Short Commentary on the 2014 Oscars

While it is too early to go into much detail concerning this year’s Oscar nominations, I am still convinced that the three best films of the year are American Hustle, 12 Years a Slave and Dallas Buyers Club. They are joined with two other tremendous films, Nebraska and Philomena. Gravity is also in the picture, although I think it is destined to win other awards relating to special effects and cinematography. Given that David O. Russell was shut out last year for the deserving Silver Linings Playbook, keep an eye at this stage on Hustle.

As for leading actor, all five nominees were flat-out tremendous. While Christian Bale is deserving for his enchanting role in Hustle, I doubt that he will win given his prior award in The Fighter (2010). Though DiCaprio is again knocking on the door for his powerful role in Scorcese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, I still believe that the character is far too despicable to squeeze through. That leaves the choice between Bruce Dern, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Matthew McConoughey, and we’ll deal with that later.

Lead actress is also a sterling group, but I think you can eliminate Meryl Streep for August: Osage County immediately. This was a tragic film in every respect.

Kate Blanchett is deserving for her role as the functional equivalent of Bernie Madoff’s wife in Blue Jasmine, but she already won the Golden Globe. Sandra Bullock also has won before for the regrettable The Blind Side (2009), so I think that this will come down to Amy Adams for American Hustle or Judi Dench for the engaging Philomena. Again, I’ll narrow that down later.

The Supporting Actor award will focus on Barkhad Abdi for his unforgettable performance as the surviving pirate in Captain Phillips and Jared Leto in his overpowering role as a dying transvestite in Dallas Buyers Club. Jonah Hill was simply awful in The Wolf of Wall Street, so I’m crossing him off immediately. Both Bradley Cooper and Michael Fassbender are truly deserving for their performances in American Hustle and 12 Years a Slave, but they just aren’t dancing in the same league as Mr. Abdi and Mr. Leto.

As far as supporting actresses, I think it is a choice between Lupita Nyong’o for her heartbreaking performance in 12 Years a Slave or June Squibb playing Bruce Dern’s magnetic wife in Nebraska. Cross off Julia Roberts for the same reason as Meryl Streep. The wonderful Jennifer Lawrence, while deserving, simply needs to give the 84-year old Ms. Squibb and Ms. Nyong’o a fighting chance. I love Sally Hawkins, but I think her nomination alone for Blue Jasmine is worth its weight in gold.

I don’t want to bore you with going any further, but let me throw in some final observations. In the animated feature film category, the winner has to be Frozen. That should be an easy pick.

As for cinematography, you almost have to start and end with Gravity. The category of costume design is a tough pick, but tell me that the dresses worn by Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle don’t make it a frontrunner.

As for documentary feature, my principal heartbreak deals with the fact that Blackfish didn’t get nominated. As it stands, 20 Feet from Stardom was incredible, and that has to be a favorite.

As for makeup and hairstyling, what they did with Jared Leto has to have Dallas Buyers Club leading the pack. I can’t really make an honest pick at this stage for the best foreign language film other than to say that I remain overwhelmingly disappointed that Wajda wasn’t included among the picks.

Finally, let me simply close with a comment about the fact that The Way, Way Back, Short Term 12 and The Butler went unacknowledged. While that isn’t really a surprise, these three films rivaled any you will see this year, and Bree Larson (Short Term 12) will get her deserved recognition somewhere down the line.