Welcome to January and the second major month of the 2014 awards season. Many of the small and regional film critics groups have spoken with their award winners in many categories from the best of the best of film in 2013. Most of those winners have been quiet news, but business picks up when the Hollywood Foreign Press speaks and names their best with the annual Golden Globe Awards. As always, they are the leading precursor to the future Oscar nominations for the upcoming 86th Academy Awards.
Hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, the 71st Golden Globe Awards are this coming this Sunday, January 12th, meaning that it's time to work my magic and pick some winners. My research and homework every year comes in the form of my "2014 Awards Tracker" where I track and chart who and what has won the smaller awards that lead up to this point. Here in these predictions, I will talk about snubs in the "what about me?" department and give you the calls of who "should" win, if I had a vote, and who "will" win with the majority support. Come back on Monday and see how I did with predictions. I need this practice before bettering my annual Oscar predictions to help you win your office pools. Let's break it down in each category.
BEST MUSICAL SCORE
NOMINEES: Alex Ebert- All Is Lost, Alex Heffes- Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Steven Price- Gravity, John Williams- The Book Thief, Hans Zimmer- 12 Years a Slave
HEY, WHAT ABOUT ME? Movie music is a high interest area for me. I highly value a good musical score. The biggest snubs are probably Arcade Fire's work in Her which has won the most awards up to this point, or the music of Inside Llewyn Davis. If there's two I personally valued over some of the nominees, it would be Hans Zimmer's wildly unique drum-centered score for Man of Steel or the guitar instrumentals done by Explosions in the Sky for Lone Survivor. Zimmer is still nominated, so I can forgive that snub, but I'll champion Explosions in the Sky for their stellar work.
WHO SHOULD WIN? If I had a vote, I would give this to the smallest nominee. Alex Ebert's work on All Is Lost acts as a voice to a virtually voiceless solo lead character played by Robert Redford. The music fills that space where dialogue goes and does so very effectively, but it's too small and too unknown to win.
WHO WILL WIN? With Her's Arcade Fire and Inside Llewyn Davis not nominated, I see Hans Zimmer winning after all for 12 Years a Slave over the legendary John Williams. If the voters go non-traditional, watch out for Gravity.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
NOMINEES: "Atlas" by Coldplay- The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, "Let it Go" by Idina Menzel- Frozen, "Ordinary Love" by U2- Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, "Please Mr. Kennedy" by Justin Timberlake, Oscar Isaac, and Adam Driver- Inside Llewyn Davis, "Sweeter Than Fiction" by Taylor Swift- One Chance
HEY, WHAT ABOUT ME? I think one of the most hypnotic and memorable original songs from a film this year is the "The Moon Song" by Yeah Yeah Yeah's Karen O from Her. It's not just an end credits song tacked on. It has a role in the movie. Peter Gabriel's "Heroes" from Lone Survivor has a gripe as a snub, but then so does Frozen, just because of its volume of choices.
WHO WILL WIN AND SHOULD WIN? Sorry Coldplay and U2. You are big and popular international bands, but Frozen was the movie of memorable music numbers of the year. Idina Menzel's towering ballad is the movie's centerpiece song and deserves this honor. I don't buy into the minimal inclusion of megastar Justin Timberlake from Inside Llewyn Davis, in, arguably, the worst song of many better ones from the movie.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
NOMINEES: Blue is the Warmest Colour, The Great Beauty, The Hunt, The Past, The Wind Rises
HEY, WHAT ABOUT ME? This is a pretty well-rounded and complete group that it even included a well-regarded animated film in Japan's The Wind Rises. No big snubs.
WHO WILL WIN AND SHOULD WIN? Nothing is going to be in France's way with Blue is the Warmest Colour. Nothing has come close to its wins and buzz. It's the annual foreign film that has dominated every award, much like The Artist, Amour, and In Separation have been in previous films. This is a lock.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
NOMINEES: The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Frozen
HEY, WHAT ABOUT ME? With only three nominees, I don't see why this category can't have five nominees like the other major categories. If you wanted two more, you could have brought The Wind Rises from Japan and probably Monsters University to make Pixar happy. Neither have a chance to win, but at least the honor of being nominated would have been nice for their future DVD and Blu-ray boxes.
WHO WILL WIN AND SHOULD WIN? Much like the last category, this one is an ice cold solid lock for Frozen. No other animated film is close in reverence, praise, or audience. It's a huge success that deserves this award and it validates Walt Disney's progress towards getting out of their little sister Pixar's shadow.
NOMINEES: Spike Jonze- Her, Bob Nelson- Nebraska, Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope- Philomena, John Ridley- 12 Years a Slave, Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell- American Hustle
HEY, WHAT ABOUT ME? The surprise nominee here that should feel happy to be here is Philomena. It bumped out much more lauded writing contenders like Before Midnight, Inside Llewyn Davis, The Wolf of Wall Street, and even the independent success Enough Said. All could have claimed that five-spot with the big four. My annual gripe is that the Hollywood Foreign Press merges the original and adapted screenplays into one category. They really need to be split. They are totally different levels of writing and creation.
WHO WILL SHOULD WIN? Forgive me for judging after seeing all of these nominees, but please give this award to anything but Nebraska. I love Alexander Payne, but I don't see this movie's brilliance like everyone else. If I had a vote, I would award Spike Jonze's Her. It's the smartest and best written movie on this list. Even though it's the most honored original screenplay of the year, I fear that it's going to be too obscure or weird for the HFPA voters, hence why I have a different final prediction next.
WHO WILL WIN? I think Her can win, but I think it will get beat by a nose by John Ridley's adaptation of Solomon Northrup's 12 Years a Slave. This is a two-horse race and a coin toss of the two most honored screenplays. My coin came up Ridley. I want to be wrong on Monday because 12 Years a Slave is going to win enough awards.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
NOMINEES: Barkhad Abdi- Captain Phillips, Daniel Bruhl- Rush, Bradley Cooper- American Hustle, Michael Fassbender- 12 Years a Slave, Jared Leto- Dallas Buyers Club
HEY, WHAT ABOUT ME? The supporting categories are the two acting categories that don't split their nominees and trophies by drama and musical/comedy, making them reasonably accurate for the real thing. I think these five are solid, with Abdi and Bruhl being the lesser names. The trendy crowd wanted James Franco's villain from Spring Breakers to make this field. I'd rather see the late James Gandolfini getting the honor for his nuanced work in Enough Said.
WHO WILL WIN AND SHOULD WIN? I love Michael Fassbender and his spellbinding evil in 12 Years a Slave, but he's not going to beat Jared Leto from Dallas Buyers Club. His performance is the best supporting turn of the year and he's won virtually all of the major lead-up awards. He gets my vote and everyone else's, as well. Any other name will be a big surprise. This is approaching lock territory.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
NOMINEES: Sally Hawkins- Blue Jasmine, Jennifer Lawrence- American Hustle, Lupita N'yongo- 12 Years a Slave, Julia Roberts- August: Osage County, June Squibb- Nebraska
HEY, WHAT ABOUT ME? Much as I just discussed in the Best Supporting Actor category, the female equivalent is non-split by genre and has a strong five that is representative of all films. I think the weakest performance above is Hawkins' from Blue Jasmine. She can't hold a candle in her scenes next to Cate Blanchett's lead. I would have rather nominated Oprah Winfrey for Lee Daniels' The Butler. It's a bigger, meatier, and more important part in a better movie.
WHO SHOULD WIN? This might surprise some, but I was really impressed by Julia Roberts in August: Osage County. I think she's equal to if not better than Meryl Streep's lead in that ensemble drama. She seals that movie's impact. I know she won for Erin Brockovich as a lead actress years ago, but I think she was better here in August: Osage County. Jennifer Lawrence didn't do enough as the new "it" girl in American Hustle and June Squibb's fun role is in too small of a movie.
WHO WILL WIN? My vote of Roberts has no chance against Lupita Nyong'o from 12 Years a Slave. Even though this is her first film role, she has a tragic and powerful presence in a raw and almost frightening role in Steve McQueen's masterpiece. She's won the lion's share of awards in the category. The distant second in wins in Lawrence.
BEST ACTOR- MUSICAL OR COMEDY
NOMINEES: Christian Bale- American Hustle, Bruce Dern- Nebraska, Leonardo DiCaprio- The Wolf of Wall Street, Oscar Isaac- Inside Llewyn Davis, Joaquin Phoenix- Her
HEY, WHAT ABOUT ME? Here begins the interesting areas where drama and comedy are separated and new races happening. With Best Actor, there is not a single missing nominee here, because, for some reason, judges think The Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle, and Her are comedies. That's a dumber issue, but they picked five studs. I can't argue that. All five of these men could legitimately win an Oscar race with their drama peers. This field is that strong.
WHO SHOULD WIN? I thought Joaquin Phoenix completely washed the taste of The Master out of my mouth with Her, but the biggest and best performance among these nominees is Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort in Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street. His role was huge and flies way higher than Bale's scheming, Dern's yawns, and Isaac's struggles. I've said it before and I will say it again. He's becoming the best actor of this generation under 40.
WHO WILL WIN? Even though I personally find him least deserving of the bunch, this is going to be a career award and old folks vote for Nebraska's Bruce Dern. He's gotten a good bit of awards support from critics groups, third most behind Matthew McConaughey and Chiwetel Ejiofor in the drama category.
BEST ACTRESS- MUSICAL OR COMEDY
NOMINEES: Amy Adams- Her, Julie Delpy- Before Midnight, Greta Gerwig- Frances Ha, Julia Louis Dreyfus- Enough Said, Meryl Streep- August: Osage County
HEY, WHAT ABOUT ME? Once again, with the double category, this group is wider than normal and quite complete. All five ladies are great choices and show equal variety and admiration for small movies like Frances Ha and Enough Said and big films like Her and August: Osage County. All five ladies are deserving and consummate professionals. Nice work, voters!
WHO SHOULD WIN? After three movies of creating this character and moving into writing the films, I think it's time to award and recognize Julie Delpy and Before Midnight, the third film in the Richard Linklater journey of Jesse and Celine. Before Midnight is the biggest acting showcase of the trilogy and Delpy's strong will is extremely impressive. I'd rather see her win this award than another trophy collecting dust on the Meryl Streep hall of awards.
WHO WILL WIN? Of all of the categories for the night, this one is the absolute hardest to predict. None of these women have won previous awards and all have been eclipsed by their drama counterparts. Because it's a wide open race and could come down to resumes, I think this is where the greatest of Meryl Streep wins for August: Osage County on reputation alone. Adams is better in American Hustle than Her and Gerwig and Dreyfus are in too small of movies. I'll roll the dice with the legend over the first-timers.
BEST ACTOR- DRAMA
NOMINEES: Chiwetel Ejiofor- 12 Years a Slave, Idris Elba- Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Tom Hanks- Captain Phillips, Matthew McConaghey- Dallas Buyers Club, Robert Redford- All Is Lost
HEY, WHAT ABOUT ME? I think the possible snubs that came from this category got re-routed to the Musical/Comedy category. As aforementioned, I don't think American Hustle, Her, and The Wolf of Wall Street are pure comedies. If you bring over Bale, Phoenix, and DiCaprio, that bumps Hanks, Elba, and unfortunately Redford. All of those are saved by the split of categories.
WHO SHOULD WIN? Let me preface this choice by saying first that the gentleman who "will win" is probably still the person who "should" win too, but I wanted to still split the vote and compliment a second performance. What Matthew McConaughey called upon to play his gregarious AIDS victim and advocate in Dallas Buyers Club is really something special. It's easily the best he's ever been in an all-encompassing performance. Sadly, he won't win, but he's getting beat by an equally special performance.
WHO WILL WIN? As impressive as Matthew McConaughey was, no actor was more powerful and towering this past year than Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave. He will win and he still should win. He's run away with all of the minor awards and this is the right performance in the right year to beat the rest of the field.
BEST ACTRESS- DRAMA
NOMINEES: Cate Blanchett- Blue Jasmine, Sandra Bullock- Gravity, Judi Dench- Philomena, Emma Thompson- Saving Mr. Banks, Kate Winslet- Labor Day
HEY, WHAT ABOUT ME? In a pleasant change from other years where there is a dearth of commendable female lead performances, there's actually a surplus this year. Brie Larson, from the little movie Short Term 12, could have earned a spot here and so could have Adele Exarchopoulos of Blue is the Warmest Colour. Each have won a couple of smaller critics awards where Dench and Winslet have won none.
WHO SHOULD WIN? For drama and a lead performance, I would vote for Saving Mr. Banks's Emma Thompson. Plenty of critics have called it too easy for a stiff Brit to play a stiff Brit, but I found it harder to pull off that it looked, especially when compared to the other nominees. Dench has won enough and so has Winslet. Give one to Emma Thompson, who's been passed over too many other times. She won't win, though.
WHO WILL WIN WIN? In a switcheroo from the rest of the genre splitting, I don't get how Cate Blanchett's role in Blue Jasmine isn't a comedic one in a Woody Allen film. She will win, but it's kind of in the wrong category. Mislabeling aside, Cate has won, far and away, the most Best Actress awards during the regional award season. She's the Oscar favorite and this will add a Golden Globe on her way to the big award next month.
NOMINEES: Alfonso Cuaron- Gravity, Paul Greengrass- Captain Phillips, Steve McQueen- 12 Years a Slave, Alexander Payne- Nebraska, David O. Russell- American Hustle
HEY, WHAT ABOUT ME? By far, from both a clout and resume standpoint, the biggest glaring omission here are Joel and Ethan Coen for Inside Llewyn Davis. The brother team is normally an automatic nominee just for showing up. The same goes for Martin Scorsese, another automatic man of reputation and name value. Both had to sit out as this is a deep field. Another argument could be made for Spike Jonze from Her, but then you run out of nominee slots. Their spots were likely taken by Greengrass and Payne, the two weakest of the five nominees.
WHO SHOULD WIN? This is the closest awards race of any major category. It's been back-and-forth the entire season between McQueen and Cuaron. Some separation will be made here at the Golden Globes, but expect this race to go to the Oscar wire. Both are about equal in wins and both have films with equal merit in terms of direction. In my opinion, 12 Years a Slave is the better movie and the tiebreaker for McQueen compared to Cuaron who directed people in lightboxes in front of green screens. I have this hunch though that the gadgetry and visuals are going to win and help spread the wealth with the awards.
WHO WILL WIN? If I'm playing predictions here with my brain over my heart, my crystal ball says Gravity and Alfonso Cuaron. Both Cuaron and McQueen are talented, younger directors who have had tastes of acclaim before. Both are popular foreign directors from non-American countries. Cuaron is the more overdue of the two as McQueen is relatively new. I think they honor the slighter more veteran Cuaron over McQueen, but this award could really go either way. In the grand scheme of things, I think this is the one bone they throw Gravity so that it doesn't get shut-out. Like I said, it's the closest race of the night. A win for either way is powerful enough to change the race for Oscar, much like Ben Affleck's win a year ago for Argo, which propelled it to Best Picture.
BEST PICTURE- MUSICAL OR COMEDY
NOMINEES: American Hustle, Her, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, The Wolf of Wall Street
HEY, WHAT ABOUT ME? As I have been saying all column, the Golden Globes forgot what comedy really was this year, because all but one of those movies don't belong. You've got a melancholy love story (Her), a wannabe heist/scandal film (American Hustle) that feels like Scorsese satire, actual Scorsese satire (The Wolf of Wall Street), and a struggling artist road movie (Inside Llewyn Davis). The one that stays, Nebraska, is an extremely dry comedy at that. You can make a very terrible argument that Inside Llewyn Davis is a musical, but it's funny how they talk more than they sing. If you're going to honor comedy, the HFPA really should have stepped out and sought out true comedies like Enough Said, The Way Way Back, Frances Ha, August: Osage County, or just given a spot to a legitimate musical like Frozen.
WHO WILL WIN AND SHOULD WIN? Of this rabble of so-called comedies, the best film of the bunch that will win and should win is Spike Jonze's Her. In the actual awards tally, where the genres are not split, it is second to 12 Years a Slave in total Best Picture wins. A win here gives Spike Jonze the makeup award and a bigger one for the Best Screenplay one that he deserves, but will just miss out on to 12 Years a Slave.
BEST PICTURE- DRAMA
NOMINEES: 12 Years a Slave, Captain Phillips, Gravity, Philomena, Rush
HEY, WHAT ABOUT ME? This is where the bad separation shows up again. Four of the Muscal/Comedy nominees truthfully belong here with the dramas, cutting out the lesser nominees like Philomena, Captain Phillips, and Rush. If you kept those nominees in comedy where they are, I still think more better dramas are still missed. I think Dallas Buyers Club, Labor Day, All Is Lost, and the independent sensation Fruitvale Station can all lay a better claim to being considered one of the best dramas of the year.
WHO WILL WIN AND SHOULD WIN? For a final time, the "will" and "should" are one in the same. I don't buy the groundswell of support for the shiny object that is Gravity. This award should and won't go to anyone else but 12 Years a Slave. It is the consensus best picture of the year. It's monumental and important enough to earn this and be remembered for it. It shouldn't lose to an action film, no matter how good it looks. This will become its first step to Oscar dominance in a month and change.