Oscar Race 2014

Overall a Very Good Year

By: - Jan 17, 2014

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The Oscar hype is a year round, 24/7 hustle.

Even in the summer, a generally good time for movies, reviewers speculate that a film is a sure Oscar contender. The Butler was a lock, for example, with nominations for Forrest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey. The Great Gatsby was rolled out with a gush of hyperbole. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire came and went. Ditto The Lone Ranger with an over the top Johnny Depp! What was that about?

On an off night in New York we took a break from Broadway and saw a dark little nothing of a film Inside Llewyn Davis. Endless double page ad spreads in the New York Times proclaimed it as yet another work of genius by the greatest filmmakers on the planet, The Brothers Coen. It garnered two minor nominations.

All for naught.

Now that all the flacksters and pundits have had their day we consider the final list of nominees.

Overall, it is a very strong field evoking memories of great moments in the dark.

Like millions of other guys I have a wicked crush on It Girl Jennifer Lawrence. I’m pulling for her to take home another Oscar in a supporting role for American Hustle. Wasn’t it cute last year when she tripped on her long skirt while picking up a coveted trophy. And just hilarious when she let her hair down as a guest on late night TV shows. She has all the best elements of drop dead glamour and down to earth humor. The best thing about the so so Hunger Games is the chance to sink into the bottomless pool of her eyes. With awesome co stars she just stole every scene in American Hustle. To be fair, Amy Adams was really really good. How about Bradley Cooper in curlers?

While Leonardo DiCarprio was awesome in Wolf of Wall Street the three hour display of sex, drugs and greed by Martin Scorsese was way too long, self indulgent, and ultimately crappy and boring. Depending who you read or talk to the film was either brilliant or sucked big time. In a field of top contenders it has a one in three chance against 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle.

While 12 Years a Slave provided a much needed history lesson it was lacking beyond shock value. The gratuitous violence, while absolutely and undeniably accurate, too much reminded me of sitting through The Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson. A point has been made that there have been numerous graphic and violent films about the Holocaust and precious few about slavery. And even fewer, or none, about the genocide of Native Americans. We applaud mainstream films for arousing our social conscience. But films also have to sustain as works of art. For me, 12 Years a Slave was good but not great.

The sense of suspense and terror was credible and palpable in Captain Phillips. We saw the film in Dublin on my birthday. The performance by Barkhad Abdi as the head of a crew of Somali pirates was just astonishing. His duets with Tom Hanks were among the most riveting and terrifying of the year. Given that Abdi is an unknown in a one off role he is a long shot for an Oscar. For my money they provided the finest performances in the best film of the year. It took several pints of Guinness and a rousing Irish band to wash away the horror after that film.

Word of mouth led us to Dallas Buyers Club which was winding down a too short run in the Berkshires. Wow. It’s been a career year for Matthew McConaughey who after faint praise is being recognized as one of the truly fine actors of his generation. I just loved his cameo in American Hustle. As a rail thin, deadbeat cowboy, apparently straight and even homophobic but dying of AIDS, he turns in the performance of a lifetime. The role makes him the front runner for best actor. Jered Leto, his transvestive co-star, is the one to beat for Supporting Actor. Yes, this is another social consciousness film but one with depth, discovery, transformation and complexity.

The odds makers are focused on Sandra Bullock as Best Actress for Gravity but I found the film and her performance too claustrophobic. Which is precisely why it is being praised. Much is made of the physical challenges of the role augmented by state of the art special effects. And, yes, George Clooney who is literally lost in space. As a Hollywood insider she has the best odds with Academy voters.

Bullock has some competition from Amy Adams and her cleavage. For me the outstanding female performance of the year was a heart wrenching Cate Blanchette in Blue Jasmime a better than usual Woody Allen film. He is known as a director who doesn’t direct. He’s more like a great chef combining the best fresh ingredients. In a remake of Blanche DuBois in Streetcar Named Desire he just turned on the camera and Blanchette delivered a galvanic three hanky performance. Judi Dench was her usual fine self in the slight Philomena. With her 18th nomination Meryl Streep rounds out the field with August: Osage Country which critics have dismissed as a better play than film.

We have yet to see Her or Nebraska. In the latter film the lead performance by Bruce Dern has earned him a nomination for a role being treated as a comeback.

With a three way race between 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle and Wolf of Wall Street the films with the most nominations expect a lot of hype between now and Oscar night.

Here are our predictions:

Best Film: American Hustle (our pick Captain Phillips).

Best Director: Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave.

Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey Dallas Buyers Club in a tight race with Leonardo DiCaprio for Wolf of Wall Street.

Best Actress: Sandra Bullock, Gravity (our pick Cate Blanchette Blue Jasmine).

Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto for Dallas Buyer’s Club. (Our pick Barkhad Abdi for Captain Phillips).

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle.

Best Foreign Film: The Great Beauty, Italy, well reviewed and likely to repeat its Golden Globe award.|

2014 Nominations

Best picture

"12 Years a Slave" | Review |

"American Hustle" | Review |

"Captain Phillips" | Review |

"Dallas Buyers Club" | Review |

"Gravity" | Review

"Her" | Review

"Nebraska" | Review |

"Philomena" | Review

"The Wolf of Wall Street" | Review


Alfonso Cuarón, "Gravity"

Steve McQueen, "12 Years a Slave"

Alexander Payne, "Nebraska"

David O. Russell, "American Hustle"

Martin Scorsese, "The Wolf of Wall Street"

Lead actor

Christian Bale, "American Hustle"

Bruce Dern, "Nebraska"

Chiwetel Ejiofor, "12 Years a Slave"

Matthew McConaughey, "Dallas Buyers Club"

Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Wolf of Wall Street"

Lead actress

Amy Adams, "American Hustle"

Cate Blanchett, "Blue Jasmine"

Judi Dench, "Philomena"

Meryl Streep, "August: Osage County"

Sandra Bullock, "Gravity"

Supporting actor

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”

Supporting actress

Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine”

Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”

Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”

Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County”

June Squibb, “Nebraska”

Animated feature film

“The Croods”

“Despicable Me 2”

“Ernest & Celestine”


“The Wind Rises”


“The Grandmaster,” Philippe Le Sourd

“Gravity,” Emmanuel Lubezki

“Inside Llewyn Davis,” Bruno Delbonnel

“Nebraska,” Phedon Papamichael

“Prisoners,” Roger A. Deakins

PHOTOS: Oscars 2014 top nominees

Costume design

“American Hustle,” Michael Wilkinson

“The Grandmaster,” William Chang Suk Ping

“The Great Gatsby,” Catherine Martin

“The Invisible Woman,” Michael O’Connor

“12 Years a Slave,” Patricia Norris

Documentary feature

“The Act of Killing”

“Cutie and the Boxer”

“Dirty Wars”

“The Square” 

“20 Feet from Stardom”

Documentary short subject


“Facing Fear”

“Karama Has No Walls”

“The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life”

“Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall”

Film editing

“American Hustle,” Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten

“Captain Phillips,” Christopher Rouse

“Dallas Buyers Club,” John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa

“Gravity,” Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger

“12 Years a Slave,” Joe Walker

Foreign language film

“The Broken Circle Breakdown,” Belgium

“The Great Beauty,” Italy

“The Hunt,” Denmark

“The Missing Picture,” Cambodia

“Omar,” Palestine

Makeup and hairstyling

“Dallas Buyers Club,” Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews

“Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa,” Stephen Prouty

“The Lone Ranger,” Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny

Original score

“The Book Thief,” John Williams

“Gravity,” Steven Price

“Her,” William Butler and Owen Pallett

“Philomena,” Alexandre Desplat

“Saving Mr. Banks,” Thomas Newman

Original song

“Alone Yet Not Alone” from “Alone Yet Not Alone”

“Happy” from “Despicable Me 2”

“Let It Go” from “Frozen”

“The Moon Song” from “Her”

“Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”

Production design

“American Hustle,” Production Design: Judy Becker; Set Decoration: Heather Loeffler

“Gravity,” Production Design: Andy Nicholson; Set Decoration: Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard

“The Great Gatsby,” Production Design: Catherine Martin; Set Decoration: Beverley Dunn

“Her,” Production Design: K.K. Barrett; Set Decoration: Gene Serdena

“12 Years a Slave,” Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Alice Baker

Animated short film


“Get a Horse!”

“Mr. Hublot”


“Room on the Broom”

Live action short film

“Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)”

“Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything)”


“Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)”

“The Voorman Problem”

Sound editing

“All Is Lost,” Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns

“Captain Phillips,” Oliver Tarney

“Gravity,” Glenn Freemantle

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” Brent Burge

“Lone Survivor,” Wylie Stateman

Sound mixing

“Captain Phillips,” Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro

“Gravity,” Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson

“Inside Llewyn Davis,” Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland

“Lone Survivor,” Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow

Visual effects

“Gravity,” Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds

“Iron Man 3,” Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick

“The Lone Ranger,” Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier

“Star Trek Into Darkness,” Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton

Adapted screenplay

“Before Midnight,” written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke

“Captain Phillips,” screenplay by Billy Ray

“Philomena,” screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope

“12 Years a Slave,” screenplay by John Ridley

“The Wolf of Wall Street,” screenplay by Terence Winter

Original screenplay

“American Hustle,” written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell

“Blue Jasmine,” written by Woody Allen

“Dallas Buyers Club,” written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack

“Her,” written by Spike Jonze

“Nebraska,” written by Bob Nelson