27 February 2014

Oscars 2014

Well, it's that time of the year again, and for once, in a long, long, time, I have watched all the movies that are nominated for Best Picture, which incidentally include nominees for all the other main categories. Those outside the Big 9 include Cate Blanchett for Best Actress for Blue Jasmine, and Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively for August: Osage County.

In retrospect, my personal favourite movie of 2013 (as based on release date in America) was All Is Lost. Other favourites include 12 Years A Slave, Inside Llewyn Davis, GravityBlue Jasmine, Frances Ha (I watched it on the plane, but did not review it) and The Conjuring.

Like last year, below I give my predictions on who should win and who will win for this year's Academy Awards for the big 8 categories and my own personal favourites of Best Cinematography and Best Score (nothing interesting in the Animated Feature). Winners will be updated in red.

Best Picture
12 Years A Slave
American Hustle
Captain Philips
Dallas Buyers Club
The Wolf of Wall Street

Who Should Win: 12 Years A Slave
Who Will Win: 12 Years A Slave

Of all the nominees, 12 Years A Slave is the one that has the grandeur and sweep on top of its stellar cast, director and screenplay. An important message also definitely booster its chances. The dark house will surely be American Hustle who has even more star-power and American goodwill towards its director and stars.

Best Director
David O. Russell, American Hustle
Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Alexander Payne, Nebraska
Steve McQueen, 12 Years A Slave
Martin Scorcese, The Wolf of Wall Street

Who Should Win: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Who Will Win: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

Just that jaw-dropping, astounding opening tracking scene itself is more than enough to secure Cuaron his little bald man.

Best Actor
Christian Bale, American Hustle
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Chwitel Ejiofor, 12 Years A Slave
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

Who Should Win: Chwitel Ejiofor
Who Will Win: Matthew McConaughey

Robert Redford was robbed of his nomination, and if was nominated, he would have most likely given McConaughey a run for his money. Unfortunately for Ejiofor who I think gave a more powerful performance, the McConnaissance is too strong.

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

Who Should Win: Cate Blanchett
Who Will Win: Cate Blanchett

A slam dunk for Cate Blanchett since mid 2013. She has always been the one to beat, and sadly her closest competitor would be Amy Adams, with Judi Dench a distant third, and Bullock and Streep not really deserving their noms. The only thing to hurt Blanchett will be that awful letter from Woody Allen's daughter, Dylan Farrow.

Best Supporting Actor
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Philips
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years A Slave
Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Who Should Win: Jared Leto or Michael Fassbender
Who Will Win: Jared Leto

Jared Leto definitely deserves a win more than his co-star Matthew McConaughey. Besides one of the more showy role amongst the nominees, Leto gave an honestly touching and emotionally raw performance. Fassbender has an outside chance for his complex portrayal of what could be a stock villain.

Best Supporting Actress
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years A Slave
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
June Squibb, Nebraska

Who Should Win: Lupita Nyong'o
Who Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence  Lupita Nyong'o

Both Lawrence and Nyong'o gave the best performance of all these outstanding actresses. In my heart, I really think Lupita Nyong'o should win for her heartbreaking role, however, Lawrence gave one of her best performances in years (much better than the one in Silver Linings Playbook that nabbed her her last Oscar) and J-Law is definitely riding a much bigger wave of popularity than newbie Nyong'o. This is one category that I would like to be wrong. (edited 3 Mar 2014: glad I was wrong! Go Lupita!)

Best Writing - Original Screenplay
American Hustle, Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen
Dallas Buyers Club, Craig Borten and Melissa Wallack
Her Spike Jonze
Nebraska, Bob Nelson

Who Should Win: Spike Jonze
Who Will Win: Spike Jonze

Her is pure originality. The concept may not be original but to pen that idea into a screenplay and have it so intimately and successfully translated to the big screen is an accolade by itself. Although American Hustle might sneak in here as a consolation prize to losing out Best Picture.

Best Writing - Adapted Screenplay
Before Midnight, Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke
Captain Philips, Billy Ray
Philomena, Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
12 Years A Slave, John Ridley
The Wolf of Wall Street, Terence Winter

Who Should Win: John Ridley
Who Will Win: John Ridley

Ridley screenplay for 12 Years A Slave managed to find the heart and emotional core of Solomon's journey within the time frame of the movie. The narrative pace of the story was kept constant with sufficient tension to keep the viewer reeled in. Before Midnight may steal a consolation here as a combination of the trilogy.

Best Cinematography
The Grandmaster 一代宗师, Phillipe Le Sourd
Gravity, Emmanuel Lubezski
Inside Llewyn Davis, Bruno Delbonnel
Nebraska, Phedon Papamichael
Prisoners, Roger Deakins

Who Should Win: Any of the above.
Who Will Win: Emmanuel Lubezski

Any of the above nominees deserve to win. They all have moments of absolutely stunning cinematography. The Grandmaster winning it will be a great boost for Wong Kar Wai, but Lubezski will most likely nab the price for the technical difficulty in filming Gravity itself.

Best Original Score
The Book Thief, John Williams
Gravity, Steven Price
Her, William Butler and Owen Pallett
Philomena, Alexandre Desplat
Saving Mr Banks, Thomas Newman

Who Should Win: -
Who Will Win: The Book Thief, John Williams  GravitySteven Price

I have only watched 3 of the 5 movies nominated here, and of these 3 I would think that Gravity's score was the best. However, they are matched against perennial titans Williams and Newman, and I have heard good things about Williams' score for The Book Thief. My vote would go to Williams just because he gave us, in my opinion, a rocking, fantastic, awesome soundtrack for Man of Steel.

Miscellaneous thoughts of other categories

Best Animated Feature: Frozen should be winning this award but a win for Miyazaki's last movie The Wind Rises would be awesome.

Best Song: Definitely Frozen's "Let It Go" with Her's "The Moon Song" in second place.

Best Foreign Language Film: The Hunt was really good! Too bad The Grandmaster  did not make it past the long list.

Best Production Design: The Great Gatsby has the most sumptuous set although Her's production design was also very well done.

Best Costume Design: The Great Gatsby might nail this too, although Amy Adams wardrobe in American Hustle was practically its own character. The Grandmaster gorgeous cheongsams should get some love and respect too, but perhaps not in the Western world.

Best Visual Effects: Smaug wins hands down, Gravity is more a directorial/filming feat rather than visual effect supremacy.

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