Grading the 2014 Academy Award Nominees

As far as Oscar nominations go, this morning’s announcements weren’t nearly as contentious as they have been in years past, but that doesn’t mean there still wasn’t a snub or two to complain about. With that in mind, I took a look at several of the major award categories and graded the Academy on their selections.

Best Picture

best film

12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
The Wolf of Wall Street

No real surprises here, expect perhaps for the absence of Joel and Ethan Coen’s “Inside Llewyn Davis,” which had more than its share of champions. I’m also a little shocked to see “Philomena” make the final list (that one reeks of the Harvey Weinstein School of Schmoozing), especially over the likes of Palm d’Or winner “Blue is the Warmest Color,” which was ineligible for Best Foreign Language Film due to a silly technicality. Of course, this category is essentially down to the three biggest nominee getters: “Gravity” (my pick for the prize), “American Hustle” and “12 Years a Slave.”


Best Director

best director

Alfonso Cuarón, “Gravity”
Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”
Alexander Payne, “Nebraska”
David O. Russell, “American Hustle”
Martin Scorsese, “The Wolf of Wall Street”

This one is Alfonso Cuarón’s to lose. The only thing standing in his way is that the Academy gave the award to Ang Lee last year for a similar reason, in which case, Steve McQueen could end up making history as the first African-American director to win the prize. The only real snub here is Paul Greengrass for “Captain Phillips,” though he was likely on the bubble.


Best Actor


Christian Bale, “American Hustle”
Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”
Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”

This is one of the best crops of Best Actor nominees in ages, with the Oscar virtually up for grabs. Chiwetel Ejiofor is the frontrunner, but considering that some people thought Tom Hanks (“Captain Phillips”) and Robert Redford (“All Is Lost”) were also shoo-ins to receive nominations, it just goes to show how competitive this category is really is. It was essentially a seven- or eight-horse race, and only five were invited to the party. Still, I would have chosen Hanks over Bruce Dern for that final scene alone.


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Potential 2014 Best Picture Nominees

With the full Academy Award nominations due January 16, 2014, the time has come to start sizing up favorites for the Best Picture Oscar. Voters’ tabulations will determine between five and ten films up for the top prize. From familiar directors and stars to surprising breakout performances, this year’s crop features these films and any of a number of other dark horses. On March 2nd, the Oscars will be broadcast on DirecTV Chicago and through many other U.S. cable providers.

12 Years a Slave

The epic narrative about slavery stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as a free African American man from the north who is kidnapped and sold as a slave, while Benedict Cumberbatch plays the plantation master in Louisiana who purchases him. Michael Fassbender, Sarah Paulson, and Paul Dano also star in this gripping true story, directed by Steve McQueen (director of Shame).

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Friday Video, Academy Awards Edition – Depeche Mode, “Enjoy the Silence”

Click here to listen to The Best of Depeche Mode Vol. I on Spotify

If you’re wondering what Depeche Mode has to do with the Academy Awards, the answer is: they don’t. Ah, but silence, that is another matter.

If you haven’t filled out your Oscar pools yet, take this to the bank: “The Artist” is going to win Best Picture. Not because it’s particularly the best film of the year – truth be told, the movies of 2011 are as weak a batch as we’ve seen in ages – but because it has a lot of things working in its favor, namely two captivating performances by the two leads Jean Dujardin (he’s this writer’s pick for Best Actor) and the lovely Berenice Bejo, but that’s not all. It has the advantage of being the one movie that is truly like no other nominee in any category – seriously, a black and white silent film in 2011, that takes balls of steel to make – and most importantly, it’s being distributed by the Weinstein Company, and if anyone can turn a film like this into an Oscar winner, it’s Harvey Scissorhands.

There is a great story surrounding the arrangement for “Enjoy the Silence,” which serves as the best argument anyone will ever need for why Alan Wilder was the most significant contributor to Depeche Mode’s success. (We even told him as much when we interviewed him in 2010.) As they were recording the tracks for their then-new album Violator – in a studio housed in rural Denmark – principal songwriter Martin Gore had turned in a tender ballad called “Enjoy the Silence” But they couldn’t get it off the ground; each time they tackled the track, it didn’t work. Finally, Wilder and producer Flood told the rest of the band to get out, hit the town and have some fun. We’ll figure this out. When the rest of the band came back, Wilder and Flood had taken Gore’s demo – which consisted of a vocal and a harmonium – and transformed it into a dance track. Immediately, the band realized that this was going to be massive. Flood got Gore to play that signature guitar line, and the rest was history, as “Enjoy the Silence” became the band’s biggest hit to date, hitting the Top 10 in eight countries.

For those who are curious to hear what Gore’s original version sounded like, check this out. Pretty, but holy cow, Gore should give Wilder a co-writing credit for his contributions.


Bullz-Eye’s 2011 Oscar Recap: Anne Hathaway of making us tingly

We love the Oscars. We just wish that they loved us back. Every year we get excited about the big show, and every year we feel a little sad when they’re over, and not because the show is over, but because they just can’t surprise us anymore. The major categories are all decided weeks before the show, and the non-award pieces, save the brilliant Auto-Tune bit, were pretty flat. At least there weren’t any dancers this year.

Ah, but the show did have its good points, along with some less than good points. Here’s the Bullz-Eye breakdown of the 2011 Academy Awards.

The Good

The show was short

It was over in three hours and 15 minutes, making it the shortest broadcast since 2005. And had Kirk Douglas not done that “You know…” bit over and over, it would have been five minutes shorter. But it’s hard to fault Douglas for that since it was one of the better improv moments of the evening.

Anne Hathaway

Did we mention that she’s hot, as in ‘would look good in a suit of armor’ hot? And the bit where she poked fun at her own movie by saying, “You know, it used to be that you get naked, you get an Oscar. Not anymore.” Then, one more time, wistfully, “Not anymore.” Gold. And that last dress she wore…wow. We found it extremely difficult to take our eyes off of her breasts, which was surely the point.

Inception” won more Oscars than we were expecting

We knew the technical awards were a lock, but stealing the Cinematography Oscar from the Deke (that would be Roger Deakins, who shot “True Grit“) was a shocker. And yet, despite winning four Oscars and being nominated for Best Picture and Original Screenplay, the Academy didn’t see fit to nominate Christopher Nolan for Best Director. Ugh.

They weren’t afraid to make fun of Charlie Sheen

Though, as one of our Popdose colleagues observed, the show probably would have been a lot more entertaining had he hosted.

Randy Newman

God love him. Even he knows the score that if you’re on screen, you damn well better be entertaining. “I want to be good television!” The sad thing is that, as we watched him win his second Oscar – in 20 attempts – we had a horrible thought: if he came along today, no major label would even think of signing him.

Trent Reznor is an Oscar winner

And rightfully so, though in a perfect world, he and Atticus Ross would have been dueling it out with Daft Punk (“TRON: Legacy“) for Best Score. The Frenchies was robbed, we tells ya.

The Bad

James Franco

We love James Franco. He turned in our favorite performance of the year in “127 Hours.” But he was, um, off last night, leading some to speculate that he was high. Personally, we think Franco is way too smart to do something so boneheaded; just because he played a friendly stoner in “Pineapple Express” doesn’t mean he is one. Dude’s too busy to get high. But it seemed as though he was playing his character in “Freaks and Geeks,” as if that was at all a good idea.

Everything else about Cate was stunning. Cute hair, lovely figure, wry smile, ba-boom ba-boom ba-boom. But that dress…what the hell? It looked like a tablecloth, one that had lemon cream pie spilled at the shoulders.

Tom Hooper winning Best Director

There is an argument that there is no bad acting, only bad direction, and by that standard, Tom Hooper did an outstanding job directing “The King’s Speech.” And truth be told, he did do an outstanding job directing that movie. But look at what David Fincher had to put together, the number of moving pieces, and the dialogue that his actors had to get just right. He should have won, plain and simple.

Christian Bale plugging a web site in his acceptance speech

Tacky, and the crowd let him know it.

Celine Dion singing during the “In Memoriam” piece

There wasn’t anyone else you could have found to sing that song? Really? Anne Hathaway is sitting right backstage. She can sing. And she doesn’t look like an alien.

Susanne Bier

The Danish filmmaker just won her first Academy Award for her film “In a Better World,” and here was the reaction from one of our party guests: “She has pit stains!” Ow.


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