By Bill Wine
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Sunday evening’s Academy Awards telecast marks the fifth year in the era of the Best Picture Times Two experiment, and it would appear to have caught on, spiking interest without noticeably diluting the quality of the slate.
Once again, nine out of a possible ten – as opposed to what used to be five – movies are under ratings-boosting consideration to win the most coveted of the ceremony’s golden statuettes.
So which of them is most likely to be awarded the Oscar for Best Picture? And who will go home with the Oscar for Best Director?
A majority of the nominees have a scant chance of winning despite being fine movies, but they are at least certainly benefiting substantially from the prestige and publicity connected with being anointed elite films.
That goes for the real-life suspense thriller, Captain Phillips (which received six nominations); the real-life search-for-a-son drama, Philomena (four); the technological romance dramedy, Her (five); the real-life struggle-to-get-AIDS-meds drama, Dallas Buyers Club (six); the father-son road-trip comedy-drama, Nebraska (six); and the controversial financial-corruption comedy, The Wolf of Wall Street (five).
That lineup is nothing to sneeze at, but this is nonetheless a three-horse race.
The thoroughly enjoyable Abscam dramedy, American Hustle, which received ten nominations, is an acting clinic, with all four of its principals receiving acting nominations. But it’s the least likely of the movies constituting 2013’s triumphant triumvirate to take home the prize.
Somewhat more likely to emerge victorious is the brilliant science fiction thriller, Gravity, which also received ten nominations, an awe-inspiring survival epic that seems on a technical level to be a glimpse into the future of movies.
But the most likely survivor in a very tight race is another survival epic, the biographical drama, 12 Years a Slave, which received nine nominations. For its gravitas, its importance, and its excellence, this unblinking, visceral, transcendent masterpiece should be the Oscar winner.
And if I had a vote, it too would go to 12 Years a Slave – but in almost a tossup with Gravity.
As for the Best Director Oscar, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Academy finds a way to reward both of the year’s best films and spread the wealth by splitting their votes between Best Picture and Best Director.
That is, after the acknowledgement of the outstanding directorial work of nominees Alexander Payne (Nebraska), Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street), and David O. Russell (American Hustle), I have a feeling that although 12 Years a Slave will take home the Best Picture Oscar, voters will hopscotch over 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen and instead acknowledge visionary Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron by awarding him the Best Director Oscar.
My theoretical vote for Best Director would go to McQueen, but – once again – by the slimmest of margins over Cuaron.
At any rate, we’ll soon know which and who go in the history books.