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9 Days Til Oscar. Should 9 Times Nominated "12 Years" Worry?

Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave, once the Oscar frontrunner and perhaps still, has nine nominations. As we move into the final days of voting (ballots are due on Tuesday the 25th), how many of its categories can it win? I'm thinking about 12 Years again today due to Harvey Weinstein's awful potshot at it over at Deadline where he suggested that Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained was better at covering slavery.

I liked 12 Years A Slave, but Quentin covered a lot of that ground first, and dealt with violence, slavery and oppression, shining a light on the American holocaust, as he called it.


I'll flesh out some of the following thoughts in the "final predictions" article a week from now but until then, let's discuss it's upcoming Oscar battles... 

I kid. I kid. Oscar outlawed those early in its history but it seems a shame that it's not competing for makeup and hairstyling, score, sound (all of the film's craft elements are quite enveloping) or cinematography the last of which was undeniably its most egregious snub. Sean Bobbit is one of the curiously many fresh stars of this field that are struggling to be 'let into the club' if you will. (Hoyt van Hoytema and Bradford Young have even more cause to bitch while still awaiting their first nod) But let's stick to the film's real nominations...

Production Design
Recent years point to a hard to miss trend: Oscar voters adore tacky in this category so that's good news for The Great Gatsby. But if they wanted to give 12 Years a craft prize this wouldn't be a bad place and the win for Lincoln last year was a shock and hopefully a sign that voters are finally wising up to the fact that physical constructed and dressed sets as opposed to heavily computerized gaudy ones are sometimes worth honoring. This is Adam Stockhausen's first nomination and it's quite an about face from the great work he's been doing for Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel) indicating a broad range of Oscar-worthy gifts. He's relatively young so we can hope for many more Oscar nominations to come if he loses.

Costume Design
Patricia Norris is this year's oldest nominee (11 months older than John Williams! They're both 82) -- who isn't named June Squibb (84) -- and she's yet to win an Oscar but the costumes here are realistic rather than showy which is often a problem when you want to win. We'll have an interview with Norris up soon and discuss this category in more detail! 

Film Editing
Look, it's anyone's guess in this category. Seriously. Precursors have been all over the place. Captain Phillips, 12 Years, American Hustle, and Gravity all have cause to cross their fingers and hope. Dallas Buyers Club is the only nominee that would be a true and utter shocker if its name were called and that's largely because it was the biggest shocker among the editing nominations to begin with. 

Adapted Screenplay
McQueen has spoken at length about wanting Solomon Northup's memoirs in school curriculum and attention paid to important historic source material is a plus. But despite that the screenplay by John Ridley has not actually become a defacto frontrunner. He has tough competition from The Wolf of Wall Street a film that could rally the same voters who made the also raucuous, profane, and comic Django Unchained into an odd winner in the original category last year. And Captain Phillips won the WGA.
Result: I'm torn. What'cha think? 

NOPE. Have you voted on this category?
In this were 2006 or 2010, on either side of Oscar's three year torrid love affair with evil men (Anton Chigurh, The Joker, Colonel Hans Landa) than Michael Fassbender's terrifyingly self-righteous and self-loathing Master Epps who is all around despicable would have a real shot at the win. But Fassbender did not campaign, he's not a co-lead (which helped Barkhad Abdi win the BAFTA) and his name isn't Jared Leto who's been (almost) sweeping. 
Result: Nope. Can't win this one. 

Supporting Actress
Unless the Jennifer Lawrence devotees within AMPAS, and they do exist, have to have her at the podium again, this one's going to Lupita. Read our interview with Lupita Nyong'o.  

Precursor season wants what it wants and people want Alfonso Cuaron on the stage this year. We've previously raved about his filmography on the podcast so even if you don't love Gravity (like me) you can rejoice that such a talent is finally getting his due. Either way, we have a first this year: A first latino director winner or a first black winner (if McQueen surprises) in this particular category. FWIW: Ang Lee is currently the only director of color to have ever won the prize and he's won it twice (Brokeback Mountain and The Life of Pi). 

My concerns about passionate Gravity fans torpedoing its chances here by ranking it very low on their ballots (Best Picture balloting uses "preferential voting" while the other categories go by simple vote count) were assuaged but this instructive video by Steve Pond at the Wrap. If you are a visual learner like me, it's the best way I've yet seen to understand it.

See, you can't really vote against something. If the votes are very tight between American Hustle, Gravity, and 12 Years a Slave (the presumed favorites) what's going to matter is not how low any picture ranks on any of those ballots but how high those three pictures rank on the ballots of Academy members who aren't passionately in support of one of the frontrunners. In other words, what's going to matter IF and only if voting is tight is what the diehard fans of Her, Dallas Buyers Club or Philomena like second and third most, you know? 

Conclusion. 12 Years a Slave is going to win between 0 and 3 Oscars but I'm leaning towards 2 or 3. Haha. I'm so helpful right? It's worth noting that Best Pictures usually win baseline 4 Oscars in the modern era, 4-5 statues being fairly common. In the last fifty years there are only five exceptions: ArgoCrash, Rocky, Midnight Cowboy, The Godfather which all won 3. You have to go back much further to find less than 3 wins for a Best Picture. There are only seven Best Pictures that won less and all but two of them are from the 1930s when there were fewer categories in play. They are: The Greatest Show on Earth (1952, 5 noms/2 wins), Rebecca (1940, 11 noms/ 2 wins), You Can't Take It With You (1938, 7 noms / 2 wins), All Quiet on the Western Front (1930, 4 noms/2 wins), Wings (1928, 2 noms / 2 wins). The only films to have ever won ONLY Best Picture are: Mutiny on the Bounty (1935, 8 noms / 1 win) and Grand Hotel (1932, 1 nom / 1 win) 

My final predictions will be up in a week. 

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Reader Comments (36)

I find it odd that WOWS has a shot at screenplay. They made such a big deal about having six hours of film and having to cut it way back. Doesn't the "screenplay" as written get lost on the cutting room floor? And then there's the ridiculousness that they needed 3 hours of the f word to (ineffectively) communicate what is supposedly a satire.

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermikey67

I really don't agree with you deeming Barkhad Abdi's placement as category fraud.

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterZV

Actually I'm pretty sure June Squibb is this year's oldest nominee. She's in her mid-80's.

Other than that my predictions right now are:

12 Years A Slave
Supporting Actress
Adapted Screenplay

But I've been thinking about going with Gravity in picture and maybe changing adapted screenplay. This race is really wide open. But I'd say 4 Oscars.

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterZooey

zooey -- ACK. you're right. how could i mess that up. Fixed.

mikey67 -- i agree wholeheartedly but there's no denying that fans of that film approach it like it's the holy grail they deem it so perfect.

February 21, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I didn't think I could dislike Harvey Weinstein any more than I already did thanks to that whole Snowpiercer crapfest, but I was apparently wrong. Wow, that quote makes me mad. So, so mad. Just… ugh.

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Marie

I just see 8 nominations on this list. Was the Best Actor nomination covered somewhere else?

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteradri

It blows my mind to learn that the same person did the set design for '12 Years a Slave' and for Wes Anderson's recent movies.

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

Actually, Steve Pond's explanation shows that you can vote *against* a film. For example, if many voters make a point of putting, say, The Wolf of Wall Street or American Hustle last on the ballot, any chances they might have will be torpedoed right away. But they are two films which I can now see winning, if they get a strong enough start and manage to pick up enough votes in subsequent rounds.

But the fact is, Gravity is looking even more like the winner to me after that "chip show."

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Just a quick note: The Broadway Melody also only won Best Picture (in the 1928-1929 awards).

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

I really can't see Wolf of Wall Street winning Best Adapted Screenplay. If anything will beat 12 Years, I think it's Philomena... It's a Weinstein film that's over performed steadily throughout the season, and it's written by a likable actor. Plus it's a "talk-heavy" type film, the kind that wins screenplay awards, unlike, say, Captain Phillips.

The surest awards for 12 Years is Supporting Actress... Beyond that, it all seems up in the air.

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Frankly, I would be very pleased to see J.Law and Lupita split for a surprise like Sally or June to snatch it.

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBia

I think that Best Adapted Screenplay is a pretty safe bet. The win by Captain Phillips at WGA aside, the only competition that would make sense would be Before Midnight as a show of goodwill and appreciation for that entire trilogy. Production Design could be another place where 12 Years could be rewarded not unlike Lincoln, but where the latter benefited from largely being set in detailed (if not "flashy") interior spaces, I think most would think of the former as an exterior work.

It does seem odd that for the second year in a row, the film that appears most likely to win Best Picture doesn't appear to be a stronger contender in very many categories. I think the biggest problem for 12 Years this year, unlike Argo, is that where several films were in contention for the craft and technical awards last year, Gravity is likely at least a strong 2nd for nearly every category it's up for. I'm just wondering if voters won't feel compelled to go ahead and mark off Best Picture for something they've already voted for six times before.

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVal

I want 12 Years to win Best Actor (I'm still wishing and hoping for a tie with Dern!), Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Costumes and Best Picture. I would also be thrilled if McQueen won Best Director, but he's not going to.

Harvey Weinstein is a moron.

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I can already tell I'm going to be on edge for the entire show. If the telecast gets to the halfway point and 12YAS remains statue-less, I'll probably need a sedative.

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret

Does anyone else feel like American Hustle can win costume design? I know people talk about that going home empty-handed, but that seems like a possible get for that movie, right? And it's an element that a lot of people talked about.

I think Lupita's got this, honestly. I've thought it since I first saw the movie back in October. The BAFTAs, as much as the Globes, are very much about star power within their industry. Jennifer Lawrence is a much bigger star than Lupita Nyong'o. I think it was Guy Lodge who said once that if they don't really know you, you have a hard time getting nominated even, let alone winning. His astounding performance aside, that's partly why Ejifor won--he's been working FOREVER over there and they all, more or less, know who he is. I'm not going to say I'm not a little worried about Lawrence, but I think that Lupita's comfortably ahead. SAG is more predictive (particularly with Supporting Actress) than anything else.

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterThe Pretentious Know it All

I think the main reason Jennifer beat Lupita for the BAFTA was because Lawrence didn't win Best Actress last year. I think they were trying to compensate.

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

That's true too, brookesboy. They're also less stingy about giving out repeat awards to relative newcomers than other Awards bodies too, so I bet we wouldn't have seen Lawrence winning this year had she won last year.

For instance, back when Streep was winning EVERYTHING for Sophie's Choice she lost the BAFTA to Julie fricking Walters for Educating Rita, probably because she was (relatively) new at the time and she had just won for The French Lieutenant's Woman. The BAFTAs are weird, is my point. Best not to read too much into them.

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterThe Pretentious Know it All

Weinstein said he considers himself a filmmaker not a mogul. That for me confirms every horror story about him was true.

I can't believe how heartbroken this Oscar season already has me. Sure, I get my wish that Cate Blanchett is a Best Actress winner. But the cost is living in a world that would give Matthew McConaughey an Oscar for Best Actor for keeping his shirt on. I genuinely hate Hollywood. The only people stupider than Hollywood people are those in politics.

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

*More stingy.

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterThe Pretentious Know it All

I don't know if Lupita's got it. I think the BAFTA for Lawrence is significant.

Yes, Lawrence didn't win Actress last year, but it wasn't unjust, and besides it's difficult to consider who's 'due' for a BAFTA. The eligible contenders are often different and therefore the nominees and occasionally being the British academy, they'll celebrate British talent.

I don't think BAFTA felt they owed for Lawrence. I think American Hustle was more buzzed, and Jennifer the most buzzed within said buzz.

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKeegan

TPKIA, I know what you mean--I about fell off my chair when I first read that Walters had beat Streep that year. And Jessica Lange was nommed as lead for Tootsie. That was unexpected but kinda cool.

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

So Nat, you think Best Picture is between 12 Years and Gravity? What are your thoughts on American Hustles chances? I can just feel it upsetting all night long (which I personally do not want it to do).

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJS

That Weinstein quote is so damn offensive, I can't even. I have lost my ability to even!

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRahul

This is an odd year for me, for usually I either love the front-runner or the clear #2. I like 12 Years best of the favorite, but don't have a real passion for it, Hustle or Gravity, the last of which I'm in the Nathaniel camp about.

As such, I'm not really invested in the winners and am more watching for the glamour/wackiness of it all.

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrianZ

Brookesboy - I'm with you on the Dern/Ejiofor tying wish. I love those performances SO much. It's all very Mulligan-Sidibe-2009 for me.

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

I wish more things in my life were Mulligan-Sidibe 2009.

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterThe Pretentious Know it All

Benedict's humgous Oscar is back!

I would say between 2 and 4 statuettes depending on their love for Gatsby.

Wait! Did I just read you interviewed Patricia Norris? Yay!

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

"Julie fricking Walters"

them's fightin' words, tpkia.

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterpar

it's good to know barkhad abdi has "star power within the industry", and that's why he won the bafta over cooper, fassbender, damon and brühl, these no names.
also, lawrence is already getting make up awards at the age of 23. she's definitely due. or maybe has buzz. but the voters definitely can't have liked her performance better.

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermarcelo

Fair point, Marcelo. The notion that you need to be well-known over in Britain to have success at the BAFTAs obviously isn't a fool-proof equation. And there's no one reason why a performance wins. And of course, many of the voters may have liked Lawrence's performance better than Nyong'o's. I was just spit-balling theories...as we all like to do during awards season. I actually hadn't thought of Abdi and you're right. In that case, obviously the theory falls apart. I was just thinking about cases like Melissa Leo being the frontrunner in her category, yet not getting a nomination that year because A. The Fighter wasn't landing in Britain and B. They didn't really know who she as over there. A lot of these intangibles we talk about that set-aside performance usually apply to the female acting categories more than they do the male. Obviously, it's never a "pure" thing, but I think they vote on male performance much more than they do for women, where all sorts of other things--youth, likeability, beauty and yes, starpower are more important. Not all the time, but I think it's a trend you can't ignore. Personally, voting for Lawrence over Nyong'o is beyond my realm of comprehension, so I'm owning up to my bias there.

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterThe Pretentious Know it All

I think Lawrence won because not only did she lose last year, she was a head contender in a huge film (that BAFTA clearly enjoyed...all four acting nominees there before Oscar) the year directly after. AND Lupita was probably losing some votes because some probably thought she'd win the Rising Star award.

Anyway, I hope it wins Picture and Supporting Actress. Those are its safest bets. I think McQueen deserves director, but Cuaron is also very deserving (a tie would be most ideal). Screenplay would be great as well. And actor isn't likely but that would be awesome also.

And if write-in votes should exist anywhere aside from Original Song (Young and Beautiful), it's most definitely cinematography. That snub was unforgivable.

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

And I can't even handle what Harvey Weinstein said. White people consistently make me ashamed to be white. Are you kidding? A) they're two completely different types of films, and B) a film about slavery via a black director is automatically very important in my book (not to mention it's based on real events, unlike Django and 12 Years also showed so many aspects of slavery that were not really talked about before now).

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

12YaS is a beautiful and worthy film, but I don't see it being quite as bet-able as you do. If its a toss for director between McQueen and Cuarón, it will go to the latter if only because he has a larger (and very fine) body of work to honor. McQueen only has three and one of those borders on porn. He'll need a few more 12YaS' before they honor him.

I agree that editing is anyone's game but I felt the costumes in 12YaS were the weakest aspect of the production. They were far too obvious in telegraphing the importance of certain characters over others (your photo choice proves my point) and how we were supposed to feel about the characters. I found myself being pulled out of the film a couple of times over how poor the color choices were (not the cuts). They might as well have been wearing signs. Production design would be a nice and valid win. Lots of research and subtle story telling there to the benefit of the film. I also agree that cinematography should be up there. Its so beautiful while still being true to the script and serves the story well.

I think adapted screenplay is its strongest category, with supporting actress second.

February 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Despite the best efforts of The Pretentious Know It All and Brookesboy to rationalise why BAFTA picked Lawrence, I'm afraid that it largely comes down to voters preferring the performance.

BAFTA results are very weird (in comparison to Oscar or SAG), which is why I love them. Voters will frequently choose unknown actors (you're probably more favoured actually!), don't discriminate as heavily against foreign language, see no shame in repeat wins (Firth got back to back wins recently and Maggie Smith won 5 or 6 in the 80s).

Lupita was absolutely (in my mind) nailed on at the BAFTAs - breakout role in a British-directed film. That voters chose Lawrence should be a worry to us all - they did that without the sentiment that a lot of US voters will also have...

Regarding Melissa Leo - no, The Fighter didn't especially take off in the UK, but it's not just that - Amy Adams was nominated. Leo didn't even make the Top 15 (the long list) that year!!!!! So voters saw the film (not a Dallas Buyer's Club situation) and simply discarded the performance. I was convinced that the Oscar was Bonham-Carter's after this, though Leo still went on to win.

I don't think that we can ever predict BAFTA tastes, but I'd (reluctantly) put Lawrence as clear favourite moving into the Oscars...

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterkermit_the_frog

Picture, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay. It just feels like that makes sense.

February 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

Anne Marie and Phillip H - Ugh is right! HW is about the smarmiest man on the planet. I feel like all this Oscar-campaigning crap (which was always around) started getting really bad since his early Miramax days. The full page ad for Philomena in the NYT this morning made me ill too, since it's a B/B+ movie at best.

TPKIA--ah, I loved Educating Rita and Julie Walters in that role. Kind of like Born Yesterday and Pygmalion, rolled into one movie. True, not as worthy as the Sophie's Choice performance, but maybe they wanted to go British?

February 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPam

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