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Captain Phillips (#110 of 28)

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 Editing

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Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Editing
Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Editing

In the absence of a de facto Best Picture frontrunner, the Oscar here usually goes to the slickest contender. This certainly explains the recent victories for The Bourne Ultimatum, The Social Network, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, three films whose respective visual canvases hinged heavily on their varying ranges of unorthodox editing techniques. Given this trend, the weak Best Picture favorite in this year’s race, 12 Years a Slave, will likely not garner any attention for Joe Walker’s understated work. Likewise, the acting showcase Dallas Buyers Club gains little from its nondescript editing and can also probably be ruled out. By contrast, the frenzied rhythms of American Hustle’s editing, though stylistically derivative of the Martin Scorsese films to which the crime caper owes a significant debt, fit the mold of previous winners rather comfortably. An even stronger contender, however, is Christopher Rouse’s masterfully compact cutting for Captain Phillips. Coupled with his previous Oscar win for Paul Greengrass’s The Bourne Ultimatum, Rouse’s recent ACE Eddie Award triumph for dramatic feature editing would seem to present a solid case for him coasting to a victory here, particularly given how much Captain Phillips derives its tension from his maximum-impact cutting. Standing in his way, however, is the technical titan Gravity. Editing may not be the film’s primary showcase, but its fluidly breathless compositional sense is as much a credit to Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger’s intuitive splicing techniques as any anything else. How far the film’s benchmark-defining pedigree will take it beyond the technical categories remains the million-dollar question, but it’s safe to say that the honors the Academy bestows on the film on Sunday will also encompass this one.

Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions Supporting Actor

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Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actor
Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actor

Dear Jared:

I don’t expect you to read this, and you have every right not to. After all, I did refuse to receive the note you wished to send me, by way of your publicist, in response to my admittedly bitchy Village Voice review of Chapter 27. But given the patience and urgency with which you’ve responded to those who’ve taken umbrage with your flat-at-best, grossly-oblivious-at-worst performances on the awards circuit this year, suggesting that your ears are very much open to the concerns of the ostracized group that you represent in Dallas Buyers Club, perhaps you’ll drape those fabulous arms of yours around my neck and let me try and clear the air.

Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions Sound Mixing

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Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Sound Mixing
Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Sound Mixing

This past weekend, Gravity claimed the Live Action Film award for sound mixing from the Cinema Audio Society, one more precursor voting body whose results could prove prescient when it comes to Oscar’s March 2nd endgame. But, really, even if the CAS had tossed a lifesaver to Captain Phillips, or a dollar into the hopelessly lightweight guitar case of Inside Llewyn Davis, it still wouldn’t have changed our opinion that this statuette belongs to Alfonso Cuarón’s minimalist, outer space-set spectacle, which is poised to pick up more technical Oscars than any film since The Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King. Had the Coen brothers’ folksy ode to failure had more rafter-shaking pizazz (a la Les Misérables, Dreamgirls, and other musicals served well by this category), and had Captain Phillips had the hyperkinetic technical muscle of Paul Greengrass’s three-time Oscar winner The Bourne Ultimatum, there might be arguments worth having here. But there really seems to be no stopping Gravity’s craft-category onslaught, and its victories in the sound races in particular will prove that, in the cinematic silences of space, everyone can hear you scream, breathe, howl, “detach!” and hurtle toward rebirth.

Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions Sound Editing

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Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Sound Editing
Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Sound Editing

Last year’s tie in this category allowed us the unique opportunity to call it either 50 percent right or 50 percent wrong, depending on how generous we’re willing to be with ourselves for accurately giving Skyfall our “could win” designation. (On the downside, our “will win” prediction for Life of Pi went the way of the tiger.) But lest anyone think we’re playing it safe by predicting that this year’s contest will add another to what ought to be a near sweep for Gravity in the technical categories, let me be the umpteenth person to point out the perception that the movie’s deliberate lack of woofer-rocking explosions makes it an unorthodox frontrunner. I say “perception,” because even though in space no one can hear you Foley, you’d have to be deaf not to note that Glenn Fremantle’s work, as delivered to your bleeding eardrums via freshly installed Dolby Atmos systems, unleashes some of the most punishingly cacophonous noise this side of Chelyabinsk.

Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions Adapted Screenplay

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Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Adapted Screenplay
Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Adapted Screenplay

Tomorrow, the Writers Guild of America will announce its 2014 award winners, and whichever scribe(s) waltz off with the Original Screenplay prize may do the same on Oscar night, as all five nominees in the category were replicated by the Academy’s writers branch. The result of the WGA’s Adapted Screenplay race, however, won’t prove as keen a barometer of what might go down at the Dolby on March 2. Only three of the guild’s Adapted Screenplay contenders—Before Midnight, Captain Phillips, and The Wolf of Wall Street—made it onto Oscar’s shortlist, and even if one of them triumphs, breezing past Tracy Letts’s opus about familial dysfunction, August: Osage County, and Peter Berg’s bizarrely recognized soldiers-as-mincemeat shit show Lone Survivor, there’s still the seemingly impassable hurdle of John Ridley’s script for 12 Years a Slave, which, though ineligible for WGA honors (you can get those exclusion deets here), looks like Oscar’s indisputable frontrunner. Steve McQueen’s chilly directorial shortcomings may underscore what’s weak in Ridley’s take on Solomon Northup’s memoir (namely an undernourished depiction of the precious family from which our hero is stripped), but it feels nuts to bet against the one script in this field tied to a plausible Best Picture winner.

Oscar 2014 Nomination Predictions: Picture

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Oscar 2014 Nomination Predictions: Picture
Oscar 2014 Nomination Predictions: Picture

We come to it at last. By now, even the most casual Oscar-watcher should know that the big three bound for the Academy’s top race are Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity, Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, and David O. Russell’s American Hustle. The first two have become defining films of the moment for technical and cultural reasons, and the third has bewitched every major awards body, if only for its unabashed bigness and its throng of can’t-look-away performances. With minimal reservation, I’ll also slap the label of “lock” on Paul Greengrass’s Captain Phillips and Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, two films that have been showered with adoration this season, and are poised to surge forward in crucial categories (in addition to multiple acting bids, look for the former to land that all-important Editing nod, and the latter to be recognized for its Original Screenplay). And while The Wolf of Wall Street is spreading audiences apart like the legs of its subject’s demeaned conquests, perhaps no film this year has prompted more impassioned discussion. Being directed by Martin Scorsese helps; being a white-hot, unavoidable, shouting-match-starting phenomenon cements a slot for what was already an insta-contender.