The 2014 SBBN Oscar Picks

UPDATE: The Oscars are over and though the ceremonies looked like a lot of fun, you may notice that I didn’t livetweet them as planned. The ABC live feed wasn’t working in my area, though when I tested it a few days ago, it said nothing was on air at the time, leading me to believe the only problem was no programming at that moment. The truth is that it’s not available for our area at all, so that was my mistake, and my apologies to poor Ivan who showed up to see me say silly things about the Oscars. I hope he was able to save himself and switch to another channel before it was too late.

As for my predictions, I did not do all that great: 14 out of the 18 I guessed on, though I knew in my heart of hearts that 20 Feet From Stardom was going to win, even if I didn’t want to admit it. But my average? Not great, Bob. And now, a breather until we start to gear up for next year’s Oscars… right after Labor Day.

As mentioned, I’ll be tweeting along with the Oscars Sunday night [1] and thought now, 11 hours before the ceremonies and with about 80% of the movies under my belt, would be a good time to jot down my predictions, along with my wants:

Want: 12 Years a Slave
Will Win: Gravity
Gravity was good, but I really felt it borrowed too heavily on cinematic space travel tropes to be effective. A little 2001 here, a little Alien there… again, not unexpected, but not something I’d consider Best Picture material. 12 Years a Slave, meanwhile, broke ground with characters that I found were difficult to decipher at first, and when I realized that it was because I had never seen such characters before, it solidified my opinion that 12 Years was an enormous cinematic event.

Want: Steve McQueen
Will Win: Alfonso Cuaron
Again, Cuaron’s direction in Gravity was solid, and I can only imagine the mathematical precision and major organizational chops it required, but McQueen’s direction was sublime, a confident director with a unique voice.

Want: Sandra Bullock
Will Win: Cate Blanchett
As I said in the Spectrum Culture piece on the Oscars, Blue Jasmine is a mediocre film, Woody Allen’s banal take on A Streetcar Named Desire, and Blanchett’s performance is mannered and obvious. But there were so many sub-par performances in that film that made hers look exceptional by comparison, and the Academy is nothing if it is not desperate to hand out “make-up Oscars” for people who didn’t win back when they should have, so here we are. I liked but did not love any of the performances in the Best Actress category, but for sheer stretch and ability, I felt Sandra Bullock was the best of the lot.

Want: Matthew McConaughey
Will Win: Matthew McConaughey
This is the least of all of McConaughey’s performances during the McConnasance, but he’s due an Oscar, and this is the kind of pseudo-liberal feel-good film the Academy loves. I do want to mention that, while The Great Gatsby was a flawed film that never really coalesced into a pleasing whole, Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in it was stellar, and I would liked to have seen a nom to acknowledge that.

Want: Lupita Nyong’o
Will Win: Lupita Nyong’o
This was such a strong category this year. June Squibb is terrific in Nebraska, really nails the archetypal sane Midwestern woman who has married into a family of nuts, thus has developed an air of perpetual exasperation after decades of dealing with banal insanity. Trust me, this is not a cinematic archetype, but a thing that actually happens in the real world. As much as I’d like her to win — I’ll be that character in about 25 years — Lupita Nyong’o gave a better performance. Sally Hawkins was also terrific.

Want: Jared Leto
Will Win: Jared Leto
Barkhad Abdi is a close second in both my Want and Will Win category, and he gives a solid performance, but I figure the Academy will consider the nomination his reward, and they probably figure (as I do) that he perhaps looked better than he was next to the lifeless Tom Hanks. Leto was phenomenal, which I say with some qualification, as I don’t care for the transwoman with a heart of gold trope.


Want: The Act of Killing
Will Win: The Act of Killing
My thoughts on the Documentary category of the Oscars are best left unsaid, but can be summed up with a terse, “it’s bullshit.” Blackfish and Stories We Tell should have been nominated — Stories We Tell is frankly one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen. But The Act of Killing is the unflinching, grotesque truth, the kind of documentary we see once or twice in a lifetime. It should win… but knowing the voters, it’s very likely 20 Feet From Stardom will take the award. A nice enough documentary but too reliant on surface observations, and too much about a single up-and-coming singer, which turns the whole thing into a “these women couldn’t become stars on their own, but this hot new singer will!” kind of promotional. Just kind of gross all around, very disappointing, yet the kind of thing these Documentary voters like.

Want: Despicable Me 2
Will Win: Frozen
My heart will always belong to the Despicable Me franchise (“I hate that chicken.”) and I really believe animation in the final act of the film is the best I’ve seen in any animated film, full stop, no exceptions. Frozen is a very close second for me, and it’s ground-breaking as well, just shocking in its dedication to tearing apart stale, old-fashioned Disney tropes and crafting a story that is both modern and believable. And is Olaf not the most amazing comic sidekick since El Brendel? Frozen will win.

Want: The Hunt
Will Win: The Great Beauty
I only saw three of the films in this category so I feel I’m stretching myself a bit, but both The Hunt and Broken Circle Breakdown were quite good. The Great Beauty, though, is a classic. It’ll take home the award.

Want: Inside Llewyn Davis
Will Win: Gravity
Gravity’s cinematography is stellar, but I found the work on Inside Llewyn Davis to be absolutely heartbreaking. While I’m not an expert in the era, because of various interests I’ve come to know a bit about the mid- to late-60s NYC indie music scene, and after seeing hundreds of photos and videos, ILD completely blew me away. The look was perfect. No one could have done better, not with the color palette, locations, tracking shots, not one frame (well, what passes for a frame nowadays) could have been improved upon. But it won’t win.

Want: Gravity
Will Win: Gravity
Not much to say about this one. The editing and CGI was superb in this movie. Not sure why Dallas Buyers Club was nominated, as it contained some of the worst editing I’ve seen outside an MST3K film.

Want: Gravity
Will Win: Gravity
Again, not much to say about this. I can’t imagine any other film has a chance in this category.

Want: 12 Years a Slave
Will Win: 12 Years a Slave
This I hope is a no-brainer. Several in this category were good, but 12 Years is clearly the best.

Want: Nebraska
Will Win: Her
I have never understood how Woody Allen can obviously adapt Fellini, Antonioni, Williams, and more, but get listed in the Original Screenplay category. The same goes with Dallas Buyers Club, which is heavily based on the work of a journalist. Okay, deep breaths, moving on: I am at a disadvantage, having not seen Her (don’t throw rotten fruit at me), but considering the awards chatter, I think it will win.

Want: 12 Years a Slave
Will Win: The Great Gatsby
Don’t get me wrong, I thought Gatsby had some excellent costuming, but it was all a little outre for my taste, exaggerated pre-Code chic. The understated accuracy of 12 Years really impressed me, especially — and don’t laugh — the pants of the slave owners.

Want: Gravity
Will Win: Gravity
Wasn’t the production design in American Hustle just a little too kitschy? It was like taking the inherently tacky designs of the 1970s and recreating them with 16% more kitsch. I liked the design in Gatsby, but Gravity was better, and had a much smoother CGI-meatspace integration. I know Gatsby is in the lead with oddsmakers but I think Gravity will win this.

Want: All is Lost
Will Win: All is Lost
Oh yeah, I’m going there. The chances of All is Lost winning this are pretty good, in my opinion, simply because the film didn’t get any significant nominations and the Academy will want to give it something.

Want: Inside Llewyn Davis
Will Win: Gravity
My disappointment in the lack of serious noms for Inside Llewyn Davis is eating me up inside.

No guesses for DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT, MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING, MUSIC, SHORT FILM or ANIMATED SHORT FILM since I haven’t seen enough of those to really judge. I could just listen to the songs out of context, but I didn’t want to, and you can’t make me.

This may sound accidentally discouraging, but I won’t be around much today — gotta get a power nap in before the show, and by “power nap” I mean “six hours of sleep or more” — but feel free to argue and scold me in the comments, or just make your own predictions. If you’re looking for more lively fare, check out Awards Daily, your one-stop shop for all cinematic awards discussion. See you tonight!

[1] I’ll be tweeting along but getting my info from other tweeters; the Watch ABC livestream isn’t working in my area at the moment. Or maybe it never did. Either way, this isn’t a tragedy, because it means I’ll miss those <i>delightful</i> variety skits they do between awards.


  1. Nothing much to add here, especially since for various reasons I managed to miss most of these movies in their theatrical runs, even the new Coen brothers film, which is something that’s only happened once before. (2013 just wasn’t a good year for us.)

    Oh well. Just have to wait until they appear on PPV streaming.

    Completely OT, but your reference to El Brendel made me think once again what a damned shame it is that Just Imagine hasn’t received the kind of loving restoration that’s been done with Metropolis and Things to Come.

    1. Hi GM! Sorry I didn’t reply sooner, I recently changed my notifications email and it appears I have completely forgotten to check it. Ha ha, and also oops.

      I did miss a lot of the recent releases, too, which was a big problem when it came to Oscar picks. Almost everything that came out in December was beyond my ability to see before the awards.

      Just Imagine is really bizarre, and if it ever gets a good restoration I’ll be astonished. I’d put the likelihood up there with Sh! The Octopus getting an expert restoration. Both however are really important historical artifacts, if nothing else. Shame Just Imagine has so many plodding dirge-like songs, that really brings the whole thing down.

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