Welcome to Oscar week 2014. The 86th Academy Awards, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, are this Sunday and it’s time to break down and analyze just who or what is going to be walking off the stage with an Oscar. If you follow my website, you will know that I’ve been tabulating all of the minor and lead-up award winners in all of the Oscar categories since last November on my 2014 Awards Tracker. To put it in educational terms to match this website’s theme, those numbers have been by “data analysis” to predicting just what films are going to win. It’s time to make my formal predictions. In this fifth post, we are deep into the major award categories. Here are my picks for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. Stick with me and I will win you your Oscar pool. Let’s go!
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
The nominees: Sally Hawkins for “Blue Jasmine,” Jennifer Lawrence for “American Hustle,” Lupita Nyong’o for “12 Years a Slave,” Julia Roberts for “August: Osage County,” June Squibb for “Nebraska”
AWARDS TRACKER (number of prior award wins in this category):
22- Nyong’o, 13- Lawrence, 2- Squibb, 2- Scarlett Johansson, “Her,” 1- Roberts, 1- Octavia Spencer, “Fruitvale Station,” 1- Shailene Woodley, “The Spectacular Now,” 1- Oprah Winfrey, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”
Who was snubbed: When you compare this roster with this nominees from the Screen Actors Guild, the notable big name missing is Oprah Winfrey. She doesn’t need Oscars to justify her popularity, but I will tip my hat that she was very good in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.” I think she could have easily overtaken the “happy to be there” person I’ll talk about next. Another potential nominee was snubbed for an odd rule requirement. To be nominated in an acting category, you have to at least make an appearance on-screen. That’s why you’ll never see a voice performance from an animated film make this or any acting field. One more unique example of this technicality taking away a solid performance was in the case of Scarlett Johansson from “Her.” Her voice is, easily, one of the guiding forces of that great film. She deserved recognition for her half of the fascinating dialogue with Joaquin Phoenix.
Happy to be there: The lucky one and the deepest longshot is Sally Hawkins. “Blue Jasmine” was Cate Blanchett’s movie and Hawkins was along for the ride. She kept up with Blanchett, but I don’t think she did anything special to warrant a second acting nomination from Woody Allen’s film. She is the weakest acting nominee of any of the four fields and could have easily had her spot taken by someone else.
Who should win: For me, and I said this when I reviewed the film, I think Julia Roberts was the best she has ever been as an actress in “August: Osage County.” Shedding away her megawatt smile and Hollywood glamour, she went toe-to-toe with fellow Oscar nominee Meryl Streep and won many of those battles. Of the nominees in this category, I personally think Roberts has the strongest and biggest part. In my opinion, she was the most outstanding.
Who will win: Julia Roberts doesn’t have a shot to win. This category is the closest two-horse race of the entire evening. The prior major awards have gone back and forth between Jennifer Lawrence and Lupita Nyong’o. Lawrence won the Golden Globe, but Nyong’o won the SAG. Both have positive reasons to earn votes and both have their hindrances. For Lawrence, the biggest detractor is her huge stardom and the fact that she just won an Oscar last year for a far better and bigger role. If she wins, it will be because of her popularity, period. I just don’t see even her biggest fans as the current everywhere “It Girl” showering her twice this soon in her young career. This category has seen many underdog upsets over the years and loves the young new face. For that, Lupita Nyong’o from “12 Years a Slave” wins in a photo finish. To the general public watching the Oscars for the red carpet stars, they will call this an upset, but it really isn’t one at all. Nyong’o has the better role and the better performance, by a country mile, and has won more awards in this category all season. She deserves to win and I think voters will get this one right.
The nominees: Amy Adams for “American Hustle,” Cate Blanchett for “Blue Jasmine,” Sandra Bullock for “Gravity,” Judi Dench for “Philomena,” Meryl Streep for “August: Osage County”
AWARDS TRACKER (number of prior award wins in this category):
31- Blanchett, 5- Bullock, 4- Adele Exarchopoulos, “Blue is the Warmest Colour,” 3- Brie Larson, “Short Term 12,” 2- Emma Thompson, “Saving Mr. Banks,” 1- Adams
Who was snubbed: It’s hard to find one of the five final nominees that doesn’t belong. Some deep sleepers to make this group could have been Brie Larson and Adele Exarchopoulos that you see listed above in the Awards Tracker. As good as they were, their films were too small to get much attention. However, in the opposite direction, a strong case can be made for Emma Thompson not making this field for “Saving Mr. Banks.” That film has been seen and noticed by plenty. She was the best part of that film and it was very strong performance from one of the masters of the craft. The question becomes whose spot does she take.
Happy to be there: Considering the runaway blowout numbers of the Awards Tracker, anyone not named Cate Blanchett should feel happy to be there. Meryl Streep and Judi Dench get to add to their extensive resumes with acting nominations #18 and #7 respectively. Sandra Bullock gains a little more credibility back after a cheap Oscar for “The Blindside” and the youngest pup of the field, at a shocking 39-going-on-40, is Amy Adams. This is her fifth Oscar nomination, but she will continue to wait like so many great and consistent actresses that came before her (Rachel Weisz, Kate Winslet, Blanchett, Roberts, etc.) for the right role and right moment. “American Hustle” is not the winning one for her.
Who should win and will win: By the math of it, this borders on “lock of the night” next to Jared Leto. Any name read out of the envelope that isn’t Cate Blanchett for “Blue Jasmine” would be an absolute shocker and longshot victory. She has weathered the storm of a Woody Allen controversy/boycott and a little-seen movie to win every lead-up award possible in this category, including the SAG, Golden Globe, BAFTA, and Critics Choice awards. I think she’s a classic favorite actress among her peers. She has won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar and this is her moment for the lead award that cements her rightful greatness. She has the solid reputation that can rise above the Woody Allen flak and her performance in “Blue Jasmine” is flat-out better than everyone else on this list. I just about called this award for her when I reviewed this film last summer. I think she makes it all the way.