Friday, February 28, 2014

The Not-So-Definitive Guide to the 86th Annual Academy Awards

Oscar and I have something in common. Oscar first came to Hollywood scene in 1928. So did I. We're both a little weather-beaten, but we're still here and plan to be around for a whole lot longer.

--John Wayne, 1979

Lest readers accuse Bay State Brahmin of being all work and no fun, today we’ll indulge in some OSCAR speculation two days before the Academy Awards are presented at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. What follows are my best guesses at who will win awards and what film/individual would have received my vote in each category, with some musings here and there. Note that I am only submitting picks where I’ve seen the films and I am excluding categories that are incomprehensible. So dim the laptop screen and grab the popcorn…

Best Picture

The Pick: 12 Years a Slave
My Vote: 12 Years a Slave

This year’s field is incredibly strong (Her and Dallas Buyers Club would be solid favorites in another year). However, 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation and the Battle of Gettysburg, America finally has the seminal telling of the nation’s Original Sin—a magnificently executed portrayal of the depravity of slavery and the unimaginable resilience of the human soul. Every American should see 12 Years a Slave and it should be a core part of curricula in American classrooms for generations to come. 

Best Actor

The Pick: Matthew McConaughey
My Vote: Chiwetel Ejiofor

You can’t blame the Academy for going with McConaughey, who was unforgivably snubbed last year after his epic portrayal of a man on the run in rural Arkansas in the underrated Mud. But my vote goes to Chiwetel Ejiofor for a role than spanned the entire range of human emotionality and then some. If you are sensing a pattern with my affection for 12 Years, you’d be right…

Best Actress

The Pick: Cate Blanchett
My Vote: Cate Blanchett

One of the great actresses of her generation, Blanchett, whose tremendous work in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button went unnoticed by the Academy, gets her first OSCAR as an Actress in a lead role in a field full of big names, but no other standout performances.

Best Supporting Actor

The Pick: Jared Leto
My Vote: Michael Fassbender

The most difficult actor category to select from—Leto and Fassbender are both deeply deserving. Leto’s role is OSCAR-bait, but Fassbender’s portrayal of a Southern slave owner deserves the nod.

Best Supporting Actress

The Pick: Lupita Nyong’o
My Vote: Lupita Nyong’o

Jennifer Lawrence is getting lots of chatter for American Hustle, despite the fact that her character was one of the least demanding of her career (certainly when compared to her incredibly round portrayal of a West Virginia teenager in Winter’s Bone). However, once again the artist from 12 Years is more deserving of the golden trophy.

Best Director

The Pick: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
My Vote: Alexander Payne, Nebraska

Gravity was a audio-visual sensation and it will be rightly awarded for that feat on Sunday night. But for all its technical brilliance, Gravity lacked the homey, down-to-earth (ZING) realism of Nebraska. Shot in black and white and filled with homages to classic American Westerns, Nebraska gets Alexander Payne back on the OSCAR stage for the first time since Sideways.

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Pick: 12 Years a Slave
My Vote: 12 Years a Slave

Please see 12 Years a Slave.

Best Original Screenplay

The Pick: Her
My Vote: Her

With the exception of American Hustle (a fun, if poorly edited action movie), the Academy can’t go wrong in this category. Her takes the prize because it is a phenomenal period piece—one that resists a damning portrayal of the effect of modern technology and embraces the shades of gray that accompany our digital lives.

Best Documentary
The Pick: The Act of Killing
My Vote: The Act of Killing

What’s more amazing—the ability of man to murder and maim his fellow man, or our mind’s ability to rationalize evil in order to survive? After seeing The Act of Killing (streaming on Netflix), I’m not sure…

Best Cinematography

The Pick: Gravity
My Vote: Nebraska

Don’t worry Gravity fans, I’ll vote for your film later. However, Payne’s ability to train a lens on the American heartland is reminiscent of the brilliance of No County for Old Men and Brokeback Mountain.

Best Costume Design

The Pick: American Hustle
My Vote: The Great Gatsby

The 1970s-era costumes of Hustle were worn and worn well by a star-studded cast. Call me old fashioned…I’ll take the Roaring 20s flappers.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

The Pick: Dallas Buyers Club
My Vote: Dallas Buyers Club

Yes, this is a vote for Jared Leto, but it is also a recognition of the remarkable physical toll absorbed by McConaughey and accentuated by his team.

Best Original Score

The Pick: Gravity
My Vote: Gravity

Best Original Song

The Pick: “Let it Go,” from Frozen
My Vote: “The Moon Song,” from Her

An underwhelming field this year.

Best Animated Short Film

The Pick: Feral
My Vote: Possessions

A Japanese legend about thanking our tools for their noble service gets my vote. The Academy will be drawn to the darkness of Feral. Bottom line: there is no Paperman in this year’s field.

Film Editing

The Pick: Gravity
My vote: 12 Years a Slave

Best Sound Editing/Best Sound Mixing

The Pick: Gravity
My Vote: Gravity

With all due respect to Inside Llewyn Davis, whose soundtrack made up for what was, in many respects, a disappointing film, Gravity’s audio was historically great and it deserves a couple of statutes.

Visual effects

The Pick: Gravity
My Vote: Gravity

Ditto the above.

Enjoy the show.

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