2014 Oscar Nominations Wish List


I say this every year, but it deserves repeating: quality has got nothing to do with the Oscars. Sure, the Academy is a large voting body, but each member has his or her own biases—just like film critics do—and for every member who thinks The Wolf of Wall Street is the best movie of 2013 and deserving of nominations in every category, there will be at least one in turn who walked out or turned of his or her screener in disgust. Quality has nothing to do with the Oscars because there’s no way to objectively reward that which is subjective. But we still have folks who take the Oscars too personally or worse, decry awards—which can help make careers and ultimately get good movies seen—as the death knell of cinema.

Maybe I’m fanning the flames with this post; I prefer to typically keep my head down and look at things as they are. But I’d be lying if I said that deep down I wasn’t hoping for a few personal favorites to earn nominations Thursday morning. Of course, I’m not crazy enough to cling to really fantastical nods, like Frances Ha for Best Picture or Greta Gerwig for Best Actress…basically anything for my third-favorite movie of 2013. But these seven possible 2014 Oscar nominations are right on the fringe, and if one, two, three, or holy hell, all seven manage to sneak in, I’ll be a happy guy for the next month and a half:

Inside Llewyn Davis for Best Picture

This one is kind of a no-brainer if you’ve read this site over the past month. Inside Llewyn Davis is not just my favorite movie of 2013, but my favorite movie in a half-decade or so. I’ve watched it three times now, and it gets better every time. I’d resisted picking it for a Best Picture nomination for a long time because it seemed a little cool to the touch, and some are reporting that Academy members think exactly that. I couldn’t disagree more with that sentiment, though. It’s extraordinarily melancholy and it wears its emotions on its sleeve. I hope it gets in. I’m skeptical (not currently predicting it), but it’s possible.

Michael B. Jordan for Best Actor

I’ve said it, as have others: this is perhaps the most loaded Best Actor race ever. Michael B. Jordan seemed to have a nomination wrapped up in July when Fruitvale Station was the movie of the moment. But seemingly everything that came out this fall stuck its landing, and Ryan Coogler’s movie became a bit of an afterthought. My reasons for wanting Jordan to sneak in are twofold. Of course, he’s terrific as Oscar Grant. Secondly, though, he’s my no guts, no glory, out-of-nowhere prediction. He hasn’t really earned any precursors, but categories as strong as Best Actor 2014 (and Best Director 2013) never seem to go chalk. I’m expecting a big surprise in this category on Thursday, and while it might not be Jordan (it could be Whitaker or Phoenix or Isaac or Bale), it sure would be cool to see the young actor pick up his first nomination.

James Gandolfini for Best Supporting Actor

I’ve read some questions and comments from folks who haven’t seen Enough Said wondering if he’s only receiving Oscar buzz because he’s deceased. As someone who’s watched the movie three times, let me dissuade you of that notion right here, right now. Gandolfini is the best thing about a great movie. This is an honest, moving performance full of nuance and complexity. He’s an absolute delight to watch, and his chemistry with Julia Louis-Dreyfus is palpable. Best Supporting Actor seems close to locked up, but I’m not sold on Jonah Hill or Daniel Bruhl just yet, so I hold out hope Gandolfini can slide into one of those slots.

Dirty Wars for Best Documentary Feature

Many of my favorite documentaries of 2013—including Call Me Kuchu, After Tiller, and Muscle Shoals—weren’t shortlisted, unfortunately. But my very favorite was, and while it’s not getting predicted in most circles, it’s nonetheless a contender. Come on. All things removed, it’s got a 1/3 chance of getting in.

All Is Lost (Alex Ebert) for Best Original Score

He somewhat surprisingly earned a Golden Globe nomination and even more surprisingly took home the trophy, which is the only reason I’m even thinking it’s possible. Alex Ebert has very few credits to his name, but his less-is-more work in the J.C. Chandor’s dialogue-free is simply outstanding. The problem, of course, is that it is less-is-more work, and up against the blaring sounds of Gravity and bigger names like Zimmer and Williams, Ebert and All Is Lost could get lost in the shuffle.

The Lone Ranger for Best Visual Effects

I only just caught up with last summer’s much-maligned big-budget Western, but count me among the film’s biggest fans. It’s in a lot of ways exactly the film you think it is, but it’s incredibly unpretentious, and as far as the visual effects go, you see every dime of its budget on the screen, and better still, it’s a lot less CGI-laden than some of its competitors. I’d argue it deserves a few other nominations—Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing—but I’d be content with just this one.

Something, anything for Mud

Once upon a time, when Jeff Nichols’s latest and greatest was the first screener to hit voters’s mailboxes, I thought Mud could surprise with a few well-deserved Oscar nominations. Maybe Best Supporting Actor, certainly Best Original Screenplay, and possibly even Best Picture and/or Best Director. Now, I’m predicting a big, fat goose egg, but one never knows.

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