2013 Road to the Oscars

While the ceremony is in 2014, the awards celebrate the “best” in filmmaking for those features released in 2013. And tis the season where all the films jockey for position to get the Academy’s attention (and some of the deserving films from the spring & summer try to remind said members how good they were way back when).

The big contenders? Let’s look at the Guilds, which tend to align with the AMPAS choices pretty closely (though rarely 100%)


American Hustle
Blue Jasmine
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Saving Mr. Banks
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

Final slate of nominees for the Oscars is between 5-10 (no set number; final based on preferential balloting)

BEST DIRECTOR (*= DGA nod; others tracking well in awards circuit)

*David O. Russell, American Hustle
*Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips
*Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Spike Jonze, Her
Joel & Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis
*Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
*Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street


American Hustle
Blue Jasmine
Dallas Buyers Club

August: Osage County
Before Midnight
Captain Phillips
Lone Survivor
The Wolf of Wall Street

(*note: WGA bylaws rendered 12 Years a Slave, Philomena, Fruitvale Station ineligible)

BEST ACTOR (*=SAG nominee; others tracking well in awards circuit)

Christian Bale - “American Hustle”
*Bruce Dern – “Nebraska”
*Chiwetel Ejiofor – “12 Years a Slave”
*Tom Hanks – “Captain Phillips”
Oscar Isaac - “Inside Llewyn Davis”
*Matthew McConaughey – “Dallas Buyers Club”
Robert Redford - “All Is Lost”
*Forest Whitaker – “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”


*Cate Blanchett – “Blue Jasmine”
*Sandra Bullock – “Gravity”
*Judi Dench – “Philomena”
Adèle Exarchopoulos - “Blue is the Warmest Color”
Brie Larson - “Short Term 12”
*Meryl Streep – “August: Osage County”
*Emma Thompson – “Saving Mr. Banks”


*Barkhad Abdi – “Captain Phillips”
*Daniel Brühl – “Rush”
Bradley Cooper - “American Hustle”
*Michael Fassbender – “12 Years a Slave”
James Franco - “Spring Breakers”
*James Gandolfini – “Enough Said”
*Jared Leto – “Dallas Buyers Club”


Scarlet Johansson - “Her”
*Jennifer Lawrence – “American Hustle”
*Lupita Nyong’o – “12 Years a Slave”
*Julia Roberts – “August: Osage County”
*June Squibb – “Nebraska”
*Oprah Winfrey – “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”

But of course, plenty of other people might find their way into the final slate of 5, particularly Amy Adams, Berenice Bejo, Jonah Hill, Octavia Spencer, and Sally Hawkins.

The Golden Globes are this weekend, and while not always the best predictor, they do provide the winners plenty of buzz & media momentum. Oscar nominations are announced January 16.

So, what films or performances do you hope get recognized?

Out of the main contenders that I’ve seen (pretty much all of them except August: Osage County), 12 Years a Slave and Her are my favorites. I also love Inside Llewyn Davis, but that seems to have lost a lot of steam lately. I originally figured that if A Serious Man can get some Best Picture love, then virtually any good Coen movie can, but I guess that might not happen. I really didn’t care for Saving Mr. Banks or Nebraska, but they seem to hit so many Academy sweet spots that I’m still expecting them to get Best Picture nominations.

As usual, plenty of my favorite performances this year aren’t coming anywhere the Oscars (Ben Mendelsohn for The Place Beyond the Pines, Soren Malling for A Hijacking, Irit Sheleg for Fill the Void, etc.), but I’m used to it. There are a bunch of below-the-line nominations that I’d love to see as well, even if they’re long shots: Ain’t Them Bodies Saints for cinematography, Stoker for production design, All is Lost for sound, and Side Effects for score.

I’m really hoping that some surprises break up those Best Actor and Best Actress categories. The same lineups have been popping up almost everywhere, barring a surprise here and there. (Forest Whitaker? Really?) I’d be over the moon if Joaquin Phoenix or Oscar Isaac made it into the actor category. And it looks like Amy Adams is the best bet for a surprise in Best Actress, but if Brie Larson or Adele Adèle Exarchopoulos gets nominated, that would be fantastic.

American Hustle - haven’t seen
Blue Jasmine - haven’t seen
Dallas Buyers Club - haven’t seen
Her - haven’t seen
Nebraska - haven’t seen
The Wolf of Wall Street - haven’t seen.
Captain Phillips - Good, but not great
Saving Mr. Banks - Okay, but not really good
12 Years a Slave - Good, but not great
Gravity - Okay, but not really good

I predict 12 Years a Slave to win Best Picture this year, though.

It delights the hell out of me that Franco is even in the mix, however improbable his chances of an Oscar nomination, for his role as Alien. I never expected it. I did an astonished and disbelieving happy dance the other day when Franco won Best Supporting Actor from the National Board of Review. I literally, literally whooped out loud when I saw it. Spring Breakers was my favorite movie of 2013 because of Franco (and the music, and a bunch of other reasons). I expect and hope Jared Leto will get nominated and win. Everyone loves a comeback and that was a pretty great one.

Her was my 2nd favorite movie. I would like to see Joaquin Phoenix and Spike Jonze get recognized with nominations (poor Scarlett, she deserves a nomination too). Otherwise I’m not too invested. This isn’t a year where favorites have any kind of realistic chance (like Brokeback Mountain, The Social Network or There Will Be Blood) so I won’t have any stomach-churning anxiety at any point. I liked most of the rest of the movies, wish everybody well and hope all the nominees have a good time and enjoy the moments.

Thank you Rollo for mentioning Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Brie Larson, and Adèle Exarchopoulos. I don’t expect any of them to get nominations, but it’s nice to hear their names. Like you, I’ve seen everything except August: Osage County (I had a free pass but had to work late that night).

I loved Philomena, saw it twice, and hope Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope’s screenplay is nominated for Adapted, but I don’t expect it. Judi is already a lock for a nomination which means the movie will be seen by many, and that’s all I can ask for. Best Supporting is too competitive for Coogan to be nominated, but it would be fun if it happened. I love the surprise nominations.

I’ll cheer for any nomination and win Gravity gets just because…Alfonso Cuarón! I’m so happy for him.

It would be a remarkable for Scarlett Johannson to be nominated for a performance in a movie she never physically appears in. They didn’t nominate Andy Serkis for a role in which he actually SORT of appeared in, despite a lot of talk that he should have been. Johansson was not eligible for a Golden Globe and wasn’t nominated for a SAG. It ain’t happening.

Whether that’s bad or not I don’t really know, but it’s sort of inevitable that things will seem unfair in a process that attempts to measure what really cannot be adequately measured in this manner.

Having 3 kids under 7, I haven’t seen any of these movies, sadly. But I’m wondering what the odds are for the one movie I did see in the theaters this year: Frozen. I’m assuming it’s a lock for best animated movie and best song (Let it Go), and not much else (I almost typed “not much elsa” there. Can you tell my 2 young girls are obsessed with the movie? They don’t talk about much else these days). But since I haven’t seen anything else this year, I don’t know what competition it has in either category. Thoughts?

I think those are going to be the only two categories it shows up in, but I think it’s a 100% win for original song, and 85% for animated feature. I’m only hedging on the latter because The Wind Rises is supposedly Hayao Miyazaki’s last film, and there will be a lot of votes thrown his way. If Frozen had been a financial disappointment, I think that would have hurt its chances, but it’s been such a monster smash hit that there’s no ignoring it.

I don’t even know what its main competition in the song category would be. I guess “Young and Beautiful” from The Great Gatsby? Or “The Moon Song” from Her?

I’ve only seen 5 of the 10 BP prospects in the OP’s list, unfortunately. I hate it when movies (Nebraska, Dallas Buyers Club) start out in limited release because they are not released here, and when they finally come months later they are easy to miss unless they have become huge hits (like The Kings Speech). I’m going to try to see at least one of the ones I’m missing this weekend - probably Her.

Rant over.

My favorites this year were Blue Jasmine and American Hustle. I would love to see Sally Hawkins or Andrew Dice Clay (!) get some recognition for their supporting roles in BJ but I know it won’t happen. Amy Adams, of course, but her nomination wouldn’t exactly be out of left field.

I was underwhelmed by Gravity (except for the F/X and technical categories) and 12 Years a Slave. Saving Mr. Banks was okay but seems kind of lightweight and formulaic for serious BP consideration, although Emma Thompson was fun to watch.

I’ve only heard bad things about August: Ossage County. Not many things, but bad.

Miyazaki unretired a few days ago. Frozen is a lock.

I have to correct myself because everyone else was polite enough to not correct me, like not mentioning the toilet paper stuck on my shoe. I stupidly said…

Which probably elicited a few eye-rolls from people who know better. I must have been drunk or high, which is weird because I haven’t been either drunk or high for years. Will Forte won BSA from the NBR for Nebraska. Franco won BSA from the National Society of Film Critics.

Still, that’s cool. He also won BSA from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (who had some other pretty great winners!), and the San Francisco Film Critics Circle. He was nominated by the Chicago Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics Circle, and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association. I don’t believe for a second that he stands a chance in hell of an Oscar nomination, but the studio’s “Consider This Shit” campaign is, well, different! And, to me, wonderful.

Best Song has become much more unpredictable now that the Music Branch has become much more rigorous about how an Original Song must contribute to the story or theme of the film in a significant way, instead of just being tacked onto the closing credits. That said, it’s hard to imagine “Let It Go” not winning–it’s the best song in a Disney film in almost two decades, and is exactly the kind of character-driven show-stopper that a memorable musical requires.

I’d say 85% for Frozen and Animated Feature sounds about right (if a little low). Most of the other high-profile American submissions were pretty weak tea (especially Pixar’s) and Miyazaki may be a legend, but Wind is a more sober and less playful entry than what won for him before (and that was against considerably weaker competition).

NSFC has always been my favorite of the critics’ groups, so I enjoyed their choices, and though I haven’t seen Spring Breakers yet, I’m looking forward to it when I get a chance.

A shame that Forte didn’t appear to get much traction from NBR. Nebraska remains my favorite film of the year, and he’s quite wonderful. The Academy often is OK with coattailing a supporting performance off a lead’s or ensemble’s when it wasn’t otherwise getting much award attention (Maggie Gyllenhall & Jacki Weaver being recent examples), so there’s a little hope for Hawkins, Forte, and Coogan from this Boost-by-Association, but I suspect you’re right about Franco.

I think it’s quite overwrought, but Streep is almost always a Free Space on the Oscar bingo board. Julia will likely benefit from category misalignment (she’s really a co-lead, as the Tonys rightfully reflected) and make the cut. Very probably Adapted Screenplay too, because of its Pulitzer pedigree and that Tracy Letts did her own adapting, winnowing her 3.5-hour play down to 2.

Tracy Letts is a man. And on that note, MAN I’ve heard that August: Osage County is a piece of shit. I suppose that’s not entirely fair, but a lot of critics do not like it:

Oops! My bad! I saw the show on Broadway and it has so many strong, interesting female characters that I (wrongly) assumed based on the name.

And although I liked the play a lot, I wish I could remember more of what happened, since I can’t say with any certainty what got cut from stage to screen (certainly, the main story and dynamics remain intact).

Interestingly enough, I saw on Twitter a while back that Letts played the bartender in the premiere of Steve Martin’s play Picasso at the Lapin Agile. He had told Martin then that he was writing a play, too. That’s how I figured out Letts was a man, as I was in a community theatre production of PatLA (“Schmendiman!”) and the bartender is written as a male part (not that you couldn’t change it, I suppose, but this was the premiere, after all).

Sorry not to add much to the movie discussion. I enjoyed Gravity very much, especially the effects, and I thought Bullock was fantastic. Similarly Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks, just a great performance. Frozen was great, and I share the love for “Let It Go.” I haven’t seen much else of what’s on the awards radar (I didn’t really think American Hustle was all that, although I enjoyed the performances), as this has been a down year for me seeing many movies.

I haven’t seen the movie yet (I did see a local production of the play a few months ago), but didn’t the movie add a scene at the end that basically reversed or at least softened the play’s ending? I saw something about that in the review in today’s local paper.

Yes, that beautiful and haunting tableau on the staircase is not the last scene of the film. In the film, we return to Barbara who has taken off in her pick-up truck. She gets out, wanders around, and then shows a small smile on her face, as if she has resolved things for herself somehow. No dialogue, but an artificial shot of optimism that I found unnecessary and unconvincing. Given that Barbara is played by Julia Roberts, I wonder if this was some kind of concession to her star power

Of the movies I have seen, I would rank them thusly:

  1. American Hustle
  2. Dallas Buyer’s Club
  3. Nebraska
  4. Inside Llewyn Davis
  5. Mud (This movie should be getting more attention)
  6. The Wolf of Wall Street
  7. 12 Years a Slave
  8. The Way Way Back (Also should be getting more attention)
  9. Side Effects
  10. Before Midnight
  11. Philomena
  12. Don Jon
  13. Out of the Furnace
  14. Captain Phillips
  15. The Place Beyond the Pines
  16. Fruitvale Station

I know We’re the Millers isn’t Oscar material, but it was the funniest movie I saw this year, so I mention that here. If I were being honest and not thinking about Oscar-worthiness, I would put it in my top 5.

I have not yet seen Blue Jasmine, Gravity, August: Osage County, or Her.

The best documentaries I’ve seen this year are Muscle Shoals and 20 Feet from Stardom. Muscle Shoals was by turns funny, inspirational, sad, and nostalgic. It is very much worthy of a Best Documentary win.

The only one I’ve seen is Gravity - as usual I’m avoiding seeing any really good movies during the year, in the hope that I’ll get to see most of them over two weekends in the AMC Best Picture Show. That said, while I think** 12 Years a Slave **was the early front runner, Gravity has a lot of popular support. It’s also not always clear that a difficult-to-watch film is going to do well.

Rollo, **Inside Llewyn Davis **did do very well at the NSFC earlier this week, so it’s not completely dead.

Finally, my guess is that the new-ish balloting process assures that any film you see listed more than three times above is going to end up nominated for best picture. Will be interesting to see whether this rich field produces 10 nominees, or whether the mathematics more or less guaranteed nine.