Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle

Well, the nominations are set. The question is which ones will pan out into Oscars. The Oscar telecast is on March 2, with Ellen DeGeneres (“Finding Nemo”) hosting.

Best Picture
Oscar’s Final Nine
“American Hustle”
“Captain Phillips”
“Dallas Buyers Club”
“Gravity”
“Her”
“Nebraska”
“Philomena”
“12 Years a Slave”
“The Wolf of Wall Street” (Haven’t Seen)

Likes: From the looks at the nomination totals for each film (none has less than four), this is a heavyweight list. And, in a strange anomaly, two of the picks (“Gravity,” “Her”) are my top choices of the year.

Dislikes: “American Hustle’s” an entertaining movie, but it’s not quite as good as David O. Russell’s last two Best Picture nominees. I would have preferred to see “Before Midnight,” “Stoker,” “The Hunt,” or even a left-field choice like Sarah Polley’s “Stories We Tell” (passed over for Documentary Feature) get in there instead.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Gravity”; “Her”; “Before Midnight”; “Stories We Tell”; “Stoker”; “Blackfish”; “12 Years a Slave”; “The Conjuring”

Oscar’s Pick: “12 Years a Slave.” The Producers Guild will ultimately decide this thing. There’s a three-horse race going on for the win between “12 Years,” “Hustle,” and “Gravity,” but despite the momentum right now going with “Hustle,” I think “12 Years a Slave,” which has long been thought to be the frontrunner, is just too important for the Academy as a whole to pass up for Best Picture.

Best Director
Oscar’s Final Five
David O. Russell, “American Hustle”
Alfonso Cauron, “Gravity”
Alexander Payne, “Nebraska”
Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”
Martin Scorsese, “The Wolf of Wall Street” (Haven’t Seen)

Likes: When Payne’s name was called, I was worried that McQueen had been passed over. Thankfully, I was wrong. Scorsese’s film is still on my “need to see” list, but it’s striking that he’s got his third nomination in four feature films for “Wall Street.”

Dislikes: Like every other major category, this was a highly competitive one. Russell is a good choice to go with Cauron, Payne, and McQueen, but I would have liked to see Spike Jonze (“Her”), Paul Greengrass (“Captain Phillips”), Chan-wook Park (“Stoker”), or Richard Linklater (“Before Midnight”) instead.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: Alfonso Cauron, “Gravity”; Spike Jonze, “Her”; Sarah Polley, “Stories We Tell”; Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”; Chan-wook Park, “Stoker”

Oscar’s Pick: Alfonso Cauron, “Gravity.” Ever since the movie started screening, it was clear that, unless the Academy fell in love with “Gravity,” Best Picture and Best Director were not going to line up. With three possibilities for the top prize, it’s more clear than ever this is going to be the big one for Cauron’s space odyssey this year. Everyone else is an also-ran.

Best Actor
Oscar’s Final Five
Christian Bale, “American Hustle”
Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street” (Haven’t Seen)
Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”
Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”

Likes: Bale sneaked past a LOT of people for his second nomination, and even if he isn’t in my top five, he was pretty damn great in the role.

Dislikes: That I haven’t seen DiCaprio and “Wolf” yet. It’s easy to say I would have preferred to see Joaquin Phoenix (“Her”), Ethan Hawke (“Before Midnight”), or Tom Hanks (“Captain Phillips”) nominated instead, but this was going to be a bloodbath, with plenty of great performances on the outside looking in, regardless of how things went.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”; Joaquin Phoenix, “Her”; Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”; Ethan Hawke, “Before Midnight”; Tom Hanks, “Captain Phillips”

Oscar’s Pick: Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club.” There’s a reasonable argument to be made for DiCaprio, who wasn’t necessarily assured a nomination for the controversial “Wolf,” sneaking past the long-presumed frontrunner, but I think a SAG win for McConaughey, who is really this year’s “Ben Affleck” in terms of career turnaround, will seal the deal.

Best Actress
Oscar’s Final Five
Amy Adams, “American Hustle”
Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”
Judi Dench, “Philomena”
Meryl Streep, “August: Osage County” (Haven’t Seen)

Likes: Amy Adams landed her first lead actress nomination for her sexy, hilarious performance in “Hustle.” And Bullock was able to hold on for her second nomination in five years for her work in “Gravity.”

Dislikes: No room for Julie Delpy (“Before Midnight”), Greta Gerwig (“Frances Ha”), or Amy Acker (“Much Ado About Nothing”), but like Best Actor, this was going to be a tough category to break through for a lot of people.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”; Julie Delpy, “Before Midnight”; Greta Gerwig, “Frances Ha”; Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”; Amy Adams, “American Hustle”

Oscar’s Pick: Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine.” Unless a groundswell of support happens for Adams (now a five-time nominee, and sure winner at some point in her career) or Bullock, look for Blanchett’s heartbreaking turn in Woody Allen’s latest dramatic comedy to walk away with the win.

Best Supporting Actor
Oscar’s Final Five
Barkhad Abdi, “Captain Phillips”
Bradley Cooper, “American Hustle”
Michael Fassbender, “12 Years a Slave”
Jonah Hill, “The Wolf of Wall Street” (Haven’t Seen)
Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”

Likes: Abdi’s performance survived what was surely a cut-throat voting process for the actors, as did Fassbender, who was looking less and less likely for his first nomination.

Dislikes: There’s always a lot of potentials who miss out. As good as Cooper was in “Silver Linings Playbook,” he was merely “very good” in “Hustle,” and didn’t stand out like his nominated co-stars. I would have traded him for Matthew Goode (“Stoker”), Nathan Fillion (“Much Ado About Nothing”), James Franco (“Spring Breakers”), or Daniel Bruhl (“Rush”) any day of the week.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”; Matthew Goode, “Stoker”; Barkhad Abdi, “Captain Phillips”; Nathan Fillion, “Much Ado About Nothing”; James Franco, “Spring Breakers”

Oscar’s Pick: Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club.” This is another loaded category, and the Supporting categories can always surprise. I think this one could be a surprise for Hill or Abdi, but I’m going to go with Golden Globe winner Leto, who’s become something of a frontrunner this year.

Best Supporting Actress
Oscar’s Final Five
Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine”
Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”
Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”
Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County” (Haven’t Seen)
June Squibb, “Nebraska”

Likes: Hawkins, a previous nominee, earned a slot for her supportive sister in Woody Allen’s “Jasmine,” and Nyong’o survived any backlash for “12 Years a Slave” with a nod, the film’s third from the actor’s branch (a key group).

Dislikes: There are any number of performances for smaller movies that deserved consideration (like Octavia Spencer and Melonie Diaz for “Fruitvale Station”), and some bigger ones, as well (remember when Oprah was a shoe-in to win for “The Butler?”). The biggest disappointment, however, goes with the acting branch not nominating Scarlett Johansson for her voice-only performance in “Her.” I just saw this remarkable movie the day before nominations came out, and I’m definitely a fan of it, and her performance, which I think is the most beautiful, nuanced role of her career. If she doesn’t work, if she doesn’t connect with Joaquin Phoenix, the film (a five-time nominee, in fact) doesn’t work. How is that not Oscar worthy, whether you see her or not?

Brian’s personal hopefuls: Scarlett Johansson, “Her”; Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”; Annika Wedderkopp, “The Hunt”; Amy Adams, “Her”; Octavia Spencer, “Fruitvale Station”

Oscar’s Pick: Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle.” Can J-Law do something no other actor has done since Tom Hanks in the ’90s, and win back-to-back Oscars? Here, she’s in the supporting category instead of the lead one, but the obvious wide-spread support for “Hustle” (which tied “Gravity” for the most nominations overall with 10), and the fact that it’s the second year in a row a David O. Russell film sealed nominations in all four acting categories, makes me think the Academy will give it to her. The only question, really, is whether it’s too soon for such an honor. I don’t think so.

Best Original Screenplay
Oscar’s Final Five
“American Hustle” (David O. Russell & Eric Warren Singer)
“Blue Jasmine” (Woody Allen)
“Dallas Buyers Club” (Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack)
“Her” (Spike Jonze)
“Nebraska” (Bob Nelson)

Likes: All the nominees are more than deserving, and I’m particularly glad to see Jonze get the nod for his one-of-a-kind screenplay.

Dislikes: This was also a tricky category this year for me because nothing really popped out (until I saw “Her,” at least). Still, “Stoker” and “The Hunt” were strong, unnerving thrillers, and “The Conjuring” proved that horror didn’t have to be brain dead to be successful. (And “Gravity” was truly profound in its simplicity, which is always tough to pull off.)

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Her” (Spike Jonze); “Stoker” (Wentworth Miller); “Blue Jasmine” (Woody Allen); “The Conjuring” (Chad & Carey Hayes); “The Hunt” (Tobias Lindholm & Thomas Vinterberg)

Oscar’s Pick: “American Hustle.” I really want to go with “Her” here, and I think that’s a very real possibility, but my gut tells me to go with “Hustle,” because after back-to-back duel nominations for writing and directing (as well as a directing nomination for “The Fighter”), I think the Academy is itching to honor Russell, and this is the best place for them to do so.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Oscar’s Final Five
“Before Midnight” (Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Richard Linklater)
“Captain Phillips” (Billy Ray)
“Philomena” (Steve Coogan & Jeff Pope)
“12 Years a Slave” (John Ridley)
“The Wolf of Wall Street” (Terence Winter) (Haven’t Seen)

Likes: At least “Before Midnight” earned a nomination here. It deserved more, but maybe next film. It’s good to see “Captain Phillips” get some appreciation, because it seemed to fall off the map.

Dislikes: This was a rough category to come up with five for this year for me, so while it would have been nice to see nods for “Much Ado About Nothing,” “The Spectacular Now,” and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” I can’t say I’m broken hearted about it, since the two best adapted scripts got nominated anyway.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Before Midnight” (Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Richard Linklater, Kim Krizan); “12 Years a Slave” (John Ridley); “Much Ado About Nothing” (Joss Whedon); “The Spectacular Now” (Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber); “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (Steven Conrad)

Oscar’s Pick: “12 Years a Slave.” Like Original Screenplay, I really want to go with my personal top choice (“Before Midnight”), and honestly, I can see it winning. That said, my gut’s saying to go with the nine-nomination “12 Years a Slave,” and you know what? I can’t begrudge it a win.

Best Original Score
Oscar’s Final Five
“The Book Thief” (John Williams) (Haven’t Seen)
“Gravity” (Stephen Price)
“Her” (William Butler & Owen Pallett)
“Philomena” (Alexandre Desplat)
“Saving Mr. Banks” (Thomas Newman) (Haven’t Seen)

Likes: Two of the best scores of the year got nominated. You’ll never hear me complain about that. Nor will I complain about John Williams getting his millionth Oscar nomination (actually, it’s just #49), even if he hasn’t won in 20 years.

Dislikes: How is it Hans Zimmer, a 10-time nominee who’s only won once (for “The Lion King”), wrote four fantastic scores this year (for “12 Years a Slave,” “The Lone Ranger,” “Man of Steel,” and “Rush”) and didn’t get nominated for one? An embarrassment of riches, I’m guessing, resulting in him splitting the vote with himself.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Gravity” (Steven Price); “Stoker” (Clint Mansell & Philip Glass); “Her” (William Butler & Owen Pallett); “The Lone Ranger” (Hans Zimmer); “Oblivion” (M83)

Oscar’s Pick: “Gravity.” “Her” could surprise, but “Gravity” is just too important to the film to pass up.

Best Original Song
Oscar’s Final Five
“Happy” from “Despicable Me 2” (Pharrell Williams)
“Let It Go” from “Frozen” (Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez) (Haven’t Seen)
“The Moon Song” from “Her” (Karen O & Spike Jonze)
“Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” (U2) (Haven’t Seen)

Likes: I’m sure I’d be applauding this list if I was more familiar with the choices.

Dislikes: That “Frozen’s” song is such a sure thing that “Her” will go home empty-handed despite it’s deserving duel music nominations.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “The Moon Song” from “Her” (Karen O & Spike Jonze); “Becomes the Color” from “Stoker” (Emily Wells); “I See Fire” from “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” (Ed Sheeran); “Oblivion” from “Oblivion” (Anthony Gonzalez & Susanne Sundfør); “How Lowe?” from “Swing Lowe Sweet Chariote” (C Ridenhour & DC Snyder)

Oscar’s Pick: “Let It Go.” See “Dislikes” comments.

Best Animated Feature
Oscar’s Final Five
“The Croods”
“Despicable Me 2”
“Ernest & Celestine” (Haven’t Seen)
“Frozen” (Haven’t Seen)
“The Wind Rises” (Haven’t Seen)

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “The Croods”; “Epic”; “Monsters University”; “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2”

Oscar’s Pick: “Frozen.” Disney Animation’s musical smash will win out over “The Croods” and Miyazaki’s swan song.

Best Foreign Language Film
Oscar’s Final Five
“The Broken Circle Breakdown” (Belgium) (Haven’t Seen)
“The Great Beauty” (Italy) (Haven’t Seen)
“The Hunt” (Denmark)
“The Missing Picture” (Cambodia) (Haven’t Seen)
“Omar” (Palestine) (Haven’t Seen)

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “The Hunt” (Denmark); “The Silence” (Denmark)

Oscar’s Pick: “The Great Beauty.” Don’t know why.

Best Documentary Feature
Oscar’s Final Five
“The Act of Killing”
“The Cutie and the Boxer”
“Dirty Wars”
“The Square”
“20 Feet From Stardom”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Stories We Tell”; “Blackfish”; “The Act of Killing”; “56-Up”; “Salinger”

Oscar’s Pick: “The Act of Killing,” but don’t be surprised if “20 Feet From Stardom” surprises.

Best Visual Effects
Oscar’s Final Five
“Gravity”
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
“Iron Man 3”
“The Lone Ranger”
“Star Trek Into Darkness”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Gravity”; “Pacific Rim”; “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”; “Jack the Giant Slayer”; “Ender’s Game”

Oscar’s Pick: I know “Gravity” is going to win easily, but how the Hell did “The Lone Ranger” make it in over “Pacific Rim?” Really, Academy?

Best Sound Mixing
Oscar’s Final Five
“Captain Phillips”
“Gravity”
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
“Inside Llewyn Davis” (Haven’t Seen)
“Lone Survivor” (Haven’t Seen)

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Gravity”; “Pacific Rim”; “Rush”
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”; “The Conjuring”

Oscar’s Pick: “Gravity.”

Best Sound Effects Editing
Oscar’s Final Five
“All is Lost” (Haven’t Seen)
“Captain Phillips”
“Gravity”
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
“Lone Survivor” (Haven’t Seen)

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Gravity”; “Rush”; “Pacific Rim”; “The Conjuring”; “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”

Oscar’s Pick: “Gravity” again, though “The Hobbit” could win here.

Best Cinematography
Oscar’s Final Five
“The Grandmaster”
“Gravity”
“Inside Llewyn Davis” (Haven’t Seen)
“Nebraska”
“Prisoners”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Gravity”; “The Conjuring”; “12 Years a Slave”; “Pacific Rim”; “Nebraska”

Oscar’s Pick: “Gravity” will be the easy winner here.

Best Film Editing
Oscar’s Final Five
“American Hustle”
“Captain Phillips”
“Dallas Buyers Club”
“Gravity”
“12 Years a Slave”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Gravity”; “Pacific Rim”; “Her”; “Rush”; “Spring Breakers”

Oscar’s Pick: “Gravity” should win, but I think “Captain Phillips” will win the gold here.

Best Production Design
Oscar’s Final Five
“American Hustle”
“Gravity”
“The Great Gatsby”
“Her”
“12 Years a Slave”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Rush”; “12 Years a Slave”; “The Great Gatsby”; “American Hustle”; “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”

Oscar’s Pick: I’d put my money on “12 Years a Slave” over the more lavish “Gatsby” and “Hustle.”

Best Makeup and Hair Styling
Oscar’s Final Three
“Dallas Buyers Club”
“Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa”
“The Lone Ranger”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Dallas Buyers Club”; “American Hustle”; “Warm Bodies”

Oscar’s Pick: “Dallas Buyers Club,” although I do love that “Bad Grandpa” got a nomination.

Best Costume Design
Oscar’s Final Five
“American Hustle”
“The Grandmaster”
“The Great Gatsby”
“The Invisible Woman” (Haven’t Seen)
“12 Years a Slave”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”; “American Hustle”; “The Great Gatsby”; “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”; “12 Years a Slave”

Oscar’s Pick: “American Hustle” for those great ’70s duds.

Now, onto the awards less likely to be cared about, and randomly-selected predictions.

Best Short Film- Live Action
Oscar’s Final Five (Haven’t Seen Any)
“Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)”
“Avent Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything)”
“Helium”
“Pitaako Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?”
“The Voorman Problem”

Oscar’s Pick: “Helium”

Best Short Film- Animated
Oscar’s Final Five (Haven’t Seen Any)
“Feral”
“Get a Horse!”
“Mr. Hublot”
“Possessions”
“Room on the Broom”

Oscar’s Pick: “Room on the Broom”

Best Documentary Short Subject
Oscar’s Final Five (Haven’t Seen Any)
“CaveDigger”
“Facing Fear”
“Karama Has No Walls”
“The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life”
“Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall”

Oscar’s Pick: “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life”

Viva La Resistance!

Brian Skutle
http://www.sonic-cinema.com

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