2013 Oscar Winner Predictions: Supporting Actor

Supporting Actor 2014

It’s that time of the year again. With the Oscar Nominations already announced, it’s come time for me to start doing some predictions of who might win. I know the internet is full of blogs and sites of people fighting over who will take the meaningless golden statue, and so many people wondering who might win by speculating if Academy Member number 587 liked Philomena better than Nebraska gets boring fairly quickly. I decided to do something a little different this year. I will predict the winners, but I would rather approach the races by wondering if the list is representative of the movie year in that particular discipline, and what I would vote for if I were an Academy Member.

As far as the Supporting Actor category goes, everyone knows Jared Leto is little more than assured to win for his performance as a transgender man diagnosed with AIDS in Dallas Buyers ClubHe has pretty much steamrolled the awards season, by winning prizes from virtually every critics group, as well as the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild. As if we needed further indication of Leto’s future win, the Academy really showed the love for Dallas Buyers Club by giving it seven nominations, including Best Picture and such surprising categories as Film Editing. The question for me is not whether Leto is deserving of the Oscar, because as irritating and eye-rolling as I find him as a celebrity (he is the official personification of pretension, no?), the man is actually really good in the movie. I wouldn’t vote for him to win the Oscar, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not deserved. My real problem with this category is that he has become an obvious steamroller in a category full of interesting performances.

Does his work really stand out as the far-away best Supporting Actor performance in the year that gave us James Gandolfini’s fantastic and tender farewell performance in Enough Said, James Franco pitch-perfect hilarity in Spring Breakers, and naturalistic revelations like John Gallagher Jr. and Keith Stanfield in Short Term 12? Of course not, and those performances weren’t even nominated. Out of the nominees, it is particularly gratifying to see Barkhad Abdi, a previously completely unknown actor, be recognized for what is undoubtedly a revelatory performance in Captain Phillips. It’s also wonderful to see Michael Fassbender, one of the most exciting actors working right now, finally be nominated for an Oscar. His talent is basically a given at this point, but in 12 Years a Slave, he came out with one of the most terrifyingly humane villains I have ever seen. As despicable and intensely evil as his Mr. Epps is, his internal struggle is always present, daring us to relate with such a monster. The image of him casually resting his arm on the head of a child slave simply can’t leave my head. Then you have Bradley Cooper, who does what I think is the best work of his carrer in American Hustle, and Jonah Hill who is funny and integral to The Wolf of Wall Streeteven if I don’t love the performance. With such a good list, it’s disappointing that there isn’t a real race going on.

So basically, Leto is good (transformative and powerful in come of his last scenes), but I don’t find it to be as undeniably brilliant as, say, Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men or Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds, who also monopolized awards back in their respective years. I little more spreading of the wealth could have put a spotlight on some other cool dudes.

Will Win: Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

My Vote: Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)

Disney Canon: ‘The Emperor’s New Groove’ (2000)

Emperor's New Groove

I don’t remember the experience of watching The Emperor’s New Groove for the first time, let alone anything remarkable that happened that day, but I do have a very clear memory of the day I discovered The Emperor’s New Groove’s existence. I think it was when I saw The Tigger Movie (back then I was eight years old and went to see almost every kids’ movie in theaters). I remember seeing a set of character posters for the new Disney movie to come out later that year and seeing a weird looking Llama, then, I an Incan looking fellow. The poster said his name was “Kuzco”, and looking back at the Llama, I saw the poster said “Also Kuzco”. My initial thought was of disbelief. Was Disney making a movie about Peru?

In case you don’t know, I am Peruvian. Born and raised in Lima, I have lived there for my whole life until I moved to New York about a year and a half ago. I think I’ve mentioned that on this blog at some point. I have also mentioned the first movie I ever saw in the theater was The Lion King, which became my favorite movie. Also, in case this whole “Disney Canon Project” wasn’t a big enough clue, I grew up watching and loving Disney movies. So was it that at the tender age of eight, I learned that my worlds were about to collide when the studio responsible for most of my favorite movies was going to make a movie about my very own country. In my eyes, the movie was like a form of validation. There was so little movie and television production in Peru at the time, that you couldn’t have blamed any child from believing there was something inherent to the country that rendered it unfit to be represented on any kind of visual medium. My expectations were high, and my excitement even higher.

Like all stories about childhood anticipation, this one ends with dissatisfaction. The Emperor’s New Groove was the rare animated movie that I didn’t like. Even at the age of eight, which is an age in which you like pretty much anything that is showing on television. All these years later, I understand that my reason for not liking the movie had very little to do with the quality of the film itself, but with what I was expecting to see, and the way my stupid child brain organized the world around me. In any case, I didn’t like the movie, and I think there were two reasons for this. First, because despite being produced by Disney, the movie was not the kind of “Disney Renaissance” musical that I associated with the brand. Second, because even at that age I was kind of history buff, and I knew enough about my country’s culture to know this was simply not the great movie about Peru that I was hoping for. My eight-year-old self was disappointed. Still, I can only imaged how much more heartbreaking the whole situation would have been for me if I had known more about the movie’s production history

The Emperor’s New Groove started life as a movie called Kingdom of the Sun. It was the project Roger Allers decided to work on after he helped Disney make a fortune by directing The Lion King. Like that movie, Kingdom of the Sun was supposed to be an epic musical inspired by Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper but set in the time of the ancient Incan Empire. In order to fully replicate the success of Lion King, the producers brought in pop star Sting to write the songs following the path stablished by Elton John and Phil Collins before him. You could already see the dollar signs on everybody’s eyes when the production revealed itself to be more troubled than anyone could have expected. The movie was being constantly re-written, but kept receiving overwhelmingly negative responses from test audiences.

Management brought on Mark Dindal, who had directed Cats Don’t Dance (a little known but completely fanastic animated movie) for Warner Bros., to inject some life and comedy to the project. Allers and Dindal, however, had very different sensibilities, and were making two essentially different movies at the same time. By 1998 it was clear that the movie would not be ready for the planned summer 2000 release. The executives at Disney were furious, and incredibly close to shutting production down. Allers asked for anywhere between six months to a year to finish the movie. He was denied the extension and fired off the project. Dindal took over as lone director and rushed production to what ended up being a completely different movie from what the people involved had set out to do. This was no longer a musical (only one of Sting’s songs remained in the movie in what seems like a move to claim they didn’t completely waste the musician’s time), it was no longer inspired by The Prince and the Pauper, and it was no longer called Kingdom of the Sun. 

(The story of this rather infernal and complicated production was documented by Sting’s wife Trudie Styler in a film called ‘The Sweatbox’. Because Disney is the most protective company about its image in the history of the world ever, they would never let the movie be released. However, every now and then, a copy of ‘The Sweatbox’ makes its way into YouTube. It is there right now, but you should be quick to watch it before Disney’s lawyers take it down)

That is basically how we ended up with a movie so different from the rest of the Disney Canon as The Emperor’s New Groove. It makes much more sense when you know about Dindal’s background and influences. Like Cats Don’t Dance, the influences of The Emperor’s New Groove’s lie much closer to Looney Tunes and Tex Avery cartoons than to the Disney classics. The movie is the story of selfish emperor Kuzco (David Spade) who gets turned into a Llama by evil Yzma (Eartha Kitt), and must team up with a good-hearted peasant named Pacha (John Goodman) to come back to the palace and regain his throne becoming a nicer person in the process. The story, however, is maybe the fourth of fifth most important thing in The Emperor’s New Groove. Number one, of course, is the humor.

The movie might very well win the prize for the funniest Disney movie, which something you would be prone to do when you make a movie that is all about making the “gag” work. There are certainly a few jokes that are not that funny, but watch the scene in which Kuzco and Pacha must hide when they find themselves in the same diner as Yzma and her dumb henchman Kronk (Patrick Warburton) and tell me it is not one of the funniest farces you’ve ever seen. This is an almost surreal movie where things barely make sense and the plot is more than content to stop in order to have a joke go on for a couple of minutes. And the thing about it that I didn’t realize when I was a kid is that it works. I was blinded by the fact that it wasn’t the movie I was expecting, and so, I didn’t recognize the movie’s comical genius. What’s more, having been watching Disney movies for over a year now, it comes as a refreshing breath of comic air.  

At the same time as it is hilarious, though, the movie manages to earn an emotional story where so many children’s movies with lots of crazy gags fail to do. It is, in part, the fact that the journey doesn’t feel too big or too important. We know the main focus of the movie is to make us laugh, but while it is always looking for the funniest gag, the makers of The Emperor’s New Groove were also careful to always keep them within the personalities of the characters. What separates the movie from those children’s movies that are basically garbage is respect and careful treatment of the characters. If you still don’t follow, think of what differentiates the best episodes of The Simpsons from Family Guy and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

That leaves us with just one thing to talk about, and that is the movie’s depiction of my home country and its culture. On that front, my eight-year-old self wasn’t wrong to think this was not the great movie about Peru, because it is, at best, set in a fantasy version of the country that never really existed. It is clear that when the movie took the more comedic tone, it also took a much lighter concern to making a faithful representation of the Incan Empire. If it had been released with the more dramatic and serious tone that Kingdom of the Sun was supposed to have, then it maybe would have warranted itself some indignation. As The Emperor’s New Groove, trying to point out historical inaccuracies in the movie would be an intensely stupid thing to do.

It is worth noting, though, that despite things like the fact that there was never such a thing as a Tumi palaceThe Emperor’s New Groove ranks pretty high as far as respectable and sensitive representations of Peru in mainstream American media go. Mostly, because it is mostly devoted to Peruvian designs and color palettes in its art direction. There is no doubt there were some people doing their homework, which is nice when the main thing you need to be on the sensitive side of American representations of the country is to not confuse Peru and Mexico. Talking about that, there is one clearly Mexican piñata in the movie, although I am fairly certain it is there for the sake of the joke and not because of neglect on the filmmakers’ part.

What else can I say, but repeat that The Emperor’s New Groove is a very funny and highly entertaining movie. It is quick, finely animated, stylish, and effective in its sweetness. It was something that took Disney out of its comfort zone and ended up paying off. At least in the creative side. If there were any justice to the world of animation, Emperor would have been a huge hit. I can only imagine what kind of awesome movies we would have gotten if the world had embraced this madcap extravaganza instead of falling head over heels for the pop cultural references of a certain ogre just one year later. That’s a story for another time, though.

Next Week: Once again, Disney tries to go after the elusive teenage audience with Atlantis: The Lost Empire. 

‘Like Father, Like Son’: What If My Child Does Not Look Like Me?


If you look purely at the plot of Hirokazu Koreeda’s Like Father, Like Son, a melodrama about two families that discover that their six year old sons had been switched at birth, you might think the movie ends up going exactly where you thought it would go. This is the first movie by Koreeda that I’ve seen, but I am very well aware of his reputation as one of the best Japanese directors working today. I found Like Father, Like Son to be a character study, almost a therapy session on the nature of becoming and identifying oneself as a father (or a son). And on that count, there is no denying Koreeda’s talent.

Although the movie explores the inner lives of the parents and children of both families, the movie has one clear protagonist. Ryota (Masaharu Fukuyama), a thirty-something upper middle class architect, goes through a character journey that I would dare to say is probably the one the director had in mind when he wrote the movie. I am not a father (I’m almost unquestionably too young for that), so I can’t fully put myself in Ryota’s shoes. I have, however, thought about the possibility of becoming a father in the future, and my reactions have always been.. complex, to say the least.

As much as genetics are concerned in the creation of a new life, there is always an element of uncertainty in how the child is going to be like. And in the responsibility of raising him (or her) to be a competent and healthy human being. Movies like Rosemary’s Baby and We Need to Talk About Kevin have looked at this fear from a more stylized and unrealistic point of view. Like Father, Like Son takes a much more down-to-earth approach, works almost as a dissertation in the values of good parenthood, and in the Japanese tradition of Yasujiro Ozu, does so with incredible grace and patience.

Koreeda’s focus on character over plot makes itself manifest through scenes of family routine and small moments that reveal the type of parenting that is going on with every member of each family. Ryota is a man focused on work and in excellence. He does very well financially. On the other hand, the Saiki family depends on a hardware store as the family business. While issues of class do play a role in the movie, Koreeda goes out of its way to not make any kind of silly argument like saying that the only the poorer family is capable of truly loving their children and be good parents. If anything, the whole purpose of the movie is showing that there are many ways of showing love; that the most important thing is doing so.

In case you were wondering, the acting is fantastic all around. Especially by the two children. I mean, I don’t speak Japanese, but, I think those were some pretty fantastic, natural performances coming from six-year-olds. If I have something to nitpick about the film, is that its deliberately slow pace is maybe a little too slow. It’s not that the scenes move slowly, but that the movie takes perhaps too much time to make its point. It is two hours long, but actually feels longer.

The movie deservedly won the Jury Prize at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. The president of the jury was Steven Spielberg, who has focused a lot on father-son stories throughout his career, and has already secured the rights to direct the American remake. I’m not sure if that information is relevant to you, but I would surely recommend you don’t wait for Spielberg’s version, since Koreeda’s is already pretty great.

Grade: 8 out of 10

Disney Canon: Dinosaur (2000)


Turns out I remembered much more than I thought about Disney’s Dinosaur, although these memories only came to me once I started watching the movie, and they weren’t many. The one vivid memory I had of Dinosaur is what I think most people remember when they think of the movie (if they remember anything, let alone the movie itself), and that is the first ten or so minutes of the film. I must have been around eight years old when this movie came out, and I was already an avid movie-watcher. I tried to go see any kids movie that was playing in theaters (especially if the name “Disney” was attached to them). That’s how I ended up watching the teaser trailer for Dinosaur at least five times in theaters.

The trailer, which had a title card in which it rather appropriately referred to itself as a “preview”, consisted of basically those first ten minutes of the movie. It played as a sort of silent film, in which a group of dinosaurs that were chillin’ on a beautifully valley were suddenly attacked by a Carnotaurus. One lone egg survives the attack, and thanks to a series of different dinosaurs that come in contact with it, embarks in a sort of journey that leads him to a far away island. Sort of like what happens to the “one ring” at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring, only that movie hadn’t come out yet. Disney had done a similar thing a couple years back, when it had used the opening “Circle of Life” as the trailer for The Lion King. Back then, the strategy payed big time, as The Lion King grossed more than 300 million dollars at the U.S. box office. In the case of Dinosaur, however, setting itself up as a successor to the most successful Disney movie of all time would be only the first of its many, many problems.

Eight-year-old me was impressed with the trailer. Eight-year-old me also loved dinosaurs, so a movie that introduced what seemed like the most complex and thoroughly thought out recreation of what it must have looked like at the time dinosaurs were alive was something to be excited about. The trailer promised a huge, visually-dazzling adventure, and in fact, Disney was very eager on promoting Dinosaur as the big movie event of 2000. As we’ll see later on, that plan didn’t quite work out. Not least of all was this very trailer. It might have been an awesome teaser to get people excited about the movie, but it also promised a much more interesting and daring movie than we actually got. We were promised the most artistic and epic version of Walking with Dinosaursbut what we got was a mediocre ripoff of The Land Before Time 

Before we get into more detail about the movie, it is worth talking about the production history of Dinosaur, which is actually a much more interesting topic than the movie itself. I talked in previous weeks about how, starting with the mid-nineties success of Toy StoryDisney was ready to go after whatever was turning Pixar into the most successful and interesting animation studio of the time. At that time, Disney didn’t own Pixar, only had a deal to distribute its movies, so their relationship wasn’t exactly the friendliest one. Dinosaur was actually the ultimate gamble on Disney’s part to have a studio of its own that could actually compete with Pixar Animation Studios. This is the story of “The Secret Lab”. This was the name Disney gave to Deam Quest Images after it purchased the visual effects production company with the initial purpose of producing its visual effects in-house, and later decided the division could make the kind of computer-animated movies that had made Pixar so successful.

I have to say I did not know anything about “The Secret Lab” or its history until I started doing research for this post (if you want to learn more about it I recommend this article by Jim Hill). However, what I found out about the production of the movie makes complete sense. Whenever I list the official Disney Animated Features Canon in my head (I’m nerdy, I know), I always forget about Dinosaur, and that’s no coincidence, since at the time of its release, it wasn’t meant to be part of the Canon. It was designed as something completely different, and only when the gamble proved a failure, did Disney quietly try to mask its intent by making it just another movie in the Canon. Like I said before, Dinosaur was supposed to be a huge deal, and while it did reasonably well at the box-office, it would’ve had to be the best thing since sliced bread to have lived up to the sky-high expectations set up for it.

There are a series of reasons why Dinosaur didn’t become the gigantic hit Disney executives were so certain it was going to be. One of them is the premiere of the BBC series Walking with Dinosaurs, which I already mentioned, and might have reduced the excitement to go to the theater to see prehistoric creatures when you could just sit and watch them in your living room (also, as I mentioned before, the trailer kinda looks like an episode of the show with higher production values). I don’t know how much responsibility the BBC holds as far as Dinosaur’s box office history goes, but if not for Walking with Dinosaurs, then the movie’s poor quality would surely have been enough to make it a failure.

For starters, most of the movie looks nothing at all like the exciting trailer. The protagonist egg of the teaser turns out to be a baby Iguanodon. He is adopted by a group of Lemurs, who name him Aladar. Quick tangent: When I saw the movie, I thought Lemurs were some kind of prehistoric mammal. Then I, of course, learned there are thousands of them in Madagascar. This brings up a lot of questions, starting by the fact that lemurs were surely not around at the time the movie is set. In any case, what follows is the fall of the big meteor that turns earth into a large wasteland and brings Aladar and the lemurs in contact with other dinosaurs that are looking for the “Great Valley”, sorry, I mean the “Nesting Grounds” (I told you it was a Land Before Time ripoff).

The very premise of the movie already raises two big problems with the way it was marketed (and the movie as a whole). The first is that the trailer showed us an awesome world full of vegetation, rivers, waterfalls and cliffs with all kinds of cool dinosaurs, when in fact, the movie takes place mostly in a visually dull brown wasteland. The second is that the trailer didn’t show any sign that the dinosaurs were able to speak, let alone that they were going to be speaking out some of the most terrible dialogue ever. That they couldn’t come up with any other story about Dinosaurs to tell but a ripoff of The Land Before Time is maybe the biggest sign that there was something deeply lazy and misguided in the development of Dinosaur. The focus of the production was certainly not in crafting a good story, and sure, there is no reason why a visual effects studio would have much experience in writing good screenplays. So surely the visuals make up for the lackluster story, right?

Well, you would be wrong. It’s not only that the computer generated images are dated (this was 2000, after all), but they look very bad. It might have something to do with the fact that Dinosaur’s production was rushed once it was clear that Disney’s other project, The Emperor’s New Groove, would not be ready for summer 2000, but you should only look at Jurassic Park or The Lost World to look at dinosaurs effects that still look pretty good until this day (in the case of Jurassic Park, they hold up better than most of what we see today). When it comes to computer technology, you’re always going to suffer when future innovations make what was once cutting-edge technology look old, so you could appreciate Dinosaur as something novel and well done for its time, if it weren’t for what I think it’s the movie’s final nail on the coffin.

Like I said, the people working on Dinosaur were mostly visual effects artist. Now, creating visual effects creatures is an art in and of itself, which requires large amounts of talent and hard work, but it is not the same as being an animator. Especially, when you’re dealing with talking dinosaurs. The lack of experience of the crew, simply results in all the characters moving and looking very weirdly, especially when they’re talking. Case in point, the best part of the movie is the opening ten minutes where not a single dinosaur is talking. It’s not as bad as their mouths not matching the words they’re saying, but they all look so lifeless and joyless  in a prehistoric uncanny valley sort of way (it doesn’t help that the script does a terrible job of characterization). A promising idea or concept becoming a disappointing movie would become a recurring motive for Disney in the following years. There is a reason why I had forgotten most things about Dinosaur, and I plan to forget them again.  

I want to end this review by admitting that I lied. I started out saying my only vivid Dinosaur memory was its trailer, when in actuality I had another one: a talking McDonald’s happy meal toy, which I assume was Kron, and said something like “beware the Carnotaurus!”. That’s neither here nor there in terms of the quality of the movie, but I’m trying to run an honest blog here.

Next Week: Perhaps the Disney movie I have the most complicated history with: The Emperor’s New Groove. 

2013 Oscar Nominations: Best Picture and Final Predictions

amy adams american hustle predix

This is it. Just two days and we’ll know what the nominees are. Here’s a list of predictions in most categories (the “short” categories are missing, but I am so unfamiliar with the possible nominees there, there wouldn’t be any sense in me predicting them). As far as Best Picture goes, for the past two years we’ve had this weird nominating process in which we can have anywhere from five to ten nominees. So far we’ve always had nine, so I guess smart money lies in keeping to that prediction until we’re proven otherwise.

Best Picture
12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Wolf of Wall Street

12 Years a Slave – Steve McQueen
American Hustle – David O. Russell
Captain Phillips – Paul Greengrass
Gravity – Alfonso Cuaron
Her – Spike Jonze

Lead Actor
Bruce Dern – Nebraska
Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave
Tom Hanks – Captain Phillips
Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club
Robert Redford – All is Lost 

Lead Actress
Amy Adams – American Hustle
Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock – Gravity
Judi Dench – Philomena
Emma Thompson – Saving Mr. Banks

Supporting Actor
Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips
Daniel Brühl – Rush
Bradley Cooper – American Hustle
Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave
Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

Supporting Actress
Jennifer Lawerence – American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts – August: Osage County
June Squibb – Nebraska
Oprah Winfrey – Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Original Screenplay
American Hustle – Eric Singer, David O. Russel
Blue Jasmine – Woody Allen
Her – Spike Jonze
Inside Llewyn Davis – Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Nebraska – Bob Nelson

Adapted Screenplay
12 Years a Slave – John Ridley
Before Midnight – Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Richard Linklater
Captain Phillips – Billy Ray
Philomena – Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope
The Wolf of Wall Street – Terence Winter

Animated Film
The Croods
Ernest & Celestine
Monsters University
The Wind Rises

Foreign Film
The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium)
The Grandmaster (China)
The Great Beauty 
The Hunt (Denmark)
The Notebook (Hungary)

The Act of Killing
Stories We Tell
The Square
Twenty Feet from Stardom 

12 Years a Slave – Sean Bobbitt
Captain Phillips – Barry Ackroyd
The Grandmaster – Philippe Le Sourd
Gravity – Emmanuel Lubezki
Inside Llewyn Davis – Bruno Delbonnel

Production Design
12 Years a Slave – Adam Stockhausen
American Hustle – Judy Becker
Gravity –
Andy Nicholson
The Great Gatsby – 
Catherine Martin
Saving Mr. Banks – Michael Corenblith

Costume Design
12 Years a Slave – Patricia Norris
American Hustle – Michael Wilkinson
The Great Gatsby – Catherine Martin
Lee Daniels’ The Butler – Ruth Carter
Saving Mr. Banks – 
Daniel Orlandi

Film Editing
12 Years a Slave – Joe Walker
American Hustle – Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers, Alan Baumgarten
Captain Phillips – Christopher Rouse
Gravity – Alfonso Cuaron, Mark Sanger
Rush – Dan Hanley, Mike Hill

Original Score
12 Years a Slave – Hans Zimmer
All is Lost – 
Alex Ebert
The Book Thief – John Williams
Gravity – Steven Price
Saving Mr. Banks – Thomas Newman

Original Song
“Let It Go” from Frozen
“Young and Beautiful” from The Great Gatsby
“The Moon Song” from Her
“In The Middle of the Night” from Lee Daniels’ The Butler
“Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom 

Sound Mixing
All is Lost
Captain Phillips
Inside Llewyn Davis

Sound Editing
12 Years a Slave
All is Lost
Captain Phillips

Makeup and Hair
American Hustle
Bad Grandpa
The Great Gatsby

Visual Effects
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
Pacific Rim
Star Trek Into Darkness

2013 Oscar Nominations Prediction: Lead Actor

Redford nom

At this point, what a few weeks ago seemed like the most locked-up and boring race, has turned out into one of the most intriguing and exciting. There are still four men I would say are pretty much locked up for a nomination. They are Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a SlaveBruce Dern in NebraskaTom Hanks in Captain Phillips and Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers ClubWhat makes the category so uncertain, is that the fifth spot will be fought for between at least four likely contenders, and if that weren’t enough, there are at least three more waiting in the sidelines to be a surprise nominee.

A couple months ago, Robert Redford seemed like a lock for giving an incredibly physical performance in All is Lost, a movie in which he was the only credited actor. Being almost a silent movie about an old man lost at sea, All is Lost hasn’t been doing all that well at awards shows. Redford could still show up, since he is pretty much a Hollywood treasure, but his absence from nominee lists at places like the Screen Actors Guild and the British Academy could be a sign of his weakness. A guy who did get into the SAG nominations was Forest Whitaker, who plays the title role in Lee Daniels’ The Butler. It’s not very cool to like that movie, but one should remember that it has the power of campaigner extraordinaire Harvey Weinstein behind it, and that it was actually a blockbuster, grossing about 116 Million dollars at the U.S. box office.

However, the buzz lately doesn’t belong to either of those actors. On the one hand, we have Christian Bale, who could very well benefit from the fact that award voters seem to be enraptured with American HustleOn the other, there’s Leonardo DiCaprio, who could have been a lock for the win for The Wolf of Wall Streetbut could have difficulties now thanks to the movie’s late arrival and the controversy surrounding its subject matter. All these contenders, and there isn’t room for other performances that could easily have been nominated any other year. Joaquin Phoenix in Her, and Michael B. Jordan in Fruitvale Station, for example. Or, my personal favorite in the category, but one that is most likely going to get ignored, Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis. 

Will Be Nominated: Bruce Dern (Nebraska), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club), Robert Redford (All is Lost)

Should Be Nominated: Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), Gael García Bernal (No), Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), Ethan Hawke (Before Midnight), Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis)

2013 Oscar Nominations Prediction: Lead Actress

thompson nom

Remember 2006? Because it seems we are reliving that year in this category. Back in ’06, everyone was falling head over heels for Helen Mirren’s performance in The Queen. She won virtually every single award that was given out that year in an awards path not too different from what Cate Blanchett’s turn in Blue Jasmine is looking like today. But even if Blanchett so far seems like the obvious winner come Oscar night (and not unjustly, since hers is a great performance) , the rest of the category looks as predictable.

The four other nominees in this category are more than likely going to be Sandra Bullock in Gravity, Judi Dench in Philomena, Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks and Meryl Streep in August: Osage County. And even if those ladies are all giving pretty good performances in their respective movies, they are all fairly close to the kind of roles that usually get nominated in this category. I wouldn’t outright object to any of them being nominated, but it also means that we are stuck with a “good” set of nominees in a year with the most amazing set of female performances in a long time. The fantastic performances that probably won’t be singled out on Nominations Morning include Julie Delpy in Before Midnight, Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Enough Said, Greta Gerwig in Frances Ha, Adele Exarchopoulus in Blue is the Warmest Colorand what I would call the best performance of the year: Brie Larson in Short Term 12. 

If there is anyone in that assumed list of nominees that could possibly be left out the list on Thursday, it’s, as crazy as it might sound, Meryl Streep. Statistically, there is no doubt she is Oscar’s favorite actress, but August: Osage County has been losing buzz ever since it was first screened and the table seems set for the movie to not do very well when nominations are announced. If Meryl misses, then who would take her spot? All signs point out to Amy Adams, who is a perennial bridesmaids having been nominated four times already, who is benefiting not only from being very well liked, but from the popularity of American Hustlewhich is looking more and more like one of the biggest threats to win Best Picture.

Will Be Nominated: Amy Adams (American Hustle), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)

Should Be Nominated: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Julie Delpy (Before Midnight), Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha), Brie Larson (Short Term 12), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Enough Said)