Sunday, March 2, 2014
Final Thoughts Before the Oscars
If you've been paying any attention to this year's awards season, then you'll know that it has actually been pretty exciting. It will all culminate tonight at the Academy Awards where the top prize is actually still up from grabs, which is something that hasn't really been true for awhile. There are three films who rose to the top and all have been jockeying all season to be the last film standing. You have the technical masterpiece space thriller Gravity, the emotionally devastating slave drama 12 Years a Slave, and the starry and irresistibly fun comedy American Hustle.
It probably helped that all three films were different enough from one another to find allegiances in so many corners of the industry. 12 Years a Slave, with its pedigree and seemingly Oscar-friendly story, took the mantle of early favorite appealing not only to critics, but award bodies like the Spirit Awards. Gravity in the meantime successfully connected to mainstream audiences convincing the public that it was the rare film that you just had to see in the theater becoming the highest grossing Best Picture nominee. American Hustle was released later in the year, but with its lighter tone and stacked and popular ensemble managed to steer some attention away from the other two films. Industry awards were mostly spread out amongst them. 12 Years a Slave won the most Best Picture awards winning with critics, the BFCA, BAFTAs, Spirit Awards, Golden Globes, and PGA and yet its dominance wasn't all-encompassing. Most of the ensemble awards, for example, including the all-important SAG Ensemble, went to American Hustle (which also won at the Golden Globes) while the majority of directing and other technical awards went to "British Film" Gravity, which also won the PGA alongside 12 Years a Slave in a historic tie and, more essentially, the DGA to its Oscar front-runner director Alfonso Cuaron. This three-way fight has many people thinking about a possibility of a split-year with Picture and Director going to two different films and the big winner of the night not getting that many wins. That very well could happen this year.
WGA actually eschewed those films to give its awards to fellow Best Picture nominees Her and Captain Phillips. Her started out the season strong garnering big wins from the National Board of Review for Feature and Director while writer-director Spike Jonze had been winning the lion's share of screenplay awards, more notably at the Golden Globes where it was up against both 12 Years a Slave and its Oscar competitor American Hustle. The NBR went in another direction completely, a refreshingly frequent occurrence this season, giving its screenplay awards to The Wolf of Wall Street and awards-season victim Inside Llewyn Davis.
The acting races are a bit less up-in-the-air this year than other categories with many people predicting Golden Globe winners Matthew McConaughey, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jared Leto to win their respective categories. Certainly Blanchett and Leto have dominated all season winning the bulk of critic prizes early on all the way to winning the Spirit Awards yesterday so their paths to glory seem straightforward. McConaughey got less critic prizes than BAFTA-winner Chiwetel Ejiofor, but was able to pick up bigger prizes down the line garnering momentum for the industry's desire to reward him for a great couple of years.
SAG and BFCA winner Lupita Nyong'o, who has been the undeniable red carpet star all season long. And while I do love them both, I'd be lying if I don't say how much I'm rooting for Nyong'o to win later tonight. Elsewhere playing second fiddle are big names like Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts, and two-time Oscar nominees Jonah Hill and Bradley Cooper. Not to mention the other big names that were left off such as Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Robert Redford, and Oprah Winfrey (as well as the not so big names which could be another dozen or two names or so).
The level of uncertainty so close to showtime is fueling both my excitement and apprehension, but I think all of that just makes it more worth while. Granted there were the usual distractions such as the whole Woody Allen/Mia Farrow debacle, the disqualification of a Best Song nominee, the big snubs in the Foreign Language and Documentary categories, the Academy announcement of "Movie Heroes" as its theme, and the usual slew of complaints lobbed against Best Picture nominees (12 Years too violent, Wolf of Wall Street too celebratory, Dallas Buyers Club too misrepresentative, etc.), but those kind of things always happen. I'm just going to try to just enjoy the show knowing that there's a really good chance two of my top 10 films last year will walk home with the majority of awards. Plus there's lots to look forward to such as all of the musical performances as well as host Ellen DeGeneres (a good and safe choice after last year's Seth McFarlane gamble). Bring it on!
Click here to see my official predictions.
Click here to see my own personal ballot.
Click here to see my initial thoughts on the Oscar nominations.
Click here to see all my posts on "Awards Season."