BEST PICTURE – 12 YEARS A SLAVE
Here’s an interesting statistic. In the last ten years, seven Best Picture Oscar winners have premiered at The Toronto International Film Festival: Paul Haggis’ Crash (which actually debuted in 2004, eight months before its Spring 2005 theatrical release), No Country For Old Men, Slumdog Millionaire, The Hurt Locker (a 2008 selection that played in theatres in 20o9), The King’s Speech, The Artist, and Argo.
Now here’s another one. Of the nine Best Picture nominees up for the prize this year, four premiered at TIFF. That means American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Her, Nebraska and The Wolf Of Wall Street have no chance of taking the big gong. None of them played the festival last September.
Of the four that did, only two are serious contenders. So forget about Dallas Buyers Club and Philomena as well.
Gravity was the biggest commercial hit of this pack of nine and received overwhelmingly enthusiastic reviews from critics. But ever since it won the audience award at TIFF last year, 12 Years A Slave has been riding a wave of support that shows no sign of receding. Its victory will expand TIFF’s Best Picture Oscar streak to seven.
BEST DIRECTOR – Alfonso Cuaron (GRAVITY)
Historically, if you win the Director’s Guild Of America prize, nine times out of ten you win the Best Director Oscar. This year, Gravity’s Alfonso Cuaron snagged the former which means he’ll take home the latter.
BEST ACTOR – Matthew McConaughey (DALLAS BUYERS CLUB)
As soon as I saw the ads for it on TV last fall, I knew the race was over. Let’s face it. There’s absolutely no reason whatsoever to talk about the other nominees for Best Actor this year. They’re just happy to be recognized.
20 years ago, Tom Hanks slimmed down to play a wrongfully dismissed gay attorney dying of AIDS in Philadelphia. It was the role that redefined his career. The star of Splash and Bachelor Party was finally seen as a serious actor. That first Best Actor Oscar led to a second for Forrest Gump and a whole slew of criticially acclaimed blockbusters, most of them dramas.
It’s highly unlikely Dallas Buyers Club’s Matthew McConaughy (the star of such turkeys as The Wedding Planner, How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days and Fool’s Gold) will ever enjoy the kind of second act Hanks has experienced in the last two decades. But maybe his highly respected performance as a scarily thin AIDS patient who supplies fellow sufferers with much needed medicine will help reset his trajectory. Regardless, it will be a real shock if he doesn’t win on Oscar night.
BEST ACTRESS – Amy Adams (AMERICAN HUSTLE)
In 1993, Woody Allen’s Husbands And Wives received two nominations: one for Allen’s screenplay and one for Judy Davis in the Best Supporting Actress category. Allen had already won two previous writing Oscars for penning Annie Hall and Hannah & Her Sisters so he wasn’t expected to snag another. (David Webb Peoples’ Unforgiven won Best Original Screenplay that year.) But Davis was considered an absolute lock for Best Supporting Actress.
What prognosticators forgot, or more likely, didn’t anticipate was the continuing fallout from Allen’s personal peccadilloes amongst traditionally squeamish Academy members. As recently noted in this space, Allen’s now estranged daughter, Dylan Farrow, first accused him of sexual abuse in the summer of 1992. Also, then-longtime partner Mia Farrow discovered that Allen had been having a two-year affair with her adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn.
What followed was intensely ugly. After splitting up, Allen initiated a “frivolous”, unsuccessful child custody battle that dragged on for nearly a year. It would not be resolved until early June 1993, many weeks after the Oscars.
Best Supporting Actress was the first award presented that March evening. But when Jack Palance opened the envelope, he announced Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny) as the winner. Davis got punished for being in a Woody Allen film.
And I suspect the favourite in this year’s Best Actress race will meet the exact same fate. Cate Blanchett is expected to take the award for her highly acclaimed performance in Allen’s Blue Jasmine. (She’s received numerous awards for it already.) But now that the adult Dylan Farrow has courageously given a public voice to her violated younger self through the power of the written word, the normally media-shy Allen has found himself once again on the defensive.
It’s not hard to understand why. You can find credible information that thoroughly debunks the unapologetic filmmaker’s transparently bogus declarations of innocence rather easily online. Unlike the early 90s, Allen can no longer run away from his despicable past. And if history is any guide, Blue Jasmine will lose all three gongs it’s up for.
But there’s another compelling reason Blanchett should be very worried about her Oscar chances this year. Of the five Best Actress nominees, only one has never won an Oscar before. And it’s not her.
Blanchett previously won Best Supporting Actress for playing Katharine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator. Judi Dench won that category for her very small role as Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare In Love. Sandra Bullock won Best Actress for her work in The Blind Side. And Meryl Streep already has three naked golden men in her expansive trophy collection. (By the way, the real-life Hepburn won four in her lifetime, the most of any actor, male or female.)
A similar situation arose in 2003 in the Best Actor race. Four previous winners (Daniel Day-Lewis, Michael Caine, Nicolas Cage and Jack Nicholson) competed against an Oscar newbie (Adrian Brody). I vividly remember thinking upon learning the nominations that year that Brody would take it solely because everybody else in his category had already won at least once before. (Caine has two and Nicholson has three. Then-one-time winner Day-Lewis would add two more in 2008 and 2013.)
But then Day-Lewis, so memorably villainous in Scorsese’s Gangs Of New York, kept winning all the preliminary prizes, so I switched my vote to him. When Halle Berry announced Brody as the winner for his much praised performance in The Pianist, I was pissed. (Had I gone with my original instinct, I wouldn’t have had to split the family Oscar pool that year with my dad. D’oh!)
I’m not making that mistake again. That’s why I’m predicting an Amy Adams upset. Her work in the critically revered American Hustle marks her fifth Academy Award nomination. Despite being previously nominated for Junebug, Doubt, The Fighter and The Master, she’s never won. As far as I know, she’s respected by audiences, critics and Hollywood alike.
And, best of all, she’s never worked with Woody Allen.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Lupita Nyong’o (12 YEARS A SLAVE)
A wide open category this year. Julia Roberts won a Best Actress prize for Erin Brockovich more than a decade ago but few are expecting her to win a Supporting gong for August: Osage County. Nebraska’s June Squibb could pull off an upset but I doubt it. And because Sally Hawkins is in Blue Jasmine, she’s as long a shot as you can get. She’s tainted by the Allen connection.
That leaves last year’s Best Actress winner Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle) and newcomer Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years A Slave). In the near 100 year history of the Oscars no woman has ever won Best Actress one year and Best Supporting Actress the next. Furthermore, the goofy Lawrence is already an established star who doesn’t need further validation.
Nyong’o, on the other hand, could really use an Oscar. (Following her highly regarded debut in 12 Years A Slave, she’ll next be seen in the upcoming Liam Neeson action flick, Non-Stop, later this month.) A win would greatly raise her profile and allow Hollywood a rare opportunity to push a woman of colour, something that should be happening more often. I suspect she’ll take the gold.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Jared Leto (DALLAS BUYERS CLUB)
The last time someone was nominated for playing a transgendered woman was Transamerica’s Felicity Huffman who was up for Best Actress back in 2006. She lost to Reese Witherspoon who played June Carter Cash in Walk The Line. This year, Jared Leto plays a transgendered woman suffering from AIDS in Dallas Buyers Club. The 30 Seconds To Mars frontman has been cleaning up on the awards circuit thus far for his performance. Expect that trend to continue on March 2nd.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – FROZEN
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – THE ACT OF KILLING
BEST FOREIGN FEATURE – THE MISSING PICTURE
BEST FILM EDITING – 12 YEARS A SLAVE
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – Spike Jonze (HER)
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – John Ridley (12 YEARS A SLAVE)
BEST SOUND MIXING – GRAVITY
BEST SOUND EDITING – GRAVITY
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – GRAVITY
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – Thomas Newman (SAVING MR. BANKS)
BEST ORIGINAL SONG – Ordinary Love (MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM)
BEST COSTUME DESIGN – 12 YEARS A SLAVE
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT – HELIUM
BEST ANIMATED SHORT – GET A HORSE!
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT – FACING FEAR
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN – GRAVITY
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – GRAVITY
BEST MAKE-UP – DALLAS BUYERS CLUB
The 86th annual Academy Awards will be handed out on Sunday, March 2nd on ABC and CTV, beginning with the pre-show at 8 p.m.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, February 20, 2014