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Predicting the 86th Academy Awards: Who Will and Who Should Win

Posted by Kenneth Shinozuka on March 1, 2014 at 12:05 PM

For 86 years, the Oscars have celebrated and enshrined one of the most essential assets to our global culture. The annual ceremony awards those who have best mastered the art of visual storytelling – better known to us as the cinema – in a televised extravaganza viewed in over 200 countries. Glamorous celebrities walk down the long red carpet, interviewed about the often less-than-glamorous roles for which they were nominated. Between the presentations of each award, the host attempts, with varying success, to captivate our attention with comedic routines and over-the-top musical numbers. Yet the Oscars play a much larger societal role. The historical films that often win the Best Picture statuette recapture the zeitgeist of an era, or highlight episodes of our past that we cannot afford to forget. This year, the film 12 Years a Slave portrays the gruesome toll of slavery on both the lives of the African-Americans who suffered under it, as well as the moral consciousness of the entire nation. The Best Documentary category showcases films that address serious problems currently plaguing the world. Even the Best Visual Effects award marks the progress of technology, and its ability to convincingly emulate real life.


Of course, before each Oscars, we wonder and place bets about who will win among those that are nominated. Without further ado, here is Cinemann’s forecast of the results for the 86th Academy Awards, which will be broadcasted on ABC on Sunday, March 2 at 7:00 PM EST (note that each of my predictions for the major categories is followed by an explanation; however, I did not explain my choices for the other categories.)



Major Categories


Best Picture

Will Win: 12 Years a Slave

Could Win: Gravity or American Hustle

Should Win: Gravity

This year’s Academy Awards features one of the closest Best Picture races in recent memory. American Hustle won the Screen Actors Guild award for Best Ensemble Cast, an award that typically predicts the winner of Best Picture. The Producers Guild Award for Best Feature Film, which has corresponded with the Best Picture Oscar for the last six years, was awarded to both Gravity and 12 Years a Slave in the first tie in its 24-year history. These two films and American Hustle all have tremendous momentum from the pre-Oscar awards season. Gravity is a breakthrough in the ability of films to use the latest technology to conjure the realities of otherworldly places – in this case outer space – that could only exist within our imagination. Nonetheless, the Academy has not selected a fantasy/science fiction film in over 10 years. American Hustle, packed with great performances and zingy humor, has the broadest appeal. Nonetheless, 12 Years has a slight edge in the field, only because it has struck a powerful emotional chord with many Academy voters due to its unflinching depiction of slavery.


Best Director

Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)

Could Win: Steven McQueen (12 Years a Slave)

Should Win: Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)

Alfonso Cuarón won the Directors Guild Award (DGA), a “precursor award” that quite accurately predicts the winner of the Oscar for Best Director. Only seven times in the 67-year history of the DGA has its winner failed to correspond with the Academy Award for Directing. The impressiveness of Cuarón’s direction was evident throughout his film Gravity, both in his artistic touches – for instance, his uninterrupted, 17-minute opening shot – and his remarkable ability to turn the script into a visual reality. Cuarón convincingly placed the audience in outer space, eerily depicting its noiseless emptiness and infinite boundlessness. On the other hand, some Academy members may choose to vote for Steve McQueen, who illuminated 12 Years a Slave with a profundity and heartfelt intensity that few other directors have brought into the dark subject of slavery.


Best Actor in a Leading Role

Will Win: Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

Could Win: Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)

Should Win: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)

Matthew McConaughey won the Screen Actors Guild Award (SAG) for Best Actor, yet another “precursor award” that predicts the Academy Award for Best Actor. Losing over fifty pounds, he experienced a huge physical transformation for his role in Dallas Buyers Club, in which he played a deeply homophobic man diagnosed with AIDS in the 1980s. McConaughey exuded a great level of confidence as he portrayed his character’s masculinity, while also portraying the desperation of his character when faced with the realization of his impending death. On the other hand, McConaughey faces some competition from Chiwetel Ejiofor, who may win over Academy voters with his depiction of the struggles of a free African-American who was enslaved and snatched away from his family. In addition, Leonardo DiCaprio deserves an Oscar for his performance as Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street. DiCaprio captivates our attention for every moment of the film’s three-hour runtime; with each scene, he peels away layers of insight until he reaches the core of Belfort’s egoism and incurable obsession with greed.


Best Actress in a Leading Role

Will Win: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)

Could Win: Amy Adams (American Hustle) – unlikely

Should Win: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)

Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) won the SAG award for Best Actress and is currently the frontrunner for the Oscar for Actress in a Leading Role. While Amy Adams (American Hustle) performed well in her role as a con woman spinning a web of deceits, her work simply does not match up to the caliber of Blanchett’s. Blanchett has already won over the voters in many critics’ circles with her portrayal of a Manhattan socialite losing all her money and assets due to her husband’s fraudulent business dealings. The agony and despair that Blanchett so uncannily portrayed in Blue Jasmine exceed any of her past work and almost guarantee her the Academy Award.


Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Will Win: Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

Could Win: N/A

Should Win: Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) won the SAG award for Best Supporting Actor and is almost unbeatable in the corresponding Oscar category. Leto, like McConaughey, had a huge physical transformation for his role as a transsexual coping with AIDS and the social stigmas associated with the disease and his/her sexuality. Leto captures his character as a victim of a social climate in which non-heterosexuals sacrificed their opportunities and reputation in order to preserve their ability to openly express themselves.


Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Will Win: Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)

Could Win: Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)

Should Win: Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)

Lupita Nyong’o won the SAG award for Best Supporting Actress, but faces some tough competition from Jennifer Lawrence, the winner of the Golden Globe in the same category. Lawrence brings charged energy and a jolting vitality into her performance as the wife of a con artist, accentuating the emotional fragility and temperamental nature of her character. However, the Academy may be reluctant to give her an Academy Award for the second year in a row – she won the Best Actress award last year for her performance in Silver Linings Playbook. On the other hand, Nyong’o’s depiction of a young girl stoically suffering under the brutal chains of slavery may touch the hearts of many voters. She cannot escape her master’s volatile emotions towards her; at one moment, she is the subject of his lustful desire and at the next, she must bear the brunt of his whip.


Best Original Screenplay (very close race)

Will Win: Spike Jonze (Her) 

Could Win:  Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell (American Hustle)

Should Win: Spike Jonze (Her)

Spike Jonze (Her) won the Writers’ Guild Award for Best Original Screenplay. In his masterful screenplay, Jonze raised many thoughtful questions about the deterioration of human feeling in a world increasingly dominated by computers and artificial intelligence. Can manmade technology, whose functions are the product of engineered code rather than true instinct, thought, or emotion, ever replace the love of a human? Nonetheless, Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell have a considerable shot at winning. Their American Hustle screenplay infuses comedic wit with liveliness to create a blast of vivacious fun.


Best Adapted Screenplay

Will Win: John Ridley (12 Years a Slave)

Could Win: N/A

Should Win: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke (Before Midnight)

John Ridley did not win the Writers’ Guild Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, but only due to a technicality that made his work in 12 Years a Slave ineligible. His screenplay bears such raw emotion in a subject area where so many others have striven for honeyed saccharinity. He does not attempt to hide the brutalities of slavery and in doing so creates an honest portrait of one of the most horrendous chapters in American history. At the same time, however, Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke deserve recognition for their Before Midnight screenplay, which offers an insightful look into the fissures and cracks that inevitably break even the strongest of relationships. Their work is notable for long passages of dialogue that subtly and honestly illustrate the dynamic of a couple slowly falling apart.



Other Categories


Films


Best Animated Film

Will Win: Frozen

Could Win: N/A

Should Win: The Wind Rises


Best Documentary  (very close race)

Will Win: 20 Feet from Stardom

Could Win: The Act of Killing

Should Win: N/A (I myself did not see any of the nominated documentaries)


Best Foreign Language Film

Will Win: The Great Beauty

Could Win: The Hunt

Should Win: N/A (I myself did not see any of the nominated foreign language films)



Artistic Achievement


Best Costume Design  (very competitive race)

Will Win: American Hustle

Could Win: The Great Gatsby

Should Win: The Great Gatsby


Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Will Win: Dallas Buyers Club

Could Win: N/A

Should Win: Dallas Buyers Club


Best Production Design

Will Win: The Great Gatsby

Could Win: Gravity

Should Win: Her



Music


Best Original Song

Will Win: "Let It Go" (Frozen)

Could Win: "Ordinary Love" (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom)

Should Win: "Ordinary Love" (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom)


Best Original Score

Will Win: Gravity 

Could Win: Her -- unlikely

Should Win: Gravity



Technical Categories


Best Cinematography

Will Win: Gravity

Could Win: N/A

Should Win: Gravity


Best Film Editing  (very close race)

Will Win: Gravity

Could Win: Captain Phillips

Should Win: Gravity


Best Sound Editing

Will Win: Gravity

Could Win: Captain Phillips

Should Win: Gravity


Best Sound Mixing

Will Win: Gravity

Could Win: Inside Llewyn Davis

Should Win: Gravity


Best Visual Effects

Will Win: Gravity

Could Win: N/A

Should Win: Gravity 

Categories: None

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