Oscar Watching: An AMERICAN HUSTLE at the Oscars?

The first-ever screening of David O. Russell’s American Hustle took place on Sunday. Word on the film ranges from decent to terrific, but the one aspect on which everyone seemed to agree: Jennifer Lawrence. Last year’s best actress winner apparently steals the movie with her scenes as the wife of Christian Bale’s character. That her star continues to rise only helps her chances – even if she’s not down for campaigning, her turn in blockbuster The Hunger Games: Catching Fire makes her impossible to ignore.

Word on Amy Adams’ performance is less enthusiastic in some circles, but hey, the four-time supporting actress nominee did take part in The Hollywood Reporter’s actress roundtable, so there’s that. Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave), Julia Roberts (August: Osage County), Octavia Spencer (Fruitvale Station), Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks), and Oprah Winfrey (Lee Daniels’ The Butler) also participated in the discussion as I mentioned last week.

But moving right along…

Awards, Fests, and Campaigns

12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave Leads the Indie Spirit Nods

In what can only be considered an awards-season surprise, Steve McQueen’s slavery drama leads the Independent Spirit Award nominations with seven bids: feature, director, actor, supporting actor (Michael Fassbender), supporting actress (Nyong’o), screenplay (John Ridley), and cinematography (Sean Bobbitt). Nebraska pulls up just behind it with six bids, in feature, director (Alexander Payne), actor (Bruce Dern) supporting actor (Will ForteJune Squibb), and first screenplay (Bob Nelson). (The lattermost award means the film misses out on a screenplay nod.)

Check out the full list of nominees over at Film Independent’s site.

Predicting the National Board of Review Awards… and the New York Film Critics Circle Awards

The National Board of Review announces its winners next Wednesday on Dec. 4. Clint Eastwood didn’t direct anything this year, so who knows how this turns out. Interesting fact: at least one of the major winners gets snubbed when the motion-picture academy reveals its nominees.


On that note, I think Robert Redford can win best actor for All is Lost with the NBR despite his questionable Oscar candidacy (stacked race, arguably disappointing box-office performance, the fact that he does have a competitive Oscar (and an honorary one) already). His wobbly stance in this race seems like news to some, but the “one to beat” has yet to emerge. (Yes, I’m still predicting a Redford snub at the Oscars.)

Other possible winners include Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), Dern (Nebraska), Forest Whitaker (Lee Daniels’ The Butler), and Christian Bale, who could win for both American Hustle and Out of the Furnace.

Meanwhile, 12 Years a Slave might reap victories in film, supporting actress (Nyong’o), and adapted screenplay (Ridley), not to mention ensemble. Other strong competitors for film are Gravity, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, and Nebraska. McQueen might win director, but will the NBR deny Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity? However, Paul Greengrass, Payne, and Russell might prove competitive.

Sandra Bullock’s Gravity performance is my guess for actress, though Cate Blanchett’s turn in Blue Jasmine is still very much in the conversation. Adams might be in there as well; Judi Dench (Philomena), Meryl Streep (August: Osage County), and Thompson look like the other major contenders.

Perhaps Squibb (Nebraska) or Lawrence (American Hustle might take down Nyong’o in supporting actress. Meanwhile, the NBR might honor Jared Leto in supporting actor for Dallas Buyers Club and Nelson in original screenplay for Nebraska.


Moving to the other races, Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) seems like the obvious choice for directorial debut, but he might have some competition from… nope, I think he’s got this. The NBR might opt for a starry flick like August: Osage County or Lee Daniels’ The Butler – both distributed by The Weinstein Co., by the way – for acting by an ensemble if 12 Years a Slave isn’t the winner.

Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station) and Brie Larson (Short Term 12) might take the breakthrough prizes if they’re gendered this year; look for the former to win if the NBR only hands out one prize.

Possible female winners include Adèle Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color), Sophie Nélisse (The Book Thief), Julianne Nicholson (August: Osage County), and Nyong’o (if she doesn’t already win supporting actress). Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), Chadwick Boesman (42), Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis), Dylan Minnette (Labor Day), David Oyelowo (Lee Daniels’ The Butler – too late?), and Tye Sheridan (Mud) are the other male actors with a good shot at winning.

Expect the 10 best films of 2013 list to include films like All is Lost, American Hustle, August: Osage County, Captain Phillips, Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Nebraska, Prisoners, The Wolf of Wall Street; maybe Lone Survivor, Out of the Furnace, Saving Mr. Banks, and/or The Secret Life of Walter Mitty can register on the list.


Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Before Midnight, Dallas Buyers Club, Don Jon, Enough Said, Fruitvale Station, Her, Mud, Short Term 12, and The Way, Way Back look life safe bets for the indie top 10 unless the NBR bumps one or more up to its general top 10 list. If that happens, maybe something like The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete or Stoker places.

Foreign language likely pits Blue is the Warmest Color and The Past against each other. Meanwhile, Frozen, Monsters University, or The Wind Rises should take animated feature.

The New York Film Critics Circle votes on Dec. 3 – that’s next Tuesday, so time to predict who wins there. 12 Years a Slave should take picture and screenplay (Ridley), with actor (Ejiofor), supporting actor (Fassbender), and supporting actress (Nyong’o) being major possibilities; Gravity could win director and actress (Bullock), while Emmanuel Lubezski‘s lensing should win cinematography.

No idea on how (or if) American Hustle will register, but Russell’s actresses often have luck with these critics: Lawrence was the actress runner-up for Silver Linings Playbook (not to mention The Hunger Games) last year; Melissa Leo, whose supporting performance in Prisoners might be a threat this year, won the group’s supporting actress prize for The Fighter in 2010. Maybe Adams isn’t out of it after all…

Everything Else

The Hollywood Reporter’s producers roundtable includes Michael De Luca (Captain Phillips), Dede Gardner (12 Years a Slave), David Heyman (Gravity), Charles Roven (American Hustle), Pam Williams (Lee Daniels’ The Butler), and Mark Wahlberg (Prisoners). (The lattermost might also contend in the best actor race for Lone Survivor.)

Nominating ballots for the Screen Actors Guild Awards went out last Wednesday. 12 Years a Slave, which could easily win big there, picked up another honor, as Steve McQueen will receive the Palm Springs Film Festival’s best director award on Jan. 4. Neither of the last two recipients, Robert Zemeckis (Flight) and Stephen Daldry (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), reaped an Oscar bid, but this can only help McQueen and his film.


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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.