[Note: all predictions correct, except that "12 Years a Slave" won Best Picture]
Oscar Prediction Quickies (86th; 2014 for 2013)
On Oscar night, Sunday, March 2, refer to the following quick run through. A sentence or two about each of the nominees in the major categories includes predicting who will win and who should win.
Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto in “Dallas Buyers Club” should and will win. He’s disarmingly sympathetic and real as a transgender person with AIDS and a perfect support foil for Matthew McConaughey. Michael Fassbender in “12 Years a Slave” will lose voters who shy from the hateful brutality and pathetic insufficiency of his character. Bradley Cooper in “American Hustle” notches another better than pretty boy triumph but not yet a best of the bunch. Barkhad Abdi in “Captain Phillips,” inspiringly cast, is a tad too much of a novelty for Gold. Jonah Hill in “The Wolf of Wall Street” is building a respectable acting career but hardly compares with the other 4 nominees.
Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o in “12 Years a Slave” should and will win. As much as a movie performance can, she will stand emblematic of the brutality and injustice that is a fundamental construct of American history. Sally Hawkins in “Blue Jasmine” provides supporting balance but Kate Blanchett’s screen dominance tips over the Hawkins chance. Julia Roberts in “August: Osage County” has too big a role and stands too toe to toe with Meryl Streep to fit Best Supporting Gold. Jennifer Lawrence in “American Hustle,” won Oscar young last year and is still deservedly rising. This time round will say “not-so-soon-again-darling.” June Squib in “Nebraska” is the closest to an interesting character in a cast of uninteresting characters.
Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey in “Dallas Buyers Club” gets AIDS-simulating skinny. He should and will win, flipping bad boy hustle into a not exactly likable, do-gooder tactician. Chiwetel Ejiofor in “12 Years a Slave” is almost too obviously a serious contender playing an ideal standard for human being who gets kidnapped into slavery. Christian Bale in “American Hustle” won’t win a second Oscar for excellent acting flavored with caricature (first for “The Fighter”). Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf of Wall Street” is fun to watch and crackles with excess, but like the film, too much of not enough. Bruce Dern in “Nebraska” is getting a 50-year, yeoman career bump, but for Best Actor stakes, his character doesn’t command enough story to tell.
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett in “Blue Jasmine” will win riding an edgier more vulnerable role to steal Oscar from Meryl Streep in “August: Osage County.” Streep should win for vulnerability masked by unkind, lashing strength in an exhausting film. Judi Dench in “Philomena” nurtures a characterization of Christian faith and forgiveness, a performance that allows more clambering competitors to seize acting glory. Sandra Bullock in “Gravity” and Amy Adams in “American Hustle” are both likeable and talented yet again, although they both have done substantively better work elsewhere.
Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón directing “Gravity” will win because of effective techno-glam chemistry in a claustrophobic outer space drama. David O. Russell for “American Hustle” should win because of how well he orchestrated a convoluted story with fun, drama, and substance. Steve McQueen for “12 Years a Slave” deserves Gold in his own way for the straightforward courage depicting a nightmare foundation of American history. Martin Scorsese for “The Wolf of Wall Street” falls short of his better work with this overdose of excess. Alexander Payne for “Nebraska” shows confident style and tone but too much of so what in this tale of rural folks.
Best Picture (in effect, second tier): “Philomena” is a glad no-chance mention. It’s funny and heavy in counterbalancing measure and devoted to representing true Christian faith and forgiveness. “Captain Phillips” is a serviceable no-chance mention. It’s taut, standard movie making about modern pirating, based on headline news events. “The Wolf of Wall Street” carries the Scorsese and DiCaprio brands well but too much on one overlong note. “Nebraska” may be confident and stylish, but it’s too ho hum a concoction of rural life for all the critical acclaim this film is garnering.
Best Picture: “American Hustle” will win and should win but is the most vulnerable Oscar prediction. Its rich mix firing on all cylinders will motor past the heavier, more straightforward (albeit more important) “12 Years a Slave.” “American Hustle” will maneuver more readily than the more discomforting environment of “Dallas Buyers Club.” “Gravity” will not and should not be the first science fiction film to win Best Picture. It would be more fitting to travel back in time and give an Oscar to “2001: A Space Odyssey.” “Her,” more clever futurist romance than science fiction, seems better suited as a Best Screenplay contender.