BEST PICTURE

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Deadline’s Pete Hammond writes, I think, an interesting, well-examined look at Fox Searchlight’s billboard with the message “It’s time” written on it. This has become its own whisper campaign of sorts — Matt Drudge linked to it, very likely sending conservatives into a dizzy tailspin. What a Best Picture win for 12 Years a Slave will mean to the Glenn Becks and Hannitys of the world is “Best Picture by mandate.” They really need better outlets for their rage. This has all circled back to being Obama’s fault. Nothing has contorted the white entitlement in this country like two terms of President Obama. Worse, they feel somehow oppressed by his “fascist” regime. Now, it will extend into the Oscar race.

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Something like an ad campaign, or criticisms therein, can sometimes derail an Oscar campaign. Sometimes ad campaigns can be utterly effective, like the “Some movies you feel” slogan for the King’s Speech. You really can’t force large swaths of mostly white voters to do the right thing. They chafe against that almost always. This is how we end up with the lowest common denominator choices for Best Picture. They end up picking Best Picture by the “kitten in a teacup” philosophy: it’s cute, it’s harmless, it has no baggage whatsoever. Give a movie baggage and you can derail its Best Picture campaign. It was easy to take this particular ad and make it a big deal. Know this: Anyone stupid enough to change their vote based on an ad campaign ought not to be put in the position of deciding Best Picture of the year.

But it works. Using a non-issue like this against a movie works — especially a movie that had frontrunner status foisted upon it way too early. It is no longer a cute kitten in a tea cup if the kitten is telling you how cute it is. Voters recoil, perception is everything. Welcome to the Oscar race.

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We here at Awards Daily plan to walk the voters through this painful process of having to make a choice – and the even more painful truth that they have never, will never see all of the movies. Not to worry. AwardsDaily is here to help. We shall do our best to provide you with the best voting primer on the web starting with the hardest/easiest category of all: Best Picture.

For this category you have to have working knowledge of the preferential ballot. You will probably already have much experience with this, given that they changed that shit up in 2009 to usher in The Hurt Locker for Best Picture. Two years later, the solid ten became a random number between 5 and 9. You picked five, the Academy nominates more than five. For three straight years that number has been nine. So all that process of changing things up did was make for one less Best Picture contender in the race, and allow voters the luxury of only choosing five. Maybe the only five they saw all season.

Going in you have to know some things.

1) Rank your picks from the one you like the most to the one you like the least. If you want a film to do well but can’t bring yourself to vote for it as number one just make sure you place it higher on the ballot. Do not leave any slots blank or your ballot might get tossed.

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“I find I’m so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.”

There is a scene in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave when Solomon Northup is recognized by one of the white people who knew him as a free man. “What is your name?” He is asked. His name is the only thing that has come to matter for that film this year. It is the reason Steve McQueen has been killing himself to help publicize the movie – committed to bringing the novel to classrooms, it is the reason Brad Pitt initially wanted to tell this story, and it is the thing that has brought screenwriter John Ridley to tears every time he’s talked about his experience writing the film. A name is something free people take for granted — but a name like Solomon Northup was too easy to forget for too long.

Has there ever been a year like this one where one movie keeps winning Best Picture but not Best Director? Not even the DGA? Certainly not the BAFTA who took the compromise route of putting Gravity in for Best British Film and having it win there (mais bien sur). Let’s look at it, shall we?

You can’t really count the Critics Choice, or the BAFTA because one is too recent and one changed their dates as to render them not a precursor. We can say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that no split like this one has occurred since those awards bodies factored into the race. So we are talking more about the Golden Globes, the DGA and the Oscar.

Facts:

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Seems this year the complaints about the BAFTA’s outdated 2-hour delay between actual event and edited broadcast have grown louder than ever, so maybe one of these years before long the ceremony will be broadcast live. Until then, the clips after the cut could be the first and only parts of last night’s proceedings that many of us are ever likely to see.

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Best Picture – 12 Years a Slave
Best Director – Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Best Actor – Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Best Actress – Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Best Supporting Actor – Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Best Supporting Actress – Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Best Adapted Screenplay – Philomena, Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
Best Original Screenplay – American Hustle, Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
Best Cinematography – Gravity, Emmanuel Lubezki
Best Documentary – The Act of Killing
Best Animated Feature – Frozen
Best Music – Gravity, Steven Price
Best British Film – Gravity
Best Editing – Rush
Best Production Design – The Great Gatsby
Best Costume Design – The Great Gatsby
Best Sound – Gravity
Best Hair & Make – American Hustle
Best British Short, Live Action – Room 8
Best British Short, Animation – Sleeping with the Fishes
Outstanding British Debut – Kelly & Victor
BAFTA Rising Star – Will Poulter

 

Spoiler alert — we will be posting the BAFTA winners here starting at 11am, California time. But the BBC broadcast won’t be seen until two hours after the awards are all announced.

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The BAFTA awards will be announced tomorrow morning. They will be trickling out on Twitter and won’t be shown on the BBC until two hours later. That might not be the best way to attract viewers but hey. All eyes will be on BAFTA winners to get a clue about this year’s Best Picture race — still wide-open (despite what the pundits are saying).

When you have two films tying at the Producers Guild (still the only guild to use the preferential ballot with ten nominees), one film winning the SAG ensemble and another winning the DGA you have Gravity inching ahead by a very slim margin. Without the DGA that makes it a tough slog for any other film but Gravity to win Best Picture going by statistics. The DGA winner usually calls Best Picture.
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[This is not an advertorial – all five Best Director contenders will be featured]

Alfonso Cuarón was born in Mexico City. His father, Alfredo Cuarón, was a nuclear physicist who, according to Wikipedia, “worked for the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency.” Cuaron did not go into science but instead studied Philosophy at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and filmmaking at CUEC (Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos) where he began his rich collaboration with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. Cuaron’s career as a filmmaker would begin there, starting with short films and eventually moving on to television where he caught the attention of Sydney Pollack, who hired him to direct an episode of Fallen Angels for Showtime in 1993.
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“As you get older it is harder to have heroes, but it is sort of necessary.”
― Ernest Hemingway

The theme of the 86th Oscars is Heroes. That might come to be regarded ironically when all is said and done on the evening of March 2.

Two of the strongest films in the race aren’t about heroes at all, but rather “Heroes.” Remember in Citizen Kane when Charles Foster Kane tries to take the quotes off “singer”?

Heroes are such a vital part of cinema. They fulfill our need to ratify our goodness. What we do to promote that ideal is to make movies, give the moviemakers statues, and go home satisfied that yes, we really are good underneath it all. Spend enough time online reading the awful comments and tweets that spill out of the bowels of humanity and you’ll wonder whether we’re just kidding ourselves.
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Good thing Steve Pond covers the Oscar race. The Wrap’s awards journo no dives right in.

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[The Case For is an annual series – we’re starting with Best Director  this is not an advertorial]

Someone on Twitter asked me recently why I so strongly believed that Best Director needed to be tied to Best Picture.  After all, she argued, they really are two separate things. The producers receive the award for Best Picture and the director gets his/her own award. Who gets to take credit for the vision? Sometimes the producer, sometimes the director and sometimes even the actor is most responsible at the center of it all.

I suppose one reason I link director and picture is because since the early part of my life, before my dreams died, I wanted to be a filmmaker and in that dream I was an auteur — a writer/director.   My appreciation of filmmaking has always resided with the director’s vision.  Always.  My heroes were Coppola, Scorsese, Hitchcock, Bigelow, Campion, Kubrick, Capra, Woody Allen and on and on it goes. The director led the way, always, in interpreting the story and devising film language to convey meaning.  That is simply my own prejudice coloring my opinion about how the Oscars should be run.  This is what bothered me most about last year’s choice for Argo.  To have omitted the need for a directing nomination seemed, to me, the end of everything I knew or cared about with the Oscars.  How could they not start with director?

Steve McQueen began his career by being put in a class for laborers at his high school.  Dyslexic, with a lazy eye, and quite obviously black, McQueen was prejudged by the school as someone who would never accomplish anything more than construction work. Maybe he could have been a plumber.  McQueen chafed against their low expectations of what he might achieve in life and headed, instead, towards art.  He would eventually find himself an import at NYU, the former launching pad of Martin Scorsese, Joel Coen and Spike Lee.  But McQueen found the academic instruction also too stifling. “They wouldn’t let me throw my camera up in the air,” he’d said.  McQueen was determined that his vision be a unique one.  He accomplished that with Hunger, and again with Shame, not playing by the predetermined rules of cinema but reinventing the form, disturbingly at times, playfully at other times.  Even now, people don’t quite know what to do with Steve McQueen. He doesn’t fit the accustomed manner in which black directors are marginalized here in America — mostly given a condescending slap on the back for a job (almost) well done. He doesn’t fit in the way we romanticize directors from other countries either.  Even his name, Steve McQueen, makes us think of the actor from the 1960s.

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Get used to hearing this phrase – as Oscar ballots go out.  Many of the contenders have already done their campaign sweeps but Wolf of Wall Street is pulling out the stops, with Leonardo and Marty making appearances all over town.  The latest, a retrospective of their works at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.  First up, a conversation with Thelma Schoonmaker and Terence Winter before a screening of Wolf.   As Anne Thompson reports, “On Friday/14, “Shutter Island” and “Gangs of New York” will screen. All films will be shown in DCIP Digital format. Visit www.bowtiecinemas.com for tickets and showtimes.”

Wolf of Wall Street is nominated for:
Picture
Actor
Screenplay
Director
Supporting Actor

It wouldn’t be the first film to win with five nominations, but heading into the race with virtually no other major wins? Yeah, that would break every record we have.

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In a way, Oscars 2013 could be summed up by “Kicking the Best Picture can down the road.” We keep looking to a new voting body to decide what the best picture of 2013 will be. Here’s a quick rundown so far of the majors.

Toronto–Audience award goes to 12 Years a Slave over Gravity
New York Film Critics – Best Picture goes to American Hustle, McQueen gets Director
National Board of Review – Best Picture goes to Her, Spike Jonze gets Director
Los Angeles – tie between Gravity and Her, Alfonso Cuaron gets Best Director
Southeastern Film Critics – 12 Years a Slave, McQueen gets Best Director
Golden Globes – 12 Years a Slave for Picture, Alfonso Cuaron for Director
Critics Choice – 12 Years a Slave for Picture, Alfonso Cuaron for Director
Producers Guild – a Tie between Gravity and 12 Years a Slave
SAG ensemble – American Hustle
Directors Guild – Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity
Eddies – Captain Phillips and American Hustle
Writers Guild – Captain Phillips and Her
Scripters – 12 Years a Slave

Now, we must kick the can down the road once more and await the final piece of evidence in the case for Best Picture.  The BAFTAS.  Here’s what you need to know about them and why they matter.

1) The Academy has a lot of British voters in it. That explains why last minute BAFTA nominations, and winners, often impact Oscar voting. It is less about influence and more about crossover voting.

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Leonardo DiCaprio og Matthew McConaughey i The Wolf of Wall Street

I posted about this a few days back but it’s worth diving into again since the debates have begun to bubble up on social media.  Can any of the four acting slots be upset? And if so, which? My first thought is no.  They are locked down as any have been in recent years. True, ballots have yet to go out but the consensus appears to be set.

Best Picture is, however, absolutely wide open. Voters will know this going in. Some might try to game the system, knowing how the preferential ballot works but most will simply rank them in order of preference.  It seems to be down to three: Gravity, 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle. All three have an equal shot, with Gravity having the edge with the all-important DGA win. But with a preferential ballot and last year’s decision to render the necessity for a Best Director nomination obsolete it’s anyone’s game. Captain Phillips, Wolf of Wall Street, Philomena, Dallas Buyers Club, Nebraska – even Her all have a shot.  But in all likelihood we’re looking at three frontrunners.  All eyes turn to the BAFTA to edge us closer to a better guess.

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Best Actor

A photo was released and made the rounds on Twitter of Leonardo DiCaprio’s engraved Oscar plaque. Since ballots haven’t even been sent out yet there is no possible way it could have been a spoiler but it was circulated as news nonetheless and DiCaprio caught the buzz, at least for today. That buzz could be multiplied when Leo wins the BAFTA, as it’s the one place McConaughey was not nominated.  Will that be enough to push him through to an Oscar win? It’s hard to say.  Both actors are overdue by this point, having put in career best performances over and over again.  Both give two of the best performances of the year and both are in Best Picture nominees.  The love of Wolf of Wall Street is spilling over into the target demographic and it feels like the movie has to win something somewhere.  Ironically, the two places it might win are the two places Dallas Buyers Club has locked up: Actor and Supporting Actor.

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John Ridley brought some of Solomon Northup’s descendants as he accepted his awards, choking back tears. He thanked honoree Robert Towne, “without you I would not be here.” He beat the writers of Philomena, Captain Phillips, The Spectacular Now, and What Maisy Knew. Ridley said he was significantly moved in reading and writing the memoir for Northup.

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It must be Oscar ballot time!  Remember what I told you, Oscar watchers.  The film that usually wins King’s Speech style is the one that people say they love while saying another (bad) movie will win. Happens every year. “Lincoln is so boring it has to win. But I loved that Argo!””The Social Network has won everything, it HAS to win the Oscar but my favorite is The King’s Speech!” That’s the awards race in a nutshell. Perception. It’s all about perception. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, your average BAFTA voter. Meet Toby Young, admitted BAFTA member with a Telegraph piece entitled “Is 12 Years a Slave Torture Porn for Guardian readers? This is when the average voter begins to feel victimized and starts talking about how the movie that’s going to win shouldn’t win.

On Gravity:

Everything you’ve heard about Gravity is true. I actually paid to see it at the cinema in spite of being sent the DVD and it lived up to the hype. It’s mesmerising, spellbinding, thrilling. A thing of beauty. But I can’t see it winning many of the big awards because, essentially, it’s a popcorn movie. Yes, yes, Sandra Bullock is good in the central role, but she’s notthat good and I doubt there’ll be enough feminists among Bafta’s membership who’ll vote for her because, you know, she’s proved that you can still be a female movie star after the age of 40. Best Director? Too much competition in that category. As for the script… no. It’s rubbish.

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Last night in the Arlington theater I sat next to the Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg. We were talking Best Picture. “Virtually any movie can win,” he said. “In the era of the preferential ballot we have no idea how the votes will go down.” With ten slots, coming out of a year when the Best Director category played no part in the outcome of the race, it’s true that looking at stats will help you less than on the ground conversations with voters. What I learned from listening to Robert Redford was that he was down on visual effects movies, that could hurt Gravity and help 12 Years a Slave or American Hustle. What I learned from talking to an Academy member at a party here, she loved American Hustle more than the others, so much so she’d made a special trip to Santa Barbara to see David O. Russell speak. What I learned from talking to Pete Hammond and Anne Thompson and Steve Pond? Academy members loved Gravity.
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Best Edited Feature Drama
Captain Philips, Christopher Rouse

Best Edited Feature Comedy/Musical
American Hustle Jay Cassidy, A.C.E., Crispin Struthers & Alan Baumgarten

Best Edited Animated Feature
Frozen, Jeff Draheim

Best Edited Documentary
20 Feet from Stardom, Douglas Blush, Kevin Klauber & Jason Zeldes

Golden Eddie Award
Paul Greengrass

Best Edited Miniseries or Motion Picture for TV
Behind the Candelabra, Mary Ann Bernard

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2014 New York Film Critics Circle Awards

Gold Derby and Movie City News have released their current standings. As you can see, many of the hot shots have switched to Gravity. I know pundits have worked around this in hopes of splitting up the vote to satisfy this incredible push towards making history while rewarding the film people seem to want to vote for, given the DGA.  That 12 Years even made the Producers Guild win, making history there, is a miracle in and of itself. Anything it wins will be shocking from here on out considering the stat pile thus far.  If it was to win this season it would have needed the New York film critics (they went for American Hustle), the National Society of Film Critics (they went for Inside Llewyn Davis) and/or the Los Angeles Film Critics (who tied on Gravity and Her). That’s what you call one door closing after another. It further could have won the SAG ensemble, it did not (American Hustle did).   So far it has won the Golden Globe, the Critics Choice and the London Film Critics but no one, other than the New York Film Critics have given its director, the first black director to get this far in the Oscar race, their top prize.  Just one critics group did – and that event turned into a fiasco when McQueen was heckled by Armond White, who is now out of the NYFCC because of it.

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“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
― Barack Obama

There are many ways to interpret the upcoming choice for Best Picture the Academy will be making. On the one hand, the future could be defined as the sound of many doors unlocking and opening in unison as they realize it’s finally time to reward the first black director in 86 years of Oscar history, along with the film for Best Picture. That redefines our future as much as it provides a catharsis for these long years of the Academy, and Hollywood, perpetuating the notion that only white actors belong in films or on the covers of magazines. The Academy itself has come a long way since 1939.

At the same time, thematically, 12 Years a Slave reaches a long arm through the dark tunnel of our murky past. Too many still falsely believe that once the slaves were freed it was up to them to make their lives better. But decades-long Jim Crow laws ensured that would not happen. Worse, it would put in place segregation that was only challenged, violently, in the 1960s. This part of the story was told so beautifully in Lee Daniels’ The Butler, and the final chapter told in Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station. You can’t just tell one part of the story without looking at the other parts, all three directed by black filmmakers, an unprecedented leap into the future. Unfortunately, the Academy shut out both of those films — the media clucked about like chickens in a henhouse that the Great Harvey Weinstein had “failed” and that Oprah had somehow “failed” because they weren’t able to make nominations for The Butler happen. You could hear the snickering — the delicious schadenfreude of both moguls. Oprah was just too powerful. She was too black, too female and too goddamned powerful. They took from her the one thing they could: a potential Oscar win.

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WRITERS GUILD AWARDS

Best Original Screenplay
Her, Written by Spike Jonze
Best Adapted Screenplay
Captain Phillips, Written by Billy Ray
Best Documentary Screenplay
Stories We Tell, Written by Sarah Polley
Best New Series
House of Cards
Comedy Series
Veep
Drama Series
Breaking Bad
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