Oscars 2014: Did the Academy get their nominations right?

American Hustle and Gravity may have notched up 10 nominations apiece, but seeing films like Her and Philomena get their due means that the Academy has done its bit. But there’s always Oscar night to undo all the hard work, writes Dean Williams.


This year’s Oscar nominations were more anticipated than usual because of the strength of the films that released in 2013. If 2012 was one of the dullest film years in recent memory, then 2013 was certainly one of the most exciting.

Hollywood and its cousin from across the pond left no genre behind in their quest to bring the best stories to the screen. Let’s take a look at the four major categories and see if we can pick who’s going to come out on top.

Best Film

Nominees: 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, American Hustle, Philomena, Her, Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club, Nebraska, Captain Phillips

Let me get this off my chest immediately, I really don’t rate Captain Phillips above any of the other contenders, so if it wins, it’s going to be a travesty of truly Academic proportions. The frontrunners for me are 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle. Outstanding performances and great direction coupled with strong stories would have made any of these two a shoo-in if they weren’t lumped together. But they are. There is a chance that Gravity may get through on the strength of its technical brilliance, but it’s unlikely. Philomena, Her, and Nebraska, while brilliant, are too leftfield to battle it out with the giants.

So that leaves two: Wolf of Wall Street and Dallas Buyers Club. The latter would have been out of the running if it hadn’t been for both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto picking up Golden Globes. Dallas Buyers Club is now the dark horse of this pack, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it pulled off a heist that would fit right in to American Hustle.

What about Wolf of Wall Street? Well, it does have everything going for it: Superb direction by the legendary Martin Scorsese, great performances by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill, and a rollicking story. It isn’t, however, Scorsese’s best film, and seeing his atrocious track record at the Oscars (let’s face it The Departed, for which he finally won, wasn’t his best either) it’s unlikely he’ll win. My money’s on American Hustle because, to put none too fine a point on it, it’s a quintessentially American film, and some Academy voters might be turned off by 12 Years a Slave’s graphic depiction of the horrors of slavery.

Safe Bet: American Hustle

Best Director

Nominees: David O. Russell (American Hustle), Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity), Alexander Payne (Nebraska), Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)

This should be a lot more cut and dry than it looks. Alfonso Cuaron’s superb direction in Gravity means that he’s the frontrunner here, no matter what Steve McQueen fans say, plus the Golden Globe he won won’t hurt either. The heart screams for Marty, but the brain says no. David O. Russell is coming up fast in the outside lane, and if he picks up the gong, then you know American Hustle’s going to pick up the top award too.

Safe Bet: Alfonso Cuaron

Best Actor

Nominees: Christian Bale (American Hustle), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), Bruce Dern (Nebraska), Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)

This HAS to be Leo’s year! You can’t keep ignoring an actor for so long and after so many superb performances…why, it’s almost like what the Academy did to Martin Scorsese for decades.

Leo was outstanding as Jordan Belfort, but don’t dismiss the might of Bruce Dern, who gave arguably the best performance in this category. McConaughey is fresh off a Golden Globe win so he has momentum on his side, but that’s pretty much all he’s got. Bale was better in Out of the Furnace, and was reasonable, at best, in American Hustle. Chiwetel was good, but the fact that Michael Fassbender was so much better could hurt his chances.

This looks to be a straight fight between Dern and DiCaprio. Hell, if Leo loses again he can always rely on the wisdom of Marty, who’s been here before…so many times.

One last thing, can we all agree that leaving Joaquin Phoenix out for his amazing turn in Her is simply outrageous? Say it one more time!

Safe Bet: Leonardo DiCaprio

Best Actress

Nominees: Amy Adams (American Hustle), Meryl Streep (August: Osage County), Judi Dench (Philomena), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Sandra Bullock (Gravity)

Meryl Streep, the perennial Oscar favorite is hamstrung by the tepid response to the screen adaptation of the great play August: Osage County. And while Judi Dench and Amy Adams gave sterling performances, the year belonged to three actresses: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, and Emma Thompson (Saving Mr Banks). The shocker is that Thompson was left out in the cold, possibly on the say-so of Christian Louboutin? So that leaves Bullock and Blanchett, and honestly, Blanchett’s performance in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine wins hands down.

Woody’s women are marvels, and Blanchett has continued the tradition cemented by the likes of Diane Keaton and Diane Weiss. No competition here.

Safe Bet: Cate Blanchett

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