Tag Archives: Lupita Nyong’o

An Oscars Wrap Up

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And that’s it folks! The Oscars are over and done with, awards have been presented and Jennifer Lawrence tripped again. Now we have maybe two or three weeks before the inevitable buzz starts around 2014’s crop of prestige films. The ceremony itself was significantly better this year than in many years past, not just for the entertainment the telecast provided but the recipients of the awards (I only missed 3 in my predictions). So here are some final thoughts on Hollywood’s biggest night before we start this all over again next year.

For Once, the Academy Voters Get it Mostly Right 

Director Steve McQueen may have jumped for joy but I was breathing a sigh of relief when Will Smith said “12 Years a Slave.” Last night the most deserving film actually won, both when it comes to cinematic quality, and “importance.” But that’s not to say that Gravity, a stunning achievement, didn’t deserve its seven awards, including Alfonso Cuaron’s historic win as the first Latino to ever take the Best Director prize. McQueen made history too, becoming the first black man to actually take home one of the Best Picture trophies (given to the producers of the winning film). It was actually a good night (at least, by the Academy’s standards) for diversity, with Lupita Nyong’o taking Best Supporting Actress, John Ridley taking Adapted Screenplay and Mexican-born Emmanuel Lubezki taking Cinematography for Gravity. The big win was, of course, 12 Years‘ big win. One can only hope that in future years, the Academy will start picking the right movies when it comes to LGBT stories, too.

The Hostess with the Mostess

It turns out Ellen was the perfect Oscar host. Safe enough that when she was announced, the focus was on how she would be the anti-Seth MacFarlane, not ruffle any feathers, and not turn the show into a sexist rampage. Leading up to the show, there was some murmuring about how, with such a broad choice as Ellen, the show could end up a little ho hum and boring, like her 2007 outing. That turned out to be definitively wrong. Apparently nice Ellen took a vacation and brutal Ellen took her place. Her monologue had zing after zing, going after everyone in the audience from June Squib to Liza Minelli to the general white guilt of the audience. (“Possibility number one: 12 Years a Slave wins Best Picture. Possibility number two: You’re all racists.”) The Academy got its daring, edgy comedy, but it came in a package much easier for audience (in the room and at home) to swallow, for after she was done poking fun at movie stars she ordered them pizza and took a record-breaking selfie. She wasn’t necessarily my favorite host but she certainly got the job done in a way that it hasn’t for awhile.

Your New Best Friend Lupita Nyong’o is Amazing

If last night belonged to anyone, it was Nyong’o, who took home Best Supporting Actress for her very first film role, dazzled us with her dress and her speech, gave Ellen lip gloss instead of money, danced with Pharrell and was all around the best part of the Oscars. Also she brought her endlessly entertaining brother, who you’ll remember forever since he’s in the most retweeted selfie of all time. May Lupita long be attending the ceremonies and making them better for us all.

And the Best (and Worst) of the Rest…

Of course no Oscar ceremony is complete without its share of slipups and odd moments, it being live television and all. Some unscripted moments were nice, like when Bill Murray gave a quick shout out to the late Harold Ramis. Some were less than nice, like when John Travolta garbled Idina Menzel’s name when introducing her performance of “Let it Go.” The internet is not very forgiving, John. Speaking of “Let it Go,” co-writer Robert Lopez is now a member of the EGOT club (Tracy Jordan would be so proud). Lopez and his wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez also win for most exciting speech, delivered in alternating verse and featuring a snippet of Happy Birthday.

The Lopezes’ speech was short and sweet, so it made it all the way to the end before the orchestra started to play them off, but unless you are a Matthew McConaughey-sized star, you better be sure that you stay under the time limit. Here’s an idea for how to cut back on time, stop with the montages! Jim Carrey spent five minutes introducing a clip reel of “animated heroes” for goodness sakes. Everyone complains about the length of the ceremony, but clearly ABC wants the commercials all the way through midnight. So instead of padding the telecast with pointless montages around an arbitrary/shameless marketing theme (wasn’t it handy that Captain America himself was around to introduce one, when his sequel is coming out in May?), it would be nice to let below-the-line winners get their due.

 

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And the Oscar Will/Could/Should Go To…

Another Oscar season has come and gone, peppered by an intriguing scandal and an actual horse race in the night’s top prize. One thing this season has shown is that the competition is always going, and being the frontrunner too early or too late is not always a good thing. When the nominations were announced I said the race was down to American HustleGravity and 12 Years a Slave. Not so anymore. Despite it’s 10 nominations, I’m predicting American Hustle goes home empty-handed, despite the fact I think it should win a few things. The Gravity folks, meanwhile, should probably start clearing some mantle space. My favorite (and obviously the best film of the year) 12 Years a Slave is no sure thing for any win, but it’s got good chances in a bunch of places, although I’m only actually predicting that it will win two (hey, Argo only won 3). So here are my predictions, presented in “will win, could win, should win” form. We’ll see how it all goes down on Sunday.

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Best Picture

Will Win: 12 Years a Slave
Could Win: Gravity
Should Win: 12 Years a Slave

It’s pretty rare at this point in the game not to have a real front runner in the Best Picture race. Despite early hyperbolic sentiments that 12 Years a Slave had it in the bag,  Gravity (and briefly, American Hustle) has been on its heels during the entirety of the season, splitting the precursor awards. Most notably the Producer’s Guild, which picks the Best Picture winner about 70% of the time and every time since the Academy changed its voting rules four years ago, had a straight up tie between the two films.

I have had a tendency, in years past, to fall in love with the also-ran film, one that is bound to be nominated for Best Picture but not really in competition to win (Life of PiHugo, The Social Network, etc). Prognosticators are tending toward Gravity, but, perhaps in a bout of wishful thinking, I’m putting my money not on the stylistic technical wonder, but on the deep substantive narrative that is the most affective movie I’ve seen, in years, possibly ever. It absolutely, positively should win, and I’m desperately hoping it will. But to be honest, anything could happen. Which should make for a night with some actual suspense.

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Best Director

Will Win: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Could Win: Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Should Win: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

Gravity is a visual marvel. I don’t disagree about that in any way, shape or form, despite the fact that I thought the script was terrible. And after receiving the Golden Globe, the DGA and the BAFTA, this prize has become Cuaron’s to lose.   A Cuaron win here doesn’t really change anything about Gravity‘s chances for Best Picture, however. The Picture/Director split is only becoming more common. An increasingly likely scenario is that Cuaron will take this statue and lose Best Picturewhich happened just last year to Ang Lee and his similar CGI-spectacular Life of Pi. A win for Steve McQueen, however, would be a big indicator that 12 Years has broader support. Don’t count him out just yet. And it’s worth noting that of the many winners of this category over the past 85 years, all have been white males, save for Kathryn Bigelow and Ang Lee. Cuaron would be the first Latino winner and McQueen would be the first black winner. It’s likely history will be made on Sunday.

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Best Actor

Will Win: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Could Win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Should Win: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave

Very soon we will be living in a world where this man has an Oscar. Dallas Buyers Club hits nearly every box on the Academy’s checklist for a win. Weight loss, white messiah (or this time, straight messiah), social message, based on a true story, terminal illness. Even before he took the Globe and the SAG, he had this in the bag. If anyone has the chance to upset, it’s DiCaprio or Ejiofor, with Leo the more likely. The Wolf of Wall Street, after many missteps at the beginning of its campaign, finished out strongly, nabbing a few more nominations than you might have predicted. DiCaprio might be able to ride that goodwill up to the podium. Maybe the fifth time might be the charm? As far as who should actually win, it’s no contest. 12 Years a Slave was entirely dependent on Ejiofor’s performance, and his commitment to the role plays a big hand in making the film what it is.

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Best Actress

Will Win: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Could Win: Amy Adams, American Hustle (but not really)
Should Win: Amy Adams, American Hustle

Not even the ever-increasing controversy surrounding Woody Allen can stop Cate Blanchett, who was destined for this award from the moment she picked up her Blanche DuBois-inspired character’s first Stoli martini. Even in a field comprised of all former nominees and four former winners, there’s basically no contest here. Sure, there’s a lot of deserved, albeit late, love for Amy Adams’ turn in American Hustle, but it’s incredibly unlikely she’ll actually upset Blanchett. Which is a shame, because Adams is brilliant in Hustle, hands down the best part of the film. Her layered turn as a con woman who has basically lost herself in her own cons would have, in any other year, been the early favorite.

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Best Supporting Actor

Will Win: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club 
Could Win: Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips (but not really)
Should Win: Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave

Jared Leto’s hold on this category is almost as tight as Cate Blanchett’s is over Best Actress. Leto may have said some less than tactful things about portraying a transgender woman but other than that he’s had a golden campaign season. He’s got the Globe and the SAG and only lost the BAFTA to Abdi by virtue of not being nominated, but the Brits weren’t crazy about Dallas Buyers Club in general. I wasn’t crazy about the film either, and though Leto did an admirable job, his performance does not hold a candle, for me, to Michael Fassbender’s in 12 Years. His cruel and repugnant slave owner could have ended up a cartoon villain, but in Fassbender’s hands, even the worst of the worst has layers. 

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Best Supporting Actress

Will Win: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Could Win: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Should Win: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

It’s Lawrence vs. Nyong’o. This is the only acting category that isn’t sewn up. Nyong’o took the SAG and the Critic’s Choice and Lawrence took the BAFTA and the Globe. But just like American Hustle‘s Best Picture chances, Lawrence has been fading recently. It might be because she’s not really campaigning at all (she didn’t even go to the BAFTAs) while Nyong’o is out charming everyone everywhere and looking damn good doing it. But there has also been quite a bit of press about how Lawrence was not quite mature enough to portray a jilted housewife, occupying a role that was clearly meant for an older woman. Plus it’s a bit of a hard sell to give her another Oscar when she won just last year. It’s a bunch of little things that are pushing the race in Nyong’o’s favor. Which is only good news because of all the performances this year in any category, hers was far and above the best (sorry Cate). The word devastating doesn’t seem strong enough to describe her.

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Best Adapted Screenplay

Will Win: Philomena
Could Win: 12 Years a Slave
Should Win: Before Midnight

There’s no fun in making predictions if you can’t swing for the fences a little bit, so here’s my big swing. The writing categories are a little bonkers this year, I’ll admit. So many films are ineligible for the WGA awards that they are little help as a precursor. Captain Phillips triumphed there, and while it can’t be counted out, it has too much to fight against this time. The smart money would be on 12 Years a Slave, a movie so relient on its source material and so driven by its adaptation.

But there’s this little British-movie-that-could, that now boasts a BAFTA. Writer Steve Coogan has Oscar juggernaut Harvey Weinstein behind a campaign that has gone all the way to the Vatican. The film had enough support to give it a slightly surprising Best Picture nod, and that might push it all the way in this category. The real absurdity of the category is that Before Midnight is forced to compete here, the writing category most often dominated by Best Picture contenders, the Academy having decreed that all sequels are “adapted” from existing characters. And as much as I love 12 Years, it’s hard to deny the achievement made by Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Eighteen years after Jesse and Celine met in Before Sunrise, their relationship has finally come full circle, in the beautifully crafted final chapter.

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Best Original Screenplay

Will Win: Her
Could Win: American Hustle
Should Win: Her

What was that I just said about Best Picture nominees in the adapted category? Things have changed, mostly due to the expanded Best Picture field, and it’s harder for scrappy contenders to break into even those categories that were once targeting them. This year the only nominee without a Best Picture nod, Blue Jasmine, has absolutely positively zero chance at winning. The category instead comes down to two Best Picture also-rans, Her and Hustle. This is the best chance for both of them to take an award home, and while the goodwill that brought Hustle ten nominations is not to be discounted, the more topical, more obviously “original” sci-fi romance has the slight edge. It’s an edge well-earned, a tale of man and machine that’s both classic and groundbreaking, hitting on our contemporary worries and hopes about technology.  And really, a win for Her is pretty status quo for the category that once recognized Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

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Best Foreign Film

Will Win: The Great Beauty (Italy)
Could Win: The Hunt (Denmark), The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium)
Should Win: The Great Beauty (Italy)

Blue is the Warmest Color, Palme d’Or winner and critical favorite, was not eligible this year, but it wasn’t the only glaring absence from the category, which passed over Asghar Farhadi’s The Past only two years after giving the prize to his A Separation, as well as the first film ever produced in Saudi Arabia. But still, there are plenty of great films nominated. The Fellini-inspired The Great Beauty is the frontrunner, with The Hunt and The Broken Circle Breakdown trailing not far behind. But barring upset, the award should go to the lyrical and moving tour through the excess of contemporary Rome.

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Best Film Editing

Will Win: Captain Phillips 
Could Win: Gravity
Should Win: 12 Years a Slave

Since 1981, every single Best Picture winner has had a Best Editing nomination and about 2/3 of them have taken home both statuettes. So it’s worth noting that the five Best Picture noms recognized here are likely the ones that would have still been nominated in the old five movie field, and also leads to an actually competitive category, which is nice. The guild rewarded Captain Phillips for drama and American Hustle for musical/comedy, which surprised many who were expecting Gravity to continue its sweep of the technical awards. So it really comes down to the Gravity and Phillips, the former potentially riding its Best Picture coattails and the latter with the potential to ride on its own merit, much like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo did two years ago. I’m going with Captain Phillips, but you might as well flip a coin. My personal preference would be for the seamless passage of time and slow rhythms in 12 Years a Slave.

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Best Cinematography

Will Win: Gravity
Could Win: Prisoners (but not really)
Should Win: Gravity

The sixth time will be the charm for Gravity‘s Emmanuel Lubezki, who, like last year’s winner for Life of Pi, worked with the real and digital worlds to create a masterpiece. It’s only bad news for this category’s other perennial bridesmaid, Roger Deakins (11 nominations and counting), whose work in Prisoners was among his best, but just not quite enough to unseat Lubezki.

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Best Production Design

Will Win: The Great Gatsby
Could Win: 12 Years a Slave
Should Win: Her

The Great Gatsby was pretty much all production design, recreating iconic landmarks from the novel, straying away from historical accuracy and heading for something close to fantasy. It’s polar opposite, the minimalist, futuristic and sleek Her is an achievement of a different sort, creating a world you could see yourself living in. While Gatsby is the favorite, if the voters are looking for a more somber, less anachronistic choice (like Lincoln last year) they may go with 12 Years.

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Best Costume Design

Will Win: The Great Gatsby
Could Win: American Hustle
Should Win: American Hustle

Most times this category goes hand in hand with production design, rewarding lavish period pieces with a lot of flash. So here again, I’m going with Gatsby and all its attendant sparkles, feathers and flashes. But don’t discount the sparkle and flash of American Hustle, where the costumes were so integral to the characterizations, despite how horrendous the wide lapels were to actually look at.

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Best Original Score

Will Win: Gravity
Could Win: Her
Should Win: Her

That Hans Zimmer’s haunting 12 Years a Slave score was snubbed here in favor of John Williams just because he’s John Williams is still egregious, and I’m clearly not over it. But looking at the actual nominees, it would be amazing for the fuzzy Arcade Fire score to win over the established composers, but don’t count on it. Expect Gravity to add one more award to its shelf for the music that filled the silence in space.

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Best Original Song

Will Win: “Let it Go,” Frozen
Could Win: “Ordinary Love,” Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (but not really)
Should Win: “Let it Go,” Frozen

Come on folks. This one is easy. “Let it Go” is a cultural touchstone, a Disney anthem that would give the classics a run for their money. U2 can do as many spontaneous acoustic renditions of “Ordinary Love” on talks shows as they want, but the snow queen has this one locked up.

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Best Sound Mixing

Will Win: Gravity
Could Win: Captain Phillips
Should Win: Gravity

The distinction between the sound categories is best described as how the sounds come together (mixing) and the sounds themselves (editing). One film often sweeps both categories, and they tend to go in for action films and musicals, so here’s another for Gravity.

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Best Sound Editing

Will Win: Gravity
Could Win: Captain Phillips
Should Win: All is Lost

All is Lost is pretty much all sound, with sole star Robert Redford not saying very much. That’d mean something if voters weren’t just likely to continue checking the Gravity box on all the below-the-line categories.

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Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Will Win: Dallas Buyers Club
Could Win: Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
Should Win: Dallas Buyers Club

Do you really think Jackass or The Lone Ranger is going to win an Oscar? Me neither, but there is an outside chance, given that Johnny Knoxville’s age makeup is a genuine achievement. Such a shame Explosion at the Wig Factory wasn’t nominated here. But Dallas Buyers Club created fading AIDS patients on a budget not much more than what I used in school theater productions, and it’s obviously the prestige pick.

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Best Visual Effects

Will Win: Gravity
Could Win: Gravity
Should Win: Gravity

Do I really need to write anything here? Gravity is a stunning visual effects achievement for the ages. And in fact, those effects are buoying it all the way to a potential Best Picture win.

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Best Animated Feature

Will Win: Frozen
Could Win: The Wind Rises
Should Win: Frozen

In the few years that this category has existed, a Disney feature has never won that didn’t also have “Pixar” in the credits. It’s only fitting that the honor should go to the best film the Mouse House has created in nearly twenty years, a film that crosses age barriers, features two female protagonists and just can’t get out of your head. Legendary animation director Hayao Miyazaki’s maybe final film, The Wind Rises, has huge critical support (I haven’t seen it yet so I can’t make a judgment), but the mature cartoon might be a tough sell.

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Best Documentary Feature

Will Win: 20 Feet From Stardom
Could Win: The Square
Should Win: The Act of Killing

The Academy changed the rules last year, allowing all members to vote for this category by virtue of sending out screeners rather than forcing a small segment to prove they’ve seen the films at certain screenings. This change is only good news for the crowd pleasing feel good docs like 20 Feet From Stardom, which gives much deserved due to back up singers. (It was also good news for last year’s musical winner, Searching for Sugarman.) It’s bad news for a film as out there as The Act of Killing, where director Joshua Oppenheimer had Indonesian mass murderers renact their crimes on film. A spoiler could come in the form of The Square, a document of the uprisings in Egypt since 2011, one of the more “important” films nominated.

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Best Animated Short

Will Win: Get a Horse! (That short you saw before Frozen)
Could Win: Mr. Hublot
Should Win: Get a Horse! 

I’m thinking it will be a good year for Disney Animation Studios.

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Best Documentary Short

Will Win: The Lady in Number 6
Could Win: Facing Fear

The Lady in Number 6 is an emotional heavyweight that follows the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor, a Czech concert pianist, who died just last week at 110.

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Best Live Action Short

Will Win: The Voorman Problem 
Could Win: Helium

The Voorman Problem, the first effort from a few British film school grads, managed to grab Martin Freeman as a psychiatrist and Tom Hollander as an inmate who claims he is God.

So there you have it. Here’s to hoping that the Academy makes the right decision on a lot of these. I wouldn’t mind being wrong if it meant they were going to spread the love a little. But you never actually know what’s going to happen. Which is kind of the fun.