By Eleanor Ringel Cater
Predicting the Oscars — the nominees, let alone the winners — used to be a lot harder.
The critics groups were never any help; if anything, a vote of confidence by them was almost like drawing the short straw.
Now the Golden Globes are bruited about as THE early tip-off. On the one hand, that’s laughable because the Hollywood Foreign Press is a pretty laughable crowd. The majority of them have daytime jobs that have nothing to do with reviewing movies, and whatever they do write is likely to appear in the Slovenia Daily Gazette (no offense meant to Slovenians).
However, they were lucky. Dick Clark, the “world’s oldest teenager” (as he was known before he suffered a devastating stroke), put the Globes on television early — 1958 locally in L.A., 1964 nationally.
And the event was done as a dinner with booze. Lots of booze. Which had an, um, loosening-up effect.
Finally the Globes did something smart that the Oscars, no matter how esteemed, have stubbornly resisted: they divided some of the categories, such as Best Picture, into Drama and Comedy/Musical.
Not only is this a good idea, but it gives the Globes a double shot at predicting the eventual Oscar winners.
Add in that the members of HFPA get wined and dined (to a degree) by those with certain, um, Oscar interests…and they’re not so dumb after all.
But the Golden Globes connection is old news. Plus, they are so far ahead of the Academy in picking hosts, it’s appalling. The year Seth McFarlane crashed and burned as the Academy Award host, the Golden Globes received universal raves for choosing Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. And the group had the even better sense to invite Fey and Poehler back.
So what has really changed since, well, the last decade of the 20th Century?
Call it the Attack of the Guilds.
Not that they didn’t make choices before, but now these choices are widely publicized. The Directors Guild of America. The Producers Guild of America. The Writers Guild of America. The Screen Actors Guild.
These groups, which are certifiably legit, are like hunting dogs, pointing the way to whom or what they feel are deserving to Academy voters (who may feel comfortable on certain categories, but less so in others). Besides, who wants to spend all that time actually watching every movie released in 2013?
Well, I’m going to let you know whom the DGA, the PGA, the WGA and SAG have smiled on. The overlap may mean everything. Then again, it might mean nothing.
And frankly, never mind the WGA; nobody really cares about writers, especially in Hollywood.
Plus, I’m going to have to stick with Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress. Otherwise, I’ll be typing all day.
The PGA nominees: “American Hustle” “Blue Jasmine,” “Captain Phillips,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Gravity,” “Her,” “Saving Mr. Banks,” “12 Years a Slave” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
Now that the Academy — stupidly, I think — has expanded the number of Bests Picture nominees to 10, all of the above are likely candidates. “Before Midnight” may have a chance — sort of a nod to “independent” filmmaking. But never count out the Weinstein brothers, Harvey and Bob, or the Coen brothers, Ethan and Joel. “Lee Daniel’s The Butler” could get in there or “Inside Llewyn Davis.” A more likely addition, I believe, is “Nebraska,” which has the inexplicable (to me) Bruce Dern thing going for it.
Best Director is still limited to five nominees, as are Best Actor and Actress.
The DGA has picked Steve McQueen (“12 Years”), Alfonso Cuaron (“Gravity”), David O. Russell (“American Hustle”), Martin Scorsese (“Wolf”) and Paul Greengrass (“Captain Phillips”). That leaves out the guys — and, Big Surprise, they are all, yet again, guys — who directed “Her,” “Nebraska,” “Dallas Buyers,” “Mr. Banks” and, again, the Coens.
The Academy has a habit of always leaving out one DGA nominee and making its own substitution. My guess is that Cuaron, whose: Gravity” has been lauded more for its stunning state-of-the-art technology than its old-fashioned “directing” (which I think is wonderful) might get the boot and be replaced by Alexander Payne (“Nebraska”) or Spike Jonze (“Her”).
SAG mostly applies to the acting categories. But one, actors are the largest branch of the Academy, and two, they have an award for Best Ensemble, which is their version of Best Picture.
Their choices there:”12 Years a Slave,” “American Hustle,” “The Butler,” and “Dallas Buyers Club.” Plus, “August: Osage County,” which is this year’s All Girls Flick, i.e., it has more good female parts than all the DGA and PGA nominees put together.
Anyway, forget about “Osage.” Its pedigree is Broadway and the critics — determined to slash their theatre-critic colleagues (read, rivals) — carved it up with extra relish. It only matters in the Best Actress (Meryl Streep) and Best Supporting categories (Julia Roberts, who is a shoo-in nominee and a shoo-in also-ran; Her sin? Trying to act after she turned 40).
The actor nominees are Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years”), Matthew McConaughey (“Dallas”), Dern, Tom Hanks (“Captain Phillips”), Forest Whitaker (“The Butler”).
I don’t see much of a deviation. Hanks might suffer from having turned in two exceptional performances — in “Captain Phillips” and “Saving Mr. Banks”) — but “Phillips” seems to be the choice.
I’m also a bit surprised neither Christian Bale (“American Hustle”) nor Leonardo DiCaprio (“Wolf”) made the cut. It’s possible the roles — late ’70, early ‘80’s) slimeballs are too similar. And much as I loathe Joaquin Phoenix, he’s awfully good in “Her.”
Actress: Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”), Sandra Bullock (“Gravity”), Streep, Emma Thompson (“Mr. Banks”) and Judi Dench (“Philomena”).
Now, Streep’s recent speech, castigating Walt Disney as an anti-Semite and a woman-hater will probably work against her, but she doesn’t count on winning anyway (She already has 3 Oscars). I don’t see any dark horses except, perhaps, Julie Delpy for “Before Midnight.”
And frankly, Jennifer Lawrence deserves another nod for “The Hunger Games” Catching Fire.” She’ll get one for her supporting role in “American Hustle,” which brings up another overlooked performance: Amy Adams is truly wonderful in the same picture.
And speaking of overlooked performances, I’m not sure what the Oscar voters should do…but one of the best performances all year is Scarlett Johansson as Phoenix’s Siri-like buddy in “Her.” I say she deserves a best Supporting Actress nomination but then, nobody asks me. Nobody who can vote, anyway….