‘It’s an honor to be nominated,” is the token response of most contenders when asked about their nomination. But let’s be honest – they want to win.
Moreover, not all nominees are created equal: In some categories, one nominee is a shoo-in, leaving the other contenders ample time to practice their best “gracious loser” face for the camera. At least they’ll have host Ellen Degeneres to entertain them.
So who will go home with an Oscar tonight? Who should? Below is a spotlight on five of the notable categories. Keep in mind though, who should win and who will win doesn’t have to be a mutually exclusive game – sometimes the awards do actually go to the most deserving. Even at the Oscars.
After snagging the Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA awards this season, Cate Blanchett’s harrowing portrayal of a Manhattan socialite’s downward spiral in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine is the performance to beat. Her ongoing winning streak pours cold water on claims that her chances will diminish because of Dylan Farrow’s controversial New York Times op-ed accusing Allen of sexual abuse.
While it’s impossible to argue the merit behind bestowing a second Oscar on Blanchett (she won her first for The Aviator in 2005), Sandra Bullock truly deserves the win for Gravity. As an astronaut desperately attempting to stay alive when lost in space, Bullock virtually carried the entire movie by herself. It’s an honest, brave and captivating performance that could have been dreadfully dull in less capable hands.
The best actor category is always a tight race and this year is no exception. Matthew McConaughey has been regaling audiences with his hippy-dippy acceptances speeches all award season and that streak is not likely to end tonight. Academy voters love physical transformations and McConaughey’s dramatic 40-pound weight loss certainly fits that bill.
While winning for his first nomination is well deserved, it will sting for fellow nominee Leonardo DiCaprio. Dicaprio – who is “celebrating” his fourth nomination – is rapidly becoming known as the proverbial bridesmaid of the Oscars. DiCaprio – who was the only good thing in the bombastic, over-thetop and gratuitous Wolf of Wall Street – will probably have to sit this one out yet again.
While Bullock should be proud of everything she did in Gravity, she owes much of her accolades to Alfonso Cuarón’s direction.
Borrowing elements from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Apollo 13 and Cast Away, Cuarón still managed to maintain Gravity’s originality.
His film is a terrifying, yet beautiful take on how infinite, scary and isolating the universe can be.
Most importantly, it’s always gratifying when a director uses the latest technological wonders of Hollywood to enhance and not overwhelm the film. Whether it’s rapidly flying debris, or two lonely astronauts floating (almost poetically) in space, Cuarón makes the audience feel like we are right there with them experiencing every harrowing moment. After being nominated for writing Y tu mamá también and directing Children of Men, expect his losing streak to justifiably end tonight.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
If there is one word to describe Spike Jonze’s Her, “original” would be it. As the director behind Adaptation and Being John Malkovich, Jonze has an affinity for oddballs in whimsically quirky worlds. But in his screenplay about a man who falls in love with Samantha, his sultry-voiced computer operating system, Jonze shows the struggle of trying to find a meaningful connection in a world increasingly disconnected by technology. It’s lovely, depressing and beautiful all at once.
There is a point where the main protagonist, Theodore (excellently played by the overlooked Joaquin Phoenix), confesses to Samantha, “Sometimes I think I have felt everything I’m ever gonna feel. And from here on out, I’m not gonna feel anything new. Just lesser versions of what I’ve already felt.”
It is quotes like this that compel a viewer to take step back and reassess their own feelings, emotions and view of love. And any movie that succeeds in getting a viewer to do so needs to be justly rewarded.
Like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Her shows how elusive true love can be and how much we are desperate for it.
It’s been a “based on a true story” kind of year. Six out of the nine nominees are based on real people and events. But it’s the tale of Solomon Northup, a freeman abducted and then sold into slavery, that will emerge triumphant. 12 Years A Slave has won virtually all of the significant precursor awards, garnered great reviews and is exactly the kind of heart-wrenching fare the Academy loves to reward.
But ideally, the Oscars should award originality and creativity. In a perfect world, then, it will be Spike Jonze and company walking up to the stage to accept their Best Picture Oscar for Her. The chances of that, though, are slim to none. At least he’ll have his best screenplay trophy to ensure he doesn’t go home empty-handed.