Before we find out which films are going to receive Oscar nominations this year, we must first see which films the critics have been heralding as the best of 2013. Several film critics associations released their award winners over the weekend, which resulted in recognition for films that are considered to be front-runners, as well as smaller films that have been critically-acclaimed but have not received as much attention as some of their counterparts. Perhaps most interestingly, these minor associations have been spreading out their accolades amongst a wide variety of films, which could mean that there won't be one film sweeping up the awards come Oscar night.
We took a look at several of the major awards categories to see if we could predict the Oscar nominations and winners based on the films that won awards from the Boston Society of Film Critics, the Washington DC Film Critics Association, the L.A. Film Critics Association and the New York Film Critics online.
Best FilmThree different critics associations — Boston Society of Film Critics, Washington D.C. Film Critics Association, and New York Film Critics Online — awarded the top prize to 12 Years A Slave, which has long been considered to be the front-runner for Best Picture at the Oscars. It's received critical acclaim as well as proven itself to have a great deal of audience appeal, and has managed to bridge the gap between the two audiences well, and earned high praise from both parties. The film's multiple wins seem to have solidified its status as the Oscar race's front-runner, as the combination of critical awards and the strong, visceral reaction that it has inspired in moviegoers means that it is not only a lock for a nomination, but is the expected winner as well. Meanwhile, the L.A. Film Critics Association went in a different direction, and awarded Best Film to both Gravity and Her. Gravity was considered a major Oscar contender when it first arrived in theaters, as its combination of strong performances and massive box office success made it the focus of a great deal of awards speculation. However, it has not been able to translate that buzz into any award wins. It's very likely to receive a nomination for Best Picture, as well as a Best Actress nod for Sandra Bullock, but it doesn't seem likely cause an upset on Oscar night. Her, meanwhile, was also awarded the top prize by the National Board of Review, and these awards have solidified the film's chances at being recognized by the Academy. Like Gravity, though, its high probability of a nomination doesn't seem likely to result in a surprise win.
Best Actor 12 Years' star Chiwetel Ejiofor was awarded Best Actor by critics in Boston, D.C., and New York, which is unsurprising since, like his film, he has been considered the frontrunner for months now. However, the Best Actor race at the Oscars is a bit harder to predict than Best Picture. Ejiofor is a lock for a nomination, but the sheer amount of critically acclaimed performances in recent films make it hard to estimate the likelihood of him taking home the award. He's still likely perceived as the one to beat come Oscar night, but there's a chance that he could be edged out by L.A. Film Critics Association winner Bruce Dern. Although Dern's film, Nebraska, hasn't received the kind of press attention that 12 Years a Slave has, Dern's performance has topped many critics' lists, and it seems highly likely that he will receive an Oscar nomination for his work. Dern could even manage to pull an upset on Oscar night, as there's a chance that the Academy might want to recognize his long, highly acclaimed career.
Best ActressIn a category that is crowded with major contenders, most of whom are previous Oscar winners, the only one who seems to be a lock is Cate Blanchett, whose performance in Blue Jasmine was awarded by all four critics associations. Blanchett's performance has received rave reviews, and she appears to be the one to beat on Oscar night. The only actress who seems likely to upset Blanchett is Adèle Exarchopoulos, star of Blue is the Warmest Color. Exarchopoulos actually tied for the L.A. critics' prize, and the amount of buzz that the film and her performance have received mean that only she and Blanchett are the definite contenders for the award this year. Unless they both manage to be upset by Emma Thompson or Meryl Streep, it seems as if this year, the Academy will mostly be deciding between awarding a promising newcomer or a previous winner.
Best Director The directing awards this weekend were split between Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity, who received three awards, and Steve McQueen, who was the favorite of the Boston Film Critics Association. Both of them are considered to be the major contenders for the Oscar this year, but its still hard to predict which one will take the award home. It's likely that Best Director would be the only major award that Gravity will walk away with, and the film's technical developments and incredible performances mean that Cuaron is deserving of the prize. However, the universal appeal and acclaim of 12 Years a Slave could swing in McQueen's favor, plus, it would be a historical moment, as a win would make McQueen the first African American man to win Best Director. Of course, there's also a chance that underdog Spike Jonze could upset them both, as his film Her has been quietly winning critics' awards. Jonze was the L.A. Film Critics runner up, and he seems highly likely to earn an Oscar nomination, which solidifies him as a possible contender.
Best Screenplay Her was the big winner for this category, winning awards from the New York and D.C. contingents. The Boston and L.A. favorites, Enough Said by Nicole Holofcener and Before Midnight by Julie Delpy and Richard Linklater, respectively, represent that this category, more than the others, is wide open when it comes to possible nominations. Enough Said and Before Midnight were both considered to be major contenders when they hit theaters over the summer, but until now have been unable to translate that into any awards recognition. Meanwhile, Jonze has proven himself to be a significant presence in the screenplay race, and it's likely that he will receive nomination come Oscar time. However, with no real front-runner so far, it's hard to predict who will go home the winner. It's anyone's game at this point.
Best Foreign FilmDespite Blue Is the Warmest Color being considered the far-and-away favorite to win the Oscar, some significant competition has recently emerged in the form of The Great Beauty, Wadjida, and The Broken Circle Breakdown. All three won awards over the weekend — Wadjida was the favorite of Boston critics, The Broken Circle Breakdown was loved by DC critics, and The Great Beauty took home the top prize at the European Film Awards — which seems to solidify the Oscar race for Best Foreign Picture. And while Blue is still considered a lock to take home the award, it could have been hurt by much of the negative press that has followed it since Cannes, which might allow one of those three films to sneak in and cause an upset. If any of them do pull it off, it will likely be The Great Beauty, which was the LA critics' runner up, and will only be helped by its major win at the European Film Awards.
Check out the full list of winners, below.
THE WASHINGTON, D.C. FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION WINNERS 2013
Best Film12 Years a SlaveBest DirectorAlfonso Cuarón (Gravity)Best ActorChiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)Best ActressCate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)Best Supporting ActorJared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)Best Supporting ActressLupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)Best Acting Ensemble12 Years a SlaveBest Youth PerformanceTye Sheridan (Mud)Best Adapted ScreenplayJohn Ridley (12 Years a Slave)Best Original ScreenplaySpike Jonze (Her)Best Animated FeatureFrozenBest DocumentaryBlackfishBest Foreign Language FilmThe Broken Circle BreakdownBest Art DirectionProduction Designer Catherine Martin, Set Decorator Beverley Dunn (The Great Gatsby)Best CinematographyEmmanuel Lubezki, ASC, A.M.C. (Gravity)Best EditingAlfonso Cuarón, Mark Sanger (Gravity)Best Original ScoreHans Zimmer (12 Years a Slave)The Joe Barber Award for Best Portrayal of Washington, DCLee Daniels' The Butler
BOSTON SOCIETY OF FILM CRITICS WINNERS 2013
Best Picture12 Years a Slave
Best Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave
Best Actress Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine
Best Supporting Actor James Gandolfini for Enough Said
Best Supporting Actress June Squibb for Nebraska
Best Director Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave
Best ScreenplayNicole Holofcener for Enough Said
Best CinematographyEmmanuel Lubezki for Gravity
Best Documentary The Act of Killing
Best Foreign-Language FilmWadjida
Best Animated Film The Wind Rises
Best Film Editing (awarded in memory of Karen Schmeer) Daniel P. Hanley and Mike HillforRush
Best New Filmmaker (awarded in memory of David Brudnoy) Ryan Coogler for Fruitvale Station
Best Ensemble CastNebraska
Best Use of Music in a FilmInside Llewyn Davis
L.A. FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION WINNERS 2013
BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM:Blue Is the Warmest ColorRunner-up: The Great Beauty
BEST PICTURE (tie):Gravity and Her
BEST ACTRESS (tie):Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine and Adèle Exarchopoulos, Blue Is the Warmest Color
BEST SCREENPLAY:Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Before MidnightRunner-up: Spike Jonze, Her
BEST ACTOR:Bruce Dern, NebraskaRunner-up: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
BEST DIRECTOR:Alfonso Cuarón, GravityRunner-up: Spike Jonze, Her
BEST DOCUMENTARY:Stories We TellRunner-up: The Act of Killing
Douglas Edwards Independent/Experimental Film/Video Award:Cabinets Of Wonder: Films and a Performance by Charlotte Pryce
BEST MUSIC SCORE:T Bone Burnett, Inside Llewyn DavisArcade Fire and Owen Pallett, Her
BEST ANIMATION, Ernest & CelestineRunner-up: The Wind Rises
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR (tie):James Franco, Spring Breakers, and Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:Emmanuel Lubezki, Gravity Runner-up, Bruno Delbonnel, Inside Llewyn Davis
BEST EDITING:Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger, GravityRunner-up: Shane Carruth and David Lowery, Upstream Color
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a SlaveRunner-up: June Squibb, Nebraska
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN:K.K. Barrett, HERRunner-up: Jess Gonchor, Inside Llewyn DavisNEW GENERATION Prize:Megan Ellison
LEGACY OF CINEMA:The Criterion Collection
SPECIAL CITATION:12 Years a Slave
NEW YORK FILM CRITICS ONLINE WINNERS 2013
Best Picture12 Years a Slave
Ensemble CastAmerican Hustle
Best DirectorAlfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Best ScreenplaySpike Jonze, Her
Best ActressCate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Best ActorChiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Best Supporting ActressLupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Best Supporting ActorJared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
DocumentaryThe Act of Killing
Animated FeatureThe Wind Rises
Foreign LanguageBlue is the Warmest Color
Breakthrough PerformanceAdèle Exarchopoulos, Blue is the Warmest Color
CinematographyEmmanuel Lubezki, Gravity
Use of MusicT Bone Bunett, Inside Llewyn Davis
Debut DirectorRyan Coogler, Fruitvale Station
The funny thing about Sundance is that any person at any time could be a star. On the street you're just waiting to peer under a pair of aviators or a fur-trimmed parka hood to see someone totally famous. Everyone is looking for the same thing in the movie theaters too. You go out to see the stars, like Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon in the new movie Mud, but the problem is, while the stars show up, the movie always doesn't. Mud is a movie filled with great performances not only from the biggest names on the marquee, but also American Horror Story mainstay Sarah Paulson, Oscar nominee Michael Shannon and the two teenage newcomers Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland. The problem is, they're the best thing about the movie.
There are things to like about writer/director Jeff Nichols' (Take Shelter) heartwarming coming-of-age story, but its problems outweigh its delights. It's biggest problem is that the 130-minute running time is about 40 minutes too long. The second, and boy is it a doozy, that the movie is so close to verging on misogynist that the more feminist leaning parts of the Internet should rev up their keyboards now. There is not a woman in this movie who doesn't betray her man, cheat on him, use him, steal his home, rob him of his authenticity, make him move to a boring condo complex in the suburbs, or otherwise force him of his natural and driving male essence.
The story is about two boys, Ellis and the wonderfully named Neckbone, two kids who live along a river in Arkansas and one day stumble upon a fugitive (McConaughey) living in a boat stranded on an island in the river. He is a sweet-talking charmer (does McConaughey play anything but) who is on the run from the law after killing the man who beat up the woman he loves (Witherspoon). He has nothing but a pistol and a magic shirt that he uses for protection (the irony of the oft-topless McConaughey having a magic shirt should be lost on no one) and he needs the boys to bring him food. Slowly they get embroiled in his plot to escape with his girl Juniper and avoid both the law and the dead man's family that is hunting for him. This is all while Ellis' father and mother are getting a divorce and he's dealing with falling in love with his first girlfriend, who, of course, cheats on him and then humiliates him in public. This thing might as well be a river fort with a giant "No Girlz Allowed" sign out front.
The takeaway to the story seems to be that the only people you can count on in this world are your male friends and your father figure. At the end of the movie, after all hell breaks loose as Ellis and Neckbone's entanglement with Mud gets crazy and deadly, we see each male character have a touching moment with his father figure. None of them are any good – Ellis' father can't make money, Mud's adopted father is a deadly "assassin," and Neck's uncle treats women possibly the worst of any of them – but, heck, in a man's world it's the man who teaches you how to man like a man that man man man. And some of the man manning that men masculine you with is hatred of women. Ellis' father (the wonderful Ray McKinnon) tells him at one point, "Women are tough. They set you up for some." Eventually, when Ellis confronts Mud about how much girls suck, Mud replies, "If you find a girl half as good as you, you'll be all set." See, a woman can never be as good as a man. At least not a man who is loyal to other men. The movie ends with the Beach Boys song "Help Me, Rhonda," which a character explains earlier is about a man who needs to get over a girl by having sex with another girl. Even as the credits are rolling this movie is telling us that women are fickle and replaceable, good only for sex, and not nearly as good as the men in life.
For all of its gorgeous cinematography and Southern charm, this is a well-told story. Film festivals need another movie about teenage boys coming of age and their complicated relationships with their father like a Big Mac needs more calories. And it's not especially adept in its storytelling. There is a mention of snakes in the first 30 minutes followed by a complicated explanation that everyone in the theater sees is going to end in a snake bite and a redemption. The ending isn't as saccharine and predictable as you might think, but it's close. And of course that redemption in the end is only for those in the possession of at least one Y chromosome. Seriously, our stars deserve better than this.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
Sundance Doc Makes Interesting Comparisons to Manti Te'o, Lance Armstrong Controversies
Hollywood.com at Sundance 2013: 10 Movies We're Dying to See
Sundance 2013 Line-Up Sports Daniel Radcliffe, Rooney Mara, Jessica Biel, and More
From Our Partners:
40 Hottest Celeb Twitpics of the Month (Vh1)
'Sports Illustrated' Swimsuit Issue: A Visual History (Celebuzz)
An Oscar conversation during the summer time? Believe it.
While Hollywood is saving their prestige pictures for Fall/Winter release (the supposed sweet spot for Academy Awards-friendly movies), the recently-concluded Cannes Film Festival has kicked the competition into high gear, introducing a slate of movies with Oscar written all over them. The award ceremony won't air until February 24, 2013, but Cannes strategic placement puts it ahead of the curve — and there's evidence that a debut at the French festival has worked before.
Last year's The Artist took home Cannes' Best Actor award for Jean Dujardin and followed up the win with an Academy Award in the same category (not to mention the Best Picture win). The film was universally loved by the fest's global audience — a key component in the Weinstein Company's early push for Best Pic buzz. The other top Cannes films of 2011 were also fierce awards competitors, including Palme d'Or winner The Tree of Life (which nabbed an Oscar Best Picture slot), Drive's Nicolas Winding Refn who took home Best Director, and Cannes' Best Actress winner Kirsten Dunst, for her apocalyptic drama Melancholia. By year's end, Refn and Dunst lost the momentum they saw out of Cannes, but smaller movies still benefited — the Cannes 2011 winner for Best Screenplay, the Israeli drama Footnote, earned a nomination for Best Foreign Language film at the Oscars.
This year's slate of Cannes winners have equal prospects at making an impression with Academy voters. Director Michael Haneke received Best Foreign Language Film and Best Cinematography Oscar nominations for his 2009 Palme d'Or-winner The White Ribbon. His follow-up 2012, Amour, took home this year's Palme d'Or, making Haneke only the second director to ever win the award with back-to-back films. While Cannes is a breeding ground for foreign film potentials, the win for Amour combined with the success of Haneke's previous movie may bump the French language film into the mainstream — and Best Pic territory.
Immediately following the debut of her film Rust and Bones, Marion Cotillard was pegged for a Best Actress nomination. The buzz didn't permeate to the winners, with Cristina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan both taking home the award for their portrayal of two female friends in Beyond the Hills (the win was a tie). The actresses may not be recognizable enough for final Hollywood race, but like Footnote before it, the positive reception of the Romanian film (and an additional Cannes win for its screenplay), could keep it in the conversation for a Best Foreign Language Film nomination. But as we learned from last year, being a well-known name isn't requirement when it comes to translating a Cannes win to an Oscar statue — and unlike Dujardin, this year's winner Mads Mikkelsen (for The Hunt) has a handful of blockbuster credits to his name, including Casino Royale, Clash of the Titans and the upcoming Thor 2. If his performance is truly up to snuff with the 2012 competitors, the Cannes win his a huge boost.
While the American competition entries didn't pick up any Cannes accolades, they're not out of the running come Oscar time. Following his highly-regarded 2011 indie Take Shelter, director Jeff Nichols' Mud could gain traction with a standout performance by Matthew McConaughey and young Tye Sheridan of The Tree of Life. Mega-producer Harvey Weinstein declared early that "The Artist just happened again" after his musical comedy The Sapphires screened, but critics were less enthusiastic, putting a damper on the movie's climb to the top. And of course, it never hurts when big name stars like Brad Pitt, Robert Pattinson and Kirsten Stewart turn out for Cannes, sporting well-received (and Oscar-friendly) dramas Killing Them Softly, Cosmopolis and On the Road, but the real winner of the bunch may be writer/director Wes Anderson. His fest opener Moonrise Kingdom played to cheers in France and broke indie opening records at the box office this past weekend. The gorgeous coming-of-age tale could earn a few craft awards at the Oscars and ,if it's as beloved as it seems, a Best Picture nomination.
So keep munching your popcorn and cheering for superheroes, but don't underestimate awards season. If you think it's creeping up, look behind you! It's already here.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
Why the Cannes Film Festival Should Matter to You
Cannes Chatter: Early 'Django' Footage, 'Plenty of Blood, Plenty of Laughs'
Cannes Chatter: Brad Pitt Takes a Shotgun to U.S. Politics in 'Killing Them Softly'
[Photo Credit: Zentropa, Wild Bunch]
I am inexplicably drawn to the plot of Mud: a fugitive on the run befriends a fourteen year-old boy who helps him escape the authorities and bounty hunters in order to return to the love of his life. It doesn't sound all too imaginative. It's not especially inspiring. It sounds pretty run of the mill, actually. But for some reason, I am enthralled.
Matthew McConaughey will play Mud, the man on the run from all things good and evil, with the simple wish of drinking in the splendor of love once more. Playing Ellis, Mud's teenaged confidante, is The Tree of Life's Tye Sheridan. And, finally, as the sought-after leading lady: Reese Witherspoon.
So WHAT IS IT that makes this movie so... invigorating? Is it the blunt simplicity of the title? The mismatched pair of conman and middle schooler? Is it the Witherspoon? COULD IT BE THE WITHERSPOON? Probably. Everytime I think of Reese Witherspoon, I think of this. And that just makes my day.