Sneak Preview: Spree picks the 2014 Oscar winners — Part 2

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On Monday, I posted my acting predictions. Now, let’s move on to screenplay, director, and picture following on Wednesday.

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Before Midnight (Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke)

Captain Phillips (Billy Ray)

Philomena (Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope)

12 Years a Slave (John Ridley)

The Wolf of Wall Street (Terence Winter)

Now things are heating up. The screenplay categories are so stacked that just about anyone COULD win. That’s rare, honestly. Take Adapted Screenplay. Before Midnight was one of the most critically acclaimed smaller-scale films of the year. Captain Phillips was taut, tight, and tough. Philomena was adorable, and moving. 12 Years a Slave was shattering. And even those who had issues regarding The Wolf of Wall Street would likely salute its script. But I think we can cut Midnight and Philomena (sorry, Steve Coogan) from the likely-winners list. Too “small.” I have a disappointing feeling Wolf is going to get completely ignored this year, and the only way I could see it winning here is if—OMG—it sweeps the biggies. I just don’t see that happening. So that brings us to 12 Years a Slave and Captain Phillips. And even though I found the film fine, but unmemorable, Phillips is an intriguing pick. I think John Ridley’s script for 12 Years was marvelous, but I’m not sure folks praising the film are giving it enough attention. So I am saying Billy Ray wins in a bit of an upset for a script that at the very least is constructed with real intelligence. Not my choice. But I think it wins.

Chris’s pick: Captain Phillips (Billy Ray)

 

Best Original Screenplay

American Hustle (Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell)

Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen)

Dallas Buyers Club (Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack)

Her (Spike Jonze)

Nebraska (Bob Nelson)

Damn! Another stunner of a category. Woody .. is not winning. And I don’t think that has anything to do with outside difficulties. Nebraska is, I think, seen more as Payne’s triumph than Nelson’s. The script for Dallas Buyers Club is one of its weakest elements, I think. So right away we’re down to two: Her and American Hustle. The Academy would love to award Spike Jonze, and feel as if it is doing something bold. And my goodness, it would be! The winner, I believe, will be American Hustle. Many have joked about the film’s script, but it is colorful and fun, and also awards David O. Russell, who has been close to an Oscar with his previous two films. I have had a theory for some time that Hustle could surprise us this year … Even if it does not, I think it wins this category.

Chris’s pick: American Hustle (Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell)

 

Best Director

American Hustle (David O. Russell)

Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)

Nebraska (Alexander Payne)

12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)

The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)

It is tricky, of course, to predict a different winner for Best Director and Best Picture. Most years see a sweep. But not all years — recall Soderbergh’s win for Traffic in the year of Gladiator, for example. I think this year’s Oscars will end in a similar fashion, with different winners for Director and Picture. But of the two, Director is the no-contest: Alfonso Cuarón takes this, and takes it easily. And despite my relatively mixed feelings regarding Gravity—it’s a good film, and a fantastic cinematic experience, but wildly overrated—I can certainly buy the argument that Cuarón is the year’s finest filmmaker. He crafted a giant, creative, complex monster of a film that was a critically acclaimed blockbuster. OF COURSE he’ll win.

Chris’s pick: Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)

 

Best Picture

American Hustle

Captain Phillips

Dallas Buyers Club

Gravity

Her

Nebraska

Philomena

12 Years a Slave

The Wolf of Wall Street

And so it ends, with an interesting group of nine films. Captain Phillips, Philomena, Her, and Nebraska won by being nominated; they stand no chance. If you had asked me a few months ago, I would have called Dallas Buyers Club a serious contender, but as time has passed its status as actors’ film has cemented. And so we come to American Hustle, Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, and The Wolf of Wall Street. I think Wolf was the best film of the year, but it ain’t winning here. 12 Years a Slave is a stunner that still makes me shake—it might win. But I just don’t see it having the widespread support a film on a “difficult” subject like slavery needs. Gravity might win, too. It’s a hit, and a big one, and made people go to the movies. But for some time now, I have had a feeling that American Hustle hits voters just right. It’s fun. It’s light. It plays well at the theater or at home. It has a killer cast and a director on fire. And it could have been made at any point in the last three or four decades. It is timeless in an unthreatening way. I loved it, and I think the Academy does, too.

Chris’s pick: American Hustle