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Oscar Watching: Is Oprah Coming for That Oscar?

The strong opening for Lee Daniels’… Lee Daniels’ The Butler came as less than a surprise, but what does it mean for the Oscars? If nothing else, expect Oprah Winfrey to be competitive for the supporting actress Oscar. She could easily win the Golden Globe, but she might have difficulty with the Screen Actors Guild and film critics given that she’s known more for her talk show than anything else. Meanwhile, Forest Whitaker and David Oyelowo might register in the lead and supporting actor races for playing the title character and his son, respectively. Lee Daniels’ The Butler could also contend for a best picture nomination, though the lack of huge support from the critics likely keeps it from being a threat to win.

Foxcatcher moved from Columbia Pictures to boutique distributor Sony Pictures Classics, suggesting faith in Bennett Miller’s follow-up to Moneyball. For the time being, four-time supporting actress nominee Amy Adams will get a lead campaign for David O. Russell’s American Hustle. Also, George Clooney + World War II = Oscars, right? Don’t be so sure. There was word that Sony wouldn’t campaign Clooney’s upcoming film, The Monuments Men, for Oscar consideration… only for the distributor to refute that notion a few hours later. Hmm…

Check out this week’s predictions below.


Best Picture

The one real change here is that, for the time being, it’s impossible to ignore Lee Daniels’ The Butler. It’s enough of a box-office hit and acclaimed enough to sneak into the lower tier of the race. The period drama needs significant backing from guilds and/or critics at the end of the year – in general, not just for Oprah – to seriously compete for the win. Can it get there? Also, the distributor shuffle for Foxcatcher suggests faith in the film, so it’s definitely one to watch for now. The back and forth on The Monuments Men getting an Oscar campaign shouldn’t bother me, but I’m starting to lose faith in the World War II drama, regardless.

  1. The Railway Man (Jonathan Teplitzky)

  2. Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)

  3. American Hustle (David O. Russell)

  4. Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller)

  5. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)

  6. August: Osage County (John Wells)

  7. Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler)

  8. Lee Daniels’ The Butler (Lee Daniels)

  9. The Monuments Men (George Clooney)

  10. Nebraska (Alexander Payne)
  11. Captain Phillips (Paul Greengrass)
  12. The Fifth Estate (Bill Condon)
  13. The Book Thief (Brian Percival)
  14. Inside Llewyn Davis (Ethan and Joel Coen)
  15. The Counselor (Ridley Scott)
  16. Saving Mr. Banks (John Lee Hancock)
  17. Philomena (Stephen Frears)
  18. Devil’s Knot (Atom Egoyan)
  19. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)
  20. Dallas Buyers Club (Jean-Marc Vallée)
  21. The Past (Asghar Farhadi)
  22. Out of the Furnace (Scott Cooper)
  23. Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen)
  24. Before Midnight (Richard Linklater)
  25. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller)

Also worth mentioning: Labor Day (Jason Reitman), Rush (Ron Howard), Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (Justin Chadwick), Tracks (John Curran), Elsa and Fred (Michael Radford), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller), How I Live Now (Kevin Macdonald), All is Lost (J.C. Chandor), The Conjuring (James Wan), Side Effects (Steven Soderbergh)


Best Director

Can Daniels break through to this race once again? It’s highly doubtful, but watch out for him if the Directors Guild of America gives him a shout-out. Clooney loses ground this week – even though Monuments will apparently get an Oscar campaign.

  1. Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity

  2. Jonathan Teplitzky for The Railway Man

  3. David O. Russell for American Hustle

  4. Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave

  5. Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher

  6. John Wells for August: Osage County
  7. Ryan Coogler for Fruitvale Station
  8. Paul Greengrass for Captain Phillips
  9. George Clooney for The Monuments Men
  10. Alexander Payne for Nebraska

Also worth mentioning: Lee Daniels for Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Brian Percival for The Book Thief, Bill Condon for The Fifth Estate, John Lee Hancock for Saving Mr. Banks, Ben Stiller for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Stephen Frears for Philomena, Woody Allen for Blue Jasmine, Atom Egoyan for Devil’s Knot, Ethan and Joel Coen for Inside Llewyn Davis, Scott Cooper for Out of the Furnace, Ridley Scott for The Counselor, Ron Howard for Rush, Asghar Farhadi for The Past, Jason Reitman for Labor Day, Jean-Marc Vallée for Dallas Buyers Club


Best Actress in a Leading Role

I didn’t list in the news summary because it’s not exactly “news,” but a test screening for Stephen FrearsPhilomena didn’t go over so well, with criticisms directed at the film itself and Judi Dench’s leading performance as the title character. Such word shouldn’t be treated like gospel at this point, but it shouldn’t be completely ignored either. At this point, it’s enough to drop her out of my top five, though she’s certainly one to watch throughout the season. Also, I wonder if Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who gave a great performance in the otherwise unmemorable Larry Crowne, can make an impression for Toronto player Belle.

  1. Amy Adams for American Hustle

  2. Sandra Bullock for Gravity

  3. Mia Wasikowska for Tracks

  4. Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine

  5. Julia Roberts for August: Osage County

  6. Judi Dench for Philomena
  7. Emma Thompson for Saving Mr. Banks
  8. Bérénice Bejo for The Past
  9. Gugu Mbatha-Raw for Belle
  10. Elizabeth Olsen for Therese

Also worth mentioning: Brie Larson for Short Term 12, Marion Cotillard for The Immigrant, Sophie Nélisse for The Book Thief, Nicole Kidman for Grace of Monaco, Naomi Watts for Diana, Zoë Saldana for Nina, Kate Winslet for Labor Day, Jennifer Lawrence for Serena, Shirley MacLaine for Elsa and Fred, Keira Knightley for Can a Song Save Your Life?, Hailee Steinfeld for Romeo and Juliet, Julie Delpy for Before Midnight, Greta Gerwig for Frances Ha, Kristen Wiig for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Saoirse Ronan for How I Live Now


Best Actor in a Leading Role

I’ve still got Steve Carell winning the lead actor Oscar for Foxcatcher, but he might end up in the supporting race. (Word on the street suggests he’s a borderline lead/supporting player in the film.) If he drops to that race, then expect Matthew McConaughey to vie against veteran Bruce Dern for the prize. Whitaker gets a slight boost here, though I doubt much comes of it.

  1. Steve Carell for Foxcatcher

  2. Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club

  3. Bruce Dern for Nebraska

  4. Colin Firth for The Railway Man

  5. Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave

  6. Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips
  7. Michael B. Jordan for Fruitvale Station
  8. Benedict Cumberbatch for The Fifth Estate
  9. Idris Elba for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
  10. Robert Redford for All is Lost

Also worth mentioning: Forest Whitaker for Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street, Christian Bale for American Hustle, Oscar Isaac for Inside Llewyn Davis, Joaquin Phoenix for Her, Michael Fassbender for The Counselor, George Clooney for The Monuments Men, Christian Bale for Out of the Furnace, Josh Brolin for Labor Day, Ralph Fiennes for The Invisible Woman, Ben Stiller for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Casey Affleck for Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Christopher Plummer for Elsa and Fred, André Benjamin for All Is By My Side, Jesse Eisenberg for The Double


Best Actress in a Supporting Role

I know I must be crazy to predict anyone other than Oprah at this point in the game, but I see her losing steam in the coming months. Wouldn’t Cameron Diaz, who’s worked with a variety of actors since the ‘90s, have more of a pull with Oscar voters – especially since she’s going against type? We can’t forget fellow Weinstein actress Meryl Streep either.

  1. Cameron Diaz for The Counselor

  2. Oprah Winfrey for Lee Daniels’ The Butler

  3. Meryl Streep for August: Osage County

  4. Octavia Spencer for Fruitvale Station

  5. Nicole Kidman for The Railway Man

  6. Margo Martindale for August: Osage County
  7. Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave
  8. Sally Hawkins for Blue Jasmine
  9. June Squibb for Nebraska
  10. Naomie Harris for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Also worth mentioning: Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle, Amy Adams for Her, Penélope Cruz for The Counselor, Viola Davis for Prisoners, Catherine Keener for Captain Phillips, Julianne Nicholson for August: Osage County, Juliette Lewis for August: Osage County, Reese Witherspoon for Devil’s Knot, Kristin Scott Thomas for The Invisible Woman, Zoë Saldana for Out of the Furnace, Shirley MacLaine for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Alfre Woodard for 12 Years a Slave, Cate Blanchett for The Monuments Men, Emily Watson for The Book Thief, Jessica Lange for Therese


Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Expect Carell to take this prize if he drops from the leading race, but Mark Ruffalo might win his first trophy otherwise. Strong notices give Oyelowo a boost in this race, but will it be enough to get him into the top five?

  1. Mark Ruffalo for Foxcatcher

  2. Stellan Skarsgård for The Railway Man

  3. Michael Fassbender for 12 Years a Slave

  4. Benedict Cumberbatch for August: Osage County

  5. John Goodman for Inside Llewyn Davis

  6. Jeremy Renner for American Hustle
  7. Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club
  8. Tom Hanks for Saving Mr. Banks
  9. David Oyelowo for Lee Daniels’ The Butler
  10. Jonah Hill for The Wolf of Wall Street

Also worth mentioning: Hiroyuki Sanada for The Railway Man, Bradley Cooper for American Hustle, Channing Tatum for Foxcatcher, Daniel Brühl for Rush, Sam Shepard for August: Osage County, Chris Cooper for August: Osage County, Matthew McConaughey for The Wolf of Wall Street, Ewan McGregor for August: Osage County, Benedict Cumberbatch for 12 Years a Slave, Brad Pitt for 12 Years a Slave, Javier Bardem for The Counselor, Geoffrey Rush for The Book Thief, Woody Harrelson for Out of the Furnace, Jeremy Irvine for The Railway Man, Colin Firth for Devil’s Knot


Best Original Screenplay

No significant changes here, but it’s becoming more difficult by the minute to keep Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine out of my top five…

  1. Alfonso Cuarón and Jonás Cuarón for Gravity

  2. David O. Russell and Eric Singer for American Hustle

  3. Ryan Coogler for Fruitvale Station

  4. Cormac McCarthy for The Counselor

  5. Ethan and Joel Coen for Inside Llewyn Davis

  6. Woody Allen for Blue Jasmine
  7. Asghar Farhadi for The Past
  8. Peter Morgan for Rush
  9. Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith for Saving Mr. Banks
  10. Bob Nelson for Nebraska

Also worth mentioning: Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack for Dallas Buyers Club, Scott Cooper and Brad Inglesby for Out of the Furnace, J.C. Chandor for All is Lost, Carey W. Hayes for The Conjuring, Jeff Nichols for Mud, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash for The Way, Way Back, David Lowery for Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig for Frances Ha, Aaron Guzikowski for Prisoners, James Gray and Richard Menello for The Immigrant, Scott Z. Burns for Side Effects, Derek Cianfrance, Bob Coccio, and Darius Marder for The Place Beyond the Pines, Arash Amel for Grace of Monaco, Stephen Jeffreys for Diana, Aaron Guzikowski for Prisoners


Best Adapted Screenplay

Danny Strong rose up the list for his Lee Daniels’ The Butler script, but will there be enough respect from the writers branch for this to happen?

  1. Frank Cottrell Boyce and Andy Paterson for The Railway Man

  2. E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman for Foxcatcher

  3. John Ridley for 12 Years a Slave

  4. Tracy Letts for August: Osage County

  5. Michael Petroni for The Book Thief

  6. Danny Strong for Lee Daniels’ The Butler
  7. George Clooney and Grant Heslov for The Monuments Men
  8. Billy Ray for Captain Phillips
  9. Paul Harris Boardman and Scott Derrickson for Devil’s Knot
  10. Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, and Richard Linklater for Before Midnight

Also worth mentioning: Josh Singer for The Fifth Estate, William Nicholson for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Steve Conrad for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Jason Reitman for Labor Day, Abi Morgan for The Invisible Woman, Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope for Philomena, Terence Winter for The Wolf of Wall Street, Christopher Kyle for Serena, Andrew Bovell for A Most Wanted Man, Luc Besson and Michael Caleo for The Family, Jullian Fellowes for Romeo and Juliet, Joss Whedon for Much Ado About Nothing, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber for The Spectacular Now, Anna Pavignano and Michael Radford for Elsa and Fred, Robert L. Baird, Daniel Gerson, and Dan Scanlon for Monsters University

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Donovan Warren

Donovan Warren

Donovan Warren loves the wonderful world of film and all that comes with it. He specifically loves long takes, fabulous actresses, and keeping up with the Oscar season - even when it's far too early to make sense of anything.