And the Oscars go to…
February 21, 2014 - Carl Kozlowski
On March 2, the Academy Awards will finally honor the best movies of 2013. After months of hype, an array of industry “experts” will try to predict which movies will take home the Oscars. There are plenty of super-analytical ways to go about it, but I believe in seeing through the poetic pieties and just calling them directly.
So, following are my snarky but utterly honest predictions for the 2013 Oscars.
Nominees: Christian Bale, “American Hustle”; Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”; Leonardo DiCaprio, “Wolf of Wall Street”; Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”; Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club.”
This appears to be a tough category, but it’s really quite easy. DiCaprio is out because he is still under 40 and has another 20 or 30 years to win one, plus his portrayal of an utterly amoral investment broker abusing drugs and women will rightfully disgust too many Oscar voters. Bale just won a supporting actor Oscar for “The Fighter” three years ago, and is too much of a showboat here with a big gut and a laughable combover. Ejiofor could possibly get the award for his portrayal of a real-life free black man sold into slavery, but the violence he endures in “Slave” is, like DiCaprio’s performance, too extreme for most Oscar voters. And Dern will have to be happy with a nomination, because his portrayal of a late-70s man with encroaching senility is probably not too big a stretch.
That leaves McConaughey, who has transformed his entire acting career from playing shirtless buffoons to perhaps the most versatile actor in movies over the past three years. His role as a real-life straight man with AIDS at the dawn of the AIDS crisis, who overcame his homophobia to help hundreds of other HIV-positive people score medications that greatly extended their lives, required him to lose nearly 50 pounds and to dig deep within a raging mix of emotions. Combine that with a real message the Academy will love, and you’ve got a slam-dunk for McConaughey.
Nominees: Amy Adams, “American Hustle”; Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”; Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”; Judi Dench, “Philomena”; Meryl Streep, “August: Osage County.”
This is a tougher one to call. This is Adams’ fifth Oscar nomination, but she still has about 30 years of prime acting left if she plays her cards right. Streep, on the other hand, has racked up 19 nominations now and her character was an obnoxiously mean matriarch of a disastrously dysfunctional family who was unpleasant to watch from start to finish. Bullock carried “Gravity” almost completely on her shoulders, but a good number of people believe that it was really a special effects-driven movie.
Dench could win her second Oscar (aside from “Shakespeare in Love”) here, no doubt helped by the fact that some saw “Philomena” as a swipe at Catholic orphanages in Ireland. But Blanchet’s portrayal of a rich socialite slowly losing her mind along with her economic status in Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” was able to delve into both dramatic and comedic moments like no other performance of either gender this year, and she deserves to bring Oscar home.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Nominees: Barkhad Abdi, “Captain Phillips”; Bradley Cooper, “American Hustle”; Michael Fassbender, “12 Years a Slave”; Jonah Hill, “Wolf of Wall Street”; Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club.”
Cooper is yet another “American Hustle” actor who is young enough to have a dozen more chances later in his career. Fassbender’s portrayal of a sadistically vicious slave owner will suffer the same fate as DiCaprio: a performance that’s too daring to deny a nomination, but too evil to actually win. Hill’s role as DiCaprio’s sidekick in all things corrupt and sleazy will likewise suffer the same fate, and he’ll keep getting these one-of-a-kind roles throughout his career, leaving him other chances to win.
That leaves Leto and Abdi. Abdi was a real-life Somalian immigrant living in Minneapolis when he was discovered in a giant casting call, and his fierce performance as the lead pirate attacking Tom Hanks’ ship in “Captain Phillips” was incendiary and unpredictable. He might take the Oscar home as a heartwarming “surprise” moment. But Leto’s portrayal of a gay transvestite battling both AIDS and a drug addiction in “Dallas Buyers Club” has so many combinations of liberal perfection to lose with Academy voters, so give Leto the win.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Nominees: Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine”; Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”; Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”; Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County”; June Squibb, “Nebraska.”
Hawkins’ role in “Jasmine” as a hilariously dumb yet sweet blue-collar woman was too slight to actually win. Like Streep in the lead actress category, Roberts will suffer from the fact that “August” is a relentlessly downbeat attack on traditional family values. Lawrence just won an Oscar last year and is barely a legal adult at age 23, so she’s going to have dozens of other chances.
That leaves a similar situation as in the Supporting Actor race. Nyong’o has a similarly amazing story as Barkhad Abdi, as a newly discovered foreign actress whose role required her to reveal punishing depths of emotion. But she’s young enough to keep working a long time, while Squibb was a stunningly fresh surprise in her first major film role at age 84 after a lifetime in live theatre, and the Academy will need to reward her quickly if they’re ever going to honor her at all. Chalk it up for Squibb.
Nominees: Alfonso Cuarón, “Gravity”; Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”; Alexander Payne, “Nebraska”; Martin Scorsese, “Wolf of Wall Street”; David O. Russell, “American Hustle.”
McQueen is only on his third major film, and will likely win someday, but “Slave” is just too horrifying a movie to actually win a major award. Scorsese just won for “The Departed” five years ago, and sharply divided both moviegoers and Academy voters with his three-hour-long depiction of debauchery in “Wolf.” Cuarón deserves to win for the stunning technical feats he achieved, and the remarkable performance he drew out of Sandra Bullock in “Gravity,” while Payne has made too small of a movie in “Nebraska” to actually win over voters as they seek a defining movie of our times.
Russell has been on a tear like few other directors ever. “Hustle” is his third movie in a row to get a Best Picture nomination — going along with his own three straight nominations as Best Director. Having led his cast in the remarkable and rare feat of scoring nominations in all four acting categories, this is where “Hustle” will finally get its moment to shine, and Russell takes home the reward.
Nominees: “American Hustle”; “Captain Phillips”; “Dallas Buyers Club”; “Gravity”; “Her”; “Nebraska”; “Philomena”; “12 Years a Slave”; “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
Movies without nominated directors almost never win, so scratch “Her,” “Captain Phillips,” “Philomena” and “Dallas Buyers Club” off the list. Again, “Wolf” and “Slave” were too shocking to actually win anything, and “Nebraska” is too small and mild a picture to count as the year’s defining film in the history books. “Gravity” will win every technical Oscar known to mankind, leaving “Hustle” as the year’s top winner.
Film critic Carl Kozlowski is a regular contributor to The Tidings.