And the Oscar goes to…

by Jacki Granet and Jen Mecum

JACKI: As the two-time champ of the annual D&B Oscar Pool, it should come as no surprise that I have been asked to help write the first ever Oscar predictions blog post (sarcasm heavily implied). That said, I have no formal film training whatsoever--I’m just an avid filmgoer who intends to pull off the never-before-achieved D&B Oscar Pool three-peat.

JEN: I am a relative newbie to the shark-infested waters of the D&B Oscar Pool. Having studied film and television as an undergraduate, I have the makings of a winner, but my penchant for voting with my heart often ruins my chances at victory. I am determined to block Jacki’s “three-peat” (and stop all this office trash-talk) this year.  

Best Picture
JACKI: Since you’re the newcomer, Jen, I’ll let you go first.

JEN: I feel like this is a tight race only because there isn’t a clear winner here. 12 Years a Slave has been prime awards fodder since the previews first rolled out, but does difficult yet important subject matter, serious and honest performances, and Brad Pitt producing automatically add up to a Best Picture win? I'm not so sure, but I'm also not sure that 12 Years is totally out of the running. My pick for the Best Picture win is American Hustle, a film that is the definition of the word “darling” in the entertainment world right now. Director David O. Russell has long been known as an indie darling, breaking into the mainstream awards arena last year with Silver Linings Playbook. Silver Linings earned nominations for eight categories, including Best Director and Best Picture, but only Jennifer Lawrence took home an Oscar for her lead role in the film. American Hustle features many of Russell’s favorite actors, including Jennifer Lawrence, and has received overall positive reviews. I think American Hustle has the pedigree and appeal to beat out the eight other films in this category.

JACKI: I’ve seen all nine Best Picture contenders, and this category is not a lock by any means. 12 Years a Slave took the SAG, but American Hustle is holding strong with other wins and nominations in all four major acting categories. It's pretty hard to believe, but I actually enjoyed every movie nominated in this category. I think 12 Years a Slave will win, but in terms of combining direction, acting, score, set design, and much more, I think Gravity deserves it. Coming in at around ninety minutes, Gravity is an exciting, tight, fast-paced drama that has brilliant performances from both Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. It is beautiful to watch and amazing to think about how difficult it must have been to put together such a technically challenging production.

Best Director
JEN: This category is a lock for Alfonso Cuarón. Gravity was captivating, emotional, and original, if not universally appealing. The finely tuned direction can be felt throughout the film, and I believe Cuarón will be recognized for his outstanding work.

JACKI: I agree with Jen. Alfonso Cuarón will and should win. What he was able to accomplish with Gravity is truly the mark of an incredible filmmaker.

Best Actor
JEN: Jacki and I wholeheartedly agree on this category: Matthew McConaughey isn’t even the one to beat--he will win. Dallas Buyers Club was an overall good movie, but, as Jacki points out, it’s unabashed Oscar bait. The “McConaughsance” that has been all over the internet as of late is not undeserved (see McConaughey’s truly transformative work on HBO’s True Detective), but I don’t believe that playing a rough-riding stubborn Texas cowboy was a major stretch for him. I hope DBC is just the tip of the iceberg in McConaughey’s canon.

JACKI: Matthew McConaughey will win, but I'm not happy about it. Yes, he was excellent in Dallas Buyers Club, but this movie was pure Oscar bait. Like Jen, I don’t really feel like it was as much of a stretch in ability as everyone is claiming. They say that if anyone is going to unseat McConaughey, it will be Bruce Dern (who was incredible), but in my dream world, Leonardo DiCaprio would finally win his first Oscar. He owned his role in The Wolf of Wall Street. I never feel like I am watching Leo playing a character. I just feel like I am watching the character come to life. The Wolf of Wall Street is one lengthy pep talk/lecture/speech after another and Leo nails every scene.

Best Actress
JEN: There are lots of great women nominated in this category for some fantastic performances, but Cate Blanchet has established herself as the standard in this category early on. The Woody Allen controversy is adding an unsettling feeling to the mix, but whatever you may think of that, I do think that Cate Blanchett will ultimately triumph here. I can’t wait to see the obligatory cut to Meryl Streep smiling and clapping as Cate ascends the stage.

JACKI: Cate Blanchett was amazing in Blue Jasmine. She is pretty much a lock for this category; however, I think this year’s crop of nominees is the best in years. Meryl, who is always fantastic, is explosive as the drug-addicted matriarch in August: Osage County. Judi Dench had me in tears several times during Philomena. As I said, Sandra Bullock is brilliant in Gravity in such a moving and physically challenging role. Lastly, Amy Adams is mesmerizing in American Hustle. Truly great performances from all five women, but Cate will win. Here’s hoping she will make fun of McConaughey again during her acceptance speech.

Best Supporting Actor
JEN: Jared Leto is likely to win in this category, as he has already taken home the SAG award and the Golden Globe. His performance in Dallas Buyers Club is admirable, but I have to say that I think that Jonah Hill should take home this award. I vehemently hated almost everything about The Wolf of Wall Street (DiCaprio included!) but Jonah Hill’s performance was nuanced (in a film sorely lacking in any sort of subtlety) and spare (in a film that redefined opulence). I will vote with my heart here and predict Jonah Hill in this category.

JACKI: Jared Leto. Duh.

Best Supporting Actress
JEN: Sally Hawkins is tremendously talented, and I was delighted to see her name on this list for her turn in Blue Jasmine (though I neglected to see it). In fact, everyone nominated in this category is formidable and probably deserves the title. However, I am convinced that the Academy will not be able to resist Jennifer Lawrence’s layered portrayal in American Hustle. I’m drinking the J. Law Kool-Aid still and I am betting the voters are, too.

JACKI: Lupito Nyong’o from 12 Years a Slave is the one to beat in this category. In her breakout role, she embodies Patsey from the moment she comes on screen. In fact, although the movie is about the Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Solomon Northup, I found myself wondering what happened to Patsey in the end. Team Lupito! Plus, let’s give her a shout out for nailing every red carpet look this season. Let me just add that I LOVE Jennifer Lawrence. I think she is a phenomenal actress, but I don't think her turn in American Hustle is Oscar worthy. Lastly, I am thrilled that that Blue Jasmine's Sally Hawkins scored the fifth spot in this category (sorry, Oprah!).

Best Original Screenplay
JEN: First off, I have a little bit of a bone to pick with Dallas Buyers Club in this category, as I know the film is based on a true story and an article written about the main character. Setting aside the technical requirements for the nominations, I predict Her will take this statuette home. I am not sure that I liked Her, even weeks after seeing the movie, but I do believe that it was one of the most fully-realized worlds presented on film in a long time. The details were impeccable and the story was captivating.

JACKI: Her. It was fascinating and thought provoking. I talked about this movie for a long time after it ended. American Hustle produced memorable characters, but in terms of overall screenplay, I think Her is the film to beat. I would like to take this opportunity to suggest that someone affiliated with Broadway adapt Nebraska into a stage play. I think it is better suited for live theater.

Best Adapted Screenplay
JEN: I am sure that Terry Winter will take home the Oscar for penning The Wolf of Wall Street. I do not have a strong opinion on any of the other nominees since I had to Google what Before Midnight even was (is Richard Linklater trying to get these movies syndicated? I think he has almost hit the 100 mark…) and I was so lukewarm about Captain Phillips and Philomena that I couldn’t bring myself to see them. So I suppose that leaves 12 Years but I don’t think that is going to happen. Enjoy the win, Wolf. I’ll be refilling my drink in the other room during this announcement.

JACKI: I think Captain Phillips is likely to win this category as it won the Writers Guild of America Award, which is usually a good indication of who will win the Oscar. However, I would like to give a shout out to Philomena. This was the last of the Oscar contenders that I saw and I was reluctant to see it (mainly because my mom retold me the entire plot without saying “spoiler alert” first--how rude!).  But once I saw it, I was very taken by its poignant, sharp writing.

Best Foreign Film
JEN: This category is going to come down to which films the Academy voters watched, and I think that leaves two contenders: The Great Beauty and The Broken Circle Breakdown. Great Beauty’s thematic elements revolve around an aging writer and some wistful, dare I say romantic, views of Rome--two aspects that will catch the voters’ eyes; however, Broken Circle embodies a worldly feel with a contemporary storyline, all set to American bluegrass music, which may prove completely irresistible to the Academy. My pick is The Broken Circle Breakdown.

JACKI: As of press time, I have only seen two foreign films in this category, The Hunt and The Broken Circle Breakdown. Both films were INCREDIBLE. I cannot speak highly enough about these films. I actually think they might be better than most of the Best Picture nominees. Seriously, if you are one of the ten other people who has seen The Hunt, email me because I could talk about it for hours. And do not watch The Broken Circle Breakdown unless you are prepared to shed a trillion tears. That said, my money is on The Great Beauty. It is the favorite to win and the Italians have been very fortunate in this category.