Monday, January 13, 2014

Oscar Predictions 2013, part 3: Acting

Back again. I had hoped to come up with an introduction a little wittier or involving, but I'm trying to knock this one out before I run off to work, so we'll have to save witty for later. I'm sure someday very soon I'll come up with some one-liners that will blow your friggin' mind. Probably. Anywho, limp intros aside, let's keep rolling here! Today we'll deal with the rest of the major categories; also, coincidentally, the last time we'll talk about names most of us actually recognize until nominations are announced.

Best Actor
So here's an academic question: is it harder to predict a category where everything's up in the air, or is it harder to predict when everything's nailed down except for one slot? I suppose we're about to find out, because this category is basically set in stone, except for one slot, which is probably going to cause me to eat my fingers or something. So here's how it goes--we've got four obvious 'gimme' slots that won't be stolen by anyone. They are:
Bruce Dern-Nebraska
Chiwetel Ejiofor-12 Years a Slave
Tom Hanks-Captain Phillips
Matthew McConaughey-Dallas Buyers Club
It's probably between Ejiofor and McConaughey (blarg) for the win, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. The real kicker is that fifth spot, which is making me feel like James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause--first they do one thing, then they do another, then they turn it all back again. So who's making me feel this bitter existential woe? Let's strut them out like a hirsute and manfully adult Miss America pageant:
-Christian Bale-American Hustle: No lie--I'm really bored by this performance. It's adequate enough, but I hardly think 'adequate' is a great adjective for what people are apparently considering for the best performance of the year. And they are, for whatever reason. Bale keeps popping up like a cheeky Whackamole, and I can't do anything about it. His movie is really firing on all cylinders on the awards circuit right now, which helps.
-Leonardo Dicaprio-The Wolf of Wall Street: some people are arguing (rightly or wrongly) that Dicaprio is due for some Academy love, and they just might get their wish this year. Wolf is hitting its stride at just the right time, which helps, considering most Academy members vote like they've got the attention span of a goldfish, and Dicaprio allegedly plays against the mopey, dead-wives-club thing he's been riffing on for the past six years.
-Robert Redford-All is Lost: If you'd asked me in October, I'd have said that Redford was the favorite to win. But then the the Oscar campaign for this maritime survival thriller really sunk (sorry), and now all may truly be lost (someone please stop me) for Redford's Oscar hopes. That being said, he is Robert friggin' Redford, which means there will be plenty of voters who'll chalk his name up out of some sense of patriarchal obligation.
-Forest Whitaker-The Butler: Yeah, I don't really want to consider this possibility either, but here we are. Granted, The Butler has been nowhere to be found lately, and Whitaker's performance is profoundly un-flashy (which is not great for easily distracted voters), but hey, stranger things have happened.

My Predictions, in order of Likelihood:
Chiwetel Ejiofor-12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey-Dallas Buyers Club
Bruce Dern-Nebraska
Tom Hanks-Captain Phillips
Robert Redford-All is Lost
Alternates: Leonardo Dicaprio-The Wolf of Wall Street, Christian Bale-American Hustle

Yep, I'm sticking with traditional, boring, conventional wisdom. I'm sure I'll regret that later, but oh well.

Best Actress
Continuing in the annals of "come on you guys, make up your minds already, because that last slot is seriously going to kill me," howdy this category! Honestly, I'm pretty sure I'm not going to know who I predict until I type it. Seriously, I've no idea right now. This category is killer. There are six ladies fighting for five slots, and I might have thought earlier that it was a two-way race, now I'm beginning to think that almost anybody's vulnerable. So let's start with what we do know: Cate Blanchett will be winning an Oscar for Blue Jasmine, which means that she's probably going to get nominated first. So that's one slot down. Sandra Bullock is also in great shape for her film-anchoring role in Gravity. So there's two. So what about the next three slots? Well, as Dante would say, abandon hope, all ye who enter here, because here is utterly ridiculous. The ladies:
-Amy Adams-American Hustle: Or should I say Golden Globe Winner Amy Adams, whose triumph last night in the Best Actress, Musical/Comedy category made me re-evaluate this performance's chance at being included. She's funny, she's sexy, she's arguably the heart of a best picture frontrunner. Why haven't I been more cavalier about her chances?
-Judi Dench-Philomena: Here's a woman about whose chance's I've been totally cavalier, and now I don't know how to feel about that. One the one hand, she's Judi Dench, and she's lovely. On the other hand, does anyone actually care about Philomena? Therein lies the crux--if the Academy secretly loves her movie, she's golden. If they don't, then she's in trouble.
-Emma Thompson-Saving Mr. Banks: Thompson's in exactly the same boat Dench is in--I'm just not sure how many people out there love her movie enough to nominate her. I do know, however, that people are absolutely over the moon about Thompson herself (as well they should be; she's basically a golden god), so I feel slightly more confident for her.
-Meryl Streep-August: Osage County: Oh look! What a crazy random happenstance! It's another possibility whose success depends on hitherto undisplayed expressions of love for the movie itself! August: Osage County doesn't exactly have a ton of support, but it is Meryl Streep, who could probably get nominated if she had personally murdered every Academy member's grandparents. What I'm saying is she doesn't need the movie's help to get in, and the performance is deliriously showy. But too showy? There's been a fair amount of criticism and calls of hamming thrown her way. That can't help.

Well that didn't really narrow anything down, did it? I'm kind of tempted to just predict a bunch of longshots here instead, like Brie Larson in Short Term 12, Adele Exarchapoulos in Blue is the Warmest Color, and Julie Delpy in Before Midnight. And while I'm not saying that none of those women can't sneak in while the higher-profile ladies are fighting like pigs in the mud, I'm not sure I'm crazy and/or brave enough to predict it happening. So, uh, here goes. Still not sure whose name I'm going to right. Yay!

My Predictions, in order of likelihood:
Cate Blanchett-Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock-Gravity
Emma Thompson-Saving Mr. Banks
Amy Adams-American Hustle
Meryl Streep-August: Osage County
Alternates: Judi Dench-Philomena, Brie Larson-Short Term 12

Well that's surprising. I actually was calling for Judi Dench to be a threat to win less than a month ago. Weird.

Supporting Actor
I wish I could tell you that things were easier here, but I don't want to lie to you. Nope, like Best Actress, this category is one big train wreck and I don't know what to do about it. While this is exciting from the perspective of a spectator, for predicting purposes it's kind of a slow-motion nightmare. So, once again, we'll start with what we know and move from there. What we know: Jared Leto will probably win for Dallas Buyers Club, Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave will nip at his heels, and Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips will just get to be thrilled that he's not driving limos anymore (....background: this is Abdi's first film role; he was previously a limo driver). So once more, we've got a limited number of slots (two, for those counting at home), and too many men trying to fill them. They are:
-Daniel Bruhl-Rush: I know, I know, I wasn't expecting Ron Howard's car movie to stick around either. And yet Bruhl keeps showing up (it is a good performance, and he is popular enough). Even though he keeps getting nominated for things, however, I've got a sneaking suspicion that he'll be left out. Or maybe not. Seriously, he's been nominated for basically everything.
-Bradley Cooper-American Hustle: I don't know if the world's ready for two-time Academy Award Nominee Bradley Cooper, but we just might have to get ready quick. It's a showy role in a best picture front-runner, and Cooper's pretty popular. Still, maybe his coke-addled ramblings will be too over-the-top for the older Oscar voters?
-Will Forte-Nebraska: Because every SNL alum needs an Oscar eventually. Nebraska's been looking a little weak lately, which makes me hesitant to predict Mr. Forte here, but he is a co-lead (which helps) in a respected movie with some strong emotional beats. He's got a good shot.
-James Gandolfini-Enough Said: aka the "sorry we didn't nominate you while you were alive" slot. Sure, he's good in the role, and maybe I'm being too cynical, but I can't help but feel like his chances have lasted this long because he's recently dead. So how sentimental will the Academy be feeling?
-Jonah Hill-The Wolf of Wall Street: If we're not ready for two-time nominee Bradley Cooper, we're definitely not ready for two-time nominee Jonah Hill. This one depends entirely on how much the Academy loves The Wolf of Wall Street. If it's a hit with them, he gets in. If it's not, he doesn't. Plain and simple.

My Predictions, in order of likelihood:
Jared Leto-Dallas Buyers Club
Michael Fassbender-12 Years a Slave
Barkhad Abdi-Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper-American Hustle
Will Forte-Nebraska
Alternates: Daniel Bruhl-Rush, James Gandolfini-Enough Said

Totally didn't expect that one. Will Forte? Really? That's definitely wrong.

Supporting Actress
Everyone rejoice! This category is probably really easy! And because this is already unbearably long, I'm going to keep it easy. So here goes: Lupita Nyong'o's heart-wrenching performance in 12 Years a Slave is in. Jennifer Lawrence's crazy housewife in American Hustle is in. June Squibb's crazy older housewife in Nebraska is in. Oprah's mildly crazy housewife in The Butler is in. Julia Robert's attempting-to-not-be-crazy recently divorced housewife in August: Osage County is probably in. ....Lots of housewives this year. Roberts is the only weak-ish one here. Maybe she'll be replaced by Octavia Spencer in Fruitvale Station or Sally Hawkins in Blue Jasmine (both wives with jobs! What a change of pace!), but this feels like the final five to me.

My Predictions, in order of likelihood:
Lupita Nyong'o-12 Years a Slave
Jennifer Lawrence-American Hustle
June Squibb-Nebraska
Oprah Winfrey-The Butler
Julia Roberts-August: Osage County
Alternates: Octavia Spencer-Fruitvale Station, Sally Hawkins-Blue Jasmine

That was so, so long. I'm so sorry for that. These categories were hard. I tried. If you're still here you're a stronger person than I. Tomorrow I wrap up analysis, before heading into super-serious final predictions on Wednesday.

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