Some last-minute Oscar thoughts:

You can get this one right, Academy. Don’t be foolish, now.

Best Picture:

  • American Hustle: Not a bad movie–a pretty good one, to be honest–but it’s “edgy” and “wacky” only by the most white-bread metrics. This winning might be worse than Argo winning, and that was a ridiculous choice.
  • Captain Phillips: A fine thriller. Would’ve actually been a decent contender had they given Greengrass the nomination. But I’m glad it got in.
  • Dallas Buyers Club: Easily the weak link in this category for me. I wasn’t in love with Inside Llewyn Davis, but it should’ve gotten this slot instead.
  • Gravity: I still say it’s basically a theme-park ride classed up a little, but I won’t deny how well-made it was. So I can let it slide.
  • Her: There was actually some concern this wouldn’t make it on. But thankfully, this was one of those years where the best films were so obvious even the Academy couldn’t fuck it up too badly. So they gave this lovely film some attention. Already, with two **** films in the lineup, this year is as good as 2011 and 2012 put together.
  • Nebraska: And baby makes three. After a rough start, it becomes a funny, deeply touching allegory for the death of the small-town Midwest, and a fine showcase for Bruce Dern.
  • Philomena: What seemed on the outside to be a trifle meant to showcase a cutesy Judi Dench performance instead was an effective true story of a woman trying to right a long-buried wrong. It should never win, but I’m cool with it being here.
  • 12 Years a Slave: This is the film that should win. Why? Because it’s the best.
  • The Wolf of Wall Street: Another film that some people thought wouldn’t make it, because it was “too much” for the older members of the Academy (or, really, anyone who liked American Hustle). Thank God it did, though, because it’s vintage Scorsese–and, if you ask me, much better than Hugo. I just wish it had a little more of a chance to win.

5 **** films in one lineup. That’s pretty damn good. And really, as long as American Hustle doesn’t win (or Dallas Buyers Club, but that’s incredibly unlikely), I could live with any outcome. But they really should take 12 Years.

You got it right by nominating him. Now all you have to do is award him.

Best Director:

  • Alfonso Cuarón: A lot of people would say he’s overdue (and he got shafted for Children of Men, which probably helps his cause this year), and from a technical standpoint, he did pull off something pretty impressive here. But he also co-wrote the script, and it was not too good. (They didn’t nominate it, which says something. They nominated Life of Pi‘s script, for fuck’s sake.) Plus, I’m just not that crazy about the film. So I could live with him winning, but he’s not my choice.
  • Steve McQueen: Do I even need to tell you?
  • Alexander Payne: Again…over Paul Greengrass? And Spike Jonze?
  • David O. Russell: No. No fucking way. He’s not that good of a director, his movies are consistently overrated, he’s apparently a huge douchebag, and while there’s some good directing here…giving this direction an Oscar would actively upset me. He wants to be Scorsese here, but Scorsese showed him up something good. If he’d won for Silver Linings Playbook, fine. The Academy botched 2012. But this year, they don’t have that excuse.
  • Martin Scorsese: This nomination kind of annoys me, because Wolf has no real chance to win. It feels like a cruel joke. On the other hand, he earned it. He’s the real deal, and the film is great. But it’s not happening.

Check this out: Cuarón, Greengrass, Jonze, McQueen, Scorsese. Doesn’t that sound better? Think about it.

Do you go with the good man who suffers unjustly?
Or the bad man who has it coming?

Best Actor:

  • Christian Bale: I actually really like his performance (he’s easily the best thing about the film). For all of Russell’s posturing about caring about the characters more than the story, Irving Rosenfeld is the only character (aside maybe from Jeremy Renner’s essentially good-hearted mayor) who feels like a truly three-dimensional figure, and much of that is due to Bale’s clever, perceptive performance. He probably shouldn’t win, but I’m glad he got on–and am baffled by the modest backlash against him. Do you think Robert Redford in All Is Lost was that much better of a performance?
  • Bruce Dern: I don’t know if this will really lead to a comeback for him, but it’s a great performance and testimony to how good he is and always has been.  Him winning might be a bit much, but I wouldn’t be upset if he did.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio: Honestly, in some ways I’d say he should really win this. He’s truly overdue, he gives a great performance (he does not shrink from showing you the depths to which Jordan Belfort win sink), and since the film won’t go all the way, giving him the award would be a nice way to keep the film from being shut out.
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor: Objectively, he probably gives the best performance (he wins my personal award). What stuck with me was how well he portrays Solomon’s quick-wittedness, as he tries to conceal the fact that he can read, or that he spoke words of warning to a fellow slave, or gave a letter (a cry for help) to a white field worker (who promptly betrayed him). It could’ve been a mostly reactive performance, but Ejiofor doesn’t allow that.
  • Matthew McConaughey: I’m glad he’s turned his career around, and I think he’s given a lot of great performances as of late. This, oddly enough, might be the weakest of them. Yeah, he lost a ton of weight. Beyond that, though…I don’t really see why he should win this. A Supporting nomination for Mud or Wolf of Wall Street would be great, but this…I don’t think so. It’s like with D.O.R. in Director–the competition is too good.

Funny how the frontrunner here is my least favorite of the performances.

Do you go with the badly overdue actress?
Or the best nominated performance?

Best Actress:

  • Amy Adams: I don’t think the performance is outstanding or anything, but she’s fine, she’s been nominated a bunch of times without winning, and she was really good in Her, so…I would actually root for her, given how blah the category is.
  • Cate Blanchett: Still haven’t seen this film. Still don’t really care. I just watched the trailer. I don’t really see what the fuss is about. I like Blanchett, but I don’t really think she should win this.
  • Sandra Bullock: If she hadn’t won in 2009 when she shouldn’t have, I’d say she wins this in a heartbeat. She’s really, really good–especially given the weakness of the script–being convincingly traumatized while still displaying the inner strength that saves her in the end. She’s probably the best performance in the category, but having already won, I’m less inclined to side with her.
  • Judi Dench: It’s a really strong performance she gives here. Charming, funny, poignant, and properly understated. The film and character could’ve easily become too cutesy, but Dench instead shows just how good she can be. A worthy nomination. Not a slam-dunk winner, but I could live with it.
  • Meryl Streep: She’s great here. Granted, you’d have to try to fuck up the role of Violet Weston, but Meryl does it justice. But…she’s won three times (most recently when she shouldn’t have), this is her 18th nomination…she shouldn’t win this. That would be gratuitous.

No Brie Larson? I know I’ve said that a lot, but really, watch that film and tell me she shouldn’t have been nominated.

An evil man, but a brilliant performance.

Best Supporting Actor:

  • Barkhad Abdi: I’m still not really sure what I think of this performance. He’s good, but the first time I saw it, I thought he tended to be kind of one-note, though whether that’s an issue with the script or an issue with his performance is unclear. But I don’t begrudge him the nomination at all.
  • Bradley Cooper: He’s fine, but if it weren’t for the Academy going bizarrely apeshit for this movie, he would never have been nominated. He’s got a couple of good scenes (especially the one where Amy Adams is trying to explain her true identity to him and he just wants to go to bed with her), but an award-worthy performance this is not. Silver Linings, that’s another matter.
  • Michael Fassbender: If there were any common sense in the Academy, he’d win this in a landslide. He’s fucking incredible, he’s a consistently great actor, he was horribly overlooked in 2011…but his chances are apparently minimal. But a guy can hope, can’t he?
  • Jonah Hill: I’m not unhappy they went with him. He was good, and it showed some love for a film that seemed to be anathema to certain voters (I’m not convinced it won’t win something). I’m not really rooting for him, because he’s not Michael Fassbender playing Edwin Epps, but if he won, I would not complain too much.
  • Jared Leto: Yet again, a frontrunner who doesn’t really deserve it. Not that he’s bad–given the hideously baity nature of the role, he’s pretty good–but…this is 2014. A straight cisgendered man playing a gay trans character should have raised at least a few eyebrows. And instead, he looks set to walk off with the prize. And that’s not okay with me. Plus, the performance is good. Not great.

I’ll say this until the end of time, but James Franco really, really should’ve gotten on. Is anyone really going to argue that Richie DiMaso is a more memorable character than Alien?

The eyes say all that needs to be said.

Best Supporting Actress:

  • Sally Hawkins: I haven’t seen the film, but since she got kind of screwed out of a nomination in 2008 (for Happy-Go-Lucky), I’m fine with it.
  • Jennifer Lawrence: Ugh. She’s just…she’s not Oscar good here. Good? I guess. She’s lively. Way too young for the role. Hams it up a bit (as in, you see Lawrence hamming it up and not Rosalyn being crazy), but given the limitations of the character as written (the role was apparently written for her…okay, then), she manages not to do too badly. That “Live and Let Die” scene, though, was pretty craptacular.
  • Lupita Nyong’o: She’s the only person here I really want to win. Even though I wish she’d gotten one more good scene, she’s really strong here. Plus, it would be more support for a great film.
  • Julia Roberts: She’s honestly really fucking good. I’ve disliked her for years, based mostly on my mom’s dislike of her, but I won’t deny it–she earned this nomination fair and square. But she’s won hers.
  • June Squibb: A fun, feisty performance, one that, in 2012, would be a fine winner. This year, her winning would basically require a vote split between Lawrence and Nyong’o (which, to be fair, some have predicted). And it would feel like a compromise. The nomination is the reward, as they say.

If Lawrence wins, I’m gonna be pissed. Her winning two Oscars, back-to-back, before she’s 25, would be the worst thing possible for her career going forward.

You overlooked his direction. Don’t overlook his script.

Best Original Screenplay:

  • American Hustle: Apparently there was a ton of improv on this one, and even overlooking that…it’s not that great of a script. For a nomination, whatever. For a win, God no. If they wanted to give Russell an Oscar, why didn’t they give him Adapted for SLP last year? That script’s a damn sight better than Argo‘s, I’ll tell you that much.
  • Blue Jasmine: Another Woody Allen writing nomination? It might be less awful than Midnight in Paris, but still. And I’m not even mentioning his personal life. This feels like a very gratuitous nomination.
  • Dallas Buyers Club: The weird anti-Big Pharma theme really throws it off. That doesn’t seem to get mentioned enough. This really shouldn’t win either.
  • Her: Such a wonderful film. And the script is absolutely central to its greatness (that, and Joaquin Phoenix’s shamefully un-nominated performance). Spike Jonze really pulled it off; a high-concept romantic comedy that’s genuinely romantic and genuinely funny. This is far and away the best choice.
  • Nebraska: Once you get past the awkward first 20-25 minutes, it’s brilliant. Granted, as a small-towner, it resonated more with me than it did with others, but the human core of the film should, ideally, touch any viewer. It would be a worthy-enough winner.

If they’d gone with Inside Llewyn Davis over Blue Jasmine, I would’ve been happier. If they’d gone with A Touch of Sin, I’d have shit myself (with happiness).

You have two choices. Him…
…or him. Those are the only options.

Best Adapted Screenplay:

  • Before Midnight: Haven’t seen it or either of the other films in this series. I’m sure it’s good, though.
  • Captain Phillips: A very solid script, one that deserves a nomination, just not the win.
  • Philomena: Also a very good script. Also deserves a nomination. Also shouldn’t win.
  • 12 Years a Slave: Aside from a leaving a few secondary characters very mildly underwritten, this is a great script, one that honors the story and doesn’t make any baity plays. It’s the favorite to win, and it deserves it…
  • The Wolf of Wall Street: …but this is my own favorite on this list. I know there was a lot of improv going on here, but there are so many wonderful lines, I just couldn’t resist. This and 12 Years are basically tied anyway.

I agree with this category 80%, and the other 20% I haven’t seen and have faith in its strength. So the Academy really fucking nailed this one. Good for them.

Don’t make him beg.

Best Cinematography:

Give it to Prisoners. Give it to Roger Deakins already. Gravity is all green-screen. If you wanted to award Lubezki, you should have given it to him for The Tree of Life (Hugo? Really?).

Best Editing:

I’m glad Captain Phillips is the predicted winner. That was a nicely edited film. Granted, Gravity is right on its heels, but I think cooler heads may prevail–though, what the fuck were they thinking, nominating Dallas Buyers Club? Madness.

You were smart enough to nominate it. Now award it.

Best Production Design:

They can give it to anything, really. I’m just happy Her got on.

Best Costume Design:

The one category American Hustle legitimately deserves to win. Well, 12 Years is my choice, but a Hustle win wouldn’t piss me off too much.


Best Makeup:

Fuck you, AMPAS. The Lone fucking Ranger? Get the fuck out of here.

Best Score:

Is a Her win too much to ask for? Do you really want to give it to Gravity?

Best Song:

“The Moon Song” is the best song here. “Let It Go” isn’t even the best song in Frozen.

Best Sound Mixing:

How do you not nominate All Is Lost in both sound categories?

Best Sound Editing:

All Is Lost…except, I hope, this Oscar.

Best Visual Effects:

Okay, even I say Gravity should win. (Though, what the shit, people? The Lone Ranger over Pacific Rim? Good Lord.)

This could win an Oscar. And that’s kind of awesome.

Best Foreign Film:

You know, I’ve heard some good things about The Broken Circle Breakdown. And since the only nominee I’ve seen (The Great Beauty) was just okay, I’ll throw my support there. Though, The Hunt and The Missing Picture sound intriguing… (In any event, I’m just glad Blue is the Warmest Color wasn’t eligible. Fuck that movie.)

Best Animated Feature:

Frozen will probably win this without a fight. I’d rather The Wind Rises or Ernest & Celestine take it, but I’d also rather Wreck-It Ralph had won last year (though I like Brave quite a bit).

Sorry, backup singers, but Anwar Congo has you beat.

Best Documentary Feature:

The Act of Killing. The end. (And, of course, they’ll go with 20 Feet from Stardom instead.)

Best Animated Short:

Get a Horse!? I don’t know.

Best Live Action Short:

Uh…the one with Martin Freeman? I don’t know.

Best Documentary Short:

The subject of The Lady in Number 6 just passed away. It would be a nice tribute if the film won. Plus, I think it’s considered the frontrunner.

And now, to wrap up, my votes in each category:

Best Picture: 12 Years a Slave

Best Director: Steve McQueen

Best Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor

Best Actress: Sandra Bullock (if I were actually voting, I might take Amy Adams)

Best Supporting Actor: Michael Fassbender

Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o

Best Original Screenplay: Her

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Cinematography: Prisoners

Best Film Editing: Captain Phillips

Best Production Design: Her (I guess)

Best Costume Design: 12 Years a Slave

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (why the fuck not)

Best Original Score: Her

Best Original Song: “The Moon Song”

Best Sound Mixing: Lone Survivor

Best Sound Editing: All Is Lost

Best Visual Effects: Gravity

Best Animated Feature: The Wind Rises

Best Foreign Film: The Broken Circle Breakdown (or The Hunt)

Best Documentary Feature: The Act of Killing

Best Animated Short Film: Mr. Hublot (a stab in the dark)

Best Live Action Short Film: Just Before Losing Everything (I’ve heard some good things)

Best Documentary Short Subject: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life

Rest in peace.

Final thoughts:

Honestly, though they might make some bad choices, I’m happy with this set of nominees. There’s something or someone I can get behind in almost every category, and that’s not always the case (last year…ugh). Plus, 5 of my Top 10 films of the year are up for Best Picture, and none of the BP nominees are actively bad choices (though, Prisoners getting in over DBC would have made my day). Fingers crossed for tomorrow.


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