SLIDESHOW: This is who I want to win, not who I think will win. I have no inside information, beingin Seattle, but I'll bring up some of the favorites. I'll also mention who's missing from among the nominees, if anyone. Overall, I have to admit, it's been a good year for Hollywood movies and the Academy did a good job picking its nominees. Its big blind spot was not giving any love to “Inside Llewyn Davis,” but then, as my friend Jim Walsh writes, that's the nature of Llewyn Davis. Nothing would be more incongruous than Llewyn Davis winning anything. If you want him during awards time, he'll be in the back alley getting his ass kicked. But onward.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG: “HAPPY”: What's missing, of course, is any song from “Inside Llewyn Davis,” or at least the original songs (“Please, Mr. Kennedy,” etc.), but even if that were nominated I'd probably still go with this song—and not just because Patricia's obsessed with it. It's because Pharrell's voice is great, the song grooves, and it does what it sets out to do. It makes us happy.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: GRAVITY“: Sure, great effects and whiz-bang in ”Star Trek Into Darkness“ ”The Hobbit 2,“ and ”Iron Man 3.“ But c'mon. This movie was an experience. It was a spectacle. It pushed the bounds. It went where no film had gone before.
BEST FILM EDITING: ”AMERICAN HUSTLE“: How do you choose this category unless you know what the editor was working with? But I'd go ”Hustle“ based on how quickly it moved through the movie's many different storylines in a way that felt left almost nothing extraneous on the screen. It's a quick, fun, fat-free movie. The only extra weight was what Christian Bale put on.
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: BRUNO DELBONNEL, ”INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS“: I wouldn't be surprised if the black-and-white movie wins (”Nebraska“) but ”Llewyn Davis“ felt black and white to me. This is Delbonnel's fourth nomination, after ”Amélie, “Un long dimanche de fiançailles,” and “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” Roger Deakins, who often photographs the Coens' movies, is also up, for “Prisoners.” It's his 11th nomination with no wins. Could be interesting. Would love to see someone from this movie up there.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: “THE GREAT BEAUTY”: It won the Globe and the BAFTA, and its strongest competition isn't here: “The Past,” from Iran, and “Blue is the Warmest Color” from France. Plus it was No. 3 in my top movies of 2013. Although does that count against it ulimtately? Either way, Jep (above) gave us the best Oscar-night advice: “We're all on the brink of despiar. All we can do is look each other in the face, keep each other company, joke a little. Don’t you agree?”
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: “THE ACT OF KILLING”: Every year this category gets tougher. Think of all the great 2013 docs that didn't even get nominated. But “Killing” is in a league of its own. It's horrifying, bizarre but ultimately redemptive. If we think what we see in the first 9/10 can be redeemed.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: JENNIFER LAWRENCE, “AMERICAN HUSTLE”: There's been pushback lately that Lawrence's is a showy performance. Maybe, but it's my kind of showy performance. But it appears Lupita Nyong'o will win for “Slave.” If enough members of the Academy can bother to see it.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: MICHAEL FASSBENDER, “12 YEARS A SLAVE”: I'd be happy with Jared Leto, who seems a lock. But Fassbender's was one of the most amazing performances of the year. Not because, as a slaveowner, he could act cruel but because he could also act righteous. There's not a trace of guilt in him. The opposite. Look how wrongedhe felt in the end.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: SPIKE JONZE, “HER”: This category is usually stacked but not this year. To be honest, any of these could win and I'd just shrug. The best movie of the bunch is “American Hustle” but I heard a lot of that was improvised. So I'd go Jonze.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: STEVE COOGAN, JEFF POPE, “PHILOMENA”: I still think this is a very underrated movie. There's a purity, a cleanness to it. I'd be happy with either “12 Years” or “Wolf,” too. What would make me most unhappy? “Before Midnight,” one of the most overrated movies I've seen in years.
BEST ACTOR: LEONARDO DICAPRIO, “THE WOLF OF WALL STREET”: This is the most stacked category we've got. It's so stacked that performances that might normally win, such as Robert Redford in “All Is Lost,” Tom Hanks in “Captain Phillips,” and Oscar Isaac in “Inside Llewyn Davis,” weren't even nominated. It's McConaughey's to lose, of course, and I'll cheer along with everyone else for the great year he had, including “Mud,” “Wolf” and HBO's “True Detective”; but Leo took it to another level here. It’s like he was channeling Jack Nicholson at his outré best. He was both contained and over-the-top. It was riveting.
BEST ACTRESS: JUDI DENCH, “PHILOMENA”: Again, why was there no buzz for this performance? Cate Blanchett was amazing in “Blue Jasmine,” and she'll deserve it, but Dench is so good she almost undercuts her film. We get several scenes from the 1950s to demonstrate what Philomena Lee lost, but these, to me, are almost superfluous. We know what Philomena Lee lost. You just need to watch Judi Dench act.
BEST DIRECTOR: MARTIN SCORSESE, “THE WOLF OF WALL STREET”: I know, he's got no shot. But the movies Marty will be remembered for are “Mean Streets” (no nomination), “Taxi Driver” (ditto), “Raging Bull (nominated, lost to Redford), ”Goodfellas“ (nominated, lost to Costner), and this. So who gets the honor instead? I'll take McQueen, even though, in some sense, ”12 Years“ is his least powerful movie. I'll take Cuaron for pushing the boundaries of space on film. But this is who I want. And finally ...
BEST PICTURE: ”THE WOLF OF WALL STREET“: It’s about the haves and have nots; about how to be a have and not fall back into have-not territory. Jordan Belfort keeps bringing up McDonald’s with his brokers in the wolf pit. He keeps bringing up dingy cars and plain wives and the energy-draining 9-to-5 existence: commuting between two places that don’t really appreciate what you do. The schnook life. Our life. And welcome to it. ”American Hustle“ might win, along with either ”12 Years“ or ”Gravity," but this movie is about the true American hustle.
EXIT MUSIC (FOR A SLIDESHOW): Gosh, where to start? I'd like to thank Patricia for always being there, and for taking like two dozen photos of me before we got a decent one. I'd like to thank the Academy for starting up to stave off unionization. I'd like to thank the talented people who made this year's movies, particularly Martin Scorsese, and all the people who came to my Oscar party. But mostly I'd like to thank Llewyn Davis. For reminding me of me. This one's for you, dude!