Leading the 2013 Academy Award nominees were those for Best Picture: Gravity (10), American Hustle (10), 12 Years A Slave (9), Nebraska (6), Captain Phillips (6), Dallas Buyers Club (6), Her (5), The Wolf of Wall Street (5) and Philomena (4).
In Part 1 I run through the categories of Best Animated Feature, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Documentary and the Technical categories, offering calculated consideration about the chances of each nominee and predicting the winner on March 3 (in Australia).
Part 2 (coming soon!) will include Best Picture, Best Director and all of the Acting and Screenplay categories.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
The Croods Despicable Me 2 Ernest & Celestine Frozen The Wind Rises
Will Win: Frozen
Could Win: The Wind Rises
Should Win: Frozen
Three of the highest grossing films in the world in 2013 are in this category here. The Croods cracked the Top 10 in the Australian Box Office, but falls well short of the other two juggernauts in Frozen and Despicable Me 2. Ernest & Celestine is simply too small a film to be a chance, though I understand it is quite lovely, while The Wind Rises hasn’t been as strongly received as Miyazaki’s previous films. If The Wind Rises was anywhere near as good as Spirited Away or My Neighbour Totoro then I thought this would be a shoo-in after a pretty weak year for Pixar and Dreamworks. While stunningly animated the two-pronged narrative doesn’t gel as well as you’d hope, but as a farewell to filmmaking it is still a satisfying one. Miyazaki’s love for invention and machines, and his anti-war/establishment sensibilities are at the very heart. Disney put together one of their best in recent years while Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud have benefited from the enormous success of Despicable Me and made a film equally entertaining. I didn’t much care for Despicable Me when I saw it in cinemas in 2009, but after thoroughly enjoying the sequel (I watched it alone in the presence of less than ten others in a public screening) I immediately revisited it. Turns out it is actually very good. I can’t predict this category with any authority, but Frozen has understandably been the hit of the summer, and looks to have the most supporters.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium) The Great Beauty (Italy) The Hunt (Denmark) The Missing Picture (Cambodia) Omar (Palestine)
Will Win: The Great Beauty
Could Win: The Broken Circle Breakdown, The Hunt
Should Win: The Hunt
I guess one of the big factors to consider in this category is how much exposure these films have had in the US. I understand that The Great Beauty and The Missing Picure are currently in cinemas. The Hunt – which has been on the circuit since Cannes in 2012, had a very limited release mid 2013. The BO reports show that it made little money. Actually, I think it made more here in Australia. The Great Beauty has much fresher legs, but despite having received mixed reviews from Cannes, has gone on to win at the European Film Awards, the Golden Globes and the BAFTAS. If there was a clear favourite it is Sorrentino’s film. The Broken Circle Breakdown, after causing a sensation at Berlin in early 2013, has had perhaps the widest release of all the films in contention. I know a lot of people loved that film, too. I can’t back it, though.
BEST DOCUMENTARY – FEATURE
The Act of Killing Cutie and the Boxer Dirty Wars The Square 20 Feet From Stardom
Will Win: The Square
Could Win: 20 Feet From Stardom, The Act of Killing
Should Win: Dirty Wars
What a pleasant surprise to see Dirty Wars nominated in this category. It was my favourite documentary of 2013. This immense feat of investigative journalism from National Security correspondent Jeremy Scahill unravels like an elaborate mystery, unveiling harrowing truths about the U.S military rules of engagement and their covert operations. Cutie and the Boxer was the other surprise selected from the Shortlist. Blackfish and Stories We Tell, near-unanimously praised, missed out.
I expect this to come down to The Act of Killing (that over-indulgent Director’s Cut could hurt its chances, but this is an extraordinary film) and The Square (this brave investigation into the Egyptian Revolution through the stories of six different protesters became the first Kickstarter film to be nominated for an Oscar). Many prognosticators are predicting that 20 Feet From Stardom will take out the prize, however. With inspiring stories, amazing voices and rousing concert footage, 20 Feet From Stardom is a delightful, intelligently constructed commemoration to some of the heroes of music - Hall Of Fame worthy performers who contributed their talents to some of rock’s biggest acts, securing widespread admiration without ever being in the limelight. The Square won the DGA, and 20 Feet From Stardom won at the ACE Eddies. I can’t call it. Call this one a hunch.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG “Happy,” Despicable Me 2 “Let It Go,” Frozen “The Moon Song,” Her “Ordinary Love,” Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Will Win: Let it Go
Could Win: Ordinary Love
Should Win: Let It Go
While few of the songs in Frozen left a lingering impression, ‘Let It Go’ certainly did. In the context of the film, I feel it is the best song nominated here. ‘The Moon Song’ also has resonance, but pops up when Her is making one of it’s few pacing stumbles. Pharrell Williams does a great job on the Despicable Me films and ‘Happy’ is a pleasant listen. The nomination is reward alone. U2 are a star act, and could be enough for AMPAS to vote their way. They won the Globe and it is a rousing song, but I think ‘Let it Go’ will take the Oscar, even with the field controversially reduced to just four nominees.
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY Philippe Le Sourd, The Grandmaster Emmanuel Lubezki, Gravity Bruno Delbonnel, Inside Llewyn Davis Phedon Papamichael, Nebraska Roger A. Deakins, Prisoners
Will Win: Gravity
Could Win: Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska
Should Win: Gravity
Another nomination for Deakins, and another year he will likely go home empty-handed. For great work, too. Lubezki is the best, though. How didn’t he win for Tree of Life? Re-teaming with his buddy Cuaron could (and should) provide him with the accolade. From my understanding the pair had to invent equipment to actually shoot this film. Very strong competition this year – Deakins, Papamichael, Delbonnel and even Sean Bobbitt (12 Years A Slave) and Hoyte Van Hoytema (Her) who weren’t nominated. Any winner here would be worthy, but there are shots in Gravity that defy belief.
BEST FILM EDITING Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten, American Hustle Christopher Rouse, Captain Phillips John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa, Dallas Buyers Club Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger, Gravity Joe Walker, 12 Years a Slave
Will Win: Captain Phillips
Could Win: Gravity
Should Win: Captain Phillips
Always an interesting category, Best Film Editing, as the winner often proves to be the Best Picture winner. A few years back Kirk Baxter and Angus Hall won this award for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which they also won for The Social Network in 2009. Neither of these films went on to win Best Picture, however. But you and I both know these films are better than their respective winners (The King’s Speech and The Artist). Of all of the nominees, the two that stood out were Gravity and Captain Phillips. The other that stood out was Dallas Buyers Club, of which I found the editing quite appalling.
While there aren’t many cuts in Gravity there is an extraordinary seamlessness to the editing, considering the amount of effects. Captain Phillips has some of the finest action/response editing you will see. The immense tension of the Somali Pirate’s attacks is built from the tight cuts between the boats approaching the freighter and the reactions of Hanks and his crew onboard. That’s just in the early stages as the tension is relentless. When watching both of these films, I forgot I was in a cinema and felt transported into space, or onto a freighter being hijacked. While there are other elements responsible for creating this sensation, the editing plays a big role.
So, who will win? At the ACE Editing Awards American Hustle (comedy/musical) and Captain Phillips (drama) were the winners. Hustle was the expected winner (and I think deserved), while Captain Phillips surprised a lot of people. The consensus tip was Gravity. What does this mean? It seems very unlikely that Captain Phillips is going to win Best Picture (but buzz has returned with a flurry for the film that also won Best Adapted Screenplay at the WGA), but it could very well win Best Editing. The BAFTA’s didn’t tell us anything either, with Rush beating out both Captain Phillips and Gravity. If Gravity is shaky in one of the tech categories, it is this one.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN Michael Wilkinson, American Hustle William Chang Suk Ping, The Grandmaster Catherine Martin, The Great Gatsby Michael O’Connor, The Invisible Woman Patricia Norris, 12 Years a Slave
Will Win: The Great Gatsby
Could Win: American Hustle or 12 Years A Slave
Should Win: American Hustle
I have only seen three of the nominees from this category (not The Grandmaster or The Invisible Woman) but I can’t see the Academy overlooking either American Hustle or The Great Gastby. The costumes were an integral part of Baz Luhrman’s glittery adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. His wife Catherine Martin designed the costumes (as she always does) and they are hard to ignore. The costumes and the hair and makeup (no nomination) in American Hustle are amongst its most obvious qualities. I can’t fault the costume design – especially Bale’s and Cooper’s attire - and the Academy could take the opportunity to award the film they clearly enjoyed.
BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathew, Dallas Buyers Club Stephen Prouty, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny, The Lone Ranger
Will Win: Dallas Buyers Club
Could Win: The Lone Ranger
Should Win: Dallas Buyers Club
Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto genuinely look ill in Dallas Buyers Club, which comes not only from their incredible weight loss, but is courtesy of the make-up team. Either of the other two nominees could win, sure, but Dallas deserves this.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE John Williams, The Book Thief Steven Price, Gravity William Butler and Owen Pallett, Her Alexandre Desplat, Philomena Thomas Newman, Saving Mr. Banks
Will Win: Gravity
Could Win: Her, Philomena
Should Win: Gravity
I haven’t heard Williams’ score for The Book Thief, but being Williams I pretty much know what to expect. Desplat and Newman received token nominations for their ‘adequate’ compositions. While perfectly serviceable, neither has created work that rivals their best. Butler and Pallett’s contribution to Her is an essential facet and very impressive, but none of the nominees come close to Price. Hans Zimmer is a notable absentee, thought to be nominated for either 12 Years A Slave and/or Rush. While I initially admired the music in McQueen’s film on a second look it seemed an ill fit, especially the Inception-esque droning early on. He’s clearly short of ideas. What happened to Mark Orton’s score for Nebraska? I guess it was deemed ineligible. I have been a bit confused by some prognosticators going with Desplat here. Perhaps Gravity is as much of a sure thing as I expect. Nah. I am tipping Price for Gravity, in my opinion one of the near-certainties.
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN Judy Becker (Production Design) and Heather Loeffler (Set Decoration), American Hustle Andy Nicholson (Production Design); Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard (Set Decoration), Gravity Catherine Martin (Production Design) and Beverley Dunn (Set Decoration), The Great Gatsby K.K. Barrett (Production Design) and Gene Serdena (Set Decoration), Her Adam Stockhausen (Production Design) and Alice Baker (Set Decoration), 12 Years a Slave
Will Win: The Great Gatsby
Could Win: Gravity, 12 Years A Slave
Should Win: Her
I am going with Gatsby. Undeniably impressive set design, from a pretty decent group of nominees. K.K Barrett and Gene Serdena earn points for their originality and innovation in Her. They would have been my pick.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould, Gravity Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick, Iron Man 3 Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier, The Lone Ranger Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton, Star Trek Into Darkness
Will Win: Gravity
Could Win: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Should Win: Gravity
Quite surprised that Pacific Rim wasn’t nominated here. The only (tiny) threat to Gravity is The Hobbit. Smaug. Was. Impressive.
BEST SOUND EDITING Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns, All Is Lost Oliver Tarney, Captain Phillips Glenn Freemantle, Gravity Brent Burge, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Wylie Stateman, Lone Survivor
Will Win: Gravity
Could Win: Captain Phillips, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Should Win: ?
BEST SOUND MIXING Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro, Captain Phillips “Gravity” Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro, Gravity Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland, Inside Llewyn Davis Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow, Lone Survivor
Will Win: Gravity
Could Win: Inside Llewyn Davis, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Should Win: ?
BEST SHORT FILM – ANIMATED
Feral Get a Horse! Mr. Hublot Possessions Room on the Broom
BEST SHORT FILM – LIVE ACTION
Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me), Esteban Crespo Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything), Xavier Legrand and Alexandre Gavras Helium, Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?), Selma Vilhunen and Kirsikka Saari The Voorman Problem, Mark Gill and Baldwin Li
BEST DOCUMENTARY – SHORT SUBJECT
CaveDigger Facing Fear Karama Has No Walls The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall
Sorry guys I have not seen any of the nominees in these three categories, so can offer no commentary.
Andrew Buckle - follow Andy on Twitter here: @buckle22
Andy Buckle is a passionate Sydney-based film enthusiast and reviewer who has built a respected online voice at his personal blog, The Film Emporium. Andy will contribute reviews, features and be our resident film festival, and awards expert.