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Ampas (#110 of 16)

Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions Picture

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Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Picture
Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Picture

Like anyone who’s been covering what’s become, as the party line goes, “the closest Best Picture race in recent memory,” I’ve gone through many mental rewrites of this top-prize breakdown. The one I clung to the longest involved the word “bullshit.” It took shape, of course, after American Hustle, formerly known as American Bullshit, strutted through steam clouds of victory on nomination morning, collecting 10 nods before also claiming the SAG award for Best Ensemble (not to be confused with any costume-design kudos the film enjoyed throughout the season). Was this awfully great, unrepentantly tacky crime caper really the new frontrunner? If so, then the filmic narrative peddled by pop-culture journos since early 2013—that the year’s wealth of black-centric cinema was bound for unprecedented Oscar glory, capped off with a crown for 12 Years a Slave, the most confronting and “important” flick of the bunch—would have to be thrown out. What’s more, Steve McQueen’s insta-contender, a historical indictment many perceive as being as deep as young Patsey’s (Lupita Nyong’o) abyss of despair, would be overtaken by an epic of unadulterated shallowness. American Hustle’s win would insist, with all the fuck-it-all thump of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love,” that the notion of Oscar wins signifying some sort of sociopolitical responsibility is, indeed, bullshit.

Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions Documentary

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Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Documentary
Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Documentary

Oscar’s documentary lineup typically constitutes the black sheep-iest of the award show’s 24 races, but this year’s crop of nominees is less odd, less disreputable, than usual. Many have bemoaned the omission of Blackfish and Stories We Tell from this year’s race, but I applaud the Academy for having the guts to acknowledge both Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer’s The Square and Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing, two fervid activist visions that are unmistakably form-pushing. Of course, that they’re also the most esoteric of the category’s nominees makes this business of predicting a winner here a little easier. We also rule out the topical Dirty Wars for being, in its too-frequent foregrounding of Jeremy Scahill, as self-serving as Stories We Tell, only without exhibiting a smidgen of Sarah Polley’s cunning, if calculated, artistic ambition.

Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions Original Song

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Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Original Song
Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Original Song

The AMPAS was already embarrassed enough by the music branch’s lingering cronyism manifesting itself vis-à-vis the out-of-nowhere nomination for the theme song from Alone Yet Not Alone, a movie that somehow achieved eligibility despite playing almost exclusively in heartland venues appointed with pews. The Academy had every right to be mortified by whatever shenanigans allowed into the conversation what is, by all rational reports, an artless, self-righteous, racist remake of The Searchers told from the point of view of John Wayne’s trigger finger. But now that the Board of Governors has rescinded the nomination in an act of reverse-revisionism that forms an apt symmetry with the film itself, the egg on Oscar’s collective face is now also clearly visible in the sights of all those who have set their browsers’ homepages to the Drudge Report. Well, them and composer Bruce Broughton’s wife, who has taken to her almighty Facebook status bar to protest the mistreatment her husband was being forced to endure for allegedly abusing his position among his branch’s executive committee to engage in a little email blast electioneering. So sniped Belinda Broughton, in two separate posts:

Oscar 2014 Nomination Predictions: Actor

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Oscar 2014 Nomination Predictions: Actor
Oscar 2014 Nomination Predictions: Actor

While basking (or is it wallowing?) in the afterglow of last night’s Golden Globes, which hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler admitted was—and I’m paraphrasing—the mess they hoped it would be, it’s tempting to discuss potential Oscar ripple effects for the winners, like cocksure Matthew McConaughey, who, in preaching his glee in reaping the benefits of Dallas Buyers Club’s serial shelving, implied he might be akin to the Southern-fried pricks he’s recently been playing. But Oscar nomination ballots have already been submitted, and despite news outlets’ annual insistence that the Globes are an Oscar indicator, the Hollywood Foreign Press has nothing to do with the Academy. Still, if there’s any prescience to be taken away from last night’s proceedings, it’s that the industry at large isn’t afraid of the big, bad Wolf of Wall Street, and that McConaughey’s fellow Best Actor victor, Leonardo DiCaprio, who’s been charmingly campaigning arm in arm with Martin Scorsese, is a bona fide threat this year. It seemed virtually impossible that All Is Lost star Robert Redford would go from presumed frontrunner to the season’s biggest snubbee, but after being passed over by both BAFTA and SAG, the living legend may indeed be out, with DiCaprio stepping in to fill the void.

Box Office Rap 12 Years a Slave and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Oscar Screening

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Box Office Rap: 12 Years a Slave and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Oscar Screening
Box Office Rap: 12 Years a Slave and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Oscar Screening

This week’s column was originally intended to discuss the box-office viability of Carrie, notable as both a remake of Brian De Palma’s classic and Kimberly Peirce’s first feature film since 2008’s Stop-Loss, but then I read Peirce calling Brian De Palma’s film “semicampy” in an otherwise fascinating and spot-on New York Times article, which rubbed me the wrong way. Moreover, giving more ink to yet another cash-in remake of an all-time great horror film would find us caught within the cogs of the Hollywood machine—something this column is actively opposed to.

A more pressing issue than Carrie’s potential box office has presented itself with 12 Years a Slave, opening in limited release this Friday (but even so, it stands a considerable chance at cracking the Top 10), though screened for the first time to Oscar voters on Sunday night. In an excellent, if depressing, Los Angeles Times recap from Glenn Whipp, AMPAS members couldn’t even fill the auditorium for Steve McQueen’s latest, even though the film has been riding a tidal wave of good reviews from festivals and is being called the Oscar frontrunner for Best Picture by many prominent prognosticators, such as Sasha Stone of Awards Daily. This comes after the previous weekend, where Academy members were turned away from a screening of Gravity, with the Samuel Goldwyn Theater packed to the brim, much like the rest of North American theaters.