It’s that time of year: time for the FREAKING OSCARS. We took the pleasure of determining what films will win the top awards as well as what films deserve to win the top awards. Grab some popcorn and cheap wine and get hyped.
Will Win: ’12 Years a Slave’
Should Win: ‘Nebraska’
In the past couple months, the Best Picture race has narrowed down to two contenders: Alfonso Cuarón’s real-time space odyssey “Gravity” vs. Steve McQueen’s historical epic “12 Years a Slave.” In the past, the Academy has generally ignored sci-fi films outside of technical categories. “Slave,” however, is the perfect balance between art film and accessible historical epic, the latter of which the Academy drools over. While the film doesn’t shy away from the horrors of slavery as previous screen depictions have, it still has just enough sentimentality to woo Oscar voters. In my book, “Nebraska” deserves the golden statue for its stunning treatment of old age and beautiful portrait of small town America.
Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón
Should Win: Steve McQueen
Come Sunday, the Academy will likely award Alfonso Cuarón 2014’s title of Best Director. Not only does the man have a great track record (“Y Tu Mamá También,” “Children of Men”), but “Gravity” is a film that forces its audience to ask, “How did they do that?” With mind-boggling long takes, the film requires a skillful director to ensure superb acting and technical flawlessness throughout. But Steve McQueen, director of the superb “Hunger and “Shame,” should win the prize for his fearless depiction of slavery and his direction of actors playing humans living amid chaos.
Will Win: Matthew McConaughey
Should Win: Matthew McConaughey
Matthew McConaughey is simply one of the best actors currently working in film. From “Bernie” to “Killer Joe” to “Mud” to a movie-stealing scene in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” McConaughey has produced some of the most awe-inspiring performances of the past two years. This is pretty impressive for a guy who was once known as “that hot guy in romantic comedies who doesn’t wear a shirt a lot.” “Dallas Buyers Club” is just one film in a string of recent acting successes, and it boasts one of McConaughey’s best performances yet as a sleazy hustler who helps AIDS patients get access to unapproved drugs. He takes on a delicacy unlike anything we’ve seen from him before.
Will Win: Cate Blanchett
Should Win: Cate Blanchett
Amid the web of allegations that Woody Allen sexually assaulted his child, we have “Blue Jasmine.” Allen can draw undeniably memorable performances from the actors he directs. This is true as ever with his latest, which stars Cate Blanchett in the titular role. Blanchett gives a truly terrifying performance as a woman accustomed to affluence who loses it all when her husband is arrested for fraud. She’s a woman who suffers it all at once: depression, bipolar disorder, alcoholism and prescription drug abuse. She walks through the film a ball of sweat-drenched volatility, capable of exploding at any moment. The terrifying glint in Blanchett’s bloodshot eyes are enough for an Oscar in themselves.
Best Supporting Actor
Will Win: Jared Leto
Should Win: Michael Fassbender
In “Dallas Buyers Club,” Jared Leto plays Rayon, a transgender woman with a snarky attitude who acts as the foil to Matthew McConaughey’s initially bigoted character. He plays the role with a fierceness close to Beyoncé levels, and the Academy is a sucker for inspirational performances from LGBTQ characters. Leto is a sure lock for the Oscar. Also deserving is Michael Fassbender, who plays a sociopathic–if not psychotic–slave owner in “12 Years a Slave.” He steals every scene he steps into, and he encapsulates all the horrors of slavery with his deadening stares, his constant suspicion of his slaves and his insistence that Solomon Northup—the titular slave—whip a fellow slave for having a bar of soap.
Best Supporting Actress
Will Win: Lupita Nyong’o
Should Win: June Squibb
Lupita Nyong’o’s American feature film debut in “12 Years a Slave” is an understated performance in a film of abrasive horrors. She suffers more than most of the other onscreen characters in the film. She’s subjected to rape at the hands of a sadistic slave owner. She’s whipped by a fellow slave until her back is a bloody pulp, all because she’s been given a bar of soap. The Academy will no doubt honor her brave performance. June Squibb is similarly deserving of the prize for her tremendous performance in “Nebraska” as a feisty old lady frustrated with her husband’s mounting dementia. It’s a lovely, little performance in a lovely, little film.
Best Original Screenplay
Will Win: ‘American Hustle’
Should Win: ‘Her’
This one’s a tight race, effectively a 50/50 toss-up. But it’s likely the Best Original Screenplay Oscar will go to Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell for “American Hustle.” Like all Russell-directed films, it features characters yelling, screaming and whispering loudly at each other. The screenplay has the frenetic pacing of a Scorsese film, and it’s a film that has its action stemming primarily from its dialogue. Its screenplay and performances are its crutch. But ultimately, Spike Jonze’s “Her” is the most poetic and memorable script of the bunch, a beautiful meditation on modern love.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Will Win: ’12 Years a Slave’
Should Win: ’12 Years a Slave’
Written by Wisconsin native John Ridley, “12 Years a Slave” is arguably the finest film depiction of slavery ever. It’s a script that rarely draws attention to itself, often allowing Steven McQueen’s poetic camera to do the speaking. But when dialogue is employed, we see that even in the most oppressive, dehumanizing conditions, humans can act compassionately towards one another. Brad Pitt’s dialogue toward the end of the film—despite the actor’s stilted appearance—effectively acts as a philosophical argument on the morals of slavery. If a screenplay could be taught in a philosophy course, it’s doing something right. This one’s a lock.
Best Animated Feature Film
Will Win: ‘Frozen’
Should Win: ‘Frozen’
“Frozen” will not only go in history as one of the finest Disney films but also as the first Disney film that stresses that women don’t need no man. The film has proven itself to be a critical and commercial favorite in a year that was, on the whole, pretty weak for animated films. The only other film with a hint of a chance of winning is Hayao Miyazaki’s final film, “The Wind Rises.” But ultimately, with its delightful soundtrack, clever writing and great performances, “Frozen” will crush this category like a landslide–or more fittingly, an avalanche.
Best Foreign Language Film
Will Win: ‘The Great Beauty’
Should Win: ‘The Great Beauty’
After winning the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film this year, “The Great Beauty” is a near-lock for the same award at the Academy Awards and deservedly so. As its title suggests, the film is one of the most beautiful of 2013. It follows Jep Gambardella, an aging socialite who once wrote a great book that has awarded him with wealth, fame and a general feeling of emptiness. Gambardella, who spends his nights reveling in the hoopla of Rome’s nightlife, searches for a “great beauty” beneath the superficiality of his life. What this beauty constitutes is unclear, but Gambardella’s quest to find it is just as beautiful as anything he could hope to discover.
Best Documentary – Feature
Will Win: ’20 Feet from Stardom’
Should Win: ‘The Act of Killing’
“20 Feet from Stardom,” an ode to backing vocalists, is exactly what the Academy likes shoved into a documentary: an inspirational story about talented, black musicians; a beautiful soundtrack; and appearances from classic pop culture icons such as Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder and Mick Jagger. But the award should go to “The Act of Killing,” Joshua Oppenheimer’s bone-chilling epic that allows Indonesian gangsters to reenact the murders they committed during an anti-Communist purge in the 1960s. It’s a stunning film that revels in its reflexivity, a true testament to the potentials of the documentary form. But, most importantly, it will leave a large void where your heart once was.