Obligatory Oscar Outlook

oscaruLike millions of others I have ideas on who and what will win Oscars at the upcoming Academy Awards ceremony on March 2. Today (Feb 26) I’ve documented my picks for every category and will revisit them in the coming days to (most-likely) apologize for grossly underperforming a random number generator. I saw most of the major movies, and in the lesser categories involving films that are difficult to access outside of NYC and LA, I read reviews and considered the results of awards already bestowed upon the contenders. That is to say, I guessed . . . but it was educated. (FYI – The LA Times explains the nomination and voting procedures which are somewhat arcane as you might expect from an exclusive, insular club.)

My picks are bold-faced.

Big Five Awards

Best Picture
Picking the Best Picture winner has gotten more difficult since the Academy increased the maximum nominations from five to ten in 2009. This year nine films were nominated.
American Hustle – Entertaining but not hefty enough material for snooty Academy tastes.
Captain Phillips – Too much like Castaway with a Somalian playing the role of Wilson the volleyball.
Dallas Buyers Club – Strong contender, perhaps a bit too morbid.
Gravity – Great visually, but the story is too thin.
Her – Too quirky.
Nebraska – Not enough people saw it.
Philomena – Buddy road-trip format not sufficiently weighty.
12 Years a Slave – Powerful story, Steve McQueen is hot.
The Wolf of Wall Street – Glorifies impudent behavior; not as good as previous Scorcese material that didn’t win ( Raging Bull, Goodfellas )

Best Director
12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen) – Best Picture and Best Director almost always go together. And as I said above, McQueen is hot.
Other nominees: American Hustle (David O. Russell); Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón); Nebraska (Alexander Payne); The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)

Best Actor in a Leading Role
Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) – McConaughey lost a ton of weight to appear more like a man dying of AIDS, and his performance was compelling. In addition, he’s already bagged Best Actor accolades from SAG and the Golden Globes.
Bruce Dern (Nebraska) could have a chance in that this is likely the last opportunity for the Academy to award Dern who was nominated in 1978 for Coming Home. The Academy is known on occasion to reward a lifetime of work by throwing an Oscar to an aging star (e.g. John Wayne for True Grit. ) Other nominees: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street); Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave); Christian Bale (American Hustle).

Best Actress in a Leading Role
Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) – Been on the “most likely to win list” for most of 2013. Her performance as a modern-day Blanche Dubois is certainly Oscar-worthy.
Sandra Bullock (Gravity) – If physical exertion were a component, Bullock would win.
Judi Dench (Philomena) – Strong, but Dame Judi already has an Oscar and must bow to Blanchett.
Meryl Streep (August: Osage County) – Not a good enough movie to bless with a Big Five award
Amy Adams (American Hustle) – Competitive, but edged out by Blanchett.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Before Midnight (Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke) – No movie is going to win a best Screenplay if it’s not also nominated for Best Picture.
Captain Phillips (Billy Ray) – A retelling of an actual event doesn’t get as much credit as an adaptation of a novel.
Philomena (Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope) – Entertaining story.
12 Years a Slave (John Ridley) – Said to be a most-faithful adaptation of a complex story.
The Wolf of Wall Street (Terence Winter) – The memoir by Jordan Belfort (Leo DiCaprio’s character) was largely panned when it came out.

Best Original Screenplay
American Hustle (Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell) – A clever and entertaining riff on the real-life Abscam sting of the 1970s.
Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen) – Actually, not that great of a movie, and not nominated for Best Picture. Plus the whole Woody Allen molestation thing will work against him.
Dallas Buyers Club (Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack) – Nothing wrong with this movie, but will lose to American Hustle.
Her (Spike Jonze) – Original idea, but the underlying concept is shop-worn (man falls in love with a machine).
Nebraska (Bob Nelson) – Good vehicle for Dern, but overall not strong enough.

Significant Award Categories

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club). Other nominees: Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips); Bradley Cooper (American Hustle); Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave) and Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle). Other nominees: Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave); Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine); Julia Roberts (August: Osage County) and June Squibb (Nebraska)

Best Foreign Language Film
The Hunt (Denmark.) Other nominees: The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium); The Great Beauty (Italy); The Missing Picture (Cambodia) and Omar (Palestine)

Best Animated Feature
Frozen (Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, Peter Del Vecho). Other nominees: The Croods (Chris Sanders, Kirk DeMicco, Kristine Belson); Despicable Me 2 (Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin, Chris Meledandri); Ernest & Celestine (Benjamin Renner, Didier Brunner) and The Wind Rises (Hayao Miyazaki, Toshio Suzuki)

Best Documentary Feature
Dirty Wars (Richard Rowley, Jeremy Scahill). Other nominees: The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, Signe Byrge Sørensen); Cutie and the Boxer (Zachary Heinzerling, Lydia Dean Pilcher); The Square (Jehane Noujaim, Karim Amer) and 20 Feet from Stardom (Nominees to be determined)

Best Documentary Short
The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life (Malcolm Clarke, Nicholas Reed). CaveDigger (Jeffrey Karoff); Facing Fear (Jason Cohen); Karama Has No Walls (Sara Ishaq) and Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall (Edgar Barens)

Best Original Score
Her (William Butler, Owen Pallett). Other nominees: The Book Thief (John Williams); Gravity (Steven Price); Philomena (Alexandre Desplat) and Saving Mr. Banks (Thomas Newman)

Best Original Song
“Let It Go” (Frozen). Other nominees: “Happy” (Despicable Me 2); “The Moon Song” (Her) and “Ordinary Love” (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom)

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Dallas Buyers Club (Adruitha Lee, Robin Mathews). Other nominees: Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (Stephen Prouty); The Lone Ranger (Joel Harlow, Gloria Pasqua-Casny)

Best Animated Short Film
Mr. Hublot (Laurent Witz, Alexandre Espigares). Other nominees: Feral (Daniel Sousa, Dan Golden); Get a Horse! (Lauren MacMullan, Dorothy McKim); Possessions (Shuhei Morita) and Room on the Broom (Max Lang, Jan Lachauer)

Best Live Action Short Film
Helium (Anders Walter, Kim Magnusson). Other nominees: Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me) (Esteban Crespo); Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything) (Xavier Legrand, Alexandre Gavras); Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?) (Selma Vilhunen, Kirsikka Saari) and The Voorman Problem (Mark Gill, Baldwin Li)

Technical Awards

Best Cinematography
Nebraska (Phedon Papamichael). Love the black and white. Other nominees: The Grandmaster (Philippe Le Sourd); Gravity (Emmanuel Lubezki); Inside Llewyn Davis (Bruno Delbonnel) and Prisoners (Roger A. Deakins)

Best Costume Design
American Hustle (Michael Wilkinson). 1970s nostalgia attracts the votes of the aging Academy. Other nominees: The Grandmaster (William Chang Suk Ping); The Great Gatsby (Catherine Martin); The Invisible Woman (Michael O’Connor) and 12 Years a Slave (Patricia Norris)

Best Film Editing
12 Years a Slave (Joe Walker). Other nominees: American Hustle (Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers, Alan Baumgarten); Captain Phillips (Christopher Rouse); Dallas Buyers Club (John Mac McMurphy, Martin Pensa) and Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón, Mark Sanger)

Best Production Design
The Great Gatsby (Catherine Martin, Beverley Dunn). A bone to a big Hollywood production. Other nominees: American Hustle (Judy Becker, Heather Loeffler); Gravity (Andy Nicholson, Rosie Goodwin, Joanne Woollard); Her (K.K. Barrett, Gene Serdena) and 12 Years a Slave (Adam Stockhausen, Alice Baker)

Best Sound Editing
Gravity (Glenn Freemantle). Other nominees: All Is Lost (Steve Boeddeker, Richard Hymns); Captain Phillips (Oliver Tarney); The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Brent Burge, Chris Ward)and Lone Survivor (Wylie Stateman)

Best Sound Mixing
Captain Phillips (Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith, Chris Munro). Other nominees: Gravity (Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead, Chris Munro); The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick, Tony Johnson); Inside Llewyn Davis (Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff, Peter F. Kurland); Lone Survivor (Andy Koyama, Beau Borders, David Brownlow)

(Sidebar: If you don’t know the difference between sound editing and sound mixing, check out this explanation .)

Best Visual Effects
Gravity (Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk, Neil Corbould). Other nominees: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, Eric Reynolds); Iron Man 3 (Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash, Dan Sudick); The Lone Ranger (Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams, John Frazier) and Star Trek Into Darkness (Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann, Burt Dalton)

There you have it. Given that all Oscars are not considered equal, I propose that a correct pick in the Big Five (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Original/Adapted Screenplay) be assigned a score of 10 points. A correct pick in the Significant Award Category gets 5 points. Correct picks in Technical Category get 2 points.

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Oscar Ditties Worth Noting

Did you know….?

Three films swept the Big Five awards: It Happened One Night, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest , and The Silence of the Lambs.

Four people won back-to-back Best Actor awards: Luise Rainer, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy and Tom Hanks.

Walt Disney won the Oscar for Best Short Subject eight years in a row.

It took all the way to 2008 for a woman to win Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker.

At 82, Christopher Plummer was the oldest man to win an acting award: Best Supporting Actor for Beginners.

All About Eve and Titanic were nominated for 14 Oscars. The Turning Point and The Color Purple were both nominated for 11 Oscars – and won none.

Greer Garson and Bette Davis were nominated for Best Actress five years in a row; Marlon Brando was nominated for Best Actor four years in a row. Meryl Streep holds the record for most actress nominations at 18; Jack Nicholson has the record for an actor at 12.

James Dean was nominated twice – posthumously, for East of Eden and Giant .

Although on screen for only 16 minutes, Anthony Hopkins won a Best Actor Oscar for Silence of the Lambs.

Edith Head was nominated 35 times in the Best Costume category.

Woody Allen holds the record for most Best Original Screenplay nominations at 15. He won three times.

Steven Soderbergh was nominated for Best Director twice in the same year for Erin Brockovich and Traffic in 2000.

A few somewhat-famous people who never won an Oscar*: Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock (nominated 5 times), Charlie Chaplin, Claude Rains (nominated 4 times), Stanley Kubrick, Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Orson Welles, Lauren Bacall, Richard Burton (nominated 7 times), Montgomery Clift, Gene Kelly, Deborah Kerr (nominated 6 times), Dennis Hopper, Glenn Close (nominated 6 times), James Dean, Robert Mitchum, James Mason, Greta Garbo (nominated 4 times), Edward G. Robinson, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Barbara Stanwyck (nominated 4 times), Marilyn Monroe, and Kirk Douglas.

And a few never nominated*: Jean Harlow, Joseph Cotten, Kim Novak, Tyrone Power, Peter Lorre, Rita Hayworth, Errol Flynn, Glen Ford, John Barrymore, Blake Edwards and Brian De Palma.

(*) Some have been given honorary awards.

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“A” is for Arizona … and Asshole

Last week I wrote a blog about some self-destructive activity taking place in Arizona: the passing of legislation of bald-faced discrimination in the name of religious freedom which awaits a signature or veto from Gov. Jan Brewer. Now that the issue has gained national attention, as well as concern from big businesses like American Airlines and Apple that are worried about customer backlash, the anti-gay bill has started to shudder.

The juiciest part of the whole sordid saga though is the urgency with which some of the bill’s staunch supporters are trying to run from their mess. Companies have called upon Brewer to reject the bill, and according to the New York Times, “their calls were echoed by three Republican state senators — Adam Driggs, Steve Pierce and Bob Worsley, all members of the party’s conservative camp — who had helped pass the legislation in the first place.” Say what?

Blaming the ignorance of those around them for not comprehending the wisdom of their bill, the Three Stooges wrote to their governor, “While our sincere intent in voting for this bill was to create a shield for all citizens’ religious liberties, the bill has instead been mischaracterized by its opponents as a sword of religious intolerance, causing our state immeasurable harm.”

I call upon every Arizona business to deny service to these three on the grounds that to serve such patently flaming assholes directly violates their constitutional right to enjoy a sense of decency. Driggs, Pierce, Worsley – conduct your future business in Russia or Nigeria where your views are more in line with the mainstream there.

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