Oscars 2014: Peter Travers Picks Who Should (And Will) Win – Rolling Stone
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Oscars 2014: Peter Travers Picks Who Should (And Will) Win

In the tightest race in years, the question is: Can anyone take down the box-office and critical smash that is ‘Gravity’?

american hustle

Francois Duhamel/Sony Pictures

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

Faves: Sure, there are nine movies nominated for Best Picture, but if you're not Gravity, American Hustle or 12 Years a Slave, consider yourself A-Rod: You're not playing this season. Ever since the Academy started increasing the number of contenders from five to as many as 10 (to spread, what, the wealth of chances to boost your box office?), the unwieldy list of nominees has cheapened the process. So let's cut it down for you. When the Best Picture Oscar is doled out on March 2nd, the odds will favor Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity, the acclaimed space epic with a gross ($262 million) that's more than its two top rivals combined. The downside is that, with the exception of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, the Academy traditionally shafts fantasy and sci-fi for the big prize. From 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars to District 9 and Inception, fantasy spells defeat. Cheery news for David O. Russell's wildly entertaining and expertly acted comedy, American Hustle. But wait, comedy is a genre Oscar sniffs at nearly as often as sci-fi. The Woody Allen win for Annie Hall was almost four decades ago. Enter Steve McQueen's brilliant and brutal 12 Years a Slave, which radiates Oscar-friendly gravitas. The catch is that the film's violence turns off Academy blue-noses, some of whom may never allow such suffering to stream into their consciousness. There you have it: 6,000-odd (I use the term advisedly) Oscar voters trying to pound their prejudices into a consensus. No wonder it's such a bitch to get all categories right in the office Oscar betting pool.

before midnight

Despina Spyrou/Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Best Picture: Upsets and Snubs

Upsets: I suppose it's possible that one of the other nominees could sneak in. Maybe the Weinstein Company's campaign to sell Philomena as the people's choice will pay off. Nah. Stick with the top three.

Snubs: How the hell do you not nominate Richard Linklater's Before Midnight, the end of the best romantic trilogy on film? And a plague on voters' houses for ignoring the Coen brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis, a folk ballad that strikes haunting chords about identity and the nature of art and commerce.

gravity

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Best Picture: Who Should Win and Who Will Win

Should Win: 12 Years a Slave, because no 2013 film cut deeper, resonated longer or felt readier for a permanent place in the cinema time capsule.

Will Win: Gravity, because when voters wonder if American Hustle is too much about the actors and 12 Years a Slave is too much on the nerves, Gravity makes the easiest compromise. That's Oscar for you.

Matthew McConaughey Dallas Buyers Club

Anne Marie Fox/Focus Features

Best Actor

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

Faves: Though Ejiofor gives a master class in implosive, soulful acting and Dern caps a shining career, the heat is with McConaughey. For good reason. His performance as a homophobe-turned-AIDS-crusader is his best so far, and he's riding the crest of a career rebirth that's hard not to cheer for.

wolf of wall street

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Best Actor: Upsets and Snubs

Upsets: DiCaprio's all-stops-out turn as a Wall Street scumbag is earning raves even from those who loathe his film. Plus, the 39-year-old star has five nominations and no wins. Oscar has some dues to pay.

Snubs: First they toss out Tom Hanks for one of his most moving performances, in Captain Phillips. Then they sucker-punch Robert Redford, a presumptive winner for his tour de force as a man alone at sea in All Is Lost. And clearly there is room for only one black actor: Forest Whitaker (The Butler), Idris Elba (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom) and Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station) will have to wait for next time.

Meryl Streep August Osage County

Claire Folger/The Weinstein Company

Best Actress

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

Faves: Faves Blanchett has long been considered a lock for embodying a modern-day Blanche DuBois in Woody Allen's topical and trenchantly funny blending of A Streetcar Named Desire with the true story of Ruth Madoff. The presumed dead heat between Blanchett and Bullock has lost its betting fervor. It's Blanchett's to lose.

Amy Adams American Hustle

Francois Duhamel/Sony Pictures

Best Actress: Upsets and Snubs

Upsets: Adams needs to win an Oscar someday – make a note. Streep, stuck in a botched film of a great stage play, is in by default. So the only chance for a surprise lies with the 79-year-old Dame Judi, a superb actress playing a real person, and admirably playing down the pleas for a sympathy vote that suggest she's going blind from macular degeneration. She says it's not really that bad. What a Dame.

Snubs: There was a bit of a British tempest in a Mary Poppins teapot when Emma Thompson failed to be recognized for Saving Mr. Banks. I'll save my bile for rejecting two formidable young actresses: Adèle Exarchopoulos in the proudly lesbian Blue Is the Warmest Color and Brie Larson in the proudly indie Short Term 12.

cate blanchett blue jasmine

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Best Actress: Who Will Win and Who Should Win

Should Win: Blanchett. Yes, she's that good.

Will Win: Blanchett. Like I said.

jared leto dall

Anne Marie Fox/Focus Features

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees:
• Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
• Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
• Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
• Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
• Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Faves: Like his co-star McConaughey, Leto plays a man dying of AIDS. Unlike McConaughey, Leto had to do the role in heels, a dress and a wig. Still, the Thirty Seconds to Mars rocker silenced all doubters as the transgender Rayon, finding the humor and stirring humanity in a character that could have been played as a cliché.

james gandolfini enough said

Colleen Hayes/Fox Searchlight

Best Supporting Actor: Upsets and Snubs

Upsets: Abdi is a first-timer, which usually works against a win. Cooper is coming off a nomination for Silver Linings Playbook. And this is Hill's second nod, after Moneyball. It's clear the Academy is taking seriously two actors best known for comedy. If anyone can give Leto a run, it's Fassbender, whose self-loathing slave-driver burns in the memory.

Snubs: It really bugs me that James Gandolfini's funny and tender duet with Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Enough Said was not given Academy recognition. Sam Rockwell, so good in The Way Way Back, is another perpetual Academy bridesmaid. And you nominate every star in American Hustle except Jeremy Renner. WTF!

jared leto dallas buyers club

Anne Marie Fox/Focus Features

Best Supporting Actor: Who Will Win and Who Should Win

Will Win: Leto. For justice.

Should Win: Leto. Let it be done.
 

jennifer lawrence american hustle

Francois Duhamel/Sony Pictures

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees:
• Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
• Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
• Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
• Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
• June Squibb, Nebraska

Faves: It's been a seesaw between Nyong'o and Lawrence. Lawrence just won for Silver Linings Playbook, which could hurt. But you can't see Nyong'o in her debut film without being moved to tears.

 

June Squibb

Merie W. Wallace

Best Supporting Actress: Upsets and Snubs

Upsets: I love Squibb and every scene she steals. There, I said it.

Snubs: The Academy never thinks voice work deserves an acting nod. Example: Scarlett Johansson in Her. Clean your ears out, Oscar, and listen!

Lupita Nyong'o 12 years a slave

Francois Duhamel/Fox Searchlight

Best Supporting Actress: Who Should Win and Who Will Win

Should Win: Nyong'o.

Will Win: Lawrence. Or maybe it's Nyong'o. It's a killer choice.

12 years a slave

Francois Duhamel/Fox Searchlight

Best Director

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

Faves: Cuarón the visionary, McQueen the uncompromising artist and Russell the best director of actors currently working. Take your pick.

Sandra Bullock Gravity

Warner Bros. Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

Best Director: Who Should Win and Who Will Win

Should Win: McQueen. Silly me for thinking that the director of the Best Picture should also take the directing Oscar.

Will Win: Cuarón. This is not the year to defy Gravity.

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