Oscar Nominations 2013-14 – predictions vs. reactions

This is my second consecutive year predicting the nominees via my blog, though I’ve been informally making these predictions for perhaps 15 years now, with a 75% degree of accuracy on average. If I was a Vegas odds-maker in this category I’d likely make a small fortune. Then again, there are categories like Best Director – 2012-13, where I only predicted two of the five eventual nominees correct.  Stranger things have happened….

Because I took a few weeks off from blogging, I never got around to writing a specific “predictions” post. As such, I’ll combine my predictions and my reactions in a single entry, below. The nominations were announced yesterday morning. My predictions were made in advance, and I suppose there’s no way of proving that I didn’t just make them up today to make myself look good. Honor system. Really. 🙂

Best Picture

My predictions (in alphabetical order):
American Hustle
Blue Jasmine
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Nebraska
The Wolf of Wall Street
12 Years a Slave

Actual nominees:
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
Nebraska
Philomena
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

Percent correct:
70%

Comments: Nobody said anything about this blog entry requiring any complicated math, but my percent correct is based a) on seven of my eight choices for Best Picture making the cut, and b) the Academy going with nine nominees instead of eight. Altogether, I guess that gives me a score of 70% – I was wrong about one film and simply omitted two others.

For all of the buzz surrounding “Blue Jasmine” being the best Woody Allen drama since “Hannah and Her Sisters,” I for sure expected a Best Picture nod. It certainly made my top ten list for the year. But alas, I underestimated “Philomena” as just another Oscar-bait movie. (It is ironic that many times, over-calculated, Oscar-bait movies don’t even garner any nominations at all; films like “Angela’s Ashes” and “The Shipping News” – the latter of which co-starred Judi Dench, incidentally – come to mind.) I do like Judi Dench, and Steve Coogan as well, so I look forward to catching this film when it opens down here in another month or so.

I didn’t even think to include “Her,” but knowing that it is directed by the visionary Spike Jonze, I am hardly surprised by its inclusion here. The only one of my eight predictions I was at all hesitant about was “The Wolf of Wall Street,” as it’s garnered a fair amount of divisiveness over its R-rated excesses. As it turns out, the film did better on Tuesday morning than most people expected. I loved it…but if you know me and you’ve seen the film, that should hardly come as a surprise.

Best Director

My predictions:
Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
David O. Russell, American Hustle
Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street

Actual nominees:
Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Alexander Payne, Nebraska
David O. Russell, American Hustle
Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street

Percent correct:
80%

Comments: No surprises at all, and I did better this year than last year when I – along with many other pundits – guessed just two of the five eventual nominees correctly. Last year’s snubbing of Ben Affleck for “Argo” is still a bit puzzling, even if “Argo” is – let’s be honest – little more than an escapist vehicle (albeit a very entertaining escapist vehicle).

I almost included Alexander Payne – an oft-nominated Academy darling – among my list of predicted nominees for helming the father-and-son road movie “Nebraska,” but went with Paul Greengrass instead. In retrospect, I should’ve gone with Payne – everyone knows that black-and-white movies always – always – do well come nominations morning. Like I said, there were no real surprises.

This is a hot category, with three front-runners. Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave” is the likely Best Picture winner, while Mexico’s Alfonso Cuarón helmed one of the most technically-impressive films of all time, “Gravity.” But don’t discount “American Hustle’s” David O. Russell, who – for the second year in a row – directed his cast to nominations in all four acting categories! Let us check back closer to Oscar night to see how things are tracking. At press time, however, I’ll give Cuarón a slight edge.

Best Actor

My predictions:
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

Actual nominees:
Christian Bale, American Hustle
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio, the Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

Percent correct: 80%

Comments: As usual, this category is rife with strong performances. The biggest surprise was the shutout of acting heavyweights Robert Redford (“All is Lost”) and Tom Hanks (“Captain Phillips”), each of whom received some of their best reviews in years. With the late-arriving buzz for both Christian Bale (“American Hustle”) and Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Wolf of Wall Street”), I figured at least one of them would sneak in over Hanks or Redford. I chose Redford, whose film, about a lone mariner lost at sea, never opened wide and has done only limited publicity, as the actor who wouldn’t make the cut, over Hanks, whose film was a box office hit. I was both right and wrong.

Best Actress

My predictions:
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena
Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks

Actual nominees:
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County

Percent correct: 80%

Comments: This category was once weak, but the past several years have seen some phenomenal performances and some memorable characters. Remember Jessica Chastain’s intense turn as a driven CIA operative in “Zero Dark Thirty?” Or Viola Davis, so heartbreaking as a psychologically-abused maid in “The Help?” How about “Meryl Streep, who stole her every scene as television chef Julia Child in the wonderful Julie and Julia?” The fact that the Best Actress category has been so simply loaded with talent of late that none of these three performances even won Oscars for those parts is a testament to how much Hollywood is finally paying attention to the importance of well-written female roles.

This year is no different. Streep is nominated once again – for the 18th time – as a boozy matriarch in “August: Osage County.” I left her off my short-list because I thought that maybe – following her third Oscar win for 2011’s “The Iron Lady,” Academy voters would want to spread the wealth. Instead, I chose Emma Thompson instead – herself a two-time Oscar winner – for her work as “Mary Poppins” creator P.L. Travers. The snubbing of Thompson is one of the bigger surprises of this awards season, but sometimes there’s just no stopping the House of Streep.

Interesting fact: Emma Thompson’s two Oscars are for dramatically different categories: Best Actress (1992’s “Howards End”), and Best Adapted Screenplay (1995’s “Sense and Sensibility”). This makes Thompson one of the only Oscar winners since Walt Disney to win Oscar statuettes for categories so different from each other. The fact that “Saving Mr. Banks” is about her character’s working relationship with Walt Disney himself (played here by Tom Hanks) makes this factoid even more interesting.

Best Supporting Actor

My predictions:
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
James Gandolfini, Enough Said
Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Actual nominees:
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Percent correct: 80%

Comments: Barkhad Abdi, Michael Fassbender, and Jared Leto’s nominations were all but assured, and I accurately predicted that Jonah Hill’s “Wolf of Wall Street” cokehead would beat Tom Hanks for the fourth slot (for “Saving Mr. Banks”). But did anyone predict that Hanks would get shut out in both categories?!

I loved, loved, loved “American Hustle.” Of the four leads, however, I was least impressed by Bradley Cooper’s performance. He is good – and some would say he deserves a nod simply for agreeing to wear that ridiculous 70’s perm – but his wild-eyed mania worked to greater effect in last years’s “Silver Linings Playbook.” I don’t mean to sound like I’m knocking him; he’s part of the film’s success to be certain, but I figured the late James Gandolfini (“Enough Said”) would squeak into the fifth slot over Cooper.

Funny aside: Eight months ago many were shouting “Harrison Ford for Best Supporting Actor” after seeing the Jackie Robinson crowd-pleaser “42,” in which Ford played Robinson’s manager, Branch Rickey. Methinks the film was simply released too early in the year to maintain such strong momentum. I haven’t seen it yet, and cannot say for certain.

Best Supporting Actress

My predictions:
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
June Squibb, Nebraska
Oprah Winfrey, Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Actual nominees:
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
June Squib, Nebraska

Percent correct: 80%

Comments: Poor Oprah Winfrey. Well, not really. Still, Winfrey acts in film so seldom that her mere appearance in a movie becomes a bigger event than the performance itself, which in Winfrey’s case is usually good. Certainly good in this year’s “The Butler.” She plays the hard-drinking wife of loyal White House butler Cecil Gaines (the understated Forest Whitaker), and as good as Whitaker is, Winfrey is even better.

It is said that Sally Hawkins “stole” Winfrey’s place in line, but I’m making a case that Hawkins is here on her own merit. So much attention is paid to Cate Blanchett’s terrific lead performance in “Blue Jasmine” that Hawkins’s name is rarely mentioned. Hawkins – who plays the adopted sister of Blanchett’s title character, is outstanding as well – the blue-collar “ying” to Cate Blanchett’s once-wealthy “yang.”

Best Original Screenplay

My predictions:
American Hustle
Blue Jasmine
Dallas Buyers Club
Enough Said
Frozen

Actual nominees:
American Hustle
Blue Jasmine
Dallas Buyers Club
Her
Nebraska

Percent correct: 60%

Comments: With Disney’s “Frozen” getting the animation genre’s best reviews of the year, I thought it might garner a nomination. Likewise for “Enough Said.” I haven’t seen the movie, but I’m told it’s a breezy romantic “dramedy” with well-written roles for leads Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini. I certainly shouldn’t have overlooked the screenplay for Alexander Payne’s latest, “Nebraska.” Screenplays for Payne’s uniquely-semi-serious films always garner writing nominations, even if Payne himself wasn’t the scribe (as is the case here). Another creative genius is Spike Jonze, so I also shouldn’t have overlooked “Her,” which Jonze penned (this is his first original screenplay; he usually directs material written by others). Perhaps I gave it a pass because science fiction screenplays rarely get the respect they deserve. Case in point: “Gravity’s” absence in this category.

Best Adapted Screenplay

My predictions:
August: Osage County
Before Midnight
Saving Mr. Banks
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

Actual nominees:
Before Midnight
Captain Phillips
Philomena
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

Percent correct: 60%

Comments: I am clearly off my game this year in both writing categories. Who knew that “August: Osage County” – a Pulitzer Prize-winning play-turned-battle of verbal wits between Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, would be snubbed in this category? (This could be an example of that Oscar-bait backlash I wrote about earlier.) I liked “Captain Phillips,” but as with last year’s Robert Zemeckis-Denzel Washington collaboration, “Flight,” the film is a triumph of acting and directing, not writing. I was delighted to see “Before Midnight” get a nomination here. As the third – and best – film in a beloved indie trilogy, it has a small-ish chance of winning come Oscar night, although it does face off against the Big Themes juggernaut that is “12 Years a Slave.”

Other categories

This post is getting long-winded so I’ll keep my summary brief: The strong showing by “Gravity” in the technical categories comes as no surprise. I am happy that “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” received three nominations, especially since it was superior to “An Unexpected Journey” in nearly every way. Unfortunately, none of those nominations were in the category of Production Design. The design and attention to detail involved in bringing the film’s chilly Lake-town to the screen was no small feat. As for the Foreign Film and Documentary categories, I am shamefully uninformed this year, although if Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s 2013 drama “The Past” is anywhere near as engrossing as his 2011 winner “A Separation,” then there almost certainly was an oversight on the part of the Academy. Alas, it’s not the first time.

You can find the complete list here. Oscar night is Sunday, March 2nd, and Ellen DeGeneres will emcee for the second time. Meanwhile, I’ll be trying to see as many of the nominated films as I can. “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Her,” and “12 Years a Slave” are just three of the nominated films that have yet to open where I live.

What do you think about the nominees?  Who are you rooting for?  Let us know!

Author: gringopotpourri

Gringo - aka Scott - was born outside of Chicago and has lived most of his life in or around big cities. He spent two years of his adult life in Mexico City (talk about big cities!) and fell in love with Mexican food, history, and women, all while weathering the culture shock. Life's journey has since brought him to rural Tennessee, perhaps the biggest culture shock of them all. Scott also enjoys movies, hiking, and travel in general.

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