Oscar Nomination Predictions 2016

Oscar Punditry got absolutely toxic this time last year. “Birdman” was horribly polarizing, the reaction to “American Sniper” took a scary pulse of the nation, the snubs of David Oyelowo for “Selma” outed the Oscars as horribly white, and the loudest had to say why “Boyhood” really wasn’t that great yo.

It’s fitting then that this year’s crop of nominees is all over the place. The pundits have been outed in showing they really don’t know a damn thing. Not a single category has a frontrunner on par with a “12 Years a Slave,” and there’s no reason to think that this year’s Oscars couldn’t be equally white washed.

But if the Oscars are like the Super Bowl for movie lovers, making picks is like Fantasy Football. The critics who get steamed about the Oscars can be just as irritating as the pundits. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying the Oscars and wanting to play the horses because so long as it doesn’t disrupt your faculties to think about the movies critically, then who cares? It gets people talking about the movies, doesn’t it? And the Oscars are the only institution left capable.

These picks are quick and dirty, no more informed than anyone else’s, but we’ll see who comes out on top. After all, this year netted me two Fantasy Football titles.

Best Picture Predictions

  • Spotlight
  • The Big Short
  • Brooklyn
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Revenant
  • The Martian
  • Carol

On the Bubble

  • Bridge of Spies
  • Straight Outta Compton
  • Room
  • Sicario
  • Inside Out
  • Creed
  • Ex Machina
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • Trumbo

Should be here:

  • Chi-Raq
  • Anomalisa

“Spotlight” is the closest thing to being a front-runner, but thankfully the narrative behind it is that it’s just a really good movie. You could say this is the type of movie that a studio would’ve put out back in the ’70s but is today relegated to Open Road, an indie. If it wins, it’ll mean that there’s a demand for Hollywood to look to more movies for thinking grown-ups, but then that’s the narrative for the Oscars every year.

Getting up to anywhere near 10 nominees seems unlikely this year, and it’s a year like this that makes predicting Best Picture extremely difficult. The way to go is to think of the movies that really have that passionate fan base. Who’s going to put this movie in that number 1 slot because they want to see it get nominated? I would argue that all of the picks certainly have that. “Bridge of Spies” is one that’s showing up on a lot of lists for the reason that it’s a Spielberg film and it is quite strong and universally loved, but does anyone see it as the best of the year? “Room” has that passionate support, but it doesn’t have the universal love that “Brooklyn” does. Expect it to fall short. “Straight Outta Compton” could be the token “black” nomination and the populist nominee, but I expect the Academy to have egg on their faces again Thursday morning. Their better bet would be to try and get “Creed” or “Star Wars” nominated, but neither of those is sticking with the guilds. “Sicario” has certainly gotten a boost from the critics, but they’ve put all their weight behind “Fury Road.” If “Ex Machina” gets in, it’ll be the biggest underdog surprise in a long time, and it will deserve it.


Best Actress

  • Brie Larson – Room
  • Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn
  • Cate Blanchett – Carol
  • Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years
  • Charlize Theron – Mad Max: Fury Road

On the Bubble

  • Jennifer Lawrence – Joy
  • Helen Mirren – Woman in Gold
  • Sarah Silverman – I Smile Back
  • Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl

Should Be Here

  • Teyonnah Parris – Chi-Raq,
  • Rooney Mara – Carol
  • Mya Taylor – Tangerine
  • Emily Blunt – Sicario

It sucks that this category isn’t deeper. Not just because of the state of the industry, but because this category is its own victim of category fraud this year. Rooney Mara should be in this category, and the Academy may still decide that too, but you won’t see both Blanchett and Mara in that case, who both deserve it. If it was a man and a woman in “Carol,” they would be nominated in Best Actor and Actress, but not so in a romance about two women. Charlize Theron is the other nominee who could easily suffer from a split vote in terms of which category she’ll show up. She’s the female lead of “Mad Max,” but then the reason there’s a category question at all lies right in that movie’s title.

For those on the bubble, it’s amazing to me that the Academy can’t think of another actress beyond Jennifer Lawrence or Helen Mirren for who should be worthy at another shot for an Oscar. Sarah Silverman got a surprise nomination from the Screen Actors Guild, so she could pull off a surprise, but would it have killed anyone to see “Chi-Raq” or “Tangerine” and get some color in this race?


Best Actor

  • Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
  • Matt Damon – The Martian
  • Bryan Cranston – Trumbo
  • Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs
  • Michael B. Jordan – Creed

On the Bubble

  • Steve Carell – The Big Short
  • Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl
  • Johnny Depp – Black Mass
  • Will Smith – Concussion
  • Tom Hanks – Bridge of Spies

Should Be Here

  • Michael Caine – Youth
  • Michael Keaton – Spotlight
  • Ian McKellen – Mr. Holmes
  • Samuel L. Jackson – The Hateful Eight
  • Jacob Tremblay – Room
  • Abraham Attah – Beasts of No Nation
  • Jake Gyllenhaal – Southpaw
  • Tom Hardy – Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Channing Tatum – Magic Mike XXL

Best Actor is almost never this light. People like Michael Caine, Tom Hanks, Ian McKellen and Jake Gyllenhaal were on people’s lists early in the Oscar cycle, so why did everyone forget about them?

This is Leo’s year but only because it doesn’t seem like anyone else’s year. His win will be overdue, but his victory will be a makeup call, as Spike Lee once called it. It’s frustrating that Eddie Redmayne is in the conversation at all, solely based on the movie’s pedigree and the fact that he’s a runner-up. Hopefully the Academy will come to its senses and recognize another young rising star in Michael B. Jordan instead. If they’re really going to nominate Sylvester Stallone in Supporting, why overlook “Creed’s” lead? “Trumbo” has more support than anyone could’ve anticipated, so I expect Cranston is in. “Steve Jobs” has far less support than anyone could’ve expected, but Fassbender still seems likely even if the movie itself doesn’t.


Best Supporting Actress

  • Rooney Mara – Carol
  • Alicia Vikander – Ex Machina
  • Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight
  • Kristen Stewart – Clouds of Sils Maria
  • Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs

On the Bubble

  • Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl
  • Rachel McAdams – Spotlight
  • Joan Allen – Room

Should be Here

  • Elizabeth Banks – Love and Mercy
  • Rachel Weisz – Youth
  • Jane Fonda – Youth
  • Jennifer Jason Leigh – Anomalisa

If Rooney Mara does show up in this category, expect her to win. Sadly this category isn’t that deep either, although that’s only for lack of looking. Alicia Vikander is this year’s breakout star, and although every critic’s group has recognized her for “Ex Machina” and not “The Danish Girl”, the pundits still seem to think it’s the latter movie for which she’ll get nominated. The BAFTAs gave her the right nomination, and here’s hoping the Academy does the same. Rachel McAdams and Joan Allen don’t seem like big enough roles in either of their respective movies to deserve a nod, but then stranger things have happened. Jennifer Jason Leigh is excellent in two movies this year, although in one she’s a clay puppet, so guess which one the Academy will pick. Who knows what happened to the support for “Youth” or “Love & Mercy.”


Best Supporting Actor

  • Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
  • Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight
  • Paul Dano – Love & Mercy
  • Idris Elba – Beasts of No Nation
  • Christian Bale – The Big Short

On the Bubble

  • Sylvester Stallone – Creed
  • Michael Shannon – 99 Homes
  • Jacob Tremblay – Room
  • Tom Hardy – The Revenant

Should Be Here

  • Harvey Keitel – Youth
  • Jason Segel – The End of the Tour
  • Oscar Isaac – Ex Machina
  • Liev Schreiber – Spotlight
  • Stanley Tucci – Spotlight
  • Benicio Del Toro – Sicario

This year’s “Should Be Here” list is arguably better than the five who will get nominated, but they are all very good. Rylance gives as understated of work as Tom Hanks, but he’s going to be the one to get a nod. Ruffalo is consistently good in just about anything, so it’s good to see that at least someone in “Spotlight’s” stellar cast will get nominated, especially for a movie that’s considered the frontrunner. Same goes for “The Big Short,” in which you could nominate Carell, Bale or Gosling. Idris Elba seems like the most likely African American nominee in any of the acting categories, but he’s no lock. Stallone is one a lot of lists, but that’ll likely be the surprise snub of the morning.


Best Director

  • Thomas McCarthy – Spotlight
  • Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu – The Revenant
  • George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Todd Haynes – Carol
  • Ridley Scott – The Martian

On the Bubble

  • Adam McKay – The Big Short
  • Denis Villeneuve – Sicario
  • Steven Spielberg – Bridge of Spies
  • F. Gary Gray – Straight Outta Compton
  • Quentin Tarantino – The Hateful Eight

Should Be Here

  • Spike Lee – Chi-raq
  • Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson – Anomalisa

This morning the DGA went with Adam McKay over Todd Haynes, but Haynes is definitely the auteur in this bunch, and he doesn’t have a directing nomination to his name yet. Ridley Scott has three nominations in this category, and his movie has even won Best Picture, but he never has. He’s arguably a director-for-hire on “The Martian” and thankfully didn’t screw it up, but he’s still more likely than the Academy handing another token nomination to Spielberg or Tarantino.


Best Adapted Screenplay

  • The Big Short
  • Steve Jobs
  • Carol
  • Room
  • The Martian

On the Bubble

  • Brooklyn
  • Trumbo
  • The Revenant
  • Anomalisa

Should Be Here

  • Chi-Raq
  • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
  • The End of the Tour

Good, good crop. Don’t expect too much variation here or surprises. “Anomalisa” probably would’ve fared better in the Original category, but it’s based on Kaufman’s own play, so it has to go up against some heavy-hitting adaptations, including a non-fiction book by Michael Lewis, a novel by Patricia Highsmith written by a first time screenwriter Phyllis Nagy, an Aaron Sorkin screenplay that probably should be an “original,” another screenplay written by the novelist herself (Emma Donoghue’s “Room”) and a huge best seller in Andy Weir’s “The Martian.” “Brooklyn” is another one that falls into that category of a big novel adaptation, but it’ll either be this or “Room” that makes the cut.

Inside Out

Best Original Screenplay

  • Spotlight
  • Inside Out
  • The Hateful Eight
  • Ex Machina
  • Bridge of Spies

On the Bubble

  • Trainwreck
  • Sicario
  • Straight Outta Compton

Should be Here

  • Tangerine
  • It Follows

In another year there’s no reason why Amy Schumer wouldn’t be in play for an Oscar, but Ex Machina will likely get that “quirky” slot this year. It’d be hard to bet against “Spotlight,” Tarantino, Pixar or the Coens, so this category seems pretty stacked as well.




Updated 2015 Oscar Nomination Predictions

A lot has changed since the last time I made Oscar predictions back in late September. So much has been discussed in these few months in fact that I could’ve been making new predictions just about every other week. But then who has the time for that? I’ve been not-so-steadily continuing my Hype Cycle column over at Sound on Sight, charting the rise and fall of these various films, but now that we’ve finally gotten some actual precursors in the bank, it stands to reason that I can make new picks and not wind up with egg on my face for declaring a movie dead when it clearly isn’t. Not so many other Oscar pundits will be so lucky, but I don’t think they’ll mind. An asterisk denotes films I’ve seen.

Best Picture


  • Boyhood*
  • Birdman*
  • The Imitation Game
  • Selma
  • Gone Girl*
  • Foxcatcher
  • Whiplash*
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel*
  • Unbroken


  • The Theory of Everything*
  • A Most Violent Year
  • Interstellar*
  • American Sniper
  • Wild
  • Big Eyes
  • Nightcrawler*
  • Inherent Vice
  • Into the Woods
  • Top Five
  • Turner
  • Still Alice
  • Citizenfour*

Long Shots

  • Vincent
  • The Homesman
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes*
  • Love is Strange
  • Exodus: Gods and Kings
  • Fury*
  • The Fault in Our Stars*
  • Get on Up
  • The LEGO Movie*
  • Annie

I should first point out that in just about all of these categories, it’s a safe bet to rule out almost any of the ones I’ve listed as “Long Shots”. If one of these movies show up, expect it to be a surprise to everyone.

With that said, there’s been an awful lot of movement on the charts. The first big shift you’ll notice however is that there’s been a swap between “Boyhood” and “Unbroken”. For Angelina Jolie’s movie, it was the on-paper winner until recently when people actually saw it. Funny how a movie called “Unbroken” now looks so much weaker and easily beaten. Now people are wondering if it can even get in, although it has enough pedigree and is riding its narrative and impressive display most of all. I’d say it can still find a lot of love in the Academy. “Boyhood” on the other hand looked initially like a movie that was just too modest to actually be a front runner. Now everyone can’t stop talking about it, and it’s the unusual front runner in that it seems averse to any sort of real criticism or scandal.

And yet the love has been spread pretty far this year, and the Best Picture race could belong to anyone. “Birdman” and “The Imitation Game” look like the strongest bet based on early awards performance, but I even wonder if anyone truly loves “The Imitation Game” enough to vote for it in the number one spot.

Keep in mind, this applies to all the films. Last year pundits looked pretty silly when “Saving Mr. Banks” found itself on the outs. It was a populist title, but who could honestly call it the best of the year? Can anyone say that about “The Theory of Everything”? Or “Wild”? Or “Big Eyes”?

It’s why I think “Gone Girl” and “Foxcatcher” still look strong, why “Whiplash” is packing a lot of heat and why “The Grand Budapest Hotel” could finally break Wes Anderson into the Best Picture race where he rightfully belongs. If there’s a spoiler among the bunch though, it’s “A Most Violent Year,” which a lot of people haven’t seen yet, but won the National Board of Review prize in a surprise whirl. Continue reading “Updated 2015 Oscar Nomination Predictions”

2015 Oscar Picks Pre-New York Film Festival

My first round of Oscar picks feature Birdman, Gone Girl, Boyhood and The Imitation Game as strong frontrunners thus far.

I really can’t help myself. Pundits may hate that anyone can be an expert now when it comes to making Oscar picks, but when it’s this easy and fun to think about, is it really hurting anyone?

This year I’m staying away from most of the analysis, instead picking up on the rest of the buzz and using that to rank individual contenders week to week. You can read all of that each Thursday at Sound on Sight in my column The Hype Cycle. Here’s my introduction to the column, and here’s Week 1 Part 1 and Part 2 following Toronto, Telluride and Venice.

But like I said, I have to throw my hat into the ring, and I may yet prove to be more right than many of the so-called experts. These are my sight-unseen picks ranked in order of likelihood, along with just a pinch of analysis as to why I’m not pulling things out of my ass. These will change as the movies are actually released and I actually get a chance to see them. And yes, I get how silly it is to be predicting movies I haven’t seen yet, but then the Oscars are really silly to begin with. Continue reading “2015 Oscar Picks Pre-New York Film Festival”

Oscars 2014 Recap: A strong end to a long awards season

The 2014 Oscars were a wild success and made for one of the best shows in recent memory.

Ellen DeGeneres

“It’s Time,” read the posters for “12 Years A Slave’s” For Your Consideration ads. The Academy did ultimately anoint Steve McQueen’s masterpiece the Oscar for Best Picture of the year, but the statement could honestly refer to the very end of this long-winded Awards season.

Who could have known that at the end of it all, this year’s Oscars could not only be good, but could arguably be called great?

Perhaps “great” is a strong word, and perhaps this ceremony wasn’t as well received as I imagined. This morning I awoke to a decent helping of snark and disappointment as though the media had to meet some sort of quota. But if John Travolta butchering a name or a somewhat long ceremony as a result of some shrug worthy montages about heroes were the worst of it, can’t we call this year’s Oscars a success?  Continue reading “Oscars 2014 Recap: A strong end to a long awards season”

2014 Oscars: The Most Popular (and Likely) Upsets

We’ve made all the predictions, but what would be real surprise this Oscar Sunday? Here are some likely upsets.

I’ve made my Oscar picks, and hopefully so have you, but anyone who has ever done this before knows that Oscar night ends up with pitiful looking ballots and people shouting at the TV (how in the world did that win?). So it actually makes sense to bet against the house in some occasions  and picking with your heart rather than your head is always allowed. So here are some last minute Oscar upsets to make to your ballot that a strong minority would both love to see happen and actually might.

Leonardo DiCaprio over Matthew McConaughey

People love Matthew McConaughey, but as I alluded to in this gallery, people really love Leonardo DiCaprio. A win for McConaughey is seen as justified, but only to commemorate a hot streak; it’s not something that’s obscenely long overdue as though an Oscar was the embodiment of Leo’s kids in “Inception” and he’ll never ever get to see their faces unless he’s caught in his own perpetual ambiguous dream world existence. 

Leo will win if the Academy convinces itself that somehow Leo gave the biggest, most physical and grueling performance of the year and his career by flailing like a fish out of water… a fish that has just done a ton of quaaludes and is trying to get into a Lambo. And yes, this will be seen as even more physical than McConaughey losing 40 pounds, Christian Bale gaining 40, Chiwetel Ejiofor spending 2+ hours getting whipped and hung and Bruce Dern being ancient.

Amy Adams over Cate Blanchett

I think everyone agrees that Cate Blanchett gives the best female performance of the year, but is anyone rooting for her? Is anyone rooting for anyone in this category?

Yes! It’s Amy Adams of course! She’s the only one in this bunch who doesn’t have an Oscar. But not only that, of all living actresses, only Glenn Close has more nominations and no wins than her (six to Adams’ five). Her split personality work in “American Hustle” is as complex as the movie itself, and her surprise nomination is evidence the Academy is already behind her and the movie. Continue reading “2014 Oscars: The Most Popular (and Likely) Upsets”

2014 Oscar Winner Predictions

“12 Years a Slave” will win Best Picture, along with three other Oscars.

The Oscars are here, although maybe not soon enough. A report recently said that two thirds of Americans have not seen any of the Best Picture winners yet. That to me doesn’t add up for a movie like “Gravity” that made as much money as it did, but the point is that this awards season, while interesting, has just gone on too long. A New York Times article wondered if the average individual is generally apathetic to the whole institution of the Oscars.

I hope that isn’t true, but it’s starting to feel that way when the debate over “12 Years a Slave” versus “American Hustle” has long since past, when we’ve heard the story about Jonah Hill getting paid as little as SAG would allow to work for Martin Scorsese over and over again, and when even “Let it Go” parodies are getting old.

Anyway, here are my final predictions. You may find there’s more consensus and predictability than you’d think.

12 Years a Slave

Best Picture

Months ago I wrote an article bluntly titled “Gravity Will NOT Win Best Picture… Probably.” It was smart of me to add on that last word, because the good news is that “Gravity,” my favorite film of the year, is still here. It is still as much of a favorite to win now as it was back when it premiered at Toronto, despite all the things I said about it technically having come true.

But in the case of “Gravity,” the nitpickers have beaten the dollars, and a more “worthy” title, one that isn’t seen as just “a ride” or a movie with a “bad script” will have to take its place. That film will be “12 Years a Slave,” as many predicted long ago that it was invincible. It has now survived with wins at the BAFTAs and Golden Globes as the one to beat, and yet its tie in the Producers Guild Awards with “Gravity” confirms just how close this race is.

“American Hustle” may not be the last minute favorite after all, and it’s a shame for David O. Russell, who would now be 0-3 in a row on his current hot streak. The third time is not the charm, it seems, but I’m betting he’ll strike again, whereas Alfonso Cuaron and Steve McQueen may never make another Oscar friendly movie. The reason I feel it can’t win, and why some are predicting it might not win anything, is, what exactly is the narrative behind this movie winning? It’s a throwback, but not quite. It’s a crowd pleaser, but not entirely. It’s madcap fun, brilliant and original, but some would argue even that’s not all true.

“Gravity” and “12 Years a Slave” each have their supporters who would say otherwise about all of the above, and a win for them will mean something special.

Oscars 2014 – Best Documentary Overview

A rundown of reviews of all the documentaries nominated for this year’s Oscars and a prediction of the future winner.

People love to rail on the Best Documentary category at the Oscars, and while it’s mind boggling that something as innovative and fresh as “Stories We Tell” couldn’t make the cut, it’s quite often that the final crop is never so terrible.

This year the branch diversified their picks with some crowd pleasers, profiles, surreal experiments and important political statements. And what’s really fortunate is that four of the five nominees (“20 Feet From Stardom” excluded) are all streaming on Netflix.

Here’s a brief rundown of each of the nominees and my own prediction of who might take Oscar gold.

The Act of Killing4 stars

One of the early great scenes in “The Act of Killing” shows Anwar Congo, a former gangster and executioner in Indonesia who alone murdered 1000 individuals and lives to boast about his former glory, demonstrating how to strangle a man while minimizing the blood splatter. It’s absolutely harrowing how casually he performs it with a spring in his step, but when Director Joshua Oppenheimer shows Congo the footage, he feels nothing and isn’t phased in the slightest. “The Act of Killing” takes us deeper down the rabbit hole by allowing these evil men to stage recreations of their horrible crimes. People act with bravado in surreal scenarios, and the film crosses the border between movie making fiction and reality. It’s darkly funny and disturbingly beautiful at times, and it pulls the miraculous trick of actually making us sympathize with this wretched man, someone we smiling and even petting ducklings. To see him purge his horror at the film’s end is magnificent.

Continue reading “Oscars 2014 – Best Documentary Overview”

Oscar Nominations 2014 Analysis: Full of Surprises and None

All the Oscar surprises that really weren’t surprises after all

The Oscar nominees rarely satisfy, only surprise and enrage, although never in the way people expect, which I guess is its own surprise.

It was expected that Amy Adams could “surprise” by breaking into the field of Best Actress nominees, but did anyone suspect that it would be at Emma Thompson’s expense? There were predictions that Christian Bale or Leonardo DiCaprio could get into an even tighter race, but both of them? Sally Hawkins was less expected behind perhaps Octavia Spencer and others, but was Oprah really the weak link?

These are the kinds of revelations that both delight and frustrate Oscar pundits. In a way, they were right that the Academy after all did not love “Inside Llewyn Davis” or “Saving Mr. Banks,” but then those prediction tallies never seem to match up.

The fact that there are surprises each year really shouldn’t be a surprise at all. If the Oscar nominations were as easy to predict as picking all the top ranked favorites, then what would be the fun of waking up at 7:38 in the morning to watch them? For instance, why was there doubt that David O. Russell couldn’t lead yet another cast to a sweep of the acting categories like he did with “Silver Linings Playbook” and nearly did with “The Fighter”? That’s one of those “surprises” that people should’ve seen coming a mile away, but no one did.

I guess it’s less of a surprise that Oscar pundits will now all turn around and rationalize the nominations in the way I’ve just done, as though it made sense or was expected all along, but no one “knew” that Thompson would be out, or no one “knew” that “Philomena” was a sure thing thanks to Harvey Weinstein after all. (I did however bet Hanks would get nothing) Continue reading “Oscar Nominations 2014 Analysis: Full of Surprises and None”

The 3rd Annual Anti-Oscars

The movies and the performers that don’t stand a chance of getting nominated this year.

Each year there are movies and performers that don’t just fail to get nominated for the Academy Awards but aren’t even in the conversation. This is where the Anti-Oscars were born.

Blogs, critics and Oscar pundits spend a lot of time discussing what’s in and less discussing what’s out. So although I’ve taken the time to do actual Oscar predictions, hopefully this piece can shed some light on under the radar work while placing it in the context of this behemoth we call the Oscar race.

See last year’s Anti-Oscars

Best Picture

  • Prisoners
  • The Spectacular Now
  • Spring Breakers
  • The Place Beyond the Pines
  • Upstream Color
  • Frances Ha
  • This is the End
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Some of this year’s actual Oscar nominees are as strong as they’ve ever been, and yet it still boggles the mind that the Academy considers there to be nine better movies than “Before Midnight”. That nominee, along with “Blue Jasmine,” “All is Lost” and “Fruitvale Station,” will likely miss the cut, but they were at least on someone’s radar.

Movies like “The Spectacular Now” and “Frances Ha” are those indie gems that never get noticed by the Academy, maybe an Original Screenplay nod if they’re lucky. They represent the modernity and the youth often missing in the Oscars. They’re actors’ films with minimal story but an exploration of a point in life, and they share the style that makes them distinctly cinema.

Spring Breakers” and “Upstream Color” are on the other end of the spectrum, indies too weird and polarizing to even be considered by the old fashioned Academy, even if their membership is slanting younger. Both utilize excessive style and their directors’ daring vision to create jarring, innovative films, one about way too much and the other arguably about nothing at all. Both however are beguiling, hypnotic mysteries.

In the middle are “Prisoners” and “The Place Beyond the Pines,” both midsize thrillers that were labeled as either too ridiculous or too portentous. They stretch storytelling boundaries with their ambitious screenplays, and they earn major thrills that even some of the likely Best Picture contenders can’t muster.

And last are the two studio movies, “This is the End” and “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” one a bit more massive than the other. These movies are why most people go to the movies, and they’re the ones that almost never show up on Hollywood’s most important night. They combine massive movie star appeal with rambunctious and accessible storytelling. But most of all, they’re fun. If the Oscars can be  self-serious homework, these movies are a different sort of escapism. Continue reading “The 3rd Annual Anti-Oscars”

2014 Oscars Final Predictions

Who all will be nominated for the 2014 Oscars on January 16.

The day has come. Everyone’s had their say, and the Oscar nominations are only days away. In one corner we have strong consensus on some absolute great movies, movies that could sit on any year’s Best Picture list and be stronger contenders than they are here. And in the other corner you have controversy, bitching, stewing and whining that maybe just about all of these are overrated to some degree. I mean, we knew “Spring Breakers” wasn’t about to be nominated, but does the Academy really think there are 10 better movies this year than “Before Midnight”?

It’s easy to get exhausted by all the bickering, but then that’s criticism, and that’s the Oscar race. It isn’t every year that we get three, maybe four plausible winners in such a vast field.

I tend to enjoy Oscar nomination morning even more so than Oscar night itself. There are more chances for surprise, for curveballs, snubs and the opportunity to pick the winner. Maybe not everyone is aware that Cate Blanchett’s Oscar win this year will be a foregone conclusion (watch me eat those words), but there’s a lot less certainty when it’s so close to being over.

This year my predictions have gone back and forth, but not as much as you might think. Movies like “Rush,” “August: Osage County” and “Fruitvale Station” have been pushed to the margins as the months have passed, and “Her” and “American Hustle” have emerged as more than gems. But this crop of films that we started with back in October has stayed mostly constant because all of them have been as good, if not better than expected. No amount of prognosticating, statistics and snubs can take all that away.

Best Picture

  1. 12 Years a Slave
  2. Gravity
  3. American Hustle
  4. Her
  5. Captain Phillips
  6. Saving Mr. Banks
  7. The Wolf of Wall Street
  8. Nebraska
  9. Inside Llewyn Davis

This remains a race between “12 Years a Slave,” “Gravity,” “American Hustle” and to a lesser degree “Her,” and it’s most exciting to know that not one is the runaway favorite. “12 Years” may be in the lead, but “American Hustle” pulled the hat trick of being recognized by all three guilds, the DGA, PGA and WGA.

“Captain Phillips” and “Saving Mr. Banks” seem like safe fifth and sixth bets, both studio films but one with an edgy action pulse and the other a family friendly affair full of Old Hollywood nostalgia.

A bigger question mark however hangs over “The Wolf of Wall Street,” the most controversial of all the contenders, and “Inside Llewyn Davis,” which has been hit or miss. Opposite “American Hustle,” it pulled the hat trick of being snubbed by all three guilds, and yet it swept the National Society of Film Critics’ Awards.

The reason I feel both are getting in is the little movie no one is talking about, “Nebraska.” This movie has quietly remained in the hunt despite only mild notices for its actors. Alexander Payne missed with the DGA, and no critics have really come to bat for it. But is there a fear that it can’t scrape together a measly 300 1st place votes? Both “Inside Llewyn Davis” and “Wolf” have that kind of love, despite the hate, and this will be a nine horse race for the third year running. Continue reading “2014 Oscars Final Predictions”