For those people that enjoy movies, today is a day that can both be exciting and frustrating, as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its nominees for the 86th Academy Awards. After taking a look at the list, I realized a couple of things: first, I have missed out on a lot of the “best” movies at this point, which is a departure from last year, and, second, this year was a pretty good one for movies, especially considering some of the movies and performances that didn’t make the cut.
The major categories (Best Picture, Director, Acting categories) will be what I focus on here because they have the most resonance, though there are some other comments I’ll make regarding movies in general this year at the end.
- 12 Years a Slave
- American Hustle
- Captain Phillips
- Dallas Buyers Club
- The Wolf of Wall Street
I have only seen four of these movies thus far (American Hustle, Gravity, Her, and Wolf of Wall Street) with plans on seeing perhaps four more before the awards are announced in March. I have no interest in seeing Philomena, though I am sure it is a wonderful film. Of the four that I have seen, my favorite was probably Gravity, but that is primarily because I didn’t particularly like American Hustle or Wolf of Wall Street. Hustle seemed a bit disjointed at times, while Wolf was a tad long and a little too much at times. I’ll make a final prediction when I see everything else, but it really looks like 12 Years a Slave is the favorite to win this year.
- Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity
- Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave
- Alexander Payne – Nebraska
- David O. Russell – American Hustle
- Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street
Last year, there was a split between these categories because Ben Affleck wasn’t nominated for Best Director for Best Picture winner Argo. This year, I would expect that the film that wins Best Picture will see its director also win, as that has been the case every year that is was possible since 2007. The last time a different director won when he and his film was nominated in both categories was in 2006, when Crash was best picture (a baffling choice in hindsight) and Ang Lee won Best Director for Brokeback Mountain. I could see Cuaron sneak in a grab the win from McQueen because of the visual work done on his film, though many will point to the special effects and probably discount it.
- 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
All the actors are in films nominated for best picture, so it will be interesting to see how it ends up. DiCaprio might be able to pull a mild upset here, but the scumminess of his character might work against him, especially considering that he played a real person that kind of continues to suck at life. Ejiofor also played a real person, and I’ll reserve judgement until I see the movie, but this may be McConaughey’s Oscar to lose, especially considering his recent Golden Globe win, though the Globes do split Drama from “Comedy,” and he faced off only against Ejiofor, with DiCaprio, Bale, and Dern ending up in the comedy category.
- Amy Adams – American Hustle
- Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
- Sandra Bullock – Gravity
- Judi Dench – Philomena
- Meryl Streep – August: Osage County
Sme departure from the Best Picture nominations in the Best Actress category, if only because Meryl Streep wasn’t in one of those nine films. Amy Adams is the only one of the five not to have one an Oscar previously, which some people seem to think that it means she will win. She did win the “Best Actress in a Comedy” Golden Globe on Sunday, which boosts her chances, so this could be an interesting category as well. Early buzz (and her own Golden Globe win) points to Blanchett walking away with the statue, but since I have never seen a Woody Allen movie — and don’t plan on starting just because of this nomination — I don’t know from first hand experience.
Best Supporting Actor
- 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
Leto won the Golden Globe against three of these nominees (Jonah Hill replaces Daniel Bruhl), so he has a bit of momentum. I’ve liked Hill in nearly everything that he has done since Superbad (still one of my favorite movies), but I don’t think he wins here. Abdi’s nomination is nice, and is the rare “newcomer” nomination that the Academy throws out from time to time just to show that it’s not all Meryl Streep. Cooper has been good in about every other movie he’s done, and may have washed off the stink from the Hangover franchise, but I think it will come down to Fassbender and Leto. If Fassbender wins, it might be the first domino to fall that sees 12 Years a Slave sweep a lot of the major awards, but we’ll see.
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
I’m sure that Squibb is wonderful in Nebraska, but she has little to no chance here. Same for Julia Roberts, if only because this nomination only happened because Streep was nominated above. I think it will come down to Lawrence and Nyong’o, and as mentioned above with Fassbender, in Nyong’o wins, it could simply mean that 12 Years a Slave is going to run the table. Lawrence won the Golden Globe, and she won Best Actress last year, so it is possible that she could win here as well.
As for some other notes:
- Surprised not to see Inside Llewyn Davis only get two nominations in “minor” categories (sound mixing and cinematography) and not anywhere else, especially considering the Academy’s love of Coen Brothers’ movies.
- Strong year for movies overall probably prevented Joseph Gordon-Levitt from picking up a nomination for Best Original Screenplay for Don Jon. It seems that the Academy always has to nominate Woody Allen and, lately, David O. Russell when they make movies.
- No Blackfish in Best Documentary – Feature is a surprise, especially considering that it has led to a small boycott of SeaWorld by musicians and school groups.
- I want Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa to win Best Makeup and Hairstyling, if only to hear somebody have to announce that movie on stage during the Oscars.
- No other major surprises at least considering the movies that I have seen this year. Nothing stands out as a glaring omission like Looper did last year, though I didn’t see nearly as many movies in 2013 as I did in 2012.
I have a bit of work ahead of me before the Academy Awards air on March 2nd (Thanks Olympics!), but I am still excited to see who takes home the statue like I am almost every year.
Until next time…