Here we go again. A week from today, the nominees for the 86th annual Academy Awards will be announced. Here at Tech Support, we’ve analyzed each of the 10 crafts categories, and interviewed several of the contenders. It’s now a waiting game with final calls to be made. Today, we take a final look at the fields of cinematography, music, makeup and hairstyling and visual effects.
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY (Tech Support Analysis)
Perhaps the most high profile of the crafts categories has already had three precursors give their nominations, in the ASC, BAFTA and the BFCA. Emmanuel Lubezki (“Gravity”), tremendously respected by his peers and also nominated for each of these three awards, is a mortal lock for a nomination and will be difficult to beat for the statuette.
After that, Sean Bobbitt (“12 Years a Slave”), Bruno Delbonnel (“Inside Llewyn Davis”) and Phedon Papamichael (“Nebraska”) have also been nominated for each award, each with a Best Picture contender and each offering gorgeous work. “Inside Llewyn Davis” has been disappointing with the guilds but this branch truly respects Delbonnel, to say nothing of the Coens. “Nebraska,” meanwhile, may not be that showy, but Papamichael is overdue for a first nod, and I’d be very surprised if a black-and-white Best Picture contender failed to make the cut. Finally, Bobbitt is not as known as his fellow contenders, but he’s behind an epic Best Picture frontrunner. All told, I’m confident predicting these four.
The last slot becomes tricky, and the fact that the ASC nominated seven titles doesn’t help matters.
Barry Ackroyd’s lensing of “Captain Phillips” was top-notch and BAFTA- and ASC-nominated. But I cannot help but wonder if it’s a tad subtle in this group of contenders. Philippe Le Sourd’s collaboration with Wong Kar-wai on “The Grandmaster” is the opposite of subtle, however, a full-on visual feast. That it got nominated for the guild award is highly impressive, especially as AMPAS tends to be more favorable to foreign films than the guild. So why doesn’t it feel right?
Instead, I’ll go with the old standby: Roger Deakins for “Prisoners.” Though the film isn’t likely to score anywhere else, Deakins is Deakins, cited by the BFCA and his peers in the guild. The lighting and use of rain was pivotal in capturing the mood in this film. There usually is a non-guild nominee to make the cut but there usually aren’t seven guild nominees. Plus, the alternatives seem to be struggling. Hoyte Van Hoytema’s time will come but “Her”‘s cleverness seems outside this branch’s comfort zone. Anthony Dod Mantle’s work on “Rush” is gorgeous and certainly has its fans but lack of precursor attention is troubling.
“Inside Llewyn Davis”
“12 Years a Slave”
(alt.: “Captain Phillips”)
BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING (Tech Support Analysis)
As per usual, this branch went out on its own limb at the bake-off stage, leaving off seemingly likely nominees such as “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” “Rush,” “12 Years a Slave” and “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” in favor of left-field titles such as “The Lone Ranger,” “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” and “Bad Grandpa.” Shortlisting “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” where its predecessor came up short was odd, leaving only “American Hustle” and, to a much lesser extent, “The Great Gatsby” and “Dallas Buyers Club” as typical contenders. To be abundantly clear, I’m not complaining – I love this branch’s originality and we foresaw “The Lone Ranger” and “Bad Grandpa” as being contenders.
The branch’s originality does not end at the bakeoff stage. I could easily see any of the seven ending up in the final three. I will nonetheless predict the seemingly likeliest nominee – “American Hustle” (the only contender cited by the BFCA and BAFTA). The ’70s glam makeup was top-notch but even more important was the hairstyling. While hairstyling frequently takes a backseat in this category, this seems like it could prove an exception. I expect first nominations for this crew.
In second, in my view, would be “Bad Grandpa.” Though odd to think of this film as an Oscar nominee, the makeup done on Johnny Knoxville (and, to a lesser extent, Catherine Keener), was absolutely integral and detailed to the nth degree. I suspect the branch will appreciate that. And if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know that the pre-credits scene has some of the most memorable prosthetics in film history. The team would also be first-time nominees.
As for the last spot? All of the remaining contenders have their pros and cons, but I’m settling on “The Lone Ranger.” The film features period, action and battle wounds in a way that other contenders really don’t. And the work on Johnny Depp’s Tonto, particularly in aging, was top-notch. This is the sort of singular transformation that I suspect the branch will appreciate as they watch the pitches from each film. So I’ll put my money on Joel Harlow (who won this award for “Star Trek”) and Gloria Pasqua Casny to end up back in the race.
“The Lone Ranger”
(alt: “Dallas Buyers Club”)
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE (Tech Support Analysis)
As I see it, this category has four contenders in very strong shape, even if all have potential downsides. “12 Years a Slave” has been cited by all the precursors, it’s headed for a sweep and it’s written by Hans Zimmer. While Zimmer’s “Rush” could theoretically divide his votes, I think he’s likelier to be a double nominee than to miss for Steve McQueen’s film.
Steven Price’s “Gravity” score has similarly been cited by all the precursors and is tremendously important to a film headed towards a sweep of nominations. While this branch is notoriously reluctant to give composers a first nomination, there is usually one such composer a year and Price is looking in good shape.
John Williams has received 48 career nominations. It is usually foolish to bet against him. “The Book Thief” may not be his most memorable score and it’s certainly not the year’s most memorable film but he sought out this title and has already earned Globe and BAFTA nominations for it. I’d be surprised if the Academy didn’t follow suit.
Thomas Newman has a history of earning Oscar nods after Globe snubs. On “Saving Mr. Banks,” he made a score that was appropriately lively and complementary to classic Disney pieces. He’s been cited by the BFCA and BAFTA.
As for the last spot, I really have no idea. Alexandre Desplat would be a good standby nominee for “Philomena,” but why didn’t he even receive a BAFTA nomination? Newman’s cousin Randy probably ought not to be ruled out for his lively “Monsters University” score but where is the love for this movie? (And, again, where are the precursors?) Then there are other first-timers, but the precursors have been all over the map. Alexander Ebert and Alex Heffes’ Globe-nominated work on “All is Lost” and “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” respectively have a shot, but they’re first-timers, as are Arcade Fire, whose “Her” score was fantastic (and BFCA-nominated) but…
I’ll go with Ebert because it feels right as of this moment for some reason.
“All is Lost”
“The Book Thief”
“Saving Mr. Banks”
“12 Years a Slave”
(alt.: “Captain Phillips”)
BEST ORIGINAL SONG (Tech Support Analysis)
“Let it Go” from “Frozen” will likely win this category. But in any event, I’m very confident Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez are at least headed to a nomination here. Disney is putting all their eggs in one basket in an effort to get a win and I’m sure they won’t be disappointed. (Though I suspect this decision cost some combination of “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?,” “For the First Time in Forever” or “In Summer” nominations.)
Beyond that, it’s an open race, though I suspect Lana Del Rey’s haunting “Young and Beautiful” from “The Great Gatsby” will be difficult to turn down. Karen O’s “The Moon Song” is also a sweet ditty that is film-important and a way for the music branch to recognize this feature, especially if the score is too “out there.” I’d rank them second and third, respectively. Ed Sheeran’s “I See Fire” from “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” meanwhile, is better than many end credits titles. In fact, I think it’s top-notch and appropriately ends the film. The branch has cited two “Lord of the Rings” films in this category. Will the song stir passion? Who knows but I’m going to predict it. Call it a hunch.
My head tells me that one of the songs from “The Butler” will also score. But which one? Both “In the Middle of the Night” and “You and I Ain’t Nothing No More” are Oscar-friendly ballads. Neither were cited by the BFCA or the Globes and I’m at a loss to figure out which one is more likely. Meanwhile, the Globes and BFCA predictably went star-crazy and cited U2 and Coldplay for their songs “Ordinary Love” and “Atlas” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” and “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” respectively.
I’m going to bet on Bono and company taking spot number five. (I don’t think Taylor Swift has a real chance for “Sweeter than Fiction” from “Once Chance” and “Please Mr. Kennedy” from “Inside Llewyn Davis” is notoriously ineligible.)
“Let It Go” from “Frozen”
“Young and Beautiful” from “The Great Gatsby”
“The Moon Song” from “Her”
“I See Fire” from “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
“Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”
(alt: “In the Middle of the Night” from “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”)
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS (Tech Support Analysis)
Which four films will lose to “Gravity”? “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” has box office, a proven track record, general agreement that it’s a step above the last film and many precursor citations. It’s in. “Pacific Rim” has novelty, effects galore, a respected auteur and, once again, precursor citations. It’s in third.
“Iron Man 3” and “Star Trek Into Darkness” also have BFCA and BAFTA nominations, predecessors with proven track records and seem the “safest” predictions for spots four and five. And I’m predicting them. But I can’t help but feel that the novelty may have worn off, particularly in the case of “Star Trek Into Darkness,” whose franchise is not as embedded within this branch over the past five years.
But I’m equally doubtful of the alternatives. “World War Z” comes from a genre (zombies) with a very poor track record in this category, “Thor: The Dark World” doesn’t seem to add much to its non-nominated predecessor, “Elysium” was an overall disappointment, “The Lone Ranger” was a flop and “Oblivion” seems forgotten. The branch will need to view clips from all of them before voting, and that may be able to rectify these problems. But I’m not sure how to predict that. In these circumstances, I think it’s safest to go with the titles cited by the BFCA and BAFTA.
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
“Iron Man 3”
“Star Trek Into Darkness”
So that’s part one of our final preview. Tune in tomorrow to see final analyses for Best Costume Design, Film Editing, Production Design, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing.