Saturday, March 1, 2014

OSCAR 2014 - Pre-Show Thoughts & Predictions & Rants

 Let's do this.

That's right, I'm back. It's been a while, but hey, it's almost Oscar time and I had to make the effort to put down my thoughts and predictions.

Here's the thing: as I've said, 2013 was an insanely good year for movies. So while, sure, there are films that I was upset to see snubbed at this year's Oscars, it's also pretty hard to take issue with the ones that did make the cut. I mean: 12 Years a Slave? Gravity? Nebraska? The Wolf of Wall Street? Her? Captain Philips? These were all instant classics that deserve whatever recognition they get. In fact, I'd be more than happy if any of those four films took home Best Picture. Even Dallas Buyers Club and American Hustle - I'd put those two a rung below the others I just mentioned, and yet, both have individual performances that were among the year's best.

Before I get into my picks, here are some of the biggest snubs in my view:


1.) Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips: look, I am the last person who likes seeing the same people nominated over and over. But Hanks may have literally done the best work of his storied career in this movie. Those last five minutes? Holy crap on a stick. I had chills.

2.) Inside Llewyn Davis: This should have been nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. The Coen Bros must not be taken for granted, people. This is a fantastic film that will be more and more highly regarded as the years go on.

3.) Brie Larson / Short Term 12: Short Term 12 was an incredible indie flick that deserved more buzz than it got. But one undeniable highlight was the soul-searing performance of Brie Larson in the lead role. Some of the most real, raw, affecting acting I've seen.

4.) Michael B. Jordan / Fruitvale Station: Here's another breakout performance that really should have been recognized. Jordan is insanely good in Fruitvale Station, and the movie itself is an absolutely huge directorial debut for Ryan Coogler, who is going to be very big very soon.

5.) Daniel Bruhl / Rush - Rush was one of Ron Howard's best films in years, but the highlight was Daniel Bruhl, who absolutely kills as race car driver Nikki Lauda. Bruhl got a Golden Globe nom, and he should have gotten an Oscar nomination as well.

6.) Frances Ha - Noah Baumbach's best movie yet - a new-school spin on Woody Allen urban coming-of-age comedy that also served as the final piece in the puzzle that is Greta Gerwig as star-on-the-rise.

7.) The World's End - Okay, so there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell that Edgar Wright's latest would receive an Oscar nom. But why? It's funny, smart, and moving. Wright directs the hell out of it. It might be his best movie yet, and he's made some damn good films. It makes me sad that we live in a world where Wright's films are not considered best-in-class by the cinematic establishment.

8.) Stoker - Too weird for the Oscars? Probably. But Chan Wook Park's American cinematic debut is right up there with Oldboy as a spellbinding psychological thriller that sticks with you and enters the inner sanctum of your mind long after the closing credits role. And some of the acting in the film - from Mia Wasikowska and Nicole Kidman in particular - is aces.

9.) Pacific Rim - So ... wait. How is this not even nominated for best Visual Effects? Pac Rim was far and away the coolest film, visually, in 2013 not named Gravity. Show Guillermo Del Toro some love.

10.) The Way Way Back - Snubbed on multiple levels. Sam Rockwell was fantastic in this, and deserving of a dark horse Best Supporting Actor nom. Toni Collette was similarly great. The screenplay was excellent. Where was the love for this film?

And yet ... like I said, so many great films and talents *were* nominated that it's hard to be all that upset. At least this year. Next year I'll probably be back with extra Oscar-hatin'.



Should Win: Tie: Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, Her, Nebraska, or The Wolf of Wall Street.

- Like I said, all four of these films were instant classics, in my mind. Gravity was my personal favorite film of the year. 12 Years a Slave had one or two minute flaws, but had moments so powerful - and an important story so well-told - that I sort of see it as most deserving of an award. Her was maybe the most of-our-time, uber-relevant movie of 2013. In another year, it might have been a favorite. Nebraska was, to me, a stunner - Alexander Payne's best yet - funny, visually-striking, and packing one hell of an emotional punch. And Wolf of Wall Street - it was just classic Scorsese. It was balls-to-the-wall awesome, and easily up there with his last Oscar-winning effort The Departed. So yeah, I wouldn't mind if any of these four movies took home the gold.

Will Win: 12 Years a Slave

- I think it will be close. But 12 Years feels like the "important" film that deserves to be recognized. If it wasn't so good, I might take issue. But the film is a friggin' masterpiece, so I'll be supportive if it wins.


Should Win: Tie: Matthew McConaughey, Leonardo DiCaprio, Chiwetel Ejiofor

- This is another loaded category, even without Tom Hanks. All three of the above performances though are pretty next-level, career-best work. McConaughey is just on a tear. In Dallas Buyer's Club he goes full-method, and it's the best work he's ever done. Similarly, DiCaprio is off-the-chain good in Wolf of Wall Street - it's his best-ever work. Eljiofor is doing a big, Shakespearian performance in 12 Years a Slave. But man, the way he conveys emotion with just his eyes, the way he shows you inward rage matched with outward restraint - it's amazing stuff. All three of these guys should co-win.

Will Win: Matthew McConaughey

- 2013 was the Year of McConaughey. Alright? Alright alright alriiiight. The dude has so much goodwill built up between Dallas Buyer's Club, Mud (underrated), Wolf of Wall Street (best cameo role since Alec Baldwin in Glengary Glenross), and now True Detective (incredible). The momentum is too strong. Just go with it, alright?


Should Win: Cate Blanchett

- Blanchett was a tour de force in Blue Jasmine. Woody controversy aside, you can't take that away from her. This was a career-highlight turn. I also like Sandra Bullock a lot in Gravity, though the performance is so much about the physical that it seems less substantive somehow than Blanchett's. Amy Adams was also pretty incredible in American Hustle. If anyone deserves to win for that film, I think it's her.

Will Win: Cate Blanchett

- The Woody Allen factor could hurt her, but it could also rally people to her side. Regardless, I think hers was the best and most impressive performance by a pretty decent margin, so ultimately that should win out.


Should Win: Jared Leto

- The only other guy I'd consider in the running is Michael Fassbender, who was phenomenal in 12 Years a Slave. But Leto is the clear favorite. He is heartbreaking in Dallas Buyer's Club.

Will Win: Guys, this is perhaps one of the few sure-things of this year's Oscars. Leto is a lock.


Should Win: June Squibb

- Personally, I absolutely loved Squibb in Nebraska. Hers is the big, bring-the-house-down role, and I loved her in the film. It's not every day that an elderly woman makes you stand up and cheer in a movie. Squibb did, and to me, she deserves a win.

Will Win: Lupita Nyong'o

- It feels like the momentum is in Nyong'o's favor. And she's great in 12 Years a Slave. I guess my only reservation is that her character is perhaps a bit less memorable than the suffering she endures. But still, the Oscars love a good breakout story, and Nyong'o certainly is one.


Should Win: Alfonso Cuaron

- This is another insanely loaded category. I'm not sure I would have given David O. Russell a nod here (I'd give it to the Coen Bros., Spike Jonze, or Paul Greengrass). But the other four guys - Cuaron, Scorsese, McQueen, and Payne - all did absolutely we're-not-worthy work on their latest films. This one hurts. Because I think years from now, Wall St. will be thought of as a total Scorsese classic. And McQueen is just getting started, but what he did with 12 Years is amazing. We've seen the straight-up melodrama version of this story before, but McQueen gave us the art-film, Lynchian, surreal nightmare version. This guy is the real deal. That said ... Cuaron did stuff in Gravity that was just mind-boggling. The imagination and vision needed to conceive what he conceived ... it's beyond the capabilities of us mere mortals. Cuaron is my pick.

Will Win: Alfonso Cuaron

- For all the reasons I mentioned above, I think Cuaron is the favorite. I could see a similar trajectory to the Golden Globes, in which Cuaron takes home the Director prize while Gravity ultimately loses out to 12 Years a Slave for Best Picture.


Should Win: Tie: Her and Nebraska

- I loved both of these screenplays. Her just created this amazingly fleshed-out future world, while at the same time imbuing what could have been a gimmicky story with real heart and feeling. At the same time, Nebraska was just a whip-crack funny yet gut-punch moving story that was quiet, yet spoke volumes, all at once.

Will Win: Her

- I think this may be one of the token wins for Her. I'm not sure though, this one's a touch call. I could see American Hustle taking it. But I think voters will recognize Her not just for its merits but for the clear autobiographical element that Jonze put into it.


Should Win: Wolf of Wall Street

- This is a flipping phenomenal screenplay. The kind that will be quoted by movie geeks for decades. Terrence Winter has done wonders over the years on Boardwalk Empire, but this is a crowning achievement. I mean, holy crap, McConaughey's speech to DiCaprio alone is pure gold.

Will Win: 12 Years a Slave

- This one is super tough to call. John Ridley is a well-regarded writer and there's some very good writing in 12 Years a Slave. I think Wolf of Wall Street could pull it out, but perhaps the (ridiculous) semi-controversy over the movie's morals could hurt it. If I had to wager, I'd guess 12 Years. But would not be upset if Wall Street pulled an upset.


Should Win: The Croods / The Wind Rises

- Caveat: I have not yet seen The Wind Rises. But it's probably amazing and deserving of a win, as let's face it - Miyazaki is a living legend and just about everything he does is genius. That said, Dreamworks' latest has probably zero chance of winning, but dammit all, I really dug The Croods. I was a fan of Frozen as well, but The Croods to me was the more involving, more fully-realized film.

Will Win: Frozen

- Everyone seemingly loves Frozen among the rank-and-file population. And every Academy voter with kids has probably seen it a million times by now It's a juggernaut - likely an unstoppable one. While there's a chance that the great Miyazaki's purportedly final film - The Wind Rises - will take home what is probably its rightful award, I won't underestimate the hypnotic power of "Let It Go" and the movie that surrounds it.


Should Win: Gravity

- Seemless CGI, eye-popping IMAX 3D, incredible integration of live-action actors with computer-generated sets. Yeah, this one is a futureshock to the system, and yeah, it should win.

Will Win: Gravity:

- It should win, and it will. Sorry Lone Ranger.


Should Win: Captain Phillips
Will Win: Captain Phillips


Should Win: Gravity (though Nebraska is up there as well)
Will Win: Gravity


Should Win: American Hustle
Will Win: American Hustle


Should Win: ???

- Okay, I am woefully behind in my documentary viewing. But I've heard so many good things about the film The Act of Killing. It's on my list. It seems like the sort of must-watch, eye-opening doc that is indeed award-worthy.

Will Win: The Act of Killing


Should Win: Gravity

- I loved the score of Gravity. Made the film that much more immersive and intense.

Will Win: Gravity


Should Win: "Let It Go"
Will Win: "Let It Go"

- Did you not read what I wrote above about Frozen. It's a big Disneyfied juggernaut at this point and Let It Go is a big reason why. To be fair, it's a great pop-song, one of the most catchy and most memorable that a Disney animated feature has produced in years.


Should Win: Gravity
Will Win: Gravity


Should Win: Gravity
Will Win: Gravity


Should Win: ???

- What the ...? The nominees in this category are horrendous. At least throw The Hobbit a bone here ... The Lone Ranger? Bad Grandpa? Ugh.

Will Win: I guess Dallas Buyer's Club because of Jared Leto?


Should Win: ???

- Okay, I'm also severely lagging in my recent viewing of Oscar-nominated foreign films. I don't know, I guess none of this year's crop really grabbed my interest. I've heard amazing things about Omar, but I'm curious to see it so as to better understand its politics.

Will Win: The Broken Circle Breakdown


Should Win: ?
Will Win: Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall


Should Win: ?
Will Win: Room on the Broom


Should Win: ?
Will Win: The Voorman Problem

And there you go. The bottom line: 2013 was one hell of a year for films. So forget about red carpets and Hollywood politics, and instead celebrate movies that kick-ass, expand the imagination, open eyes, and make you think.

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