Last year, the Academy Awards celebrated some of the greatest working directors. Steven Spielberg, Ang Lee and David O. Russell all released movies last year. There were huge, cinematic films such as Lincoln, Life of Pi, Les Miserables, Skyfall and Argo. On Thursday the nominations for this year’s Acadamy Awards were announced.
The nominations have much smaller movies featuring intense performances by big-name actors. It’s still hard to say how these awards are going to swing, though. There is a lot of competition in all of the acting categories, and then some.
The Academy seems to be favoring the larger films like The Wolf of Wall Street and Gravity, considering some of the major omissions.
Robert Redford, who delivered an incredible solo performance in All is Lost, was left out, as were Joaquin Phoenix (Her), Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips, Saving Mr. Banks), Forest Whitaker (Lee Daniel’s The Butler) and Idris Elba (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom).
The real shame is Redford; many critics thought that he would take home the award for Best Actor, so it’s a rather big deal that he was left out.
However, the actors who received nominations from the Academy all delivered powerhouse performances. Hopefully, Leonardo DiCaprio will finally win, but he’s up against Chiwetel Eljiofor (12 Years a Slave), Christian Bale (American Hustle) and Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club).
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Best Supporting Actor is an even harder group to crack. The three main contenders are Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street), Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips) and Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave).
Fassbender is probably the Academy favorite, though his performance as a southern plantation owner wasn’t quite as nuanced as Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance earlier in the film.
Somali native Abdi shocked viewers with an incredible, detailed portrait of a Somali pirate in a film where it would have been perfectly acceptable for him to be a one-sided villain.
Finally, Hill is a viewer favorite who has moved beyond dumb-but-fun comedy flicks and into serious actor territory, a move the Academy historically loves. This category is a total tossup.
BEST ACTRESS AND SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Actress and Supporting Actress are also stacked with well-known, decorated performers.
There is a bit of politics in this category due to the amount of stars producing films this year. Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts were nominated for their work in August: Osage County, a film based on a play that didn’t do particularly well.
It would be nice to see Sandra Bullock win Actress again, but with Dame Judi Dench and her performance in Philomena, it seems unlikely.
Amy Adams was also nominated, but this is where the politics come in. Her performance in American Hustle was very good, but probably not good enough for a nomination; however, her supporting performance in Her was fantastic.
In Hustle, she played a cartoon, but in Her, she was a real person.
She couldn’t have been nominated for Supporting Actress in Her, however, because it was widely assumed that Scarlett Johansson’s voice-only performance would at least garner a nomination. The actual Supporting Actress winner will be anyone’s guess, as the category is a little dry this year.
The Best Picture award is difficult to determine. Gravity is all but officially out, but Alfonso Cuarón is one of the front-runners for Best Director.
Her is also unlikely, but it really depends on the direction the Academy wants to go.
12 Years a Slave was over-hyped, which can be a kiss of death for Best Picture nominees, as the Academy voters tend not to like being told who to vote for. It wasn’t a bad film, but there were some editing and pacing issues that keep it back from greatness.
Dallas Buyers Club is a bit more likely, but still a bit below the top. Following the triumphant American trend of the past few years, Captain Phillips has a decent chance of winning. Philomena is also pretty likely, especially considering its story, cast and producers.
It’s doubtful that American Hustle would win; the Academy owes David O. Russell a bit from Silver Linings Playbook and The Fighter, but if Russell were going to win a Best Picture, it would have to be with a better film.
That leaves Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, which has been well-received but probably won’t amount to much in this awards show, and The Wolf of Wall Street, which stands a pretty good chance of winning, provided the Academy voters don’t take its messages the wrong way.
To see who takes home the golden statuettes, tune into the Academy Awards on March 2.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Best Original Song is probably going to go to Frozen for Idina Menzel’s “Let it Go.”
It’s the type of sweeping Broadway number that the Academy loves, and they would also love Menzel to have “Academy Award winner” attached to her name. It’s not a total shoo-in, however, because the other songs in the category are also quite good.
Pharrell’s “Happy” (Despicable Me 2) is fun and uplifting. This would probably be the runner-up, though it’s a bit of a long shot.
The real mystery in this category is “Alone Yet Not Alone,” a sweet hymn from the film of the same name, which is almost completely unknown.
This song likely got its nomination through some political finagling by the songwriter and composer, both of who have served large roles within the Academy. Despite all that effort, though, it doesn’t really have a chance.
There are a large amount of “mainstream” films filling out the technical categories, which is either a sign of the Academy trying to give a nod to contemporary films, or more likely, evidence that this year wasn’t as well-rounded as last year. Why else would The Croods be nominated for Best Animated Feature or The Lone Ranger for Visual Effects?
Amongst some of the smaller categories there are some gems to be found. Best Documentary will probably go to The Act of Killing, a chilling film that looks into the minds of the men who formed a genocidal Indonesian death squad in 1965-1966. It is told through the lens of these men as they act out their killings in an ode to the American film genres they love, such as Westerns or musicals. The only reason that this documentary wouldn’t win is because it’s hard to stomach, a fair complaint. It is not for the faint of heart.