I am changing Best Picture to Birdman and leaving Linklater for Director. They did the right thing last year and chose 12 Years a Slave for picture and Alfonso Cuarón for Director. It was the best way to honor both films. If Boyhood cant win em both, I am hoping for a split.

Best Picture
Birdman

Best Director
Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Best Actor
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Best Actress
Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Best Supporting Actor
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Best Cinematography
Birdman – Emmanuel Lubezki

Best Foreign Language Film
Ida

Best Adapted Screenplay
Whiplash

Best Original Screenplay
The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Original Score
The Theory of Everything

Best Original Song
“Glory,” Selma

Best Animated Feature
How to Train Your Dragon 2

Best Documentary—Short
Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Best Film Editing
Boyhood

Best Production Design
The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Animated Short
The Dam Keeper

Best Live Action Short
Parvaneh

Best Sound Editing
American Sniper

Best Sound Mixing
American Sniper

Best Visual Effects
Interstellar

Best Documentary — Feature
Citizenfour

Best Costume Design
The Grand Budapest Hotel

Regardless of which actors and actresses win on Sunday night, everyone has their own personal favorites. Here are some of mine:

Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years A Slave)

Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)

Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave)

Leonardo Dicaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)

Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station)

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke (Before Midnight) **spoiler***

Forest Whitaker (The Butler)

Sarah Paulson (12 Years A Slave)

Bruce Dern (Nebraska)

2014 Oscar Logo

 BEST PICTURE
12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
Nebraska
Philomena
The Wolf of Wall Street

With only a few days left before the Oscars, we are down to a 3 way race for Best Picture. GRAVITY, 12 YEARS A SLAVE and AMERICAN HUSTLE. The majority of Oscar pundits are predicting 12 YEARS A SLAVE for Picture and Alfonso Cuaron (GRAVITY) for Best Director. Picture and Director splits are rare, but they do happen. If there was any year for a split to happen, it would be this one. AMERICAN HUSTLE could be the upset. Remember 51% of Oscar voters have to put it at number 1.  If there is not a majority then they go to the film with the most number 2 votes that has the majority. It is possible that 12 YEARS and GRAVITY will be numbers 1 and 2, but not have the majority. That would then make their third choice, AMERICAN HUSTLE your Best Picture of 2014. Most agree that AMERICAN HUSTLE is the weakest movie of all the 9 nominees, but we know that Actors loved it and they make up the majority of voters. (ugh!).

With all of that said, I am still going with GRAVITY for Best Picture and Cuaron for Director. 12 YEARS A SLAVE is the better movie and The Academy would be breaking down the berriers that black film makers have been up against for the last 86 years. They actually can’t win in this situation. If they don’t choose 12 YEARS as the best of the year, they run the risk of looking racist. If they do vote it Best Picture it will be perceived as a “white guilt” vote. This makes GRAVITY the safe movie that The Academy loves to reward.

BEST DIRECTOR
David O. Russell, American Hustle
Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity”
Alexander Payne, Nebraska”
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street

Cuaron has won the most awards leading up to Oscar night including the DGA. His groundbreaking work on GRAVITY won’t be ignored.

BEST ACTOR
Christian Bale, American Hustle
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

McConaughey has also won most of the precursor awards, but some say Bruce Dern is long overdue. I still think that McConaughey is a lock.

BEST ACTRESS
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County

Blanchett has been the front-runner all year. The recent controversy with Woody Allen could keep her from winning.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
American Hustle
Blue Jasmine
Her
Nebraska
Dallas Buyers Club

HER has won every screenplay award that it has been nominated for this year. I expect it to continue, but AMERICAN HUSTLE still lurks.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Before Midnight
Captain Phillips
Philomena
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

12 YEARS A SLAVE will take home some Oscars on Sunday night. I dont think that it will be completely shut-out.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
June Squibb, Nebraska
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine

Nyong’o won the SAG, Jennifer Lawrence won the Golden Globe and the BAFTA. But for the love of god Lawrence has enough.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

BEST ANIMATED FILM
The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Ernest & Celestine
Frozen
The Wind Rises

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
The Grandmaster
Gravity
Inside Llewyn Davis
Nebraska
Prisoners

GRAVITY was made to win cinematography.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
American Hustle
The Grandmaster
The Great Gatsby
The Invisible Woman
12 Years a Slave

AMERICAN HUSTLE will win a few. Costume could be one of those.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
The Act of Killing
Cutie and the Boxer
Dirty Wars
The Square
20 Feet from Stardom

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
CaveDigger
Facing Fear
Karama Has No Walls
The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack

BEST FILM EDITING
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club J
Gravity
12 Years a Slave

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
The Broken Circle Breakdown
The Great Beauty
The Hunt
The Missing Picture
Omar

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
Dallas Buyers Club
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
The Lone Ranger

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
John Williams, The Book Thief
Steven Price, Gravity
William Butler and Owen Pallett, Her
Alexandre Desplat, Philomena
Thomas Newman, Saving Mr. Banks

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Alone Yet Not Alone” from Alone Yet Not Alone
“Happy” from Despicable Me 2
“Let It Go” from Frozen
“The Moon Song” from Her
“Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
American Hustle
Gravity
The Great Gatsby
Her
12 Years a Slave

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
Feral
Get a Horse!
Mr. Hublot
Possessions
Room on the Broom

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM
Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me) Esteban Crespo
Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything)
Helium
Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)
The Voorman Problem

All of the Live Action Short nominees can now be seen on iTunes and VOD.

BEST SOUND EDITING
All Is Lost
Captain Phillips
Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Lone Survivor

BEST SOUND MIXING
Captain Phillips
Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Inside Llewyn Davis
Lone Survivor

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
The Lone Ranger
Star Trek Into Darkness

the-wolf-of-wall-street-official-extended-trailer-0

You can look at back story of almost every movie made and wonder how it ever get’s done. So many great movies are put on the back burner until someone takes a chance. The first and hardest part, getting financed. Investing in a movie is a HUGE risk. All you can hope for is to at least get your original investment back, but most of the time that doesn’t happen. If a film is lucky enough to get financing, chances are it will fail. The story below tells of the obstacles this years Oscar nominated films faced. It’s amazing that any movie gets made.

NEW YORK (AP) — This year’s Academy Awards nominees reflect a Hollywood truism: The margin between the dust bin and the Oscar red carpet is often razor thin.

The development process of any film can be lengthy and arduous, full of challenges in obtaining financing or a studio executive’s stamp of approval. The biggest obstacle on the road to the Academy Awards is, for many films, simply getting a green light.

That’s especially true nowadays, when studios have pulled back on their output and turned their focus almost exclusively to blockbusters. It makes for an annual Oscar irony: When Hollywood gathers to celebrate itself at the Academy Awards, it fetes not its standard business, but its oddities, its rarities, its freaks that somehow managed to squeeze through the cracks.

“The Wolf of Wall Street,” for example, might seem like a no-brainer: Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, loads of sex and drugs. But even “The Wolf,” nominated for five Oscars including best picture, came very close to never getting made. After developing the film, Warner Bros. dropped it in 2008. Scorsese would later lament having “wasted about five months of my life” waiting for the Warner Bros.’ OK that never came.

It wasn’t until years later (and after other directors were considered) that the project came together, with independent film company Red Granite Pictures financing the film’s $100 million budget, and Paramount Pictures distributing.

“It’s actually kind of a miracle that this movie happened, especially the fact that we were allowed to keep the tone that we wanted all the way to the end,” says DiCaprio. “When was the last time you saw a film like this happen? I don’t know. It doesn’t fit into any specific category or box. It’s an epic. It’s a giant Hollywood epic. It’s almost like a film you’d have to make 30 or 40 years ago when directors had free rein.”

The bet paid off not only in accolades, but at the box office. “The Wolf of Wall Street” has made more than $335 million worldwide.

The case of “Dallas Buyers Club” (six nominations, including best picture) is even more remarkable. A film that’s now counted among the nine best of the year by the Academy took nearly two decades to get made. Co-producer and co-screenwriter Craig Borten first sold the script in 1996 after meeting and interviewing Ron Woodroof, a Texan who combated AIDS with drugs smuggled from other countries.

View galleryThis image released by Focus Features shows Jared Leto …
This image released by Focus Features shows Jared Leto as Rayon in a scene from “Dallas Buyers …
At one time, Woody Harrelson was attached to star with Dennis Hopper directing. Later, after the script was sold to Universal Pictures, Brad Pitt was lined up to play Woodroof, with Marc Forster directing. Another iteration brought in Ryan Gosling and director Craig Gillespie.

It was only revived with Matthew McConaughey (the best actor front-runner) and director Jean-Marc Vallee after the rights to the screenplay went dormant and Borten and co-producer Melisa Wallack were able to buy them back. And still, just weeks before filming began, investors pulled their money.

The breach was filled partly because McConaughey gave it an air of inevitability. He had already begun losing weight for the role and discussed it on TV talk shows.

Made for just $5 million and shot in 25 days, “Dallas Buyers Club” finally got made, long after AIDS dwindled from the headlines. Specialty division Focus Features acquired the film, which has made $30.5 million worldwide.

Several of the Oscar nominees have relied on a single person to change their fate. When “12 Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen accepted the Golden Globe award for best drama, he thanked producer Brad Pitt: “Without you, this film would have never got made.”

Similar kudos have gone to the young producer Megan Ellison, whose Annapurna Pictures bankrolled two best-picture nominees: David O. Russell’s “American Hustle” (jointly with Sony Pictures) and Spike Jonze’s “Her” (released by Warner Bros.). The 28-year-old Ellison, daughter of billionaire Larry Ellison, has been roundly hailed for backing the kind of edgy, auteur-oriented films that are struggling to find financing. (In recent years, she’s produced “Zero Dark Thirty,” ”The Master” and “True Grit.”)

But such deep-pocketed, director-friendly financiers are few, and the route is exceptionally narrow for the kind of prestigious pictures honored at the Oscars.

With “Nebraska” (nominated for six Oscars, including best picture), filmmaker Alexander Payne managed a seemingly impossible feat: getting a studio (Paramount) to produce a black-and-white film. But it took lengthy negotiations, and had to survive a series of film division closings. “Nebraska” was first with Paramount Classics, then Paramount Vantage, and finally ended up with Paramount Pictures.

The domino-effect journey of “Nebraska” reflects a larger shift in the industry. Particularly over the last decade, studios have moved away from smaller and medium-sized dramas, instead concentrating resources on blockbuster and genre releases that can earn hundreds of millions globally.

Payne’s mantra is advocating for the $20-25 million adult comedy or drama. Instead of always swinging for the fences, he believes in the more reliable double.

In the current climate, the handful of ambitious, adult-oriented films that do get produced are almost exclusively appraised through the prism of Hollywood’s awards season. The strange effect is that these few films that have clawed their way onto screens are then set against each other for months of Oscar wrangling.

“The eight, 10, 12 good English-language films are all released in the last quarter of the year and expected to gird for battle for Oscars and Golden Globes and all that stuff,” says Payne. “And they’re just movies. They may be fragile movies, human movies. They just need to find an audience on their own without having comparative judgment made along with it.”

With the Oscar ceremony just a little over a week away, the Best Picture race is down to 2. GRAVITY or 12 YEARS A SLAVE . GRAVITY will be the first 3D and most CGI intensive movie to ever win Best Picture. 12 YEARS will be the first film about slavery since GONE WITH THE WIND to win the award. I am in the minority for choosing GRAVITY to win Best Picture and I could very well be wrong, but here goes nothing.

GRAVITY– Currently the film to beat for Best Picture. The DGA win for Director Alfonso Cuarón all but seals the deal. The movie has won 6 BAFTA’s, 7 Critics Choice Awards,  the PGA (tied with 12 YEARS A SLAVE),  AFI’s Movie of the Year and Best Film at the Boston Society of Film Critics, Los Angeles Film Critics (tied with HER) more technical awards that are too many to name here. Statistically the winner of the PGA and DGA go on to win Best Picture. This is our best gauge at determining which film will win.  As Sasha Stone points out, “Best Picture is the movie that you can sit anyone down in front of and they will like it”.  This year that movie is GRAVITY.  The last 3 BP winners THE KINGS SPEECH, THE ARTIST and ARGO are all good films, but most importantly they are the least divisive. As with any front-runner there are some haters. People have been critical of the fact that there are only 2 characters and for most of the movie there is only 1. GRAVITY is like a theme park ride. You don’t enjoy them for their “plots”, you enjoy them for “the experience”.  In the case of GRAVITY, the only way to experience it fully is to see it in IMAX 3D. Years from now when it is only available to watch at home, some may wonder how it won Best Picture. But, with all that said GRAVITY is the future of movie making.  95% of the film takes place in zero gravity with the first scene being a 13-minute uncut tracking shot in space. This will go down as one of the greatest scenes in a movie ever. GRAVITY also remains the highest rated movie of 2013 with 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. Put that together with all the precursor awards and you have yourself this years Oscar winner for Best Picture.

12 YEARS A SLAVE– An all around better film than GRAVITY, but just too divisive to win Best Picture.  Some Oscar voters openly admit to not even watching the movie. It is “too violent” or too depressing. One even calling it “torture porn”.  Sure 12 YEARS A SLAVE is hard to watch and reminds us that the United States wasn’t always the “home of the free” that we like to pretend it always was.  So goes why many of the old white guys in the Academy will choose to ignore it.  If Steve McQueen goes on to win Best Director he will be the first black Director to ever win this award, EVER! While I don’t think that 12 YEARS should win based on the race of the Director, it an  opportunity to award a great film and make history at the same time. No I don’t think Oscar voters are racist, but they like what they like and when they see it they all gather around like children to a pile of candy. I don’t that same passion around 12 YEARS A SLAVE. Sure it tied with GRAVITY for the PGA, but GRAVITY won the more important DGA.  12 YEARS A SLAVE needs full support to win the Oscar.  Remember 51% of Oscar voters have to have 12 YEARS A SLAVE as their number one movie of the year for it to win. (if it goes to a 2nd or 3rd round, it has to be number 2 or 3 on their list). But, It is not all bad news for 12 YEARS it did win the Best Film at BAFTA , Best Motion Picture Drama at the Golden Globes, Best Picture at the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards and Outstanding Picture at the Image Awards. The movie will take home a few Oscar statues. It could win for Screenplay, Set Design and of course  Lupita Nyong’o for Best Supporting Actress. (God help us if it is Jennifer Lawrence). Best Picture could be just out of reach for 12 YEARS A SLAVE.

AMERICAN HUSTLE-There still seems to be some support for AMERICAN HUSTLE.  I hated AMERICAN HUSTLE and I still don’t understand the awards attention.  It was the same last with David O’Russell’s other mess of a movie SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK.  The only explanation is the strong acting ensemble of Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale and Jeremy Renner. I am not including Bradley Cooper, he is terrible. The others are the only part that make this movie worth watching. The fact that it still could win Best Picture is beyond comprehension. This anticlimactic actors orgy does not know which direction to go. It is so quickly wound up at the end that I had no idea what just happened.  But, remember the Academy likes what they like and they like AMERICAN HUSTLE.  Especially Actors who make up a majority of the 6500 Oscar voters.  It’s possible that GRAVITY and 12 YEARS A SLAVE will not get the 51% of number one votes needed to win. If that’s the case they go to the number two votes and, god forbid, number 3. Number 3 would be AMERICAN HUSTLE. It still has an impressive 93% on Rotten Tomatoes and has won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Comedy or Musical, BAFTA for Best Original Screenplay, the SAG for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture ans Best Comedy and Best Acting Ensemble at the Broadcast Film Critics Awards. All in all it received 87 movie awards nominations.  WTF!

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET– My personal favorite movie of the last decade.  Martin Scorsese brilliantly directs this fast paced epic about how low a wealthy stockbroker can go. Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort is by far the best performance of the year. Sorry Matthew McConaughey even losing 46 pounds doesn’t outdo DiCaprio. But, WOLF OF WALL STREET is another film that is too divisive to win. Critics had lots of complaints. There was too much debauchery and it couldn’t possibly represent real life. Guess what?  It does.  It was called a soulless movie with nobody to root for.  Oscar voter Hope Holiday, an actress that hasn’t worked in 25 years called THE WOLF OF WALL STREET “three hours of torture” and yelled “you ought to be ashamed of yourself!”to Scorsese after n Oscar screening. If you know anything about Scorsese, you would understand that his intention was not to make a movie that sympathizes with Belfort.  He was purposefully portraying the maniac that Belfort was. Hope Holiday is the typical Oscar voter that we are dealing with.  Consequently GRAVITY, the least offensive movie of 2014, will win Best Picture.

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB– Not many can complain about this film or the performance of Matthew McConaughey. He lost 46 pounds to portray the story of a man with AIDS and his courage to help others suffering the same fate. McConaughey worked 20 years to get this movie made.  So, the Academy will honor him with the Best Actor award and the mush deserving Jared Leto for Best Supporting Actor.  In a competitive year like this, DALLAS BUYERS CLUB doesn’t have the support needed to win Best Picture.

HER– When trailers first cam out for HER it looked like a ridiculous premise. A guy falls in love with an operating system voiced by Scarlett Johansson. But then people started to notice that HER was different. Joaquin Phoenix believably played a guy in the future who could feel for the woman on his computer. It takes place in world where many are doing the same. Director Spike Jones composes one of the best looking movies of the year. The shots of futuristic Los Angeles, actually shot in Shanghai, could each stand on their own as photograph. The idea that someday we will all be wearing our pants well our above our waist is a nice subtle touch that could easily go unnoticed. HER has won every award that it has been nominated for. Mostly for Screenplay. It is another movie that can’t compete with the likes of GRAVITY or 12 YEARS A SLAVE, but this little film that could deserves a nomination.

NEBRASKA-Alexander Payne is one of the greatest Directors of our time. His passion for showing “real life” people doing “real life” things is extraordinary. His decision to shoot the entire film in black and white adds to the depressing feels of NEBRASKA.  BRUCE DERN plays an old guy trying to get to NEBRASKA to collect his $1million promised to him by Publishers Clearing House.  At the heart of NEBRASKA is man and his son trying to make sense of their life ahead as well as his past left behind. Will Forte has mysteriously been left out of acting nominations. Bruce Dern and the brilliant June Squibb are both nominated in supporting actor categories. NEBRASKA certainly deserves the nomination for Best Picture and there is still nothing wrong with a nomination.

PHILOMENA-At the time of this writing I have yet to see PHILOMENA. It started strong at the Venice Film Festival by winning 10 awards including the Golden Lion. It had 3 Golden Globe nominations, but didn’t take any home. It won the BAFTA for Best Adapted screenplay and now has 4 Oscar nominations. Judi Dench is the reason for most of PHILOMENA’s awards attention and there is nothing wrong with that.  None of the “Oscarologists” have PHILOMENA winning Best Picture, but of course it is an honor to just be nominated.

The Golden Globes have a history of predicting Oscar winners. Even after the Academy moved up their due dates. Oscar ballots were due 4 days before the Globes happened, but last year all four of the academy’s acting picks came from the Golden Globes. Over the past 20 years, the Globes have chosen actor Oscar winners 80% of the time. The Oscar voters have their nominations in, but they still need to vote for the winners. The Golden Globes become an audition for Oscar night. If a Globe winner gives a good speech and comes across as likable, their chance at an Oscar goes way up. Sunday Night Leonardo Dicaprio, Matthew McConaughey , Jared Leto and Alfonso Cuaron. All had great speeches and the AMPAS wants them giving speeches on Oscar night. My best guess is that last night locked a nomination for Dicaprio, locked a win for McConaughy and Leto. Director is still up in the air. Right now it is between Steve McQueen Alfonso Cuaron and David O’ Russell.