The Directors Guild of America has officially handed their prestigious award to Gravity visionary, Alfonso Cuaron, and all hell has broken loose on the Best Picture front. With merely 5 weeks left to go until the final showdown on Oscar night, prognosticators are in a frenzy trying to dissect the DGA impact and a bunch of surprisingly close races.
As it's been for some time, the Best Picture race is down to three real finalists. The Golden Globe wins for 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle left many believing that Gravity was slowly fading from the rest of the pack. Then, the SAG awards recognized American Hustle as its Best Ensemble and the arrows started pointing in its direction. Now, a DGA victory for filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity) and the extensive track-record that the Academy rarely splits Best Picture and Best Director, it appears that everyone is completely baffled by this race.
The way I see it, with last year being a recent example of the Academy splitting Best Picture and Best Director winners, maybe there's a new trend developing. Clearly, none of these films have emerged from the pack and perhaps the voting members don't mind splitting their picks. Gravity seems the unlikeliest of the three with American Hustle just a nose ahead of 12 Years a Slave in my opinion.
It's always "too soon" to crown someone a winner, especially with over a month left until the Oscars, but Gravity's Alfonso Cuaron continues to separate himself from the rest of the field in the Best Director category. There's still an inkling of hope left for Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), given that the Academy hasn't been too kind to the sci-fi genre in the past. However, it currently feels like Cuaron is a safe bet come March 2nd.
On the surface it looks as though Matthew McConaughey is a clear favorite in the Best Actor race, having swept just about everything outside of the BAFTAs (who ignored Dallas Buyers Club altogether). However, Leonardo DiCaprio could very well play the spoiler role on Oscar night. Many feel as though DiCaprio is well-deserving of his first win and that The Wolf of Wall Street may be the finest work of his career (although I would tend to disagree). Leo's been victorious in both the Golden Globes and Critics' Choice in the comedy category, as well as a nomination from the BAFTAs. Perhaps the British voters will throw their support his way and it could spell an upset for the presumed frontrunner, McConaughey.
While DiCaprio and McConaughey seem to have the upper hand, it's worth noting that longtime actor Bruce Dern (Nebraska) has been hot on the awards season trail, trying his best to earn an Academy Award for the first time in his career. Although I believe that a win for Dern would be extremely unlikely, it's easy to imagine a niche group of voters leaning in the old-time's direction.
In the likeliest of scenarios, Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) will take home the Best Actress statue at the Academy Awards. She's got a career full of exceptional work and this is arguably her pinnacle performance. She's been a slam dunk in all of the early precursor awards and all indicators say she'll be victorious on March 2nd. Yet, there's one tiny obstacle in her way, and that's the Amy Adams (American Hustle) freight train which none of us saw coming. After her Golden Globe victory, it seemed as though no one was more caught off guard by her rapid surge than Amy Adams herself. It's storylines like this that voting members of the Academy swoon over. Although unlikely, Adams is the only competitor with a real chance of bringing down Blanchett.
Best Supporting Actor
Perhaps the safest selection to guarantee 5 weeks from tonight is a Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) win for the Best Supporting Actor category. He's taken the precursors by storm and the musician's powerful return to the big screen has proved to be a great story. Leto is on a rampage and I'm beginning to doubt the likelihood of an upset for many reasons. For example, Michael Fassbender's turn in 12 Years a Slave feels too villainous for the Academy to favor and Bradley Cooper's (American Hustle) performance doesn't offer the same level of significance as Leto's. Unless it turns out to be a wild night for Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street team and Jonah Hill shocks us all, it's impossible to suspect anyone other than Leto claiming the award.
Best Supporting Actress
The second most interesting race outside of the Best Picture frenzy is the Best Supporting Actress competition featuring Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave) and Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle). Despite Lawrence's catapult to stardom with a Best Actress victory just last year, I'm starting to view Nyong'o as the slight favorite. As we all know the Academy is completely enamored with a solid story and this being the Kenyan performer's first motion picture role, it doesn't get much better than that. Lawrence has become the new face of Hollywood and we all assume she'll continue her reign for years to come, but 2014 feels like the perfect time for Lupita Nyong'o to make her mark.