Monday, January 20, 2014

The End of Awards Week: What Have We Learned?

After four award shows in one week, or two according to award snobs, the races for the major Academy Awards seem to be shaking out, but not as some expected.

Before the Oscar nominations were announced a few days ago, many people expected Tom Hanks for Best Actor, Oprah Winfrey for Supporting Actress, Robert Redford for Best Actor, and Inside Lleywn Davis and The Butler (we know which one) in the Best Picture list.

Matthew McConaughey for Best Actor? Maybe, but not a front-runner for that award. Too much smell from all those sad rom-coms in his career.

Her for any award? A man in love with his computer? Eeewww. Why is that a movie? What's next, remaking Flowers In The....never mind.

Well, this is what we've learned: some have settled, but Best Picture may lead to a real debate.

McConaughey is washing all the rom-coms out of his hair. His performance in  Dallas Buyers Club got less attention than Chiwetel Ejiofor's performance in 12 Years A Slave. After sweeping three award shows, it looks like he is the front-runner.There will be a lot of lobbying for Ejiofor, who may be held back by the reluctance of some people to see his movie. True, 12 Years A Slave is a brutal look at slavery, but it's real, and should be seen. Ejiofor is great as a free Black man who is sold into slavery, and endures a lot of pain and suffering to get back his freedom. This competition could get close in the final days of voting, but I'm starting to think McConaughey will win. I'll root for Ejiofor, though.

Supporting Actor is done. It was done the second Jared Leto's nomination was announced.

On the female side, Cate Blanchett may be a lock for Blue Jasmine. The only factor that could derail that result is Amy Adams getting five nominations in less than ten years, and some may say she is due for a win. Blanchett won previously for The Aviator. Still, it looks like it will be a win for Blanchett.

Supporting Actress had been forecast as a two-woman race between Jennifer Lawrence and Lupita Nyong'o, but Nyong'o may win here. There's hasn't been an actor winning two years in a row since Tom Hanks in 1994, and it's unlikely that's going to change this year.

Best Director is as done as Supporting Actor. Alfonso Cuaron is the easy winner for Gravity.

For writing, Spike Jonze may win for Her, because the story is just a new take on love. Adapted Screenplay should go to 12 Years A Slave.

Now, Best Picture...

if you're a movie critic or one of those Foreign Press members, it's 12 Years A Slave. If you're an actor, it's American Hustle. If you're a Producer, it's 12 Years A Slave AND Gravity.

So there's three front-runners as the lobbying starts. There's still the BAFTAs in three weeks, and that might nudge undecided voters towards 12 Years. It's also the only awards show where Behind the Candelabra, which wound up on HBO because movie studios were reluctant to distribute it, could wind up beating any of the Oscar nominees. If that happens, laughter from HBO and Steven Soderbergh would be so loud. It's up for three awards, including Adapted Screenplay, but it would be funny if it won something.

My guess is 12 Years will win once reluctant voters sit down and see how daring and serious this move really is. Again, the final vote will be close, but it will win. Gravity will own the tech awards section.

But getting back to those who didn't make the final five but should have...there is a solution:

Increasing the list of Best Picture nominations to a maximum of ten was a good idea. Now apply it to acting, directing and writing.

This was one unusual movie year with more good nominations than usual. If you increased the limit of nominations aside from Best Picture to seven, Oprah would be up for Supporting Actress, Redford, Hanks and Michael B. Jordan for Best Actor, Emma Thompson would be up for Best Actress. Thus, you'd have a more interesting ballot that recognizes the full list of good nominees.

Some were upset Davis was shut out, along with The Butler, not to mention Mud, Spectatcular Now, Rush, Way, Way Back, and Fruitvale Station. Throw in The Hunt and Blue is the Warmest Color, too. They could have gotten nominations, too. Some are blaming it on short-attention-span or maybe not much long-term memory.

If we went to seven, here's Best Actor:

Tom Hanks, Michael B. Jordan, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Matthew McConaughey, Christian Bale, Robert Redford, Bruce Dern

Best Actress:

Amy Adams, Cate Blanchett, Emma Thompson, Judi Dench, Meryl Streep, Sandra Bullock, Adele Exarchopoulos

Supporting Actor:

Jared Leto, Jonah Hill, Will Forte, Daniel Bruhl, Barkhad Abdi, Michael Fassbender, Bradley Cooper (McConaughey would fit in for Mud, but it could have been a leading role)

Supporting Actress:

Jennifer Lawrence, Octavia Spencer, Lupita Nyong'o, June Squibb, Sally Hawkins, Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey

As for direction,  Ryan Coogler and Spike Jonze should be added to make seven there. Adapted Screenplay should include The Butler and August: Osage County, while Fruitvale Station and Inside Llewyn Davis could have made the Original Screenplay list.

Blue is the Warmest Color didn't qualify for Foreign Film due to missing an entry deadline, but it could have been considered in other categories. Adele Exarchopolous and Lea Seydoux would be in there, along with Adapted Screenplay. It's racy, at the level of Last Tango In Paris. That may put off some voters, but winners at Cannes usually get in the Oscar race.

I'd propose adding a couple of documentaries to the final list, namely Blackfish and Stories We Tell. 

Now, maybe 2014 will wind up as a down year in movies in terms of quality. It's too soon to tell, but if there's a situation where five nominations for the major acting, writing and directing awards is too few, add one or two more if it's needed. It would have averted the year of "where's Affleck and Bigelow?"

No comments: