It’s that time of year again in Hollywoodland so it must only be right to voice an uneducated opinion on which chimneys Harvey Weinstein should slide down come March 2nd.
A few weeks ago the nominations dropped with few surprises, although one major shock was the inexcusable repetition of the word ‘noms’, with journalists apparently placing the ancient awards show at the shoulders of Channel 5’s philosophically disheartening epic Celebrity Big Brother. A similar critical seppuku was committed by all those who used the grammatical headache ‘helmer’ to describe a director. An even greater irony considering many of this year’s films have had the same sea based success as Robert Redford in notable omission All is Lost – the ship disappearing beneath the waves in a matter of minutes. Before we head into triumphant highlight territory, let’s take a moment to not appreciate the forgettable car wash how-to that was The Counselor, and the Daily Star-esque Disney princess non-drama Diana. Let us not forget The Lone Rangers and the Oldboys that also hammered cinemas with the satisfying taste of disappointment. May they R.I.P.D.
This year’s Hunger Games, populated by a much more worthy series of tributes (here’s looking at you – Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa), has the same potential to divide the field as last year’s title battle. With nominees ranging from a coke fuelled Wall Street romp to a solemn dozen year tragedy, this year’s pedigree offers a chance for a much more important Best Picture winner; Argo fuck yourself.
Best Picture/Best Director
From the field, Steve Mc Queen’s unflinching slave drama 12 Years A Slave, as an essential cinematic reflection, presents the most worthy case for success, nominated for ten awards alongside con hair romp American Hustle. The film and its star’s refusal to blink in the face of brutality or controversy surely deserve the major wins. Yet as last year’s show demonstrated, and as have the other awards this season, it’s more than likely that the top awards will be shared among the contenders.
Having experienced a long take of awards success, Gravity mission controller Alfonso Cuaron is surely the best tip for director – his taut storytelling producing an intense, claustrophobic thriller. McQueen is a worthy runner up, his film is arguably the more poignant and important picture of the two and it’s almost bizarre to consider them on any even plane.
Meanwhile, David O Russell is still receiving blind praise from a dumbstruck Academy and continues a run of ill-thought nominations having become an Oscar regular for his work on The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook. American Hustle is conspicuously nominated like that Bronx boxing rehash, a certainly well-acted film but one caught up in its own illusion. (“It wasn’t as high octane as the British one, was it?” someone dribbled as I left the cinema.) But nominated alongside Oscar-famine victim Martin Scorsese, his style pales as some geeky pastiche and the lack of nomination for the crime comedy in the hair and make up category makes those other ten awards look all the more superfluous.
None so more than when you utter the words “two time Academy Award nominee Bradley Cooper” and the whole thing seems like a bad hangover. Much more likely to win in that Best Actor category, as a suitable injustice to 12 Years star Chiwetel Eijofor, is Matthew McConaughey for his turn in the “no I haven’t seen it either” AIDs drama Dallas Buyers Club. Bruce Dern, Christian Bale and Leonardo DiCaprio complete the category, the latter already likely to lose for the so called ‘controversy’ that Wall Street has caused among the all too precious. Cast away is Tom Hanks who isn’t nominated for either of the films expected this year; a deserved nail in the coffin for shallow awards bait Saving Mr Banks but a strange one for boating drama Captain Phillips.
The Best Actress category is a much tighter battle, fought between a fallen socialite and a space-hating astronaut. Sandra Bullock, as Dr Ryan Stone, catapults the audience through the darkness of computer-generated space. But I suspect that Cate Blanchett as the Blanche DuBois-esque heroine in Woody Allen’s uneven portrait will take home the gold. Iron ladies Judi Dench and Meryl Streep cameo again in the category, racking up the nominations to eye watering level. As with John William’s 49th nomination (this time for The Book Thief) it must only be poignant to ask if it is surely rewarding that they receive a nod every time they lift a finger, or hum a tune.
Best Supporting Actor
The terrifying Barkhad Abdi of Captain Phillips receives a nod here, his chilling portrayal of a Somalian pirate a much more deft effort than Johnny Depp’s drunken meandering. Bradley Cooper is nominated here in another poorly judged joke by the Academy, his performance a series of bewildered exhales and vacant expressions. At least Christian Bale got that nod in the Best Actor category, he did go to the effort of changing how much he weighs again after all.
The robot head from Prometheus, the fat one from 21 Jump Street and the Dorian Gray of self-indulgent p-opera Jared Leto complete the category. The 30 Seconds to Mars frontman receives his nod for Dallas Buyers Club and after a string of other awards it looks like he’ll finally be able to justify that ego by the time the gongs are thrown out next month. The true victor though should be Fassbender for his turn as demonic plantation owner Edwin Epps in a film shattering performance that whips home the brutality with magnetic strength.
Best Supporting Actress
While it would be lovely to consider Lupita Nyong’o winning here, for her role as tortured victim of Fassbender’s shame and hunger, this is ultimately a category with Jennifer Lawrence in. Nominated for her part as microwave inept ‘parent’ Rosalyn in American Hustle, she is an Academy sweetheart, leered at in the same way Amy Adams is all too closely inspected by O Russell’s camera.
The rest of the categories fill out with similar pattern: Spike Jonze’s Her, Alexander Payne’s Nebraska and Alan Partridge’s Philomena receiving the same cautious and selective love shared between distant relatives at Christmas. It’d be nice to see Gravity sweep the board for its undoubted technical prowess, particularly in the Best Editing and Best Cinematography categories, especially considering the great restraint shown in the death defying lack of cuts.
A few technical nominations are also thrown the way of The Hobbit, making the Middle-Earth fellowship now the most nominated franchise in history, but perhaps some of the gold deserves to be taken away by Smaug, as a Best Visual Effects nod seems to forget those horrendously rendered final scenes. Iron Man 3 gets a nomination in the same category but I’m sure we’d all rather see Trevor Slattery become the toast of the Chinese Theatre (as well as Croydon).
There’s only the BAFTAs in the way of the Oscars now, so for those desperate to find out who got what from the LA secret Santa, the wait will be brief. Held on March 2nd, this year’s American hustle should surely see 12 Years A Slave finally go home with the gold.