Every year, we at Rotten Tomatoes sit in a room and try to pick who’s going to win what at the Academy Awards. And every year, when Monday rolls around, we’re frustrated, stunned, hurt — we run the whole gamut of emotions, but one thing is clear: we didn’t have any idea who would win. So why do we continue to apply scientific theories to our predictions, knowing that the whole process is as futile as guessing who will win the NFC East next year? Because we must. Without further ado, we present the RT editors’ picks for the 86th Academy Awards. Take this list with a grain — nay, a shaker — of salt.
Look, we know the Vegas odds tilt toward Gravity. And we know it’s been cleaning up this awards season. But here’s the thing: the Academy is still trying to overcome its image as a collection of stuffy white guys, and they won’t pass up the chance to honor 12 Years a Slave. Unfortunately, some might accuse the Academy of bowing to political correctness by giving its top prize to the most worthy film as opposed to the best film. There are a couple of problems with this. First, even the most crazed Oscar-watcher would admit that greatness doesn’t necessarily count for much in the end — just ask Citizen Kane, Raging Bull, or Pulp Fiction. Second, 12 Years a Slave is indeed a worthy film — and a great one. There’s no question that it’s often painful to sit through, but that’s as it should be: it depicts the horrors of slavery with unflinching directness, not least because it never loses sight of the human beings on both sides of the whip. For very different reasons, Gravity and 12 Years a Slave are monumental movie experiences, and they both deserve to win. But we think that the Academy will give the Oscar to 12 Years a Slave.
You know how sports leagues tend to give the MVP award to the best player on a playoff team even though they’re only supposed to factor in the regular season? That’s what’s happening with Matthew McConaughey right now: Dallas Buyers Club was the regular season, and True Detective is the playoffs. Academy voters shouldn’t consider anything but the movie at hand, but let’s face it: we’re in the midst of the McConassance.
This one isn’t even close. Ms. Blanchett is an absolute lock.
It’s too easy to say that Jared Leto is the favorite because he put on a wig and some makeup. He’s not just a movie star playing dress-up; Leto fully embodies a complex character with humor, joie du vivre, and pathos.
The train may have left the station for American Hustle — it looked like a Best Picture dark horse a few months back, before suffering something of a critical backlash. Jennifer Lawrence seemed like a sure thing for a while, but momentum has been building for Lupita Nyong’o and her searing, powerful work in 12 Years a Slave, and we think she’ll be the winner on Oscar night.
Regardless of whether Gravity wins Best Picture, the film was such a monumental technical undertaking that Alfonso Cuarón is virtually guaranteed the Oscar for Best Director.
This is the place where the Academy tends to get a little quirky, and Her is the movie that puts the “original” in Best Original Screenplay. At some point over the last few months, someone somewhere was saying the following: “So wait… you’re telling me it’s about a guy who falls in love with his computer’s operating system? And it’s great? Really?”
Here’s the deal: if a movie wins Best Picture, it also wins a writing award. It’s as simple as that.
Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the great Italian director Federico Fellini was Oscar’s favorite international director, winning Best Foreign Language Film a record four times. Four decades after Fellini’s last win (for Amarcord), along comes his fellow countryman Paolo Sorrentino with The Great Beauty, a funny, visually resplendent portrait of modern Rome with echoes of La Dolce Vita.
20 Feet From Stardom has generated some feel-good vibes lately, but we can’t see it beating The Act of Killing, an unclassifiable marvel that’s bizarre, farcical, visually stunning, and emotionally devastating.
It would be nice if the Academy gave some love to Hayao Miyazaki, who has said The Wind Rises will be his last film. However, Frozen has probably got this one in the bag, since it was both a critical fave and a commercial juggernaut.
Director of Photography Emmanuael Lubezki and Alfonso Cuarón have collaborated with each other their entire careers, from humble beginnings in Mexican indie cinema to their graduation to globe-spanning blockbusters. Gravity‘s consistent visual look and convincing you-are-here spectacle suggests Cuarón’s bold vision for this movie could’ve been simply unfilmable if his friend Lubezki wasn’t there every step of the way.
Gravity features an impressive yet subtle single take, which begins during the unflinching devastation of Sandra Bullock’s crew and continues into the moment she finds her interlude of peace, curling up in a fetal position to signify rebirth. The film then cuts, showing off a renewed Bullock as she explores the new spacecraft, marking the beginning of Act 2. This kind of deliberate, thoughtful editing is seen all throughout the film. Not surprising since Cuarón himself is credited as co-editor.
Steven Price’s haunting, otherworldly score contributed greatly to Gravity‘s immersive effect. We can’t see anyone else winning in this category.
For a category that historically honors schmaltzy snoozers (Three 6 Mafia excepted), the race for Best Original Song is pretty interesting this year. One long-shot entry was booted for violating Academy bylaws (“Alone Yet Not Alone,” from the little-seen film of the same name), leaving Academy voters to choose between a catchy slice of lite funk that inspired a viral dance craze (Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”), a song by a great band about a great man (U2’s “Ordinary Love”), and a dreamy acoustic ballad from a lady who once made a video in which a little kid got his hand chopped off with an axe (Karen O’s “The Moon Song”). Still, we think “Let It Go” from Frozen will clinch the nod — when a movie gets a sing-along theatrical re-release, you know the soundtrack’s a hit.
Say what you will about Baz Luhrmann as a filmmaker (or, more specifically, as an interpreter of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work), but few would disagree that The Great Gatsby sported lavish, dazzling production design.
Snappy hats! Spangly dresses! Colorful ties! Expensive furs! If recent history is any indication, The Great Gatsby will win, because it’s both a period piece and a full-blown spectacle.
You won’t find “Nuts, Bolts, and Space Debris Puncturing Holes in a Satellite” on any album of sound effects. For that noise, you’ll have to crank up the volume on Gravity, a movie whose sound bank of mechanic noises feels just “mundane” enough to be utterly terrifying when splattered against the backdrop of space.
The soundscape of Lone Survivor is populated with noise we’ve all heard before: wind, gunfire, trudging feet, explosions, etc. Survivor‘s memorable mix puts all these layers into a harmonious yet chaotic whole, rising and falling with tension in perfect tune to the dramatic story.
We’d be delighted if this one went to Bad Grandpa. Seriously, wouldn’t it be awesome if the Academy bestowed an Oscar upon the folks that brought us wasabi snooters and a bee-filled limo? However, our heads say it’s Dallas Buyers Club. Academy voters will be considering it for other awards, so they’ll actually watch it, leaving the Jackass and Lone Ranger screeners to collect dust on coffee tables all over Los Angeles.
Martin Freeman stars in this, the only nominee in English. Call us cynical, but we think that might be all it takes to win.
There’s a new Mickey Mouse cartoon? And it played in theaters before Frozen? Case closed.
Forget winning your Oscar pool; if you want to make a killing, buy stock in hankie manufacturing companies. The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life is a documentary about Alice Herz-Sommer, a Holocaust survivor and concert pianist who died early this week at 110. If her story doesn’t put a lump in your throat, you’re made of sterner stuff than us.