Thursday, February 6, 2014

2014 Oscar Predictions: Best Actress

So, I promise this blog will focus on other subjects come March when the Oscars are over, but for now, it's still Oscar time and I am in an Oscar frenzy, which means it's time to start with the predictions of who will win the coveted Academy Award. It's almost a month before the Oscars, so things are still subject to change, but despite the wide array of great films this year, things are starting to settle in and the frontrunners in the major awards have already become fairly clear.

The race for Best Actress in a Leading Role has been interesting one, with many wild cards. Here's my prediction.

Amy Adams as Sydney Prosser—American Hustle
Cate Blanchett as Jasmine Francis—Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock as Ryan Stone—Gravity
Judi Dench as Philomena Lee—Philomena
Meryl Streep as Violet Weston—August: Osage County

Will Win: Cate Blanchett—Blue Jasmine

Although Sandra Bullock was initially seen as the frontrunner here after her (almost) solo performance in Gravity, Cate Blanchett has emerged as the real favorite here. Her critical acclaim has brought her multiple awards already, and it feels like an Oscar is the next logical step. Bullock still has a shot, and I've started to hear some whisperings of Amy Adams having a shot (this is her fifth nomination and she has yet to win). But this is Blanchett's award to lose.

Should Win: Judi Dench—Philomena

So, Cate Blanchett is great in Blue Jasmine, and probably has the most interesting and objectively "best" performance out of these five. So I understand why she's the frontrunner and will be perfectly happy when she wins. But...I can't bring myself to name her as my "should win" pick. Because as good as she is in it...I just really dislike this film. This has nothing to do with the resurgence of controversy surrounding Woody Allen (I typically love his films), I just don't like it as a film. At all. And it makes sense that people tend to vote for the films they like. Just like how the distaste for the failed reboot of The Lone Ranger might cost it several technical awards such as visual effects and makeup, I don't want to tip my hat to Blanchett in this instance because I really dislike the film as a whole. Sorry, Cate. I'm sure you'll be fine. Meryl Streep can typically do no wrong...but she does in August: Osage County, giving in an overdone performance which like so many other well-intentioned parts of this movie, just does not work. This leaves Adams, Bullock, and Dame Judi Dench.'s just really tough for me to vote against Dench. She's so lovely, and I cannot imagine anyone else playing the role of Philomena Lee. There's something just so intrinsically charming about Dench. You immediately root for her. You feel her sadness, you feel her confusion, and you feel her anger. Even through a character who tends to treat the world with a smile. As the screenplay is written, Philomena is uneducated and much of the dialogue paints Philomena as naive and simple. But Dench manages to make sure she does not at any point come across as stupid-- simply kind and inexperienced. Throughout the film, we see Philomena at her highest and lowest points, and Dench is lovely and heartbreaking at the same time. Basically, Dame Judi Dench can do no wrong.

Should Have Been Nominated: Emma Thompson—Saving Mr. Banks

Saving Mr. Banks is a strange case for me. It's a good film, certainly. But it's very heavy-handed. We see the same scenes over and over again (seriously, the film spends an hour and a half making sure we know that P.L. Travers is cranky and that her dad is an alcoholic) and I understand why it was not as warmly received as originally anticipated. But Thompson is unequivocally brilliant. She commits to the role of Travers so fully that she really did deserve a nomination, and it's a shame that she didn't earn one this year.

What are your thoughts? Who will/should win? And which performance should have been recognized? Do you agree with me? Do you think I'm way off the mark? Why didn't I talk about June Squibb more even though she gave one of my favorite performances of the year? Let me know your thoughts in the comments! 


  1. Great commentary! I really liked 'Philomena,' but didn't think Judi Dench's acting was Oscar-worthy when I saw it. However, your notes on the matter are making me re-think things.

    Miles, here's a question: given that 'Philomena' will not win Best Picture (although maybe it should), what was the last Best Picture winner that also garnered a Best Actress victory?

    1. Interesting question, Willie. The last time the Best Picture winner also starred a Best Actress winner was in 2004, with Hillary Swank winning for Million Dollar Baby. Before that, this happened when Gwyneth Paltrow won for Shakespeare in Love. Those are the only two times such a thing has happened in the past 20 years.

      Sadly but predictably, films tend to do better at the Oscars which feature strong leading male performances. The last time a film won Best Picture and Best Actor was in 2011, with Jean Dujardin winning for the artist. In the past 20 years, this has happened 5 times-- the other four were Colin Firth for The King's Speech, Russell Crowe for Gladiator, Kevin Spacey for American Beauty, and Tom Hanks for Forrest Gump.