The Queen of All Media’s reign apparently does not extend to the cinema. Though not the biggest surprise to come out of the Oscar nominations, Oprah Winfrey missing out on a Best Supporting Actress nod was quite unexpected. My predictions had Sally Hawkins, the thespian who took her spot, as my ‘sleeper’ pick but I thought it was probably between Hawkins and pretty woman Julia Roberts for that last spot.
Similarly in the Best Supporting Actor race, both my sleeper (Bradley Cooper) and dark horse (Jonah Hill) made the cut, edging out a fantastic performance by Daniel Brühl in Rush and negating a posthumous honor for James Gandolfini.
I had much better success in the other four major categories.
Many, including myself, thought the last Best Actress slot came down to either American Hustle’s Amy Adams or the inestimable Meryl Streep as a horrid mother of Roberts’ character in August: Osage County. But with the former film’s considerable momentum—American Hustle tied Gravity for the most nominations with 10, edging out 12 Years a Slave’s nine—Adams presumably easily made the cut and cost Emma Thompson, playing Mary Poppins creator P.L. Travers in Saving Mr. Banks, the last spot.
The biggest shocker came in the Lead Actor category. Not in who was (for me) a surprise nominee—Christian Bale, for American Hustle not Out of the Furnace—but who got left off the list: Tom Hanks.
The most popular man in Hollywood (probably by a wide margin), Hanks won back-to-back Best Actor Oscars in 1993 and 1994 for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. He has also been nominated for that high honor in 1988 (Big), 1998 (Saving Private Ryan), and in 2000 for Cast Away. (I still think Wilson got screwed out of a Best Supporting Actor nod that year!) So the fact that he has not been nominated in an acting category (he has many times for producing Best Picture candidates) in close to 15 years—and most importantly he was phenomenal as Captain Richard Phillips—it is shocking he failed to make the final five.
In the directing category I went with my heart over my head. I knew I should have chosen Nebraska auteur Alexander Payne for Best Director—he is an Academy fave and his black-and-white homage to middle America is just the sort of nostalgia voters eat up—but what Paul Greengrass did in Captain Phillips was astounding. One of the most underrated directors of this era, he not only helmed the last two Matt Damon-led Bourne movies but he also made the riveting United 93. The British auteur’s talents—especially when recreating terrorists attacks on Americans—are constantly underappreciated. No one makes actions movies with such daring, verve, and verisimilitude as Greengrass.
I’m still good on both my screenplay winners—Blue Jasmine (original) and Before Midnight (adapted) both made the cut—and solid on the animated (Frozen) and the documentary front with Dirty Wars. I am miffed how The Past—from the same gentleman that won Best Foreign Film for The Separation last year—did not get nominated, especially with the ebullient Bérénice Bejo as its star.
That at last brings us to Best Picture. Tough to calculate my percentage here as I thought there would be 10 nominees and there were only nine. Still I picked eight of those correctly, only missing my last one out, Philomena, and incorrectly identifying both Inside Llewyn Davis and Saving Mr. Banks as nominees for the year’s top film.
Overall, I correctly chose 19 of the 25 actor and directing noms and eight of the nine Best Picture finalists. As for predicted winners, my entire cast—Lawrence, Leto, Blanchett, and Ejiofor—made the cut as did my director, Alfonso Cuarón, and his ethereal Gravity. Despite American Hustle’s prodigious showing, I still got my money on the movie that is truly out-of-this-world.