Surely you didn’t think I could go without talking about the Oscar nominations, did you?
So the list contains few surprises for me. I’m more surprised by a couple of inclusions than any snubs. Specifically, I’m a little bit surprised to see Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts nominated in the Lead and Supporting actress categories respectively for “August: Osage County.” For every review of that film I’ve read that liked it, I’ve read two that thought it was a mess, and that the acting was over the top and obvious award bait. Which I guess the Academy has swallowed. Oh, well. You may as well draw a line through both names on your Oscar ballots, though.
Oprah Winfrey, Robert Redford and both leads from “Saving Mr. Banks” are considered surprising snubs, but I’m not really raising an eyebrow. Ms. Winfrey’s momentum has passed, I don’t think Redford generated enough buzz, and both Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson have two Oscars each already. While those last are (rightly) beloved in Hollywood and beyond, I don’t think either delivered the kind of knock-out performance (based on what I’ve heard) necessary to edge out anyone on the list. Except Streep, who shouldn’t be there at all.
In the spirit of last year’s predictions, which I made based entirely on factors having nothing to do with my opinions of the performances, I will again make guesses having seen precisely zero of the nominated films. (My rationale will be the same as last year, so if you want to know my rules of thumb you can find them there.) As with last year, I’m posting before the SAG Awards, which I consider the most accurate predictor of Oscar winners. Because I’m just that brave.
Let’s start with Best Actor. I’m going go out on a limb a bit and guess it’s finally DiCaprio’s year. He’s Due. The only competition I see would be from Chiwetel Ejiofor, who won raves for “12 Years a Slave.” Bale already has an Oscar, old actors like Dern tend to get Supporting Oscars, and McConaughey’s nomination is his reward, a signal that he is being taken seriously as an actor having graduated from crappy rom-com fare.
Best Actress is as close to a sure thing as we’ve got this year, with Cate Blanchett the clear favorite for her universally-praised turn in “Blue Jasmine.” (She is such a class act, and I adore her.) Her only competition is from Amy Adams, who is also Due. The other three have already won Oscars, and all have some further handicap that Blanchett (another past winner) lacks — “Philomena” didn’t attract much attention, and Bullock’s performance has gotten mixed reviews (though not as mixed as Streep’s).
Before last Sunday, I would have said Jared Leto was a lock for Supporting Actor, and I still think he’s the favorite. But he did his chances a lit bit of damage with a witless, squirm-inducing Golden Globes acceptance speech. (Protip — if your nomination is for playing an AIDS-afflicted transsexual, best to evince empathy for your character rather than offering bro-dude laffs about not having to wax.) Barkhad Abdi is a total Hollywood unknown, too big a hurdle for a film with relatively little awards buzz. Of the remaining three, I’d put Cooper ahead given the momentum “American Hustle.”
On that note, I’m giving Jennifer Lawrence the edge for Supporting Actress, because everyone loves Jennifer Lawrence, and because she apparently steals every scene she’s in. I think that will be enough to get her over the major hurdle of having won Best Actress just last year. If she loses, my bet would be to Lupita Nyong’o, for (like her costar above) turning in a powerful performance in a powerful film. Two of the remaining three lack star wattage and I’ve already said my piece about Julia.
Best Picture is a total crapshoot for now, but I’m narrowly giving the edge to “American Hustle” because actors comprise the biggest voting bloc in the Academy and it’s an ensemble piece with nominees in every acting category. Plus, I think this is David O. Russell’s year for Best Director. But we’ll have a better sense of the frontrunner after the SAG and DGA Awards.
Anyhow, that’s my first take on the list. I’d love to hear thoughts from people who’ve seen any of these films/performances — who do you think will win? Who should win but won’t? And whose snub seems most unjust?