2014 Oscar Predictions – New York Film Festival Wrap Up and Predictions Update

Her_image_PhoenixNew York Film Festival wrapped up this past weekend and we have a good idea about certain films we were eager to get answered.  New Oscar Predictions have been updated and we’re ready to get into this head on.  Paul Greengrass‘ “Captain Phillips” opened the festival to outstanding reviews and opened in theaters this past weekend.  It seems to be unanimous that the film is a solid Oscar contender that will likely bring the likes of Greengrass, the film, and possibly Tom Hanks and newcomer Barkhad Abdi to nomination status.  Holding 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, the film is sure to show up on many critics top ten lists at the end of the year.  The film is also a strong contender for DP Barry Ackroyd, Film Editor Christopher Rouse, and one or both of the Sound categories.  Composer Henry Jackman has seemed to be the unsung hero when reading some of the reviews from the net.  While everyone is very high on the finale that showcases Hanks in full-fledged Oscar seeking mode, Jackman’s score accompaniment is half of that scene’s major success.  Screenwriter Billy Ray should be able to tip toe his way into the Adapted Screenplay conversation with the lack of contenders that category is producing at the moment.

As the centerpiece film, Ben Stiller‘s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” didn’t have such a successful launch.  The film was received with mixed reviews, panning the uneven script and thin characterizations.  As we’ve seen from film’s like “The Reader” and “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” – getting negative notices don’t take you completely out the race.  General audiences will like it and it will most likely have a strong Christmas box office from the family community.  Realistically, I see the film as a Visual Effects nominee at best with an outside shot for Production Design.  The Academy as a whole may just look elsewhere, especially when lots of the contenders are living up to their potential.  If anything, I hope this opens doors for Stiller in more dynamic and challenging directorial outings in the future.  He’s solid behind the camera.

Closing the festival, Spike Jonze‘s “Her” was met with warm reception.  Jonze, who has been nominated as the lone director for “Being John Malkovich,” constructs his strongest effort yet.  Days after viewing it, I still can’t wait to get into a second screening to watch it again.  From an acting angle, Joaquin Phoenix is very much in the conversation for his fourth nomination and is something that the Academy can and should consider.  One of the problems with them not getting behind his work in “The Master” last year was the very nature of the character.  Freddie Quell was unlikable with not a lot of things to grab onto.  As Theodore, Phoenix plays up the likable aspects of himself and gains a lot of respect from the audience throughout.  In a competitive race like Lead Actor, Phoenix can sit out just as easily as anyone else.

The great news is that Warner Bros. and its awards office has decided to give a proper push to Scarlett Johansson for her voice work.  This isn’t to say that AMPAS will embrace something like this, I fully expect them to look elsewhere, but if anything this will open dialogue between the Board of Governors on how to reward something like this in the future.  From a realistic stand point, Original Screenplay is a very feasible attachment for a voter.  In a category where there aren’t any obvious frontrunner, a film like Jonze’s can hold its head up next to films like “Inside Llewyn Davis” and “Fruitvale Station.”  Cinematography and Original Song are also two places it can pop up throughout the awards circuit as could co-star Amy Adams.

insidellewyndavis_productionSpeaking of The Coen Brothers film about a folk singer in the 1960’s, “Inside Llewyn Davis” continues to play at nearly every available festival.  The CBS Film got raves for its screenplay and outrageous and enjoyable tune, “Please Mr. Kennedy,” a formidable contender for Original Song.  One wonders if Oscar Isaac can cause a stir on the circuit through the year but I remain skeptical.  IF there is an acting nomination from the film, John Goodman is likely to carry that torch.

Other films that hit big during NYFF was J.C. Chandor‘s “All is Lost” and Alexander Payne‘s “Nebraska,” which coincidentally screened for press on the same day.  Robert Redford achieves one of his finest works of his career as our no named leading man and in any other year, would probably be our hands down favorite to win.  With the film being a very artsy and risky endeavor, there’s a chance some voters won’t be able to get past some of the quieter moments.  Bruce Dern however has dialogue and sympathy on his side.  He’s playing up the “never had a chance to lead my own film before” and it works.  One thing that helps Dern is that he has two terrific co-stars that will share the praise with him; co-lead Will Forte and Supporting Actress contender June Squibb.  “Nebraska” is something that is screening very well for AMPAS members in L.A. and something that older members will eat up for breakfast.  Screenwriter Bob Nelson and DP Phedon Papamichael are two aspects that could fall into place though the former will probably have the easier time.

Steve McQueen and Fox Searchlight continue to gain legions of followers for “12 Years a Slave.”  With a target on its back, this is no way a runaway for the slavery epic.  Anything can happen between now and March 2, a backlash occurs all the time and there could be something “easier” for them to latch on to.  Chiwetel Ejiofor is the only Lead Actor that feels semi-safe for a nomination.  Co-stars Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong’o should find traction with Sarah Paulson giving herself a chance.  Nyong’o is probably the only one with the power to unseat frontrunner Oprah Winfrey at the moment in Supporting Actress.  Screenwriter John Ridley looks all but assured a nomination in Adapted Screenplay.  Could be our likely winner to boot.

Outside of the New York Film Festival, Matthew McConaughey continues to light up with two great performances in Jeff Nichols’ “Mud” and Jean-Marc Vallee’s “Dallas Buyers Club.”  It may be time to start looking towards his work in Nichols’ film as his representation at this year’s Oscars.  His work in the Roadside Attractions early year release was the first screener to go out for the year and with 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, the film is sure to pop up in various places in the season.  While his work in “Dallas Buyers Club” is definitely his most impressive, with the race heating up in a big way, a Supporting Actor mention could be in his future.  He’ll also have a role in Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” to help his cause.

NYFF51newsletter-headerblogWith Sony Pictures Classics releasing their awards screening schedules, Woody Allen‘s “Blue Jasmine” has become their primary focus.  Star Cate Blanchett will score her Best Actress nomination without any help but I wonder how will a performance like Sally Hawkins be received and brought in on her coattails.  If Allen gets himself in an Original Screenplay race, it would be his 24th Oscar nomination in his illustrious career, winning four times.  If contenders like “Saving Mr. Banks” and “American Hustle” fall by the wayside, Allen should have a much easier time.

Speaking of “American Hustle” – it started screening last week and with no “official” reviews to go on, some websites have captured reactions from the screening.  I wonder if the film is going to do the damage we expect to.  As you’ve probably seen from the Oscar Predictions update, I’ve backed off the film quite a bit, keeping it in Best Picture, Screenplay, and Editing.  This isn’t to say that I think the film will be a bad, just not the home run people are expecting.  If I were putting faith behind one of the actor’s to get noticed, it would be last year’s Best Actress winner Jennifer Lawrence in Supporting Actress.

You can get a look at all the new Oscar Prediction updates with all the tech categories, Foreign Language, and Documentary pages being updated as well.  I’ve also taken the liberty in updating the GOLDEN GLOBE and SAG PREDICTION pages as well, so you can see where the season could go.

Include your thoughts on the race in the comment section below and where you see it going over the next few months.  Discuss.