Saturday, March 1, 2014

Brian Harris' picks for the 86th Annual Academy Awards

Instead of including some preamble, let's get right into the awards as I predict they'll be. 

Best Supporting Actress- Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave. Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle. Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine. Julia Roberts, August: Osage County. June Squibb, Nebraska. 

Will Win: Lupita Nyong'o- 12 Years a Slave.  This poor woman had to go through way too much to not get this win. Steve McQueen is famous for his extremely long cut scenes (they've been done in all three of his major works: Hunger, Shame and 12 Years) and the scene where Solomon Northrop/Platt is forced to whip Patsey is spectacularly acted and this scene alone is worthy of Nyong'o's first Oscar.

Could Win: Jennifer Lawrence- American Hustle. This category is one of the real toss-up categories. While Nyong'o probably should win this Oscar just based on the grueling nature of the role, I don't think anyone would be surprised if Lawrence joined the short list of actors to win in back to back years.

Should Win: Nyong'o. Again, this could go either way, by Nyong'o really should win this award.

Should have been nominated: Julianne Nicholson- August: Osage County. This movie had some of the best performances of the year (not least among them, relative unknowns Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep) but Ivy's sad and beautiful love affair with her brother (spoiler alert?) was actually really touching through Nicholson's performance.

Best Supporting Actor- Barkhad Abdi, Captain Philips. Bradley Cooper, American Hustle. Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave. Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street. Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Will Win: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club. This is as close to a lock as there has been in years. Leto was genuinely believable as Rayon, homophobic Ron Woodroof's unlikely transgender woman partner (even though I really thought Leto would be a lot prettier as a woman; weird thought, I know) and probably deserves this award...but:

Could Win/Should Win: Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave. 

Look, I'm a huge fan of 30 Seconds to Mars and thought Leto was fantastic, like really, really fantastic. But Fassbender was absolutely amazing as Epps the piece of shit slave-owner in 12 Years. He simply had to do more than Leto did. He was horrifying and shocking and wonderful. Steve McQueen (not Bullit) directs movies that demand a lot of his actors, and Fassbender has kicked ass in every one of his movies. In this one, I think he deserves recognition more than ever, especially after the snub the Academy served him because he showed his penis wayyyy too much in Shame.

Should have been nominated: Daniel Bruhl, Rush. I don't know who I would eliminate from this category but Daniel Bruhl really deserves to be recognized for is shockingly accurate portrayal of Niki Lauda. Watching this movie, it was a bit slow moving. But the work as a whole was great. And afterwards, watching interviews with the real Niki Lauda, it was chilling how dead-on Bruhl got this performance down. As Sir Jackie Stewart put it: "Daniel Bruhl played a better Niki than Niki did." 

Best Actress- Amy Adams, American Hustle. Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine. Sandra Bullock, Gravity. Judi Dench, Philomena. Meryl Stree, August: Osage County

Will Win: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine. This is another category that's as clear-cut as it gets. It's a shame that her performance is being tainted by Woody Allen's (who is probably a terrible person) personal life, which has absolutely nothing to do with her fantastic performance.

Could Win: Amy Adams, American Hustle. I don't know, if I had to pick a runner up, I guess it's Amy Adams. She's not going to win, nor do I think she should. She was solid, as she always is. Was she the best actress this year? A hard no.

Should Win: It's Blanchett across the board.

Should Have Been Nominated: Emma Thomspon, Saving Mr. Banks. Can anyone honestly explain how she was not nominated?? Sure, her character was completely unlikable, but sorry, so was P.L. Travers. Thompson was exactly as wonderful as she always is, and perhaps I'm biased because it was a Tom Hanks film and a Disney film, but she carried this movie on her own as a character that no one liked and made it more than enjoyable. Not only should she have been nominated, she probably should have won this year.

Best Actor- Christian Bale, American Hustle. Bruce Dern, Nebraska. Leonardo Dicaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street. Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave. Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Byers Club.

Will Win: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club. For the past few years, everyone has been saying something along the lines of "Matthew McConaughey is an incredible actor". Ten years ag- nay, two years ago, that would have sounded like a joke. However, his performances in Bernie, Killer Joe, Mud, Magic Mike, Dallas Buyers Club and the spectacular True Detective have made McConaughey one of the most respected actors in the world. Nowhere does he prove it more as the unlikely AIDs patient turned even more unlikely AIDs activist in Dallas Buyers Club. He's another huge lock for this year's awards.

Could Win: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave. If there's another actor who has truly earned this award its Ejiofor. I've loved him since Love Actually, Serenity and Kinky Boots and always thought he deserved more. Unfortunately, this probably won't be his year, but he's opening a lot of eyes, which will one day soon earn him an Oscar.

Should Win: It's McConaughey and that's all there is to it. "That's what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age." It had to be said.

Should Have Been Nominated: Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis. I can understand why certain people didn't fall in love with this movie. It was very different. Very, very different. What I can't understand is how Oscar Isaac's performance got overlooked. He was at all times unlikable, kind-of-shitty, kind-of-funny and always believable, which, by the way, is why we watch movies, no?

Best Director- David O. Russell, American Hustle. Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity. Alexander Payne, Nebraska. Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave. Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street. 

Will Win: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity. This is one of the few times where I agree with a film not winning the top prize but the director winning it (last year's Ang Lee but not Life of Pi being another rare example). Cuaron did an unbelievable job with Gravity. An unspeakably good job. What he did with this film is absolutely unheard of. He deserves every single accolade he gets, including The Illumi-Nerdi's.

Could Win: Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave. If Steve McQueen wins, do not be surprised. His first two efforts (Hunger and Shame) did not get the recognition that they deserved and he may finally get his big prize. If he doesn't, it won't affect me in the slightest because I'm reasonably confident he will win the big prize for Best Picture and beyond that, I think he'll win as Director within the next ten years. And that's not too bad right?

Should Win: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity. Unfortunately for Steve McQueen, there's no real reason Cuaron shouldn't win. I really, truly love McQueen, but Cuaron really did more for film.

Should Have Been Nominated: Denis Villeneuve, Prisoners. The fact that Prisoners was almost completely shut out of the Academy Awards is borderline ridiculous. Jackman really deserved to be recognized for his truly tragic role, but the picture itself deserved much more than it's non-talk.

Best Picture- 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Dallas Buyers Club, Captain Philips, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, The Wolf of Wall Street. 
Will Win: 12 Years a Slave. This was the best movie this year. Simply put. It had the best performances, the most realism, unbelievable direction (despite it being bested by Cuaron's) and the best script. Those are the elements that constitute a best picture.

Could Win: Gravity. This is one of those huge question marks. Is it going to be 12 Years or Gravity? Both are well deserved, to be sure. Gravity is the best technical movie, probably in the history of film. But did it tell a better story or a more effective story than 12 Years? I don't think so.

Should Win: 12 Years. See above.

Should Have Been Nominated: Inside Llewyn Davis. This was not the Coen Brothers' best movie. Usually that would sound like a slight, but they're responsible for some of the best films of the last 20 years. The fact that this movie was practically ignored (especially in the music categories!!!!) is a travesty.

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