After months of predictions, campaigns, and hand-wringing, Oscar nominations were finally announced last week. Setting aside some disappointing snubs (“Inside Llewyn Davis” only scored two nominations, and “Fruitvale Station” received none) and interesting surprises (“Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa”? Really?), the competition this year should make for an interesting night. There is still plenty of time for shake-ups – voting doesn’t begin until mid-February, with the ceremony happening on March 2nd – but here are my initial picks for the top seven awards.
Will win: 12 Years A Slave
Should win: 12 Years A Slave
“12 Years” is, without a doubt, the most impressive film of the year. It’s a fearless portrait of slavery and features impressive performances from both newcomers and veterans.
Might win: “Gravity” could snag the top prize from “12 Years”. The films tied for Best Picture at the Producers Guild Awards, which has correctly predicted the Best Picture Oscar race for the past six years. The star-studded “American Hustle” is also a possibility, although it’s momentum has been diminishing steadily throughout the season.
Will win: Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity”
Should win: Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity”
Cuaron’s “Gravity”, a 90 minute thriller about a stranded astronaut, is a technical and creative feat. The film is beautifully photographed – it opens with a single expansive take that lasts nearly 10 minutes – and well paced. However, this is Cuaron’s first nomination and he is up against eight-time nominee and one-time winner Martin Scorsese (“Wolf of Wall Street”) and two-time nominees David O. Russell (“American Hustle”), and Alexander Payne (“Nebraska”).
Wil win: Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Should win: Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years A Slave”
Matthew McConaughey’s performance in “Dallas” is impressive, and not just because of his much-discussed weight loss. But it pains me that Ejiofor’s turn as Solomon Northup won’t be recognized. Ejiofor’s performance is nuanced and gut-wrenching, but McConaughey’s slightly flashier role (combined with his great comeback story) seems to be too much for voters to resist.
Will win: Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
Should win: Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
Blanchett’s performance as a modern-day Blanche DuBois has been racking up awards this season. The recognition is well-deserved, as Blanchett’s performance is a highlight of her already impressive career.
Best Supporting Actor:
Will win: Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Should win: Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Is there an award Jared Leto hasn’t won this season? His performance as a trans woman living with AIDs is so striking I don’t feel conflicted that Leto taking home the statuette seems inevitable.
Best Supporting Actress:
Will: Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”
Should: Lupita Nyong’o. “12 Years a Slave”
Might win: Jennifer Lawrence. “American Hustle”
JLaw and Nyong’o have been neck and neck for most of awards season, but the latter’s performance is unquestionably stronger. Lawrence did take home the Golden Globe this year, but Nyong’o has won 29 of the 36 awards she and Lawrence have been nominated for so far, so I am confident the Academy will make the right choice.
Best Original Screenplay:
Will: “American Hustle”, David O. Russell and Eric Singer
Should: “Her”, Spike Jonze
Best Original Screenplay is one of the most crowded and competitive slots of the year. Four of the five nominees are also up for Best Picture and there is no clear front runner. Although through-provoking and sharp screenplay of “Her” was my favorite this year, I think Russell and Singer’s over-the-top treatment of the 1970s AbScam scandal will distract voters from it’s more muted competitors.