Saturday, November 23, 2013

Updated November 2013 Oscar Predictions

November is always the hardest month for me to predict. A sizable portion of the contenders have been released, but nearly just as many haven't, and a few are still holding out even the smallest of glimpses. By the time I probably finish writing this post (an exaggeration…maybe?), the various critics groups will begin handing out their various awards, and the race in many categories will finally begin to take shape.

By that token, I didn't make a whole lot of changes between October and now. Most of that is because I don't think there have been any changes in momentum for many contenders. However, there are some things that I just don't know what to do with. A few of those changes are discussed after the jump.


BEST PICTURE

There's no way there can be nine nominees three years in a row, right? Eventually there has to be six or seven or eight? At this point, I can see a wide variety of films getting first-place votes, and since a film needs at least 5% of those votes to be nominated, I imagine there's going to be some vote-splitting this year. That's why I'm predicting things as varied as the okay Lee Daniels' The Butler to the out-there Her. I'm not sure really what to expect this year, accept hopefully a change of pace.

BEST ACTRESS

If I had any savvy with photo editing, I'd photoshop Judi Dench into the window, slowly creeping up on Emma Thompson and her Oscar bid.

I've already started thinking about this year's Jarmos (for the uninitiated: my personal awards), and I'm coming up with a big problem: there are way too many fantastic performances from actresses this year. Now, obviously, this is the best "problem" to have, but it makes predicting this category insanely difficult. Assuming that Amy Adams (American Hustle), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Meryl Streep (August: Osage County), and Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) are safe (and that's a big assumption), that leaves Emma Thompson and Judi Dench leading the fight for the final spot. Dench has been getting raves for Philomena, but so has Thompson for Saving Mr. Banks, and the latter is a more sure-fire Best Picture contender than the former. It's probably going to come down to what groups such as SAG choose to recognize, meaning this will likely be a tight race all the way to the end.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

I genuinely have no idea what to do with this one.

Well, almost no idea. Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave) is definitely going to be nominated. Tom Hanks (Saving Mr. Banks) and Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) seem very likely. But from there, it's a really messy picture. Daniel Bruhl seemed like a really good bet for Rush, until that film and The Fifth Estate tanked at the box office, pretty much sinking his chances (it never helps when your breakouts don't, um, break out). Jeremy Renner (American Hustle) seemed like a good possibility on paper, but the film remains under wraps and it's very possible that Bradley Cooper could be the film's representative here. Then there are the outsider contenders: Steve Coogen (Philomena; probably too comedic/the Judi Dench Show), Colin Farrell (Saving Mr. Banks; does he make an impact?), and Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street; I just don't know but he could surprise), on top of a number of other possibilities that I haven't even considered yet.

So that leaves the two that I did predict and don't at all feel comfortable about. My malaise with Matthew McConaughey (The Wolf of Wall Street) mostly stems from the fact that I don't think the Academy is going to give him and Tom Hanks two nominations in two acting categories. As I note in my predictions, it's only ever happened once, and that was 20 years ago. McConaughey's "due" for a nomination, and his career momentum suggests he'll get one one way or another this year, but will he really get two?

Then there's Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips). I loved his performance in that film; he often out-shone Tom Hanks and definitely matched him in every scene they shared, which is no easy feat for a true newcomer going against an acting legend. And, as I mention in the predictions, this category is often kind to newcomers, especially if they might have a difficult gaining traction anywhere else (or for anything else). But Abdi's hill is incredibly steep: he's black, for starters, and the future of his career is uncertain (voters may not bite if he doesn't indicate he'll try to stick around). What Abdi really needs to strengthen his chances is for Hanks himself to stand up and campaign for his co-star; difficult performances that may otherwise be ignored benefit from stars highlighting them (see: Julia Roberts' campaigning for Javier Bardem in 2010 for Biutiful). But even then, he's going to have a rough go for a nomination he certainly deserves.

BEST DIRECTOR

I believe I'm truly insane for sticking with J.C. Chandor (All is Lost). With The Wolf of Wall Street back in the picture, it would stand to reason that Martin Scorsese is now a shoo-in. On top of that, I think I'm still probably underestimating the Coen Brothers (and Inside Llewyn Davis in general). But the Academy doesn't always go for their favorites, so I don't feel so bad about not choosing any of them.

But here's the thing: I'm picking Chandor for this category, but not All is Lost as a Best Picture nominee. Before the Academy got all screwy with its nominating process for Best Picture, it was fairly commonplace for their to be an "outsider" directing nod, i.e. a director who was nominated but their film wasn't. The last incidence of this, though, was in 2007, when Julian Schnabel was nominated for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. After 2009, when the rules for Best Picture changed, it has been assumed that "outsider" directing nods are impossible given the increased number of Picture nominees. Indeed, since then, every directing nominee has had their film nominated for Picture as well.

But the directors' branch of the Academy is an adventurous one, as evidenced last year when, instead of Ben Affleck (Argo), Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty), and/or Tom Hooper (Les Miserables), we got unexpected surprises in the form of Michael Haneke (who I predicted, but expected to be wrong about) for Amour and Benh Zeitlin (who I'm pretty sure no one saw coming) for Beasts of the Southern Wild. Given that Chandor was a somewhat-surprise nominee for Original Screenplay in 2011 (for his first feature, Margin Call), he seems to have the Academy's eye on him. The ambition and skill he shows in All is Lost will likely appeal to them, so I actually do feel confident predicting him.

Then again, I may just be insane.

The predictions can be found here.

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