It makes me very happy when I can look down the list of nominees and the fun hasn’t been squeezed out. This year, there is ample reason to think that any of the nine nominees might win. There is 100% rock solid winner, no Schindler’s List, no Titanic, and that leaves the possibilities wide open. My favorite of the nominees is Spike Jonze’s her, a beautiful oddball love story and the year’s most original film, but it’s chances are non-existent, My choice is is not slouch either. Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity is a space adventure almost completely devoid of any romanticism. He portrays outer space as a real place, a deadly place so the human element become more palatable.
This is tough. All common sense tells you that this one will go to Alfonso Cuarón for elevating Gravity from just a technical exercise into something very human. Not to mention, he also won The top award from the DGA. Yet, if there is a surprise, be ready for Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave.
A very crowded field, a very good list of performances, but All Hail the McRenaissance! After five years of climbing back out of the doldrums of the romantic comedy wasteland, Matthew McConaughey is finally back where he belongs. He turned in the best supporting performance of the year in Mud, but really bared his soul as a hustler dying of AIDS in Dallas Buyers Club.
Much as I might enjoy (finally) seeing a victory for Amy Adams, after five nominations and no wins, it is looking like that isn’t going happen. Cate Blanchett effectively won this award seven months ago when Blue Jasmine came out. She’s won The Golden Globe, BAFTA, The SAG award, and just about every critic’s award in sight.
Best Supporting Actor
The only way that this award garners an upset is if anyone but Jared Leto happens to win. Based on the pre-awards, that’s not likely to happen.
Best Supporting Actress
The knee-jerk reaction is to assume that the academy will give Jennifer Lawrence her second Academy Award, but the pre-Oscar awards (including the SAG, which is made up of the same block of voters who vote for the Oscars) have moved in the direction of newcomer Lupita Nyong’o for her performance in 12 Years a Slave.
Best Original Screenplay
A category that traditionally loves twisted, bizarre and truly original work. This year, the standout is Spike Jonze, whose screenplay for her spoke as much to the heart as it did to the head.
Best Adapted Screenplay
John Ridley’s screenplay of 12 Years a Slave was a brilliant act of portraying slavery without many of the easy “blame whitey” overtones. He sticks to the story, and he deserves to be rewarded.
Best Foreign Language Film
A technicality left out the most deserving (and best) film of the year, the great sapphic love story Blue is the Warmest Color. The frontrunner is Italy’s surrealistic The Great Beauty but I don’t discount an upset by Denmark’s The Hunt.
Best Animated Feature
I am no fan of Disney’s Frozen, but I have a feeling that the voters won’t see it that way. Those of us who didn’t like the film are hoping for the darkhorse, another victory for Hayao Miyazaki, this time with The Wind Rises.
Best Original Song
Here, as in the Best Animated Short and Best Animated Feature category, we will see a return for Disney, which a decade ago was a regular staple at the Academy Awards. In recent years, Disney has been away from the Best Original Song category, but this year they’ve come back with “Let it Go” from Frozen. Whether it deserves it, is another matter.
Best Original Score
In a year in which most categories are locked up, this one is a little more open, There’s a possibility for any of these five nominees to win (they all deserve it), but Steven Price becomes part of the Gravity sweep.
Best Art Direction
Any of these films have a chance to win, there’s not a dud in the bunch. My choice would be the cold, open space of K.K. Barrett and Gene Serdena of her, spaces which nicely matches the lonely spaces of the main character’s heart. Yet, the flash will upset the subtlety. It is almost unanimously agreed that the pure pop force of The Great Gatsby by Catherine Martina and Beverley Dunn will dance away with this one.
Best Costume Design
First glance tells you that this one will be a tight race between Catherine Martin’s 1920s razzle dazzle for The Great Gatsby and Michael Wilkinson’s 1970s polyester vortex for American Hustle. Based on all the pre-Oscar predictions, it is looking like American Hustle may claim this as the only award of the night .
Best Makeup & Hairstyling
There is some fear in my heart that this award might go to Stephen Prouty for Jackass: Bad Grampa. It would be a darkhorse because the frontrunners are Adruitha Lee and Robin Matthews created the emaciated look of Matthew McConaughey’s AIDS patient in Dallas Buyers Club.
If I were a voter, this one would go to Bruno Delbonnel for his gorgeous smokey club atmosphere of Inside Llewyn Davis. I might hope for an upset because it’s looking like a second victory for cinematographer Emmanuel Lubeski (who one last year for Life of Pi) who will pick one up this year for the brutally real images of Gravity.
Best Visual Effects
Lots of sound, fury and pretty pictures, but Gravity utilized it the best.
Best Sound Mixing and Sound Editing
Two categories that most moviegoers can’t tell apart. It hardly matters, the restraint of the work in Gravity will earn awards for both.
Best Film Editing
The clue here is always to bet on the film that it likely to win Best Picture. Yet, since the winner for BP this year isn’t clear, so it takes a sharper eye. Mark Sanger’s work on Gravity redefines the challenge of editing, by not taking quick Armageddon-style jump-cuts but allowing long, lingering tracking shots.
Best Documentary Feature
Personally, my favorite is Cutie and the Boxer about the tense, 40 year marriage between a painter who paints with boxing gloves, and his underling wife who determines to rise above her own broken dreams by becoming a cartoonist. But my favorites never win in this category. The likely winner will be to startlingly original The Act of Killing which former Indonesian death-squad leaders to reenact their mass-killings in different cinematic genres.
Best Documentary Short
The long and healthy marriage between the documentary branch and the holocaust is something that will likely never go away, especially this year. The easy winner here is the surprisingly optimistic The Lady in Number 6, the story of a 109 year-old piano player and holocaust survivor who offers the advice that the key to life is music, love and laughter.
Best Live Action Short
This year’s nominees for LAS deal with subjects as varied as a hostage crisis, a dying child’s fantasy, a day in the life of a busy mother and the story of an inmate who thinks he’s God. Yet, the best bet is on the frontrunner, Xavier Legrand’s Just Before Losing Everything, the devistating account of a woman attempting to leave her abusive husband.
Best Animated Short
Good Advice: Always bet on Mickey! It is likely that Disney will win here for the 3D Mickey Mouse short Get a Horse! Yet, if a darkhorse emerges, it may come from Pater Lamont for his 3D animated adventure Mr. Hublot, the story of an OCD man in the future whose loathing for change is upset by the arrive of a robot pet.