All-Seeing Awix's Crystal Balls, Episode V
Well now, it seems to me that this would be an opportune moment for me to take a brief look at this year's Oscar nominations and possibly indulge in the odd prediction as to who should win (or, to put it another way, there was really nothing on that I fancied watching this week – hey ho).
As long-term readers will no doubt recall, this is a weary old 24LAS tradition, but last year saw a historically poor result of only 64% correct. Will doing the predictions rather earlier than usual help me lift my form? Will I be able reach the heights of 80+% accuracy that the column enjoyed ten years ago? I don't know, let's find out.
The rules of the game: I only bother about the Oscar categories that normal people are actually interested in, so no mention of Best Set Catering or anything like that. I usually indulge myself in predicting what I think is likely to win, based on the slightly absurd biases which habitually characterise the choices of the Academy voters, but also giving my own choice as to which of the nominees deserves a gong. At least this year I have seen most of the major contenders (this doesn't always happen) and so at least I will be speculating from a moderately informed position...
Best Documentary: ...on the other hand, I haven't seen any of these films and have only even heard of one of them. Which is not an auspicious start, I think you'll agree. They look like a bizarrely mixed bag, anyway – a few slightly political ones have slipped in there, but I can't imagine the voters going for anything too un-American. Should Win: Can't honestly speak with any authority whatsoever. Will Win: Er... The Act of Killing.
Best Supporting Actress: Now, I've seen a few of these, and most of them were pretty restrained and sensible performances: the exception being Jennifer Lawrence's terrifying harpy from American Hustle. This one may come down to a tussle between the academy's love of grotesques (Lawrence) and their fondness for big stars making that difficult transition to character roles (Julia Roberts in August: Osage County). Should Win: Sally Hawkins for Blue Jasmine. Will Win: Julia Roberts.
Best Supporting Actor: More villains, grotesques, and general screw-ups here, with a motley collection of pirates, corporate raiders, slave-owners and con-men. Quite a tough one to call as, of the films I've seen, none of these performances really stood out for me. However... Should Win: Barkhad Abdi for Captain Phillips. Will Win: Michael Fassbender for 12 Years a Slave.
Best Actress: Wow, now this is a tough one to call, as there is some seriously good work in this category. Much as I loved Gravity, I can't see Sandra Bullock's understated performance being quite to the academy's taste – there's also the usual prejudice against space films to consider. Should Win: Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine. Will Win: Blanchett. But, as I say, almost impossible to be confident about – on the other hand, any winner will be worthy.
Best Actor: Hmmm, quite a few of the usual suspects turning up here – yet another American Hustle grotesque from Christian Bale, plus Leonardo diCaprio's study in excess from The Wolf of Wall Street, and so on. This one may come down to the same kind of clash as in the supporting actress slot – this time between a fine actor appearing in the sort of film which presses all the right buttons, and a star who's paid his dues and is currently experiencing a bit of a McConnaissance. Should Win: Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave. Will Win: Another tough call. I don't think this is diCaprio's year, alas – Matthew McConnaughey for Dallas Buyers Club, or maybe Ejiofor will win it after all.
Best Director: More of the usual suspects. I have never made any secret of my enormous admiration for Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity, and for me it's technically and dramatically the most flawless film of last year. On the other hand it's arguably a genre movie and definitely a space film, neither of which the academy is known for appreciating. Set against this is Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave, which is exactly the sort of politically-engaged, ideologically worthy film that the voters go for even if it's a mite flawed. Should Win: Cuaron. Will Win: McQueen, I suspect.
Best Film: Well, having said all that, there can really be no surprise in my preference for the big gong, is there? I will just indulge myself by taking a moment to lament the absence of Cloud Atlas and Long Walk to Freedom from the shortlist, but to praise the inclusion of fine movies like Philomena and Captain Phillips. Should Win:Gravity. Will Win: I would have a sneaking suspicion in favour of American Hustle, had the quite similar Argo not won it last year. So I don't know. 12 Years a Slave may get it after all.