Each year, my old Buffalo Spree colleagues Jared Mobarak (like me, Jared is a former Spree employee) and Bill Altreuter (a longtime Spree freelancer) make Oscar picks, and have a blast doing so. Our picks for 2014 will be running this week on BuffaloSpree.com, but here is a little sneak preview of my selections and through process. Today we’ll take a look at the acting prizes, with screenplay, director, and picture following on Wednesday. On Friday, I will post my complete list of predictions in all categories.
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Christian Bale, American Hustle
Let’s be honest. Four of the five nominees are deserving, and four of the five have a semi-legitimate shot. (Sorry, Christian Bale.) The most deserving of the five, honestly, are DiCaprio and Ejiofor. After seeing 12 Years at TIFF, I truly thought it would be Ejiofor’s to lose, but that’s highly unlikely. The winner should, then, be DiCaprio, who literally owns the screen in Wolf, giving the most searing, king-of-the-world performance of his career. He has never won, and Wolf is his finest hour. But … I don’t think his first win happens this year. Dern is wonderful in Nebraska, but this is likely a case of the nomination being the victory, and recognition of a unique career. (See also: Richard Farnsworth.) The obvious choice, then, is Matthew McConaughey. And who can truly be upset about that? He has been on fire for the last several years, he’s likable, he gives a great speech, he’s McConaugheyyyyyyyyy. He will win, and that’s fine. Honestly, I’d give it to him for True Detective if I could.
Chris’s pick: Matthew McConaughey
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Judi Dench, Philomena
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
The consensus, of course, is that Best Actress is Cate Blanchett’s to lose. In Blue Jasmine, she gives the finest performance an actress has ever given in a Woody Allen film. OH. Right. Woody Allen … Is it possible the reemergence of sexual abuse accusations could cost Blanchett the Oscar? Yes, absolutely. Of course, it also seems wildly inappropriate to even think about something as frivolous as the Oscars when questions of sexual abuse are on the table. In any event, I think Blanchett still takes it. She is well-liked and very respected, and in my eyes, her only real competitor here is Amy Adams. Bullock, Dench, and Streep are all very good. (Admittedly, I still have not seen August, but it’s Meryl Streep—I hear she’s an actress of some note.) But Amy Adams is an intriguing alternate choice. She gives the finest performance in Hustle, and it comes after a string of past performance that garnered Oscar noms (Doubt, The Master, The Fighter). She could take it. But she won’t, not this time.
Chris’s pick: Cate Blanchett
Best Supporting Actor
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Sigh. Maybe I was wrong about surprises. It sure seems that way, especially when looking at Best Supporting Actor. Abdi, Cooper, and Hill are great actors and fascinating individuals, but they have no shot. Fassbender should have been nominated—and won—for Shame, and if there was a runner-up prize, he’d take it. But let’s be honest. Jared Leto will win. He gives a subtle, memorable performance in Dallas Buyers Club, he is attractive and smart, and he wins in a landslide.
Chris’s pick: Jared Leto
Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
June Squibb, Nebraska
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Okay, now we’re getting interesting. Supporting Actress is a category in which anyone could win, although I would say Julia Roberts and Sally Hawkins are highly unlikely to do so. Therefore, it comes down to Lawrence, Squibb, and Nyong’o. Sadly, I think Squibb faces the same problems Dern does (lifetime achievement, nomination is the victory). Jennifer Lawrence is the most well-liked young star in Hollywood, but it feels like she won yesterday. That leaves Lupita Nyong’o, who is simply stunning in 12 Years. Her Patsy is the film’s most memorable character, the actress’s backstory is fascinating, and quite honestly, she deserves it. This is a rare instance in which the deserving party wins.
Chris’s pick: Lupita Nyong’o