In Part III of my five-part Oscar predictions piece, i go over the Best Foreign Language Film, Best Live Action Short, Best Original Song, Best Original Score, and of course, Best Actor.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium)
The Great Beauty (Italy)
The Hunt (Denmark)
The Missing Picture (Cambodia)
Unlike the last two years, there isn’t any obvious frontrunner in the Foreign Language Feature category this year. Additionally, for the first time ever, all members are eligible to vote for their favorite film – which makes this category even harder to predict than usual. The only movie in this category that I haven’t seen is The Missing Picture. Judging by its stark trailer, it’s unlikely that Oscar voters will be seeing it either. Omar, which only recently opened in theaters (including those in South Florida), is a wrenching tale of the price of war on youth from director Hany Abu-Assad, a previous nominee in this category. It would make a worthy winner but ultimately, I fear politics will play too much of a role in securing it the win here. On the other hand, The Broken Circle Breakdown features a heartbreaking story of a couple who fall in love over their collective passion for bluegrass – that quintessential American music form – and it also happens to feature a wonderful soundtrack. Its family drama angle may win over many voters but it suffers from a relatively lower profile compared to The Hunt and The Great Beauty. The former, which stars Mads Mikkelsen as a man wrongly accused of molesting a child, is my favorite of the bunch (it made my top 10) and has a plot that’ll go over well among Hollywood types. The Great Beauty, though, has the highest profile of the lot: it swept the European Film Awards, won at the Golden Globes, and just last week, piped frontrunner Blue is the Warmest Color (which wasn’t eligible for the Oscar) to win the Foreign Film prize at the BAFTA. Add in the fact that it’s a gorgeously-shot homage to Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and you have all the makings of a winner.
Will Win: The Great Beauty
Could Win: The Broken Circle Breakdown
Should Win: The Hunt
Should Have Been Here: Blue is the Warmest Color
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT
Aquel no era yo (That Wasn’t Me)
Avant que de tout perde (Just Before Losing Everything)
Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?
The Voorman Problem
For the past few years, the nominees in the Best Live Action Short category have been predominantly foreign films. Variety even wrote a story about this development. Despite this statistic, the winners mostly end up being the ones in English. In fact, 7 of the last 10 winners in this category have been in English. This year, only one of the five nominees fits that bill. It also happens to be the only one starring well-known movie stars (Martin Freeman and Tom Hollander). Will these two factors work in its favor even though it’s hardly the best film of the five? That’s what I’m willing to bet, even though Avant que de tout padre, a terrific thriller about an abused woman trying to escape with her children from her husband at a shopping mall is by far the best film of the bunch.
Will Win: The Voorman Problem
Could Win: Avant que de tour perde (Just Before Losing Everything)
Should Win: Avant que de tour perde (Just Before Losing Everything)
Should Have Been Here: –
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
The Book Thief
Saving Mr. Banks
First of all, I’m extremely glad for two things: One, that Will Butler and Owen Pallett’s tremendous score for Her was able to secure a nomination. Two, that it scored the nod over Hans Zimmer’s 12 Years a Slave score – a work that was self-plagiarizing from the best bits of his The Thin Red Line and Inception scores. Unfortunately, Butler and Pallett’s score will likely have to sit this one out because the big Kahuna in this category is once again Gravity. Steven Price’s score may not work as well as a stand-alone piece of music but it was absolutely integral in elevating the film’s tension. It’s the closest thing we get to a third character in the film. Who can forget that sound when the debris hits? Not me. For that reason and that reason alone, I predict it’s going to win the Oscar. As for perennial nominees Alexandre Desplat (0-6), Thomas Newman (0-12) and John Williams (5-49)… seems like they’ll once again be sitting this one out. It’s not like it’s anything new to them.
Will Win: Gravity
Could Win: Her
Should Win: Gravity
Should Have Been Here: Rush
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Happy” – Despicable Me 2
“Let it Go” – Frozen
“The Moon Song” – Her
“Ordinary Love” – Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
For the first time in what feels like forever, people seem to be interested in who wins the Best Original Song Oscar. After the much publicized controversy surrounding the nomination and subsequent non-nomination for “Alone Yet Not Alone” (and the supposedly dirty practices that were undertaken to secure that nomination), the category now features only four nominees – all with a legitimate shot at winning. Spike Jonze and Karen O are both highly regarded for their work and “The Moon Song,” a sweet little acoustic ditty comes at a vital moment in the technically dazzling Her. Alas, I think it’s a little too low-key to win over the other three nominees. “Happy” from Pharrell might be the slightest nominee of the bunch but it’s also the catchiest. The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter is in the enviable position of having his song hit the top of the charts right when voters are filling in their ballots. If he wins, he’ll become the first musician to win an Oscar for a song that is also number one on the Billboard charts. But first, he’ll first have to contend with U2. The Grammy-winning rockers have been to this party before – having been nominated in 2002 for their forgettable Gangs of New York ballad “The Hands That Built America.” But “Ordinary Love” from the forgettable Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is a much better song and U2 have the luxury of being the most high-profile musicians nominated. There’ll definitely be voters wanting to see Bono and company up on stage, Oscars in hand so don’t count them out. After all, they did win the Globe. But 90 HFPA voters have nothing on the 6,000 in the Academy and this is where I think the fan base of “Let it Go” will come into play. As the flagship track in the biggest word-of-mouth box office phenomenon since Avatar, “Let it Go” is by leaps and bounds, the most popular nominee. It’s also in the most popular film of the bunch, and a damn terrific song. I’m pretty sure those factors should be enough to guarantee songwriter Robert Lopez membership to the exclusive EGOT club on March 2nd.
Will Win: “Let it Go” – Frozen
Could Win: “Ordinary Love” – Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Should Win: “Let it Go” – Frozen
Should Have Been Here: “Young and Beautiful” – The Great Gatsby
BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Christian Bale – American Hustle
Bruce Dern – Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club
2013 was a buffet for great leading male performances. Barring the five men nominated, last year also saw great performances from Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), Robert Redford (All is Lost), Joaquin Phoenix (Her), Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station), Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis), Mads Mikklesen (The Hunt) and Forrest Whittaker (The Butler). All those guys would have been worthy nominees but in the end, there were five. Veteran Bruce Dern has been a hard-working supporting player for decades and his leading actor nomination for Nebraska feels like a culmination of all the great work he’s done over the years. But his lifetime achievement nomination is likely to be his reward here. The same mentality applies for Christian Bale. Bale, who won a Supporting Actor gong in 2010 for The Fighter – another David O. Russell film – is arguably the greatest thing in American Hustle, a movie brimmed with terrific performances. While there are many who say he stole Tom Hanks’ spot on the lineup, I believe his lived-in portrayal is a superior one, and a study in master-class acting. But he too won’t be leaving his seat on Oscar evening. Unfortunately, neither will personal favorite Leonardo DiCaprio who scored his fourth nomination for his maniacal performance as scummy Wall Street stock trader Jordan Belfort in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. DiCaprio has been working hard for this award but his inability to win the Best Actor award at the BAFTAs was a sign that it’s not him, but Chiwetel Ejiofor who’s the guy running in second place. Ejiofor, always a class act, has been an essential supporting player in everything from American Gangster to Dirty Pretty Things. All evidence points to him continuing to grow in estimation among his colleagues. His work in 12 Years a Slave is without doubt, one of the year’s best leading performances but how do you compete against an actor who’s going through a renaissance of popularity and critical acclaim – in both film and television? It’s been a long time coming but Matthew McConaughey’s perfect streak of acclaimed performances over the last three years (The Lincoln Lawyer, Bernie, Killer Joe, The Paperboy, Magic Mike, Mud, The Wolf of Wall Street) will finally net its reward on March 2nd when he wins the Oscar for his magnetic work in Dallas Buyers Club. He’s taken the majority of the industry awards to date, and with his career-best performance in acclaimed television series True Detective reminding voters every week during voting season how great he can be, the envelope with his name has already been printed, sealed and delivered.
Will Win: Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club
Could Win: Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave
Should Win: Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street
Should Have Been Here: Joaquin Phoenix – Her
Click here to read Part IV of my Oscar Predictions piece, where I go over my predictions in the Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Makeup & Hairstyling and the final acting category, Best Actress in a Leading Role.
Oscar Predictions Part I: Best Supporting Actor, Costume Design, Visual Effects, Animated Feature and Animated Short
Oscar Predictions Part II: Best Supporting Actress, Documentary Feature, Documentary Short, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing