Oscar Predictions Update: Less Than a Month to Go

by Michael Hunley. 0 Comments

Leonardo DiCaprio

Despite some less-than-glowing notices from the critics and audiences, can Leonardo DiCaprio and “The Wolf of Wall Street” get noticed by the Academy Awards? (Photo courtesy of The Associated Press)

The nominations for influential Oscar precursors like the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild (aka, the SAG Awards) have been announced, and all the eligible 2013 films have been screened and critiqued and berated by critics and bloggers alike, so we finally have a complete picture of what the Academy Awards’ playing ground looks like. So now, all we gotta do is guess the stuff correctly — easy peasy!

Here’s what I’m throwing on the wall and hoping sticks once the nominations are announced Jan. 16.

PICTURE*
1. “12 Years a Slave”
2. “American Hustle”
3. “Gravity”
4. “Captain Phillips”
5. “Inside Llewyn Davis”
6.  “The Wolf of Wall Street”
7. “Nebraska”
8. “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”
9. “Saving Mr. Banks”
10. “Her”

alternates:
11. “August: Osage County”
12. “Philomena”
13. “Dallas Buyers Club”
14. “Rush”
15. “Blue Jasmine”
16. “Fruitvale Station”
17. “Blue is the Warmest Color”
18. “Before Midnight”
19. “All is Lost”
20. “Enough Said”

Currently, the three films with the best chance of getting a Best Picture nomination are “12 Years a Slave,” “American Hustle” and “Gravity” (all three were nominated for Best Picture in the drama or comedy categories at the Golden Globes, while the first two got SAG nods for Best Cast, which is that ceremony’s equivalent of the Best Film prize). “12 Years” has maintained the strongest momentum since the start of the Oscar season, when it won the top award at the Toronto Film Festival, and it’s been scooping up critics awards left and right; its studio, Fox Searchlight, is planning a wider theatrical release soon, which should help get it further in the public’s eye once the Oscar nominations are announced. I find it difficult, though, at this time, NOT seeing “12 Years” win the Best Picture trophy come March 2.

“Gravity” and “Hustle” have been hits with both critics and audiences, and I believe if any film were to bump off “12 Years” from its front-runner status, it’d be the crowd-pleasing caper “Hustle” (“Gravity” will probably clean up in the technical categories, and even has a shot at winning Best Director).

Outside of those locks, the hit action thriller “Captain Phillips” has a good chance of getting in there (thanks to Best Picture and Director nods at the Golden Globes), as does “Llewyn Davis,” which is a nominee for Best Comedy/Musical at the Globes and from Oscar favorites the Coen brothers (four of their films have scored Best Picture nominations in the past).

The big question mark, though, is how well Martin Scorsese’s “Wolf of Wall Street” will do — the ambitious crime comedy has proved surprisingly divisive with critics, though the ones that love it REALLY love it (there’s also some mild controversy, which could hurt it the way “Zero Dark Thirty’s” did last season). “Wolf” also started out well at the box office on Christmas Day, but quickly began to sink after less-than-stellar audience reactions (its CinemaScore, polled from nationwide audiences, was a troubling “C”). Still, it’s Scorsese, and a lot of people do love it (it even got a Golden Globe nod for Best Comedy/Musical), so with a Best Picture field that can include up to 10 nominees, this should be able to get in, though it’s no guarantee.

Rounding out the top 10: Alexander Payne’s acclaimed indie “Nebraska” (it picked up five Golden Globe nominations, including Comedy/Musical and Director) will most likely get noticed; box office hit “The Butler” was famously shut out of the Golden Globes, but scooped up three SAG nods, including one for Best Cast; Disney’s “Mr. Banks” was considered a major dark horse contender a few weeks ago, but lukewarm critical notices and an underwhelming box office throws that out the window (it also only managed Golden Globe and SAG nominations for actress Emma Thompson); and the critically worshipped “Her,” though its quirky subject matter may relegate it to the Original Screenplay category.

Don’t rule out four films which could plan a sneak attack into the Best Picture race: “August: Osage County” is no hit with critics, but it’s a big actors showcase, which the Academy loves (it also picked up a SAG nod for Best Cast); “Philomena” and “Rush,” which were both nominees for the Golden Globe’s Best Drama award; and “Dallas Buyers Club,” a surprise nominee for Best Cast at the SAGs (though that may be more due to the film’s admired performances, which are locks in the Actor and Supporting Actor races).

TEN MORE BEST PICTURE CANDIDATES TO KEEP AN EYE ON: “The Book Thief,” “Frances Ha,” “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” “Labor Day,” “Mud,” “Out of the Furnace,” “Prisoners,” “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” “Short Term 12,” “The Spectacular Now”

*The number of nominees for Best Picture can range from five to 10, depending on the number of votes a film receives.

ACTOR
1. Chiwetel Ejiofer, “12 Years a Slave”
2. Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”
3. Tom Hanks, “Captain Phillips”
4. Robert Redford, “All is Lost”
5. Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”

alternates:
6. Forest Whitaker, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”
7. Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street”
8. Michael B. Jordan, “Fruitvale Station”
9. Oscar Isaac, “Inside Llewyn Davis”
10. Christian Bale, “American Hustle”

So, in my last predictions, I had Redford taking the top spot after scoring a win from the prestigious New York Film Critics Circle. But in the time since then, it seems I may been a liiiiiiittle ambitious. I still think he has a strong shot at being nominated, but after getting snubbed by the SAG Awards, he’ll most likely not win (no Best Actor Oscar winner thus far has even been snubbed by the SAG Awards). That puts Ejiofer back on top, with formidable competition from McConaughey and Hanks (all three scored SAG and Best Drama Actor Golden Globe nominations), and if “12 Years” continues to dominate the awards race in the next coming weeks, Ejiofer could easily score a win.

The fifth slot is a bit trickier. Common sense would say that Dern is a lock: He’s scored Golden Globe and SAG nominations, as well as a number of well-regarded critics awards, and that’s not to mention the endless campaigning he’s been doing for his film. But “Nebraska” is a smaller film, which tend to get overlooked in the acting fields — higher-profile pics such as “The Butler” (which scored Whitaker a SAG nom) and “Wolf of Wall Street” (DiCaprio got a Golden Globe nod for that one) may get more votes from Oscar members. But don’t count out a surprise newbie to break through — there’s usually at least one shocking inclusion in the nominations each year, and acclaimed newcomers Jordan and Isaac could land in the top five.

FIVE MORE BEST ACTOR CANDIDATES TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Christian Bale, “Out of the Furnace;” Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Fifth Estate;” Idris Elba, “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom;”  Hugh Jackman, “Prisoners;” Joaquin Phoenix, “Her”

ACTRESS
1. Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
2. Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”
3. Judi Dench, “Philomena”
4. Emma Thompson, “Saving Mr. Banks”
5. Amy Adams, “American Hustle”

alternates:
6. Meryl Streep, “August: Osage County”
7. Julie Delpy, “Before Midnight”
8. Brie Larson, “Short Term 12”
9. Kate Winslet, “Labor Day”
10. Adele Exarchopoulos, “Blue is the Warmest Color”

The Best Actress race is still all about Cate. She’s been winning awards left and right, and should scoop up prizes from the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild soon. She’s probably the closest thing to a lock in any of the categories this year. Bullock and Dench are both basically safe for nominations, but I don’t see them overtaking Blanchett anytime soon. Thompson is also sitting pretty for a nod, though she’s dropped down from out-of-left-field threat to it’s-just-lovely-to-be-nominated contender after the buzz faded for “Mr. Banks.”

About that last spot, though … . The Screen Actors Guild went with Blanchett, Bullock, Dench, Thompson and Streep, and all five also grabbed Golden Globe nominations (the first four in the Drama category, along with Kate Winslet; Streep was in Comedy/Musical with Adams, Delpy, Greta Gerwig and Julia Louis-Dreyfus). Now, Streep would be the immediate, knee-jerk response because she’s Dame Meryl Streep and could probably get an Oscar nomination for a NyQuil commerical (shout out to Katherine Heigl!). But “August: Osage County” is not being looked upon as one of the highlights in Streep’s legendary filmography, with some critics straight up dismissing her performance altogether. That hasn’t necessarily stopped Streep from getting nominated in the past (shout out to “Music of the Heart,” y’all), but if “August” flatlines with Oscar voters the way I’m predicting, I’m looking at “Hustle’s” Amy Adams to score her first Leading Actress nod (after four stints in the Supporting Actress race).

FIVE MORE BEST ACTRESS CANDIDATES TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Berenice Bejo, “The Past;” Greta Gerwig, “Frances Ha;” Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Enough Said;” Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County;” Shailene Woodley, “The Spectacular Now”

SUPPORTING ACTOR
1. Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”
2. Michael Fassbender, “12 Years a Slave”
3. Barkhad Abdi, “Captain Phillips”
4. James Gandolfini, “Enough Said”
5. Tom Hanks, “Saving Mr. Banks”

alternates:
6. Daniel Bruhl, “Rush”
7. Bradley Cooper, “American Hustle”
8. Will Forte, “Nebraska”
9. Jonah Hill, “The Wolf of Wall Street”
10. Casey Affleck, “Out of the Furnace”

Here I was, for months and months, declaring the Supporting Actor category all but done and wrapped up thanks to Fassbender’s acclaimed role in “12 Years,” especially after his surprise snub two years ago for “Shame.” And then Jordan Catalano himself sashays onto the scene, winning prizes from dozens of critics awards and slowly latching on to the front runner status as a drag queen dying of AIDS. Basically, Fassbender’s out and Leto’s in.

The only other lock in this unwieldy category: first-time actor Abdi, a Golden Globe and SAG nominee. The remaining two slots could go to either four contenders: the late Gandolfini (a SAG nominee); Bruhl (nominated for a Golden Globe and SAG award); Cooper (a Golden Globe nominee); or Hanks (who was snubbed by both the Globe and SAG awards). This could go up and down in the next few weeks, but I’m sticking with Gandolfini and Hanks for now, if only because they’re well respected and more likely to be nominated than a little-known German character actor and Bradley Cooper’s glamorous perm.

FIVE MORE BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR CANDIDATES TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Steve Coogan, “Philomena;” Harrison Ford, “42;” Matthew McConaughey, “Mud;” Matthew McConaughey, “The Wolf of Wall Street;” Jeremy Renner, “American Hustle”

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
1. Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”
2. Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”
3. June Squibb, “Nebraska”
4. Oprah Winfrey, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”
5. Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine”

alternates:
6. Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County”
7. Octavia Spencer, “Fruitvale Station”
8. Scarlett Johansson, “Her”
9. Margo Martindale, “August: Osage County”
10. Melonie Diaz, “Fruitvale Station”

Supporting Actress is still a fight between last year’s Best Actress winner Lawrence and 2013’s breakout of the year Nyong’o — depending on who wins the Golden Globe and SAG awards, their positions could be flipped. No longer quite the sure thing she once was, though, is the Mighty Oprah, who was snubbed by the Globes, but, thanks to a SAG nod, she should still get a nomination. Also a lock: the delightful Squibb, who got Golden Globe and SAG nominations for “Nebraska.”

The fifth slot is between Golden Globe nominee Hawkins and Roberts, who got Globe and SAG nominations. Roberts’ mega movie star status may not help her much here (the Supporting Actress race usually gets some less-well-known performers popping up, such as two-time nominee Jackie Weaver), and “August’s” middling reception from critics doesn’t help either. I’m going with Hawkins for now because, well, I think I’ve stated several times how devastating her snub five years ago for “Happy-Go-Lucky” was for me.

Then again, as I stated above, there’s usually some wild card choices in this category, so don’t be surprised if Spencer or Johansson (if the Academy deems her voice-only role eligible) sneak in.

FIVE MORE BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS CANDIDATES TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Amy Adams, “Her;” Carey Mulligan, “Inside Llewyn Davis;” Julianne Nicholson, “August: Osage County;” Sarah Paulson, “12 Years a Slave;” Lea Seydoux, “Blue is the Warmest Color”

DIRECTOR
1. Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”
2. Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity”
3. David O. Russell, “American Hustle”
4. Paul Greengrass, “Captain Phillips”
5. Ethan and Joel Coen, “Inside Llewyn Davis”

alternates:
6. Martin Scorsese, “The Wolf of Wall Street”
7. Alexander Payne, “Nebraska”
8. Spike Jonze, “Her”
9. Woody Allen, “Blue Jasmine”
10. John Lee Hancock, “Saving Mr. Banks”

As it’s been all season, McQueen and Cuaron are the front-runners — both are nominated at the Golden Globes and have been sharing the majority of critical awards given out in the past few weeks. I can see either picking up the prize, with Cuaron a real threat after Ang Lee’s victory last year with “Life of Pi,” a 3-D epic in the same vein as “Gravity.”

Russell and Greengrass (both nominated for Golden Globes) should be able to get in easily enough, though I don’t want to make too big of an assumption when it comes to the Best Director category after Ben Affleck’s much-ballyhooed, endlessly bemoaned snub last year (“NEVA 4GET,” cries Ben Affleck as he wipes his eyes with his millions of dollars and two Oscars).

The fifth slot, as in all the categories this year, could go several ways: My current pick is the Coen brothers (past winners who’ve been nominated here three times before), though there’s always the possibility that the Academy doesn’t fall as heavily for “Llewyn Davis” as some think and relegate it just to the Best Original Screenplay race. In that case, past winner Scorsese is usually a safe choice, even if the buzz for “Wolf” has died down a bit (the same can be said for “Mr. Banks'” Hancock). Two-time nominee Payne got a Golden Globe nod, but his work may be too low-key to get noticed, while Jonze and Allen may get lost in the shuffle (never count out Allen, though — he’s been nominated seven times in the past).

FIVE MORE BEST DIRECTOR CANDIDATES TO KEEP AN EYE ON: J.C. Chandor, “All is Lost;” Lee Daniels, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler;” Ryan Coogler, “Fruitvale Station;” Stephen Frears, “Philomena;” John Wells, “August: Osage County”

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