2014 Oscar Predictions – Ben’s Picks

Best Director

David O. RussellAmerican Hustle
Alfonso Cuarón Gravity
Alexander Payne Nebraska
Steve McQueen 12 Years a Slave
Martin Scorsese The Wolf of Wall Street

Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón Gravity

Should Win: Steve McQueen 12 Years a Slave

Gravity Movie Header Image

Analysis: Alfonso Cuarón has won the DGA, The Golden Globe, and The BAFTA, plus several critic awards. It is hard to see a scenario in which he doesn’t pull this through especially since it is the most likely place Gravity will be awarded beyond technical Oscars.

Personal Bias: David O. Russell’s film, to me, was lacking in any real energy to feel involved with his story or characters. I felt the same way with Alexander Payne and Nebraska, uncertain what I was getting out of these characters in how Alexander Payne was revealing them to me. Alfonso Cuarón technically did something new that wowed many and even if it didn’t create the same experience with me or give me enough to get involved in, I do understand why many feel this is the place to reward Gravity. Martin Scorsese continues to be one of the greats getting great performances from his actors and creating stories that make you think. But what Steve McQueen accomplished goes beyond the other for me, showing slavery something hard to comprehend as realistically as possible. The combination of his great cast, haunting music, and beautiful cinematography and how he moves through these years give us the closest we have ever gotten to a full picture of the life of a slave is something special that I have hard time believing can’t win in the end despite evidence to the contrary.

Best Picture

American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
12 Years a Slave
Wolf of Wall Street

Will Win: 12 Years a Slave

Should Win: 12 Years a Slave

12 Years A Slave Movie Still 1 - Chiwetel Ejiofor

Analysis: Yes, predicting a Best Picture/Best Director split is never wise, but the way this year is going, it makes the most sense. America Hustle won the SAG and the comedy Golden Globe, 12 Years a Slave won Globe drama, The Broadcast Film Critic awards, the BAFTA, and tied with Gravity for the Producers Guild of America. Then Gravity got the PGA and DGA, usually the best Oscar predictors in any year. So in such a close year, where do we go? American Hustle seems to have lost some steam and appears unlikely, so it is down to Gravity and 12 Years a Slave. What hurts Gravity is the kind of movie it is—a special effects film more about a mood than a story or characters and has very few actors in it. So far, no major special effect-heavy film has won Best Picture, that and the lack of a large cast hurts it when the largest branch of the Academy is actors and actor heavy movies usually win. Plus it also has no screenplay nomination and most Best Picture winners are at least nominated in this category. 12 Years a Slave did just win the BAFTA, the final award before the Oscar, and they split director, too. It was a front-runner earlier in the year and has slowly been picking up steam, again. Gravity could take it here, but I think it will be 12 Years a Slave, but it will be close.

Personal Bias: I haven’t seen Her, and American Hustle was not well enough put together story wise to keep me invested in the characters. Philomena was just a simple story, not great but not terrible, and Nebraska‘s tone and character revelations didn’t work overall for me. Gravity was fine for making its mood of dread but beyond its special effects, left me uninvolved. Dallas Buyers Club, as an acting showcase, was great, but story and directing wise could have used a firmer hand to keep everything going. Captain Phillips was a great adventure that hit the right beats keeping us in this story, but didn’t transcend beyond that. Wolf of Wall Street is a film, weeks later, I am still wrestling with that it made something so different that it sticks with me and makes me want to know more. But they all pale in comparison with 12 Years a Slave. It was my favorite film of 2013, it had a great cast, a world that pulled me in, and flawless direction that kept me there the whole way through. I loved this film and I hope for the best for it come Oscar night.

So, that is the Oscar race as I see it. I am as anxious as I am every other year and hoping for the best, yet expecting the worst. It is the curse the awards race brings each year. Yet here is hoping there are more screams of joy and less hitting my head against the sofa than there was last year!

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Benjamin is a film connoisseur and Oscar watcher who lives in Minneapolis and, when not reviewing movies, works at the Hennepin County Library.

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