The case for Gravity

Can Gravity hold on to the Oscar for Best Picture?

Alfonso Cuarón’s masterpiece Gravity has dominated the nominations this year, leading the pack with 10 nods. Unless some sort of insane backlash occurs, it will likely take away all the tech awards like Cinematography, Sound and Visual Effects, but can it break the curse and become the first sci-fi film to win Best Picture? Here’s why it could drift off into space with the big prize.

The chance to make history. The Academy Awards are very traditional, there’s no denying that. Each and every year, they can tend to follow the same old pattern, and award the most Oscary film of the year with Best Picture. But every year, they have the chance to make history by awarding a film that doesn’t necessarily follow that Best Picture formula. Films that fall outside the standard weepy drama film, like action, special effects heavy, 3D, science-fiction, fantasy, or even just films dealing with something ultra modern. Most of the time, they don’t. Hugo loses to The Artist, The Social Network loses to The King’s Speech, Brokeback Mountain loses to Crash. But sometimes they do. LOTR: Return of the King beats Mystic River, Chicago beats The Pianist, The Departed beats Babel. This year, the voters face that same prospect – Gravity, the 3D, special-effects heavy, science-fiction colossus that has actually made money vs 12 Years A Slave, the dramatic real-life story that touches on a shameful moment in American history. The obvious choice would be the latter, but the Academy could finally make a statement that science-fiction or special-effects are not dirty words, and award Gravity with Best Picture. Star Wars couldn’t do it, E.T didn’t get there, Avatar fell short, but Gravity could finally break through.

The ballot vote effect. Imagine you’re a lucky Academy member. You’ve got your Oscar ballot in front of you. You’ve ticked down your votes for all the categories, and notice you’ve voted for Gravity an astonishing seven, maybe even eight times, and then you get to Best Picture…the tick for Gravity happens almost absentmindedly. I know this theory is essentially saying Oscar voters are robots, and don’t particularly give a huge amount of thought to their votes…but you know it’s somewhat true. Voting a huge amount of times for the same movie tends to give the impression that the sum of its parts make it the best film, so why shouldn’t it also get the final big vote too? What is the best film if not being the best in all facets of film-making? This also carries over to splitting the vote for Director. Typically in the past, Director and Picture matched up. Given it’s practically a certainty that Cuarón will get the Director nod, a huge chunk of people won’t feel right not voting for his picture as well. A film doesn’t direct itself, so how can you possibly vote to say a director did the best job, but his film still wasn’t the best of the year?

The lack of controversy. Almost every film in the running for Best Picture has some sort of controversy behind it, and the mud-slinging began almost as soon as the nominees were read out. American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street glorify criminals. Philomena is anti-Catholic propaganda. Captain Phillips and Dallas Buyers Club deviate their true stories too far from the actual truth. 12 Years A Slave had some questioning the historical accuracy of Soloman’s life. But then there’s Gravity, barely a sniff of controversy at all. Yes, there were those real astronauts who came out saying it wasn’t entirely accurate, and that Bullock should have been wearing an adult diaper under her spacesuit (I’m still scratching my head over that one…), but these criticisms are not going to stop a voter from giving it their tick. No one will feel dirty voting for Gravity. No one will feel like they’ve awarded a film that is tainted in some way. That can honestly be the difference at the end of the day. Oscar voters like to feel like they’ve done the right thing, and mud-slinging came help make that decision.

Will Sandra Bullock and Alfonso Cuarón float off into space with the Best Picture trophy? Am I actually predicting Gravity to win? Find out a little closer to Oscar night…

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The case for Dallas Buyers Club

Will McConaughey steal Best Picture?

As we continue through this strange new world where Matthew McConaughey is a serious revered actor (go back and watch Fool’s Gold, and tell me he seemed like a future Academy Award winner…), we need to analyse the chances of his film also walking away with Best Picture. It’s not one of the frontrunners, but anything is possible this year, so don’t discount it too soon.

The McConaissance. A new term has been coined for the startling reinvention of McConaughey’s career. From fluffy rom-com jughead to critically acclaimed performer. Sure, there were early moments of promise from the handsome Texan (A Time To Kill, Amistad), but he quickly fell into the usually unbreakable curse of the good-looking eye candy, who’s only use was to draw women into a romantic comedy (How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days, The Wedding Planner, Failure To Launch etc etc). In the last few years, he has managed to redefine the way the industry perceives him, with some truly wonderful turns in movies like Magic Mike, Mud, Bernie and The Lincoln Lawyer. His crowning achievement is now Dallas Buyers Club, a film very likely to win him an Academy Award. This could carry the film in voter’s minds into other categories as well.

The Brokeback factor. No film with predominant homosexual themes has ever won Best Picture. The film that came close, Brokeback Mountain, was shamefully overlooked in favour of Crash, and many believe the industry just wasn’t ready to award a so-called “gay film”. Given its been almost a decade since this happened, and the advances the gay movement has made in the world since then, it could finally be time for this to change. There will be a huge amount of voters who were personally affected and touched by the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, so Dallas Buyers Club is an extremely relevant and important film to them, enough to rank it up there on their ballots.

True stories and transformations. Oscar loves a true story, especially an inspiring/uplifting one. But what Oscar loves even more is an actor’s transformation, especially when they make themselves less pretty. Dallas Buyers Club has two of these – McConaughey’s startling weight loss and lack of physical beauty, and Jared Leto’s makeover into a transsexual AIDS victim. These are huge contributing factors to their chances to take the acting nods, but when you combine them, they make a formidable alliance to take the big award as well. The notion of a  true story winning Best Picture is an Oscar tradition, so just like Captain Phillips, this bodes well for Dallas Buyers Club.

Can the McConaissance dominate the night and not only take the two Actor awards, but Best Picture as well? Am I actually predicting Dallas Buyers Club to win? Find out a little closer to Oscar night…

The case for Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips

Next cab off the rank in the Best Picture race is Captain Phillips. Is anyone crowing for the Captain to sail away with Best Picture? Maybe not, or at least not publicly, but it still holds a strong chance and here’s why.

The snub of Tom Hanks. Out of all the crazy snubs at the nomination announcement, the one that stood out for most Oscar observers was the ludicrous snub of Tom Hanks for Best Actor, who was seen as a sure thing, even in a crowded category. The man, who has already won two Academy Awards, used to be a sure thing for nominations, and the fact that it’s been over ten years since his last nod seemed to practically guarantee him a spot here. It wasn’t to be. Snubs can have a significant and dramatic effect. They can radically change the way a film is viewed, and boost the chances in other categories. Case in point – Ben Affleck last year. Argo was a strong chance for Best Picture, leading up to nomination time, but the second Affleck was snubbed for a Best Director nod, it became unstoppable. Affleck was also one of the film’s producers, and therefore voting for the film for Best Picture still gave him an Oscar. The story was too hard to resist. The snub had to be rectified, and this was seen as the way. Now Hanks isn’t a producer, and won’t win an Oscar if the film takes Picture, but the motivation to right a wrong, even if it’s in a six degrees of separation kind of way, could carry the film over the line.

Oscar loves a true story. Argo. The King’s Speech. The Hurt Locker. Million Dollar Baby. A Beautiful Mind. All winners, and all based on true stories. That bodes well for Cap. The Academy voters generally fall over themselves when it comes to real life/biographical films, especially when it’s an inspiration/uplifting story of someone doing something incredible, against all odds. The true story of Captain Phillips made worldwide headlines, and the film captures a moment in time where the world was watching how America would handle a tricky and delicate crisis. Films adapted from reality have that innate ability to draw the audience in further, because you’re essentially watching something that really happened. It’s this kind of heightened reality that voters seem to warm to, as the story seems familiar and the film is more powerful. When compared with another true story nominee The Wolf of Wall Street, the voter could be more inclined to swing towards Captain Phillips because it’s an inspirational tale, not a cautionary one.

America – f*ck yeah! Much in the same vein as last year’s winner Argo, Captain Phillips is overflowing with a not-so subtle nod to how great America is, notably how great the American military is. They risked their lives, they risked an international diplomatic crisis, and they spent millions to essentially rescue one man. And they pulled it off, without a single casualty. Patriotism is a powerful thing. It may not get the attention of an international Oscar voter, but it sure as hell gets the heart warm for the Uncle Sam toting American idealist. A vote for Captain Phillips is a vote for America.

Will we see the brave Captain and his merry men take away best picture of the year? Am I actually predicting Captain Phillips to win? Find out a little closer to Oscar night…

The case for American Hustle

Will it win Best Picture?

This Oscar race, I thought I’d do something a little different. I found that, for the first time in a long while, all the films nominated for Best Picture really are brilliant movies, and in their own way, each of them somewhat deserves to win Best Picture. So, I thought it best to lay out my thoughts on each one, and make a case for why it should win Best Picture. Being fair, and so as not to reveal my final predicted winner just yet, I will do this alphabetically. First nominee off the rank – American Hustle.

Why American Hustle should win Best Picture

Two words – David O’Russell. The man behind Oscar darlings The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook has done it again, and yet still hasn’t managed to actually win a damn award for himself. And both of those films failed to capture the big prize as well, so surely this year American Hustle will take it out. The film is up for ten awards, equal first with Gravity for the most nominations this year, so it seems almost unfathomable that it won’t win Best Picture. If the voters loved the film enough to give it nominations in every major category this year, the momentum should be with it when it comes time to vote for the winners.

Four amazing performances, four Academy Award nominees. We have the extremely rare situation where a film has all four acting nominations under its belt. In the 86 year history of the Oscars, this is only the fifteenth time this has happened, and incredibly the second year in a row for a David O’Russell film. Prior to last year, you had to travel all the way back to 1981’s Reds for the last time this occurred. Why is this important? Well, the acting branch makes up the biggest section of the Academy voters. Actors can tend to vote for acting performances they admire, and not just in the actual acting categories, but across the board. The actor’s choice for Best Picture could just be the one with the most acting nominations. Don’t forget, the film did take out the big prize at the SAG Awards. Those same SAG voters are at it again, come Oscar time.

The preferential voting system. Look, it would take an entirely separate post to explain the way the voting system works for Best Picture. Google it if you’re really that interested. Basically, it’s no longer a case of the film with the most votes winning, but rather an extremely complicated system, where voters rank all nine nominees, and then based on preferences, a winner is decided. American Hustle will get a huge share of 1 preferences, but that’s not enough. You have to be the second, and even third, choice of those that didn’t rank you #1 as well. There will be those that feel like they have to vote for 12 Years A Slave or Gravity as their top pick, and frankly they will split that vote, so it won’t be enough to win outright. There’s no denying those two are the leaders, and likely favourites to win. However, my gut instinct tells me the second choice of a whole slew of voters will be the film they actually enjoyed the most, not the film it’s cool to vote for. American Hustle will be that film. A wave of support in secondary voting can secure you an Oscar these days. When there’s no outright leader, a la Argo or The Artist, anything can happen.

It won’t win anything else. I know that sounds insane, but hear me out. Your typical voter will end up splitting their votes all over the place for a bunch of films. They give Director to Cuarón, they give Actor (Lead & Supporting) to Dallas Buyers Club, they give Supporting Actress to 12 Years A Slave, they give Original Screenplay to Her, and Gravity gets their vote for every technical award. Then they get to the end of their ballot, and they realise they’ve not given a single vote to a film with the most nominations. Something about that doesn’t sit right with them. Suddenly, they’re voting for American Hustle for Best Picture, or at the very least, listing it as #2 or #3 on their preference. That could be all it needs to steal the award. A film winning only Best Picture, and nothing else, has happened twice in Oscar history (The Broadway Melody and Mutiny On The Bounty…yeah, it’s been a while), so theoretically, it could happen this year.

Will we see my favourite film of the year become the best picture of the year? Am I actually predicting American Hustle to win? Find out a little closer to Oscar night…