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Hammerle on ... 'American Hustle' leads favorites for 2014 Oscars

Robert Hammerle
February 12, 2014
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bob hammerle movie reviewsThe Oscars take place March 2, so it’s time to humiliate myself and make predictions. Then again, what would cause you to place your money on the opinion of a criminal defense lawyer for God’s sake? My idol has always been Atticus Finch, and didn’t his innocent client get convicted in “To Kill a Mockingbird?”

BEST PICTURE – “American Hustle”

Simply stated, director David O. Russell had the rug pulled out from underneath him last year when his brilliant “Silver Linings Playbook” was ignored, and I can’t see them doing that to him two years in a row. Yes, “12 Years a Slave,” “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Gravity” are equally deserving, and no one would applaud more enthusiastically if “Nebraska” or “Philomena” won. Yet my instincts tell me that it has to go to Russell’s film.

BEST ACTOR – Chiwetel Ejiofor

This comes down to Matthew McConaughey’s performance in “Dallas Buyers Club” and Ejiofor in “12 Years a Slave.” His gigantic performance should always remind you of what slavery was really like despite the loveable Mammy in “Gone with the Wind” (1939). The British-born son of Nigerian parents deserves this, and what a fine moment it would be.

BEST ACTRESS – Cate Blanchett

Though Ms. Blanchett’s character in “Blue Jasmine” was nearly as unlikeable as Leonardo DiCaprio’s loathsome character in “The Wolf of Wall Street, she made you reach the point where you almost cared for her, and I’ve got to think she will grab the prize. But don’t count out Amy Adams, who is lurking in the shadows with “American Hustle.”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR - Jared Leto

This prize belongs to Leto. His only real competition is Barkhad Abdi, the beleaguered pirate in “Captain Phillips.” However, I think Leto’s portrayal of a dying transvestite in “Dallas Buyers Club” wins hands down.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – June Squibb

This award comes down to either Lupita Nyong’o for her heartbreaking performance in “12 Years a Slave” or Squibb as Bruce Dern’s ornery 84-year-old wife with an attitude in “Nebraska.” I really wish it could be a tie, but give it to Squibb.

BEST DIRECTOR – David O. Russell

Here’s to you, Russell. Again, you can’t leave him standing at the door for two spectacular works two years in a row.

ANIMATED FEATURE – “Frozen”

This one was as easy to pick as Leto for Best Supporting Actor.

FILM EDITING – “American Hustle”

I really don’t have the expertise to make a meaningful selection in this category, but history has tended to show that the Best Picture winner also wins the Oscar for film editing.

CINEMATOGRAPHY – “Gravity”

There is only one winner in this category, and it begins several awards for this spectacularly visual film.

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – “20 Feet from Stardom”

A great story about backup singers told with provocative thoughts from Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie and others. The backup singers in this sterling film deserve to be seen at the front of the stage. (Please ignore the sad fact that I haven’t seen the other nominees!)

COSTUME DESIGN – “American Hustle”

Our boys looked good in this film, but no one will ever forget the gowns worn by Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence.

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING – “Dallas Buyers Club”

Did you see the makeup and hairstyling done to Leto in his captivating performance? I did, and I would guess that even some of those adamant in their opposition to same-sex marriage secretly found him attractive.

VISUAL EFFECTS – “Gravity”

This is really a contest between “Gravity” and “The Hobbit: Deosolation of Smaug.” While it wouldn’t disappoint me at all to see “The Hobbit” win, the stunning visual effects in “Gravity” dealt with a reflection of reality, not fantasy. Alfonso Cuaron’s group deserves this Oscar.

ORIGINAL SCORE – “Gravity”

Whether it out-muscles “American Hustle” for the Best Picture Oscar, it has to be the favorite to take home the prize in this category.

ORIGINAL SONG – “Let It Go” from “Frozen”

This also should be a no-brainer.

PRODUCTION DESIGN – “Gravity”

The strength of this film is found in its visuals, and that has to begin with this category.

SOUND EDITING and SOUND MIXING – “The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug”

Given the legitimate appeal of “Gravity,” I’m clearly going out on a limb here. However, I remember that director Peter Jackson’s team won in these two categories when they remade “King Kong” (2005). Let history repeat itself.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – “Her”

Though I still believe that its mistreatment of women made it a mistake to nominate “Her” for best picture, it clearly stands out in this category. Spike Jonze has written a unique script. Though Bob Nelson is right there with the incredibly engaging “Nebraska,” I think Jonze’s creative ingenuity carries the day despite its weaknesses.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – “12 Years a Slave”

The emotional effect and historical significance of “12 Years a Slave” can’t possibly be ignored.

ANIMATED SHORT FILM – “Get a Horse!”

Though the films in this category won’t reach Indianapolis until after my deadline, I’m going out on a limb and picking Disney’s very funny tale about Mickey and Minnie Mouse as they battle Pegleg Pete. If you’ve seen “Frozen,” you’ve already seen this inspired animated film as a lead-in.

LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM - Not here by deadline.

DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT - Not here at all!

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM - ?

While Indianapolis has once again all but ignored foreign films, my biggest disappointment is that neither “Instructions Not Included” from Mexico and “Wajda” from Saudi Arabia are nominees. Maybe their homelands failed to submit them as potential nominations, but they remain extraordinary films that all of you should see. As noted in my earlier reviews, “Instructions Not Included” was the highest grossing Mexican film in the history of this country, and “Wajda” was the first film to be directed by a female Saudi director.

Regardless of who wins in this Oscar race, please remember to see “The Way, Way Back” and “Short Term 12.” To the extent that it matters, they remain two of my favorite films of 2013.•

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Robert Hammerle
practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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