Sunday, January 12, 2014

Oscar Predictions 2013, Part 2: Directing/Screenplays

If you're reading this, you came back for more today. Apparently, so did I. Someone needs to have a long, sad conversation with us about our priorities. Maybe we need to re-evaluate our goals. Or we could talk about trophies for famous people! Goal re-evaluating is hard, so I'm just going to spend some time today talking about awards for the two careers I will someday inevitably fail at: directing and screenplays!

Best Director
So here's what we know: Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, and American Hustle are the frontrunners for best picture, which means it'd be totally silly to bet against any of their directors here--Alfonso Cuaron, Steve McQueen, and David O. Russell, respectively (sidebar: how wonderful is it that Cuaron's about to get a nod? I mean sure, I'm going to pretend that this is for Y Tu Mama, Tambien and Children of Men, but whatevs, Gravity's cool too). That leaves us with two spots.
The first spot: Paul Greengrass for Captain Phillips. The movie's a big hit, it's critically respected, it's headed for a big nomination tally on Thursday morning, and it hasn't missed a beat. Greengrass *might* miss here, but I doubt it.
The second spot: Carnage. Silliness and carnage. Our three merry contenders:
Spike Jonze, Her: Jonze's movie has been a surprisingly powerful force on the awards circuit thus far, nabbingt critics awards and Golden Globe noms willy-nilly. And yet I'm still afraid that Her isn't going to play well for the notoriously blue-haired Academy, which is a shame, because whatever Her's faults may be, Jonze's precise direction is not among them.
Alexander Payne, Nebraska: Sure, he's scored for his past two movies, but eventually enough will have to be enough, right? I assume so, but I'm not sure the time is now--Payne's little ode to elderly plains denizens may hit an Academy sweet-spot.
Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street: Confession: I haven't yet seen this movie, no doubt due to the fact that I'm currently wintering at least 45 minutes away from the nearest theater. I'm going to rectify this next weekend during my joyful return to society, but for now, I can't comment too accurately on this movie's Academy appeal. Which is too bad, because I've absolutely no idea how to judge whether or not this movie's got any. It may be way too controversial, or it might seem attractively risky. And it is Scorsese, whom the Academy loves. ...Except when they don't. This is a really tough call.

Now, I'm not saying that only those three men have a chance at nabbing a spot (remember Benh Zeitlin and Beasts of the Southern Wild getting in here last year? Who saw that coming?), but I'm basically saying that these three men are the only ones with a chance of nabbing a spot.

My Predictions, in order of likelihood:
Steve McQueen-12 Years a Slave
Alfonso Cuaron-Gravity
David O. Russell-American Hustle
Paul Greengrass-Captain Phillips
Alexander Payne-Nebraska
Alternates: Martin Scorsese-The Wolf of Wall Street, Spike Jonze-Her

(Man, I am so going to switch Scorsese into the top 5 for my final predictions on Thursday.)

Original Screenplay
Something strange has happened this year, in that the original screenplay category--normally a steel cage match for scrappy indies, unlikely hits, and art-house foreign fare--is chockablock with best picture nominees. Wacky. While this may be good news for the state of original ideas vis a vis critical and box office hits in Hollywood, it does make this category a slightly joyless place. The tragedy. So let's start with what we know: American Hustle is in (even though it's allegedly very reliant on improv), because it's a legitimate shot to win best picture. Nebraska and Her should be golden; they're both likely best picture nominees, and they're both written by well-respected auteurs (Alexander Payne and Spike Jonze) who have scored in this category even when their films have missed in other places. So what's left? It looks like a rumble between slipperier, weirder best picture hopefuls and larger, less agressively "written" best picture hopefuls. Yay! Such suspense. On the slippery front, we've got Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine and the Coens' Inside Llewn Davis. Honestly, I'd feel like I could stop there, considering Allen and the Coens basically rule this category with an iron fist which clutches an attractive yet affordable pen, but Gravity and Dallas Buyers Club keep popping up everywhere, despite criticisms leveled at both films' screenplays. For now, I'm hoping the Academy goes for slippery rather than easy, but we never know.

My Predictions, in order of likelihood:
American Hustle
Inside Llewyn Davis
Blue Jasmine
Alternates: Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity

(Man, I am so going to move Dallas Buyers Club into my top 5 before Thursday. ...You guys, I'm terrible at this.)

Adapted Screenplay
If Original Screenplay is stuffed with best picture hopefuls this year, then we must assume a corollary: that Adapted Screenplay this year is a torrid wasteland where failed prestige pics go to die. In a year with a relative dearth of quality work on this side, one would hope that the branch would work a little harder, nominating more challenging/little-seen fare like Blue is the Warmest Color or Short Term 12. Tragically, hoping is, generally speaking, stupid. So what have we got instead? Two sure things: 12 Years a Slave and Captain Phillips, whose presence in this category is basically the most certain thing around. And then we've got four films fighting for two slots. They are:
August: Osage County-here's the kicker; no one really loves this film, and most people agree that its adaptation from stage to screen was a fairly bungled process. That said, playwright Tracy Letts' dialogue really sings, and lazy voters could check this one off just because it gave Julia Roberts the chance to scream "eat the fish, bitch!" at a drug-addled Meryl Streep.
Before Midnight-in a just world, there'd be no question about this film getting nominated (or winning). Alas. As is, this scrappy little guy is going to have to throw some serious punches to shovel some of its higher-profile contenders out of the way.
Philomena-So confused by this one. I don't know that anyone remembers this movie, or that anyone particularly loves it, and yet it keeps showing up. So who knows? Maybe the branch will throw a curve-ball and leave this totally acceptable movie out in favor of better work, or maybe 'totally acceptable' is good enough.
The Wolf of Wall Street-see above, re: me, having no clue as to how this one's Oscar chances will shake out. I'm going to say....maybe? That seems like a good bet. Maybe.

My Predictions, in order of likelihood:
12 Years a Slave
Captain Phillips
The Wolf of Wall Street
Before Midnight
Alternates: August: Osage County, Short Term 12

Shockingly, that's it for today. Tomorrow, I'll jump into acting categories, and will do my best to turn some silly phrases. Tonight, I'm going to watch movie starts get enjoyably drunk while having shiny pieces of hardware flung lovingly at their heads by equally drunk journalists. So the Golden Globes. Always fun. I don't know that I'll ever forgive the universe for not birthing me as the adopted sun of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Oh for what could have been. This is a cruel, cruel world.

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