The Oscars! What a great year in film. I've changed my mind a million times about my preferred choices in the major categories. I've also read a lot of Oscars pieces over the past few days and other people's thoughts and analysis have definitely crept into my own thinking (I particularly recommend reading Mark Harris at Grantland). I definitely don't have any particular insight into how the votes will go, and I haven't followed the betting lines that closely, so my predictions are basically worthless (I don't have any real upsets anyway). As always, though, one should keep in mind that the Academy voters are 94% white and 77% male, and that - at least according to most insider accounts - how these people want to be perceived is more important to them than what they actually think about the various films and performances. Anyway, here are just a few thoughts on the major categories.
The only nominee I haven't seen is Philomena. I find this to be an impossible choice. Nebraska was probably the movie I most enjoyed this year but, of course, it doesn't have the juice to win Best Picture. And that's okay. In my view, the Best Picture should have a certain scope and ambition. As much as I love little movies like Nebraska and Her, I don't think they should represent, for posterity, the absolute pinnacle of filmmaking over the course of an entire year. The contenders are 12 Years, American Hustle, and Gravity. I loved all three. It seems almost absurd to compare such dramatically different movies. My own choice would be Gravity. What Cuaron created was a colossal, groundbreaking work of art, like nothing we've ever seen before. It towers above anything else created this year. 12 Years was a brutal, gut-wrenching experience, revolutionary in its own right, but I have to go with Gravity as a singular artistic achievement that deserves to be honored. I do think 12 Years takes it, though.
Cuaron. If you're not going to give him Best Picture then you simply have to give him Director.
I'm really surprised at Ejiofor's collapse; four months ago he seemed almost a prohibitive favorite, now he's a distant third on the betting sites. Which leaves McConaughey and DiCaprio. Search high and low and you won't find a bigger McConaughey fanboy than me. Other than Joaquin he's my favorite actor. I'm excited for anything he does. The idea of him winning a Best Actor award is incredibly awesome. But after going back and forth I'm throwing in with Leo here, on the grounds that no one else in Hollywood could have given that film anything close to what Leo gave it. Just try to picture someone else, anyone else, as Jordan Belfort. Dude was on screen for almost the entire three hours and it was his charisma and range that made the film. Ironically, the only other guy in Hollywood I could even fathom pulling off that role is... McConaughey. MM was great in Dallas Buyers but I just don't view it as the kind of performance I'll always remember. I find him more mesmerizing as Rust Cohle, to be honest, and even as Mud. But I'm sure MM will take this; he's still a big chalk even though Leo seems to be getting some late steam. And that's alright, alright, alriiight.
I don't have any strong opinions here. My love for Miss Adams is well-documented but, gloriously plunging neckline aside, I don't think her performance is quite in the same league as those of Bullock and Blanchett. And between those two, I have to take Bullock, just because I liked Gravity much more than I liked Blue Jasmine, and, again, on the substitution theory: I don't think anyone else could have pulled that role off quite like Sandra. Blanchett is the overwhelming chalk though so there isn't much drama here.
Simply put, I think Fassbender was unbelievable in 12 Years, superior to Leto in Dallas Buyers, and I don't understand why he's not going to win this. No beef with Leto. But read Franco on Fassbender's performance. He sunk his teeth into that role and kind of took over the film. Dude is just a force of nature as an actor. He'll get rewarded some day. Just needs the right role.
My choice is Nyong'o and I think Nyong'o edges Lawrence. J-Law was kind of just being J-Law in American Hustle. Russell gave her some great dialogue and let her ham it up. I can't really see an argument for rewarding that instead of Nyongo's powerful, dignified performance, in which she struck just the right emotional tone. I hope she gets this.
Jonze all the way. Russell is a master but he can write these movies in his sleep and American Hustle isn't as good as Silver Linings. The dialogue in Her, particularly between Joaquin and Scarlett, was enthralling and genuinely brilliant. And it confronted some fundamental questions about what it means to be alive in 2014. If this doesn't deserve an Oscar for original screenplay then I don't know what the hell does. The writing was pretty close to flawless.
No real horse in any of the other categories. Enjoy the show.