Monday, June 17, 2024

Oscars? Remember Them? Ballots Go Out on February 14th


You may wonder what happened to the Oscars? It seemed like we were talking about them endlessly. Then, nothing. Nada. Silence.

Well, this year the Oscars are on March 2nd– a little later than usual. Ballots aren’t mailed out to voters until February 14th. They must be back by February 25th.

Because of Academy rules, once the nominations are announced, the wining and dining ends. During this final period, there is no campaigning. Voters are supposed to watch the movies and make some heavy decisions.

This is a highly contentious year. Three movies– “American Hustle,” “12 Years a Slave,” and “Gravity”–are considered the leading candidates for Best Picture. None really has an edge. Of the three directors involved, Alfonso Cuaron is the odds on favorite for the Oscar for “Gravity.” He’s won the Directors Guild and a bunch of other awards.

But David O. Russell (“Hustle”) and Steve McQueen (“12 Years”) are not shabby choices. They’re just as good as Cuaron. In fact, it could be argued that they actually directed more actors. Cuaron just had Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. But he created a whole new 3D process and gave “Gravity” its astonishing look.

Matthew McConaughey won the Golden Globe and SAG Awards for Best Actor. Does this mean he’s in? Not necessarily. Bruce Dern’s performance in “Nebraska” is sensational and caps a long career. Hollywood loves him. I’d like to see him win. Leonardo DiCaprio has never won, but has been nominated many times. Shouldn’t he get a shot?

Jared Leto, I think, does have Best Supporting Actor sewn up. Jonah Hill will have to wait. Barkhad Abdi is just that lovely nod to Hollywood’s famed strike of lightning. Bradley Cooper was solid, but he’s going to get a lead award one day. Michael Fassbender, ditto.

Cate Blanchett is unshakeable as Best Actress. This is a hot category, too. Please. Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Judi Dench– all at the top of their games. Sandra Bullock– give her an award this year for most gracious, endearing, best dressed, in best humor. Do I love this woman? I do. She made Oscar season easy.

Lupita N’yongo may indeed win Best Supporting Actress. “12 Years is a Slave” is her first movie, her first anything since she graduated from Yale Drama School. Jennifer Lawrence has won a few awards for “Hustle,” but she just won Best Actress last year. She’s 23. Take a breath. She’ll be around a long time.

I did think Oprah Winfrey would win this category, but she was egregiously overlooked. Octavia Spencer, too. That leaves Cate’s “Blue Jasmine” partner Sally Hawkins, who is destined for big things.  And June Squibb, who gave “Nebraska” its heart and soul. And Julia Roberts, who might surprise everyone. But she has an Oscar, and is probably happy just to be back for the first time since her win in 2001 for “Erin Brokovich.”

Meanwhile, the latest news is that newly minted Grammy winner Pharrell Williams will be performing at the show on March 2. I’ve no doubt U2 will perform their nominated song from “Mandela.” As we get closer, expect big announcements from producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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