The Academy Awards air this Sunday, which means it’s time for me to play prognosticator and attempt to predict who will be floating on top of the world with excitement and who will fake their way through a bevy of congratulations. Now I will say that in years past, I have a horrible record in predicting the Oscar winners, so please, take these choices as what they are — complete and utter guesses. Yes, I’ve read some materials and articles on other Oscar predictions, and I try to take into account how and with what criteria the Hollywood elite (aka, the voters) will decide, but for me at least, there’s no hard rules to what will actually happen come the live telecast. I have my biases just as everyone who votes will, and that will certainly influence my decisions. It’s all in good fun, though, and we’ll see come Monday morning if I was right or if I should just stop pretending I know anything about what Hollywood is really thinking.
Here are my predictions for the 2014 Academy Awards (as well as who I think should win, which may include actors and films that weren’t even nominated).
Best Picture (Nominees – 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, The Wolf of Wall Street):
Who Will Win: 12 Years a Slave
This category so far has been a neck-and-neck horse race between two films: 12 Years a Slave and Gravity. But in my opinion, there’s no doubt who will win. Though Gravity will certainly win a lot of technical awards (as it should), I just don’t feel the movie as a whole was strong enough; the story and character development were lacking in far too many areas. 12 Years a Slave should pull out ahead come Oscar night because of its stellar performances and brutally honest look at what it was like for this one man to lose his freedom to slavery.
Who Should Win: Captain Phillips
Captain Phillips was my pick for the best movie of the year, so of course I’m rooting for this one to win (though it is a real long shot). Tom Hanks’ performance was great, the Somali pirates were perfectly cast, and the movie kept you from breathing for nearly two hours.
Best Actor (Nominees – Christian Bale, Bruce Dern, Leonardo DiCaprio, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Matthew McConaughey)
Who Will Win: Matthew McConaughey
A lot of actors who drastically alter their appearance for a role are the front-runners for an Oscar, which means that Matthew McConaughey has a leg up on his competition for his transformative role in Dallas Buyer’s Club. If he had any competition it would be from Chiwetel Ejiofor, as Christian Bale and Leonardo DiCaprio have done better work in the past and Bruce Dern may have been a little too understated to pull out a victory.
Who Should Win: Chiwetel Ejiofor
As I said, Ejiofor has a strong foot in the door for his performance in 12 Years a Slave, a subtly understated, but no less captivating performance that at times was extremely uncomfortable to watch. While his anger and frustration remained hidden for the majority of his captivity, it was always present under the smallest of expressions and calculated tension.
Best Actress (Nominees – Amy Adams, Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Judi Dench, Meryl Streep)
Who Will and Should Win: Cate Blanchett
Aside from Judi Dench’s performance (which I can’t comment on, since I did not see Philomena), no one can match what Blanchett was able to convey in Blue Jasmine. As a neurotic socialite, Blanchett was so nuanced in her portrait of a severely vulnerable soul after losing her revered status, I’ll be shocked if she doesn’t win.
Best Supporting Actor (Nominees – Barkhad Abdi, Bradley Cooper, Michael Fassbender, Jonah Hill, Jared Leto)
Who Will Win: Jared Leto
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, this is almost a sure thing when it comes to your Oscar pool. There’s no doubt that all of these men, in some way, deserve their nomination (especially Barkhad Abdi, who made a big splash in his first ever performance), but in Dallas Buyer’s Club, Jared Leto became the character of Rayon in such a way that you never once saw an actor, you simply saw a human trying to live his life while escaping the inevitability of death.
Who Should Win: Sam Rockwell
Although I knew that Sam Rockwell wouldn’t get a nomination for his performance in The Way Way Back, I still believe him to be the sixth nominee. His performance as a slacker who befriends a young boy he sees a lot of himself in is pitch perfect. Shielding all of his pain from the world while putting on a brave face with whimsy, his performance is funny, heartbreaking and inspiring all at the same time.
Best Supporting Actress (Nominees – Sally Hawkins, Jennifer Lawrence, Lupita Nyong’o, Julia Roberts, June Squibb)
Who Will and Should Win: Lupita Nyong’o
In my humble opinion, Lupita Nyong’o is the only actress in this group of women (and just one of only a few stellar performances this year) who conveyed real, honest and undaunted emotion. Watching her in 12 Years a Slave made you feel as if you were there, experiencing every lash, every hit and every tear alongside with her. Her competitors were no doubt good, but nowhere near great. Nyong’o was great.
Best Director (Nominees – Alfonso Cuarón, Steve McQueen, Alexander Payne, David O’Russell, Martin Scorsese)
Who Will Win: Steve McQueen
Cuarón definitely won in technological advancement and pretty pictures, Scorcese ran the gamut of excess, Russell showed that he is extremely loyal, and Payne delivered the low-key subtlety of everyday life. But it’s 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen who will end up with the trophy come Oscar night for his haunting depiction of pain, remorse, apathy and courage.
Who Should Win: Paul Greengrass
Greengrass knows how to film and control intensity; he’s done it before and I’m sure he will do it again. But it was in his other directorial decisions that made Captain Phillips my choice for best movie of the year. To bring out and develop Oscar-caliber performances from men who have never acted before is a feat all its own and should have been at least recognized by the Academy.
Best Animated Feature (Nominees – The Croods, Dispicable Me 2, Ernest & Celestine, Frozen, The Wind Rises)
Who Will and Should Win: Frozen
What else is there to say? No one can melt the momentum of this soon-to-be animated classic. I can’t comment on Ernest & Celestine or The Wind Rises since I haven’t even heard of either of them, and although The Croods and Dispicable Me 2 were funny, neither carried the same heart or enjoyment as Frozen.
And now I’d like to give a couple of awards that aren’t a part of the Academy Awards; these are the Chaos Movie Awards, after all.
Best Drama Ensemble: Saving Mr. Banks
Saving Mr. Banks may not have lived up to its Oscar potential, but there was no better overall cast than this ensemble. Of all of the actors who appeared in the film, it never felt as if any one of them was superior to any other. They all worked together beautifully, raising each and every other performance up to create a fun, dramatic and loving film.
Best Comedy Ensemble: The World’s End
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have been best friends for a long time and every film they do together is hysterically clever and insanely sincere. Along with Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Martin Freeman, Rosamund Pike and Pierce Brosnan, the comic timing and level of camaraderie led to a delightful, escapist romp.
Best Child Performance: Sophie Nélisse
There were a lot of good child performances this year (see Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland in Mud or Liam James in The Way Way Back), but it was Sophie Nélisse in The Book Thief who gave probably the most balanced and honest performance as an orphaned girl who befriends a Jewish refugee during World War II.
Best Romantic Couple: Rachel McAdams & Domhill Gleeson
Rachel McAdams has been a part of several movies now in which her companion time travels in some way or the other. But there’s been no connection better than what she has with Domhill Gleeson in About Time. As a pair, the two of them are very cute together with some electric chemistry.
Most Confusing (but awesome) Ending: Inside Llewyn Davis
I enjoyed this film more than I originally expected, mainly because of the confusing and questionable ending, which probably turned a lot of people off. I have to admit, it did throw me for a loop at first, especially when I realized what was actually going on, but then, did I really know what was going on? It’s an ending that needs a lot of dissection and one that may need several more viewings to completely understand (and then again, the Coen brothers may be the only ones who will ever know for sure what it means), but that’s why I think I liked it so much. It’s interesting and fresh, and at the same time sums up the theme of the movie, which is about a man looking to break free of his routine, but will always somehow be trapped in the same recycled loop, no matter the changes that may occur over time.