Welcome to Part 2 of my five-part 86th annual Academy Awards predictions piece. Today, I break down the nominees and make my picks in the Best Documentary Feature, Best Documentary Short, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing and the all-important Best Supporting Actress field.
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
20 Feet from Stardom
The Act of Killing
Cutie and the Boxer
As I stated yesterday, Best Documentary Feature is one of five categories that will be open to all members of the Academy this year. Prior to this inane ruling, only members who had attended screenings of all five nominated films were eligible to vote. Essentially what this rule means is that the most popular nominee is at an advantage. Unlike last year, where Searching for Sugarman was the category’s breakout nominee, there isn’t any one movie in this group that stands out. The Square, which details Egypt’s 2011 revolution from the ground up, has the distinction of being Netflix’s first Oscar nominated film. It’s also the most politically pertinent film in this category – something Academy members tend to veer towards in order to make a statement. It would be nice to see Cutie and the Boxer, my favorite of the bunch, take the win but I think this category is between the slick, crowd-pleasing 20 Feet from Stardom and the harrowing critical favorite The Act of Killing. As I’ve learned from past ceremonies, when it comes to making the choice between a movie that makes them think and a movie that moves them, the heart always wins.
Will Win: 20 Feet from Stardom
Could Win: The Act of Killing
Should Win: Cutie and the Boxer
Should Have Been Here: Stories We Tell
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Karama Has No Walls
The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall
Two weekends ago, Monica marathon-ed all 15 nominated shorts. We started off with the five in this category because we expected them to be a grimmest bunch. They turned out to be as grim as we expected but they were also the strongest set of nominees among the three short categories. At 40 minutes, CaveDigger is the longest of the five nominees. It’s also the weakest of the bunch – focusing on a man who has spent the last 20 years digging out caves in the sandstone cliffs of New Mexico. Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall is an HBO doc that recounts the sad story of the last few months in the life of a terminally ill prisoner who was handed a life sentence for killing a drug dealer responsible for making his son a drug addict. More effective is Facing Fear which is about two men, a former neo-Nazi and the gay victim of his hate crime, whose lives intersect 25 years after the violent incident that changed their lives. Karama Has No Walls, which centers on the violent government retaliation on a peaceful march in Yemen, works as a great companion piece to The Square and I suspect will receive many votes for its poignant subject matter. But I think the winner will be The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life. Not only is it my personal favorite of the bunch but more importantly, it ticks off all the boxes on the requisite Academy Oscar checklist. It’s a sweet story about Alice Herz-Sommer, the world’s oldest pianist and Holocaust survivor, and how music and a positive outlook on life kept her going for 110 years. Although Alice passed away on Sunday, this moving portrait stands as an inspiring document on her life.
Will Win: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Could Win: Karama Has No Walls
Should Win: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Should Have Been Here: -
BEST SOUND EDITING & BEST SOUND MIXING
Best Sound Editing Nominees:
All is Lost
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Best Sound Mixing Nominees:
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Inside Llewyn Davis
Year in and year out, I try and explain the difference between these two awards. Yet here I am, lumping the two together. For educational purposes… Sound editing is the creation and recording of specialized sounds. Sound mixing is the art of taking these created sounds and mixing them with the film’s score and the actor’s voices, among other elements, in order to get the perfect soundtrack. That’s why movies with heavy sound elements – action movies, science fiction, fantasy movies, war movies and musicals – do so well here. This year, four films appear in both categories: Captain Phillips, Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and Lone Survivor. They are, respectively, an action movie, a (debatable) science fiction movie, a fantasy film and a war movie. The last two – All is Lost and Inside Llewyn Davis are a survival movie and a musical respectively. Whenever a technical juggernaut is nominated in these categories, it tends to win both. Recent examples include Hugo, Inception, The Hurt Locker, The Bourne Ultimatum, King Kong, and The Lord of the Rings films. WithGravity’s groundbreaking use of sound (how it uses it to denote silence), I sincerely think it’s going to happen again this year – especially since Cuaron’s film is only one of two that’s also nominated for Best Picture.
Will Win: Gravity
Could Win: Captain Phillips
Should Win: Gravity
Should Have Been Here: Rush
BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts – August: Osage County
June Squibb – Nebraska
The Best Supporting Actress category is perhaps the most tightly contested category of the year, outside of Best Picture. Good thing it’s going to be the first award handed out on March 2nd. Although it’s nice to see Julia Roberts score an Oscar nomination again, she really is a lead performer masquerading as a supporting player in this movie. She’s also the least likely to leave her seat on Oscar night. I’ll venture to say the same for Sally Hawkins who deservedly received a nomination for her heartbreaking work in Blue Jasmine. And even though June Squibb is the highlight of Nebraska, she’s going to have to settle with that nomination because the battle, so to speak, is going to be between reigning Best Actress winner Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle) and newcomer Luptia Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave), who won the Critics’ Choice award as well as the all-important Screen Actors Guild prize for her powerhouse performance. Lawrence is no slouch either, having won her share of critics’ prizes, plus the Golden Globe and just last week, the BAFTA. Many will see this later win as a sign of Lawrence taking the lead but remember, the BAFTA didn’t reward Lawrence last year – choosing instead to go for Emmanuelle Riva. Academy members don’t feel as obliged to do so. Additionally, back-to-back Oscar wins in the acting categories are extremely rare. The last person to do it was Tom Hanks in 1994, and that second Oscar came for an iconic performance (Forrest Gump). Then again, they’ll want to throw American Hustle a bone somewhere, and Lawrence is as or even more popular than Hanks was in 1994.
Will Win: Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave
Could Win: Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle
Should Win: Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave
Should Have Been Here: Margot Robbie – The Wolf of Wall Street
In Part III of my Oscar predictions piece, I’ll be running through my picks in Best Foreign Language Feature, the last of the three short categories, Best Live Action Short, plus both music categories – Best Original Score and Best Original Song, and finally, the acting giant-heavy Best Actor in a Leading Role field.
Oscar Predictions Part I: Best Supporting Actor, Costume Design, Visual Effects, Animated Feature & Animated Short