Yesterday, the world watched as Cheryl Boone Isaacs and Chris Hemsworth announced the nominations for the 86th Academy Awards. There was the expected, with 12 Years a Slave, Gravity and American Hustle leading the way; there was the unexpected as Tom Hanks missed out on a best acting gong for his remarkable performance in Captain Phillips; and there was a strange neglect of The Coen Brothers’ Inside Lleywn Davis which didn’t make it into the Best Film nine. With some of the categories being the closest to call in years let’s hope this is the most unpredictable Oscars of recent times and there are plenty of twists and turns along the way. I’m going to take a closer look at some of the categories:
Like the last two years, nine films have been nominated in the big category. Personally I would love Gravity to win, and considering it was not only groundbreaking but most people’s favourite film of last year think it stands a great chance. The biggest obstacle it faces is the Academy, who have not been known to vote for science fiction (Star Wars losing out to Rocky and Gandhi triumphing over E.T for instance) and could look elsewhere for their best picture.
12 Years a Slave screams out everything the Academy have been known to look for in a Best Film including hard hitting subject matter, powerful performances and a period setting and is looking like the front runner for now, especially after its victory at the Golden Globes. But who knows, American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street have that high tempo, edgy scripts and perfect ensembles that the modern audiences crave and could be the top movie on the night. Like Argo showed us, we never know until the awards season really gets going and maybe Nebraska or Dallas Buyers Club could accumulate some Oscar buzz and run away with it. Then there’s Captain Phillips, Philomena and Her, all outstanding films, however, I wish the Best Film category will revert back to five films sooner rather than later as it doesn’t feel as special when there are nine or ten and filling the catergory with movies that are excellent but very unlikely to win is slightly pointless.
A real battle of the juggernauts here, a combination of The Master of his craft as Martin Scorsese is nominated for Wolf of Wall Street, the new kid on the block Steve McQueen, who after powerful pieces Hunger and Shame finds himself among the nominations and the innovative, modern directors who have made some spectacular pieces of cinema. David O. Russell has been the darling of the Oscars in recent years with The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, and now combining his cast of the two is here with American Hustle which could cap off this hat-trick of nominations with a win. Alexander Payne also makes the shortlist again with Nebraska after being there as recently as 2012 with The Descendents and Alfonso Cuaron makes the list for his masterpiece Gravity. I would love to see Scorsese win another Oscar, not only for his services to cinema but because he is still making amazing, interesting and original cinema like The Wolf of Wall Street and is one of the few directors in which going to one of his new films constitutes”an event”.
For whatever reason Tom Hanks was not among the nominees for his role of Richard Phillips, a performance in which his last ten minutes alone could justify an award. However the Best Actor category still contains a huge amount of talent and every actor deserves their place. Leonardo Di Caprio, who amazingly still hasn’t won an Oscar despite being the biggest actor on the world for fifteen years, is nominated for his portrayal of Jordan Belfort in Wolf and could walk away with the prize, how long can they continue to snub the actor of a generation? Chistian Bale and Chiwetel Ejiofor are showing how great the British can act in American Hustle and 12 Years respectively but I really think the real fight will be between the legendary Bruce Dern for his wonderful role in Nebraska and Matthew McConaughey’s powerhouse performance in the real life story Dallas Buyers Club as Ron Woodroof.
For me McConaughey has been on a huge journey in the last ten years. In 2004 he starred in the abysmal Sahara, I remember grinding my teeth through every excruciating moment. He wasn’t getting the right roles and was being parodied and mocked for his lack of versatility and taking off his shirt at every opportunity. Now though, after his inspirational performances in The Lincoln Lawyer, Mud, Killer Joe and The Wolf of Wall Street he now sees himself as the lead in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and on the verge of an Oscar, so for me it’ll be McConaughey’s year.
I think betting has probably stopped on Cate Blanchett winning the Best Actress award for her role in Blue Jasmine as a woman who descends into poverty and madness. Since critics first saw Woody Allen’s film they have already pretty much given Blanchett the Oscar without the ceremony. There is some strong competition though with Judi Dench as the eponymous Philomena Lee and Sandra Bullock whose performance of isolation and fear in Gravity was layered and intense. Meryl Streep finds her way onto the list, like she always seems to do with August: Osage County and Amy Adams, the only actor here not to have won an Academy Award, is nominated for her second David O. Russell film in a row with American Hustle.
Best Supporting Actor:
A real mix of actors here, some old and some new to the category. Barkhad Abdi, in his first acting role as the Somalian Pirate Muse in Captain Phillips, is my personal favourite to win. He managed to convey the trials of a pirate in a third world country with his powerful performance and takes a potential one dimensional foe into a rich, terrifying and memorable character. Michael Fassbender as slave owner Epps in 12 Years a Slave may also surprise one or two. Jonah Hill, Jared Leto and Bradley Cooper make up the nominations which, on the whole, contains a much younger demographic than most years. I must say that Daniel Bruhl’s absence for his role of Niki Lauda in Rush is beyond bafflement. He was interesting and really bought the character to life. Maybe the Academy thought after awarding this category to the same German twice in recent years with Christoph Waltz they wanted to have a change. That’s the only reason I could find for Bruhl not being nominated.
Best Supporting Actress:
It’ll be a tough task to look beyond newcomer Lupita Nyong’o whose striking performance in 12 Years a Slave has all the critics buzzing. However, she faces tough competition from Jennifer Lawrence, last year’s winner for Silver Linings Playbook who, reunited with director David O. Russell in American Hustle, is already an awards veteran already at 23 years old. These two will most liklely be fighting out but never rule out Julia Roberts, Sally Hawkins and June Squibb who could very much cause a surprise and go forth truimphant.
The Best of the Rest:
The writing categories are very close to call but I think the Adapted Screenplay will be a tussle between John Ridley for 12 Years a Slave and Terence Winter with The Wolf of Wall Street. I would hope Best Original Screenplay would truly award originality with either Spike Jonze or Bob Nelson winning with Her or Nebraska respectively.
In the foreign language category, unfortunately, The Hunt is the only film I’ve seen. It’s strange not seeing Blue Is The Warmest Colour within the nominees but obviously it was too risque for the conservative voters. However, The Hunt is a great film with a fine central performance from Mads Mikkelsen and a gripping premise which would be a worthy winner of any award.
In terms of the technical awards, especially Best Special Effects, Gravity should surely clean up the majority of them considering how amazing it looked and sounded. Among these awards would include Best Cinemoatography for Emmanual Lubezki. A mention must be given though to the legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins who has received his eleventh Academy Award nomination for Prisoners. The man behind the lens of The Shawshank Redemption and the bulk of the Coen Brothers’ back catalogue has never won, but we live in hope one day he will get his due for his astounding work to capture the images that live long in the memory.
Who knows how it will go, the buzz will continue and the Oscars creep ever closer we know that its going to be a very exciting awards season and a great time for film. 12 Years A Slave, American Hustle, Gravity, who can guess at this point? A great time to be a film fan.