Well, I guess everything is falling into place. With the Oscar nominations just over a week away, two major film award bodies have announced their nominees. And in one very important way they are completely in sync. BAFTA(often dubbed the “British Academy Awards”)and the DGA(the Directors Guild, long-held to be the most accurate predictor of the eventual Best Director winner at the Oscars—and therefore a reliable forecaster for Best Picture at the Academy Awards too)have agreed on the best directed films of 2013 100%. Those films and their helmers are: Alfonso Cuaron for “Gravity”, Paul Greengrass for “Captain Phillips”, Steve McQueen for “12 Years a Slave”, David O. Russell for “American Hustle” and Martin Scorsese for “The Wolf of Wall Street”. The only anomaly occurs in BAFTA’s Best Film category, where Stephen Frears’ “Philomena” got a nod, supplanting Scorsese’s latest. Nowhere to be found is the marvelous “Inside Llewyn Davis”, the recently crowned Best Pic winner from the National Society of Film Critics. Ditto star Oscar Isaac, who the National Society named their Best Actor. The Coen brothers will have to suffice with the Best Original Screenplay nomination they received from BAFTA, and look forward to Oscar where up to TEN movies can be in the running—instead of the standard 5 from BAFTA and the DGA. Hopefully, the Academy saves some love for Spike Jonze’s “Her” too, my favorite 2013 release—completely skunked by both committees.
Other BAFTA surprises? Robert Redford not getting a nod for his stellar one-man show in J.C. Chandor’s superb “All Is Lost”. Leonardo DiCaprio seemingly supplanted the Sundance Kid for his work in “The Wolf of Wall Street”. “Behind the Candelabra” from Steven Soderbergh, which ran theatrically overseas while debuting on HBO in the States, garnered a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination and a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Matt Damon(sorry Michael Douglas!). Poor June Squibb, so great in Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska”, got knocked out by Julia Roberts for “August: Osage County” in the Best Supporting Actress category, but at least “Nebraska” was recognized for its screenplay, and its star Bruce Dern. Maybe Oscar will treat June with more respect. No Meryl Streep this year! I haven’t yet watched my SAG screener for “August: Osage County”, but Streep was expected to be in the running—and failed to get to the finish line. It’s nice for a change(hey, I love Meryl, but “The Iron Lady” was abysmal). I sure wish Jeremy Renner was getting more attention in “American Hustle”—he may just be the best thing in it. But I can’t fault the recognition of Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper or Jennifer Lawrence—they all turn in fine work. And “Before Midnight” from Richard Linklater may be suffering from the earliness of its May release. A Best Adapted Screenplay nomination was not to be had. A clear picture favorite? I don’t think so, but we could be on the verge of a showdown between “American Hustle” and “12 Years a Slave”. Prospects for both appear quite good. Plenty of speculation and vitriol to come out of my keyboard during the ensuing weeks. Stay tuned!