2014 Oscars Predictions

The strange thing about Oscar season is, of course, its outrageous length. Probably due to some perceived sense of prestige (which, to be honest, is likely earned at this point, to the level that you can ascribe prestige to such silly things as giving out awards for subjective pieces of art), it’s always silly when the critics’ circles and online magazines and various Hollywood guilds (Producers, Directors, Screen Actors, et al) have trotted out their choices and awards and lists by late January/early February, and we get to wait a full month before the Academy comes down from on high to distribute their golden calves and officially end the 2013 film season a full two months into the following year. We make our predictions and synthesize the work of the other awards and all have a pretty good idea of how it’s all going to shake out. But we still have to wait. For a long time. Still, it is what it is, and we are where we are, a few scant days before the ceremony as AMPAS hangs above like the Sword of Damocles. Fret not, 2014, you’ll get your time in the sun soon.

For the purposes of this article, I’ll be going category by category and (for the most part) giving my predictions for who will win the category, who should win out of those nominated, who could be a potential dark horse/spoiler, and who I would have chosen regardless of those nominated. In many cases, I either cannot consider myself enough of an expert to provide my own opinions (woo sound categories!) or haven’t seen either enough or any of the nominees (woo shorts!). For those categories, I will simply make an educated guess and move on. Simple enough. Let’s go.

Section 1: Underinformed Categories

Best Documentary Short

Will win: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved my Life

I have not seen any of the documentary shorts (or any shorts this year, save one). Not due to lack of availability, but simply due to abject laziness. When in doubt, go with the film about the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor (who actually died Tuesday at age 110). Seems like a safe enough bet.

Best Animated Short

Will win: Get a Horse!

One of these films was released in front of the theatrical run of Frozen, a national phenomenon and the highest grossing animated film of 2013, and thus has been seen by approximately everyone (including me; this is the only short I’ve seen). It’s fun, it’s Disney, and it’s established alongside Frozen, which should give it the inside lane in the category.

Best Live Action Short

Will win: The Voorman Problem

Martin Freeman is in it.

Best Sound Mixing

Will win: Gravity

They should hold a separate technical awards ceremony (separate from the actual technical Oscars that they actually hold) just so they can call it the Gravity-ies.

Best Sound Editing

Will win: Gravity

See pithy comment for previous category.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Will win: Dallas Buyers Club

Because Jackass didn’t present it.

Best Animated Feature

Will win: Frozen

Possible Spoiler: The Wind Rises

I don’t consider this a minor category, but of the five nominees I’ve only seen Frozen. I tried to watch The Croods (only because it’s on Netflix), and couldn’t get through it. I’ll be catching The Wind Rises this weekend, and it does have a decent chance of winning, what with being Miyazaki’s supposed final film (and he’s won the category in the past). Still, I do believe that Frozen will ride its wave of success past the ever so slightly controversial Japanese film.

Section 2: The Also-Rans (AKA Not the Important Ones)

Best Costume Design

Will win: The Great Gatsby

Should win: The Great Gatsby

Spoiler: American Hustle

My pick: The Great Gatsby

My god, the hats. Just look at this:

Yeah, it's more of a visor/veil. I get it.

Gatsby should win purely on the merit of what Catherine Martin did for Elizabeth Debicki’s Jordan Baker. If this is one of the earlier categories announced (which one would assume is likely) and American Hustle wins, that could point to it riding a wave of Hollywood good will to a very good night. I don’t expect that to happen, though.

Best Production Design

Will win: The Great Gatsby

Should win: Her

Spoiler: American Hustle

My pick: Her

Gatsby and Her are on the opposite side of the spectrum when it comes to production design. Gatsby is all sequins and Art Deco mansions and oversized champagne bottles and wild parties, and Her is all high-waisted pants and Shanghai-as-LA subtlety. I prefer Her’s look at the future in part because I have a deep affinity for quiet dystopias (the dystopian nature of Her is disputable) like Her or Never Let Me Go, where the queasiness of the future world isn’t thrown in your face by Nineteen Eighty-Four-style jack-booted thugs, but simply bubbles up below the surface. Gatsby is a fine choice, but I’d go with the subtle over the gaudy in this case.

Best Original Score

Will win: Gravity

Should win: Gravity

Spoiler: Her

My pick: Gravity

There are parts of Gravity I do not like, but its technical achievements and score are not some of them. Were the Academy a younger and hipper crowd, it would be possible that Her’s Arcade Fire score could sneak in, but they’re not so it won’t.

Best Original Song

Will win: “Let it Go” (Frozen)

Should win: “Let it Go” (Frozen)

Spoiler: “The Moon Song” (Her)

My pick: “Please Mr. Kennedy” (Inside Llewyn Davis)

If I recall correctly, “Please Mr. Kennedy” wasn’t eligible due to some draconian category rules (nor was anything else from Inside Llewyn Davis), which makes me quite comfortable about Frozen’s showstopper (and Youtube phenomenon) running away with this, no matter how surreal it would be to see Karen O. win an Oscar only a few short years after Trent Reznor won one.

Best Visual Effects

Will win: Gravity

Should win: Gravity

Spoiler: None

My pick: Gravity

One of these films was nominated for Best Picture. It’s also a titanic achievement in the way it actually makes you wonder how the hell they pulled off the shots without actually being in, you know, space.

Best Film Editing

Will win: Gravity

Should win: Captain Phillips

Spoiler: I guess Captain Phillips?

My pick: The World’s End

One of these days, Edgar Wright (and, of course, his editor) is going to get some love for having released four films that manage to turn the technical art of film editing into laugh-out-loud jokes like no one else on the planet. But this is Gravity’s world and we’re just living in it, even with Greengrass’ prodigious editing process in the same category.

Best Foreign Language Film

Will win: The Great Beauty

Should win: I guess The Hunt?

Spoiler: The Broken Circle Breakdown

My pick: Blue is the Warmest Color

This category is pretty much a sham due to the ineligibility of Blue is the Warmest Color, a film I saw in this country in November (not at a press screening or anything; just walked up and bought a ticket). Still, it exists, so here we are. The Great Beauty was the most well-liked by critics, and has a strong pedigree (in my opinion a tad too strong) in its relation to Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. I think I technically liked The Hunt the most of the three options I’ve seen (Beauty, The Hunt and The Broken Circle Breakdown), but they’re on all a very similar level of quality that is a good ten steps below Blue is the Warmest Color.

Section 3: The Big Ten

Best Documentary Feature

Will win: 20 Feet from Stardom

Should win: The Act of Killing

Spoiler: The Act of Killing or The Square

My pick: The Act of Killing

I’ve written up the documentary category earlier this week, so feel free to check out that article for some in-depth looks at the five nominees for this category. 20 Feet from Stardom should take down the crowd pleaser votes, with The Act of Killing and The Square splitting the issue vote, allowing Stardom to sneak by.

Best Cinematography

Will win: Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity)

Should win: Bruno Delbonnel (Inside Llewyn Davis)

Spoiler: None

My pick: Bruno Delbonnel (Inside Llewyn Davis)

Oh, Roger Deakins. He’s full on Susan Lucci-ing this category, and will be swept away by the Gravity wave. It’s funny that Deakins usually works with the Coens, and once he moves on we get Inside Llewyn Davis, which is just so cold and stark and weirdly color-desaturated and perfectly shot (making it in essence a color black and white film), that I think Deakins got outplayed by his old buddies.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Will win: 12 Years a Slave

Should win: Before Midnight

Spoiler: Captain Phillips

My pick: Before Midnight

It’s silly that Before Midnight is adapted, but it’s the best of the bunch. Still, I see no way that it wins here, especially considering that 12 Years a Slave needs to win something other than Best Picture and probably Supporting Actress (spoilers!). Captain Phillips did win the WGAs though, and Ridley has clashed with the industry in the past, so there’s that.

Best Original Screenplay

Will win: Her

Should win: Her

Spoiler: American Hustle

My pick: Inside Llewyn Davis

I wouldn’t have expected Spike Jonze to have a chance here until he won at the Golden Globes (and then eventually the WGAs). This is likely to be the only real chance the Academy has to throw some shine in the direction of Her. If American Hustle beats out Gatsby in the costuming/production design categories, it’s more likely to win here as part of a tidal wave toward Best Picture.

Best Supporting Actor

Will win: Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

Should win: Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)

Spoiler: None

My pick: James Franco (Spring Breakers)

Leto’s probably got this about as sewn up as Cate Blanchett does (spoiers!). Michael Fassbender will have his day soon. Franco probably won’t.

Best Supporting Actress

Will win: Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)

Should win: Nyong’o

Spoiler: Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)

My pick: Lea Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Color)

Listen: I love Jennifer Lawrence. We all love Jennifer Lawrence. Nyong’o is on a completely different level in her respective role than Jennifer Lawrence. It seems she is the front runner, which means that justice does indeed remain in this world.

Best Actor

Will win: Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

Should win: Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)

Spoiler: Ejiofor

My pick: Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis)

McConaughey has become an acting freight train as of late, and even has the unfurling of True Detective and some Emmys and television Golden Globes in his future that just adds to his overall juggernaut-ness. Ejiofor is astounding (and better), but he’s here in the wrong year. Still has an outside chance though, especially if the Academy decides to be petty and backlash over his various acceptance speeches that really hammered home the concept that McConaughey wasn’t acting at all in Dazed and Confused.

Best Actress

Will win: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)

Should win: Blanchett

Spoiler: Amy Adams (American Hustle)

My pick: Adele Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color)

Cate’s winning this, and has been set to win this since last July. I guess if the Academy decides to punish her for Woody Allen’s indiscretions coming back to light, Amy Adams would win, but that’s not happening.

Best Director

Will win: Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity)

Should win: Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)

Spoiler: I guess technically McQueen

My pick: Edgar Wright (The World’s End)

Ang Lee established this track last year with Life of Pi. Prestige film with impressive technical merits that isn’t going to win Best Picture sweeps the technical awards (for the most part) and snags Director as its one major award. I see no reason to believe that will be different here, especially once Cuaron won the DGAs. I couldn’t exactly expect the Academy to look at a director like Edgar Wright and throw him some love, but it’s undeniable that Wright’s four features point to some of the most exciting work anyone is putting out these days.

Best Picture

Will win: 12 Years a Slave

Should win: 12 Years a Slave

Spoiler: American Hustle or Gravity

My pick: Blue is the Warmest Color

There are ways I could see either Gravity or American Hustle winning. 12 Years a Slave is the roughest sit of the nine nominees, and its intensity could scare away to squeamish-averse. A bunch of people pissed off that The Hurt Locker beat Avatar could vote for Gravity symbolically as a way to show the young audience that they’re hip and like movies that can make money at the box office. And American Hustle is always lurking off to the side as basically the other front runner. I’m legitimately worried Hustle will win, mostly because it feels so mediocre, especially when placed next to films like Her or 12 Years a Slave or Captain Phillips or even Philomena (or Blue is the Warmest Color or Inside Llewyn Davis or a litany of other films that didn’t make the cut). It does generally seem like the Academy will make the correct decision, but it’s close. Gravity won at the DGAs. American Hustle won ensemble at the SAGs. Gravity and 12 Years a Slave tied the top prize at the PGAs (which, by the way, is super weird). So it’s clear that only three of these movies matter, and it’s not entirely clear which of them will matter the most to the Academy. I’m taking a flyer on 12 Years getting the nod due to its gravitas, and AMPAS has been known to love them some gravitas.

So there we have it. Hopefully the ceremony won’t be too interminable; I don’t have too many high hopes for Ellen’s turn as the host, and this year’s In Memoriam will be particularly tough to watch (Gandolfini, Joan Fontaine, O’Toole, Hoffman, Harold Ramis and far too many more; hell, even Cyrus from The Warriors died this week). Still, it was a year full of good films without any obvious howlers that don’t deserve to be there, so at least the blind rage quotient will be lower than years past, which is good for my blood pressure. Enjoy the show, folks.