No Concessions: My Oscar Ballot

Written by Film, No Concessions

One-stop shopping for your Academy Award needs.

noconcessionsWeren’t the Academy Awards great this year? I mean…wait, whoa, they’re still coming? This Sunday?

I kid, I kid. But doesn’t it feel like the Oscars are already in our collective rearview mirror? Don’t you kind of long for them to be? Oscar fatigue is worse than ever this year, and it’s not just the one-week scheduling bump involving the Olympics. We’re all a little tired of the stuff that accumulates around them in our 24/7 Academy Awards loop. Tired of the Oscar bloggers. Tired of the lists. Tired of Farrows swooping in to mess things up for Cate Blanchett. How tired are we of the Oscars? So tired that many publications, online and in print, posted their picks last week, as if to say, “Let’s get this thing done.”

That includes my pal Jeff Johnson, who posted a good list about two weeks ago. I was content to leave it at that, but enough people asked me what I thought, so here we are. And I have a listenership in the Twin Cities to consider–hear me and WCCO host John Hines every Friday at 12:10pm EST. John has promised to “hold my feet to the fire” regarding my picks next week, so that’s something for you to look forward to, if not me.

My track record, however, is good–I’ve won my Oscar pool a few years in a row now. And it’s not so good–my personal best is 21/24 (in 2004, the year The Return of the King swept everything), but I tend to average 17 to win, which may not be enough to put you over the top if you’ve got good guessers in your group. So for my feet’s sake  I’m working extra hard to be better than best this year. (This is my Oscar whisperer of choice.)

I’ve got my ballot in front of me (American Cinematographer contributor John Calhoun hosts my annual viewing party); you play along with this one and, who knows, enter and win. Let’s get tired of being tired and go for the gold.

NC 1Best Visual Effects

Gravity begins its sweep of the technical awards here. But where was Pacific Rim?

My Prediction: Gravity

My Choice: Gravity

Status to Win: Lock

Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing

Bonus points to your  group member who knows the difference. Again, these are Gravity‘s to lose (the sounds of silence) but Captain Phillips has its adherents.

My Predictions: Gravity

My Choices: Gravity

Status to Win: Confident

Best Production Design

A tougher one. Her is beautifully worked out, even plausible with its mid-air plazas, reminiscent of contemporary Asian cities; American Hustle is fun;  and 12 Years a Slave thoroughly immersive in period. The Great Gatsby is stunningly realized, too. But I think the science fact of Gravity has the edge.

My Prediction: Gravity

My Choice: The Great Gatsby

Status to Win: Mmm…confident.

NC 2Best Original Song

Another tormented year for this category (shouldn’t TCM devote a day of its “31 Days of Oscar” month to disqualified movies?) but with one clear winner. “Happy”‘s No. 1 yet Idina Menzel will shake the stage on Sunday. (Even if I prefer the wistful “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” as a song.)

My Prediction: “Let It Go”

My Choice: “Let It Go”

Status to Win: Lock

Best Original Score

Steven Price’s score for Gravity sets an unrelenting tone, and is a good (if strenuous) listen on its own. Her gets the hipster vote. Thomas Newman (Saving Mr. Banks) shut out again. I loved Hans Zimmer’s score for 12 Years a Slave but it isn’t there.

My Prediction: Gravity

My Choice: Gravity

Status to Win: Lock

NC 3Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Bad Grandpa seemed to have the edge. In the last two weeks or so, however, I’ve been reading article after article about the quick and dirty ($250 budget!) trappings of Dallas Buyers Club and I think osmosis has affected voters, too. If American Hustle had been nominated, we’d be looking at a different scenario–an inexplicable oversight.

My Prediction: Dallas Buyers Club

My Choice: Bad Grandpa

Status to Win: Confident

Best Film Editing

Was anything more taut, more sustained, more to the point (90 minutes) than Gravity last year? No.

My Prediction: Gravity

My Choice: Gravity

Status to Win: Lock

NC 4Best Costume Design

Not Gravity. American Hustle is, again, fun, but that doesn’t tend to cut it here. The Roaring Twenties elan of The Great Gatsby–all those shirts flying at you in 3D–yes. Baz and spouse Catherine Martin know how to dress for success.

My Prediction: The Great Gatsby

My Choice: The Great Gatsby

Status to Win: Confident

Best Cinematography

Grav…yeah, again. The great Roger Deakins (Prisoners) winless once more. (Recall that voters see only the names of the films, not “the great Roger Deakins.”) But Emmanuel Lubezki’s work on Gravity is stunning, and after two prior nominations (including Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men) richly earned.

My Prediction: Gravity

My Choice: Gravity

Status to Win: Lock

NC 5Best Live Action Short

The often troublesome categories begin…

My Prediction: The gripping Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything). The more familiar (name actors, English language, lighter) The Voorman Problem has its admirers.

My Choice: Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything)

Status to Win: OK

Best Animated Short

My Prediction: Get a Horse! If you saw Frozen, you saw, and loved, this one.

My Choice: Get a Horse!

Status to Win: Lock

Best Documentary Short

My Prediction: Alice Herz Sommer, the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor, died this week at age 110. The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life, is her story, and will be duly honored as such.

My Choice: Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall

Status to Win: Confident

Best Documentary Feature

A strong pool this year, with a light side (20 Feet from Stardom) and a dark side (The Act of Killing).

My Prediction: Why do I think voters, who had DVDs of all of these, fell harder for 20 Feet than any other?

My Choice: The Act of Killing. I go dark.

Status to Win: A tough call. Going on instinct here.

The Great BeautyBest Foreign Language Film

Three “meh” choices (The Broken Circle BreakdownThe Hunt, and Omar), one said-to-be-outstanding film that I haven’t seen (The Missing Picture), and a Roman holiday of a movie that hits aging white guy voters in their sweet spot (The Great Beauty). 

My Prediction: The Great Beauty, which is very good.

My Choice: The Great Beauty.

Status to Win: Confident

Best Animated Feature Film

Back on solid ground again, whew. [Wipes brow.]

My Prediction: The Croods never bothered her anyway. Coronation time for Frozen.

My Choice: Frozen. Much as I admired Hayao Miyazki’s The Wind Rises, his final bow, I wasn’t entirely captivated by it. Voters like to enjoy animated features.

Status to Win: Lock

Best Original Screenplay

My Prediction: Everyone likes American Hustle. Shaking off his wild indie youth, writer-director David O’Russell has become more likable over the years. No one likes it enough for it to win anything else, however, so look for Russell to claim his first Oscar after five nominations.

My Choice: I guess Her. I miss what Charlie Kaufman might have brought to it.

Status to Win: OK

Best Adapted Screenplay

My Prediction: 12 Years a Slave has language that rings in the ears, firmly rooting the story in place. So resonant.

My Choice: 12 Years a Slave.

Status to Win: Lock

Best Supporting Actress

The one acting category that’s still fluid. Sally Hawkins and Julia Roberts (a lead role; it’s her character’s journey in August: Osage County, not Meryl Streep’s) are ballast; June Squibb, spirited but at the margins; Jennifer Lawrence, ubiquitous, beloved, and a winner last year. Which leaves…

My Prediction: Lupita Nyong’o, shattering in 12 Years a Slave.

My Choice: Nyong’o.

Status to Win: Confident. Will Lawrence upset? Squibb dampen her chances? Stay tuned…

Best Supporting Actor

My Prediction: Jared Leto, who walked away from acting five years ago, returns with an Oscar part. I wish I cared for the movie more.

My Choice: Jonah Hill, great in The Wolf of Wall Street, which is going to be shut out.

Status to Win: Lock

NC 8Best Actress

My Prediction: Sorry, Farrows. Nothing has halted Cate Blanchett’s momentum. (And, Meryl, you’re supporting this year anyway.)

My Choice: Blanchett.

Status to Win: Lock

Best Actor

My Prediction: Matthew McConaughey, a plausible nominee last year for a supporting role in Magic Mike, was sidelined, then came roaring back with a lead Oscar part–in a movie I was largely indifferent to. And it will win two or three Oscars. And I’ll just have to accept that.

My Choice: Leo, this should have been yours. A magnificent performance. If there’s any upset (unlikely) I hope it’s here.

Status to Win: Lock.

NC 9Best Director

My Prediction: Up, up, and away for Alfonso Cuaron and Gravity.

My Choice: But I still prefer Steve McQueen’s hard-hitting, distanced, nuanced direction of 12 Years a Slave.

Status to win: Lock

Best Picture

Nine nominees. One outright dud (Philomena). Movies others liked more than me (American Hustle, Her). A movie I liked more than some, with reservations (The Wolf of Wall Street). Movies nobody really likes, not that much, anyway (Dallas Buyers Club, Nebraska). Two just- right movies (Captain Phillips, Gravity).

My Prediction: One masterpiece. 12 Years a Slave.

My Choice: 12 Years a Slave. Though a Gravity win is good for the sci-fi/sci-fact genre.

Status to Win: Confident. Rooting for it…two days to go…three days before Oscar predictions for next year begin…