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Oscar Watch: Nominee Winners and Losers.
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By Erich Vandussen
Erich Van Dussen's film reviews have been featured in newspapers and magazines, on the radio, and online for more than 20 years. He lives in the Finger Lakes region.
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The Oscar nominations were announced last week, with the Academy Award telecast set for Sunday, March 2. Many of the nominations were somewhat easy to predict, but there were still some notable surprises.



Winners: Gravity, American Hustle and 12 Years a Slave. With a cumulative total of 29 nominations, these three films – a sci-fi epic, a ’70s-era crime-and-punishment masterpiece and a searing historical drama – lived up to their reputations as the cream of the 2013 crop.



Loser: Inside Llewyn Davis. I’m not surprised that Davis didn’t emerge as a front-runner this year – the Coen brothers’ portrait of a 1960s folk singer, though expertly made, was simply too resolutely bleak to endear itself to filmgoers. But to only earn two nominations, in Cinematography and Sound Mixing? Not even a Best Song nod? Ever since Fargo, Joel and Ethan Coen have been well respected by Academy voters, but something about this film really turned them off. Better luck next time.



Losers: Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks. The stars of Saving Mr. Banks were each considered front-runners in the Oscar derby – she for her portrayal of author P.L. Travers in the Disney biopic Banks, he for that film as well as a towering performance in Captain Phillips. Smart money had Hanks collecting a nomination (and perhaps even the award) for Phillips, which featured some of the best acting of his career. Bizarrely, he received no nominations, while one name that appears instead in the Best Actor nomination roster seems a bit off…



Winner: The Wolf of Wall Street. Here’s that name: Leonardo Di Caprio. The Academy’s love for Martin Scorsese is well established by now, but their love must be blind to have anointed the director’s latest with Best Picture, Director, Actor and Supporting Actor nominations. Wolf is OK as far as it goes, and it has a certain manic energy that carries it along. But it’s fully an hour longer than it needed to be, and the performances from Di Caprio and Jonah Hill are hammy, unsophisticated stuff. As a hypersaturated time-capsule indictment of ’80s vulgar excess, it works reasonably well; as a film unto itself, it’s hardly Oscar worthy. And yet, there it is.



Winner: Bad Grandpa. The spinoff of the Jackass franchise put Johnny Knoxville in full-body makeup to play the title character – and picked up a nomination in the Best Makeup category for its trouble. Now the film will forever be known as “the Oscar-nominated Bad Grandpa.” It’s a weird world we live in.



Losers: Enough Said and Frances Ha. Small films always run the risk of being overlooked come Oscar time, and these two finely crafted indies – despite making it onto a bundle of critics’ year-end 10-best lists – were released too early in the year and faced too much stiff competition from bigger films from deep-pocketed studios. The one place you could usually expect to see projects like these recognized is in the Original Screenplay category, but even there the competition was too stiff this year.



Incidentally, if you’re looking to catch up with the Best Picture nominees, here’s how to see any you’ve missed:



  • 12 Years a Slave: On DVD March 4.


  • American Hustle: Still in theaters.


  • Captain Phillips: Out on DVD and Blu-Ray this week.


  • Dallas Buyers Club: Still in a few theaters; on DVD Feb. 4.


  • Gravity: On DVD Feb. 25.


  • Her: Still in theaters.


  • Nebraska: Still in theaters; on DVD Feb. 25.


  • Philomena: Still in theaters; on DVD March 4.


  • The Wolf of Wall Street: Still in theaters.




And who will actually win? Well, that's a story for another day. Stay tuned.



(IMAGE: 12 Years a Slave. Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight films.)

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