January 18, 2014

Oscars Logo

It’s time, Sirenauts and movie lovers! The Oscar nominations are in, and now those of you who care must race to your nearest theater if you want to have a studied opinion about the results of the upcoming Oscars (March 2). As is the way with the Academy, they were up bright and early Thursday, bringing the duo of Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs and Thor/Rush star Chris Hemsworth together to announce the nominees. Ellen DeGeneres will emcee the ceremony.

In an amazing year for film, heavy with great acting and great screenwriting, as well as technical expansion and advancement to keep audiences wowed, there are a few surprises and many snubs, given that it is impossible for all the talent in such a great year to be recognized.

Cinema Siren will take you through it, and fearlessly declare winners, even as the ink is barely dry on the nomination cards. Chances and expectations may shift in the next month. As it stands, here are my opinions, thoughts, and recommendations, including movies that either have little chance of winning, or were passed over for even better, or sometimes better marketed, films.

The expectation is certainly that American Hustle, Gravity, and 12 Years A Slave will do well, with the first two films tied at 10, and 12 Years garnering nine nominations. Some of the biggest snubs being discussed are Oprah Winfrey for Lee Daniel’s The Butler, and Paul Greengrass for Captain Phillips, but see below for thoughts….

oscars 12 years a slave gravity american hustle

By the way, Cinema Siren hates the expression “snub” because this year there were so many great performances and such achievement in every category, that the word hardly seems fair. The term is appropriate when someone is left off for odd or political reasons, not because the field is just too brimming with talent.

Best Motion Picture of the Year Nominees
American Hustle: Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison and Jonathan Gordon, Producers
Captain Phillips: Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca, Producers
Dallas Buyers Club: Robbie Brenner and Rachel Winter, Producers
Gravity: Alfonso Cuarón and David Heyman, Producers
Her: Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze and Vincent Landay, Producers
Nebraska: Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa, Producers
Philomena: Gabrielle Tana, Steve Coogan and Tracey Seaward, Producers
12 Years a Slave: Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen and Anthony Katagas, Producers
The Wolf of Wall Street: Nominees to be determined
Cinema Siren’s Prediction
Winner: 12 Years A Slave
Competition: American Hustle
Surprises: Her, Philomena, Captain Phillips
Snubs: Saving Mr. Banks


Many know the Oscars are often influenced by films’ nomination categories, and which good movies are finding limited recognition. For example, Gravity is considered ground-breaking, but 12 Years A Slave is a film brilliantly portraying an important subject. American Hustle has been a surprise that struck ’70s gold with audiences and critics alike. Smaller movies like Her and Dallas Buyers Club are critically acclaimed, and appreciated, so voters attempt to spread the wealth around enough they feel they’ve supported the full spectrum of releases.

12 Years A Slave has some competition with American Hustle because AH is more of a crowd pleaser, and McQueen’s latest is a very hard sit. Gravity will be winning all the technical awards, and while that ought not be reason enough to choose elsewhere for best film, the depth and importance of 12YAS places it above all others as frontrunner. As to talk of Captain Phillips being largely ignored in the nominations, director Paul Greengrass is great, and the movie is a good one. To this critic’s mind, it is not quite up to the quality of those getting more recognition. The same can be argued about Saving Mr. Banks. Some good movies don’t make the list, but that doesn’t make those nominated any less worthy.

Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
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
Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: Chiwetel Ejiofor
Competition: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey
Surprises: Christian Bale, Bruce Dern, Leonardo DiCaprio
Snubs: Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), Oscar Isaacs (Inside Llewyn Davis), Joaquin Phoenix (Her), Robert Redford (All Is Lost), James Gandolfini (Enough Said), Michael B Jordan (Fruitvale Station), Forrest Whitaker (Lee Daniel’s The Butler)


So many great acting performances this year make it an embarrassment of riches. Although winning at the Golden Globes has little bearing on the Oscar nominations, it can influence who wins. Both Leo and Matthew took GG prizes home. That being said, Chiwetel Ejiofor is currently the favorite, and is likely to stay that way. Though his portrayal is subtle, without him the film would not work. McQueen depends on his inner monologue and nuanced physical expressions to move the film forward without a sentimentality for which he would have been skewered. Leo and Matthew both gave amazing performances this year, and all three are certainly worthy, so time will tell if favor swings their way when the votes are tallied.

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Barkhad Abdi: Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper: American Hustle
Michael Fassbender: 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill: The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto: Dallas Buyers Club
Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: Jared Leto
Competition: Bradley Cooper, Michael Fassbender
Surprises: Jonah Hill
Snubs: Jake Gyllenhaal (Prisoners), Daniel Bruhl (Rush), Sam Rockwell (The Way Way Back)


One of the largest surprises this year is Jonah Hill’s inclusion in the Best Supporting Actor category. The Wolf of Wall Street is a polarizing flick, with as many detractors as fans. Kudos for his breaking through the wall of noise and making the cut. Jared Leto, however, has won almost every award from both the critics’ associations and the Golden Globes, so his win is all but certain. Michael Fassbender will have to wait once again for a win, but he will, without question, do so in the future. Bradley Cooper has been nominated and will be again, especially if he continues his collaboration with David O. Russell.

Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Amy Adams: American Hustle
Cate Blanchett: Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock: Gravity
Judi Dench: Philomena
Meryl Streep: August: Osage County
Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: Cate Blanchett
Competition: Amy Adams
Snubs: Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks), Julia Marie Dreyfuss (Enough Said), Scarlett Johansson (Her)


Cinema Siren is not the fan of Blue Jasmine that many others are, however, there’s no denying Blanchett supplied a powerhouse performance. She has won the lion’s share of awards so far, but Amy Adams is starting to gain on her, as is Judi Dench. If voters watch all three in close succession they will favor Blanchett, but Adams has a subtlety and fearlessness that perhaps deserves more recognition. As for Saving Mr. Banks, Thompson’s performance was impressive. She could have taken Meryl’s place, but Streep’s performance should not be undervalued because she is so consistently spectacular. Her role as Violet required her to change on a dime. It is a study in great acting.

Performance by an 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
Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: Jennifer Lawrence
Competition: Lupita Nyong’o
Surprises: June Squibb, Sally Hawkins
Snubs: Oprah Winfrey (Lee Daniel’s The Butler)


Lupita Nyong’o had my vote until I saw Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle. I frankly would rather Lupita win, because she is part of the most unforgettable moments in 12 Years A Slave, and acts as an emotional foil to both Chiwetel and Michael Fassbender’s characters. Upon repeat viewing, however, Lawrence’s portrayal remains a jaw-dropper.

Achievement in Directing
David O. Russell: American Hustle
Alfonso Cuaron: Gravity
Alexander Payne: Nebraska
Steve McQueen: 12 Years A Slave
Martin Scorsese: The Wolf of Wall Street
Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: Alfonso Cuaron
Competition: Steve McQueen, David O. Russell

Surprises: Martin Scorsese
Snubs: Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips), Spike Jonze (Her), Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers Club)


Here is an example of the balance voters of the Academy will want to keep between Gravity and 12 Years A Slave. Hopefully American Hustle won’t take all the awards McQueen is hoping for in their shared categories. The Golden Globes no doubt proved disappointing to the cast and filmmakers of 12YAS, and it is likely Oscar voters will want to reward Cuaron for his achievement with Gravity, leaving 12 Years A Slave to win Best Film.

Best Animated Feature Film
The Croods: Chris Sanders, Kirk DeMicco and Kristine Belson
Despicable Me 2: Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin and Chris Meledandri
Ernest & Celestine: Benjamin Renner and Didier Brunner
Frozen: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Peter Del Vecho
The Wind Rises: Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki
Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: Frozen
Competition: The Wind Rises
Surprises: Ernest & Celestine
Snubs: Monsters University


The Wind Rises is famously the last film from retiring director and animation giant Hayao Miyazaki, which may mean he rises above Frozen to win this year, however, the success and critical acclaim of Disney’s film, which has done a great job of merging the innovation of 3D and the aesthetics of 2D animation, will probably mean the House of Mouse will walk away with the Oscar.

Achievement in Cinematography
The Grandmaster: Philippe Le Sourd
Gravity: Emmanuel Lubezki
Inside Llewyn Davis: Bruno Delbonnel
Nebraska: Phedon Papamichael
Prisoners: Roger A. Deakins
Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: Gravity
Competition: Inside Llewyn Davis, Prisoners, Nebraska
Surprises: The Grandmaster
Snubs: Rush, 12 Years A Slave, Trance


Where do I begin about the snubbing of Trance? Not only did it not get marketing support at the box office, it was nowhere to be found in the awards promotion. Danny Boyle’s cerebral heist-gone-wrong flick deserved more. In the categories of cinematography and editing, as well as best song, it was never considered, which is a real shame. See this movie. Trance would not have won. Gravity is the frontrunner, although awards underdog Inside Llewyn Davis might snap it up, since it is one of the only places it found a nomination. Roger Deakins is a giant of the industry, and it is heartening to see his artistry in Prisoners get recognized.

Achievement in Costume Design
American Hustle: Michael Wilkinson
The Grandmaster: William Chang Suk Ping
The Great Gatsby: Catherine Martin
The Invisible Woman: Michael O’Connor
12 Years a Slave: Patricia Norris
Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: The Great Gatsby
Competition: American Hustle, 12 Years A Slave


Catherine Martin is an essential component of any of her husband Baz Luhrmann’s films. As production and costume designer, she has a huge impact on their finished look. She should win for Daisy’s dresses alone, although it is important to note that a great costume designer doesn’t necessarily draw attention to the clothes, but rather designs appropriately for the character and film as a whole. Although more flamboyance isn’t necessarily a better thing, in the case of The Great Gatsby, she allows for an entire world, with diverse designs including the poor, shabby, professional, moneyed, trampy and flamboyant alike.

Best Documentary Feature
The Act of Killing: Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen
Cutie and the Boxer: Zachary Heinzerling and Lydia Dean Pilcher
Dirty Wars: Richard Rowley and Jeremy Scahill
The Square: Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer
20 Feet from Stardom: Nominees to be determined
Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: 20 Feet From Stardom
Competition: The Act of Killing
Snubs: The Stories We Tell, Blackfish


Both The Stories We Tell and Blackfish have cleaned up in the awards circuit this year, so it is rather surprising neither were included in the list for best documentary feature; 20 Feet From Stardom celebrates the relatively unknown voices that backed up the most famous bands and musicians in recent music history. It too has gotten much recognition, and with good reason. It is an enlightening and entertaining film.

Best Documentary Short Subject
CaveDigger: Jeffrey Karoff
Facing Fear: Jason Cohen
Karama Has No Walls: Sara Ishaq
The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life: Malcolm Clarke and Nicholas Reed
Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall: Edgar Barens

(No official Cinema Siren opinion; not all films were accessible.)

Achievement in Film Editing
American Hustle: Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers, Alan Baumgarten
Captain Phillips: Christopher Rouse
Dallas Buyers Club: John Mac McMurphy, Martin Pensa
Gravity: Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger
12 Years a Slave: Joe Walker
Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: Gravity
Competition: American Hustle
Snub: Her, Prisoners, Trance


No competition here. Gravity by a mile.

Best Foreign Language Film
The Broken Circle Breakdown: Belgium
The Great Beauty: Italy
The Hunt: Denmark
The Missing Picture: Cambodia
Omar: Palestine
Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: The Broken Circle Breakdown
Competition: The Great Beauty, The Hunt
Snubs: Wadjda, The Past


Here is a case of wishful thinking and and a hope it comes to pass. Sirenauts know of my love for The Broken Circle Breakdown, a movie I’ve placed at the top of my best films of the year. It is a heartbreaking and gorgeously acted film. See it. The Great Beauty and The Hunt, however, are both great films that may steal away the trophy from my beloved film. Wadjda, the film directed by a woman (Haifaa al-Mansour) in Saudi Arabia, is a historic first. It is also a charmer with deeper, sadder undertones. This too should be seen and supported. Here’s hoping you movie lovers who like foreign films will be willing to seek these out.

Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling
Dallas Buyers Club: Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa: Stephen Prouty
The Lone Ranger: Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny
Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: The Lone Ranger
Snubs: American Hustle, The Great Gatsby


American Hustle, (which my colleague Dustin Putman calls “Explosion at the Wig Factory”) is a blatant and surprising snub in this category. Dallas Buyers Club is memorable mostly for the shocking amount of weight loss by the two main stars, so it isn’t likely to get recognized, unless it is because they have so few nominations. It may win because The Lone Ranger was so largely despised, but only time will tell.

Achievement in Music Written for Film (Original Score)
The Book Thief: John Williams
Gravity: Steven Price
Her: William Butler and Owen Pallett
Philomena: Alexandre Desplat
Saving Mr. Banks: Thomas Newman
Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: Her
Competition: Gravity
Snubs: 12 Years A Slave, Man of Steel, Trance


Hans Zimmer is double-snubbed this year, which is unfortunate given the number of awards the score for 12 Years A Slave has garnered already. Man of Steel is arguably the best of the year, and was never even under consideration. Her is begging for a win. With “The Moon Song” nominated for Best Song and unlikely to take home the statue, it may fall to Best Score to show love from Academy voters. Gravity bridged sound design and scoring in a unique and new way, but will be tossed under the post-sound awards bus, after it cleans up in those categories.

Achievement in Music Written for Film (Original Song)
“Alone Yet Not Alone” from Alone Yet Not Alone: music by Bruce Broughton; lyrics by Dennis Spiegel
“Happy” from Despicable Me 2: music and lyrics by Pharrell Williams
“Let It Go” from Frozen: music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
“The Moon Song” from Her: music by Karen O; lyrics by Karen O and Spike Jonze
“Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom: music by Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen;
lyrics by Paul Hewson
Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: “Let It Go”
Competition: “Ordinary Love”
Snub: “Here It Comes” (Emeli Sande and Rick Smith from Trance)

"FROZEN" (Pictured) ELSA. ©2013 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

The gorgeousness of Emeli Sande’s singing and writing on “Here it Comes” is tragically overlooked this year, leaving “Let it Go” to win. U2 is a musical behemoth to be overcome, even if, unlike “Let It Go”, their song is not the emotional center of the film in which it is featured.

Achievement in Production Design
American Hustle: Production Design: Judy Becker; Set Decoration: Heather Loeffler
Gravity: Production Design: Andy Nicholson; Set Decoration: Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard
The Great Gatsby: Production Design: Catherine Martin; Set Decoration: Beverley Dunn
Her: Production Design: K.K. Barrett; Set Decoration: Gene Serdena
12 Years a Slave: Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Alice Baker
Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: The Great Gatsby
Competition: the whole list


American Hustle is the biggest competition against a Gatsby win, and all the other nominees, while worthy on their own terms, may get chosen because they are less likely to win in other categories. The Great Gatsby, whatever its many faults, is certainly visually spectacular. Visual panache is not all there is to production design, which is more about building the whole world of the film. From that perspective, those nominated are on the list for great reason.

Best Animated Short Film
Feral: Daniel Sousa and Dan Golden
Get a Horse!: Lauren MacMullan and Dorothy McKim
Mr. Hublot: Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares
Possessions: Shuhei Morita
Room on the Broom: Max Lang and Jan Lachauer
Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: Get A Horse!
Competition: the whole list


Get a Horse! is a Disney short that combines 2D and 3D animation techniques. Beyond the obvious leg up it gets from the wider exposure, it will be a sentimental favorite, not least for its use of Walt’s voice for the beloved Mickey Mouse character. On the other hand, there may be a backlash by voters not wanting to vote for a Disney cartoon, desiring to support smaller animation houses.

Best Live Action Short Film
Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me): Esteban Crespo
Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything): Xavier Legrand and Alexandre Gavras
Helium: Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson
Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?): Selma Vilhunen and Kirsikka Saari
The Voorman Problem: Mark Gill and Baldwin Li

(No official Cinema Siren opinion. Not all accessible to see.)

Achievement in Sound Editing
All Is Lost: Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns
Captain Phillips: Oliver Tarney
Gravity: Glenn Freemantle
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: Brent Burge
Lone Survivor: Wylie Stateman
Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: Gravity
Competition: Captain Phillips


Now we enter the gravitational pull of Alfonso Cuaron’s great ground-breaking film…Not only will the sound editing Oscar likely go to Gravity, but so too will sound mixing, and visual effects. Hyperbole is impossible when talking of the experimentation, problem solving and advancement required to get the movie to the point of believability Cuaron required. Seven years in the making, he literally had to wait for technical developments to catch up with his vision.

Achievement in Sound Mixing
Captain Phillips: Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro
Gravity: Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson
Inside Llewyn Davis: Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland
Lone Survivor: Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow
Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: Gravity
Competition: Lone Survivor


Achievement in Visual Effects
Gravity: Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds
Iron Man 3: Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick
The Lone Ranger: Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier
Star Trek Into Darkness: Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton
Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: Gravity
Competition: The Hobbit
Snubs: Thor: The Dark World, Pacific Rim


Adapted Screenplay
Before Midnight: Written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
Captain Phillips: Screenplay by Billy Ray
Philomena: Screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
12 Years a Slave: Screenplay by John Ridley
The Wolf of Wall Street: Screenplay by Terence Winter
Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: 12 Years A Slave
Competition: the whole list


While those nominated all have a strong chance, Cinema Siren chooses 12 Years A Slave, not only because the impact the movie as a whole has on audiences is in part created by the screenplay, but because to read the biography written by the Solomon Northup himself is to know how succinctly the story was originally written. Much more had to be added to truly tell the story completely.

Original Screenplay
American Hustle: Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
Blue Jasmine: Written by Woody Allen
Dallas Buyers Club: Written by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack
Her: Written by Spike Jonze
Nebraska: Written by Bob Nelson
Cinema Siren Prediction
Winner: Her
Competition: Strongest is American Hustle, but all have potential.


Again a strong category, with stories written that are essential to the success of the films represented. These are small films that depend on dialogue, plot, and character interaction for their depth and meaning. With that in mind, Cinema Siren is choosing Her, not because it is a lock, but because sometimes one must simply pick the best, whether the Academy agrees or not. Certainly American Hustle deserves recognition, however those who criticize the film, do so mentioning its messiness. It is indeed more likely to win, but the basically two-person dialogue that lasts most of the movie for Her is what makes or breaks it, and I believe it is a success.

So those are Cinema Siren’s predictions and opinions. I’d love to hear you movie lovers sound off about snubs, celebrate your favorites, and make your own predictions. We can all watch together on March 2. I’m already fluffing my boa and buying the champagne. See you there!

To see trailers for all the nominees and for more information on all the films, go to: http://oscar.go.com/nominees