Friday, February 28, 2014

Oscar predictions -- if you care

12 Years a Slave, Gravity and American Hustle duke it out for best picture. Which will prevail?
Oscar predictions. Really? I suppose that each year critics are obliged to weigh in on Oscar -- at least with predictions in the major categories.

If there ever was any real pleasure in this annual exercise, it long has vanished -- at least for me. An interminable awards season, a plethora of televised awards shows preceding the Academy Awards and non-stop chatter in the Blogosphere have taken much of the bloom off Oscar's rose.

Whebn the awards show finally arrives Sunday (March 2), it may feel like we're watching a rerun.

And I don't entirely disagree with those who argue that this year's Oscars have left Hollywood in a less than celebratory mood. A recent New York Times article by
Brooks Barnes carried the following headline: "For Your Consideration, Apathy."

Barnes' article pointed out that Hollywood's 2014 downer might have something to do with the flood of criticism directed at Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street (excessive, debauched and tasteless), as wells as with a revival of charges by Dylan Farrow that she was molested by Woody Allen, her adoptive father.

The rest of the Oscar story is alarmingly familiar: Despite nine nominees for best-picture, no movie seems to have managed to spark interest across the entire moviegoing culture. And some films -- notably Nebraska -- haven't had much by way of widespread exposure. Nebraska has grossed a mere $15 million at the box office despite strong reviews and high-profile placement on the fall festival circuit.

Still, we soldier on, pretending (at least for an evening) that nothing matters more than who takes home a gold statue. Far be it from me, to mount a meaningless protest against the whole notion on artistic competition by refusing to make predictions. So, here goes:

Will win: 12 Years a Slave
12 Years has been a front runner throughout this awards season, but I don't have strong confidence that I'm right to count Gravity out: I certainly wouldn't be shocked if Gravity won. Could the top three nominees (12 Years a Slave, Gravity and American Hustle) bump each other off, opening the way for a smaller movie (maybe Philomena) to triumph? Doubtful, but ... And if voters opt for sheer enjoyment, wouldn't American Hustle be the most likely picture to triumph?
Will Win: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Cuaron should win according to two criteria, degree of difficulty and his movie's overall impact.
Will Win: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club.
McConaughey probably has too much momentum to be unseated by the gifted Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave). I suppose Bruce Dern (Nebraska) could be an upset choice, assuming voters want to honor a veteran.

Some analysts advise against dismissing Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street). He seems to have been campaigning. A DiCaprio win certainly would shake up the evening.
Will win: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine.
Despite all the talk about Woody Allen's morals, I can't imagine the Academy will penalize Blanchett, who was terrific in Blue Jasmine. If there's an upset looming, look for Amy Adams (American Hustle) to claim Oscar gold.
Will Win: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Leto deserves to win. The unlikely but possible alternate choice in this category would be newcomer Barkhad Abdi, who played a Somali pirate in Captain Phillips.
Will Win: Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
Best second bet: Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle): Lawrence could triumph because of her continuing star power. Julia Roberts, who used to be Jennifer Lawrence, remains a remote possibility for her work in August: Osage County, and June Squibb (Nebraska) could score a dark horse victory. I'm going with Nyong'o, who has swept most of the awards en route to Oscar.
Will Win: 12 Years a Slave, John Ridley
This year, Captain Phillips, Philomena, The Wolf of Wall Street and Before Midnight will be also-rans. If they give an award for the most f-bombs, Wolf can't be challenged.
Will Win: Her, Spike Jonze
Here I'm being optimistic. I'd like to see the Academy pay homage to originality. But don't be surprised if American Hustle emerges victorious. I don't anticipate major love for Dallas Buyers Club, Nebraska or Blue Jasmine.
By this time next week, Oscar will have revealed all its secrets, and the best bet you can make is that national attention will have shifted to something else. Better yet, we'll finally be able to say that the 2014 movie year has begun in earnest.

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