Last year, Robert James, the fantastic author of the Who Won?!? series of books decided to go toe-to-toe with me predicting the Academy Award nominations. The difference between us is that I’ve watched all the current nominees for this year and Robert hasn’t, instead relying on past precedent to make his predictions. We only focused on the big nominations, and Cinematography, with Robert losing to me by one vote (and abstaining from the Best Actress category). This year, we’re going to see if I can keep the Oscar for myself or if Robert’s eking out a win. Be sure to come back Monday for the final results and a post-Oscar recap. Want to join in on the fun? Leave your predictions in the comments.
As always, I’ll let Robert get the introductions out of the way (you all know me by now!). Welcome to the 2nd annual Blind Oscar Predictions!
Beginning last year, I decided to capitalize on my complete lack of time and money – hey, have you been to the movies lately?!? It’s $16 to see a movie! Don’t even get me started on how much it costs for popcorn and a drink!
Besides, I’ve been furiously watching every single Oscar nominated movie for the past four years and writing about them. I’m up to 1963, if you’re curious. The third book in the WHO Won?!? An Irreverent Look at the Oscars, covering 1953-1963, is due at my publishers in March, for a summer release.
Last year, I pulled off 6 out of 9 on the major categories on which I ventured a guess. If I made that many hits for Hollywood, they’d be putting me in charge of one of the studios. Or at the least, paying me to help them angle for Oscars.
Robert’s Prediction: The Academy likes to feel important, so they tend to vote for whatever film will make them feel like they’re serious artists – so long as they’re getting paid too. They’re not interested in real art; what they want is a hit with some tony quality. Last year, Argo got by Lincoln for two main reasons: one, they were angry Ben Affleck got snubbed for Best Director, and two, they really didn’t understand what Lincoln was about. I suspect we’ve got another two horse race this year, since the two nominees that seem to be pitching soft-balls to the Academy are 12 Years a Slave and Gravity. Again, I haven’t seen either one of these, but Gravity is laying a carpet bomb of saturation ads this past month here in Los Angeles, so I know how “important” the movie thinks it is. But Gravity has some problems. First, it looks like science fiction, which the Academy has never seen as anything but kid stuff. Second, it looks like summer blockbuster fare, which the Academy again has a tradition of nominating then ignoring at Oscar time for the final awards. Third, people are getting annoyed at the ads. Seriously annoyed. The promo people have gone too far on this one. On the other hand, the Academy knows 12 Years a Slave is about slavery, and they tend to pat themselves on the back for nominating any movie about such a serious topic – but then they tend to swing right on by. We may also be looking at a year when enough votes are drained away by each of these films that a third choice may slide by. Given the nostalgia for the Seventies we saw last year with Argo, it’s possible American Hustle could squeak in for a run.
My prediction: Gravity will probably win. It’s the kind of big, dumb, empty spectacle that has repeatedly won in the past (The Greatest Show on Earth, anybody?) If you think it’s not dumb, you’ve never taken a high school physics class. Plus, who doesn’t like George Clooney and Sandra Bullock?
Kristen’s Prediction: I’ve heard nothing but discussion about the tie (either two-way or three-way) with regards to Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, and American Hustle. Since Oscar season began, I think American Hustle’s momentum has cooled a bit – at least in terms of its Best Picture potential. The two heavy-hitters are Gravity and 12 Years, and several prognosticators are calling for a split between Picture and Director as a means to give everyone the equivalent of a Little League trophy (“You’re all winners!”). With that, I can’t see them ignoring 12 Years a Slave, especially in light of it winning Best Picture – Drama at the Golden Globes. Gravity would certainly legitimize science-fiction, and regardless of who wins history will be made, but I can’t see Gravity’s simple premise wowing voters are much as Steve McQueen’s unfliniching look at slavery; then again, Django Unchained last year might push older voters hands, or force them to “rectify” that film’s slight last year. Then again, as Robert mentioned, the two films could cancel each other out leading to American Hustle winning and my blood boiling come Monday morning.
I predict 12 Years a Slave while Robert picks Gravity.
Robert’s Prediction: Can you say Alfonso Cuaron? The guy on the Gravity ads can’t. But the person who hands out the Oscar for Best Director should probably start practicing right now. This may be one of those “you’ve done a lot of good work so let’s give you an Oscar for this last one” years.
Kristen’s Prediction: I’m glad Robert didn’t split the winners for Picture and Director like practically everyone else is. Cuaron makes sense if you believe Gravity is winning Best Picture. However, I’m going to hedge my bets a little bit and place money on Steve McQueen. He isn’t the favorite here, but if Gravity wins Picture than it makes sense for the Academy to reward McQueen by default, and still put on the facade of making history by rewarding a British man of color. (The theme of this year’s show really should be “Everyone’s a winner!”). However, if 12 Years wins Best Picture it would be sensible to also put his name down for director. The split is incredibly uncommon despite happening last year, so I’m of the school that it’s all or nothing.
I place my money on Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) while Robert’s going with Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity).
Robert’s Prediction: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club. Why? Because the Academy loves it when an actor or actress puts themselves through major physical change for a role. Think Daniel Day Lewis, My Left Foot or Dustin Hoffman for Rain Man or Tom Hanks in Philadelphia. McConaughey looks like he’s become an anorexic for this one (yes, I know AIDS is involved). Plus, McConaughey has been getting all kinds of respect in recent years for serious roles, as well as hunk status. I suspect this will be a career award (which Leonardo DiCaprio may eventually pull as well).
Kristen’s Prediction: This is a tough one between McConaughey won the Golden Globe and is the favorite for almost all the reasons Robert stated, but Leonardo DiCaprio won the Globe for Comedy and Musical. Both actors are overdue and whoever wins will be winning for their body of work more than anything. Let’s also not cast aside Chiwetel Ejiofer who won the BAFTA a few days ago. However, the momentum on him has cooled significantly and I think McConaughey or DiCaprio is walking away with this. The question is who to root for?
I’m toeing the party line here and predicting Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) along with Robert.
Robert’s Prediction: I stick by my sad-but-too-often-true standard yardstick for this category: which actress cries the most? That’s not always how it goes, but if drugs, overcoming obstacles, or alcohol is involved too, the odds are overwhelming. I think Streep is unlikely, as she just won recently. The dark horse is Judi Dench, who is approaching the end of her career, and everybody loves her. Sandra Bullock is also featured in the Gravity blitz breaking out into crying, so you can’t rule her out either. You tell me: which one cries the most?
Kristen’s Prediction: Best Actress has been an easy call since awards season started. If Cate Blanchett doesn’t win, the world will end.
I pick Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) while Robert abstains.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Robert’s Prediction: This tends to go to the amusing performance – the Academy doesn’t like to give comic roles the biggest Oscar, but for the supporting area, they tend to vote for somebody they like, and for a movie they’ve ignored for major categories. Think Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained. On that basis, let’s suggest an unexpected winner: Michael Fassbender for 12 Years a Slave. Second guess: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club, because Hollywood may want to send a signal to a more conservative America that transgenders deserve respect too.
Kristen’s Prediction: While I’d love to see Michael Fassbender finally win an Oscar, and for playing the horrific Edwin Epps he certainly earns it. However, I wonder if Academy voters find his performance too closely associated with the aforementioned Christoph Waltz in last year’s take on slavery. This is another category where the safe choice is the most likely and that’s Leto for Dallas Buyers Club. The man’s physical transformation is on par, and better, than McConaughey’s and for taking a lengthy hiatus from the screen the voters may want to reward Leto for picking a great comeback choice.
I’m playing it safe with Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) and Robert’s going unconventional with Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave).
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Robert’s Prediction: If the Best Supporting Actor category tends to go to the comic stuff, Best Supporting Actress tends to go to the quirky bits. But the category is sometimes used to reward films the voters have ignored elsewhere. So I’m going to suggest they’ll salve their collective conscience by voting for Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave.
Kristen’s Prediction: This is a hot-button category with team Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle) and team Lupita Nyong’o. I’m of the school who found Lawrence to be ridiculous in Hustle, playing another crazy character with little nuance. Didn’t she just win for that same role in last year’s Silver Linings Playbook. If she wins again it’s enough for me to turn my love for her into outright hatred. Nyong’o is a revelation in the flawed 12 Years a Slave, and while Lawrence won the Globe I have to believe this is another chance for the Academy to rectify the Hollywood Foreign Press’ flaws. I’m sticking with Lupita. It better be Lupita, or so help me…
Both Robert and I are voting for Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave).
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Robert’s Prediction: The writers tend to nominate the more interesting ideas, and voters tend to go along with whichever script is the wittiest in recent years. I suspect Her will attract its sole Oscar here, because it is such an unusual idea. I also suspect that most of Hollywood is in love with their cell phones and iPads anyways, so it feels comforting to them…
Kristen’s Prediction: I, too, can’t see the Academy voting for anything other than Her. The movie is a critical darling and snagged a surprise nomination for Best Picture. With Gravity a science-fiction contender lacking a significant commentary on our times, if that movie secures the BP nod, it would make sense to also give Her a similar seal of approval. Either way, Spike Jonze deserves this award.
Robert and I both see Her winning.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Robert’s Prediction: I’m going to go with the idea that the Academy likes to pat themselves on the back and vote for serious writing, which means 12 Years a Slave should take this one as well (again, because they will more than likely toss the bigger awards to less unsettling fare).
Kristen’s Prediction: I keep going back to Before Midnight, wondering if it’s the outlier to undo everything we know. Richard Linklater’s Before series is renowned for its dialogue, and I could understand the final installment getting an Oscar win. Unfortunately, if it were to win it has the power to sink 12 Years a Slave’s boat, especially if it fails to secure any other nominations before Best Picture. I still think 12 Years a Slave is the frontrunner, but wouldn’t it be great to watch Before Midnight win?
Robert and I are both rooting for 12 Years a Slave.
Robert’s Prediction: This almost always goes to the pretty. Gravity will almost certainly win this one.
Kristen’s Prediction: Yep, Gravity all the way!
Robert and I both choose Gravity.
I’m looking forward to seeing most of the nominees later this year as they come out on DVD. From what I’ve heard from friends, 2013 was a good year for movies. Someday, when I’m done with writing WHO Won?!? An Irreverent Look at the Oscars, and my kids are out of college, I’m looking forward to going back to seeing every major release in the theaters once more. Of course, at that point, I’ll need to sell a kidney or one of my grandchildren on Ebay to be able to afford a seat, but I’m sure the sacrifice will be worth it…
If you aren’t reading/following Robert’s spectacular book series I highly recommend it and hopefully he won’t have to sell a grandchild on Ebay. It appears we’re of the same mind on quite a few categories so we’ll either tie or wipe a lot of egg on our faces. Come back Monday to hear what we thought after the winners are declared.
The Academy Awards airs this Sunday, at 5:30pm Pacific on ABC.
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.