Monday, March 3, 2014

Oscar 2014: Who's Bet is it Anyway?

Hollywood gets set to roll out its most prestigious red carpet for cinema’s top prize at the world famous Dolby Theatre at Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, California – The Oscars. A celebration like no other, a prestigious reward unlike any other, the Academy Awards command their respect not just for an 86th edition of tradition to honour the best in world cinema (arguments over American centric bias aside) but primarily because of the doors even a nomination opens for a film to be seen by global distributors and released in world film market and save many a small gems from being lost in obscure gullies. And for an individual, even a nomination gets him/ her a title of “Oscar Nominated” for eternity.

However, it’s the prediction that really makes the cut among the cinema connoisseurs. Art may be subjective to taste but the Academy has always allowed certain precursors to help predict the winner and, let some make hay over a happy quick buck. So let’s get to the nitty-gritty’s of the 2014 edition and try reading the minds of Academy's more than 6000 voting members.

Ten films in the fray but it’s a straight fight between Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity and Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave. The Producer’s Guild of America Awards, normally seen as the decider for the big winner at Oscars, did leave all high and dry by jointly awarding both the film. However no 3D or Sci-fiction film has ever won a Best Picture Academy Award giving 12 Years of Slave an edge over Gravity. Gravity is most likely to follow last year's example of Ang Lee’s Life of Pi (2011) model – Director, Technical Awards but no Best Picture.

Matthew McConaughey’s has been sweeping almost all Best Actor’s awards for his phenomenal performance in Dallas Buyers Club, barring the BAFTA’s where McConaughey did not even land a nomination. The surprise snub was one of the key reason to believe that maybe McConaughey might not be the front runner at all. On the other hand, Leonardo DiCaprio has been kept waiting by the Academy for his elusive win, having lost out on previous nods for What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), The Aviator (2004) and Blood Diamond (2006). So maybe the Academy might shine on him for his work this year The Wolf on Wall Street. But even 12 Years a Slave's Chiwetel Ejiofor, who surprised many with his BAFTA win, and the mighty Bruce Dern in Nebraska can pull it off too. Remember how Adrien Brody benefitted from the split of bigger stars (Jack Nicholson for About Schmidt and Daniel Day Lewis for Gangs of New York) with his win for The Pianist in 2003.

The Year belongs to Cate Blanchett for her spell-binding performance in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine. She has picked up all awards in the run-up to the big Hollywood night and is sure to walk the stage to collect her second Academy win after her Best Supporting Actress win for The Aviator in 2005.

Barkhad Abdi may have collected a BAFTA for his breakthrough début performance in Captain Phillips but its Jared Leto who is expected to win the honours for his turn in Dallas Buyers Club.  He remains a safe bet despite BAFTA failing to nominate him, earning much ire from the fraternity.

There is no guarantee Jennifer Lawrence will win the Oscar for her performance in American Hustle but no other woman in this century won the Golden Globe and BAFTA and lost the Academy Award. However, Lupita Nyong'o performance in 12 Years of Slave did win the young performer a SAG in the run-up to the Oscar. So she can definitely spoil the party for Lawrence. Moreover, 12 Years of Slave winning Best Picture (a very likely, as mentioned before) and nothing else definitely seems unlikely. Only three films, The Broadway Melody (1929), Grand Hotel (1932) and Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), have done it before, but none in 78 Years. 5 films, Wings (1927), All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), You Can't Take It With You (1938), Rebecca (1940) and The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), won Best Picture with only single win, though, so that’s possible. So it’s either her or Ejiofor or Best Editing (a major boost for the subsequent Best Picture winner) that may turn the table for the Steve McQueen drama.

Nevertheless, if Lawrence nabs a win in her kitty, she becomes the sixth person in Oscar history to win back-to-back Acting Oscar, after Luise Rainer, Spencer Tracy, Jason Robards, Katherine Hepburn and Tom Hanks.

Once again, the talk comes down to Gravity and 12 Years Of Slave. However, Alfonso Cuarón's likely win is probably the worst kept secret at the 86th Academy Awards with him being seen as the safest bet for Gravity as anyone, along with Cate Blanchett, Jared Leto and Gravity for Best Visual Effects. Moreover, the Directors Guild of America gave him their nod and its hard to get by that. Cuarón will become the first Hispanic to win the Best Director award, even as his nearest competitor Steve McQueen looks out to become the first African-American Best Director winner.

Regardless of all the permutations and combinations, Oscars 2014 is all set to become an year of major upsets and surprises, whether it be Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay, Documentary feature, Foreign Language Film and Original Song - all too close to call. Surely, one that will bring good response on the Social Media.

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