2014 Oscar Predictions

The Best Picture Odyssey series is complete, and you can find links to all the reviews right here.  There’s just one more thing to do before the big night.

When I say “big night,” what I really mean is “meaningless night,” of course. The Oscars are by no means a good indicator of quality. Only films with enough money to promote themselves get nominated, and you don’t need to have good taste to get into the Academy. It’s pretty dumb. But when people get genuinely upset about the Oscars, it confuses me to no end. I don’t mean upset about the outcome, but upset that people put so much focus on them. It always comes off as snobbish, and it’s just as pointless as getting excited about the Oscars.

The Oscars are fun. That’s all. It’s absurd to put a lot of stock into their judgment, and it’s even more absurd to whine about how they’ve destroyed cinema. For a few months every year, everyone is talking about movies they would never have seen otherwise, and most of them are pretty good. If for no other reason than that, the Oscars are worth having.

So, without further ado, here are my predictions for who will win in each category tomorrow night, as well as my feelings on what should win and what should have been nominated that wasn’t.

Best Picture

Will Win: 12 Years a Slave or Gravity

Usually by this point in the race, there’s a clear frontrunner. This year, not so much. 12 Years a Slave is ostensibly the clear winner, with its somber and serious take on a historical tragedy. However, as I noted in my review, it’s not a film that makes viewers feel good about themselves for having watched it. The violence and intensity may be off-putting to a lot of voters. Most of the Academy is old white men, which you should keep in mind while reading these predictions. “Difficult” films have recently fared poorly in this category, especially when up against crowd-pleasers with feel-good endings. The past few years have been particularly good examples of this. The Social Network lost to The King’s SpeechZero Dark Thirty lost to ArgoThe Artist beat The Tree of Life.

And then there’s Gravity. From a cinematic standpoint, it’s a stunner, and it’s not hard to imagine that voters will take that into serious consideration. It also has a hopeful ending. The backlash against Gravity has been pretty loud, but the critical consensus is almost universally positive. Both sides are passionate, but Academy voters don’t pay attention to reactions from stupid bloggers like me.

The best comparison I can think of is Titanic. Like Gravity, it featured revolutionary special effects put to use by a master filmmaker, and like 12 Years a Slave, it focused on a historical tragedy. It took home a ton of Oscars. So which way will they lean this year? My head says 12 Years a Slave, but my gut says Gravity. It could go either way.

Should Win: 12 Years a Slave or Gravity

Yeah. Sorry, this isn’t an exciting category for me. I think that 12 Years a Slave is a much better film than Gravity, but I’d be just as happy to see the latter win, if only to see the crazed reactions from detractors on Twitter.

Should’ve Been Nominated: Inside Llewyn Davis

This seemed like such a sure thing, and it barely got nominated for anything. A Serious Man was a far less accessible film than this, and it still netted the Coens nominations for Picture and Original Screenplay. And this is a far better film than A Serious Man. What gives? You know what, let’s just say going forward that I wanted Inside Llewyn Davis to be nominated in every category. That should save us some time.

Best Director

Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón

Should Win: Alfonso Cuarón

Gravity wouldn’t work without Cuarón’s signature style. The film is constantly thrilling without ever forgetting its humanity, and that’s thanks to him. To be frank, Gravity is unlike anything a lot of voters have seen, and they’ll want to reward the film’s director for that. Even if Gravity doesn’t win Best Picture, Cuarón will win Best Director.

Best Actor

Will Win: Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club

McConaughey is on a career upswing, and since being nominated he’s started turning in another fantastic performance on HBO’s True Detective. He’s playing a real person who is now dead, he lost a lot of weight for the role, and a lot of the movie involves him crying. It’s the Oscar trifecta.

Should Win: Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave

Meanwhile, we have this historical performance with some crying and not that much weight loss. Ejiofor brings such humanity and passion to his role, and he’s able to communicate it in just a look. It’s an extraordinary performance that will lose because it’s not as showy as its competition and Ejiofor isn’t a big name yet.

Should’ve Been Nominated: Robert Redford for All Is Lost

Take what I just said about Ejiofor and crank it up until the knob breaks off. Redford barely speaks a word, and yet he’s still able to craft a character that’s real enough to make an emotional connection with, but enough of a mystery to keep us intrigued.

Best Actress

Will Win: Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine

I kind of hated Blue Jasmine as a film, but Blanchett was not the reason. She’s been a lock for this category since the film came out last summer, and there weren’t any performances in high-profile films later in the year that were enough to top her. I say “high-profile” because I can name ten better female lead performances from 2013 off the top of my head, but for some reason the Academy likes to reward mediocrity in this category. The best female performances of the year aren’t even nominated. It’s a shame.

Should Win: Judi Dench for Philomena

I don’t really like any of these performances, but Dench brings her A-game to Philomena and it pays off. She’s by far the best of the five nominees, even though she’s not doing any mind-blowing work here.

Should’ve Been Nominated: Brie Larson for Short Term 12, Adele Exarchopolous for Blue is the Warmest Color, Greta Gerwig for Frances Ha

I could go on.

Best Supporting Actor

Will Win: Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club

Unfortunately. This is hardly a performance. It’s a costume. Leto’s character in the film is horrible in every conceivable way, and Leto does nothing to improve on that. “Oh, but he’s SO BRAVE for doing this role! He’s so brave!” Shut. Up. No he’s not. There is nothing brave about this performance or this movie. You know what would’ve been “brave?” Actually casting a transgender woman in the role of a transgender woman. There’s a crazy idea for you.

Should Win: Literally anyone else

I’d even be happy to see the Bradley Cooper win as long as Leto doesn’t, and Cooper is not good at all in American Hustle. Jonah Hill, fine. Barkhad Abdi and Michael Fassbender deserve it the most, of course. Just as long as it’s not Leto.

Best Supporting Actress

Will Win: Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave

Should Win: Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave

It’s a shattering performance. And it’s the only one in the category that showcases real craft. Sally Hawkins was fine, June Squibb was fine, but Nyong’o was devastatingly brilliant.

Should’ve Been Nominated: Carey Mulligan for Inside Llewyn Davis, Lea Seydoux for Blue is the Warmest Color, Sarah Paulson for 12 Years a Slave, Amy Adams and Scarlett Johansson for Her

*sigh*

Best Original Screenplay

Will Win: American Hustle

For some reason, people think this film has a really good screenplay. It doesn’t. But that doesn’t matter. The Academy loves this film. It’s practically a lock since Gravity isn’t nominated, as Best Picture frontrunners almost always take their respective screenplay categories.

Should Win: Her

Honestly, this might pull an upset because it’s the most…well, original of all the nominees. But voters probably won’t respond to its technological commentary because they’re all so old.

Should’ve Been Nominated: Frances Ha

This is a tiny film that never stood a chance, but its screenplay is so much smarter and subtler than any of the nominees.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Will Win: 12 Years a Slave

This is pretty much a given due to its Best Picture-frontrunner status.

Should Win: The Wolf of Wall Street

Don’t get me wrong, I think that 12 Years a Slave has a fantastic screenplay. But The Wolf of Wall Street‘s biopic-as-epic approach is ambitious and effective.

Should’ve Been Nominated: Short Term 12

This is a tiny film that never stood a chance, but its screenplay is so much smarter…hang on, I’m getting déjà vu.

Best Animated Feature

Will Win: Frozen

Its competition is pretty weak, The Wind Rises aside, and it’s become a true cultural phenomenon. Everyone loves this movie. Well, everyone except me, but that’s not important.

Should Win: n/a

I haven’t even seen most of the nominees, and I didn’t like the ones I did see, so I’m abstaining.

Should’ve Been Nominated: Monsters University

This is a much better film than anyone expected it to be. It’s not up there with Pixar’s best, but its unusual moral was a pleasant surprise to me.

Best Foreign Language Film

Will Win: The Great Beauty

Haven’t seen it, but from what I hear it’s the frontrunner.

Should Win: The Hunt

This is the only nominee that I’ve seen, and I really liked it, so by default it gets my vote.

Best Documentary

Will Win: 20 Feet from Stardom

An innocuous feel-good doc about backup singers. I liked it well enough. It’s comparable to last year’s winner Searching for Sugar Man, but it’s far more interesting than that film.

Should Win: The Act of Killing

The Act of Killing is one of the best and most important documentaries of all time, so it deserves a little gold statue. It’s far too heavy for voters, though.

Should’ve Been Nominated: Blackfish

Seriously? I really can’t believe this didn’t get a nomination. It’s the only documentary this year that people who don’t normally watch documentaries were talking about. The buzz alone should’ve guaranteed it a nod.

Best Original Score

Will Win: Her

Should Win: Her

I’m going out on a limb with this one, but hear me out. The only other likely winner is Gravity, but its score is harsh, loud, and even grating if you aren’t used to music like it. Her‘s score is filled with soft, comforting pianos and strings. It was composed by Arcade Fire, which might also entice voters looking to boost the Academy’s “hipness.” It’s not a conventional score, but recently the Academy has warmed to those, the best example being The Social Network‘s ambient grind taking home the gold. The safe money is on Gravity, but I think the signs point to Her on this one. I’m going with my gut.

Best Original Song

Will Win: “Let It Go” from Frozen

Is there really any doubt? Sure it lost the Golden Globe, but that doesn’t matter. Everyone knows this song. It’s a gigantic hit all around the world…

Should Win: “The Moon Song” from Her

…except right here. I’ve made my thoughts on the song pretty clear. It can’t touch “The Moon Song,” which captures the tenderness of Her‘s central relationship in a quiet lullaby.

Should’ve Been Nominated: “Alone Yet Not Alone” from Alone Yet Not Alone

It’s like no one even saw this movie!

Best Sound Editing

Will Win: Gravity

Should Win: ???

Yeah, I’m not going to pretend like I know anything about “sound editing.” But neither is the Academy. Gravity is really loud, and that’s really all that matters in the sound categories. I guess I’d like All Is Lost to win, because I like that movie. Beyond that, I’m not the guy to ask.

Best Sound Mixing

Will Win: Gravity

Should Win: Gravity

Most voters likely saw this in an IMAX theater, and thus were treated to IMAX’s fantastic sound system. The Gravity mix is great, even though there’s very little sound in the movie, and hearing the best possible presentation of it should sway most voters.

Best Production Design

Will Win: American Hustle

“I dunno, I liked how it looked,” is the motto of this category. And since voters liked American Hustle, they’ll vote for it here.

Should Win: Her

Three of the other nominees had to re-create a time period, and Gravity just had to imitate things that exist in reality. Her had to design a unique vision of the near future, and the film is packed with little details.

Best Costume Design

Will Win: American Hustle

See above.

Should Win: ???

I dunno. The Great Gatsby, I guess? The costumes sure looked nice in that one.

Best Cinematography

Will Win: Gravity

Gravity‘s astonishing camerawork gives it the edge over its fellow nominees, who all have pretty similar color palettes.

Should Win: Inside Llewyn Davis

Please. I’m begging you, please.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Will Win: Dallas Buyers Club

Should Win: Dallas Buyers Club

This is the only time you’ll ever hear me say that this film is award-worthy, so pay attention. It’s one of three nominees, and the other two are The Lone Ranger and Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, so it would be a big surprise if it didn’t win. And yeah, the makeup is pretty good. Whatever. Don’t make me talk about this film anymore.

Best Film Editing

Will Win: American Hustle

Other nominees have more showy editing, but American Hustle has more favor in the minds of Academy members. I think the film is a total slog in places, and needed a tighter edit, but that’s why I’m not an Academy voter, I guess. Captain Phillips‘s use of quick-cuts might make it a spoiler, though. Voters who don’t know a lot about editing will vote for the film where they can see it the most.

Should Win: Gravity

Captain Phillips used quick-cuts to emphasize its tension, but Gravity used long takes for the same purpose and to far greater effect. By the way, how did Dallas Buyers Club get nominated here? What a weird nomination. That must have been one hell of a campaign.

Best Visual Effects

Will Win: Gravity

Should Win: Gravity

If you think it’s going to be anything else, you’re insane. This is as sure a lock as there’s ever been in Oscar history. And it’s well-deserved. Gravity‘s effects are revolutionary.

I’m skipping the short film categories because I didn’t see any of them. And if you’re really curious, here’s how I’d rank the Best Picture nominees, from best to worst. This will be different from my “Best of 2013” list, because my feelings on some of these films have shifted over the past two months.

  1. 12 Years a Slave
  2. The Wolf of Wall Street
  3. Her
  4. Gravity
  5. Captain Phillips
  6. Philomena
  7. Nebraska
  8. American Hustle
  9. Dallas Buyers Club
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Published by

Josh Rosenfield

Josh Rosenfield is a Film Media major at the University of Rhode Island. He has been writing Popcorn Culture since 2010.

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