Don’t Get Hustled by the Oscars Race

Last Thursday, the Oscar nominations were announced by Chris Hemsworth and Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs in an early morning broadcast. Some of the subsequent commentators claimed that there were a few surprises… but not really. There’s a chance of up to ten Best Picture nominations nowadays, and you seriously did not expect Philomena, a great, very Oscar-friendly film heavily promoted by Harvey Weinstein, to be one of them? There were nine candidates this year, and I have yet to see three of them. Of the remaining six pictures, I’d rate them as follows:

  1. Gravity
  2. 12 Years a Slave
  3. Philomena
  4. Captain Phillips
  5. The Wolf of Wall Street
  6. American Hustle

We’ll see later where HerDallas Buyers Club and Nebraska qualify.

A few random thoughts regarding the other categories. I do miss Tom Hanks in the Best Actor field; he was tremendous in Captain Phillips. The odds favor Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club, and I love him, but Chiwetel Ejiofor was incredibly moving in 12 Years a Slave. He’s my choice. The Best Actress category is dominated by Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine, and she certainly deserves a second Oscar. Gravity looks set to win Oscars for Best Director, Visual Effects, Cinematography, Editing and Sound Editing/Sound Mixing. I’m also pleased to see Steven Price as frontrunner in the Best Original Score category after being robbed at the Golden Globes. Obviously, I also believe that the film should win Best Picture as well, but that doesn’t look likely. Amazingly, according to the panel of experts that GoldDerby has assembled, the race is currently down to a choice between 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle. I certainly hope that everybody comes to their senses and picks the former, which is a brilliant film. The latter, fun as it is, does not deserve a Best Picture Oscar (or an Original Screenplay Oscar) for its botched handling of the ABSCAM scandal; it takes more than great acting, intriguing period details and crazy hairdos. 

In my Twitter feed, I’ve noticed a common misunderstanding about awards shows, which is also typical of news reporting. They count how many nominations films receive and draw conclusions from that. American Hustle and Gravity both received 10 nominations, but that’s no surprise. Both are visual feasts, qualifying in multiple categories. It doesn’t mean that one of them will automatically win Best Picture. The best example of that is perhaps The Turning Point (1977), which earned 11 nominations but not a single Oscar.

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