The Oscar nominees were announced last week, prompting the standard response of, “Oh, god, I have so much to catch up on.” 2013 was extraordinary for movies—most of this year’s Oscar contenders are actually really, really good, rather than the usual assortment of middle-brow dreck. With so many strong contenders, we didn’t bother picking who will win, but rather FLARE’s own favourites among this year’s Oscar nominees.
FLARE Favourite: The Wolf of Wall Street
Leonardo DiCaprio schemed for years to get this broker bacchanal to the screen, eventually securing his frequent collaborator, Martin Scorsese, to do the directing. While perhaps not on par with similar bad-behaviour epics like Goodfellas or Casino, the cocaine-fueled, vintage Versace energy of the three-hour opus, puffed up even further by Leonardo DiCaprio’s manic—and very funny—performance, gives it a Quaalude-sized edge over its fellow excellent nominees.
Runners-Up: Gravity, American Hustle, 12 Years a Slave, Her
This year feels like the epitome of that old awards show cliché: “we’re all winners here tonight.” Gravity, American Hustle, 12 Years a Slave and Her are each immensely entertaining (well, perhaps not the visceral horror of 12 Years a Slave) as well as deeply personal passion projects for their directors, which shows in the detailed worlds each has created, from the outer reaches of space or gritty streets of ‘70s New York to the Old South of 1841 and the near-future. Every one of them is deserving of Best Picture.
FLARE Favourite: Christian Bale, American Hustle
American Hustle opens with Christian Bale carefully assembling his combover, an apt metaphor for both the scams he pulls in the film and the actor’s complete real-life transformation into a paunchy, balding, middle-class grifter. (He chose to gain weight for the role, and herniated a disc due to the slouch he developed for his character.) While the tone of the film is a little on the lighter side (versus the heavier subject matter of 12 Years a Slave or Dallas Buyers Club), Bale’s con artist has a quiet intensity and surprising pathos to him that are just as memorable as his more boisterous, twitchier Oscar-winning turn in David O. Russell’s The Fighter.
Runner-Up: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Chiwetel Ejiofor could just as easily take the prize here, thanks to his near-perfect performance of weathering the nightmare of a free man turned slave.
Nineties Crush Shout-Out: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street) and Matthew McConnaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
At the Golden Globes, Leonardo DiCaprio chuckled at his finally scoring an award…for comedy. He is, however, hilarious as the hopped-up stockbroker gobbling fistfuls of downers and the very embodiment of greed. Matthew McConnaughey—who lost 45 pounds to play AIDS patient Ron Woodruff—is riding the McConnaissance; his soulful, dedicated performance won him a much-deserved Golden Globe in the drama acting category.
FLARE Favourite: Amy Adams, American Hustle
Amy Adams has had quite the year, playing Lois Lane in the Superman reboot, then the one-two punch of American Hustle and Her. She’s long due to win her first Oscar, after such nuanced (and very different) performances in Junebug and The Fighter.
Runner-Up: Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Sandra Bullock performed the role of an astronaut fighting for survival under rather insane conditions—not only did she act against a green screen, but she was strapped into a claustrophobic contraption to more accurately capture the look of free-floating through space. It’s a subtler Sandy performance, and all the better for it.
The Meryl Streep Award: Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
Reviews for this long-awaited adaptation of Tracy Letts’ beloved play weren’t stellar, but leave it to The Streep to kill it, anyway, as the acidic, awful matriarch of a troubled Southern clan.
Best Supporting Actor
FLARE Favourite: Michael Fassbender, 12 Years A Slave
Fassbender has been everywhere over the past few years, rising to ascendancy with Ryan Gosling as the thinking woman’s sex symbols. His turn as a sweaty, alcoholic abohorrent plantation owner in 12 Years a Slave isn’t even remotely attractive, but it’s to Fassbender’s great credit that he, a la Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List, transcends evil caricature to bring a monster to life.
Runner-Up: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
The only thing Hollywood loves more than a comeback is a dramatic transformation. Jared Leto (who hasn’t been in a wide-release movie in eight years, choosing instead to tour with his band, 30 Seconds to Mars) nails both as transwoman Rayon.
Secret Sentimental Fave: Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
The Academy seldom gives Oscars for comedy, making the fact that he was nominated for his outsized, side-splitting portrayal of Leo’s partner in crime (complete with huge chompers and nineties pastels) reward enough.
Best Supporting Actress
FLARE Favourite: Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
This category is another impossible-to-pick, but our heart belongs to Sally Hawkins. She’s up against much showier performances, from brilliant break-out Lupita Nyong’o’s heartbreaking slave Patsey to Jennifer Lawrence’s juicy Long Island wife, yet it’s her sweet, blue-collar grocery store clerk (and foil to Cate Blanchett’s upper-class Gorgon) that won us over.
Runner-Up: Oh, alright: Lupita Nyong’o and Jennifer Lawrence are our favourites, too.
Honourable Mention: Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
After a few misfires (Larry Crowne, Mirror Mirror), Julia Roberts returns to stubborn, salty-tongued mode as the favoured daughter navigating the world’s worst ad-hoc family reunion. It may sound like faint praise, but she’s better than you’d expect.
FLARE Favourite: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Like 2001 before it, Alfonso Cuaron took the space movie to a whole new plane. Technical achievements are all well and good, but it is the simple story at its heart that makes it an instant classic.
Runner-Up: Steve McQueen, 12 Years A Slave
While many have dragged their feet when it comes time to see this movie due to the cringe-inducing violence, it is important to bear witness to such history, as well as take in the lyricism, pacing and—yes—beauty that Steve McQueen brought to such heinous subject matter. That it is only his third feature film is astonishing.
FLARE Favourite: American Hustle, Michael Wilkinson
Performances be damned—let’s talk about the costumes. The plunging-V necklines, skin-tight satin and all those ridiculous seventies suits! FLARE interviewed costumer Michael Wilkinson, who shared with us that women were more comfortable with their bodies back then. (And, apparently, man-perms.)
Runner-Up: The Great Gatsby, Catherine Martin
Huge Tiffany jewels, Prada gowns, and that famous pink suit (as done by Brooks Brothers): the 1920s fashions on display are just as eye-popping as the wild 3D party scenes. Martin shared with FLARE how she made the decade’s famous frocks her own.
Musical, Original Score
FLARE Favourite: Gravity, Steven Price
The Inception trailer drone has spawned many imitators, but Steven Price managed to take the spare, menacing blats of Zack Hemsey’s now-infamous tones and evolve them into the perfect feature-length accompaniment to a life-or-death struggle in space. Those low rumbles stay deep down in your belly, long after you’ve left the theatre.
CanCon Achievement: Her, William Butler and Owen Pallett
Raise a glass to Arcade Fire and talented strings wunderkind Owen Pallett (formerly known as Final Fantasy), who gave the set-in-the-near-future Her a delicate, poignant score that is appropriately timeless and contemporary.
Best Adapted Screenplay
FLARE Favourite: Before Midnight, Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke
Such a shame this wasn’t nominated in any other categories, as it was one of the best films of the year. (Julie Delpy, especially, seesawed skillfully between raw fury and bemused acceptance.) Long-married couples aren’t the most glam subject for a film, but entire worlds exist in a single day spent as one. FLARE also interviewed Delpy on co-writing Before Midnight.
Runner-Up: 12 Years a Slave, John Ridley
Adapting such a storied piece of African-American history may have been daunting, and Ridley pulled it off beautifully, stripping everything away to reveal a spare, modern blueprint ready for McQueen’s minimalist touch.
Best Original Screenplay
FLARE Favourite: Her, Spike Jonze
Spike Jonze was skewered, many suspect, by ex-wife Sofia Coppola via the obnoxious young director character (as played by Giovanni Ribisi) in Lost in Translation. It seems he’s done a lot of growing up, judging by the emotional catharsis and depth that suffuses Her. Through the disembodied persona of a sentient OS (voiced beautifully by Scarlett Johansson, who, many clamored, should have been nominated for an Oscar for her “performance”), Jonze highlights the insecurities, weaknesses and small victories that make us horribly, amazingly human.
Runner-Up: None. Her is just that good.