A lot has happened over the last two years that have affected how many movies I see on an annual basis. Last year, I told the tale of how wedded bliss has resulted in me taking in fewer bad (and less-than-good) films as before. Since I penned those words, my lovely wife and I have moved to Australia. Here we have seen only one subpar movie (you know who you are Runner Runner!) but, given the exorbitant ticket prices ($19.50 . . . each!) we have also been to the pictures fewer times overall. Even more relevant to the topic du jour is that while we sometimes get films released here before the U.S.—About Time, American Hustle, and Thor: The Dark World to name a few—most of the prestige films on whose shoulders my Academy Award predictions sit have not yet been released here in Oz. And won’t be for several weeks.
Given all these mitigating factors, I’ve decided to do this a bit differently this year. While I usually regal my readers with such illustrious lists as the Worst and Best Movies of the Year, the oft-confusing ‘Best Movie That Made the Most Amount of Money’ and ‘Worst Movie That Made the Least Amount of Money’—and the two polar opposites betwixt those declarations—and, of my course, my sagacious naming of the next ‘it’ actress, actor, and director and awarding of the ‘Movie Quote of the Year’, those will have to wait a few weeks to be unveiled to Hollywood and the public writ large.
This time—since I haven’t seen such promising films as Her (am I the only one who wants to always put a question mark after that title? Damn you Arrested Development!), Dallas Buyers Club, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, The Wolf of Wall Street, or even 12 Years a Slave—those lists and the subsequent analysis will be included in a separate blog post about a month from now. With the announcement of the 2014 Oscar nominations imminent—predictions on this scale wait for no man!—you of course will find my prognostications below.
But before I name names, a few words about the strong acting performances this year and how it affects all categories, but especially that of Lead Actor, where in all my years of doing these predictions, never has there been a field this deep, talented, and replete with such tour de force performances. No fewer than 11 actors—thespians with such legendary surnames as Redford, Hanks, DiCaprio, and Bale—could easily be nominated in any other year.
2013, though, had far too many tremendous performances. So much so that I think these are the six that will not hear their name announced by Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, in just a few hours (actors appear in order of heightened snubbery): Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station; Robert Redford, All is Lost; Forrest Whitaker, The Butler; Christian Bale, Out of the Furnace; Idris Elba, Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom; and Joaquin Phoenix, Her.
Most upsetting to me is the potential exclusion of Mr. Jordan. All us TV geeks know him first as Wallace on The Wire, then ascending to quarterback Vince Howard on Friday Night Lights and finally graduating to Haddie’s boyfriend Alex on Parenthood. He first took off on the big screen in Chronicle and has now given one of the decade’s premier performances as real-life Oscar Grant in Fruitvale Station. His performance is equal parts humbling and heartbreaking. And he deserves to be recognized for it by the Academy.
While that analysis may not engender much controversy, this statement certainly will: American Hustle is overrated or, at worst, far over-praised.
My wife and I were ridiculous excited to see the movie. We are huge fans of all the actors—especially the luminous Jennifer Lawrence—and find David O. Russell films to be must-see events. And his previous effort, Silver Linings Playbook, was a near-perfect film. And yet . . . we left the theatre . . . disappointed. It was good, certainly. But not great. The tone felt off, the movie’s temperament constantly shifting. Everything just seemed uneven. Misaligned. Certainly the performances, especially Lawrence, were fantastic. It reminded me of Doubt, by coincidence another Amy Adams film—four (five if you throw in Jeremy Renner) great acting performances somehow fail to make one great movie. I’m sure the Academy will disagree. But to my mind it was not one of this year’s best films.
Speaking of Best Picture, since expanding from a maximum of five films in 2009 there have been 10, 10, nine, and nine movies nominated, respectively, in the last four years. With so many wonderful films to choose from, I say the Academy goes with a full 10, with Blue Jasmine and Philomena on the outside looking in.
Now entering their 11th (!) year, Nick’s Oscar picks were made by myself alone, sans the aid of any Internet trolling or cheat sheets. Please read on to find my annual—and uncannily accurate—Academy Award predictions. Cheers!
Documentary: Dirty Wars
Foreign: The Past
Screenplay (original): Blue Jasmine
Screenplay (adapted): Before Midnight
And now, without further ado, the nominees are . . . :
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
June Squib, Nebraska
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Oprah Winfrey, The Butler
Sleeper: Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Dark Horse: Scarlett Johansson, Her
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Daniel Brühl, Rush
James Gandolfini, Enough Said
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Michael Fassbender, Twelve Years a Slave
Sleeper: Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Dark Horse: Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks
Judy Dench, Philomena
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Sleeper: Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
Dark Horse: Kate Winslet, Labor Day
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
Sleeper: Robert Redford, All is Lost
Dark Horse: Joaquin Phoenix, Her
Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
David O. Russell, American Hustle
Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Sleeper: Alexander Payne, Nebraska
Dark Horse: Spike Jonze, Her
12 Years a Slave
Dallas Buyers Club
Inside Llewyn Davis
Saving Mr. Banks
The Wolf of Wall Street
And the Oscar goes to . . .
Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lawrence
Supporting Actor: Jared Leto
Lead Actress: Cate Blanchett
Lead Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor
Director: Alfonso Cuarón