, but in a year where there were at least five performances by black actors  that were worthy of recognition, only one has managed to actually make it to the playoffs. Where are Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station), Idris Elba (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom), Isaiah Washington (Blue Caprice) or even Forest Whitaker (Lee Daniel’s The Butler)? Chiwetel Ejiofor is apparently carrying the flag for his race. That he truly did give the best performance of the year, makes it all the more insulting that they keep giving the prizes to the middle-aged white guy.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

American Hustle – does not deserve a nomination for original screenplay when the four nominated actors have gone on record as saying that Russell allowed them to ad lib most of their scenes/lines.

Blue Jasmine – not a snowball’s chance in hell

Dallas Buyers Club

Her**Call this the Quentin Tarantino Award.  Her is a truly original film and one that the Academy will want to recognize in some way.

Nebraska– could spoil

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Before Midnight – could squeak out a win if the Academy wants to recognize the beautiful trilogy of which this film is the third and final part.

Captain Phillips

Philomena – could also squeak out a win. Steve Coogan won the BAFTA and they Academy may want to recognize the movie.

12 Years a Slave ** the film is driven by John Ridley’s strong, powerful script (culled from Solomon Northup’s moving memoir).  JMHO, but a win in this category will signal the Best Picture win.

Wolf of Wall Street – too many fucks

BEST FOREIGN FILM

The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium) – could upset

The Grand Beauty (Italy)

The Hunt (Denmark) **  – and no, it’s not just because of Mads Mikkelsen.  It’s a well-written, wonderfully acted film about perception, truth, lies and loneliness

The Missing Picture (Cambodia)

Omar (Palestine)

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

The Croods

Despicable Me 2

Ernest & Celestine

Frozen

The Wind Rises **

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY
The Grandmaster –  Philippe Le Sourd

Gravity ** – Emmanuel Lubezki

Inside Llewyn Davis – Bruno Delbonnel

Nebraska – Phedon Papamichael

Prisoners – Roger A. Deakins (A travesty that Deakins – the MOST nominated cinematographer still working – has never won. He won’t this year either.)

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN PRODUCTION DESIGN

American Hustle – Production Design: Judy Becker; Set Decoration: Heather Loeffler

Gravity –  Production Design: Andy Nicholson; Set Decoration: Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard

The Great Gatsby **– Production Design: Catherine Martin; Set Decoration: Beverley Dunn

Her – Production Design: K.K. Barrett; Set Decoration: Gene Serdena

12 Years a Slave – Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Alice Baker

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN 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

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

The Act of Killing

Cutie and the Boxer

Dirty Wars

The Square

20 Feet From Stardom** Since Sarah Polley’s The Stories We Tell didn’t get a nomination

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

CaveDigger

Facing Fear

Karama Has No Walls

The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life **

Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING

American Hustle ** Because Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten took a bunch of disjointed scenes and turned them into a movie

Captain Phillips

Dallas Buyers Club

Gravityconventional wisdom used to hold that one didn’t win Best Picture without winning Best Editing. I think that will not be the case this year. And actually, I’m okay with giving Gravity all of the technical awards.

12 Years a Slave

ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP

Dallas Buyers Club
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
The Lone Ranger

Only three nominees and no 12 Years a Slave ** (If you’ve seen it, you’d know why but maybe those stripes are considered a special effect and not makeup.)

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

The Book Thief – John Williams
Gravity **– Steven Price  (Apparently the score blew everyone away at the Academy Awards Nominees Concert)  I’d have preferred Hans Zimmer win for 12 Years a Slave but, oddly, it’s not on this list.
Her  – William Butler and Owen Pallett

Philomena – Alexandre Desplat
Saving Mr. Banks – Thomas Newman
BEST ORIGINAL SONG

Alone, Yet Not Alone

Happy **

Let It Go

The Moon Song **

Ordinary Love **

I’m conflicted. But it’s obvious I prefer most of them over what will most likely win.  I’m still pissed that ‘Please Mr Kennedy’ from Inside Llewyn Davis didn’t qualify (since it wasn’t original to the film. Pfft)

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM

Feral

Get a Horse!

Mr. Hublot

Possessions

Room on the Broom **

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

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  **

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND EDITING
All Is Lost

Captain Phillips

Gravity **

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Lone Survivor

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND MIXING

Captain Phillips

Gravity

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Inside Llewyn Davis ** – would be lovely if a movie about music won a sound award, but it won’t

Lone Survivor

ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS
Gravity **

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Iron Man 3

The Lone Ranger

Star Trek Into Darkness

BEST PICTURE

American Hustle– if voters  are too squeamish or timid to reward  a very intense film, they may opt for the cartoon-like antics of the pretty people cavorting in fashions that were hip when most of the voting body was too.

Captain Phillips – fully deserves the nod. You can read why I think so, here.

Dallas Buyers Club – despite two wonderful performances at its core, it’s only a so-so movie. Yes it will jerk the tears and it’s a story worth telling, but why is the first important AIDS movie since Philadelphia all about the (screamingly) straight white dude?

Her

Nebraska

Philomena – a perfect little gem of a movie. Loved every second of it. Its nomination was a happy surprise and The Weinstein Company’s only horse in the race. But no one should ever count out Harvey.  Ever.

The Wolf of Wall Street – not Scorsese’s best, but that’s still head and shoulders above most. It’s a movie that took some rumination to fully appreciate and merits a second viewing. Just don’t see it with your parents.

Gravity  – though technically brilliant is nearly as cold, in my opinion, as the space in which it takes place.  Oscar voters will need an emotional hook on which to hang their votes.

12 Years a Slave ** – Great films don’t have to be enjoyable to watch, and 12 Years A Slave is probably the best example of this that I can think of. It was my favorite film of 2013 not because it was fun or I had a good time watching it, but because it is, pure and simply, outstanding.   Yes, it is a brutal film. It realistically and unflinchingly depicts the lynching, whipping and rape that was emblematic of American institutional slavery, but it is the psychological toll, so clearly visible in Chiwitel Ejiofor’s eyes that is the core of the film. I’ve delved into my thoughts on the movie much more deeply here, but in a year with almost an embarrassment of riches in terms of awards-worthy fare, if we’re leaving politics of all sorts aside, it was the best of the best.

12 Years a Slave, movie, poster, Steve McQueen, Chiwitel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong'o

2 Trailers, 2 Actors – 1 VERY Early Oscar Prediction

Fruitvale Station, Michael B. Jordan, Ryan Coogler

poster via imdb

Having seen an advance screening of first-time director Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station (it hasn’t opened here in Boston yet), a movie about a real incident involving the death of a young black man,  that was already worthy of inclusion in a national conversation about the state of race relations in the United States, but is now even more sadly relevant given recent events, I can say that at this (extremely) early stage in the race, it is my prediction (and I am far from alone here) that Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle) will be recognized with an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

Take a look at the trailer:

trailer courtesy of The Weinstein Company via YouTube

My pal Harvey and The Weinstein Company are still rolling Fruitvale Station out across the country. If the film, which won both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival before bowing at Cannes, is not coming to a theater near you, try to catch it on VOD. You will be hearing a lot more about it.

Chiwetel Ejiofor, Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave

poster via imdb

If you’re as addicted to film as I am, you’ve probably already heard a lot about Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave.  I’ve been following the film’s progress since it was announced back in August 2011 that it would be the director’s next project, following up Shame which hadn’t even been released at that point.

Watch this:

trailer courtesy Fox Searchlight via JoBloMovieNetwork/YouTube

One might say, judging from that trailer above alone, that Chiwetel Ejiofor, would also be a lock for an Oscar nomination. Fox Searchlight, despite the fact that 12 Years a Slave missed Cannes, (but will probably debut in Venice and/or Toronto) has moved UP the release date from December 27 to October 18 on the basis of what Deadline called “exuberant test screenings”.

12 Years a Slave has, let’s be honest, the aroma of “Oscar bait” all over it. Based on the memoir of Solomon Northup, a free-born African American, kidnapped and sold into slavery, the cast includes Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Alfre Woodard, Quvenzhane Wallis and Brad Pitt (who also produced), among many others. All it takes is two and a half minutes to recognize the power of the piece.

So, one might call Ejiofor a lock. I wish I could. He’s an actor I’ve long admired and I’m thrilled that he’s got a role that,  again, based solely on those two and a half minutes, is a showcase for his talents. However, in the not so distant past, I had that same thought about the star of that other Steve McQueen directed film, the one I mentioned earlier – a little piece of celluloid called Shame. Its star, Michael Fassbender, gave what was, by nearly all accounts, one of the best performances of 2011. He ran away with accolades and acting prizes from Venice to LA. He was nominated for Golden Globes, BAFTAs and SAGs. Of course, we now know, the illustrious Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences didn’t care a fig for all of that and failed to nominate him for an Oscar.

(Fassbender, you’ll no doubt have noticed, appears in 12 Years a Slave as well – his 3rd appearance in a McQueen film, of which there are three – and though it is a supporting role, it is a role we’ve not seen him play before: an out and out villain. He looks to have given another awards-worthy performance. Perhaps he will be recognized this year in the lesser category. Perhaps the Academy feels that the cheeky German-Irishman needs to work up to a Best Actor nod? Maybe his director will get one this time as well.)

So I won’t call Ejiofor a lock, but his post is about something else anyway. This post is about the distinct possibility that some REAL history might be made this year. I realize it’s only July, but I’m calling it right now. It is my hope that come January 16, 2014, that the names of not just one, but two black leading men will be read in the category of Best Actor in a Leading Role: the British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor  for 12 Years a Slave and the American actor, Michael B. Jordan for Fruitvale Station. Even better, if the names of their directors, Steve McQueen and Ryan Coogler, were read out as well. No offense Denzel or Forest, but that would be real progress.

And the Oscar Goes To…

Ben Affleck and the cast of Argo, the movie that directed itself to Best Picture

Ben Affleck and the cast of Argo, the movie that directed itself to Best Picture

I cannot lie. I love this stuff.  The Academy Awards…excuse me, THE OSCARS, is my high holy day. It has been for as long as I can remember.

This year’s host, Seth MacFarlane, actually started out really strong . “The quest to make Tommy Lee Jones laugh begins now.” But then immediately dropped off when the camera cut to TLJ who was, of course, laughing.

MacFarlane was back up when he addressed Ben Affleck’s snub right off the top. “They know they screwed up. Ben, it’s not your fault.”  He probably should have quit while he was ahead – about thirty seconds in.

What came next, the taped segment, with William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk, went on WAAAAAY too long and was so wildly hit or miss. That horrible “boob”song nearly brought the whole thing to a halt. I don’t know who was cheering when it was over, unless it was because it was over.  Every actress, except Jennifer Lawrence, that they cut to was horrified. Charlize looked embarrassed, but then again, maybe it was a setup because the next thing we knew she was on stage with Channing Tatum doing Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, while Seth sang Jerome Kern!! Unreal, unexpected and entirely fabulous!

…followed by a really stupid sock-puppet thing that almost sucked the air out of the Dolby Theater, then THAT was followed up by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, MacFarlane and Daniel Radcliffe doing a song and dance to “High Hopes”.  At this point, I started to think that the whole show was bi-polar – a tribute to Silver Linings Playbook.

Presenting the first award of the night, Best Supporting Actor, Octavia Spencer looked really good, but was really trying way too hard for applause that didn’t come. And of course, I start of 0-1 by not going with Christoph Waltz (for a role that was really a co-lead and not supporting). I should have known better. Oh well. Waltz does give a helluva speech.

Be still my cold and cynical heart!! Surprise #1! Brave won Best Animated Film!! My faith is restored!

I did call Claudio Miranda for Cinematography. I called it as soon as I saw the film. Gorgeous. I still would have liked Roger Deakins to get it. He’s 0-10.

The Jaws theme used to play off those whose speeches run long was inspired, The Avengers reunion was not.

The James Bond at 50 tribute wasn’t all I expected it to be until Dame Shirley Bassey classed up the joint and belted out “Goldfinger” like a boss in head-to-toe gold sequins and then, rightfully, got a standing ovation. Do you have any idea how old she is? No, of course not.  Would you believe me if I told you she’s 76? Wow.

As predicted Anne Hathaway won Best Supporting Actress and as predicted she acted surprised. That whispered, “it came true!” was a tad twee. I know I’m cynical but the breathy speech was a bit much. On the other hand, it is a freakin’ OSCAR! The big one! Sure we all thought she’d win, but thinkin’ ain’t knowin’. And she deserved it.

The “In Memoriam” segment never fails to make me verklempt, but this year, when Marvin Hamlisch’s name came up and I heard the first strains of “The Way We Were”…chills. I am still in awe of Barbra Streisand. I always have to remember that she and my mother are the same age. (Apropos of nothing, anyone else think someday Jennifer Aniston should play her?)

There was only one Best Original song choice and it won (and I swear if the Ted song had won, I’d have stopped watching). “Skyfall” from Skyfall is the only song anyone will remember two days from now, let alone when future generations look at past Oscar winners. And Adele showed up to flawlessly sing it. She’s only 24 folks. Why the hell they felt the need to drag that out, I have no idea. By the time that award was handed out, we were at the 2 hrs, 45 min. mark.

I was really hoping for a write-in for Ben Affleck or Kathryn Bigelow. It’s my child-like hopefulness. So Ang Lee became the only director to win twice without his movie being named best picture.

It’s no secret that I wanted Jessica Chastain to get Best Actress, especially since the film had so unfairly been treated as “dead-in-the-water” for the past few weeks, but I can’t take issue with Jennifer Lawrence or her performance. It’s amazing to think that she’s only 23 and had been nominated for Best Actress twice and won once already. Move over Meryl. If Streep had been able to hand Lawrence the Oscar, it would have been an almost literal passing of the torch.

When it was time for Best Actor, half the audience probably used it for a bathroom break, so foregone was the conclusion. By the time Meryl announced, rather than read, Daniel Day Lewis’ name, it was anti-climactic, despite the fact that he just made Oscar history by becoming the only actor to win three times in the lead category. I’m just glad I got to hear him speak. He never fails to impress and surprise me whenever he does. Pure class, intelligence, humor and grace.

Jack Nicholson got an assist from the first First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama (!!) as he announced that Ben Affleck’s “little film that could”, Argo, took Best Picture. If, upon subsequent viewings, the tension is still palpable surrounding an event one knew the outcome of even before the first time that you saw it, THAT is a great movie. (I think the same can be said of Zero Dark Thirty). I have no idea what kind of man he actually is, but Ben Affleck is a damn fine filmmaker. He’s an actor who wasn’t getting the kind of roles that he wanted so he decided to take matters into his own hands and create them for himself.  I’m so glad that  Alan Ladd, Jr. took a chance on him and allowed him to make Gone Baby Gone. Affleck has directed three stellar films, each one better than the last, in which he’s directed an actor to an Academy Award nomination and each one that holds up under multiple repeat viewings. He’s only forty years old. How will he top himself now? I can’t wait to find out.

FINALLY it’s over…nope. Seth MacFarlane has one last song to sing, with the help of Kristin Chenowith…serenading the “losers”. It wasn’t nearly as funny as it needed to be to avoid being superfluous. Oh well, it’s all over but the lamentations of those lamented “losers”.

In the immortal words of Porky Pig, “I belibelibelibelibelibel…that’s all folks!”

Here’s your complete List of Winners. My predictions are in red. If by some miracle of prognostication I got it right, it’s marked with **.  In the more likely event that I got it wrong, it’s in yellow (actually I did pretty well, if I do say so myself – 18 out of 24):

BEST PICTURE

Argo**

Django Unchained

Life of Pi 

Lincoln 

Zero Dark Thirty

Les Miserables

Silver Linings Playbook

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Amour

BEST DIRECTOR

Ang Lee, Life of Pi

Steven Spielberg, Lincoln

David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

Michael Haneke, Amour

Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

LEAD ACTOR

Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln**

Joaquin Phoenix, The Master

Denzel Washington, Flight

Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook

Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables

LEAD ACTRESS

Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty

Naomi Watts, The Impossible

Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

Emmanuelle Riva, Amour

Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Alan Arkin, Argo

Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook

Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master

Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln

Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Amy Adams, The Master

Sally Field, Lincoln

Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables**

Helen Hunt, The Sessions

Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

BEST ANIMATED FILM

Brave, Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman**

Frankenweenie, Tim Burton

ParaNorman,  Sam Fell and Chris Butler

The Pirates! Band of Misfits,  Peter Lord

Wreck-It Ralph,  Rich Moore

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Anna Karenina,  Seamus McGarvey

Django Unchained, Robert Richardson

Life of Pi, Claudio Miranda**

Lincoln, Janusz Kaminski

Skyfall,  Roger Deakins (If I had a vote I’d go for Deakins who deserves a win)

COSTUME DESIGN

Anna Karenina, Jacqueline Durran**

Les Misérables,  Paco Delgado

Lincoln, Joanna Johnston

Mirror Mirror, Eiko Ishioka

Snow White and the Huntsman, Colleen Atwood

BEST DOCUMENTERY FEATURE

5 Broken Cameras
Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi

The Gatekeepers
Dror Moreh, Philippa Kowarsky, Estelle Fialon

How to Survive a Plague
David France, Howard Gertler

The Invisible War
Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering

Searching for Sugar Man
Malik Bendjelloul, Simon Chinn**

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT

“Inocente”
Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine

“Kings Point”
Sari Gilman and Jedd Wider

“Mondays at Racine”
Cynthia Wade and Robin Honan

“Open Heart”
Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern

“Redemption”
Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill

FILM EDITING

Argo,  William Goldenberg

Life of Pi, Tim Squyres

Lincoln,  Michael Kahn

Silver Linings Playbook, Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers

Zero Dark Thirty, Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Amour  Austria**

Kon-Tiki  Norway

No Chile

A Royal Affair Denmark

War Witch Canada

ACHIEVEMENT IN HAIR & MAKE-UP

Hitchcock, Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane

Les Misérables, Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell**

ORIGINAL SCORE

Anna Karenina Dario Marianelli

Argo Alexandre Desplat

Life of Pi Mychael Danna**

Lincoln John Williams

Skyfall Thomas Newman

ORIGINAL SONG

“Before My Time” from Chasing Ice
Music and Lyric by J. Ralph

“Everybody Needs A Best Friend” from Ted
Music by Walter Murphy; Lyric by Seth MacFarlane

“Pi’s Lullaby” from Life of Pi
Music by Mychael Danna; Lyric by Bombay Jayashri

“Skyfall “from Skyfall
Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth**

“Suddenly” from Les Misérables
Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; Lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil

PRODUCTION DESIGN

Anna Karenina
Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Production Design: Dan Hennah; Set Decoration: Ra Vincent and Simon Bright

Les Misérables
Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Anna Lynch-Robinson

Life of Pi
Production Design: David Gropman; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock

Lincoln
Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson

ANIMATED SHORT

“Adam and Dog” Minkyu Lee

“Fresh Guacamole” PES

“Head over Heels” Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly

“Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”” David Silverman

“Paperman” John Kahrs**

LIVE ACTION SHORT

“Asad” Bryan Buckley and Mino Jarjoura

“Buzkashi Boys” Sam French and Ariel Nasr

“Curfew” Shawn Christensen**

“Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)” Tom Van Avermaet and Ellen De Waele

“Henry” Yan England

SOUND EDITING

Argo, Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn

Django Unchained, Wylie Stateman

Life of Pi, Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton

Skyfall, Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers**

Zero Dark Thirty, Paul N.J. Ottosson

SOUND MIXING

Argo, John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia

Les Misérables, Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes**

Life of Pi, Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin

Lincoln, Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins

Skyfall, Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson

VISUAL EFFECTS

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White

Life of Pi, Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott**

Marvel’s The Avengers , Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick

Prometheus, Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and M

Martin Hill

Snow White and the Huntsman, Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Chris Terrio, Argo**

Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

David Magee, Life of Pi

Tony Kushner, Lincoln

David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Michael Haneke, Amour

Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained**

John Gatins, Flight

Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola, Moonrise Kingdom

Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…

…well it is if  you’re as addicted to film and film culture as I am. It’s the SUPER BOWL of Cinema! It’s the Oscars!

As I stated a few days ago, I do believe that there are a few certainties for the 85th Annual Academy Awards set to take place this Sunday February 24. Chief among them, Daniel Day Lewis’ win for Best Actor and Anne Hathaway’s win for Best Supporting Actress.  But that means that there are a few of the major categories still up for grabs.  That’s kind of refreshing, considering how quickly the contenders are singled out and whittled down and put into groups with labels like “front runner” or “not a prayer” etc.

Consider how many movies are released throughout the year.  A movie is declared to be “awards worthy” or in “awards contention” by the studio when it is given a coveted year end release date.  The fact that Argo has emerged as the clear front runner for Best Picture, a film released in early October, is almost as much an anomaly as the 2010 winner, Hurt Locker, was when it was released in June of 2009.

Speaking of The Hurt Locker, when the nominations were announced for The Oscars – you’ll notice that AMPAS is not calling them The Academy Awards this year, as well as downplaying the fact that it is the 85th anniversary of the awards – way back on January 10, my jaw literally dropped when that film’s director as well as the first woman to win Best Director, Kathryn Bigelow‘s name was NOT read as a nominee. That pretty much slammed the lid, in my humble opinion, on Zero Dark Thirty‘s chances for Best Picture, despite the fact that it was nominated and had, up until that point, been dominating critics awards. I think either Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild) or Michael Hanneke (Amour), both ineligible for the Directors Guild, got Bigelow’s nomination.

They snaked Ben Affleck‘s, for Argo, as well.  Bigelow had been taking those same critics awards for director until Affleck took the big one, the Critics Choice. Since then, as we all know by now, it’s been all Affleck – all the time. What the hell were Academy members thinking? It will be interesting to see how Best Director plays out. The pundits are still scratching their heads. Some are going with Spielberg by default, others Ang Lee. I’m going with David O. Russell. Oddly enough, if Lee wins he’ll have his 2nd Oscar for directing without his film winning Best Picture, as he did in 2006 when he won for Brokeback Mountain but Paul Haggis’ Crash took Best Picture. (But that’s another story.)

The Best Picture list was capped at nine. I’m not at all surprised that the overrated Amour was nominated in nearly every category for which it was eligible. It reinforces the idea that the Academy is comprised of geriatrics with nothing else to do. (Which makes all of this courting of the youth market a tad ironic.) The only film I was surprised not to see on the list was Anna Karenina, but it was recognized in the artistic categories that I predicted it would be.  Lincoln is, of course, the film with the most nods, at twelve. I’m holding in another rant, but as I’ve said before, it doesn’t make any damn sense, having as many as ten Best Picture nominees, but only five directors. Argo will (and seriously, if a movie wins the Producers Guild, the Directors Guild, the Writers Guild and the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Best Picture is in the bag) become only the fourth film to win without its director having been nominated.

It is important to remember that this is a predictions post. I predict Argo will win although my personal first choice would be Zero Dark Thirty. Argo would still be my second choice and under the Academy voting rules, that would, if I had an actual say, give it a very good chance.

The way it works is known as “Instant Runoff Voting”. It starts by asking each voter, “Of these nine Best Picture nominees, which is your favorite?”

Voters are asked to rank each of the nine from 1st to last. All of the films voted as #1 are put in various piles. If a movie secures more than half of votes cast, that movie wins on the first pass. Otherwise, the movie with the fewest first place votes is eliminated. Ballots assigned to the eliminated film are recounted and assigned to one of the remaining films based on the next preference on each ballot. This process continues until one movie wins by obtaining more than half the votes.

Head spinning yet? Back to my predictions…

It’s important to remember in the Original Screenplay category that Quentin Tarantino was not eligible for the Writer’s Guild Award which went to Mark Boal for Zero Dark Thirty. As much as I would like to believe that he will prevail again, I think QT will take the Oscar for Django Unchained.

I’ll stick with Chris Terrio and Argo in the Adapted Screenplay category, although I’d be equally happy if David O. Russell took it for Silver Linings Playbook. (If he does, he won’t get director. If he doesn’t, he probably will.)

I’m sticking with Jessica Chastain for Best Actress despite Jennifer Lawrence’s BAFTA win. They are both amazing actresses, as is Naomi Watts and before I saw Zero Dark Thirty I was in her camp. But not only does she disappear for a huge part of the movie for which she’s touted as the lead, but Jessica Chastain blew me away. Regardless of who wins, all three of these women will almost undoubtedly be nominated again. Emmanuelle Riva, who gave a beautiful performance in Amour is now the oldest (85) Best Actress nominee and going up against the youngest, Quvenzhane Wallis, who was six when she appeared in Beasts of the Southern Wild. Neither of these facts is enough, in my humble opinion, to truly compete with the other three powerhouses.

Leonardo DiCaprio wasn’t nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Django Unchained, which was another surprise, (not at all surprised the film’s star Jamie Foxx was neglected. He has been from the jump) but Christoph Waltz was, and the film was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay (although if that award went to the relative new kids on the block, Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola for Moonrise Kingdom, I would not be upset) and Best Picture. Again, no nomination for Quentin Tarantino as director (so it wouldn’t be the 1st time they threw him a screenplay bone instead, as was the case of Pulp Fiction). Waltz won the Golden Globe and the BAFTA but I think SAG winner Tommy Lee Jones is going to take the Oscar for Lincoln.

In the Best Actor Category, either Denzel Washington or Joaquin Phoenix got John Hawkes‘ nomination, although I shouldn’t be surprised by either one. I think both Joaquin Phoenix, as well as his costar Philip Seymour Hoffman, gave exceptional, understated performances. There is not a single scene in the film in which one or the other, if not both, is on screen. Their final scene together is, as it should be, the most powerful.  It consists of closeups on the two men’s faces and it had me holding my breath, watching the oh-so-subtle changes taking place. Phoenix’s characterization is almost entirely physical. He conveys nearly everything we need to know about his character from the way he walks, carries himself, even the way he holds his mouth when he speaks.

Washington was nominated for Flight not just because he’s Denzel, but also because he gave a multi-layered performance in what was ultimately an incredibly flawed movie.

Bradley Cooper‘s award was his nomination, which will surely change his career.  Kudos to David O. Russell for allowing Cooper’s “inner thespian” to shine through. Who knows he may be back next year. Early buzz on A Place Beyond the Pines is very good.

It’s all academic anyway since there’s no way in hell anyone but Daniel Day Lewis goes home with the prize. He will become the first man to win Best Actor three times.

I really want Golden Globe and BAFTA winner Brave to win Best Animated Feature. Conventional wisdom says Wreck-it Ralph (which wasn’t nominated for the BAFTA) will take it but I’m sticking.

Okay so let’s all watch on Sunday night and see how delusional I am for all of the above.  Oh, and then we all have to watch Jimmy Kimmel’s celebrated post-Oscar show.  This year he’s doing a sequel to last year’s film, “Movie the Movie 2V”. One of the stars of the “film”, Gerard Butler, talked to Total Film about it last night at the Artists for Peace & Justice Pre-Oscar Hollywood Dominoes event:

“When we asked Butler if he’d been working on anything on the day of our interview, he told us, “I’m glad you asked that question because I actually have a relatively interesting answer.

“I was with Jimmy Kimmel earlier filming his Oscar spoof thing. Basically I’m doing a piss-take of Taken. I’m looking for my baby, and I’m shouting on the phone – then you cut to a wide shot and I have my baby right in front of me… Then they gave me a flamethrower – so I had this backpack and flamethrower with a baby in tow – fighting sexy aliens.

It’s hilarious. Matt Damon was doing it, and Bradley Cooper. It’s not every day you get to throw on a baby and a flamethrower at the same time.  If there’s ever a day you want a journalist to say ‘so what have you been up to today?!’”

Movie: The Movie 2V, which will also feature Jessica Chastain, Jude Law and Amanda Seyfried:

Here’s a preview.

Movie the Movie starring Jessica Chastain, Jimmy Kimmel

And now, here’s your complete list of Oscar nominees (my predictions are in red):

BEST PICTURE

Argo

Django Unchained

Life of Pi 

Lincoln 

Zero Dark Thirty

Les Miserables

Silver Linings Playbook

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Amour

BEST DIRECTOR

Ang Lee, Life of Pi

Steven Spielberg, Lincoln

David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

Michael Haneke, Amour

Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

LEAD ACTOR

Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

Joaquin Phoenix, The Master

Denzel Washington, Flight

Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook

Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables

LEAD ACTRESS

Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty

Naomi Watts, The Impossible

Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

Emmanuelle Riva, Amour

Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Alan Arkin, Argo

Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook

Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master

Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln

Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Amy Adams, The Master

Sally Field, Lincoln

Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables

Helen Hunt, The Sessions

Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

BEST ANIMATED FILM

Brave, Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman

Frankenweenie, Tim Burton

ParaNorman,  Sam Fell and Chris Butler

The Pirates! Band of Misfits,  Peter Lord

Wreck-It Ralph,  Rich Moore

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Anna Karenina,  Seamus McGarvey

Django Unchained, Robert Richardson

Life of Pi, Claudio Miranda

Lincoln, Janusz Kaminski

Skyfall,  Roger Deakins (If I had a vote I’d go for Deakins who deserves a win)

COSTUME DESIGN

Anna Karenina, Jacqueline Durran

Les Misérables,  Paco Delgado

Lincoln, Joanna Johnston

Mirror Mirror, Eiko Ishioka

Snow White and the Huntsman, Colleen Atwood

BEST DOCUMENTERY FEATURE

5 Broken Cameras
Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi

The Gatekeepers
Dror Moreh, Philippa Kowarsky, Estelle Fialon

How to Survive a Plague
David France, Howard Gertler

The Invisible War
Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering

Searching for Sugar Man
Malik Bendjelloul, Simon Chinn

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT

“Inocente”
Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine

“Kings Point”
Sari Gilman and Jedd Wider

“Mondays at Racine”
Cynthia Wade and Robin Honan

“Open Heart”
Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern

“Redemption”
Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill

FILM EDITING

Argo,  William Goldenberg

Life of Pi, Tim Squyres

Lincoln,  Michael Kahn

Silver Linings Playbook, Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers

Zero Dark Thirty, Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Amour  Austria

Kon-Tiki  Norway

No Chile

A Royal Affair Denmark

War Witch Canada

ACHIEVEMENT IN HAIR & MAKE-UP

Hitchcock, Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane

Les Misérables, Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell

ORIGINAL SCORE

Anna Karenina Dario Marianelli

Argo Alexandre Desplat

Life of Pi Mychael Danna

Lincoln John Williams

Skyfall Thomas Newman

ORIGINAL SONG

“Before My Time” from Chasing Ice
Music and Lyric by J. Ralph

“Everybody Needs A Best Friend” from Ted
Music by Walter Murphy; Lyric by Seth MacFarlane

“Pi’s Lullaby” from Life of Pi
Music by Mychael Danna; Lyric by Bombay Jayashri

“Skyfall “from Skyfall
Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth

“Suddenly” from Les Misérables
Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; Lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil

PRODUCTION DESIGN

Anna Karenina
Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Production Design: Dan Hennah; Set Decoration: Ra Vincent and Simon Bright

Les Misérables
Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Anna Lynch-Robinson

Life of Pi
Production Design: David Gropman; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock

Lincoln
Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson

ANIMATED SHORT

“Adam and Dog” Minkyu Lee

“Fresh Guacamole” PES

“Head over Heels” Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly

“Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”” David Silverman

“Paperman” John Kahrs

LIVE ACTION SHORT

“Asad” Bryan Buckley and Mino Jarjoura

“Buzkashi Boys” Sam French and Ariel Nasr

“Curfew” Shawn Christensen

“Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)” Tom Van Avermaet and Ellen De Waele

“Henry” Yan England

SOUND EDITING

Argo, Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn

Django Unchained, Wylie Stateman

Life of Pi, Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton

Skyfall, Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers

Zero Dark Thirty, Paul N.J. Ottosson

SOUND MIXING

Argo, John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia

Les Misérables, Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes

Life of Pi, Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin

Lincoln, Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins

Skyfall, Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson

VISUAL EFFECTS

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White

Life of Pi, Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott

Marvel’s The Avengers , Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick

Prometheus, Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and M

Martin Hill

Snow White and the Huntsman, Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Chris Terrio, Argo

Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

David Magee, Life of Pi

Tony Kushner, Lincoln

David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Michael Haneke, Amour

Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained

John Gatins, Flight

Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola, Moonrise Kingdom

Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty