'And the Oscar goes to ...'

The Spectrum’s predictions for Sunday’s Academy Awards

By MEGAN WEAL and SAM FERNANDO
On February 27, 2014

  • The UB womens tennis team will have a hard time with the defending MAC champion Marshall Thundering Herd this weekend in Buffalo. Image Contributor

With the Academy Awards approaching this weekend, conversation is abuzz about the prevailing question of the Oscars: Who's going to walk away with the golden accolade?

The year 2013 offered a long list of stellar performances. From historical depth and tragedy to eclectic scenes of drug abuse, the Oscars have something for everyone. But there can only be one winner - and it only seems right to give our thoughts.

Best Picture

Should Win: 12 Years A Slave

Will Win: 12 Years A Slave

Want to Win: 12 Years A Slave

The film 12 Years A Slave is unbearable to watch. It moves you, making you feel something in the pit of your stomach that so many movies fail to achieve. Such a film is a rarity; movies with this sort of timelessness only grace our screens a few times a decade.

Director Steve McQueen captures the plight of Solomon Northup, a free man illegally sold into slavery in the 1840s. Though the horrors of slavery are impossible to fully understand - textbooks can only do so much to portray that dark part of American history - seeing the injustice and abuse visually gives us a better, and more painful, understanding than any book could.

McQueen didn't hold back. Northup's 12-year journey back to freedom is bittersweet. But that is the point. In a year with many Oscar-worthy films, there is no question 12 Years a Slave is most deserving of best picture.

Best Actor

Should Win: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

Will Win: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

Want to Win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf Of Wall Street

Matthew McConaughey has had his share of bad rom-com roles. With his performances in Failure to Launch and The Wedding Planner, there seemed to be little hope that McConaughey would ever earn a nomination. But McConaughey transcends his acting résuméwith his incredible performance as Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club.

The role is a transformation, but it's also hard-hitting and controversial - two elements that excite Oscar voters. Playing the role of a homophobic cowboy diagnosed with AIDS, McConaughey has made the Academy, and the public at large, sit up and take notice.   

McConaughey deserves to win, and he probably will, but there's still overwhelming support for DiCaprio. Although the role of Jordan Belfort in The Wolf Of Wall Street may not have been his most impressive acting stint, it's still worthy of applause (and the award). Watching the millionaire's drug-fueled, money-grabbing lifestyle is exhausting, but DiCaprio makes it enthralling.

This year is likely going to join the list of years DiCaprio was snubbed of his Oscar yet again. If it weren't for McConaughey's stunning performance, this would have been the year for DiCaprio.

Best Actress

Should Win: Amy Adams, American Hustle

Will Win: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Want to Win: Amy Adams, American Hustle

All odds seem to be nodding in the favor of Cate Blanchett this year. Blanchett's role in Blue Jasmine showcases her extensive talents - the ease with which she adopts an uncanny British accent, the unwavering air of self-importance that her character emanates and the way that air eventually crumbles. But compared to American Hustle, Blue Jasmine was not as compelling of a movie; Blanchett simply excelled in her role.

Although the Academy seems to be leaning toward Blanchett, Amy Adams' performance as Sydney Prosser in American Hustle poses a threat. Adams imbues her character with a three-dimensionality that was made to win the Oscar. The pent-up frustration and bitterness that Adams conveys is electric.  

Best Supporting Actor

Should Win: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Will Win: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Want to Win: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

After leaving the movie industry for six years, Jared Leto is phenomenal in his return to the big screen with his role as Rayon in Dallas Buyers. The unwavering truth that seems to pour from his character is striking.

Leto's portrayal of the delicate transsexual outshines his fellow nominees. The most emotive scene of the movie, and Leto's most poignant acting, comes as the movie draws to a close and Rayon goes to meet his father. That scene is the only time the audience sees Leto out of drag, and he captures the complexity of the moment masterfully. There are no limits to the emotions his acting provokes. His performance leaves nothing to be desired - Leto put everything he had into his role.  

Leto still has some respectable competition. Jonah Hill showcased his skillset as the drug-hungry Donnie in The Wolf of Wall Street. He proved himself as not just a source of comedic relief, but also a hard-hitting actor. Nonetheless, Leto seems to already have the Oscar in his hand, and rightfully so.

Best Supporting Actress

Should Win: Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave

Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle

Want to Win: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle

Jennifer Lawrence, fresh off her Oscar win last year for Silver Linings Playbook, is the frontrunner in the best supporting actress category this year. Her performance as the cold-hearted wife of a con artist is nothing short of brilliant, and possibly better than her Oscar-winning role last year.

Lupita Nyong'o's film debut as an abused slave in the pre-Civil War South was masterful. The emotional intensity the rookie displayed has solidified her future in the business. The film will become a signature piece of a generation, thanks to the excellent performances by Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and most notably, Nyong'o.

Best Director

Should Win: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity

Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity

Want to Win: David O. Russell, American Hustle

Gravity did something that none of the other films nominated for best picture were able to do: It not only took you out of this world, but also digitally engineered an entirely new setting. The film has certainly paved the way for the future of computer-generated imagery (CGI) in the movie industry.

Managing a film in zero gravity, creating a backdrop more accurate and vivid than anything engineered for a screen before, while also telling an in-depth story is no easy task. But director Alfonso Cuarón succeeds in all three.

Though Cuarón is the clear frontrunner, David O. Russell, who directed American Hustle, must be in the conversation. He is nominated alongside the legendary MartinScorsese, but somehow Russell made a better Scorsese film than Scorsese himself.

It helped that Russell's cast included three Academy Award winners and three nominees. It is easy to confuse an audience when there are multiple actors narrating it, constantly rotating throughout the film, but Russell was able to make a cohesive picture from start to finish.

If it weren't for the computer-generated world Cuarón created, Russell would surely be walking away with the golden statue.


email: arts@ubspectrum.com


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