Oscars 2014 Preview: 12 Years a Slave for Best Picture?

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So, it’s that time of the year again. Awards season is reaching its climax. From the space-hopping Gravity to the line-sniffing Wolf of Wall Street, it’s been a year full of innovation, controversy and variety.

Some may snort at the Oscars as too ‘mainstream’ or ‘political’, but we can all agree that it’s great fun. However, beyond the razzle-dazzle ceremony, there’s business to be done and trophies to be handed out. Here’s our preview and prediction on each of the major gongs for Sunday night:

Best Picture

We can’t see beyond McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave here. It scooped the Globe and the BAFTA this year and would be a fitting Best Picture winner. The Academy have seemed reluctant to cause any surprises in recent years, so this should be a dead cert. Gravity, while technically brilliant, will put off judges with its genre and the Wolf of Wall Street is far too left-field. The other six nominees are worthy quota fillers, but, barring a huge upset, don’t stand a chance. The big question is why the Academy didn’t nominate Inside Llewyn Davies in the remaining nominee slot? Cue yearly uproar.

Best Director

This one’s a two-horse race between Steve McQueen and Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity. McQueen’s direction in 12 Years A Slave is unflinchingly beautiful, but it’s the technological marvel in Cuaron’s hands that will get the Academy’s attention. The Mexican’s cleaned up elsewhere and we’d be stunned if the Academy think differently. Although, Paul Greengrass’s taut work in Captain Phillips was immense enough to occupy a dark horse position. We’ll just have to see.

Best Actor

Chiwetel Ejiofor won the BAFTA for one reason: Dallas Buyers’ Club came out too late in Britain. Matthew McConaughey was exceptional as an unsuspecting AIDS victim. He also shed half his body-fat to look so sickeningly thin in the role – a transformative aspect oh so attractive to these gongs. Bruce Dern in Nebraska? No chance – a courtesy nomination. Leo? Too left-field. Bale in American Hustle? An excellent performance, but an outside chance against Ejiofor and McConaughey. There’s a clear favourite here, but it’s not set in stone like Day Lewis last year.

Best Actress

This will probably be the most open-and-shut category of the evening. Cate Blanchett’s performance in Blue Jasmine was manically complex and perfectly delivered. The rest have no chance – especially Sandra Bullock with her genre handicap.

Best Supporting Actor

Like his co-star, Jared Leto took great transformation to become tragic transvestite, Rayon. After scooping the Globe, he’s the sure-fire favourite here. However, we could be in for a surprise. Michael Fassbender in 12 Years A Slave had the depth of evil we haven’t seen since Waltz won as Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds. Those hoping to see newcomer, Barkhad Abdi, take it for Captain Phillips will be disappointed. Abdi’s decent performance may have been amplified with pity by BAFTA, but the Academy aren’t so forgiving.

Best Supporting Actress

The film world is in love with Jennifer Lawrence at the moment. She (questionably?) won the leading actress gong last year for Silver Linings Playbook and looks set to win for her chaotic stint in American Hustle. Her role is certainly worth a nomination, but when she’s competing with Lupita Nyong’o, the tormented slave-owners’ pet in 12 Years A Slave, you have to wonder what the Academy have been smoking this year. Sally Hawkins in Blue Jasmine could be a dark horse, but Lawrence should scoop this.

Best Original Screenplay

This is a tough one. Her scooped the Globe, American Hustle won the BAFTA and the competition doesn’t end there. Screen legend, Woody Allen, has Blue Jasmine up for contention and the darkly humorous Nebraska script is not to be ruled out. The super-solid Dallas Buyers’ Club script is probably bottom of the pecking order. It would be very bold to pick a dead-cert winner, but American Hustle, in its labyrinthine complexity, may edge it. However, it’s very open – this would be the award to turn up the TV on.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Another tough one. Philomena won the BAFTA but I doubt the Academy will heap as much praise on a British film. Captain Phillips – a suspense thriller – isn’t the type of genre to be awarded in such a category. Wolf of Wall Street, once again, too left-field. Before Midnight, too indie. So, that leaves 12 Years A Slave – a film more about the performances than the writing. This category is filled with great productions, but not so great scripts. Nevertheless, the Academy will probably be in a 12 Years of Slave mood, so expect John Ridley to win this.

Do you agree? Tweet us at @genesiscinema. Have your say!

We’re still showing Her and Dallas Buyers’ Club – book your tickets here: http://www.genesiscinema.co.uk.

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