Worthy

You may have noticed that, barring last week’s excursion in to Netflix’s House of Cards, I had reviewed two of the major contenders for this year’s Best Picture award at the 86th Academy Awards. This was intentional. I had just watched both films in the cinema so I wanted to review each one anyway but it seemed to perfectly align with the build up to the 2014 Oscars. Before I get into whether either film deserves to actually win, let’s take a look at the other nominations for Best Picture.

  • American Hustle
  • Captain Phillips
  • Dallas Buyers Club
  • Gravity
  • Her
  • Nebraska
  • Philomena
  • 12 Years a Slave
  • The Wolf of Wall Street

It seems fair to rule out Her and Nebraska. That isn’t to say that they aren’t enjoyable films but they either don’t quite fit the genre or lack the impact that the Academy likes. On a similar note, I would probably disqualify American Hustle and Gravity. Both have received a lot of attention but there are just too many top contenders that I can imagine the Academy preferring. Captain Philips, Philomena and Dallas Buyers Club are all worthy dark horses in this competition. The most likely pick would be 12 Years a Slave but given that the Academy usually like to spread the love around the Best Picture award could go another if Steve McQueen picks up Best Director.

Ellen Degeneres performs a dance number for the 86th Academy Award promotional trailer.

Ellen is dancing here but who will be dancing by the end of the night?

That would leave The Wolf of Wall Street then, right? Honestly, my instinct is that The Wolf of Wall Street falls into the American Hustle/Gravity area too much as far as the Academy would be concerned. If 12 Years a Slave does miss out on the award I can imagine it going to Dallas Buyers Club far more easily than The Wolf of Wall Street. It’s not because The Wolf of Wall Street is not a good film or it isn’t well directed or doesn’t have superb acting, because it is. The reason it will miss out here is subject matter, and the controversy, regardless how unfounded, that the film promotes promiscuous sex and recreational drug use won’t have done the film any favours.

My pick for this is 12 Years a Slave, though I would not be surprised if Dallas Buyers Club snuck in a win. Next up, Best Director;

  • David O. Russell
  • Alfonso Cuarón
  • Alexander Payne
  • Steve McQueen
  • Martin Scorsese

Being up against Martin Scorsese is bound to be quite daunting for many directors. However, he has already won an Academy Award for Best Director, so the academy may prefer to recognise another strong talent. I don’t think Alexander Payne has done enough substantial works in his career to deserve a win in this category. David O. Russell has managed to rack up three consecutive Best Director nominations but I think the opposition is too strong here for him to realistically pull out a win. If Scorsese doesn’t pick up the win here, it’s largely down to Alfonso Cuarón and Steve McQueen.

 

Director Steve McQueen is nominated for Best Director at the 86th Academy Awards.

Not to be confused with ‘The King of Cool’ though this McQueen is pretty cool too.

Cuarón is probably best known for Y Tu Mamá También and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, so there is value to the notion of him winning this award. On the other hand, the Academy has faced criticism in the past for overlooking McQueen’s Shame. This award, in my mind, really relies on who wins Best Picture. If 12 Years a Slave wins, McQueen still stands a good chance (it happened with The Artist in 2012) but they might give it to Scorsese as a kind of ‘we don’t like your movie but we still like you’ consolation prize.

My gut says Steve McQueen though. Onwards to Best Actor;

  • Christian Bale as Irving Rosenfeld
  • Bruce Dern as Woody Grant
  • Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup
  • Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof

This is probably Leonardo DiCaprio’s best chance at an Academy Award for Best Actor since Blood Diamond so it is unfortunate that he will have to beat off Chiwetel Ejiofor and Matthew McConaughey for the coveted gold statue. Christian Bale has had a remarkable career but for this year, for the film that he is being awarded for, I just don’t think he deserves it and I don’t know enough about Bruce Dern to possibly comment. Furthermore, I have already picked 12 Years a Slave to lift Best Picture and Best Director and I can’t see them sweeping all of the top awards (although, again, The Artist did it in 2012).

Good news for Leo then, as his main competition is Matthew McConaughey. McConaughey has been really strong lately and has managed to reinvent himself as a serious actor despite a string of terrible romantic comedies. Consistent award winning standard acting has been DiCaprio’s bread and butter for years though and while The Wolf of Wall Street wasn’t his best work, DiCaprio deserves this award more than anyone on that list.

Leondardo DiCaprio takes a fifth stab at winning an Oscar at the 86th Academy Awards for his work in Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street.

Is this finally DiCaprio’s golden year?

My choice is obviously Leonardo DiCaprio. The final award of the big four is Best Actress;

  • Amy Adams as Sydney Prosser
  • Cate Blanchett as Jeanette “Jasmine” Francis
  • Sandra Bullock as Dr. Ryan Stone
  • Judi Dench as Philomena Lee
  • Meryl Streep as Violet Weston

There are a lot of big names in this category. Cate Blanchett, Judi Dench and Meryl Streep could all win without too much argument from anyone. However, the main contenders here are probably Amy Adams and Sandra Bullock. Given that Gravity has received at lot acclaim but likely won’t win Best Picture, the academy might give Bullock best actress as a kind of runner up prize. My personal choice would be Amy Adams though because much like DiCaprio she has been consistently acting to a high standard in many of her movies. Just as The Wolf of Wall Street wasn’t his best work, American Hustle isn’t her greatest acting either but I still wouldn’t deny her the prize because of it. A little risky, but I’ll go with Amy Adams.

And that is the big four done and dusted. Jonah Hill probably deserves best supporting actor but I wouldn’t begrudge Michael Fassbender the win. The only worthy best supporting actress winner is Lupita Nyong’o, as I would argue her role in the 12 Years a Slave was tougher than Chiwetel Ejiofor’s and she performed superbly. But these are only my best guesses. For the actual winners, tune into the 86th Academy Awards on ABC tonight at 7.00pm.

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