Friday, December 19, 2014

2014 MOVIE LIST -- The Top 166 So Far

THE STANDOUTS (17) - This should go without saying, but these are all must-sees.

Nightcrawler ****
Life Itself ****
Foxcatcher ***1/2
Whiplash ***1/2
Gone Girl ***1/2
Selma ***1/2
The Normal Heart (HBO) ***1/2
The Raid 2 ***1/2
The Guest ***1/2
Cheap Thrills ***1/2
A Most Violent Year ***
Top Five ***
The Skeleton Twins ***
St. Vincent ***
Neighbors ***
22 Jump Street ***
The Interview ***

THE GOOD (42) - These represent quality filmmaking all-around.

Boyhood ***
Birdman ***
Locke ***
Citizenfour ***
Starred Up ***
'71 ***
The Drop ***
Wild ***
The Theory of Everything ***
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ***
99 Homes ***
Noah ***
Laggies ***
Wish I Was Here ***
What If ***
Welcome to Me ***
Men Women and Children ***
The Imitation Game ***
The Fault In Our Stars ***
Afflicted ***
Bad Words ***
Mistaken For Strangers ***
Night Moves ***
They Came Together ***
The Sacrament ***
Blue Ruin ***

Chef ***
Hellion ***
Two Night Stand ***
Exodus: Gods and Kings ***
Killers ***
Land Ho! ***
The Keeping Room ***
Kill the Messenger ***
Small Time ***
Coldwater ***
The Dog ***
Olive Kitteridge (HBO) ***
Little England ***
Cake **1/2
Sex Tape **1/2
Under the Electric Sky **1/2
Beneath **1/2

THE GOOD... BUT SHOULD'VE BEEN BETTERS (36) - Why weren't these good movies better? I don't really know. But they should've been. Hence, the name of this section.

Blood Ties ***
Snowpiercer ***
The Grand Budapest Hotel ***
Guardians of the Galaxy ***
Unbroken ***
Leviathan ***
The Rover ***
Big Bad Wolves ***
Get On Up **1/2
Edge of Tomorrow **1/2
The Gambler **1/2
American Sniper **1/2
Fury **1/2
Big Eyes **1/2
The Homesman **1/2
Maps to the Stars **1/2
Let's Be Cops **1/2
It Follows **1/2
Starry Eyes **1/2
Calvary **1/2
Captain America: The Winter Soldier **1/2
The Trip to Italy **1/2
Tales From the Grim Sleeper **1/2
Love Is Strange **1/2
The Babadook **1/2
Still Alice **1/2
Bad Turn Worse **1/2
Draft Day **1/2
Non-Stop **1/2
This Is Where I Leave You **1/2
Cold Comes the Night **1/2

Beside Still Waters **1/2
Life of Crime **1/2
Jamesy Boy **
Adult Beginners **
Ping Pong Summer **

THE GUILTY PLEASURES (17) - These are movies that I shouldn't like but I do, for one reason or another. I only feel ashamed because the Internet tells me I'm supposed to.

Tusk ***
John Wick ***
The Equalizer ***
Big Game ***
The Town That Dreaded Sundown ***
The Captive **1/2
Premature **1/2
Jersey Boys **1/2
Mall **1/2
V/H/S: Viral **1/2
Kid Cannabis **1/2
Need For Speed **
Ride Along **
The Purge: Anarchy **
Mockingbird **
Dumb and Dumber To **
The Cobbler **

THE UNDERWHELMING DISAPPOINTMENTS (44) - Chalk it up to expectations but these movies just didn't cut it for me.

Under the Skin **1/2
Inherent Vice **1/2
Dear White People **1/2
While We're Young **1/2
Good Kill **1/2
Begin Again (fka Can a Song Save Your Life?) **1/2
Lucy **1/2
Godzilla **1/2
Dom Hemingway **1/2
RoboCop **1/2
Filth **1/2
The Signal **1/2
A Million Ways to Die in the West **
A Walk Among the Tombstones **
A Most Wanted Man **
The Monuments Men **
Obvious Child **
X-Men: Days of Future Past **
Happy Christmas **
White Bird in a Blizzard **
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For **
Into the Storm **
The Judge **
Honeymoon **
Cold in July **
Felony **
No Good Deed **
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles **
Listen Up Philip **
Are You Here **
Breathe In **
Horrible Bosses 2 *1/2
Magic in the Moonlight *1/2
Life After Beth *1/2
Tammy *1/2
Deliver Us From Evil *1/2
Cub *1/2
Coherence *1/2
Sabotage *1/2
Cooties *1/2

13 Sins *1/2
The Voices *1/2
Grand Piano *1/2
Enemy *

THE BAD (10) - For better or worse, I just don't know what these movies were thinking.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1*
Stretch *
Oculus *
Jamie Marks Is Dead *
The Double *
Into the Woods *
Dracula Untold *
Transformers: Age of Extinction *
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 *
Transcendence *

IN PROGRESS (4) - I've started watching these but I'm not quite done yet.

The Humbling (30 minutes)Veronica Mars (75 minutes)
Whitey (90 minutes)
Young Ones (40 minutes)


Blackhat (Embargoed)

OOPS, I MISSED (115): 3 Days to Kill, 300: Rise of an Empire, ABCs of Death 2, About Last Night, Addicted, Adult World, Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day, All Is By My Side, Annabelle, Annie, Appropriate Behavior, Art of the Steal, As Above So Below, The Bag Man, Belle, Beneath the Harvest Sky, Bethlehem, Better Living Through Chemistry, Beyond the Lights, Blended, The Boxtrolls, Brick Mansions, The Canal, Cesar Chavez, Comet, Date and Switch, Decoding Annie Parker, Devil's Due, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Divergent, Endless Love, Exists, The Expendables 3, The Face of Love, Fading Gigolo, A Field in England, The Final Member, Frank, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Gloria, God's Pocket, The Good Lie, A Good Marriage, The Green Prince, Happy Valley, Hector and the Search for Happiness, Hercules, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Horns, The Houses October Built, How to Train Your Dragon 2, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Ida, The Immigrant, Infinitely Polar Bear, I, Frankenstein, In Secret, I Origins, It Felt Like Love, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Jessabelle, Jimmy P, Joe, Knights of Badassdom, The Lego Movie, Life Partners, The Lunchbox, Maladies, Maleficent, Manakamana, The Maze Runner, McCanick, Million Dollar Arm, Miss Meadows, Mr. Turner, Muppets Most Wanted, The November Man, Nymphomaniac Vol. I and Vol. II, Omar, One Chance, Only Lovers Left Alive, Open Grave, Open Windows, The Other Woman, The Overnighters, Palo Alto, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, Pompeii, The Pretty One, The Prey, Pride, The Pyramid, The Quiet Ones, The Railway Man, Rob the Mob, Rosewater, Rudderless, Stand Clear of the Closing Doors, Stonehearst AsylumThat Awkward Moment, Third Person, Tracks, The Two Faces of January, U Want Me 2 Kill Him?, Walk of Shame, We Are the Best!, Wetlands, What We Do in the Shadows, When the Game Stands Tall, Wild Tales, Winter Sleep, Winter's Tale, Zero Motivation, The Zero Theorem

COMING SOON (6): The Mule, Black or White, The Sleepwalker, Mommy, Fort Bliss, She's Funny That Way

Sunday, March 2, 2014

TheInSneider's FINAL 2014 Oscar Predictions & What He Hopes Will Win

This is The End. My only friend, The End. 

After six months of discussing the same 20 movies ad nauseam, It all comes down to this, gang! My predictions for the 86th annual Academy Awards, as well as my own personal picks if I had a ballot. It's pretty self-explanatory. Should Win is what I HOPE wins on Sunday night. That doesn't mean I necessarily thought their work was the best of the year (for instance, I'd give Best Actress to Julia Louis-Dreyfus for "Enough Said," but somehow she wasn't nominated), it just means that OF THE NOMINEES, this is who I would vote for. Likewise, just because I think someone WILL win, doesn't mean I think they SHOULD win. If you have an Office Oscar Pool, you can take these predictions to the bank, because they're money, baby! 

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all my readers for checking out The InSneider (as well as my work at TheWrap, which has its own awards expert in Steve Pond). I hope you all enjoy the show and have a magical evening! Here's hoping Ellen DeGeneres and Co. have some surprises in store for us. Without further ado, here are my Final 2014 Oscar Predictions as well as my wishlist for Sunday night. The envelope, please...


Should Win: HER
Will Win: 12 YEARS A SLAVE
Analysis: Maybe I have too much faith in the Academy, but I really think that "12 Years a Slave" is going to win the final award of the night. Of course, I hedged my bets by playing a numbers game and betting $20 on "Gravity" online at +400, and picking "Gravity" in Awards Daily & Hollywood-Elsewhere’s Oscar predictions pool. "American Hustle" also stands a chance but I don’t think the Academy will be able to resist the chance to make a serious statement. If they didn’t go for "Avatar," why would they go for "Gravity?" Plus, "it's time."


Should Win: STEVE MCQUEEN, 12 Years a Slave
Will Win: ALFONSO CUARON, Gravity
Analysis: Pretty much a lock, though McQueen still has an outside chance.


Should Win: MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY, Dallas Buyers Club
Will Win: MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY, Dallas Buyers Club
Analysis: Pretty much a lock, though the Academy could choose to reward Leonardo DiCaprio for a versatile, larger-than-life performance in "The Wolf of Wall Street" that marks the culmination of a career built on the sort of good choices that Hollywood hopes McConaughey will continue to make and wishes he always had.


Should Win: AMY ADAMS, American Hustle
Will Win: CATE BLANCHETT, Blue Jasmine
Analysis: Pretty much a lock, and while a 20-year-old Woody Allen scandal probably didn’t affect Blanchett's chances, it certainly didn’t help. With four supporting nominations, Adams is beloved by her peers and represents the biggest threat to Blanchett, but she was also part of an ensemble. Not only did Blanchett carry “Blue Jasmine,” but she has never won for a leading role and seems overdue.


Should Win: JARED LETO, Dallas Buyers Club
Will Win: JARED LETO, Dallas Buyers Club
Analysis: Lock it up. As great as the other nominees were, this one is over.


Should Win: LUPITA NYONG’O, 12 Years a Slave
Will Win: LUPITA NYONG’O, 12 Years a Slave
Analysis: This is considered by many to be the tightest acting race of the evening, but I think this one is pretty much a lock. Nyong’o was everywhere this awards season while Lawrence was stuck in Atlanta shooting another “Hunger Games” sequel. A second straight Oscar might be too much too soon for young starlet Lawrence, and the Academy loves its newcomers. 


Should Win: HER, Spike Jonze
Will Win: AMERICAN HUSTLE, Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell 
Analysis: “Her” was by far the most original screenplay of the year and the Academy may very well seek to reward him since he missed out on a directing nomination, but David O. Russell has never won an Oscar and I think the Academy is eager to recognize him for his career resurgence following "The Fighter" and "Silver Linings Playbook."


Should Win: 12 YEARS A SLAVE, John Ridley
Will Win: 12 YEARS A SLAVE, John Ridley
Analysis: Pretty much a lock. I don’t see “Philomena” or “Wolf of Wall Street” stealing this one, and “Before Midnight” may just be too small to surprise here.


Should Win: Abstrain
Will Win: FROZEN
Analysis: Lock it up. The children have spoken.


Should Win: Abstain
Analysis: OK, it’s confession time. I tried to watch “The Act of Killing” the other night and I just couldn’t get into it. Everyone I trust swears it’s brilliant, I feel bad for not falling in love at first sight. On the other hand, “20 Feet From Stardom” seems like a bonafide crowd pleaser. It’ll be the consensus pick, though Netflix’s “The “Square” could pull off a stunning upset. I just feel like Radius-TWC has had the stars of “Stardom” visible all season and that high-profile visibility will pay off on Oscar night.


Should Win: Abstain
Will Win: THE HUNT
Analysis: This was a last-minute switch from “The Great Beauty,” which I know is the frontrunner to win. I just feel like this category is always kind of wonky and I’ve heard from too many people that “Great Beauty” is too slow and hard to get into. “The Hunt” won Cannes and features an excellent performance from Mads Mikkelsen and I appreciate its comment on society’s tendency to believe everything it hears.


Should Win: GRAVITY, Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki
Will Win: GRAVITY, Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki
Analysis: Lock it up. Sorry Roger Deakins, this one is over.


Should Win: AMERICAN HUSTLE, Michael Wilkinson
Will Win: THE GREAT GATSBY, Catherine Martin
Analysis: Nothing against “American Hustle,” but I think there’s a perception in Hollywood that because the ‘70s were so cliched, it’s easier to imitate the style of the time. Plus, the Academy seems to just love Catherine Martin’s work and as bad as "The Great Gatsby" was, there’s no denying the artistry of the costumes or its lavish production design. Personally, the costume that stood out the most to me this year was Amy Adams'  neck-plunging dresses in "American Hustle," whereas I don't really remember what Daisy was wearing in "Great Gatsby," but hey, that's just me.


Should Win: CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, Christopher Rouse
Will Win: CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, Christopher Rouse
Analysis: This one is going to be close thanks to “Gravity,” but I was on the edge of my seat throughout “Captain Phillips” and that’s because the momentum never let up. It was propulsive and energetic and  the movie, which is long, never overstayed its welcome. You’re not even aware of the running time. That’s a tribute to its editing, and it doesn’t hurt that Christopher Rouse is a well-respected veteran who won an Oscar for “The Bourne Ultimatum.” 


Should Win: DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews
Will Win: DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews
Analysis: A $250 budget? Lock it up. Sorry Johnny Knoxville, this one is over.


Should Win: HER, William Butler and Owen Pallett
Will Win: GRAVITY, Steven Price
Analysis: All of the nominated scores except for "Her" strike me as pretty forgettable but I just don’t see “Philomena” pulling off the upset here. Poor Alexandre Desplat and Thomas Newman… always the bridesmaids, never the bride.


Should Win: Abstain
Will Win: FROZEN, “Let It Go”
Analysis: Pharrell Williams won’t be “happy,” but this one is pretty much a lock. U2 could surprise because who knows what lengths Harvey Weinstein went to behind the scenes to get “Mandela” an Oscar, but the latest classic Disney song seems like a force to be reckoned with.


Should Win: HER, K.K. Barrett and Gene Serdena
Will Win: THE GREAT GATSBY, Catherine Martin & Beverley Dunn
Analysis: This is another close race with both “Gravity” and “Her” looming large, but sometimes Best Production Design means Most Production Design. I’m happy to be proven wrong, but I think this is Team Gatsby’s best chance to win Sunday night. Either way, Warner Bros. will be happy once the envelope is read.


Should Win: Abstain
Analysis: Lock it up.


Should Win: Abstain
Analysis: Lock it up.


Should Win: GRAVITY
Analysis: Lock it up and then lock it up again.


Should Win: Abstain
Will Win: GET A HORSE!
Analysis: Lock it up.


Should Win: Abstain
Analysis: Lock it up.


Should Win: Abstain
Will Win: HELIUM
Analysis: Most prognosticators are picking “Helium” to win and since I haven’t seen it, who am I to argue? But since this is the hardest shorts category to predict, I thought I’d mention that “Just Before Losing Everything” and “The Voorman Problem” are also possibilities here.

Monday, January 27, 2014

2013 MOVIE LIST -- The Top 129 So Far

THE STANDOUTS (20) - This should go without saying, but these are all must-sees.

Her ****
Fruitvale Station (fka Fruitvale) ***1/2
Lone Survivor ***1/2
Captain Phillips ***1/2
Dallas Buyers Club ***1/2
The Wolf of Wall Street ***1/2
Twelve Years a Slave ***1/2
Nebraska ***1/2
The Spectacular Now ***1/2
American Hustle ***
Enough Said ***
Don Jon's Addiction ***
The Silence ***
This Is The End ***
Stories We Tell ***
Short Term 12 ***
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty ***
Behind the Candelabra (HBO) ***
Blue Caprice ***
We Steal Secrets ***

THE GOOD (27) - These represent quality filmmaking all-around.

The Butler ***
Prisoners ***
Gravity ***
Rush ***
Saving Mr. Banks ***
Out of the Furnace ***
Mud ***
The Hunt ***
You're Next ***
Blackfish ***
The World's End ***
The Heat ***
Drinking Buddies ***
In a World... ***
Prince Avalanche ***
Philomena ***
Side Effects ***
August: Osage County ***
Delivery Man ***
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire ***
The Call ***
V/H/S/2 (fka S-VHS) ***
Sightseers ***
Mistaken For Strangers ***
The Kings of Summer ***
Jobs **1/2
Warm Bodies **1/2

THE GOOD... BUT SHOULD'VE BEEN BETTERS (19) - Why weren't these good movies better? I don't really know. But they should've been. Hence, the name of this section.

Monsters University ***
The Fifth Estate ***
Elysium ***
World War Z **1/2
Inside Llewyn Davis **1/2
All Is Lost **1/2
Blue Jasmine **1/2
The Dirties **1/2
Now You See Me **1/2 
The Wolverine **1/2
Pacific Rim **1/2
The Iceman **1/2
The East **1/2
Phil Spector (HBO) **1/2
The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman **1/2
Oblivion **1/2
Mama **1/2
The Jeffrey Dahmer Files **1/2
Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight (HBO) **

THE GUILTY PLEASURES (17) - These are movies that I shouldn't like but I do, for one reason or another. I only feel ashamed because the Internet tells me I'm supposed to.

Furious 6 ***
21 and Over ***
The Internship ***
Ass Backwards ***
Dealin' With Idiots **1/2
Snitch **1/2
Lovelace **1/2
Olympus Has Fallen ** 
We're the Millers **
Grown Ups 2 **
The To Do List **
Bullet to the Head **
A Haunted House **
Crystal Fairy **
Escape From Tomorrow **
Delivery **
Paranoia **

THE UNDERWHELMING DISAPPOINTMENTS (35) - Chalk it up to expectations but these movies just didn't cut it for me.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues **1/2
The Way Way Back **1/2
Trance **1/2
Man of Steel **1/2
The Conjuring **1/2
The Hangover Part III **1/2
Star Trek Into Darkness **1/2
Clear History (HBO) **1/2
Only God Forgives **
Pain and Gain **
Kick-Ass 2 **
The Great Gatsby **
Gangster Squad **
Iron Man 3 **
White House Down **
2 Guns **
Europa Report **
Maniac **
Spring Breakers **
Kill Your Darlings **
Dead Man Down **
Broken City **
Identity Thief ** 
The Evil Dead ** 
Breathe In **
Stoker **
Black Rock **
Antiviral **
A Teacher **
Welcome to the Punch **
Dark Skies **
The Last Stand **
Sweetwater **
Ain't Them Bodies Saints *1/2
A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III *1/2

THE BAD (10) - For better or worse, I just don't know what these movies were thinking.

Carrie *1/2
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone *1/2
The Purge *
A Good Day To Die Hard *
Oldboy *
Stand Up Guys *
Adore (fka Two Mothers) *
Movie 43 *
Berberian Sound Studio *
Upstream Color *

IN PROGRESS (4) - I've started watching these but I'm not quite done yet.

42 (75 minutes)
The Grandmaster (30 minutes)
Kink (18 minutes)
Top of the Lake (2 hours)

DOESN'T REALLY COUNT (1) - Re-releases don't count unless it's my first time seeing the movie.

Jurassic Park 3D ****

OOPS, I MISSED (82): 20 Feet From Stardom, 47 Ronin, About Time, The Act of Killing, Admission, After Earth, The Armstrong Lie, At Any Price, The Attack, Bad Grandpa, Beautiful Creatures, Before Midnight, Beyond the Hills, Big Sur, The Bling Ring, Blue Is the Warmest Color, The Book Thief, The Canyons, Citadel, Closed Circuit, Computer Chess, The Counselor, Despicable Me 2, Diana, Dirty Wars, Emperor, Ender's Game, Epic, Escape Plan, Filly Brown, Free Birds, The Gatekeepers, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Ginger and Rosa, Girl Most Likely, I Give It a Year, Grudge Match, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, Here Comes the Devil, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Homefront, How I Live Now, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete, Jack the Giant Slayer, Knife Fight, Kon-Tiki, Labor Day, The Last Exorcism Part II, Last Vegas, The Lone Ranger, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Machete Kills, Man of Tai Chi, The Monk, Mr. Nobody, Much Ado About Nothing, No, No Place on Earth, Oz the Great and Powerful, Parker, The Past, Pawn Shop Chronicles, Phantom, Red 2, Red Flag, R.I.P.D., Rubberneck, The Sapphires, Somebody Up There Likes Me, Sound City, Starbuck, Stuck In Love, Supporting Characters, The Sweeney, Texas Chainsaw 3D, Thor: The Dark World, Turbo, Unhung Hero, The Wall, The We and the I, Wrong, Zero Charisma

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The InSneider's Annual Last-Minute Oscar Nomination Predictions

T-minus 4 hours, so I'd better get these on the record quick! I didn't play The Alternate Game the last two years so I decided against it again this year despite the temptation with such a wide-open field. There are some categories that are really tough to call this year so I did offer some elementary analysis, though the trickiest question remains not which films will be nominated, but rather, how many. Thanks to all the bloggers I've enjoyed reading this awards season including but certainly not limited to Steve Pond, Scott Feinberg, Jeff Wells, David Poland and MCN's Gurus O' Gold, Kris Tapley and the Team Hitfix's Gregory Ellwood, Guy Lodge and Gerard Kennedy, Sasha Stone, Anne Thompson, Pete Hammond, Anthony Breznican, Nathaniel Rogers, the fine folks at The Playlist and Grantland's Wesley Morris and Mark Harris, the latter of whom I was glad to see back on the awards beat after sitting out last year due to a conflict of interest. I'd call this a work-in-progress but fortunately, we've run out of time and these will have to do. Good luck to all the contenders! Upward and onward to Phase Two...

IMPORTANT NOTE: Tonight, I discovered an old draft titled "The InSneider's Premature Guide to the 2014 Oscars" that was written shortly after last year's Sundance but never published, though I'm happy to do so for those who wish to see evidence. It was written early enough in 2013 to assume that "American Hustle" (aka David O. Russell's untitled ABSCAM movie) wouldn't be ready, while films like "Foxcatcher," "Grace of Monaco," "Monuments Men" and "The Immigrant" would all debut as originally scheduled. I'm going to tell you how my final Oscar predictions matched up against those from February 2013. Enjoy the show!


1. 12 Years a Slave
2. American Hustle
3. Gravity 
4. Nebraska
5. Captain Phillips
6. The Wolf of Wall Street
7. Her
8. Dallas Buyers Club
9. Inside Llewyn Davis

ANALYSIS: There's so much competition for that 10th slot, but it's a tough mathematical possibility, and ultimately I think the Academy sticks with 9 nominees. If I had to rank the others in order, it would be Philomena, The Butler, Blue Jasmine, Saving Mr. Banks and August: Osage County.

FLASHBACK: I predicted "The Wolf of Wall Street," "12 Years a Slave," "Gravity" and "Captain Phillips" would all be nominated. Curious to know the other six films? In order, "Monuments Men," "August: Osage County," "Foxcatcher," "Saving Mr. Banks," "Fruitvale" (I'd seen it at Sundance) and, oddly enough, "Star Trek Into Darkness." HA! "Nebraska," "Inside Llewyn Davis" and "Dallas Buyers Club" appeared on my "Next 10," while "Her" was listed as a "possible contender." "American Hustle" was not considered for ANY 2013 awards because I assumed it would debut in 2014.


1. Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
2. Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
3. David O. Russell, American Hustle
4. Spike Jonze, Her
5. Alexander Payne, Nebraska

ANALYSIS: Due to the discrepancy between last year's DGA nominees and the eventual Oscar nominees, I feel like this category is bound to surprise. I couldn't decide whether Paul Greengrass or Martin Scorsese would fall out, or whether it'd be Jonze or Payne replacing them. I'm going out on a limb and predicting both will get in, as I think The Playlist could be on to something. I'm just guessing people will vote with their hearts, but that may be my own romanticized image of the Academy.

FLASHBACK: I predicted McQueen and Cuaron, along with Scorsese, George Clooney and J.J. Abrams. Again, HA!  Payne was in my "Next 5" list and Jonze was simply overlooked, while Russell was never considered a possibility.


1. Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
2. Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
3. Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
4. Bruce Dern, Nebraska
5. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street

ANALYSIS: I don't think Robert Redford really has a shot. He didn't campaign, and his movie wasn't really distributed by a major studio. This is the most competitive field in years, and you just can't afford not to play the game. I think that final slot comes down to DiCaprio and Christian Bale, though Forest Whitaker remains an outside possibility. All due respect to Michael B. Jordan and Oscar Isaac, who are just too young and have to "pay their dues" a la DiCaprio and McConaughey. 

FLASHBACK: Believe it or not, I predicted the SAME five actors nearly a full year ago. This is me patting myself on the back right now... but that could change in a few hours. We'll find out soon enough!


1. Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
2. Sandra Bullock, Gravity
3. Judi Dench, Philomena
4. Amy Adams, American Hustle
5. Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks

ANALYSIS: The "experts" are saying the final slot comes down to Adams and Meryl Streep, but I think it's Emma Thompson who is the most vulnerable. That said, I think voters hold Streep to a higher standard and the film was more of an ensemble piece. I think the Academy is ready to give someone else a turn, and they love Adams, who has four nominations in the supporting category.

FLASHBACK: I had Bullock and Thompson, as well as Streep and a pair of princesses. I predicted that Naomi Watts was the most likely to score a nomination thanks to "Diana" (HA!) and that Nicole Kidman would grace the field with her presence thanks to "Grace of Monaco." Alas, that film was pushed to 2014. Blanchett was in my "Next 5" field and I considered Dench a "really long shot," while Adams wasn't even on my awards radar because I thought the film would debut in 2014.


1. Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
2. Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
3. Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
4. Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
5. James Gandolfini, Enough Said

ANALYSIS: Another tough call, leaving out Daniel Bruhl from "Rush." But I'm afraid he's an outsider in Hollywood, his leading role may hinder more help his chances, and "Rush" isn't a serious awards contender this year, even though it was a really good film. I think Hollywood really likes Cooper and he coasts in on the strength of "American Hustle," while Gandolfini gets a posthumous nod for playing against type and his overall body of work. Jonah Hill and Will Forte are both deserving and could play the spoiler for someone. 

FLASHBACK: Fassbender is the only one I predicted early on, and he was joined by Hill, Tobey Maguire ("Great Gatsby"), Benedict Cumberbatch ("Star Trek Into Darkness") and Javier Bardem ("The Counselor"). Obviously, this category didn't shape up quite like I imagined. Leto was on my "Next 5" list, while Abdi, Cooper and Gandolfini weren't even on my radar back then. That's because Abdi was a total newcomer, I thought Cooper would be campaigning for "Serena" and "Place Beyond the Pines" (d'oh!) and Gandolfini was still alive. To be fair, I wasn't sure Nicole Holofcener's movie would open this year and had no idea it would be so good!


1. Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
2. Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
3. June Squibb, Nebraska
4. Oprah Winfrey, The Butler
5. Julia Roberts, August: Osage County

ANALYSIS: This category seems sewn up to me. I don't think Sally Hawkins is that much of a threat, and while Jennifer Garner could surprise, I'm not prepared to predict she'll land a nomination. That's going a little too far, though I'd be delighted for her, as "Dallas Buyers Club" was terrific and she never really got her due because her male co-stars hogged all the awards attention.

FLASHBACK: Oprah was actually the only one of these actresses who I predicted nearly a year ago. She was joined by Carey Mulligan ("Inside Llewyn Davis"), Amy Adams ("Her"), Octavia Spencer and Hawkins. I thought Roberts would campaign in the lead category, while neither Lawrence or Squibb were on my radar at the time.


1. Her
2. Nebraska
3. American Hustle
4. Blue Jasmine
5. Dallas Buyers Club 

ANALYSIS: There are six deserving screenplays and only five slots, so something really good is going to get cut. Is Woody Allen really a shoo-in? How can the Academy completely ignore the Coen brothers? Something's gotta give, and for some reason, I don't think it's going to be "Dallas Buyers Club," which took many years and a ton of passion to come together. I suspect my anti-Llewyn stance is affecting my judgment here, but a boy can dream, can't he? I don't think "Saving Mr. Banks" or "Gravity" represent much of a threat here, but stranger things have happened. If only one of those was "Fruitvale Station" making the cut...

FLASHBACK: I didn't predict the Screenplay nominees last year.


1. 12 Years a Slave
2. The Wolf of Wall Street
3. Before Midnight
4. Captain Phillips
5. Philomena

ANALYSIS: This is another category that I think is sewn up, though if there's a dark horse looming, it's Tracy Letts' script for "August: Osage County," which is based on his Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning play. "Lone Survivor" received a WGA nomination but that's because "12 Years a Slave" and "Philomena" weren't eligible. 

FLASHBACK: I didn't predict the Screenplay nominees last year.