The awards on March 2nd are without a doubt the most difficult to handicap in more than 20 decades. As a longtime Oscar® expert and prognosticator, I can tell you that so many races have all of us pundits scratching our heads. But that’s the fun of it all, isn’t it?
Here are how the writing categories shake out now, a little over one week before the big day.
American Hustle, by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell.
Blue Jasmine, by Woody Allen.
Dallas Buyers Club, by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack.
Her, by Spike Jonze.
Nebraska, by Bob Nelson.
Probable Winner: American Hustle.
Possible Spoiler: Her.
If I Ruled the World: Nebraska.
Egregious Omission: Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith for Saving Mr. Banks, whose script really found a good balance between P.L. Travers’ past and “present” and crafted two sparkling lead roles besides.
Here’s Why: Yes, I know Spike Jonze came out on top at the WGAs, and he may well do so on March 2nd. But the WGA voters are all writers or writer-producers, as opposed to the full Academy, which is heavily weighted toward actors, so it’s a different voting body altogether. My reasoning goes like so: All those actors, and many others, really admire David O. Russell, who’s never won. He’s not going to win for director (Alfonso Cuaron has that in the bag, I believe), so this would be a perfect way to acknowledge him. Plus Hustle has a complex and witty plot and funny lines, which tend to be catnip to Academy voters. It all depends on how much affection they have for Her, which is hard to gauge, even at industry screenings. My gut tells me Hustle hustles off with the statuette, though even Nebraska, my very favorite script of the whole year, has a shot as well. And before you ask, no, Woody Allen’s current scandal will not have an impact on this race; his script is not widely considered his finest anyway.
Before Midnight, by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke.
Captain Phillips, by Billy Ray.
Philomena, by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope.
12 Years a Slave, by John Ridley.
The Wolf of Wall Street, by Terence Winter.
Probable Winner: 12 Years a Slave.
Possible Spoiler: Captain Phillips.
If I Ruled the World: 12 Years a Slave.
Egregious Omission: Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber for The Spectacular Now, one of the most honest and painful treatments of first love and coming of age that’s ever come down the pike.
Here’s Why: Billy Ray was a joyful and deserving WGA winner for turning the real life saga of Captain Phillips into a thrilling movie. But Ridley wasn’t eligible because of WGA bylaws. 12 Years combines powerful drama and a literate framework in the manner of most of the past winners in this category. His win, I believe, is one of the few awards this year that amount to a lock.
We’ll post Part Three: The Outcome shortly after Ellen DeGeneres says g’night on March 2nd. In the meantime, just for your awards party pool pleasure, here are my bets for the rest of the categories, with those in parentheses indicating the possible spoilers. Happy Tweeting on Oscar® night!
Picture: 12 Years a Slave. (American Hustle)
Actor: Matthew McConaughey. (Bruce Dern)
Actress: Cate Blanchett. (Judi Dench)
Supporting Actor: Jared Leto. (Bradley Cooper)
Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lawrence. (Lupita Nyong’o)
Animated Feature: Frozen. (The Wind Rises)
Cinematography: Gravity. (Nebraska)
Costume Design: American Hustle. (The Invisible Woman)
Directing: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity. (Steve McQueen)
Documentary Feature: The Act of Killing. (The Square)
Documentary Short Subject: Facing Fear. (Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall)
Film Editing: Gravity. (Captain Phillips)
Foreign Language Film: The Great Beauty (The Broken Circle Breakdown)
Makeup and Hairstyling: Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (Dallas Buyers Club)
Music: Steven Price, Gravity. (Thomas Newman, Saving Mr. Banks)
Song: “Let It Go” from Frozen. (“Ordinary Love” from Mandela)
Production Design: 12 Years a Slave. (American Hustle)
Animated Short Subject: Get a Horse! (Room on the Broom)
Live Action Short: Aquel No Era Yo/That Wasn’t Me (Avant Que De Tout Perdre/Just Before Losing Everything)
Sound Editing: Gravity. (Captain Phillips)
Sound Mixing: Gravity. (Captain Phillips)
Visual Effects: Gravity. (A lock)