Today, we break down the next level of random categories that I’m a little less sure of than yesterday’s batch, about which in turn I was less sure of than Tuesday’s. I’m saving Best Picture for tomorrow, though, so you still have something to read for.
Foreign Film: I’ve only seen two of these nominees, but they were both really good, which beats the average from last year (Kon-Tiki, I’m looking at you).
(Hold on, time for a brief rant about last year’s Oscars, since I’m still bitter and I didn’t have a platform at that time: I saw all five foreign nominees (since I saw everything that was nominated for anything), and only one and a half of them deserved anything at all. Kon-Tiki was fine, but it was slight. The acting in War Witch turned me off of the whole thing. I didn’t like No nearly as much as everyone else seemed to. A Royal Affair was really pretty good, so that’s where the half comes from, and Amour was phenomenal. So, one and a half good films from five. Fine, whatever. Except there was an amazing movie that was better than four of those five, which was Rust and Bone. You can’t call something a snub unless you can say what it should have replaced, and I can say that Rust and Bone could have had any of those first three films’ slots several times over. Harrumph!)
The frontrunner for, uh, this year is The Great Beauty, as it’s been the most publicized and got the most play in theaters in this country. However, there doesn’t seem to be the same kind of definitive lock that we have for some of the other miscellaneous categories. The main threats are Broken Circle Breakdown and The Hunt, both of which I’ve seen, and both of which are really, really good. Broken Circle Breakdown is a gut-punch of a tearjerker, and The Hunt is bone-chilling in its portrayal of a society turning against you. But The Great Beauty is apparently about Italian people dancing, which I guess you just can’t pass up.
Actor: I guess we’ve come back around to Matthew McConaughey? I’m struggling to remember why I thought things had moved away from him, given that the facts never changed (a 40lb weight loss and an Issue Movie do a lot of the heavy lifting for you), but there was a period there where he was no longer the frontrunner. His main competition is Chiwetel Ejiofor because he starred in the other biggest Issue Movie (and was good); I’d like to say that Leo is a wildcard here, but no one feels like he has a real chance. Maybe we can call this the beginning of an Academy-wide trend of actually recognizing him and take the next baby step and give him the damn award in the next couple years.
Bruce Dern has been campaigning hard for this Oscar, and I would be happy for him to get it, but he’s an old guy playing old. While he plays old really well, it’s not the kind of Dramatic Transformation that gets you the kind of recognition that losing 40lbs does.
In the Alternate Reality Oscars, where the nominees in this category are Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis), Joaquin Phoenix (Her), Robert Redford (All is Lost), Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), and Forest Whitaker (The Butler), the winner is probably Robert Redford, as a Lifetime Achievement kind of thing, followed by Tom Hanks, because the Academy accidentally picked good acting in an acting category. I’m not saying whether that alternate reality list is a better list than the actual nominees (it totally is), but I would be happy to have the debate.
(in actual fact, I love many performances from both the real list and the fictional list. Why can’t we have more flexible category sizes and nominate the people who actually deserve it?)
Adapted Screenplay: Across the internet this feels like a sweep for 12 Years a Slave, but no one will say why. It seems to come down to “Well, it’s a really good movie, and we’ve got to recognize it somewhere“. The competition is pretty good; Before Midnight and Wolf of Wall Street were both in my favorites of the year. Captain Phillips won the WGA award, but 12 Years a Slave wasn’t eligible. Philomena feels a bit left out in the cold. Lacking any other runaway option, 12 Years has it.
Original Screenplay: This is a two-horse race between Her and American Hustle. Of the three leftovers, two have gotten no support at all and one is written by Woody Allen. That makes that easy. The support for American Hustle boils down to David O. Russell being really popular with actors (having eight nominated actors in two years from his films is pretty damn good average) and there being some good lines in the film. The support for Her is a bit more grounded, as Spike Jonze creates a fully realized vision of the future and the script hinges on a real, actual, new idea. Jokes about your friend dating his phone aside, the plot of Her was something we’d never seen before. The precedent is the win for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, another instance where the Academy put aside the need to congratulate the same kind of movies over and over again and gave the award to something new.
Let us spare a quick moment to not regret at all that Gravity isn’t here, because that script was terrible.
Editing: Best Editing tends to be “I’ll throw my pick for Best Picture another vote, so it’ll do better overall.” Which makes it no surprise that all five nominees are also Best Picture nominees. The ACE (American Cinema Editors) give out multiple awards, and rewarded both Captain Phillips and American Hustle. Paul Greengrass has worked with the same editor, Christopher Rouse, on his last five films, been nominated for an Editing Oscar on three of them, and won one. Rouse’s editing effectively creates and maintains tension throughout the movie, so I’m happy giving the award to him.
Editing tangent: in looking for the ACE award winners, I browsed to see what all categories they award. This year’s nominees in the category of “BEST EDITED ONE-HOUR SERIES FOR COMMERCIAL TELEVISION” were: an episode of Breaking Bad, an episode of Breaking Bad, an episode of Breaking Bad, an episode of Breaking Bad, and… an episode of The Good Wife. Heavens.
Tomorrow we cap off the individual award breakdowns with the things that are total crapshoots. Hooray! Saturday will be an overview of bets offered by Las Vegas, and Sunday I’ll post my official picks list for you to all wager on.