Welly well well, the Oscars may still be several months away, but that's no reason to not get ahead of the curve, and announce your Oscar nomination predictions. So, without further ado (other than the poster image of American Hustle, that is), here are my early bird Oscar nomination predictions. Have at 'em. Oh, and I have listed them in order of probability within each category.
1. American Hustle
2. 12 Years a Slave
4. Captain Phillips
5. The Wolf of Wall Street
6. Inside Llewyn Davis
7. Lee Daniels' The Butler
9. Before Midnight
10. Fruitvale Station
Wild Cards: Her and/or Blue is the Warmest Color
The first four are pretty much locks right now, and that doesn't look likely to change. It's after that, that things get a bit tricky. For awhile, it looked as if Scorsese's Wolf of Wall Street was going to be pushed back until 2014, but a Christmas Day release has recently been put on the books, so in it goes. Then again, Scorsese rushed to get the film done in time, so that may hurt the film, even if it is from a master director. For now though, I'm including it. I am also including another maybe film, in the Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis. It is a small film, but these guys are popular, so in it goes. Then you have The Butler and Nebraska, and if Oscar is going deep again this year (the rules state anywhere between five and ten nominees in this category - and please don't get me started on the stupidity of such a rule), these two could easily pop in there. After this, it gets really tricky. No one else is actually predicting the two films I placed in the last two (possible) spots, instead predicting films like Saving Mr. Banks or August: Osage County or Rush or All is Lost (any of which are very reasonable, and probably more probable guesses), but I'm putting these two critical faves on my list anyway. Then ya got my two wild card choices. Probably very wild (especially the 3 hour French lesbian drama that was recently laughed at during an Academy member screening) but stranger things have happened at the Oscars. Any other possibilities? Other than those I mention just above (especially All is Lost or Saving Mr. Banks), I suppose either Blue Jasmine or Dallas Buyers Club could sneak in if given enough critics awards leverage, but still somewhat doubtful - at least this early in the game.
1. Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity
2. Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave
3. David O. Russell for American Hustle
4. Paul Greengrass for Captain Phillips
5. Martin Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall Street
The 6th (or 7th) Man Award: Joel & Ethan Coen for Inside Llewyn Davis
Wild Card: Spike Jonze for Her
Just like with BP, the top four seem to be locks here (I think that, no matter which film takes BP, Cuaron is still winning this award), leaving just the fifth spot open for debate. Granted, I may be overselling Scorsese this year (I actually undersold him in my predictions two years ago, when I did not see the love for Hugo that would be coming), especially with the supposed rush job the director did in post production, but then again, he is Martin Fucking Scorsese, so that alone could pop him in here. But, in case the film does tank (or at least partially so), the Brothers Coen could easily sneak in there instead of him. But still, wouldn't it be fun to hear Spike Jonze' name announced on that Tuesday morning? Too quirky? Maybe. Maybe. Other possibilities include Lee Daniels for the rather egotistically named Lee Daniels' The Butler, J.C Chandor for All is Lost, and Alexander Payne for Nebraska. We could also see Fruitvale Station's Ryan Coogler in there if Harvey Weinstein has his way. Woody Allen or Richard Linklater are probably asking too much. Then again, my two faves of the year (Park Chan-wook for Stoker and Wong Kar-wai for The Grandmaster) is probably really asking to much.
1. Robert Redford in All is Lost
2. Chiwetel Ojiofor in 12 Years a Slave
3. Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club
4. Bruce Dern in Nebraska
5. Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips
5a. Forrest Whitaker in Lee Daniels' The Butler
5b. Christian Bale in American Hustle
5c. Joaquin Phoenix in Her
5d. Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street
Wild Card: James Gandolfini in Enough Said
This category looks pretty much tied up for these five actors, but if there is any slip in there (Tom Hanks has been awarded enough, McConaughey still doesn't get the respect he deserves, Nebraska doesn't get any awards traction), then any one of our illustrious other number fives could surprise. As for Gandolfini, if this were a less competitive year in this category, of if the role had some more meat on it, a posthumous nod would be his, but it probably ain't a-gonna happen this year. Then again, they could pull (somewhat) category fraud, and bill him as supporting (see below). The only other nominee I think might stand a chance is Michael B. Jordan in Fruitvale Station, but there's going to have to be a lot of precursor buzz around the kid. In the end though, barring a complete American Hustle sweep (and therefore, a nod for Bale), I think I may be 5 for 5 on this one, unless the love for Hanks goes fully into his supporting chances (see below) and one of the 5a thru d's sneak in. As for the Oscar itself, I think this might just be Redford's year. A supposedly tour de force performance from a living Hollywood legend near the (maybe) end of his career, who has never won an acting Oscar before. Yeah. Oh wait, that pretty much describes Bruce Dern this year as well. Hmmm?
1. Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine
2. Sandra Bullock in Gravity
3. Judi Dench in Philomena
4. Meryl Streep in August: Osage County
5. Amy Adams in American Hustle
The 6th (Wo)Man Award: Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks
Wild Card: Julie Delpy in Before Midnight
Wilder Card: Greta Gerwig in Frances Ha
Wildest Card: Adele Exarchopoulos in Blue is the Warmest Color
The top four feel like locks to me. Dench and Streep will most likely get nominated here (again!) but this is a battle between Cate and Sandra. No one else need apply. As for the fifth spot, it seems like a two way race between Adams and Thompson. If Hustle goes big (and it probably will) it will be Adams (in an atypical grittier role, and in the lead spot instead of her usual supporting role), if not, then Thompson. On a sidenote, if it is Thompson as the fifth nominee, this will be the second year in a row with a category made up entirely of past Oscar winners. As for the wild cards, probably not a chance without some precursory love. Any others, you ask? Maybe Kate Winslet in Labor Day or perhaps Julia Roberts as Streep's co-star, if the inevitable bait-and-switch category fraud marketing of her co-lead role in the Supporting category, doesn't pan out (see below). But what of Naomi Watts, you ask? Earlier in the year, I had predicted (along with many fellow pundits) Watts inevitable nomination for playing Princess Diana. As of this writing (the film has opened in the UK, but not in the US yet) the film has a 5% on Rotten Tomatoes. Doesn't exactly instill confidence in a Best Actress nomination, now does it? Of course these are mostly from UK critics, and they will probably be harder on a film about one of their beloveds, but I don't see that percentage getting significantly higher come its US release.
Best Supporting Actor
1. Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave
2. Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club
3. Tom Hanks in Saving Mr. Banks
4. Matthew McConaughey in Mud or The Wolf of Wall Street
5. Daniel Brühl in Rush
The 6th Man Award: John Goodman in Inside Llewyen Davis
Wild Card: Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips
Have We Mentioned: James Gandolfini in Enough Said
At first it looked like this could be Fassbender's year (Oscar loves an evil sonofabitch, and that is just what Fassbender plays here), but as time goes on, it looks like this could very well be someone else's year. There could be an Oscar in the near future for the former Jordan Catalano (what, no My So-Called Life fans here?), aka Jared Leto, going transgender and tragic. Whatever the case, these two actors are locks. After that, everything is up in the air. If Hanks and McConaughey are nominated here, we could see only the second time in Oscar history (the first being 1993 and Holly Hunter and Emma Thompson) where there were two double nominees. Since this seems to be the most open category this year, we could see almost anyone take a nod here. I am going with the Rush co-star (again, category fraud perhaps) but Goodman, though it is a very small role, could see his long overdue first nomination if the Coen Brothers film hits big. He has co-starred in the last two BP winners, after all - not that that really means anything here. We could also maybe see the late James Gandolfini here if they decide to go that route. A big surprise though would be the Captain Phillips' pirate, Barkhad Abdi sneaks in. Well, considering I am sort of predicting the possibility, it shouldn't come as that much of a surprise. Other possibilities include Jeremy Renner and Bradley Cooper from American Hustle (they could cancel each other out though), Jonah Hill in The Wolf of Wall Street, and, in what could be a huge surprise, ex-SNLer Will Forte in Nebraska.
1. Oprah Winfrey in Lee Daniels' The Butler
2. Lupita Nyong'o in 12 Years a Slave
3. Sally Hawkins in Blue Jasmine
4. Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle
5. Octavia Spencer in Fruitvale Station
The 6th (Wo)Man Award: Julia Roberts in August: Osage County
Wild Card: June Squibb in Nebraska
Winfrey and the mostly unknown Nyong'o are virtual locks, while Hawkins is close to one (Woody Allen and Supporting Actress has a long and prosperous history), and Oscar loves Lawrence enough to probably make her one as well (especially if Hustle is one of the big Oscar nomination morning successes), which leaves that ever popular fifth spot a race between, essentially three ladies. Spencer (obviously) is my choice right now (c'mon, she plays a Martyred mom) but if Nebraska hits kinda big (as in a BP nod), Squibb could sneak in. Then ya got poor Julia Roberts. Her role opposite Streep is essentially the co-lead, but Oscar is notoriously bad when it comes to same sex co-leads - one, for some reason or another, must go supporting, and in this case, it is Julia. Basically, what is the most likely outcome, is Roberts falling somewhere in between the two categories and ending up without a nod for anything. I suppose we could see Sarah Paulson up for 12 Years a Slave, but only if the film hits big and people like Spencer and Squibb are overlooked.
Best Original Screenplay
1. American Hustle
2. Inside Llewyn Davis
5. Blue Jasmine
Wild Card: Mud
Best Adapted Screenplay
1. 12 Years a Slave
2. Captain Phillips
4. Before Midnight
5. Blue is the Warmest Color
Wild Card: Short Term 12
The top three in each category seem like sure things, but after that, anything could really happen here (there are questions on which category some of these films will end up in). And let's not forget those wild cards. This is a category where they could seriously happen. Other possibles for Original are: Saving Mr. Banks, Lee Daniels' The Butler, Frances Ha, Dallas Buyers Club, Fruitvale Station, and Gravity, but only if they go gaga for the film. Others for Adapted are: August: Osage County, The Wolf of Wall Street, and The Spectacular Now. So there ya go.
Well, that's about it for now. I'll let the other categories wait for my final Oscar predictions in January (though I'm sure the 3D spectacle, Gravity, will be up for most of the tech awards, just as Life of Pi did last year). All-in-all, I think American Hustle, 12 Years a Slave, Captain Philips, and Gravity are the films destined to lead the nominations, and maybe The Wolf of Wall Street, if that pans out. We'll see you in January for the Oscar nominations.