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Cinema Siren's 2014 Oscar Predictions

Here's who Cinema Siren thinks will take home a gold statue on March 2.

By Leslie Combemale aka Cinema Siren

It’s time, Sirenauts and movie lovers! The Oscar nominations are in, and now those of you who care must race to your nearest theater if you want to have a studied opinion about the results of the upcoming Oscars (March 2). As is the way with the Academy, they were up bright and early Thursday, bringing the duo of Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs and Thor/Rush star Chris Hemsworth together to announce the nominees. Ellen DeGeneres will emcee the ceremony.  

In an amazing year for film, heavy with great acting and great screenwriting, as well as technical expansion and advancement to keep audiences wowed, there are a few surprises and many snubs, given that it is impossible for all the talent in such a great year to be recognized. 

Cinema Siren will take you through it, and fearlessly declare winners, even as the ink is barely dry on the nomination cards. Chances and expectations may shift in the next month. As it stands, here are my opinions, thoughts, and recommendations, including movies that either have little chance of winning, or were passed over for even better, or sometimes better marketed, films.

The expectation is certainly that American Hustle, Gravity, and 12 Years A Slave will do well, with the first two films tied at 10, and 12 Years garnering nine nominations. Some of the biggest snubs being discussed are Oprah Winfrey for Lee Daniel’s The Butler, and Paul Greengrass for Captain Phillips, but see below for thoughts….  

By the way, Cinema Siren hates the expression “snub” because this year there were so many great performances and such achievement in every category, that the word hardly seems fair. The term is appropriate when someone is left off for odd or political reasons, not because the field is just too brimming with talent.  

Best Motion Picture of the Year Nominees:

  • American Hustle: Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison and Jonathan Gordon, Producers
  • Captain Phillips: Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca, producers
  • Dallas Buyers Club: Robbie Brenner and Rachel Winter, producers
  • Gravity: Alfonso Cuarón and David Heyman, Pproducers
  • Her Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze and Vincent Landay, producers
  • Nebraska: Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa, producers
  • Philomena: Gabrielle Tana, Steve Coogan and Tracey Seaward, producers
  • 12 Years a Slave: Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen and Anthony Katagas, producers
  • The Wolf of Wall Street: Nominees to be determined

Cinema Siren Prediction:
  • Winner: 12 Years A Slave 
  • Competition: American Hustle
  • Surprises: Her, Philomena, Captain Phillips 
  • Snubs: Saving Mr. Banks

Many know the Oscars are often influenced by films' nomination categories, and which good movies are finding limited recognition. For example, Gravity is considered ground-breaking, but 12 Years A Slave is a film brilliantly portraying an important subject.  American Hustle has been a surprise that struck '70s gold with audiences and critics alike. Smaller movies like Her and Dallas Buyers Club are critically acclaimed, and appreciated, so voters attempt to spread the wealth around enough they feel they’ve supported the full spectrum of releases. 

12 Years A Slave has some competition with American Hustle because AH is more of a crowd pleaser, and McQueen’s latest is a very hard sit. Gravity will be winning all the technical awards, and while that ought not be reason enough to choose elsewhere for best film, the depth and importance of 12YAS places it above all others as frontrunner. As to talk of Captain Phillips being largely ignored in the nominations, director Paul Greengrass is great, and the movie is a good one. To this critic’s mind, it is not quite up to the quality of those getting more recognition. The same can be argued about Saving Mr. Banks.  Some good movies don’t make the list, but that doesn’t make those nominated any less worthy.  

Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role:
  • Christian Bale in American Hustle 
  • Bruce Dern in Nebraska
  • Leonardo DiCaprio: The Wolf of Wall Street
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor: 12 Years a Slave
  • Matthew McConaughey: Dallas Buyers Club
Cinema Siren Prediction
  • Winner: Chiwetel Ejiofor
  • Competition: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey
  • Surprises: Christian Bale, Bruce Dern, Leonardo DiCaprio
  • Snubs: Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), Oscar Isaacs (Inside Llewyn Davis), Joaquin Phoenix (Her), Robert Redford (All Is Lost), James Gandolfini (Enough Said), Michael B Jordan (Fruitvale Station), Forrest Whitaker (Lee Daniel’s The Butler

So many great acting performances this year make it an embarrassment of riches. Although winning at the Golden Globes has little bearing on the Oscar nominations, it can influence who wins. Both Leo and Matthew took GG prizes home. That being said, Chiwetel Ejiofor is currently the favorite, and is likely to stay that way. Though his portrayal is subtle, without him the film would not work. McQueen depends on his inner monologue and nuanced physical expressions to move the film forward without a sentimentality for which he would have been skewered. Leo and Matthew both gave amazing performances this year, and all three are certainly worthy, so time will tell if favor swings their way when the votes are tallied.  

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Barkhad Abdi: Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper: American Hustle
Michael Fassbender: 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill: The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto: Dallas Buyers Club

Cinema Siren Prediction
  • Winner: Jared Leto
  • Competition: Bradley Cooper, Michael Fassbender
  • Surprises: Jonah Hill
  • Snubs: Jake Gyllenhaal (Prisoners), Daniel Bruhl (Rush), Sam Rockwell (The Way Way Back)
One of the largest surprises this year is Jonah Hill’s inclusion in the Best Supporting Actor category. The Wolf of Wall Street is a polarizing flick, with as many detractors as fans. Kudos for his breaking through the wall of noise and making the cut. Jared Leto, however, has won almost every award from both the critics' associations and the Golden Globes, so his win is all but certain.  Michael Fassbender will have to wait once again for a win, but he will, without question, do so in the future. Bradley Cooper has been nominated and will be again, especially if he continues his collaboration with David O. Russell. 

Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role:
Amy Adams: American Hustle
Cate Blanchett: Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock: Gravity
Judi Dench: Philomena
Meryl Streep: August: Osage County

Cinema Siren Prediction
  • Winner: Cate Blanchett
  • Competition: Amy Adams
  • Snubs: Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks), Julia Marie Dreyfuss (Enough Said), Scarlett Johansson (Her
Cinema Siren is not the fan of Blue Jasmine that many others are, however, there’s no denying Blanchett supplied a powerhouse performance. She has won the lion’s share of awards so far, but Amy Adams is starting to gain on her, as is Judi Dench. If voters watch all three in close succession they will favor Blanchett, but Adams has a subtlety and fearlessness that perhaps deserves more recognition. As for Saving Mr. Banks, Thompson’s performance was impressive. She could have taken Meryl’s place, but Streep’s performance should not be undervalued because she is so consistently spectacular. Her role as Violet required her to change on a dime. It is a study in great acting. 


Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
  • Sally Hawkins: Blue Jasmine
  • Jennifer Lawrence: American Hustle
  • Lupita Nyong’o: 12 Years a Slave
  • Julia Roberts: August: Osage County
  • June Squibb: Nebraska

Cinema Siren Prediction
  • Winner: Jennifer Lawrence 
  • Competition: Lupita Nyong’o 
  • Surprises: June Squibb, Sally Hawkins
  • Snubs: Oprah Winfrey (Lee Daniel’s The Butler)
 
Lupita Nyong’o had my vote until I saw Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle.  I frankly would rather Lupita win, because she is part of the most unforgettable moments in 12 Years A Slave, and acts as an emotional foil to both Chiwetel and Michael Fassbender’s characters. Upon repeat viewing, however,  Lawrence’s portrayal remains a jaw-dropper.
  
Achievement in Directing 
  • David O. Russell: American Hustle
  • Alfonso Cuaron: Gravity
  • Alexander Payne: Nebraska
  • Steve McQueen: 12 Years A Slave
  • Martin Scorsese: The Wolf of Wall Street

Cinema Siren Prediction
  • Winner: Alfonso Cuaron 
  • Competition: Steve McQueen, David O. Russell 
  • Surprises: Martin Scorsese
  • Snubs: Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips), Spike Jonze (Her), Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers Club)
Here is an example of the balance voters of the Academy will want to keep between Gravity and 12 Years A Slave. Hopefully American Hustle won’t take all the awards McQueen is hoping for in their shared categories. The Golden Globes no doubt proved disappointing to the cast and filmmakers of 12YAS, and it is likely Oscar voters will want to reward Cuaron for his achievement with Gravity, leaving 12 Years A Slave to win Best Film.
 
Best Animated Feature Film 
  • The Croods: Chris Sanders, Kirk DeMicco and Kristine Belson
  • Despicable Me 2: Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin and Chris Meledandri
  • Ernest & Celestine: Benjamin Renner and Didier Brunner
  • Frozen: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Peter Del Vecho
  • The Wind Rises: Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki

Cinema Siren Prediction
  • Winner: Frozen
  • Competition: The Wind Rises
  • Surprises: Ernest & Celestine
  • Snubs: Monsters University 

The Wind Rises is famously the last film from retiring director and animation giant Hayao Miyazaki, which may mean he rises above Frozen to win this year, however, the success and critical acclaim of Disney’s film, which has done a great job of merging the innovation of 3D and the aesthetics of 2D animation, will probably mean the House of Mouse will walk away with the Oscar.  

Achievement in Cinematography
  • The Grandmaster: Philippe Le Sourd
  • Gravity: Emmanuel Lubezki
  • Inside Llewyn Davis: Bruno Delbonnel
  • Nebraska: Phedon Papamichael
  • Prisoners: Roger A. Deakins
Cinema Siren Prediction
  • Winner: Gravity
  • Competition: Inside Llewyn Davis, Prisoners, Nebraska
  • Surprises: The Grandmaster
  • Snubs: Rush, 12 Years A Slave, Trance
Where do I begin about the snubbing of Trance. Not only did it not get marketing support at the box office, it was nowhere to be found in the awards promotion. Danny Boyle’s cerebral heist-gone-wrong flick deserved more. In the categories of cinematography and editing, as well as best song, it was never considered, which is a real shame. See this movie. Trance would not have won. Gravity is the frontrunner, although awards underdog Inside Llewyn Davis might snap it up, since it is one of the only places it found a nomination.  Roger Deakins is a giant of the industry, and it is heartening to see his artistry in Prisoners get recognized. 

Achievement in Costume Design
American Hustle: Michael Wilkinson
The Grandmaster: William Chang Suk Ping
The Great Gatsby: Catherine Martin
The Invisible Woman: Michael O’Connor
12 Years a Slave: Patricia Norris

Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: The Great Gatsby 
Competition: American Hustle, 12 Years A Slave

Catherine Martin is an essential component of any of her husband Baz Luhrmann’s films. As production and costume designer, she has a huge impact on their finished look. She should win for Daisy’s dresses alone, although it is important to note that a great costume designer doesn’t necessarily draw attention to the clothes, but rather designs appropriately for the character and film as a whole. Although more flamboyance isn’t necessarily a better thing, in the case of The Great Gatsby, she allows for an entire world, with diverse designs including the poor, shabby, professional, moneyed, trampy and flamboyant alike. 

Best Documentary Feature
The Act of Killing: Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen
Cutie and the Boxer: Zachary Heinzerling and Lydia Dean Pilcher
Dirty Wars: Richard Rowley and Jeremy Scahill
The Square: Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer
20 Feet from Stardom: Nominees to be determined

Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: 20 Feet From Stardom
Competition: The Act of Killing
Snubs: The Stories We Tell, Blackfish

Both The Stories We Tell and Blackfish have cleaned up in the awards circuit this year, so it is rather surprising neither were included in the list for best documentary feature; 20 Feet From Stardom celebrates the relatively unknown voices that backed up the most famous bands and musicians in recent music history. It too has gotten much recognition, and with good reason. It is an enlightening and entertaining film.  

Best Documentary Short Subject
CaveDigger: Jeffrey Karoff
Facing Fear: Jason Cohen
Karama Has No Walls: Sara Ishaq
The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life: Malcolm Clarke and Nicholas Reed
Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall: Edgar Barens

(No official Cinema Siren opinion; not all films were accessible.)

Achievement in Film Editing
American Hustle: Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers, Alan Baumgarten
Captain Phillips: Christopher Rouse
Dallas Buyers Club: John Mac McMurphy, Martin Pensa
Gravity: Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger
12 Years a Slave: Joe Walker

Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: Gravity
Competition: American Hustle
Snub: Her, Prisoners, Trance

No competition here. Gravity by a mile.  

Best Foreign Language Film
  • The Broken Circle Breakdown: Belgium
  • The Great Beauty: Italy
  • The Hunt: Denmark
  • The Missing Picture: Cambodia
  • Omar: Palestine

Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: The Broken Circle Breakdown
Competition: The Great Beauty, The Hunt
Snubs: Wadjda, The Past

Here is a case of wishful thinking and and a hope it comes to pass. Sirenauts know of my love for The Broken Circle Breakdown, a movie I’ve placed at the top of my best films of the year. It is a heartbreaking and gorgeously acted film. See it. The Great Beauty and The Hunt, however, are both great films that may steal away the trophy from my beloved film.  Wadjda, the film directed by a woman (Haifaa al-Mansour) in Saudi Arabia, is a historic first.  It is also a charmer with deeper, sadder undertones. This too should be seen and supported.  Here’s hoping you movie lovers who like foreign films will be willing to seek these out. 

Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling
Dallas Buyers Club: Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa: Stephen Prouty
The Lone Ranger: Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny

Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: The Lone Ranger
Snubs: American Hustle, The Great Gatsby 

American Hustle, (which my colleague Dustin Putman calls “Explosion at the Wig Factory”) is a blatant and surprising snub in this category. Dallas Buyers Club is memorable mostly for the shocking amount of weight loss by the two main stars, so it isn’t likely to get recognized, unless it is because they have so few nominations. It may win because The Lone Ranger was so largely despised, but only time will tell.  

Achievement in Music Written for Film (Original Score)
  • The Book Thief: John Williams
  • Gravity: Steven Price
  • Her: William Butler and Owen Pallett
  • Philomena: Alexandre Desplat
  • Saving Mr. Banks: Thomas Newman
Cinema Siren Prediction
  • Winner: Her 
  • Competition: Gravity
  • Snubs: 12 Years A Slave, Man of Steel, Trance

Hans Zimmer is double-snubbed this year, which is unfortunate given the number of awards the score for 12 Years A Slave has garnered already.  Man of Steel is arguably the best of the year, and was never even under consideration.  Her is begging for a win.  With The Moon Song nominated for Best Song and unlikely to take home the statue, it may fall to Best Score to show love from Academy voters.  Gravity bridged sound design and scoring in a unique and new way, but will be tossed under the post-sound awards bus, after it cleans up in those categories. 

Achievement in Music Written for Film (Original Song)
  • Alone Yet Not Alone from Alone Yet Not Alone, music by Bruce Broughton; lyrics by Dennis Spiegel
  • Happy from Despicable Me 2, music and lyrics by Pharrell Williams
  • Let It Go from Frozen, music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
  • The Moon Song from Her, music by Karen O; lyrics by Karen O and Spike Jonze
  • Ordinary Love from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, music by Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen; lyrics by Paul Hewson

Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: Let It Go
Competition: Ordinary Love
Snub: Here It Comes (Emeli Sande and Rick Smith from Trance)

The gorgeousness of Emeli Sande’s singing and writing on Here it Comes is tragically overlooked this year, leaving Let it Go to win. U2 is a musical behemoth to be overcome, even if, unlike Let It Go, their song is not the emotional center of the film in which it is featured. 

Achievement in Production Design
  • American Hustle: Production Design: Judy Becker; Set Decoration: Heather Loeffler
  • Gravity: Production Design: Andy Nicholson; Set Decoration: Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard
  • The Great Gatsby Production Design: Catherine Martin; Set Decoration: Beverley Dunn
  • Her: Production Design: K.K. Barrett; Set Decoration: Gene Serdena
  • 12 Years a Slave: Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Alice Baker

Cinema Siren Prediction
  • Winner: The Great Gatsby
  • Competition: the whole list
American Hustle is the biggest competition against a Gatsby win, and all the other nominees, while worthy on their own terms, may get chosen because they are less likely to win in other categories. The Great Gatsby, whatever its many faults, is certainly visually spectacular. Visual panache is not all there is to production design, which is more about building the whole world of the film.  From that perspective, those nominated are on the list for great reason. 

Best Animated Short Film


Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: Get A Horse
Competition: the whole list

Get a Horse is a Disney short that combines 2D and 3D animation techniques. Beyond the obvious leg up it gets from the wider exposure, it will be a sentimental favorite, not least for its use of Walt’s voice for the beloved Mickey Mouse character. On the other hand, there may be a backlash by voters not wanting to vote for a Disney cartoon, desiring to support smaller animation houses.   

Best Live Action Short Film
  • Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me): Esteban Crespo
  • Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything): Xavier Legrand and Alexandre Gavras
  • Helium: Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson
  • Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?): Selma Vilhunen and Kirsikka Saari
  • The Voorman Problem: Mark Gill and Baldwin Li
(No official Cinema Siren opinion.  Not all accessible to see.)


Achievement in Sound Editing
  • All Is Lost: Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns
  • Captain Phillips: Oliver Tarney
  • Gravity: Glenn Freemantle
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: Brent Burge
  • Lone Survivor: Wylie Stateman

Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: Gravity
Competition: Captain Phillips

Now we enter the gravitational pull of Alfonso Cuaron’s great ground-breaking film…Not only will the sound editing Oscar likely go to Gravity, but so too will sound mixing, and visual effects. Hyperbole is impossible when talking of the experimentation, problem solving and advancement required to get the movie to the point of believability Cuaron required. Seven years in the making, he literally had to wait for technical developments to catch up with his vision.  


Achievement in Sound Mixing
  • Captain Phillips: Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro
  • Gravity: Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson
  • Inside Llewyn Davis: Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland
  • Lone Survivor: Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow

Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: Gravity 
Competition: Lone Survivor


Achievement in Visual Effects
  • Gravity: Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds
  • Iron Man 3:  Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick
  • The Lone Ranger: Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier
  • Star Trek Into Darkness: Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton

Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: Gravity
Competition: The Hobbit
Snubs: Thor: The Dark World, Pacific Rim

Adapted Screenplay
  • Before Midnight: Written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
  • Captain Phillips: Screenplay by Billy Ray
  • Philomena: Screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
  • 12 Years a Slave: Screenplay by John Ridley
  • The Wolf of Wall Street: Screenplay by Terence Winter

Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: 12 Years A Slave
Competition: the whole list

While those nominated all have a strong chance, Cinema Siren chooses 12 Years A Slave, not only because the impact the movie as a whole has on audiences is in part created by the screenplay, but because to read the biography written by the Solomon Northup himself is to know how succinctly the story was originally written. Much more had to be added to truly tell the story completely. 

Original Screenplay
  • American Hustle: Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
  • Blue Jasmine: Written by Woody Allen
  • Dallas Buyers Club: Written by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack
  • Her: Written by Spike Jonze
  • Nebraska: Written by Bob Nelson

Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: Her
Competition: Strongest is American Hustle, but all have potential. 

Again a strong category, with stories written that are essential to the success of the films represented. These are small films that depend on dialogue, plot, and character interaction for their depth and meaning. With that in mind, Cinema Siren is choosing Her, not because it is a lock, but because sometimes one must simply pick the best, whether the Academy agrees or not. Certainly American Hustle deserves recognition, however those who criticize the film, do so mentioning its messiness. It is indeed more likely to win, but the basically two-person dialogue that lasts most of the movie for Her is what makes or breaks it, and I believe it is a success.  

So those are Cinema Siren’s predictions and opinions. I’d love to hear you movie lovers sound off about snubs, celebrate your favorites, and make your own predictions. We can all watch together on March 2. I’m already fluffing my boa and buying the champagne. See you there!

To see trailers for all the nominees and for more information on all the films, go to: http://oscar.go.com/nominees

Leslie Combemale, "Cinema Siren," is a movie lover and aficionado with a background in writing, film, and art history. She owns ArtInsights Animation and Film Art Gallery, which specializes in the original art of film. She is often invited to present at conventions including the San Diego Comic-Con, where she has moderated "Legendary Animators of Classic 60s Cartoons" and "The Art of the Hollywood Movie Poster" and is a perennial panelist on the Harry Potter Fandom panel. Visit her art gallery online at www.artinsights.com, and see more of her reviews and interviews on www.artinsightsmagazine.com.

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