When did we fall prey to the Oscars? When did we start using phrases such as “he deserved to win” to describe what is essentially a party for a bunch of rich assholes slapping each other on the back? On May 16, 1929, at the first Academy Awards ceremony, were there a bunch of hangers-on waiting outside the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel for scraps of news? The answers exist, but this is 2014 and it’s time to write bitchy ruminations on what should win versus what will win in the big five categories at this year’s ceremony on March 2. (Note: The author reserves the right to change his answers until five seconds after the winners are announced on Oscar night.)
Best Supporting Actress
This year’s crop isn’t great. Three nominees—Sally Hawkins for Blue Jasmine, Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle and Julia Roberts for August: Osage County—have the honor of being recognized in crappy films. June Squibb in Nebraska is fine, but there’s nothing particularly noteworthy about her performance.
Who will win: Lupita Nyong’o, because the Academy—mostly old, out-of-touch white guys—isn’t afraid to give a supporting actress nod to a person of color.
Who should win: Nyong’o; 12 Years a Slave is too important (and too good) to not get this one. And Nyong’o is better than her competitors.
Best Supporting Actor
The movies represented here are much better than those in Best Supporting Actress. Except American Hustle, which is the worst critically acclaimed film of the year. The nominees: Barkhad Abdi for Captain Phillips; Bradley Cooper for American Hustle; Michael Fassbender for 12 Years a Slave; Jonah Hill for The Wolf of Wall Street; Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club.
Who will win: Cooper. People love American Hustle. But if we’re nominating performances in that turd, it should have been Louis C.K. as Cooper’s boss.
Who should win: Abdi. His understated performance as the lead terrorist in Captain Phillips is a case study in how to steal a movie without even trying.
Another category filled with mediocre-to-bad movies: Amy Adams as a male fantasy in American Hustle; Cate Blanchett as a cartoon in Blue Jasmine; Sandra Bullock with character traits no character in a disaster movie needs in Gravity; Judi Dench as a simpleton in Philomena; Meryl Streep as an angry matriarch in August: Osage County. (This is the best we’re giving the women?)
Eighty percent of the nominees in this category have Academy Awards. In fact, Blanchett was similarly cartoony in her win as Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator.
Who will win: Adams, a four-time nominee, will get her day in the sun. Except with her fair skin, she should only be out in it for 15 minutes.
Who should win: Let’s say Dench. Her character is easy to hate because the performance is so good.
This category is harder. Unlike the women, the guys were actually given good parts in good movies (except for Christian Bale, who’s terrible in the detestable American Hustle). The other nominees are Bruce Dern in Nebraska; Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street; Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave; Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club.
Who will win: McConaughey, who’s given eight fine performances in eight fine films in a row, forfeiting his dubious multiple former awards for Best Actor to Squander a Career on Stupid Bullshit. (Though it would be nice to see wacky Dern win for playing so against type.)
Who should win: Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave. Is there really a discussion here?
When the Academy started nominating more than five films for Best Picture a few years ago, they marketed it as a throwback to the olden days when lots of movies were nominated, but it’s actually a transparent attempt to get bigger box office represented so the unwashed masses will be more likely to tune in. This year, five of the nine movies are actually good (Captain Phillips; Dallas Buyers Club; Gravity; Her). Some are even great (Nebraska; 12 Years a Slave; The Wolf of Wall Street). Two suck (American Hustle; Philomena).
Who will win: American Hustle. Because the Academy loves to be hustled and they love hustling the audience. God, this movie sucks. The wigs, the artifice, the accents. IT ALL WORKS ON SO MANY LEVELS, I GET IT.
Who should win: 12 Years a Slave manages to be history lesson, fascinating drama and big spotlight on a complicated chunk of American history. Can we now acknowledge Gone with the Wind is racist, pro-Confederacy claptrap?
That’s it, gang: The Academy Awards through a lens of disgust. See you at the multiplex soon.