Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

24 January 2014

Oscar Nominees 2014: Page 1 of 14

Every year in the weeks leading up the Academy Awards ceremony, I post my thoughts on all of the nominees, although I exempt myself from the documentaries because I don't really like documentaries all that much. For me that means 48 films this year (5 more than last year). 2013 was a really strange Oscar year, what with Argo's director missing a nomination and then winning Best Picture, but 2014 appears so far to be even stranger. Some of the frontrunners for nominations were completely passed over, and Best Picture appears still to be up in the air. Because my favorite thing about all of this movie hubbub is the surprises, I am once again loving Oscar season.

Most of the films in my top ten for the year were passed over (Blue Is the Warmest Color, Fruitvale Station, The Kings of Summer, In the House, The Past), but some scored a nomination or two (The Great Beauty, Before Midnight) and two were nominated for Best Picture (Gravity, Her). In any case, I am excited for what is going to happen.

Oh, and if you're thinking why does he even care about this? I don't blame you. But I have an elaborate set of reasons for still loving the Oscars that I've explained here.

If the nominee has been nominated for Oscars previously, he or she will be listed next to his/her name in parentheses).

This year's nominees:

10 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Director: Alfonso Cuarón
  • Actress: Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)
  • Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki (Children of Men, The New World, Sleepy Hollow, A Little Princess)
  • Film Editing: Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men) & Mark Sanger
  • Original Score: Steven Price
  • Production Design: Rosie Goodwin, Andy Nicholson, & Joanne Woollard (Hope and Glory)
  • Sound Mixing
  • Sound Editing
  • Visual Effects
Director: Cuarón
Cast: Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris

Gravity is my favorite of the films nominated for Best Picture. It deserves every one of its nominations. I was overwhelmed by it as I often am with Cuarón's work. It is beautiful, heartstoppingly intense, deeply troubling, and insistently philosophical. (I felt similarly about his 2006 film Children of Men.) Since I fell in love with Gravity, though, I've heard a lot of folks talk about the film's use of symbols. I'm not gonna deny they're there: if an audience member wants to place symbolic value on an image in a movie, that's what images are there for. All I can say about that is that for me the film didn't function on that register – I found the movie to be an intense action movie that also spent a lot of time allowing me to think about being alone, my own desire to keep going while facing impossible odds, and the total vastness of the universe. (I have said before on this blog that I really love the feeling of being completely insignificant and tiny that I get when I stare at the stars.) As for winning Oscars, I don't think this movie is going home with the big man. But Gravity will win nearly all of the below-the-line stuff (except for Production Design).
Will Win: Cinematography, Film Editing, Score, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Visual Effects
Could Win: Picture, Director
My Rating: #3 out of 72

American Hustle
10 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Director: David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)
  • Actor: Christian Bale (The Fighter)
  • Actress: Amy Adams (The Master, The Fighter, Doubt, Junebug) 
  • Original Screenplay: David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) & Eric Warren Singer
  • Supporting Actor: Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)
  • Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook, Winter's Bone) 
  • Film Editing: Alan Baumgarten, Jay Cassidy (Silver Linings Playbook, Into the Wild) & Crispin Struthers (Silver Linings Playbook)
  • Production Design: Judy Becker & Heather Loeffler
  • Costume Design: Michael Wilkinson 
Director: Russell
Cast: Bale, Adams, Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Lawrence, Elisabeth Röhm, Robert De Niro, Louis C.K., Jack Huston, Michael Peña, Shea Whigham, Colleen Camp

I really liked this. It's a sleeper in a lot of ways: a good hustler movie with not much going for it except a stellar cast and a director who (all of a sudden) everyone seems to really love. The film's luster fades on reflection, which is why I'm betting on it not taking anything home on March 2. Call me crazy, but I just don't see it happening. I think the closest shot this has at gold is the original screenplay ("wasn't it all improv?" you may ask, to which I would say "And isn't that a screenplay?") There's also the possibility of Amy Adams winning, but the Academy hasn't awarded her for anything yet, so it would seem that while they love to nominate her, they don't actually think she's ready to win one. But, look, I could be way off base and everyone might love this film way more than I do and just give it everything: Screenplay, Director and Best Picture. This is also a distinct possibility.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: Picture, Director, Actress, Original Screenplay, Supporting Actress, Production Design, Costume Design
My Rating: #25 out of 72

12 Years a Slave
9 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Director: Steve McQueen
  • Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor
  • Adapted Screenplay: John Ridley
  • Supporting Actor: Michael Fassbender
  • Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong'o
  • Film Editing: Joe Walker
  • Production Design: Alice Baker & Adam Stockhausen
  • Costume Design: Patricia Norris (Sunset, 2010, Victor/Victoria, The Elephant Man, Days of Heaven)
Director: McQueen
Cast: Ejiofor, Fassbender, Nyong'o, Sarah Paulson, Adepero Oduye, Benedict Cumberbatch, Garret Dillahunt, Brad Pitt, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Alfre Woodard, Michael K. Williams, Dwight Henry, Quvenzhané Wallis, Topsy Chapman, Liza J. Bennett

You can see simply by glancing above that most of the folks nominated for 12 Years a Slave have never been nominated for anything before, and this goes for all of the below-the-line folks (except Ms. Norris). This always makes me want to root for a film, especially when I love everyone involved as much as I do. I wasn't totally in love with this film, but I haven't anything negative to say about it: I just didn't like it as much as I loved McQueen's first two pictures. As for Oscar, 12 Years has seemed to be on a slow decline lately, but my bet – and this is not the most obvious choice – is that when push comes to shove, the Academy goes for this film in the end. I expect it to win Picture and Director. I ought also to say, frankly, that it seems a little nuts to me that anyone is voting for Jared Leto over Michael Fassbender in their category, but apparently Fassbender is not the favorite and Leto is. It's a weird world.
Will Win: Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actress, Production Design
Could Win: Actor, Supporting Actor
My Rating: #15 out of 72