Oscar History: 2013

Recapping the Oscar Season of 2013, a few things stick out. The big winners were 12 Years a Slave and Gravity, which cleaned up in the tech races. The big loser was American Hustle, which came away with zero victories despite 10 nominations (tying it for most nods with Gravity, which won 7 of them). Another take: it was a packed year for Best Actor with some deserving gents left out.

As I have done with previous years, let’s take a deeper dive in the 86th Academy Awards in the major races:

Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave unsurprisingly came away with the Best Picture prize in a field that yielded eight other films. They were David O. Russell’s American Hustle, Paul Greengrass’s Captain Phillips, Jean-Marc Vallee’s Dallas Buyers Club, Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, Spike Jonze’s Her, Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, Philomena from Stephen Frears, and Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. 

That’s a solid grouping of pictures and there’s probably no obvious omissions from my end in 2013.. That said, many young girls may protest Frozen not making the cut though it did win Best Animated Feature. And certainly Inside Llewyn Davis from the Coen Brothers had its ardent admirers.

There was a Picture/Director split with Cuaron emerging victorious for Gravity. The filmmaker would achieve the same feat five years later when he won for Roma but Green Book took Best Picture. Other nominees were McQueen, Payne, Russell, and Scorsese.I would argue that Greengrass and Jonze could have made the final five.

In the aforementioned crowded Best Actor derby, Matthew McConaughey took gold for his work in Dallas Buyers Club. The four other contenders were Christian Bale for Hustle, Bruce Dern in Nebraska, Leonardo DiCaprio for Wall Street, and Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave. Note that all nominees came from Best Picture hopefuls.

Let’s start with Tom Hanks, who I absolutely feel should have gotten in for his remarkable performance in Captain Phillips. The clip I’ve included below proves it and then some. You could say the same for Joaquin Phoenix in Her. Others worth noting: Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis, Hugh Jackman in Prisoners, and Robert Redford for All Is Lost. 

Cate Blanchett was the latest actress to be honored for her work in a Woody Allen picture as she took Best Actress for Blue Jasmine. The other nominees were Amy Adams (American Hustle), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), and the ever present Meryl Streep (August: Osage County).

I’ll mention three others left out worthy of consideration: Brie Larson in Short Term 12, Julia-Louis Dreyfus for Enough Said, and Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks. For the latter, it was a bit unexpected that she was left out.

McConaughey’s Dallas Buyers costar Jared Leto won Supporting Actor over Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), Bradley Cooper (American Hustle), Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave), and Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street). Again, all nominees stemmed from Picture contenders.

Some others that didn’t quite make it: Daniel Bruhl in Rush, Steve Coogan for Philomena, Paul Dano in Prisoners, and Will Forte in Nebraska.

Another big 12 Years victory was Lupita Nyong’o in Supporting Actress. She took the prize despite competition from Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), Julia Roberts (August: Osage County), and June Squibb (Nebraska).

Despite it being a voice only performance, I would say Scarlett Johansson in Her deserved a spot and the same could be said for Margot Robbie in Wall Street.

And there you have it, folks! My look back at the Oscar landscape in 2013. I’ll have 2014 up in due time…

Her Movie Review

“Sometimes I think I have felt everything I’m ever gonna feel, and from here on out I’m not gonna feel anything new… just… lesser versions of what I’ve already felt.”

It is Joaquin Phoenix’s main character in Her that utters these words and he along with most of the human and not human characters seem to feel that way. They are all proven wrong eventually in this strangely romantic tale from Spike Jonze, a visionary director working off his own highly creative screenplay.

Set in the likely not too distant future, Her focuses on Theodore Twombly (Phoenix), who is surrounded by love all day in the form of his job as a composer of heartfelt letters that he’s hired to develop for others. In his real life, there is a severe lack of the emotion that earns him his living. He’s long separated from his wife (Rooney Mara) and not able to bring himself to sign divorce papers.

His lonely existence leads him to purchase an operating system (or OS) that is designed to adapt to their owner. His OS comes in the form of Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johannson) and her existence in Theodore’s life becomes serious very quickly. The artificial intelligence that OS’s can develop turns out to be more than either Theodore or Samantha could possibly expect and they fall in love.

Her has a lot to say about the human race’s constantly increasing reliance on technology, but more to say about our need for companionship and love. If the concept of a person falling love with their computer had been made 20 or 10 or even 5 years ago, it would’ve have felt like true science fiction. This film doesn’t feel that way and it’s a massive credit to Jonze for steeping Her in relative realism. The characters surrounding Theodore are not horrified or even that surprised of his love for Samantha and neither are we as an audience.

Those characters surrounding Theodore include his friend Amy (Amy Adams), who is going through her own divorce. Unlike Samantha, Mara as the ex-wife is seen a lot through flashbacks but only heard from in one scene where the childhood sweethearts finalize the end of their journey together.

Yet this film belongs to Phoenix and Johannson. Ever since his bizarre and planned meltdown from a few years back, Phoenix has gone a long way in reminding us that he’s one of his generation’s greatest actors. After his amazing turn in 2012’s The Master, his performance here is equally masterful. Johannson is never seen, but her voice work is terrific. Simply put, if their performances and Jonze’s screenplay didn’t convince you of their true love for each other, Her would fall apart. It does the opposite. And as their relationship becomes more complicated (as real relationships always do), we buy where Jonze takes us every step of the way.

Through Being John Malkovich and Adaptation and (to a lesser degree) Where the Wild Things Are, Jonze has delivered each time he steps behind the camera. For his two greatest pics (Malkovich, Adaptation), he had the help of brilliant screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. It is with Her that he proves his writing matches his direction.

***1/2 (out of four)


Box Office Predictions: January 10-12

The second weekend of 2014 brings three new wide release offerings for your consideration – the war drama Lone Survivor with Mark Wahlberg, Renny Harlin’s The Legend of Hercules, and Spike Jonze’s critically acclaimed Her with Joaquin Phoenix. You can peruse my individual prediction posts on them here:




My predictions reflect a belief that Lone Survivor should fairly easily open at #1. The Legend of Hercules could completely bomb, but I’m giving it enough credit to reach double digits at the three spot. Her likely won’t reach double digits.

Last weekend’s champ Frozen should slip to second while I am predicting holdovers The Wolf of Wall Street and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug will battle Her for slots 4-6.

And with that, my predictions for the weekend box office:

1. Lone Survivor

Predicted Gross: $21.7 million

2. Frozen

Predicted Gross: $13.5 million (representing a drop of 31%)

3. The Legend of Hercules

Predicted Gross: $11.9 million

4. The Wolf of Wall Street

Predicted Gross: $8.5 million (representing a drop of 36%)

5. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Predicted Gross: $8.4 million (representing a drop of 46%)

6. Her

Predicted Gross: $8.3 million

Blogger’s note: For the past several months, I’ve been doing box office results analysis every Sunday. Starting next week, I will be combining the results from the previous weekend with this here weekly predictions post for the next weekend which comes every Monday. The main reason: I’m usually busy Sunday doing my predictions posts for the next week’s newcomers, which will continue without interruption. Secondly, the final box office numbers come in Monday so I can more accurately update how I performed. Until next time, my friends!

Her Box Office Prediction

Combining comedy with science fiction and drama and romance in a critically-acclaimed awards contender? That means Spike Jonze is back in theaters and his fourth feature Her is released wide this Friday. Jonze was a prominent music video director who broke through with 1999’s Being John Malkovich and went on to helm 2002’s Adaptation and 2009’s Where the Wild Things Are.

Her stars Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, and the voice of Scarlett Johannson. It’s being touted as an Oscar contender and I am currently predicting both the picture and Jonze receive nominations. Her is a favorite of critics with a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

How this translates into box office success is a question mark. Opening in approximately 1700 theaters, one must wonder if many casual moviegoers will look at this as more of an art house picture and skip it. On the positive side, it could appeal to a female audience whereas the weekend’s other newcomers Lone Survivor and The Legend of Hercules are marketing toward the male crowd. With a relatively low number of screens (Lone Survivor will debut on about one thousand more), Her could flirt with a double digits opening. I suspect, however, that it will fall a bit under that.

Her opening weekend prediction: $8.3 million

For my prediction on Lone Survivor, click here:


For my prediction on The Legend of Hercules, click here:


For my prediction on August: Osage County, click here:


2014 Oscar Predictions: Todd’s Picks for Early January

And we’re off with my next to last round of Oscar predictions before they’re announced on Thursday, January 16th. The plan is to do my final predictions, most likely either on Sunday the 12th or Monday the 13th. These new picks reflect changes in four of the six top categories. Let’s get to it shall we?


I’ve stayed consistent with predicting that nine movies will get nominated. The change here is that I’m including Dallas Buyer’s Club for the first time as I believe it’s gotten enough precursor momentum to get in. That means I had to take something out and Saving Mr. Banks has been dropped. As I see it, the race is still a battle between 12 Years a Slave and Gravity for the win with American Hustle as a possible spoiler.


American Hustle

Captain Phillips

Dallas Buyer’s Club



Inside Llewyn Davis


12 Years a Slave

The Wolf of Wall Street


One change here: I believe the polarizing reaction to The Wolf of Wall Street might leave Martin Scorsese out in this competitive category. So he’s out and Spike Jonze, riding a wave of momentum for Her, is in. Like Picture, this race should come down to Slave‘s Steve McQueen and Gravity‘s Alfonso Cuaron for the victory with yet again Hustle‘s Russell as possible spoiler.


Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

Spike Jonze, Her

Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave

Alexander Payne, Nebraska

David O. Russell, American Hustle


This is seriously such a loaded category. In any other year, I’d be predicting Christian Bale in American Hustle, Forest Whitaker in Lee Daniels’ The Butler or Joaquin Phoenix in Her. None of them make the cut. Conventional wisdom is that this is a six man race and only five make the cut. Last round of predictions, I had Tom Hanks’ work in Captain Phillips left out, but now he’s back in. This came down to a decision between whether to leave out Leonardo DiCaprio in Wolf of Wall Street or Robert Redford in All is Lost. For the first time in my predictions, it’s Redford that I’ve got drawing the short straw. I believe Chiwetel Ejiofor, Bruce Dern, or Matthew McConaughey could win.


Bruce Dern, Nebraska

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street

Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave

Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips

Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyer’s Club


Prediction wise, this category has remained the most stable and I have no changes this round either. As for who will win, Cate Blanchett is emerging as the clear favorite though Sandra Bullock has a shot.


Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Sandra Bullock, Gravity

Judi Dench, Philomena

Meryl Streep, August: Osage County

Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks


This is likely the most unpredictable category that is capable of producing a surprise and my new picks reflect that. Jared Leto is the frontrunner to win and Michael Fassbender appears a lock for nomination. After that, all bets are off. I’m taking out Jonah Hill for The Wolf of Wall Street and Tom Hanks for Saving Mr. Banks. I’m keeping in my Bradley Cooper for American Hustle prediction. Additions to my list: Daniel Bruhl, who’s picked up momentum for his role in Rush. As for the fifth slot, it could have been Hanks, Hill, the late James Gandolfini in Enough Said, Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips, or Harrison Ford in 42. Like I said, I believe a real surprise nomination could surface here and that’s why I’m picking former SNL alum Will Forte in Nebraska.


Daniel Bruhl, Rush

Bradley Cooper, American Hustle

Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave

Will Forte, Nebraska

Jared Leto, Dallas Buyer’s Club


Like the lead actress race, I’ve got no changes to report here either. This should still come down to Lupita Nyong’o and Jennifer Lawrence for the win.


Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle

Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

Julia Roberts, August: Osage County

June Squibb, Nebraska

Oprah Winfrey, Lee Daniels’ The Butler

I’ll be back with last round of nomination picks soon enough!