Wrapping up the individual category breakdown, this is the last batch of movies that seem the most up in the air. For the other categories, click the “Oscars” tag on this post to see all posts on the topic (both this week and all time).
Documentary: Guys, this is hard. I mean, not just hard to predict who might win, but hard to even write about because The Act of Killing was my number one film of last year, and it looks like it might be upstaged by my #6 film of the year, 20 Feet from Stardom. And that’s not to mention the third major contender, The Square, which has had a last-minute surge (as more people have had a chance to see it) and which reverberates strongly with the events in Kiev and other revolutions in the two years since the one in the film.
Points in favor of The Act of Killing: a totally novel form and concept
Points against The Act of Killing: it’s brutally, terribly difficult to watch. Really, really unpleasant.
Points in favor of 20 Feet from Stardom: it’s fun! It gives you a glimpse into a world you didn’t realize existed and occasionally makes you go “OH, right! I never thought of that!” Plus, really good singing.
Points against 20 Feet from Stardom: it’s about… backup singers. If you’re voting your political stance, this is not it.
A vote for The Act of Killing says they’re taking things very seriously; Killing is incredibly hard to watch, but it’s incredibly daring. 20 Feet from Stardom is easy to watch and full of music and compelling stories, but it’s about backup singers. The wrench in the whole works is The Square. So… take your pick. Argh.
Production Design: This is another category where the lines are kind of blurry with regard to Gravity. The primary competition is The Great Gatsby, where the work that goes into sets and props is all actually concrete and physically manipulated. Gravity had sets, sure, and the things you see in the background were selected for your eyes, but where Production Design stops and Visual Effects begins is anyone’s guess. You can make a snap decision either way: either you write down Gravity as a sweep for everything in the “lesser” categories, or you say “Great Gatsby looked great, let’s give it to that.”
Costumes: Hey look, a technical(ish) category in which Gravity is not nominated! It’s a breath of fresh air. A breath of fresh, confused air. It’s not a coincidence that I’ve pushed this one to Friday, the day for categories I feel as confident in as to say ????? *shrug*.
You can rule out The Grandmaster immediately, just because no one has been talking about it. Beyond that, though, it’s immediately murky. The next tier is 12 Years a Slave and The Invisible Woman; the former has gotten some praise on the interwebs but has been overshadowed by other accomplishments in the movie, and the latter hasn’t gotten mentioned except in praise of the costumes. The primary strike against The Invisible Woman is it appears to be very dark in palette and the costumes just aren’t seen as much as in the other nominees.
That leaves American Hustle to battle it out with The Great Gatsby. I would be surprised if Gatsby doesn’t get one of these two wins; it’s so showy and stuffed with flashiness. Just… don’t ask me which one. (yet- my full list of predictions is coming on Sunday, naturally)
Supporting Actress: Rule out Sally Hawkins and Julia Roberts immediately. The first never had any moment thing season, the second is already recognized as an excellent actress and doesn’t need any awards (or so the zeitgeist has decided, for this cycle).
June Squibb is a distant third in the debate, though I would like to personally recognize her awesomeness. Some people (cough filmspotting cough) feel like her role boils down to a granny-saying-dirty-words routine, particularly the scene in the cemetery. That’s not true at all; she makes lewd comments, but they’re actually played pretty straight. If you haven’t been to a cemetery and had to stand around while an older relative tells you how such-and-such person is related to you, and some assorted anecdote about them, you probably didn’t grow up in a smallish town in the Midwest.
Now, for who’s actually going to win: Jennifer Lawrence has the advantage of having won just last year, and she seems to know it. She hasn’t been out campaigning for this particular trophy, even though it feels like the whole world is ready to hand her whatever she wants if she so much as sticks out her hand. Lupita Nyong’o, who really was one of the very best parts of 12 Years a Slave and deserves the award, has been out campaigning, from the sounds of it. Hopefully she’ll end up with it too.
Best Picture: Fortunately, the Best Picture race is still easily enough of a race that I can push it to today without even bending my own category rules (since it would be anticlimatic to have given it away on Tuesday). What was a three-horse race after the Golden Globes seems to have come down to just two. American Hustle had a strong mid-season, but has petered out down the homestretch.
That leaves 12 Years a Slave and Gravity as the last two movies standing. On the one hand, you have a Very Important Movie, on very loaded subject matter, from an artistic, formerly indie director, with a great (and large) cast. On the other hand, you have the smallest cast of any nominated movie (All is Lost has a smaller cast, but it missed all of the major awards because there is no justice in Hollywood) and it’s a Stunning Technical Achievement.
Is a vote for Gravity dodging taking a stance against racism? Is 12 Years a Slave too serious and unpleasant to confront? The best recent comparison is 2008, when The Hurt Locker (weighty issue movie) won over Avatar (pure spectacle), even down to the similar complaints against the script for the Technical Marvel. Last year, the Important Historical Drama (Lincoln) lost to Argo, which was comparatively slight, but much more compelling to watch. It’s a classic Oscars battle: fun to watch vs. We Must Support What is Important-with-a-capital-I. I’m picking 12 Years a Slave officially, but I don’t feel confident in it.
And that wraps up our category-by-category coverage! With two days left, we’ll do a bit of extra frivolity tomorrow with Oscar Odds and on Sunday I’ll put out my Official, Total, Final Predictions. See you then!