Oscar Picks from a Guy Who Didn’t Watch Any Oscar Movies

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I exist in a perpetual state of catch-up when it comes to movies. I rarely see them in theaters and while friends are raving about today’s must see films, I’m still working through my queue of flicks from yesteryear.

You can trace this phenomenon back to my childhood, when I was convinced by friends to sit through an endless stream of raunchy comedies marketed for immature teens that recycled the same jokes about genitalia over and over again. After blowing through my weekly allowance on movies that left your feeling numb for all the wrong reasons, I resolved to no longer pay for bad movies. I vowed to only pay to see Hollywood’s very best on the silver screen and wait for the remainder to make their way to the HBO/Netflix circuit. So far, it’s been working. Here is a sample of movies I’ve seen in the past few years: Django Unchained (I’m a Quentin Tarantino fanboy), Inception (I’m a Christopher Nolan fanboy and didn’t want the ending spoiled), Hot Tub Time Machine (Hey, I never said I was perfect). It’s much like I stowed away in a bomb shelter from the movie-verse for a year, and since emerging I’ve been a year behind everyone else.

This lifestyle only comes back to haunt me once a year, during Oscar season. While I still watch the grand proceedings of Hollywood’s biggest awards show, I rarely feel connected with any selection. Sure, I root for the actors or directors I adore, but I never feel particularly moved by a win or a snub. I didn’t experience the film for myself. I’m not invested in the outcomes.

It’s not until a year later do I understand why Jennifer Lawrence ran away with every statue for her performance in Silver Linings Playbook. I can sympathize with voters who didn’t give Ben Affleck’s directing a nomination (I wasn’t blown away by Argo). But all these emotions are a year late. There’s no Twitter storm to participate in. No succession of gifs to mirror my emotions. Like most of the movies I watch on my computer, I experienced last year’s Oscars a year behind, and alone.

So this year… I did nothing different. I didn’t watch any of the major movies nominated for Oscars. Some I meant to. Others didn’t interest me. But the fact of the matter is, I’m here, two days before the Oscars, having not seen a single one of these films. But I’ll be damned if I passively let another Oscar season go without participating in the festivities. So, I’ve chosen to make picks for the major categories and justify them in whatever way I deem fit. Remember, I haven’t seen any of these movies, so I’ll be making assumptions about these films. If they’re wrong, oh well. Other selections will be completely, unapologetically biased. But aren’t the real voters a little subjective too? Either way, they can’t be worse than the picks from the guys who actually watched these things. Right?

Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity)

I feel like this film was a dark horse in the Oscar hunt from the beginning. There was plenty of talk about The Wolf of Wall Street because Martin Scorsese (also nominated for this award) was teaming up with his old friend Leo. American Hustle had David O. Russell (also a nominee) collaborating with some familiar faces from Silver Linings Playbook. I didn’t hear any talk about Gravity until it surged into theaters and grabbed hold of the movie conversation.

I couldn’t go more than a few hours without someone asking if I’d seen Gravity. And when I’d inevitably say no, I would receive the same response: “Well, you have to see it in Imax. It’s mind-blowing.”

I get the feeling this film with run away with a slew of technical awards, and I hope it does. But whenever a film isn’t getting a lot of talk, and then it blows everyone away, I think a lot of that credit has to go to the director. At least I assume so.

There are plenty of big names in this category, but I think the Academy likes the zig when everyone else zags. I’m taking Alfonso.

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lawrence

Do you want to pick against the J-Law express? This girl doesn’t stop making movies that are major hits. She’s the face of the Hunger Games movies. She’s in the upcoming X-Men movie. She took home this award last year with help from the same director and a similar ensemble cast. She is an unstoppable force. She is a ball of shining light.

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That’s a gif of J-Law hugging a crying fan on the side of a red carpet, after hopping a barricade to get to her. She’s everything we want in a superstar. She has so much good credit stored up with the public, she could break 25 hotel room phones, fire three assistants, self-produce a remake of The Godfather trilogy using only finger puppets, and we’d still adore her.

But most of all, this award is about redemption.

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Walk hard, J-Law. This award’s going to you.

Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto

I used to believe the best Jared Leto movies were any movies in which he gets beaten up. Edward Norton kicks his ass in Fight Club. Great movie. He gets pretty messed up in American Psycho. Great movie. I don’t know if he gets beaten up here, but I have the feeling he gets an award either way.

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That’s Leto on the left. You wouldn’t know that’s him if the credits in the film didn’t alert us to it because he’s so deep into that character. It’s always a mark of a great performance when you no longer notice it’s an actor playing a role. He’s lost in this role. This is an Oscar-winning role.

I once knew Leo only as the guy who took a punch from Edward Norton, and then as the guy from 30 Seconds to Mars. Now, people will have to know him as that guy with the Oscar.

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett

There’s so much of me that hates making this pick. There’s a lot of me that believes Blanchett won’t win this award because of the sex-abuse allegations surrounding Woody Allen. Giving an award to Blanchett is just like giving an award to Allen, and giving him an award with all these allegations is only continuing to promote the type of culture that silenced these stories when they first surfaced. If Blanchett’s name is called Sunday night, there’s a little bit of me that will cringe when she accepts it.

But I also think she is the clear winner in this category. Why? Because she was the only actress nominated in this category that carried her movies. Both Amy Adams and Meryl Streep were parts of talented ensemble casts, while Judi Dench and Sandra Bullock both worked opposite equally talented partners. Blanchett carried her movie (I assume). When a movie like Blue Jasmine is as good as it is, it’s a result of the movie’s leading lady.

I think Blanchett wins this award. But in so many ways, I hope I’m wrong.

Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey

Honestly, how did this guy get here?

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This was the year of McConaughey, and we’re just living in it. Sure, he’s nominated for Dallas Buyers Club, for which McConaughey lost a ton of weight to give a moving performance as a man afflicted with AIDS. Right there is enough to give him the award. Technically, that’s all voters should be using as their criteria. But how can we forget his role in The Wolf of Wall Street. You know, that other Oscar-nominated movie?

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Honestly, its not fair, because McConaughey could have run away with the Supporting Actor award just for what I’ve seen of this scene in the trailer. Basically, he’s deserving of two Oscars. He’s lapped the field.

But that wasn’t enough for the McConaissance. He also went out there and killed it in True Detective. Now sure, that’s a television show, which falls into the realm of the Emmy. But let’s be real. Voters watch television too. And they see McConaughey every Sunday night reminding them who to vote for.

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Give it to him. Ok? Alright, alright, alright.

Best Picture: 12 Years a Slave

This one is though, because there doesn’t appear to be a runaway favorite for me to hitch by assumption bandwagon to. I haven’t made any picks out of left field yet, but I feel like this is the category a film could surprise everyone. While 12 Years a Slave might be a surprise on Oscar night, I don’t know if it should be.

The moment this film was first screened at the Toronto Film Festival, all I heard was this film has Oscar written all over it. But it seems like everyone forgot what they wrote about this film only a few short months ago. The conversation moved on. Newer, shiner movies opened in theaters, and we forgot about this one.

I didn’t know what film to select until I saw a story in the Los Angeles Times with the title “Oscars 2014: For many, ’12 Years a Slave’ is too hard to watch.” That’s the type of movie I want to hitch my wagon to.

Like I said, I haven’t seen this movie. But, a movie that deals with a topic as heavy and important as slavery that leaves people cringing at the images on the screen is a movie I need to see. A movie that deserves to win this award.

Most of these movies seem lighter to me. The Wolf of Wall Street is a “gonzo comedy.” American Hustle is caper about con artists. The only movie that approaches the weight of 12 Years a Slave is Dallas Buyers Club, but even that hasn’t been getting the same reactions as Steve McQueen’s masterpiece.

I’m not certain this will win, because after all, if people are having trouble watching this movie, how can they vote for it? But then again, I haven’t seen it either, and I think it’s going to win.

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