Predicting the Academy Awards nominations can be a fool’s task sometimes. Remember when Ben Affleck wasn’t nominated for directing Argo, a film that went on to win Best Picture? Or when everyone expected Kate Winslet to win Best Actress for Revolutionary Road, but she was nominated for The Reader instead? Or when The Blind Side—seriously—was nominated for Best Picture?
Nonetheless, it was a fantastic year in film, with David O. Russell dressing up all your favorite actors in delightfully garish ‘70s garb in American Hustle, Martin Scorsese getting in touch with his debaucherous wild side at age 71 with The Wolf of Wall Street, Steve McQueen offering up the most haunting film portrait yet of our country’s brutal slave history with 12 Years a Slave, and the likes of Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, and even Oprah Winfrey delivering bonafide Movie Star performances.
Which will contend for Oscars when the nominations are announced Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m. EST? Marlow Stern and Kevin Fallon serve up their best guesses of who will be nominated…and a little bit about who should.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Marlow: Okay, let’s do it like the Academy does and go by order they’ll be announced on Oscar night. Frankly, it’s going to be hard to stop the J. Law train. She’s the most likeable, and preternaturally gifted young actress in Hollywood who steals every scene she’s in in American Hustle, from her rowdy performance of “Live and Let Die” to her improvised kiss with Amy Adams. She is the Real Housewife of Long Island from hell, and owns the role. She’ll probably win. I think the actress who’s more deserving—if there is a thing—is Lupita Nyong’o for her heartbreaking portrayal of the dehumanized slave, Patsey, in 12 Years A Slave. I, like the rest of the film-going world, had no idea who Nyong’o was prior to screening the film’s U.S. premiere at the Telluride Film Festival, but afterwards, she left me absolutely floored. It’s a masochistic performance, but a brilliant one. The scene where she’s clutching a bar of soap, pleading with Solomon (Chiwetel Ejiofor), will leave you in pieces.
I also loved June Squibb’s turn as Kate, the thorny, acid-tongued granny—and wife to ex-boozehound Woody, played by Bruce Dern—in Alexander Payne’s Nebraska. It’s arguably the funniest performance of the year. If there was any justice, Lea Seydoux would be nominated for her turn as a blue-haired—but dissonant—artist who seduces a nubile teen in Blue is the Warmest Color, but alas. The nominees will be Lawrence, Nyong’o, Squibb, Oprah (for The Butler), and Julia Roberts (for “Eat your fuckin’ fish!”—I mean, August: Osage County).
Marlow’s Prediction: Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave), Julia Roberts (August: Osage County), June Squibb (Nebraska), Oprah Winfrey (The Butler)
Kevin: The Academy loves its It Girls, and this year Hollywood has gifted it with two of them. Jennifer Lawrence’s star couldn’t be brighter, or hotter, right now, while Lupita Nyong’o’s is just being born—a narrative that Oscar voters salivate over. Both are brilliant in their respective movies, in different ways. Lawrence dances through American Hustle like a crackling firecracker that you’re both nervous and excited to see explode. When she’s not on screen you desperately miss her. Nyong’o, on the other hand, delivers a performance so gutting it brands your heart and soul. You don’t have time to miss her because you can’t stop thinking about her.
Julia Roberts’s performance in August: Osage County came with so much advanced buzz that, for much of the film, you’re confused what all the hype is about…until she starts screaming at Meryl Streep to “eat your fuckin’ fish.” It’s my favorite scene of the year, and Roberts will be nominated entirely because of it. And deservedly so. Oprah Winfrey will get a nomination for The Butler because she is Oprah Winfrey, but somehow manages to get you to forget that throughout the film—no easy feat. In my ideal world, someone like Allison Janney in The Way Way Back (a tornado of comedy destroying all in her wake with laughter), Juliette Lewis in August: Osage County (surprisingly affecting and Juliette Lewis-y, in the best way possible), or Scarlett Johansson would surprise and get the last slot for her game-changing voice performance in Her. But I think it will be Sally Hawkins for Blue Jasmine who nabs it. The entire Academy will be watching her film to see Cate Blanchett, which means the entire Academy will realize how brilliantly complicated Hawkins’ performance was, and how integral it was to Blanchett pulling off her own tour de force. Sorry, June Squibb.
Kevin’s Prediction: Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave), Julia Roberts (August: Osage County), Oprah Winfrey (The Butler)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Marlow: Sadly, my two favorite performances in this category this year—James Franco’s outré turn as a fugazi crime lord/rapper in Spring Breakers and the late James Gandolfini’s remarkably tender portrayal of a schlubby single dad in the underrated rom-com Enough Said—probably won’t be nominated, although this category, in particular, is notorious for doling out “career Oscars” to aging thesps, be it Martin Landau in Ed Wood (over Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction) or Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine (over Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls).
Anyway, the winner of the Golden Globe, Jared Leto, will definitely be nominated for his poignant portrayal of Rayon, a transsexual AIDS victim, in Dallas Buyers Club. Leto completely transforms into Rayon, and he’s so good it doesn’t even look like acting—it looks like living. Michael Fassbender will also be nominated for his fiery turn as Edwin Epps, the brutal slave owner in 12 Years A Slave. It’s one of the most grotesque characters put to screen since Ralph Fiennes’s disgusting Nazi in Schindler’s List, and this will make up for Fassbender being screwed out of a nomination for Shame. The other three will be: Barkhad Abdi as a Somali pirate in Captain Phillips, Bradley Cooper as the hotheaded (and perm-headed) FBI agent in American Hustle, and Jonah Hill (second Oscar nom in three years, crazy) as DiCaprio’s degenerate boy Friday in The Wolf of Wall Street.
Marlow’s Prediction: 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)
Kevin: This category, for me, is actually the hardest to predict. Not because, as is the Best Actor category, there’s a glut of deserving contenders, but because there are so many contenders all with the same amount of awards momentum. I agree with you that both James Franco, so delightfully weird, and James Gandolfini, just plain delightful, deserve nominations, but I actually think Gandolfini will eke one out. He scored the posthumous Screen Actors Guild nomination, which I think could push him into the Oscars final five. He’ll join frontrunners Jared Leto, who was transfixing in Dallas Buyers Club, and Michael Fassbender, who brought new grandeur do grotesque in 12 Years a Slave.
But from there it’s a toss up for the final two slots. If you had told me three years ago that Bradley Cooper and Jonah Hill would become awards-bait actors I’d have laughed in your face, but both deserve their second career nominations for madcap turns in American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street, respectively. Ultimately, though, I think it’s Barkhad Abdi’s empathetic Captain Phillips performance and Daniel Bruhl’s unshakable turn in Rush that will get nominated.
Kevin’s Prediction: Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), Daniel Bruhl (Rush), Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave), James Gandolfini (Enough Said), Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Marlow: This is going to be a fun category. First off, as last year’s winner, Jennifer Lawrence will be presenting it. Secondly, there were plenty of outstanding performances by women this year. Sure, it won’t be as groundbreaking as last year, when we had both the youngest (Quvenzhané Wallis, 9) and oldest (Emmanuelle Riva, 86) nominees in history, but oh well. Again, my favorite performance of the year in this category, Adele Exarchopoulos’s magnetic turn as a voracious teen who falls for a seductive older artist in Blue is the Warmest Color, probably won’t get any Oscar love, which is a damn shame. It’s the best performance of the year, male or female, as the tormented Adele yo-yos back-and-forth between feral and vulnerable. Also, Brie Larson deserves a nod for her stunning portrayal of the vulnerable caretaker at a facility for at-risk teens in Short Term 12, but it probably won’t happen.
Cate Blanchett is spellbinding as the unraveling ex-wife of a Madoff-esque scumbag in Blue Jasmine (even if it mirrored her turn as Blanche Dubois in Streetcar), so she’s the odds-on favorite to not only be nominated, but also win. Sandra Bullock will also get a much-deserved nom for playing marooned astronaut Ryan Stone in Gravity, and Dame Judi Dench can thank Harvey Weinstein for her nod in Philomena. The other two will probably be Amy Adams for her multi-layered turn as a chest-baring con artist in American Hustle, and Emma Thompson for playing P.L. Travers in Saving Mr. Banks. Guess that leaves Meryl Streep—gasp!—out for August: Osage County (although she could potentially swap with Thompson).
Marlow’s Prediction: Amy Adams (American Hustle), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)
Kevin: I have never, ever been as tortured as I have just now debating whether Meryl Streep or Emma Thompson will be the one taking the fifth Best Actress slot. It’s like choosing perfection or perfection. The best thing ever or the best thing ever. Meryl or Emma. Like you, I’m thinking that Emma Thompson will take it, just because Academy voters might feel Streep had a big Oscar moment recently enough with her Iron Lady win. Plus, though neither was a huge hit with critics, there seems to be more general enthusiasm for Saving Mr. Banks than Acting: The Movie. I mean August: Osage County.
The reason for there only being room for one of the formidable actresses is that Amy Adams has been building steam like a boiling hot, cleavage-baring kettle for her performance in American Hustle. It’s the least showy of the film’s ensembles, but it’s also the trickiest to pull off. The more people talk about the film—and they’re talking a lot about it—the more they’re realizing that. She’ll join guaranteed nominees Judi Dench, Sandra Bullock, and Cate Blanchett, who gives the kind of unsettling, nuanced, performance that the word “acting” was invented to describe in Blue Jasmine. Though, if you hear sustained high-pitch squealing on Thursday morning, it’s because Brie Larson did somehow manage to sneak her way into the top five. (Wishful thinking.)
Kevin’s Prediction: Amy Adams (American Hustle), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)
Marlow: This category is just impossible this year. If they expanded it to 10 nominees, like they do with Best Picture, you’d still be frustrated by some of the names left off. Joaquin Phoenix’s turn as Theodore Twombly, the soulful, melancholic divorce who falls in love with his sentient operating system in Her, remains my favorite male performance of the year. It’s so nuanced, and Phoenix has never been so vulnerable, and utterly compelling. And yet, it probably won’t be nominated. Neither will Oscar Isaac’s complex turn as a tortured folk musician in Inside Llewyn Davis. And neither will Christian Bale’s best acting work to date as suave-nebbish conman Irv, who serves as master of ceremonies in the sexy American Hustle. It’s a damn shame.
Anyway, everyone knows about the top four in this category already. There will be Golden Globe winner Matthew McConaughey for his turn as HIV positive asshole-cum-AIDS crusader Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club; Chiwetel Ejiofor for his powerful performance as Solomon Northup, a free man sold into slavery in 12 Years A Slave (still can’t get the hanging scene out of my head); Bruce Dern as an ex-boozehound suffering from dementia in Nebraska; and Tom Hanks for the final five minutes of Captain Phillips. That leaves us with one more slot, and I think the Academy will finally get over how often it screws Leonardo DiCaprio, and nominate the Globe winner for his madcap turn as psycho stockbroker Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street. They didn’t nominate him for Catch Me If You Can, The Departed, Inception, or Django Unchained. They owe him this one.
Marlow’s Prediction: Bruce Dern (Nebraska), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
Kevin: I just can’t with this category this year. No Oscar Isaac for Inside Llewyn Davis? Seriously? No Hugh Jackman for Prisoners? Is that possible? No Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station)? Forest Whitaker (The Butler)? Sam Rockwell (The Way Way Back)? Is this real life? I can’t. And that’s just the contenders I can rule out before even doing careful deliberation. First, let’s get the easy ones out of the way. Matthew McConaughey and Chiwetel Ejiofor are so in for Dallas Buyers Club and 12 Years a Slave. The only question is which one will win. It’s a pretty safe bet that Robert Redford’s stunning work in All Is Lost will make it in, too. I mean it’s not exactly faint praise when a new performance by Robert Redford is called the best of his career.
That leaves two more slots. The Academy is not a supermodel’s vagina and just is not welcoming to Leonardo DiCaprio. It just isn’t. If he couldn’t get in for Catch Me…, Revolutionary Road, or Django, he’s not getting in for humping Margot Robbie on a pile of cash. People really, really like American Hustle, which means Christian Bale could feasibly ride the wave to a nomination. It’s more likely, though, that Tom Hanks—or, more accurately, Tom Hanks’s Final Scene—will get nominated for Captain Phillips. The smart money is that Bruce Dern will take the last slot for Nebraska, but I’m going on a limb and saying Academy favorite Joaquin Phoenix, who won raves from every single person who’s seen Her, has enough passionate supporters to earn a surprise nod.
Kevin’s Prediction: Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club), Joaquin Phoenix (Her), Robert Redford (All Is Lost)
Marlow: The big question on everyone’s mind: Will there be another Ben Affleck-level snub this year? The answer: perhaps. If the Academy doesn’t nominate David O. Russell for helming the marvelous American Hustle, that would be the year’s big WTF moment. I don’t think it will happen, but it could. The two “locks” in this category are Globe winner Alfonso Cuaron for creating the visionary sci-fi epic Gravity, and Steve McQueen for the indelible imagery in 12 Years A Slave. The other three, I think, will be David O. Russell for Hustle, Martin Scorsese for his wacky three-hour carnival of sex and drugs, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Alexander Payne for his black-and-white road dramedy Nebraska. That leaves off my two favorite directorial jobs this year—Spike Jonze for creating a touching portrait of urban ennui in Her, and Joel and Ethan Coen for perfectly capturing the plight of the tortured artist, as well as ‘60s-era Greenwich Village, in their film Inside Llewyn Davis.
Marlow’s Prediction: Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity), Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), David O. Russell (American Hustle), Alexander Payne (Nebraska), Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Kevin: Last year’s Best Director category was wack. Straight up wack. I wouldn’t be surprised if Shane Black for his stirring work on Iron Man 3 was nominated this year, based on last year’s odd assortment. In any case, the no-brainer nominees this year are, indeed, Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity, because HAVE YOU SEEN GRAVITY?, and Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave, because it is a historical epic about slavery and HAVE YOU WATCHED THE OSCARS? For all the talk of the three-hour bacchanal that was The Wolf of Wall Street it’s easy to overlook that the film was actually exquisitely shot. Sure, the imagery was strippers being banged on office desks, but it was gorgeous. The American Hustle lovefest means that David O. Russell will get in here, too, which, considering how meandering, slow, and—let’s face it—confusing the film was at times, may not be exactly deserved. Ryan Coogler’s heartwrenching work on Fruitvale Station or Spike Jonze’s beautifully emotional overseeing of Her would be a better mention instead. For the fifth slot, expect Paul Greengrass to get in for Captain Phillips after turning what could have—and maybe should have—been a cheesy TV movie into a stirring, fast-moving action film.
Kevin’s Prediction: Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity), Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips), Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), David O. Russell (American Hustle), Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Marlow: I still don’t know how the hell the Academy’s weighted system really works to determine the number of nominees for Best Picture—does anyone, really?—but let’s work with an even 8. Spike Jonze’s Her is my pick for the best film of the year, and yet, I’m troubled by the (very real) possibility that it won’t be nominated for Best Picture, which is so ridiculous it makes me angry. Others left on the outside looking in will probably be Blue Jasmine (too melodramatic, for voters), Saving Mr. Banks (too Disney, for everyone), and Dallas Buyers Club (too cynical, for voters).
The three “locks” are Globe winners 12 Years A Slave and American Hustle (deservedly so), and Gravity (ditto). Then, we have the pulse-pounding Captain Phillips, the sublime Nebraska, and the insane The Wolf of Wall Street. That leaves us with two more spots. I think Harvey Weinstein will work his Oscar magic and land Philomena a Best Picture nod (even if there are more deserving candidates), and the other big movie mogul in play, Scott Rudin, will squeak Inside Llewyn Davis into the eighth and final spot. I’d personally love to see Her, Blue is the Warmest Color, and Short Term 12 all get Best Picture nominations, but that’s just me fantasizing out loud.
Marlow’s Prediction: 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, Philomena, The Wolf of Wall Street
Kevin: Here’s what I do know about the weighted system, Marlow. Though it’s possible that anywhere between five and 10 nominees will make it into the Best Picture race and I’m not certain how many will, I know that, because of the way votes are counted, it’s more beneficial to be loved by a smaller group of voters—and thus show up number 1 on their ballots—than it is to be in the middle of the pack for every voter. (Which explains how films like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close manage to get nominated.) That means that I think Her actually will be nominated! I really do. It’s one of those movies that everyone I’ve talked to who’s seen it is almost aggressive with their appreciation of it. I think it could get enough number 1 votes to be the surprise nomination Thursday morning.
Most of the nominees have been preordained for a while now: 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Gravity, Captain Phillips, and The Wolf of Wall Street. Ever since the Academy started its new nomination process nine films have made the cut, so I’m going to just lazily assume the same thing will happen this year. That means Dallas Buyers Club, which seems to have a ton of guild support, and Nebraska, which has charmed everybody, should also make it in. For the last slot, I’m waffling between two crowd-pleasers: The Butler and Saving Mr. Banks. The Butler has that Forest Gump-like sweep that’s pure Oscar bait, and Saving Mr. Banks has that John Lee Hancock touch that voters responded to so resoundingly four years ago with The Blind Side. I’m going to roll the dice and say it’s The Butler that gets in.
(If we’re going to make a fantasy list: add Fruitvale Station, Kill Your Darlings, and Frozen—really!—from mine.)
Kevin’s Prediction: 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, The Butler, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, The Wolf of Wall Street
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