Top Ten Performances of 2014

Long time no talk.  I know, it’s been almost four months since my last post, but it’s been quite the hectic fall/winter season, but the most wonderful/stressful/frustrating/awful/awesome time of the year is upon us.  Well, watching these films are a visceral experience.  Analyzing their awards potential, rewarding/not rewarding them, and seeing all this obnoxious campaigning (specifically whisper campaigning AGAINST certain films) is disgusting, but it’s part of the process… I guess.

Anyways, as a certain tradition of mine, I’ve chosen ten performances that I felt were unmatched.  I kind of cheated combining some a few performances, but who cares.  Here are my ten favorite performances of 2014.

MICHAEL KEATON (Birdman)

Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson in BIRDMAN is a revelation, divulging into an extremely flawed, egotistical, and overtly ambitious man child who looks for meaning and fulfillment through praise and adoration.  For how artistically driven the film is, this entire thing would’ve crumbled if Keaton was anything less than prolific and completely devoted.  This is one of those performances where you have very little reason to appreciate the character on paper, but through the moving image, Keaton brings out the emotions and the flaws that we all suffer from — just on a more upscale level.  He drips with insecurity and confusion, moving through the halls of the St. Regis Theatre unsure of where he’s walking towards and when it’ll end, just hoping… HOPING he becomes what he desires to become.  Keaton kills it here, and though this is an ensemble piece with an excellent visual execution, Keaton is the beating heart of BIRDMAN.

MARION COTILLARD (Two Days, One Night)

Premiering at Cannes at steamrolling through Telluride and Toronto, the latest film from the Dardenne Brothers encapsulates a simple narrative of a hopeless and weak person turning into an example of strength and will.  Similar to Birdman, TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT fails if they don’t nail the central figure, Sandra, a wife and mother of two who tries to retain her job by convincing each co-worker to not accept their bonus.  Cotillard’s performance is quiet, but doesn’t mean it’s not meaningful and gutting, expressing her depression and attitude through incredible facial expressions and body language.  This is a risky film, though being small, mainly because it’s hinged on our attachment to the main character, and if we don’t bond with her, empathize with her, understand her battle, then it all fails.  But thankfully, it magnificently works with plenty of credit going to Cotillard.

J.K. SIMMONS (Whiplash)

This image above is everything you need to know about WHIPLASH, J.K. Simmons’ award winning performance, and pretty much the thesis behind the brilliant film of 29 year old Damien Chazelle (yes, that’s correct).  Simmons is the grim reaper of all music instructors, a dark world that’s brutal and violent but rarely ever gets a spotlight on, pushing his students in ways that is criminal… but also rewarding.  I can’t imagine anyone else that could pull this role off the way Simmons does.  His mannerisms, his bulging biceps in a tight black shirt who soaks in darkness, and his execution of obscene language that’s both awful but yet artistic.  He’s so respectable and pulls of this tight rope act of making us appreciate his persona even though he emotionally and physically violates these young, hopeful students.  Simmons will win Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars and rightfully so cause he’ll go down as one of the greatest villains/instructors/inspirations/motivators/devilish characters of all time.

TILDA SWINTON (Snowpiercer)

Tilda Swinton is the pinnacle of coolness.  She’s too good for all of us and human kind in general, and I’m so thankful I live in the age of Swinton as her choices and performances are precise and brilliant, always pushing the envelope for what she can do.  In SNOWPIERCER, she turned a male role into probably the most memorable element in the entire film, which says a lot considering the movie itself is a marvel.  Every second of Swinton is a masterpiece, and she’s pretty much unrecognizable here, though that’s true for almost all her performances.  Just like any auteur filmmaker, we should anticipate a Swinton film because she’s a gem in today’s entertainment world.

EDDIE REDMAYNE (Theory of Everything)

Watching Eddie Redmayne play Stephen Hawking in THEORY OF EVERYTHING was an indescribable experience, mainly seeing an actor speak less and less and evolve into an individual limited physically but mentally boundless.  So much in the mind, so much to express, so much to seek and understand, but unable to do the basic of human behaviors because of an unfortunate case of ALS.  I can’t imagine the preparation and technique that went into playing Hawking, saying so much through his eyes, his positions, his crouched stillness on his wheelchair.  It’s things like that where a performance is earned, and Redmayne deserves all the credit he’s receiving.

ANNE DORVAL (Mommy)

I can’t rave enough about Xavier Dolan’s films, specifically I KILLED MY MOTHER and MOMMY, which of course has Anne Dorval starring in both.  In MOMMY specifically, Dorval plays an immature and naive mother who slowly realizes that she’s unable to take care of her wild and emotionally uncontrollable son, and that experience of watching her coming to that realization is so painful and difficult.  Dorval plays another flawed character (see the trend?  Flaws are good) where she pulls off another work of magic with Dolan.  I pray that she gets more exposure (maybe she doesn’t want it) and gets to play ripe roles where we see her breathtaking talent more and more.

STEVE CARRELL, CHANNING TATUM, & MARK RUFFALO (Foxcatcher)

I’m cheating, I know, but it’s too difficult to choose between the three in FOXCATCHER, where each performance is so greatly intertwined with the other two characters and their intimate and sensitive relationships with one another.  It truly is a love triangle, all trying to manage quite carefully who the others are and what they’ll slowly become.  This is a film driven by suppression, wealth, failure, disappointment, fulfillment, and irrevocable emotions, making this such a complex and dense work of art.  And though I regard Bennett Miller as one of the great American directors, Steve Carrell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo round out this powerful film with their devotion to this unfortunate story.  It sucks to see Tatum become so irrelevant in the discussions for best performances of the year with the other two getting appropriate praise.  No individual sticks out from the rest in my opinion.  All three are vital pieces that create a fascinating piece of human dilemma.

REESE WITHERSPOON & LAURA DERN (Wild)

Something about this film kills me within, and the more I think about it, the more I realize so much of it’s emotional stake is because of the relationship between Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) and her mother (Laura Dern) and how the loss of such an important life can impact our own journey.  WILD works so well because of this relationship told in flashbacks, and much credit is given to Witherspoon for her courageous and revealing performance as a sex and drug addict who hikes the Pacific Crest Trail, equal praise should be given to Dern who plays that motherly figure so well it makes me cry.  Literally.  She captures that gentle, tenderhearted soul in ways that makes you feel like she’s your mother, and realizing how this film is more about the discovery of self through the loss of loved ones rather than your typical escape through nature narrative, their performances have so much more weight now.

DAVID OYELOWO (Selma)

Excuse my language, but this fucking film is so damn good and David Oyelowo is damn good as MLK.  This should be required viewing.  Every school in the U.S. should put SELMA in their syllabus, making all students, Black, White, Asian, Hispanic watch this because it’s so important and artistically immaculate.  Oyelowo kills it.  Simply kills it.  The speeches, the politics, the way he revolves around conflict and individuals, his relationship with his wife and the revealing of his flawed moments — it’s all there.  This is a performance that should be reveled for years, and I can’t speak enough about how amazing Oyelowo, the rest of this cast, Ava Duvernay, and all involved are in this piece about American history.  Arguably, this is probably one of the most important films on our country, being so relevant today and our fight for progress FOR ALL.  I still can’t believe how Oyelowo pulled it off, and it easily goes down as one of the best performances of the year.

ROSAMUND PIKE (Gone Girl)

This look, this face, this image is EVERYTHING.  I think GONE GIRL deserves such a huge conversation and study that covers a multitude of topics include American marriage, gender roles and expectations, Women in film, the definition of feminism, media fascination and exploitation, etc.  That’s how great David Fincher is.  He can throw a heavy amount of themes and elements and still make this film feel seamless and proficient.  What else he does so well is get the best out of his actors, and I really can’t think of a performance that’s had such polarizing reaction and discussion other than Rosamund Pike as  Amy Dunne.  Pike nails the complex state of Amazing Amy, stretching the blurred boundaries of who she actually is — from her narrations, her diary entries, her innocent & victimized self, or the violent, aggressive, and capitalist Amy, this is a role that requires one to explore the darkest of human capabilities.  There’s nothing more cinematic and bone tingling in movies of 2014 than the “Cool Girl” monologue.  The fact that that picture above is the fear of men everywhere across this country shows what kind of an affect this film has.  This is the year of Rosamund Pike and GONE GIRL, and our true feelings of women, who women should be, who women actually are, and what women can be.

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It’s Finally Here: The 41st Telluride Film Festival

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My favorite time of year has now changed from Thanksgiving and Christmas to the Telluride Film Festival, and those who’ve attended know this is completely valid and justified.  It’s an unbelievable four days of films, fellow cinephiles, good food and drinks (though I can’t drink), and one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in the world.  It’s surreal and I hope everyone gets a chance to experience this once in their lives. 

Well, through the complicated situation between Toronto International Film Festival and Telluride, we’ve gotten a good sense of movies will play at the usually discrete and secretive Telluride lineup.  Telluride doesn’t reveal their lineup until the day of the film festival, which eliminates most press and paparazzi, only allowing people who want to be there to attend.  From what we’ve heard and seen throughout, this is my meaningless and insignificant attempt to spitball what we can expect this year at TFF41.  

Wild-2014-MovieWILD
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers Club), this is almost a lock for Telluride, from its Canadian Premiere status at TIFF and Reese Witherspoon rumored to be receiving a Tribute.  And come on, you can’t have a hiking, finding yourself through nature film and NOT have it premiere at Telluride.  Regardless of my legitimate reasoning, it’s a surefire guarantee at this point, and would be shocked to see it not play.  

michael-keaton-birdman-movieBIRDMAN
Alejando Gonzalez Inarritu’s anticipated film with Michael Keaton playing the title role as a washed up actor looking for another shot at glory looks like an interesting and exploratory piece of work with quite the visuals.  Inarritu was at Telluride last year supporting his good friend Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, and like WILD, it’s a lock for Telluride. 

chilling-first-trailer-for-foxcatcher-with-steve-carell-6FOXCATCHER
One of the films I’m most anticipating this year and I think can really do some damage come awards season is Foxcatcher, directed by Bennett Miller with a spectacular cast of Steve Carrell, Mark Ruffalo, and Channing Tatum.  It was raved in Cannes, and will definitely be on the top of my list to watch, if it comes.  I’m pretty confident that it will, having a Canadian Premiere status at TIFF. 

benedict-cumberbatch-the-imitation-gameTHE IMITATION GAME
The Weinsten Company’s gem for this fall, The Imitation Game was a well-regarded script that finally made its way through production with Benedict Cumberbatch filling out the main role of a WWII British codebreaker, which ultimately created the way for the first computer.  It’s been rumored to play at Telluride for a long time, and will be shocked if it didn’t play. 

27186-film-wild-talesWILD TALES
This Cannes gem from Argentina is a black-comedy full of short stories that is supposedly an incredible and hilarious experience.  After its success at the famed French film festival, it’s path to Telluride has been documented, and it seems like it’s in play, especially it being a Sony Pictures Classic product, which likes to show its film at Telluride. 

mr-turner-2014-002-turner-walking-to-hilltop-stone-cabinMR. TURNER
Another Cannes hit, Mr. Turner from Mike Leigh was a well regarded film that many think can have a potential chance at awards this fall, and many are predicting it for Telluride.  I can’t imagine it not playing, and am excited to see Timothy Spall’s award-winning performance as the famous painter. 

Bernal-585x329ROSEWATER
Jon Stewart’s directorial debut has been rumored and confidently predicted to premiere at Telluride.  His story about a journalist that’s detained in Iran for 100 days has been well-reported, especially considering John Oliver took over his spot on the Daily Show desk, which led to his deal at HBO.  I’m more excited to see Jon Stewart at Telluride with his availability to its filmmakers, but am slightly distant and unsure how this will play out.  We’ll see, but it seems like it’s a likely play. 

sundance-whiplashWHIPLASH
Though it already had it’s North American Premiere at Sundance, and though Telluride has a pretty strict NA Premiere status for all its films, I’ve heard rumblings that Whiplash will in fact play at Telluride, and that they have been willing to let go of its restrictions for certain films.  I would totally be fine for this ease up because Whiplash has been highly respected and reviewed, winning both the Audience and Jury awards at Park City, Utah.  I’m still a little hesitant considering it already premiered in the U.S., but I’ll go with what I’ve been hearing so far.  It’s a coin-toss at the moment. 

Mommy-Movie-660MOMMY
Being a huge fan of 24 year-old Xavier Dolan’s work, I’m extremely excited to hear that MOMMY could play at Telluride, the first time he’s ever come.  Getting a convincing stamp of approval at Cannes (lots of Cannes), it got a potential play from TIFF as it was labeled with a Canadian Premiere.  I’m still slightly hesitant in being confident that it’ll play, but I’m going with my gut feeling and my hopes that it will. 

Other films that will most likely play or is rumored to play:

TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT (CANNES)
99 HOMESLEVIATHAN (CANNES)
THE LOOK OF SILENCE (sequel to The Act of Killing documentary)
’71
RED ARMY
THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS: A 50 YEAR ARGUMENT (Martin Scorsese… TRIBUTE!!!)

If this is the lineup that we do get, there can’t be much complaining involved cause this is one hell of a lineup.  But I do think we are missing a few titles, maybe one big one, that has been kept secret.  It’s obviously a film that isn’t premiering at Toronto and there’s no way films like GONE, GIRL, INHERENT VICE, INTERSTELLAR, UNBROKEN, INTO THE WOODS, QUEEN OF THE DESERT, FURY are in play… I think.  My guess is that a film like BIG EYES (Tim Burton) might sneak preview and…. now this is a total guess and I’ll be wrong, but I do think one of the films that were listed previously might play.  My guess would be UNBROKEN, though it’s been denied for any fests.  We’ll see.  Anyways, it’s an exciting time and as I leave tomorrow morning to the San Juans, I can’t wait for the best film experience ever.  Au revoir. 

Jason Reitman’s Men, Women & Children Teaser Trailer

Cause of a strong-armed, slightly immature move by TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival), MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN will have it’s World Premiere at Toronto, instead of Jason Reitman’s usual path of showing it at Telluride right before Toronto, which he’s done for all his films except for YOUNG ADULT.  Though it’s slightly disappointing, it won’t be long until it’s released.  Good news is that this trailer looks great, more of a grounded, human drama then Reitman’s lighthearted and unique tone.  But it looks promising.

Most Anticipated Film: FOXCATCHER

Though there are many potentially great films coming out this fall, nothing excites me more than FOXCATCHER, Bennett Miller’s (CAPOTE & MONEYBALL) new film based on the true story of Olympic wrestler Mark Shultz and his coach/multimillionaire John du Pont.  Considering it was essentially raved at Cannes and will start its awards campaign at Telluride (pretty much a lock), we’re looking at a strong presence come Oscar time, looking at nominations for Picture, Director, Actor, Two Supporting (Tatum and Ruffalo), Editing, etc.  GO TEAM FOXCATCHER!

Roundabout: Potential Award-Worthy Films’ Trailers

Lots of trailers were recently released for the upcoming awards season, and man, what an exciting fall we’re going to have.  There’s so many trailers to post, but I’ll post three that really tickle my fancy.

BIRDMAN (October 17th)

 

GONE GIRL (October 2nd)

 

THE SKELETON TWINS (September 12th)

The Oscars 2014: A Night For History Making or…

The biggest storyline that’s headed into this year’s Oscar race has always been the discussion of diversity.  Male to female ratios, white to minority voting blocks, the impending conversation has stemmed from a lack of a wider voting body from a culture that’s technically supposed to support multiple ethnic backgrounds and groundbreaking movement in terms of equality and balanced perspectives.  Regardless of how the Academy is perceived, they have the ability to make history tonight.

Specifically with two categories: Best Director and Best Picture.  If Alfonso Cuaron (favorite) or Steve McQueen wins, they’d be the first director to ever receive the award for a Hispanic or a Black filmmaker in the history of the Academy Awards.  When I first heard that statistic, it was mind-boggling, thinking that it couldn’t be true that they’ve never awarded outside the Caucasian and Asian backgrounds.  But it is, and take it how you will, but if the cards play out tonight, one of the two will be rewarded unless…

The other major category, Best Picture, is a lot more mixed with mystery and confusion, with an ample amount of non-evidence for which picture has taken the lead.  You can make the argument for both 12 YEARS A SLAVE and GRAVITY, with 12 YEARS having the precursors and consensus split awarded them, whereas GRAVITY is the clear on favorite for Director and has won the DGA, which is usually the best predictor in regards to Best Picture.  Regardless, history will be made with one of these two films, with one film winning being the first time a black director, black producer, black writer, and a mostly black cast has ever won Best Picture.  The other would be the acceptance of the future of filmmaking, a thrill ride with an emotional punch surrounded by the incredible advancement in technology for the world of entertainment.  But you cannot deny AMERICAN HUSTLE’s presence, with David O. Russell’s pesky persona, hoping for third time’s a charm.  He’s greatly overdue in the eyes of the Academy, but it all depends on how a voter perceives each film.

But at least there’s a ton of speculation and unknown going into the biggest prize of the night, which hasn’t happened for quite some time.  Nonetheless, it’ll all unfold tonight, and the hysteria will end… until next year.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

One of the hardest categories to pick outside of Picture, this is dead heat race between Spike Jonze’s HER and David O. Russell and Eric Singer’s AMERICAN HUSTLE.  It’s easy to distinguish what I’d want to win, but it’s incredibly difficult to see where the trend is floating towards.  This is the one award that AH could potentially win (outside of Supporting Actress, Costume Deisgn, maybe Production Design or Editing), and if it doesn’t, then that means AH could be completely swiped out clean, which I have a really hard time seeing.  This is the one category where it’s chances are best, even if it comes down to a coin toss.  But I’m going to stick with HER, the precursor pick, and the more noteworthy film.  Yes, I’m mixing my thoughts and opinions into this category, but the script is just so much better and more complex, whereas Hustle is about people yelling and screaming for two hours.

Predicted Winner: Her
Dark Horse: American Hustle
If I Had A Vote: Her

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

This category is much more clear cut, with 12 YEARS A SLAVE winning the USC Scripter.  It’s biggest challenger would be Billy Ray’s CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, who won the WGA (though 12 YEARS was disqualified for the award).  Regardless, I believe it’s John Ridley’s night and he’ll graciously accept his achievement.

Predicted Winner: 12 Years A Slave
Dark Horse: Captain Phillips
If I Had A Vote: 12 Years A Slave

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Such a strong group of nominees, but the season has been dominated by Jared Leto and his strong performance in DALLAS BUYERS CLUB.  No one has come close in regards to amount of accolades he’s collected, but Barkhad Abdi from CAPTAIN PHILLIPS has some momentum coming in, especially with his win from the BAFTA (Leto was no nominated).  It’s Leto’s night, and I think this is an easy call to make.

Predicted Winner: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Dark Horse: Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
If I Had A Vote: Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

This is one of those races that are full of absolute arrogance and preposterous banter, and no, it’s not because of Jennifer Lawrence’s potential upset against the better performance in Lupita N’Yongo in 12 YEARS.  It’s the conversation that if Lawrence, there’ll be this complete backlash and her popularity will take a major dive.  It’s a pathetic pop culture significance where a young woman’s success would ACTUALLY derail her potential and future career.  It speaks volumes of our current obsession and misplaced emphasis in these people’s lives, and if a woman has too much success and it’s become a bad thing, then, wow, we’ve really regressed as a country.  Pathetic.

Predicted Winner: Lupita N’yongo, 12 Years A Slave
Dark Horse: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
If I Had A Vote: Lupita N’yongo, 12 Years A Slave

BEST ACTOR

The McConnaisance is truly something to watch.  I don’t know if we’ve seen a better year from an actor in the history of film.  It’s tough to say, but he’s really out done himself in 2013 calendar year, and then add upon his riveting performance in TRUE DETECTIVE, he’s built quite the resume recently.  He’s got this one sewn up pretty much, with the only potential upset in the form of Chiwetel Ejiofor or Leonardo DiCaprio (which COULD happen), but I’ll play it safe and stay with the consensus for almost the awards season.

Predicted Winner: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Dark Horse: Leonardo Dicaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street 
If I Had A Vote: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years A Slave

BEST ACTRESS

These are one of those categories where they not only award the best performance, but also the actor or actress’ career and their entire body of work.  No doubt Cate Blanchett has put in a wonderful piece in BLUE JASMINE, but she’s long overdue, and has dominated the acting scene for a long time.  There is no one close to touching her, and the biggest concern of the night for this category is her acceptance speech and her acknowledgement of Woody Allen.

Predicted Winner: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Dark Horse: Judi Dench, Philomena…?
If I Had A Vote: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine (Brie Larson for Short Term 12)

BEST DIRECTOR

The funny thing is, I think director and picture go hand-in-hand, for the most part, and in most years, I’d vote for the director that I believed directed the best film, but this year, I’d likely regress because Alfonso Cuaron’s work in GRAVITY is astonishing, and his commitment and determination to create a moving and daring piece of work while advancing the world of filmmaking technology is groundbreaking stuff.  I have equal admiration for Steve McQueen, and I think Scorsese is one of the five greatest filmmakers in history, but as the consensus is showing, I think Cuaron should win and will.

Predicted Winner: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Dark Horse: Steve McQueen, 12 Years A Slave
If I Had A Vote: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

BEST PICTURE

The big one.  The one that is probably the least predictable.  The reason for it is that history contradicts one another when perceiving who the likely winner will be.  Gravity has it’s own history with PGA (tie) and DGA win with the Director category pretty much already given to them.  12 YEARS has the precursor designation given to them, with the clear Picture/Director split the pronounced trend through the awards circuit.  And then you have AH, the film that usually tickles the Academy’s fancy with it’s heavy dialogue, actor friendly, and safe and friendly movie viewing.  But it’s only won the SAG Ensemble, and unless it pulls a Crash-like surprise, then I think it’s more of a dark horse than a contender.  This category can be determined by how the night is played.

If American Hustle starts winning awards that it wasn’t favored to (Production Design, Costume, Supporting, Screenplay, and ESPECIALLY EDITING), then you can make the assumption it could take Picture.  But the likelihood of that is incredibly slim.  Now if 12 Years start taking awards like Editing, Screenplay, Costume or Production, then you can start seeing a potential trend.  If it wins Director, it’s a lock.  The only thing you can’t make the assumption on is if Gravity starts sweeping the tech categories, which it’s pretty much favored to do outside one or two categories.  The only one category that I’d watch is Editing, because if it wins that, it leans favorably for a Gravity Best Picture win.  But who knows.  Like the entire awards season, it can be a spread-the-wealth type ordeal.  We’ll all have to wait a find out.

Predicted Winner: 12 Years A Slave
Dark Horse: Gravity (with a little glimmer of chance for American Hustle)
If I Had A Vote: 12 Years A Slave

The Oscars 2014: Tech Categories & Their Importance

Like it is every year… the tech awards are important, outside of the fact that these elements in film are crucial to the overall product of the film, but they also can dictate the fate of other categories at the latter end of the show.  When ARGO won Editing and Screenplay last year, it was certain that Picture was theirs.  When films like TITANIC or LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING swept almost every technical category, it was almost certain that the evening would end on their terms.

The tricky thing about this year’s Oscar race is that there are so many films that are in the hunt, that even if a film dominates early on (a la GRAVITY or AMERICAN HUSTLE) a film like 12 YEARS A SLAVE can still take the big prize, considering that has been the established precedent for this entire awards run.  Golden Globes, BAFTA, Critics’ Choice, PGA (tie) – they all have handed other films more awards but still presented the biggest and most important category to 12 YEARS.  This is a year where anything can happen, and even if a film starts sweeping early (which GRAVITY will definitely do), that isn’t necessarily an indication that we can call it an evening an hour in.

BEST EDITING

This is a category that usually goes in hand with the winner of Best Picture, but not always a certainty.  In some years, the category is crucial, but in a year like this, it’s difficult to exactly decipher its meaning.  The favorite at this very moment is CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, winning an Eddie, and easily the most showiest of edited films.  If Gravity wins, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to take Best Picture, as it was a favorite not so long ago.  The bigger tells would be if 12 YEARS or AMERICAN HUSTLE winning, especially the latter.  If AH somehow pulls this out, it’d be a potential spoiler for the rest of the evening.

Predicted Winner: Captain Phillips
Dark Horse: Gravity
If I Had A Vote: Gravity

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

I feel bad for Roger Deakins.  What does the man have to do to get his incredibly overdue Oscar?  In any other year, I’d say PRISONERS easily the most enhanced through its cinematography, easily creating the tense and darkening world, making the film much better.  But with Emmanuel Lubeski’s groundbreaking work, it’s easy to call this category.  Anyone else winning would be a complete shock.

Predicted Winner: Gravity
Dark Horse: Inside Llewyn Davis
If I Had A Vote: Gravity

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

This is one of those categories that will most likely mean nothing in foreshadowing future categories, but I think if GRAVITY beats THE GREAT GATSBY (favorite), then we’re going to see a sweep of sorts, including Picture and Director.

Predicted Winner: The Great Gatsby
Dark Horse: Gravity
If I Had A Vote: Her

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

This is another category that has a clear favorite, but if AH or 12 YEARS somehow surprise here, I think it’d be quite telling.  I think the only other nominee that stands a chance against THE GREAT GATSBY is AH, and if it does sneak up and win, watch out…

Predicted Winner: The Great Gatsby
Dark Horse: American Hustle
If I Had A Vote: The Great Gatsby

BEST SOUND MIXING & SOUND EDITING

Not even close.

Predicted Winner: Gravity
Dark Horse: Lone Survivor
If I Had A Vote: Gravity