Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Fearless Oscar nominations predictions

Oscar nominations close their voting tomorrow, Jan. 8, and will be announced Jan. 16. It's looking like a particularly tough year for prognostication. "12 Years a Slave" seems to be the frontrunner for Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director. It has all the high-toned hallmarks of a traditional Best Pic -- historical setting, serious gravitas, terrific performances and a subject matter that is second only to the Holocaust in Things Everyone Can Get Behind.

But "Slave" hasn't done particularly well at the box office, and lacks the feel-good credentials of previous favorites like "The King's Speech." After all, it is tough to watch, especially during the latter sections.

Similarly, I think the older Academy voters will be put off by the raunchy aspects of "The Wolf of Wall Street," diminishing its tally. "Nebraska," "Her," "Inside Llewyn Davis" and "Dallas Buyers Club" will suffer for not breaking through into mainstream audiences -- though that may change for some of them, which could enjoy a late-season wider release if they score Oscar nominations.

It was a very strong year for actors and a rather weak year for actresses, leaving the latter categories wide open. When the competition is heady, big names tend to trump unknown ones. Though I'm still predicting Oprah's gravitational pull in showbiz won't convince Oscar voters to give the nod to her one-note performance in "The Butler."

So here are my feckless predictions for the Oscar nominations tomorrow in the "major" categories. Remember, these are not who I think should get nominated, but who will.

Best Picture

They were will be between 5 and 10 nominees, and I think they'll go for a full boat. Lots of terrific pictures to choose from this year. "Prisoners," my #2 pick for the year, is likely to come out with a big goose egg.

12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Inside Llewyn Davis
Saving Mr. Banks
The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Actor

I think Ejiofor has this award locked up, and Joaquin Phoenix will get shut out for his past behavior.

Bruce Dern
Chiwetel Ejiofor
Tom Hanks
Matthew McConaughey
Robert Redford

Best Actress

Tough call this year; a lot of people think Blanchett is the front runner, but not a lot of people saw "Blue Jasmine."

Cate Blanchett
Sandra Bullock
Judi Dench
Meryl Streep
Emma Thompson

Best Director

This is actually an easy category to predict, since the Academy nearly always follows the DGA nominees, which were announced earlier today. Though I think the Brothers Coen could sneak in here, possibly pushing out Greengrass.

Alfonso Cuarón
Paul Greengrass
Steve McQueen
David O. Russell
Martin Scorsese

Best Supporting Actor

Brühl is actually a leading performance, but this is where he's being pushed because he's not Thor. Leto would seem to be the top dog here, with Fassbender's scenery-chewing liked by many (but not me).

Barkhad Abdi
Daniel Brühl
Michael Fassbender
Jared Leto
Matthew McConaughey

Best Supporting Actress

Wide, wide open, with Lawrence and Nyong'o the only true locks. Julia Roberts will get nominated because she's Julia Roberts, but I think past winner Spencer will squeak past Oprah Winfrey.

Jennifer Lawrence
Lupita Nyong’o
Julia Roberts
Octavia Spencer
June Squibb

Best Original Screenplay

The Academy loves to give screenplay statues out as consolation prizes, so I think this category is the best shot "Her" has for winning something. The screenplay for "Hustle" is just a mess.

American  Hustle
Blue Jasmine
Dallas Buyers Club

Best Adapted Screenplay

Astonishingly, "Slave" did not get a nomination from the Writer's Guild*, which would seem to indicate the support for the film is wide but not deep. I think the Oscar voters will not agree.

12 Years a Slave
August: Osage County
Before Midnight
Captain Phillips
The Wolf of Wall Street

*I've since learned "Slave" was disqualified, along with a lot of other very good scripts like "Rush," for not being produced under union supervision. Because THAT'S a good reason not to recognize the best work in your profession.

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