Let's Not Forget All the Below the Line and Technical Oscar Nominees
by Joey Magidson
February 28, 2014
As you may have noticed in my most recent and final Oscar predictions, I didn't provide any commentary on the "below the line" Academy Award categories. Besides wanting to get to the actual predictions, I wanted to save some room for a full piece in regard to the technical categories. The techs are often the hardest to predict, especially the shorts. Yes, there are guilds to consider, but in many ways the Academy voters are never more unpredictable than when considering the non-major awards. Sometimes they go in interesting directions, other times they pick one film and vote for it everywhere they can. The fun thing here is how open many of these races are, which goes along with how unpredictable this year's Oscar ceremony may be.
This year, if the voters engage in group think, they're likely to vote for Gravity just about everywhere they can, though obviously 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle are in a number of tech categories as well. That being said, these fields are where smaller films like The Invisible Woman or less highly regarded works like The Lone Ranger actually see their moments in the sun. That doesn't mean either is about to win anything, just that they might.
We'll start with the biggest of the below the line fields, which could be considered a mini-major category, and that's the Best Animated Feature race. Barring an upset by The Wind Rises, it seems that Frozen is locked in for the win. Despicable Me 2 is next in line, but far behind, leaving The Croods and Ernest & Celestine in the dust. Regardless, this is an easy one to predict. Frozen has all the money and all the reviews, which is a winning combination here.
One of the other two big mini majors is Best Documentary Feature. This is a wide open one, with only Cutie and the Boxer and Dirty Wars seemingly out of it. 20 Feet from Stardom, The Act of Killing, and The Square have about equal chances here in my eyes, though I'm giving the edge to 20 Feet from Stardom due to the Harvey Weinstein factor and also just how out there the doc has been in terms of publicity. More voters have seen that one, and that definitely helps.
Rounding out this trio of bigger below the line categories is Best Foreign Language Feature. This is another close-ish contest, though I think The Great Beauty is highly likely to win, especially considering its taken the majority of the precursors that matter. Cases could be made for The Broken Circle Breakdown and The Hunt, while The Missing Picture and Omar are long shots at best. It looks like The Great Beauty should be able to take this one though.
Starting off the techs, we have Best Production Design. Any of the nominees could win, and the winner could actually mean a lot. We have four Best Picture nominees here, including the three frontrunners in 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, and Gravity (plus Her). They're up agains the purported frontrunner The Great Gatsby. Often this category an actually mean "Most Production Design", and that definitely favors The Great Gatsby. The only real upset would be if Her won, though any of the others have a viable case. I'm sticking with the flashiness of Gatsby though.
Next is Best Cinematography, a fairly easy one to predict. Gravity should run away with this one, which also would provide Emmanuel Lubezki with his first ever Academy Award. He's way out in front, with no real expected challenge from The Grandmaster, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, and Prisoners (though a win for this one would also be a first, namely for legendary DP Roger Deakins). When in doubt here of late, go 3D, and that's Gravity. I'm not in doubt though, so that makes it an even simpler choice.
Best Costume Design is another field that can sometimes mean "most" instead of best, and that again helps out The Great Gatsby, which is nominated here. We also have 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle from the Best Picture lineup, with The Grandmaster and The Invisible Woman rounding out the field. It's between Gatsby and Hustle in my eyes, and while either could win, I'm sensing this could be the tech reward for American Hustle, so that's where I'm going.
With Best Film Editing, the smart play is usually to line it up with Best Picture, since more often than not, the big winner of the night also takes this prize as well. It's also the other field that sometimes goes with "most", and that could hurt Gravity in the end. It could win, but it could also go to either 12 Years a Slave or Captain Phillips too. American Hustle and Dallas Buyers Club seem like longer shots to me. Captain Phillips took the notable editing precursor, so that's what I'm hanging my hat on here.
Best Makeup & Hairstyling is a slightly odd category, namely in that we only have three nominees, and two of them are not the type of work you normally see embraced by the Academy. Those are Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa and The Lone Ranger, so that leads me to believe that Best Picture nominee Dallas Buyers Club takes it. I could be wrong, but frankly I don't think that I am.
For Best Sound Editing, we have All is Lost, Captain Phillips, Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and Lone Survivor attempting to impress with their audio. They're all deserving, but this seems like a battle between Captain Phillips and Gravity, with the Best Picture co-frontrunner having the edge, so that's what I'm picking in this category.
Best Sound Mixing sometimes lines up with Editing, but not always. Four of the five nominees are the same too, with Inside Llewyn Davis replacing All is Lost. It's still a Captain Phillips vs Gravity contest, and I'm still predicting the latter to win here, as well as there.
The Best Visual Effects race is one of the easiest to predict this year, since let's face it, if Gravity wins nothing else, it most clearly deserves this one. There's only token opposition from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Iron Man 3, The Lone Ranger, and Star Trek into Darkness. If you're going to bet on any one win, this is the one to bet on folks, since Gravity is winning, plain and simple.
Best Original Score also seems to heavily favor Gravity, but watch out for Philomena to potentially sneak in and make sure that it's not a Best Picture nominee that goes home empty handed. The Book Thief, Her, and Saving Mr. Banks are much farther behind, so it's Gravity vs Philomena here, with the former well in the lead of the latter.
With Best Original Song, we of course have four nominees instead of five after Alone Yet Not Alone was disqualified for some shady behind the scenes campaigning. Frozen's song "Let It Go" is likely to win, though hard pushes are being made for Despicable Me 2's "Happy" and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom's "Ordinary Love." Her is bringing up the rear so to speak with "The Moon Song," but they're all likely to fall short to the catchy Frozen tune in the end.
Now we come to the three short categories, led off by Best Animated Short. The only one most have seen is Get a Horse!, and sometimes that's enough here. Feral, Mr. Hublot, Possessions, and Room on the Broom make up the other nominees, and since there's no surefire way to know what's going to happen here, I'm sticking with the most populist of the choices.
Best Documentary Short seems likely to be The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life, especially considering that the subject of the doc passed away during voting just now. I've heard some make cases for Cavedigger and Facing Fear, so it's technically a three horse race, with Karama Has No Walls and Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall bringing up the rear. When in doubt, go with emotion, and the sympathy vote could be what ends up happening here.
We close things out with Best Live Action Short. It's a toss up between Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn't Me), Helium, and The Voorman Problem from what I can tell. That leaves Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything) and Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?) as also rans, but honestly, anything could happen here. I'm going with The Voorman Problem personally, but I have little confidence in this one.
So that's a bit more on the below the line/technical categories. In terms of what actually will happen, it's only a day and change away now, so stay tuned. The 86th Academy Awards will take place late on Sunday, March 2nd at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood with a live telecast airing on ABC starting at 7PM (EST) / 4PM (PST). This year's ceremony is being hosted by comedian/director Ellen DeGeneres. The complete list of 2014 Academy Awards nominees in full here. Come back Sunday for the full list of winners! Ready?