The Academy Awards tend to lean towards the more predictable side, and spotting Oscar favorites that are bound to be nominated isn’t terribly tough — it’s picking an actual winner out of crowded pools of talent that’s the hard part. When the nominations for the 86th Academy Awards were announced last week by Academy President Cheryl Boone and actor Chris Hemsworth, blogs were abuzz with predictions on who would take home the industry’s most prestigious award. There are some pretty obvious Oscar favorites, but your faithful crew at Kabooooom has decided to take a different route with our Academy Awards coverage this year, eschewing the need to predict who will win the Oscars in their respective categories and presenting who we think should win instead. While following nominees may not or may not necessarily be Oscar frontrunners, we certainly believe that they are every bit as deserving of that coveted golden statuette.
Best Picture – Gravity
Every single film in the Best Picture category deserves to be on the list. Each movie carried powerful performances, beautiful cinematography, and immersive stories. However, Gravity was able to do all of this with only two actors, one of which was only on screen for a portion of the film. Sandra Bullock’s performance, paired with the guidance of director Alfonso Cuaron and producer David Heyman, gave audiences one of the most frightening films since Jaws. Even the concept alone was enough to give audiences chills and cause theater goers to gasp at the emptiness of space. Unlike the other movies in this category, Gravity didn’t even come close to hitting the two hour mark, which means that the emotional toll that audiences subjected themselves to was rather brief, but the experience is one that most will carry for the rest of their lives. Gravity truly made audiences appreciate the risk that these brave astronauts experience so that the rest of us can keep our feet planted firmly on the ground.
Best Actor – Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street
Leonardo DiCaprio is an actor that has shown just how convincingly he can play almost any dramatic role. In fact, it’s fairly safe to assume that if you are heading to a DiCaprio movie, you are likely in for a serious evening. Many fans and critics have wondered just how well DiCaprio could hold a comedy, and the good news is that not only can he hold one, but he also excels in the setting of The Wolf of Wall Street. DiCaprio truly swam outside his comfort zone in this outlandish (but true) look at the 1980’s stock broker scene and gave audiences and critics something they hadn’t seen from DiCaprio in quite some time: laughter. The Academy has famously snubbed Leo in the past but this year is a bit different. By stepping into a role that held such possibilities and holding on for the ride, this actor has finally given the Academy an entirely new dimension and depth to his acting and it may finally be time that they recognize him as the brilliant actor that he has grown into.
Best Actress – Meryl Streep in August: Osage County
The measure of an actor is their ability to convincingly sell the audience on a role by disappearing into it and becoming the character that they are playing. Meryl Streep has disappeared into every character she has ever played on screen but with August: Osage County, she went a step beyond her usual brilliance and became a character that was not only a world away from her gentle personality but one that is so despicable that it was easy to forget the woman portraying the character. As the matriarch of a family brought together by loss, Streep’s portrayal of a woman whose blood runs with greed, prejudice, and downright meanness was so wonderful, so powerful, and so moving, that it was immediately apparent that she would received Oscar consideration for the role. She deserves the award, simply because she did such a fine job that audiences were rooting for her character’s death throughout the film; something that is more than rare for a Streep character
Best Supporting Actor – Daniel Brühl, Rush
Okay, so maybe Daniel Brühl wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar in the Best Supporting Actor category, but his performance in Ron Howard’s Rush makes a pretty damn good case. Brühl’s role as infamous Formula One race car driver Niki Lauda has earned him both Golden Globe and SAG award nominations, but with the crowded field of talent in this year’s awards season race, it seems that Oscar gold simply wasn’t in the cards for the 35 year-old German actor.
Brühl’s performance is calculated and precise, but not without raw talent and charisma. Even the real-life Lauda, well-known for his stoicism, was moved to tears during a screening of the film earlier this year in Vienna. It’s fantastic work, capturing the sheer determination of a man driven by the fierce need to win, even when a fiery accident on the race track leaves him burned, disfigured, and clinging to life by a thread. Brühl commits himself fully to the role and delivers a breakout performance that is surely deserving of an Academy Award. However, despite his Oscar snub, his busy slate of upcoming roles in films like Ich und Kaminski, Sils Maria, and The Face of an Angel means that we’ll be getting plenty more great performances to look forward to.
Best Supporting Actress – Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Steve McQueen’s critically acclaimed 12 Years a Slave has been picking up its fair share of awards and nominations this season – rightfully so – and much media attention has come to focus on its female star, newcomer Lupita Nyong’o. Her memorable turn as long-suffering slave Patsey is as impressive as it is heart-breaking. Nyong’o plays Patsey with a sort of quiet dignity, perfectly creating a portrait of a woman trying to keep her head up as she is made to suffer horrific abuse at the hands of a cruel and sadistic master. One scene in particular is especially gut-wrenching, where Patsey must explain to her master why she has been absent from the plantation: to acquire a bar of soap, a simple comfort anyone would take for granted that she has been denied. I don’t cry very easily while watching movies, but her performance was so compelling that I could feel my eyes beginning to water at record speed. In short, to not award Nyong’o with the award for Best Supporting Actress would be a crime. In addition to being a remarkably talented actress, she also has an impressive Yale education and an impeccable sense of style that has quickly been making her princess of the red carpet. So if she doesn’t win the Oscar this year, at least she’s basically already won the award for Most Perfect Human Being Ever.
Best Original Screenplay – Spike Jonze, Her
There are several excellent films among the Academy’s nominees for Best Writing – Original Screenplay, but none were as thought provoking or insightful as Spike Jonze’s Her. Perhaps the single best indication of the quality of the script of Her is the fact that the main character of the film never even appears on screen. Jonze manages to bring characters, stories, and ideas to life with a screenplay that never hammers the audience over the head with symbolism or themes. Her was the most visionary screenplay of the year, and deserves to win the Academy Award.
Best Animated Feature Film – Frozen, The Wind Rises
The Best Animated Feature category has two stellar nominations this year, Disney’s Frozen and Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises. Miyazaki could get his second Oscar win with The Wind Rises, but Frozen is a tough competitor.
In 2002 Miyazaki was able to beat out two Disney films, Lilo & Stitch and Treasure Planet, when he won for Spirited Away, but doing so this year would mean snatching the gold from what many are saying is Disney’s best film since The Lion King. Frozen has been praised a nearly perfect Disney movie that upends numerous obnoxious princess tropes (most of which Disney created themselves) in wonderful ways. However, The Wind Rises themes of love, war and loss creates a beautiful swan song for Miyazaki.
Yes, it’s an honor just to be nominated but with such two great contenders it’s hard not to wish that the Academy followed the Hollywood Foreign Press. In their Golden Globe nominations, they had slotted Frozen under Best Animated Feature and The Wind Rises under Best Foreign Language Film. Though The Wind Rises lost to The Great Beauty, having both these wonderful feats in animation compete in different categories allowed for the possibility of both teams being recognized.
While ties in the Oscars are not unheard of, I would be surprised to see the Academy extend this loophole for the Best Animated Feature category. Meaning someone will go home empty-handed.