MovieBob - Intermission
MovieBob's 2014 Oscar Handicap

Bob "MovieBob" Chipman | 28 Feb 2014 17:13
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A bizarre side-effect of internet-age democratization of information has been that there's less and less in the world of entertainment journalism that can truly be called "inside baseball" anymore. Today's example: The idea of the annual Academy Awards as less a measured, academic appraisal of film quality and more a dense game of political chess among intertwined Hollywood industry cliques - once considered the strict province of Los Angeles-area movie journos - has gone mainstream, leading to an explosion in the field of so-called "Oscar Blogging" or "awards handicapping."

More than a few of my contemporaries think of this stuff as the death of the form - the continued Buzzfeed-ization of journalism. Maybe it is. But since I (also) do this for a living that ship sailed a long time ago; so let's look at what's likely to go down this Sunday...

mcconaughey-dallas-buyers-club

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)

20 or so years ago, Matthew McConaughey (write it down: M-C-C-O-N-A-U-G-H-E-Y) was going to be the next great all-American actor. It didn't quite happen, so he opted to spend two decades banking cash and audience goodwill on his winning combo of surfer-dude drawl, charismatic affect and famous physique in action vehicles and romantic comedies that made him a cineaste punchline but also a household name. Then, one day recently, he seemed to decide it was time to start acting again... and now he's "happened" in a big way. His turn as a hard-living cowboy fighting AIDS in Dallas Buyers Club isn't just the (initial) peak of "The McConassaince," it's exactly the kind of performance (attractive audience-fave star physically transforms themselves for The Craft) The Academy loves to reward.

But while he's been a consistent favorite, this field isn't exactly clear cut: Smart money has said for a while that Leonardo DiCaprio's character in Wolf is simply too vile to win, but he's admired by his peers. That goes double for Bruce Dern, a veteran who's never won nominated in a year where letting the greats pass empty-handed has become a fresh topic. Ejiofor has probably the least "clout" of the roster, but he's the center of Slave, which could well be a powerhouse. Bale is a polarizing figure among other actors, but his tic and affect-laden study in ham and cheese in Hustle is expert Oscar bait.

In all honesty, a betting man probably puts his money on Ejiofor; especially with the growing sense that The Academy expects to have many more opportunities to reward McConaughey.

cate_blanchett

BEST ACTRESS

Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
Judi Dench (Philomena)
Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)

For pretty much all of 2013, this was considered the easiest possible category to call, with Cate Blanchett virtually guaranteed to pick up a long overdue prize for her bravura turn in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine. However, it's increasingly been felt that the ill-timed reemergence into the news cycle of decades-old abuse allegations against Allen (and with it, the revival of controversies surrounding his marriage to current wife Soon-Yi Previn) have made some voters reluctant to endorse his film even tangentially.

If indeed the Woody connection costs Blanchett the gold (which, for the record, I would call pretty unfair all around since she didn't do anything wrong other than act in a movie, and Woody Allen has not been convicted of any crime at this point,) the most likely beneficiary would be Adams, who has been nominated four times previously without a win.

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