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Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Production Design

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Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Production Design
Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Production Design

In 2010, we asked, “How do you solve a problem like Avatar? How do you hold a fluorescent, floating anemone in your hand? Well, you can’t. Because it exists in hexadecimal code on a hard drive somewhere in Silicon (or is it Uncanny?) Valley.” So we threw our vote to Sherlock Holmes and shook our heads on Oscar night when James Cameron’s Epcot Center diorama was awarded. The lesson? That Gravity, even though it’s the Mission: SPACE to Avatar’s more elaborately designed Universe of Energy: Ellen’s Energy Adventure, shouldn’t be too quickly discounted. Two years earlier, we thought the category would break toward Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood’s Wild West City attraction only to see it (rightfully) lose to Tim Burton’s Broadway-ed Dickens funhouse Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Meaning that the benefits of being a Best Picture frontrunner in this category are negligible. And so we put our money on Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina last year only to see it toppled by the Lincoln Logs of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. Meaning that being a politely revered or disliked Best Picture nominee is also negligible.

Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Cinematography

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Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Cinematography
Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Cinematography

As R. Kurt Osenlund pointed out yesterday, there are plenty of categories more flashily controversial this year, but none have become as big a flash point among cinephiles as the cinematography prize. No demographic is more certain that one of Oscar’s longest-running contemporary injustices is its failure to coronate Emmanuel Lubezki, whose lucidly expressive images have now earned him six nominations and a near-fanatic cult devotion. Having to cope with the losses he’s suffered his last three times at bat—with The New World, Children of Men, and The Tree of Life respectively falling to Memoirs of a Geisha, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Hugo—are, for acolytes, like living in an alternate universe where John Alcott’s work on Barry Lyndon lost to Robert L. Surtees’s The Hindenburg, or Sven Nykvist’s lensing of Cries & Whispers lost to Surtees’s The Sting, or Néstor Almendros’s Days of Heaven lost to Robert Surtees’s Same Time, Next Year. Adding insult to injury last time around was the fact that Lubezki’s richly textured analog work in The Tree of Life was chewed up and spit out by the Academy’s now-insatiable sweet tooth for CGI-heavy 3D toy boxes, a trend that’s held for the last four years running.

Watch the First Trailer for Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street

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Watch the First Trailer for Martin Scorsese’s <em>The Wolf of Wall Street</em>
Watch the First Trailer for Martin Scorsese’s <em>The Wolf of Wall Street</em>

Continuing to show a late-career hunger for genre experimentation, Martin Scorsese follows his highly-decorated 3D fantasy Hugo with The Wolf of Wall Street, a brash, rise-and-fall stock-market satire that seems to boast more comedy than the filmmaker’s typical hard-hitting drama. Marking Scorsese’s fifth collaboration with leading man Leonardo DiCaprio (who, with this and The Great Gatsby, is officially cinema’s devil-may-care party-thrower of 2013), the new film is based on the memoir of Jordan Belfort, an infamous money launderer whose Wall Street wheeling and dealings also inspired 2000’s Boiler Room. Hard, fast, and just about out of control, this debut trailer suggests Scorsese is on an energetic high, nervy and playful and ready to unleash something topical and evocative (what, no Michael Douglas cameo?). Opening November 15, The Wolf of Wall Street co-stars Kyle Chandler, Jean Dujardin, Jon Favreau, Rob Reiner, Pan Am head-turner Margot Robbie, and also Jonah Hill and Matthew McConaughey. Oscar watchers should probably add the latter two gents to their Supporting Actor shortlists, and the film is poised to contend in other categories too. Get a load of Marty and Leo’s latest after the jump.

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Costume Design

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Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Costume Design
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Costume Design

Okay, so, this isn’t a tough one exactly, but it bears mentioning that one of the two times we’ve gotten this category wrong was when we disregarded the almost always reliable frilliest-always-wins rule and allowed ourselves to be stupidly blinded by Keira Knightley’s emerald green dress from Atonement. (Our only other faux pas—not calling it for The Artist last year—is perhaps more easily explained, as the Best Picture winner clearly benefited from every other nominee’s ostentatious yards of silk drowning each other out.) Now, here we are calling it for more Knightley-donned couture by Jacqueline Durran, this time from Joe Wright’s uneven but oft-deliciously unhinged Anna Karenina, whose four tech nods more than suggest that feelings for this most purple of cinematic adaptations of Leo Tolstoy’s classic tome are more amorous than the Academy’s regard for Anonymous, W.E., and Jane Eyre, each of which received their sole Oscar nominations in this category last year. If the showy grime of Hugo’s Silent Film Era Street Urchin Collection couldn’t seal the deal last year, as we thought it would, we have to rule out Les Misérables and Lincoln’s infinitely grayer lines. Charlize Theron truly rocks Colleen Atwood’s trannie-fierce gowns for Snow White and the Huntsman, but it’s the other Snow White movie in the category, Tarsem’s Mirror Mirror, that could steamroll over Anna Karenina, and not just because its costumes are as gorgeously elaborate, but also because they were designed by the deceased Eiko Ishioka, a previous Oscar winner for Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Will Win: Anna Karenina

Could Win: Mirror Mirror

Should Win: Anna Karenina

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Cinematography

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Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Cinematography
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Cinematography

Just as we’d expect from the Academy, there’s no shortage of lushness on display in this year’s nominees for Best Cinematography, ranging from Seamus McGarvey’s dense visual palette for Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina to Roger Deakins’s colorful shadow plays for Skyfall. Both films boast stunning cinematographic depth and are brashly expressive enough to make them contenders, but Skyfall has the added benefit of Deakins’s Randy Newman-like winless streak as a potential story for voters to latch onto. On the other hand, Robert Richardson’s impeccable melding of naturalistic tones and the warmer oranges and reds of spaghetti westerns’ past for Django Unchained might not play as well with voters who lean toward less subtle visions.

Oscar Prospects: Lincoln

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Oscar Prospects: Lincoln
Oscar Prospects: Lincoln

Though it boasts the strongest pedigree of all 2012 awards contenders, Lincoln doesn’t play like obvious Oscar bait while you’re watching it. Masterfully realized, the tame and talky saga spends most of its duration bucking the epic-biopic formula, unfolding with minimal spectacle and with characterization that’s as communal as it is subject-focused. From look to language, it’s no trophy-seeking construct, but a first-rate political drama made with consummate skill. So, how nice that it’s been so ardently embraced by critics, racking up—at this writing—more perfect-score reviews than any other Oscar candidate this year. That critical push is going to help voters take notice of all the un-showy aspects of Lincoln’s production, including Rick Carter’s Art Direction, Joanna Johnston’s Costume Design, and, yes, Steven Spielberg’s Direction. Say all you want about Argo and Life of Pi, but this is your Best Picture frontrunner, poised to be the film with the most nods come January 10. It looks to be a downright lock in at least nine categories, and a handful of other races seem well within its reach. Had it featured some CG cannons or, say, a fresh diddy to be sung by Sally Field, you’d likely be seeing it in damn-near every lineup.

Oscar Prospects: Argo

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Oscar Prospects: Argo
Oscar Prospects: Argo

Ben Affleck’s Argo emerged from the Toronto Film Festival as virtually every pundit’s Best Picture frontrunner, its grand reception topping off a heap of baity ingredients. This particular bit of groupthink is particularly disheartening, as those ingredients are, collectively, something Argo itself is never able to soar above. You know the mouthwatering pitch: Based on the impossible true story, this white-knuckle political thriller recounts the daring escape of six American diplomats during the Iran hostage crisis. Produced by Academy Award winner George Clooney and Oscar nominee Grant Heslov, and directed by Academy Award winner Ben Affleck, who also stars, Argo is both a topical drama and a rousing crowd-pleaser. Which, of course, says nothing of the movie’s juicy Hollywood ties, doubling as an offbeat slice of film-biz history wherein a C.I.A. specialist uses a faux sci-fi production as his rescue ruse. On paper, Argo reads like a dream project, and it certainly helps that Affleck stocks his cast with a fine mix of Oscar favorites and of-the-moment faces (alongside Alan Arkin are Bryan Cranston, Kyle Chandler, and Chris Messina). This is a movie that drums up sight-unseen support, specifically for Affleck, who’s been soldiering forth as a filmmaker and has finally made a film about something. It’s a shame that what he’s made also plays like a thin and shameless Oscar box-checker, and if it were to take the big prize, it’d only amplify the bemused awards-watcher’s cynicism.

Oscar 2012 Composite Winner Predictions

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Oscar 2012 Composite Winner Predictions
Oscar 2012 Composite Winner Predictions

Below is a complete list of our predicted winners at the 2012 Academy Awards.

Picture: The Artist
Directing: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Actor: Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Actress: Viola Davis, The Help
Actor in a Supporting Role: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Actress in a Supporting Role: Octavia Spencer, The Help
Original Screenplay: Midnight in Paris
Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants
Foreign Language Film: In Darkness
Documentary Feature: Undefeated
Animated Feature Film: Rango
Documentary Short: Saving Face
Animated Short: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Live Action Short: Tuba Atlantic
Film Editing: Hugo
Art Direction: Hugo
Cinematography: Hugo
Costume Design: Hugo
Makeup: The Iron Lady
Score: The Artist
Song: “Man or Muppet,” The Muppets
Sound Editing: Hugo
Sound Mixing: Hugo
Visual Effects: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Picture

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Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Picture
Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Picture

That the Best Picture category’s “Will it be six or will it be seven?” question was settled as close to 10 as possible without actually being 10 isn’t merely a mark of how much of a mess this year’s Oscars are. It’s also proof positive that, despite paying lip service to the hundreds of films “eligible” to be nominated for Best Picture, by the time publicists and studios have had their say, there are never more than maybe two dozen movies in the mix. If nine movies in this hardly vintage year could reach the minimum requirement of being listed first on five percent of all ballots, then frankly the bar isn’t high enough. Even if the board of directors fixes what they’ve broken and revert next year to the five-deep slate, no matter how heartening it is for fans of The Tree of Life (which exists in an entirely different league from the rest of the other nominees) or Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (ditto), it can’t seem like much of an honor to be nominated now that the category’s perverse sliding scale has revealed just how limited Oscar voters obviously see their pool of choices.

Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Editing

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Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Editing
Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Editing

When it comes to film editing, dubbed by so many as “the invisible art,” marveling at how rhythmically one shot feeds another is hardly sufficient in predicting an Oscar winner. If it were that simple, Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, who linked motorbike zooms to serial-killer string-ups and helped The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo feel like half of its 158 minutes, would take this trophy in a walk. That’s just what the Fincher-backing duo did last year, for their equally riveting chop job on The Social Network. But Fincher’s latest is hardly a contender like his zeitgeist-y Zuckerberg epic, leaving it a tased and tatted victim of the politics of this race. If you’re not a Bourne Ultimatum or a Black Hawk Down or a Matrix, firing more dizzying, whiz-bang splices at the audience than obstacles in a first-person shooter, you’d best be a Best Picture frontrunner.