The Oscars – a time for predictions

From+left+to+right%3A+Joaquin+Phoneix+in+%22Her%22%2C+a+scene+from+%22Gravity%22%2C+Michael+Fassbender+and+Lupita+Nyong%27O+in+%2212+Years+a+Slave%22%2C+Leonardo+DiCaprio+in+%22The+Wolf+of+Wall+Street%22+and+Jared+Leto+and+Matthew+McConaughey+in+%22Dallas+Buyers+Club%22

From left to right: Joaquin Phoneix in “Her”, a scene from “Gravity”, Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong’O in “12 Years a Slave”, Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf of Wall Street” and Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey in “Dallas Buyers Club”

Award season is coming to a close this Sunday with the 86th Academy Awards, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres. Love them or not, the Oscars are an institution within the movie industry, watched by millions and celebrating the previous years’ advancements in film technology and storytelling.

2013 was a great year for movies, with so many awesome films that the Oscars were bound to snub one or two favorites. Still, there are a wide variety of superb nominees, and, with all the competition, there are likely to be many surprises come Oscar night.

Here are my predictions for the outcomes of the awards and some personal preferences. Unless otherwise noted, I have seen all the nominees in the categories I predict.

Best Picture:

  • American Hustle (David O. Russell)
  • Captain Phillips (Paul Greengrass)
  • Dallas Buyers Club (Jean-Marc Vallée)
  • Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)
  • Her (Spike Jonze)
  • Nebraska (Alexander Payne)
  • Philomena (Stephen Frears)
  • 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)
  • The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)

Prediction: 12 Years a Slave. The Academy will follow the trend of recent Best Picture awards for Steve McQueen’s shocking slavery epic, including wins at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs. A graphic and moving film, 12 Years will attract votes from the older members of the Academy against the more visually intense Gravity and has more political gravitas than American Hustle, its only other real competition for this award.

Preference: Her. Spike Jonze’s beautiful romantic comedy is not only one of the year’s most entertaining movies, but it is the most relevant and culturally significant too. With excellent performances from Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, and especially Scarlett Johannson, Her is the most precisely crafted film of the year. It provokes bundles of laughs and tears, and asks many questions. I’d also be fine with Gravity.

Deserved a nomination: Inside Llewyn Davis. Not only is it one of the Coen Brothers’ most revealing films, Llewyn Davis is an insightful and beautifully shot human comedy. It would never happen, but This is the End deserved a nomination too.

Best Director:

  • Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity
  • Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave
  • Alexander Payne for Nebraska
  • David O. Russell for American Hustle
  • Martin Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall Street

Prediction: Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity. Even if it doesn’t win Best Picture, Gravity will be celebrated for its masterful direction from the visionary wonder Alfonso Cuarón, whose previous works include Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Children of Men. Eighty percent digital, the mind-blowing visuals in Gravity had to be made completely from the imagination, and for that imagination, Cuarón will be rewarded.

Preference: Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity. He fully deserves the award he will most likely win, crafting a thrilling survival story that is beautiful to look at, hear, and feel.

Deserved a nomination: Spike Jonze for Her. Jonze is one of the great directors of our generation, and he deserved to be recognized instead of the talented yet old-fashioned David O. Russell for American Hustle. Without Jonze’s vision, Her would not have been the intrusively emotional movie it turned out to be.

Best Actress:

  • Amy Adams for American Hustle
  • Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine
  • Sandra Bullock for Gravity
  • Judi Dench for Philomena
  • Meryl Streep for August: Osage County

Prediction: Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine. Even if Woody Allen’s film is basically a plot-point for plot-point modern remix of A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanchett’s performance elevates it to the level of modern classic. Playing a formerly rich socialite who loses everything and is forced to eat a slice of humble pie by living with her working class sister, Blanchett is a revelation. Her performance is both humbling and shocking.

Preference: Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine would be fine with me. No one can touch her this year.

Deserved a nomination: Emma Thompson was tipped to get a nomination for Saving Mr. Banks. I haven’t seen the movie, but Meryl Streep receiving her 18th nomination is a bit extreme.

Best Actor:

  • Christian Bale for American Hustle
  • Bruce Dern for Nebraska
  • Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave
  • Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club

Prediction: Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club. McConaughey has won most of the major prerequisite awards, and many are saying that his time for an Oscar is due after the recent “McConaissance” in which he turned his career around with acclaimed roles in Dallas Buyers Club as well as Mud, The Wolf of Wall Street, and more. He also makes the type of speech that will attract viewers to the Oscars on Sunday.

Preference: Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave. An early favorite, McConaughey’s popularity has effectively taken Ejiofor out of the running for an Oscar. A likely winner in the future, Ejiofor should nevertheless be rewarded for the most demanding and impressive lead male performance of the year.

Deserved a nomination: Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips. The legendary actor has already won two Oscars, but his performance in Captain Phillips is perhaps his best yet. A moment at the end of the movie in which Phillips realizes the ordeal he has just gone through is not only Hanks’ most emotional on film, but 2013’s most believable scene as well.

Best Supporting Actor:

  • Barkhad Abdi for Captain Phillips
  • Bradley Cooper for American Hustle
  • Michael Fassbender for 12 Years a Slave
  • Jonah Hill for The Wolf of Wall Street
  • Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club

Prediction: Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club. This year’s least competitive acting category is more competitive than the supporting actor category from last year, when it was the most competitive category. Anyone could really win, but most predictions cite Leto’s turn as a trans-gender woman as the likely winner. One of the best scenes of the year involves him confronting his homophobic father, during which most voters probably had their choice locked in as soon as they saw it.

Preference: Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club. Not only is it the most politically important supporting performance, it’s the most fully realized one as well. It wouldn’t be a major travesty if any of the nominees won; however, they’re all amazing performances.

Deserved a nomination: James Franco for Spring Breakers. Franco’s role as a hedonistic  rapper/drug-dealer was the best supporting performance of the year – hands down. Hilarious, scary, pathetic, and enlightening, his character elevated Spring Breakers from an indulgent coming-of-age party-fest to a top notch drama.

Best Supporting Actress:

  • Sally Hawkins for Blue Jasmine
  • Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle
  • Lupita Nyong’O for 12 Years a Slave
  • Julia Roberts for August: Osage County
  • June Squibb for Nebraska

Prediction: Jennifer Larwence for American Hustle. After winning the BAFTA and the Golden Globe awards in this category, Lawrence is the favorite to win this award. Her performance is exceptional and, more importantly, she is one of the most popular actresses working right now.

Preference: Lupita Nyong’O for 12 Years a Slave. As good an actress as she is, Jennifer Lawrence does not deserve a second Oscar when against such life-altering performances as Lupita Nyong’O in her first movie role in 12 Years a Slave. American Hustle has been getting more hype than it deserves, and hopefully Nyong’O will perform the upset some are predicting.

Deserved a nomination: Scarlett Johannson for Her. Even though Johannson “only” had a voice performance in the movie, her role as operating system Samantha served as the heart and soul of the year’s best movie. Stealing every scene without being physically present, Johannson provided the best voice-only performance in history. Period.