This awards season is just whizzing by before we can catch a solid glimpse of it. Even last year felt like it was rolling slow enough for us to glimpse Argo as the frontrunner, but this year hardly anything seems certain, in spite vague appearances. 12 Years a Slave is cleaning up the critics pool, as it’s the one film nobody can really deny as an essential and vital film of 2013, but Gravity‘s been a forceful presence in the public consciousness since its debut. It doesn’t have all the guilds necessarily on its side, missing out understandably on WGA and SAG nominations, but don’t be totally surprised if it picks up speed following a possibly PGA win.
Gravity’s also one of two films that could receive a potential boost from this weekend’s Golden Globe awards, the other being American Hustle, though let’s not omit the possibility of Her, Nebraska or Inside Llewyn Davis emerging as prominent threats in the late season. After the Oscar nominations are announced on Thursday, we’ve got six weeks for films to rise or fall in the ranks, but for now I do think the Golden Globes can be the sign of a trend emerging. It helped in firmly establishing Argo‘s dominance in phase two, and it’s one of the first publicly broadcast awards ceremonies. Acceptance speeches can be just another extension of awards campaigning, so let’s take a look at who’s likely to be up at the podium Sunday night.
Will/Should Win: Gravity
It’s firmly between 12 Years a Slave and Gravity here, and while the former’s got the weight of universal importance, I suspect that’s a stronger draw for the Academy than the HFPA, which all too often goes for the populist choice. In this case, however, the populist choice is also a daring piece of technical and physical cinema.
Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical
Will Win: American Hustle
Should Win: Her
This category feels more wide open than it actually is, since Her and Inside Llewyn Davis both feel like considerable threats for the win for reasons of either intense emotion or placement within both the musical and comedy branches, respectively. All the same, David O. Russell’s brand of offbeat showboating married to relatable human experiences won him this award last year and seems a safe bet to do it again this year. (UPDATE: Forgot Silver Linings Playbook lost to Les Miserables last year, so now the HFPA *really* owes Russell this win.)
Will Win: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Should Win: Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
This is a pretty tough one to wager, as both Chiwetel Ejiofor and Matthew McConaughey have been reasonably neck-and-neck for the entire season. Ejiofor’s work is one of mounting emotional wreckage, but there’s a more noticeable sound and fury to McConaughey’s work that could make it the more obvious choice for many voters, particularly given his much publicized career resurgence over the past two years. I wish Tom Hanks were a greater threat for one his most jarring, broken performances, which would make it a more exciting race for the win.
Best Actor – Comedy or Musical
Will Win: Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Should Win: Joaquin Phoenix, Her
Dern wants it really badly, and that may make all the difference here. In the twilight of his career, he’s the sentimental choice and, of the nominees in the comedy/musical branch, the most likely to be nominated for Oscar. There are performances of greater bravado here, particularly from Leonardo DiCaprio, who may be the closest behind. I’d like to think the tender, sensitive character work Phoenix did on Her would translate to the HFPA, but I fear they’ll disregard as a much simpler performance than it is.
Will/Should Win: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
I lament how dull this race is, not in case of the rather deserving winner, as Cate Blanchett’s tremulously neurotic work on Blue Jasmine is practically an unstoppable force at this point. It just saddens me that there’s not much to challenge her. Sandra Bullock’s equally physical, but less comic work on Gravity was once her biggest competition, but I worry the film’s award narrative has downsized her importance in comparison to Cuaron’s technical innovation. Outside those two, Judi Dench and Emma Thompson give perceptive and acute performances in much lesser, cuter fare that scarcely qualifies as Drama, and Kate Winslet’s nominated for a film nobody’s really seen and, given its negative reception, few are likely to.
Best Actress – Comedy or Musical
Will Win: Amy Adams, American Hustle
Should Win: Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha
Though if the Drama Actress category is lamentably predictable, that allows the Comedy/Musical branch to be all the more inspiring. I have infinite respect for any group that gives Greta Gerwig’s typically peculiar, but not-so-typically self-destructive performance in Frances Ha mention, even if it’s unlikely for the win. The same can be said for Julie Delpy’s vicious development of Celine in Before Midnight or Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ terse comic and humane timing in Enough Said, but this race is between Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, the former of whom is acting a loud frequency, but the latter of whom is more efficiently entertaining, and in a film we’ve all had the chance to see for nearly a month now.
Will Win: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Should Win: Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
On average, I rather like the variety in this field, even if I totally don’t get Daniel Bruhl’s smarmy appeal at all. Bradley Cooper is a hilariously vigorous presence in American Hustle, and Michael Fassbender’s 12 Years a Slave is one of more broiling fury than many assume. The performance I’m most refreshed to see here is newcomer Barkhad Abdi’s work on Captain Phillips, one stirring with a more tragic mix of crude certainty and desperate uncertainty than any of his competitors. But Jared Leto’s led this category all season for his work in Dallas Buyers Club, so expect him and Blanchett to be the only real acting locks at this point in the Oscar season. For my part I may like the way Leto so completely inhabits his character more than the way he performs that character.
Best Supporting Actress
Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Should Win: Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
There’s lots of capital “A” Acting in this category, and not all of the annoying variety. Many have expressed irritation towards Jennifer Lawrence’s work on American Hustle, perhaps an extension of their irritation with her beating Emmanuelle Riva last year, though where others find empty showboating, I find hysterically committed performance, even if she doesn’t totally inhabit the character. Either will make it the clear choice for the HFPA, who I imagine have less qualms over awarding the same actress two years in a row than the Academy. Her biggest competition is definitely Lupita Nyong’o, who’s had quite the affecting newcomer reputation this entire season, and that should push her to the Oscar, but at the Globes, what’s big and loud triumphs. I may even say Julia Roberts displays even sharper teeth than Lawrence in her surprisingly vicious performance in August: Osage County, but she really should be considered lead.
Will/Should Win: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
I feel like last year’s Oscar mixup set a strong divide between the Best Picture winner and the Director winner, and I think that extends beyond the Academy Awards. For once this race doesn’t determine the outcome of another, as I can foresee Alfonso Cuaron taking this prize and 12 Years a Slave taking Best Picture instead. Cuaron feels frankly guaranteed this award in either outcome.
Will Win: American Hustle
Should Win: Her
I know we should feel this is a lock for 12 Years a Slave, but that was the same narrative thrown around for Tony Kushner and Lincoln last year. I don’t think this season will end in John Ridley losing the Oscar, but for the sake of the Globes they often go for the sprightliest dialogue (Django Unchained, Midnight in Paris, The Social Network). 12 Years may be more poetic and Her may be the most emotionally sensitive of the batch, but American Hustle is the fastest talker of the group. Take that as a positive or negative if you like.
Will Win: 12 Years a Slave
Should Win: Gravity
There aren’t a whole lot of encouraging options to choose from, though I expect there are proponents out there for All Is Lost‘s softer, unobtrusive score. All the same, Zimmer’s score for 12 Years a Slave follows a gently recurring theme (be it one that sounds distinctly similar to his score for Inception), so that may be the voters are humming most while filling out their ballots.
Will Win: “Let It Go” from Frozen
Should Win: “Please Mr. Kennedy” from Inside Llewyn Davis
Two years in a row a pop tune from The Hunger Games has been nominated, as well as two years in a row Taylor Swift has been nominated (this time for British comedy One Chance), but both of those are filler against the musicals nominated, Inside Llewyn Davis and Frozen. I’d say the odds are in “Let It Go”‘s favor given none of us can stop singing it, but if it had gotten wider exposure, I imagine the farcical ditty from Inside Llewyn Davis might’ve been a bigger threat, particularly if it qualified for Oscar.
Will/Should Win: Frozen
Nobody wants to award this to The Croods or Despicable Me 2 against Frozen. There’s only one clear choice here, but there didn’t have to be. Here’s hoping the Academy stuck up for independent animated darlings like The Wind Rises (for a film this grave, should we really call it “darling”?) or Ernest & Celestine.
Will/Should Win: Blue Is the Warmest Color
Well I suppose this explains the absence of The Wind Rises in animated feature, though I expect it would’ve had a stronger chance of winning in that crowd than this. Against it are sentimental Danish drama The Hunt (which one of us here at the staff has chosen for our upcoming Q&A on 2013’s most overrated films), widely praised Italian entry
Oz The Great Gatsby Beauty, Adghar Farhadi’s divisive French-Iranian family drama The Past, and Palme d’Or winner Blue Is the Warmest Color, which has gotten the most publicity of the five and therefore is the most likely winner, and deservedly so I’ll say. The American awards road ends here for Abdellatif Kechiche’s film, barring a surprise Actress nod for Adele Exarchopoulos.