“The Oscars are basically to supply correct answers for future trivia questions.” – A.O. Scott, New York Times film critic (on “Morning Joe”)
IT’S ONE reason Jonah Hill is nominated, but many think the Oscar will go to Jared Leto, though there’s little doubt he deserves it. It’s why Harold Ramis, whose writing credits include some of Hollywood’s great comedies, Groundhog Day, Ghostbusters, Animal House… Analyze This… doesn’t have a little gold statue for himself. Annie Hall is documented to be the last comedy to receive a Best Picture Oscar. The Wolf of Wall Street is absolutely hysterical, with Leonardo di Caprio delivering a tour de force of spectacular dimension in an uproarious film that cynics and critics kvetched about mostly because of humorless political correctness.
Oscar takes himself very seriously.
Considering 2013 was a historic cash cow at the box office, including those films that didn’t make the cut, you can understand why.
In the Oscar rumor mill category, which Joe Scarborough on “Morning Joe” delighted in fanning Friday, with all the drama stirred up recently about Woody Allen, there’s chatter that it might hold Cate Blanchett back from winning for Best Actress for Blue Jasmine, which is one of Allen’s finest films.
I don’t believe it for a second, with Scarborough’s role in talking trash likely more about Dylan Farrow coming on board the network and possibly disseminating this story, as he’s not exactly a silent actor in the furor. Scarborough even went so far as to expound on Cate Blanchett’s character actually being a depiction of Mia Farrow.
Remember Picasso’s women? Artists trashing their exes is hardly a new invention.
Cate Blanchett deserves the Oscar and has been the favorite from the start, even if Amy Adams is the glue to American Hustle and gives another amazing performance. Adams is turning up in films so many times reminds me of how Meryl Streep’s presence widened into the career she has today.
As a side note, Christian Bale was absolutely amazing in American Hustle and had quite a year that includes Out of the Furnace, a remarkable film.
My pick, more of which you can see below, of Leonardo di Caprio for Best Actor is based on how uproariously hilarious his performance is and that “dying is easy, comedy is hard.” DiCaprio is reportedly campaigning for himself and Wolf of Wall Street, which simply deserves a lot more buzz.
Matthew McConaughey is equally deserving. Back in the ’90s when I was with the LA Weekly, I wrote a column about him, saying he would be the next big thing. It sure took a long time, but what a year McConaughey has had, including Mud, but especially HBO’s True Detective, which is actually helping him a bit right now in his Oscar quest. True Detective is the most stunning thing to come out of HBO in a very long time and that’s saying a lot.
The biggest Oscar suspense being reported right now is the rumblings of a tie for Best Picture between 12 Years a Slave and Gravity. Once again let me say just how marvelous Captain Phillips is.
Lupita Nyong’o seems to have gained momentum since the Golden Globes, with her name showing up a lot lately. Â Momentum is in her favor and for good reasons. However, on Chuck Todd’s SXM radio show Saturday, Variety’s Tim Gray said there’s often a surprise in this category, citing Nebraska‘s June Squibb.
Let’s also consider the unworthy films nominated. That Nebraska was nominated instead of The Butler, June Squibb over Oprah Winfrey is criminal. What, can’t the Academy Awards honor two films starring African Americans in one year? Nebraska was a dreadful film, made even worse when compared with The Butler or even Blue Jasmine. This slight highlights the absurdity of the Oscars, which are really a Hollywood marketing took, which is fine, but just because Nebraska was in black and white doesn’t mean it’s a serious film or even worth being among films like Wolf of Wall Street and American Hustle, let alone Gravity.
The Oscar campaigning is a multi-million dollar investment. Tim Gray talked about Warner Bros. having a very aggressive campaign for their film Gravity. Harvey Weinstein is the very embodiment of aggressive and hired Democratic operative Stephanie Cutter, as well as reportedly targeting 60-year-old Academy members for his film Philomena, starring the incomparable Judi Dench, who is up for Best Actress. Gray also cited American Hustle, with Sony and David O. Russell campaigning hard, including Bradley Cooper showing up with Russell in the audience for Jimmy Fallon‘s first week on the Tonight Show. Chuck Todd mentioned that Sony hired the Glover Park Group out of Washington, D.C. for their campaign.
American Hustle started out with strong buzz by winning the New York Film Critics top award, but that dissipated as the weeks passed. The film remains a favorite of many cinema aficionados, including those who vote on Oscar. It’s certainly a favorite of mine, the music alone worth the price of admission, with the characters and performances deserving of the historic Oscar nominations the film received.
Scott Feinberg over at The Hollywood Reporter posted several “brutally honest Oscar voter” ballots to give people a view into the thinking. I’ve already covered one Oscar voter who called 12 Years a Slave “torture porn” in The Daily Beast. Â Here’s a snippet on Best Film from the fourth in Feinberg’s Hollywood Reporter series (here are one, two, and three):
I voted forÂ GravityÂ and thenÂ 12 Years a Slave. Honestly, I really went back and forth thinking about it. The truth is I only watched about half ofÂ 12 Years a Slave; I couldn’t take it. It made me sick to my stomach and I just thought, “OK, I know slavery was terrible, and this is an important movie and I get all that,” but I was bored with how long it was taking. Frankly, if they had had the awards the week after the nominations, I would have voted for it. But when it came time to fill it out I thought, “You know,Â GravityÂ was pretty much a perfect movie experience. It had really good performances from really good movie stars, it was thrilling and emotional and I cried — and it was only 90 minutes!” Plus I really likeÂ Alfonso Cuaron. And I remembered the experience of seeing the movie. I almost wishÂ Gravity[meaning Warner Bros.] had not sent out screeners. The screeners cannot have helpedGravity. Anyway, then there wasÂ Captain PhillipsÂ — I thought it was a great movie. The one that I wanted to love the most but did not wasÂ American Hustle. I loved [David O. Russell’s last movie]Â Silver Linings PlaybookÂ — it was one of my favorite movies of last year — but I didn’t get this one, and one minute after I got up out of my seat at the theater it had left me.
Ellen DeGeneres is the host this year, with the task of making the Oscar’s fun. I’m not the first to say this, but the show should be entertaining instead of a slew of acceptance speeches. One reason Ellen’s a good fit is because, like Jimmy Fallon taking over the Tonight Show, the Oscar telecast is an evening that should be meant for enjoyment and fun for everyone, not just snarky adults who are cynical about the state of things and can’t wait to get a dig in at someone they don’t like.
Hope you enjoy what’s called at our house, Oscar Sunday. I’ve offered my picks for several of the leading categories, but there are many more artists and films that are deserving of attention. Moviefone has a printable Oscar ballot so you can know every single film nominated in ever category.
Here’s to all of the movies and everyone involved, especially all those amazing people behind the scenes that make the magic possible. It was a great year for movie lovers.
TM PICK, BEST PICTURE: Gravity
*Interesting tidbit: Sandra Bullock will reportedly make at least $70 million for Gravity
Note: Buzz is that it’s a toss up between 12 Years a Slave and Gravity, with some talk of a tie.
TM PICK, BEST DIRECTOR:Â AlfonsoÂ Cuaron
Note: Gravity will likely also get Best Cinematography.
TM PICK, BEST ACTRESS: Cate Blanchett
*Interesting tidbit: A.O. Scott of the New York Times predicts an upset here of Amy Adams, due to the Woody Allen scandal factor.
TM PICK, BEST ACTOR: Leonardo di Caprio
Note: This comes with a caveat that Matthew McConaughey is equally deserving. Â
TM PICK, BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Lupita Nyong’o
TM PICK, BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Jared Leto
TM PICK: BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: American Hustle
TM PICK: BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:Â Her
Note:Â Spike Jonze got just about everything wrong in this film about relationships, not to mention sex, so as an expert in these realms I had to really discipline myself and put my prejudice aside. Â I liked American Hustle a lot better …but as to “original”…
TM PICK, Best Makeup and Hairstyling: American Hustle
TM PICK, Best Film Editing: Captain Phillips
*Interesting tidbit: The Hollywood Reporter commissioned a math whiz who gets these predictions right.
TM PICK, Best Costume Design: The Great Gatsby
TM PICK, Best Sound Mixing: Lone Survivor
…and just in case you thought I’d forgotten the fashion, the graphic below shows drawings of all the Best Actress gowns, going all the way back to the golden era of film.
This isn’t just about Oscar, it’s about American film, the greatest export we have.
Actress gown graphic above via Mediarun.
This article as been updated.