Will '12 Years a Slave' or 'American Hustle' Get Shut Out at the Oscars?

February 24, 2014

12 Years a Slave / American Hustle

There's a theory of mine that's been in my head for a couple weeks now, and it's not going to be a popular one, but I also hope it doesn't come true. As much as many of my colleagues are looking to a potential shutout for American Hustle (though Jennifer Lawrence is looking pretty good for Best Supporting Actress), I think that 12 Years a Slave could be just as likely for that fate. Now, I'm not saying it should or that it will happen, but there's just as much of a chance for a 12 Years a Slave shutout as for American Hustle, so it's worth considering. Either one could join Captain Philiips, Nebraska, Philomena, and/or The Wolf of Wall Street as the Best Picture nominees that wind up going home empty-handed.

It's an unusual situation to be sure, considering both 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle could also win Best Picture. Of course, the former has a better chance to win than the latter these days, but as we move to the other categories, none are a lock. In fact, once we get outside of the big eight categories, the technical fields could yield shutouts for both. They're competing in a number of the same categories too, with only Best Actress as a category (aside from the split Screenplay nods) where they're both not cited (regardless, Amy Adams is likely losing to Cate Blanchett anyway). This sets up a battle that I'm not sure many people are thinking about. One of these flicks is likely to get shut out by the Academy, and it may very well be an overt choice between the two.

American Hustle

With Best Picture, they both obviously have Gravity standing in their way, and the same goes for Best Director as well. With Gravity/Alfonso Cuarรณn in position to take these two awards, it could mean a very lean night for both of these other heavy hitters. Simply put, a movie that wins Best Picture usually wins at least a few other Oscars, but if you lose there, nothing is there to stop you from losing elsewhere. If you remove these two contenders from those two categories, you can start to see the squeeze beginning.

In Best Actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor is still in play, though Christian Bale should just be happy to be nominated. Both are likely to lose to frontrunner Matthew McConaughey though, so you can't really look for anything there for either. They both have Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress nominations as well, with the former category likely being a sure loss for both Bradley Cooper and Michael Fassbender. The latter though is where one of these two works will avoid the shutout. Will the aforementioned Lawrence save Hustle or will Lupita Nyong'o do the trick for 12 Years? This category is clearly the one to keep an eye on.

12 Years a Slave

When it comes to their screenplay battles, both are potential winners but also poised to be upset as well. With American Hustle, it's gone from a Best Original Screenplay lock to likely being overtaken by Her. As for 12 Years a Slave, it's still the frontrunner, but both Captain Phillips and Philomena are both closing in. I'd be much more surprised if Hustle won its screenplay prize than if 12 Years did, but if both lost I wouldn't be stunned either. Both winning would come close to though, but I don't see that happening.

As for the technical categories, the safe money has both films being shut out, though one could make the case that 12 Years a Slave has a decent chance at winning Best Production Design and American Hustle is well placed to win Best Costume Design, but The Great Gatsby looms large in both. Neither can rely on tech wins in any way, and that's also why I don't see them taking Best Picture. If one of them comes up with a surprise Best Film Editing win though, all bets are off. I don't see them beating Captain Phillips or Gravity there though.

So which category (besides Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress) are each film's Waterloo, as it were? It's the screenplay races. If they break a certain way, it could come down to Supporting Actress to see which movie goes home without a prize. That category likely will be early on in the Oscar telecast, so one of these flicks will be able to exhale pretty quickly. It won't quite be a situation where Best Picture determines their fates, but one or two upsets could make things very tense for 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle. Like I said at the start, most see Hustle being the more likely one to get shut out, but I'm thinking that it could be just as likely a fate for 12 Years, if not more likely. We'll find out in just six more days, so stay tuned!

Find more posts: Awards, Editorial



I still think 12 YEARS A SLAVE is still the overwhelming favorite.

DAVIDPD on Feb 24, 2014


It's certainly not the overwhelming favorite, but you can make a case that it's a very close race for sure.

Joey Magidson on Feb 24, 2014


"that it's a very close race for sure." you should be ashamed, I mean, in this day and age? A pun? That is by far the lowest form of comedy.

Dan Hibiki on Feb 25, 2014


How is that a pun?

Joey Magidson on Feb 25, 2014


IMO, Hustle was mediocre, hyped piece of flashy movie making. I left the theater just thinking "meh". A lot of people I know felt the same. With so many better movies out I hope the Academy isn't giving someone an Oscar only because they have a perm or a bad hair day. HOWEVER, Amy Adams is pretty amazing. She was great in the Master as well. And then she blew it all with that pile of shit called Man of Steel. Still, i like her and shes worthy!

Buzzfunk on Feb 24, 2014


Duly noted.

Joey Magidson on Feb 24, 2014


gravity takes it all.

Linkfx on Feb 24, 2014


It's very unlikely to run the table...

Joey Magidson on Feb 24, 2014


Should easily take the Special Effects, but I have a feeling American Hustle will take the majority here. Though I do still need to see 12 Years A Slave

Danimal on Feb 25, 2014


It could very well be a split, which is what often happens.

Joey Magidson on Feb 25, 2014


Very true! It's exciting to see a lot of very noteworthy films in the running.

Danimal on Feb 25, 2014



Joey Magidson on Feb 25, 2014


As I explained in a comment above, I don't see how 'American Hustle' could take the majority of awards when the only ones it has a good possibility of winning are Supporting Actress and Original Screenplay; it should definitely get one and will be extremely lucky if it gets both. There's a slim chance it could win costume design, but 'The Great Gatsby' is much, much more likely to nab that. 'Gravity,' on the other hand, is taking Directing, Cinematography, Visual Effects, Score, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and very likely Best Picture. Production Design and Editing are also potential wins, but those are more likely to go to 'The Great Gatsby' and 'Captain Phillips,' respectively. (I'm predicting '12 Years a Slave' for production design, though.)

ChuckAmuck on Feb 25, 2014


Gatsby and Phillips complicates things, yes.

Joey Magidson on Feb 25, 2014


Very good points! Guess we'll find out on sunday.

Danimal on Feb 26, 2014



Joey Magidson on Feb 26, 2014


Not only is 'American Hustle' unlikely to go empty-handed on Oscar night, it's also unlikely *not* to receive at least one above-the-line award. Since 1999, every film which, like 'American Hustle,' won the ensemble award at SAG has taken home at least one above-the-line Oscar. Thirteen of the past fifteen SAG ensemble winners were nominated in at least one Oscar acting category, and nine of those won an acting Oscar. The only ones that didn't get an acting award were 'Argo,' 'Crash,' Sideways' and 'Gosford Park.' ('The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King' and 'Slumdog Millionaire' received no acting nominations.) In addition, 14 of the past 15 SAG ensemble winners were nominated for Screenplay and 12 of them went home with that prize. The only ones that did not win a Screenplay Oscar were 'Chicago' and 'Inglourious Basterds.' ('The Help' was the SAG winner that didn't get a screenplay nomination.) Now while this makes a case for 'American Hustle' to take home both an acting award and Best Original Screenplay (which could happen), the presence of 'Her' in the latter category makes this more unlikely. Acting, on the other hand, is another story. As you know, 'Hustle' was nominated in all four acting categories. Only two films in Oscar's 86-year history have been nominated in all four acting categories *without* winning a single one, and the last one was in 1950 ('Sunset Blvd.'). So it is highly unlikely (though not impossible) that 'American Hustle' will not win one of its four acting nominations. Which acting category will 'Hustle' win? Well, when a SAG ensemble winner doesn't win Best Picture but does win an acting award, it's always been in a supporting category ('Traffic,' 'Little Miss Sunshine,' 'Inglourious Basterds,' 'The Help'). Besides that, the supporting actress category is the tightest of the four acting races and Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Amy Adams are unlikely to win in their respective categories. Therefore, don't be surprised if/when Jennifer Lawrence defeats Lupita Nyong'o on Oscar night. As for '12 Years a Slave,' I'm confident that will win Adapted Screenplay and at least one of the below-the-line awards, likely Production Design. I don't see the multiple best-picture-winning '12 Years' taking only one award and i certainly don't see either film going home empty-handed.

ChuckAmuck on Feb 24, 2014


Well said.

Joey Magidson on Feb 24, 2014


You lost me at Lupita going home empty handed, but you make some good points.

Why? on Feb 25, 2014


Prepare yourself for the possibility...

Joey Magidson on Feb 25, 2014


I know Lupita has long been the favorite to win, but statistically, Jennifer Lawrence is now the frontrunner. Also, as I explained, no film lost all four acting categories since 1950 and Lawrence is the most likely of the four 'Hustle' nominees to win; her's is the only acting category that is considered a tight race. So, as Mr. Magidson said, you should prepare yourself for the possibility of Ms. Nyong'o going home empty handed. ๐Ÿ™

ChuckAmuck on Feb 25, 2014



Joey Magidson on Feb 25, 2014


You critics need to just shut up and let the chips fall where they may. Good luck to all this Sunday. I love 12 Years a Slave but if it doesn't win it's not the movies fault. Hollywood will always be stuck in the 1920's where black actors/actress always tried to hide the color because they were to afraid of what might happen to them. The industry will never change until people wake up from there fears of the unknown.

malie75 on Feb 24, 2014


I don't think it has much to do with race at all this year...just personal preference on the part of the Academy.

Joey Magidson on Feb 24, 2014


It's the Oscars. Anything can happen. Anything.

Quanah on Feb 24, 2014


Very true.

Joey Magidson on Feb 24, 2014


You make good points, so I guess we just need to wait a few more days to see how you do.

Marty on Feb 24, 2014



Joey Magidson on Feb 24, 2014


If Lupita does not win....

Have Hope on Feb 24, 2014


I'd argue that she's not the frontrunner anymore, but it'll be a photo finish there.

Joey Magidson on Feb 24, 2014


We shall see...

Joey Magidson on Feb 24, 2014


I have a feeling American Hustle could win picture and a lot of others. I think the buzz has been quietly building back up again and I wouldn't be surprised if it ran the table...

Soylent Green on Feb 25, 2014


It won't run the table (Director, Actor, and Supporting Actor aren't happening), but an upset isn't out of the question in Picture...

Joey Magidson on Feb 25, 2014


Actually, the buzz for 'Hustle' has died down significantly except for Lawrence. If 'Hustle' had the chance to pull a 'Shakespeare in Love' and take Best Picture at the Oscars, it would have won at the BAFTAs. The only Oscars it really has a chance of taking are Supporting Actress (likely, but not guaranteed) and Original Screenplay (possibly, but could and should lose to 'Her'). There's a small possibility it could take costume design or production design, but Oscars don't go for fashions from eras they were actually around for, so I wouldn't bet on that. It's also unlikely to take editing since comedies very rarely win that award; IIRC, the only two to do so in the last 50 years were the effects-laden 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' and Best Picture winner 'The Sting.' Then, of course, there's a slim chance that Amy Adams could upset Cate Blanchett, which some have actually predicted (I entertained the possibility myself for a little while), but Blanchett is so far ahead in the race that I just can't see it happening. So, yeah, I think 'Hustle' will be lucky enough to get one or two Oscars; it certainly won't "run the table." ๐Ÿ™‚

ChuckAmuck on Feb 25, 2014


Lawrence is Hustle's best chance, yes.

Joey Magidson on Feb 25, 2014


I think everybody is walking home with something. It may not be what any of us expected, but I don't think anyone will be completely shut out. I personally believe in the "Got one at the Globes, you don't get one at the Oscars", but "12 Years" is a historical piece, they do tend to win out. Then there's the whole plight of writer Craig Borten contingency and will he, as well as the cast, get those sympathy votes cause I don't personally think Leto was a stand out. Good , but not a standout. I think American Hustle, if they don't plan on giving it best picture, will get that best makeup and costume statue. Who knows...what I do know is that 2013 was an epic year in films and I don't envy those who have to choose.

Why? on Feb 25, 2014


It won't be an easy choice for many, indeed.

Joey Magidson on Feb 25, 2014


'Hustle' was not nominated for makeup. A win for costume design is a possibility, but the Oscars are not known for awarding fashions from eras that are relatively recent like the '70s and '80s.

ChuckAmuck on Feb 25, 2014


True, though as that gets further in the past it's likely to change.

Joey Magidson on Feb 25, 2014


The thing is...will anyone be pissed if 12 Years takes all? I don't think so. I know it won't happen,but everyone would understand why.

Why? on Feb 25, 2014


There's always someone who won't like the winner, no matter what wins. Happens every year.

Joey Magidson on Feb 25, 2014


The oscars have a tendency to change it up last second. The only real award Ang Lee took home for Life of Pi was the Oscar. 20 bucks says Alfonso Cuaron doesn't win, and Steve McQueen does. McConaughey is not the front runner in Oscar terms (although Leto still is. There's always 1 award in the acting category that is a lock in all sections, in this case it's Leto, and then Blanchett). But I'd say Leo/Ejiofor are more so the front runners because the Oscars wanna create some buzz. When "It's Hard out Here for a Pimp" won best original song over "In the Deep" by Bird York, the Oscars forfeitted there predictableness and just said "yeah, we just want people to watch the show". I think if anything is going home empty handed it's American Hustle, or at least Jennifer Lawrence (although she was great, Lupita is the favoured) Of course, this is all in opinion. And I could be wronger than the Oscars were when they didn't nominate Ben Affleck for Directing - Argo (again, they just wanna surprise people).

Alex Williams on Feb 25, 2014


A lot of that had to do with Affleck not being nominated by the Academy, so beware not predicting Cuaron...

Joey Magidson on Feb 25, 2014


Actually, McConaughey is not only the frontrunner, he's so far ahead it's nearly impossible for the others to catch up. Both he and Leto statistically have well over a 70% chance of winning. Could Ejiofor or DiCaprio still take home the trophy? Sure, but it's extremely unlikely. I think the last surprise in the lead actor category came when Adrian Brody won for 'The Pianist' back in 2003. But Brody had an advantage neither Ejiofor or Leo has -- he was up against four previous winners. That coupled with the type of film he was in (Holocaust drama) led to a surprise Oscar victory. Ejiofor is also nominated for an historical drama, but he's competing against three other non-winners with a relatively subdued performance. McConaughey and DiCaprio have the flashier performances Oscar tends to go for, but McConaughey underwent a significant physical transformation and his character has much more of an arc than DiCaprio's. And let's not forget that McConaughey gave three other highly acclaimed, award-worthy performances this year, including one in DiCaprio's movie, and all of these performances will be on voters' minds when they make their choices. Then, of course, there's the fact that McConaughey has already won the majority of the important awards, including SAG, the Globe and Critics' Choice. For these reasons, McConaughey is the clear frontrunner to win.

ChuckAmuck on Feb 25, 2014


That he is.

Joey Magidson on Feb 25, 2014


Winning a Golden Globe doesnt mean winning an Oscar. Previous wins mean nothing. Examples, Ang Lee (Life of Pi), Adrien Brody (Pianist), Crash (Best Picture), Denzel (Training Day), the list goes on.

Alex Williams on Feb 26, 2014


These are all awards that went awardless through the season but won the oscar. Even George Kennedy for Cool hand Luke. They hold the last position in awards season to generate the most surprise and buzz when things randomly get oscars, even randomly get nommed (i.e. the amount of noms for Juno, even Dallas Buyers)

Alex Williams on Feb 26, 2014


It all adds up to unpredictability, plain and simple.

Joey Magidson on Feb 26, 2014



Alex Williams on Feb 28, 2014



Joey Magidson on Feb 28, 2014


I'm usually the first to say that, yes.

Joey Magidson on Feb 26, 2014


All I'm saying is Oscars like to throw wrenches into the spokes. They like to generate buzz. And I can see them doing it again.

Alex Williams on Feb 26, 2014


It's possible.

Joey Magidson on Feb 26, 2014


Well, he's almost assuredly losing...

Joey Magidson on Feb 25, 2014


Interesting takeaways. I saw American Hustle, but have yet to see 12 Years, so it's difficult for me to make a judgment. I would find it difficult to imagine American Hustle taking home no awards, but then again anything can happen....

Patricia Vesey on Feb 25, 2014


Indeed, anything can happen.

Joey Magidson on Feb 25, 2014


For the life of me...I can't see anything special with Mathew McConaughey's performance. He played a hard partying and drinking, womanizing, homophobic Texas man from Texas...real stretch. I would like to know what he did to research this role (-__-)

Demarco Dennison on Feb 25, 2014


There's more to it than that, but duly noted.

Joey Magidson on Feb 25, 2014


I definitely think there was more to the performance than that.

Brian on Feb 25, 2014


Likewise, obviously.

Joey Magidson on Feb 25, 2014


Be ready to stop giving a shit. :-/

ChuckAmuck on Feb 25, 2014


Pretty much.

Joey Magidson on Feb 25, 2014


It would be an absolute disgrace for Hustle to go home empty handed (I'd put it second for the year, only behind Her) but I can see it happening.

Brian on Feb 25, 2014


As someone else who's very fond of it, I'd personally like to see it win something, but objectively it's got a very fair shot at a shutout...

Joey Magidson on Feb 25, 2014


Interesting analysis, so you're saying Gravity could win best pic and director and then 'Hustle' and 'Slave' might not win a lot? I'd love that ๐Ÿ™‚

DavideCoppola on Feb 26, 2014


Anything could happen, frankly.

Joey Magidson on Feb 26, 2014

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