Guaranteed Winning Oscar Picks, 2014 Edition

Hey everybody! The Academy Awards, AKA Hollywood’s Meat Parade, are coming to a television near you this Sunday evening, and you know what that means: you’re going to lose the office Oscar pool yet again. If only you had a list of Guaranteed Winners™ you could refer to, you’d finally be a somebody, instead of a bum, which you are, let’s face it.

This guy again

This guy again

Fear not! Here at the Stand By For Mind Control sweatshop, we’ve got eager children from around the world working day and night crunching numbers to ensure your future approbation. Come Monday morning, you’ll be swarmed by fawning co-workers desperate to offer you their undying love. Not to mention their cash.

Bet big, my friends. This is your year. These picks are Guaranteed Winners™. Mind you, we’re not here to tell you who should win the Oscars. (Not often, at least.) That’s a fool’s errand. (What with Inside Llewyn Davis and Upstream Color being totally ignored, we wouldn’t even know where to start.) We’re not even going to go the “given the nominees, here’s who should win” route. (Much.) No. We are here to tell you one thing only: who is taking home the little gold man, and who is going home in tears to fire their agent.

Let’s get to it, in an order sure to build suspense.


What the hell is The Invisible Woman? No one’s ever heard of it. It won’t win. The Grandmaster? Too foreign, and it’s raining all the time, so nobody can see the costumes anyway. 12 Years A Slave? What, for wearing rags? Not a chance. It’s between Gatsby and American Hustle.

The winner is: American Hustle, because the ‘70s are cool. The ‘20s are old. And anyway, American Hustle starred Amy Adams’s and Jennifer Lawrence’s breasts, brought to vivid life by their dresses.

The fabled bathroom catfight scene

The fabled bathroom catfight scene


Really? Only three nominees, and Bad Grandpa is one of them? It’s going to Dallas Buyer’s Club, folks, because everyone knows that’s an Important Movie™. Bad Grandpa is not. The Lone Ranger is the deserving one here, but it’s been so unfairly maligned it’s lucky to have been nominated.


There’s not even a good joke to make here. Gravity’s going to win every single available vote for this category. It won the day it opened.


Speaking of every single vote, Gravity wins this one or I eat my hat in Dolby surround sound.


Gravity, Gravity, and, in a surprise third place tie, Gravity.


Gravity. Ha! No, they don’t give this one to movies shot on a single soundstage. What are we left with? American Hustle? No chance, it’s all offices and bad condos. Her has a nice futuristic look, but is it flashy enough? It is not. 12 Years A Slave looks great, but it’s rather grubby, isn’t it? If only there was an obscenely bright and loud—Aha! The Great Gatsby it is! If Baz Lurhman movies are good for anything, it’s their production design.


And we’re back to Gravity. Nice to see they threw Inside Llewyn Davis a bone here, but it’s not winning. Nebraska was in black & white for god’s sake, nobody has any idea what Prisoners is (though it’s shot by master Roger Deakins), and The Grandmaster, though featuring rain, is, again, foreign.

Don't let go...of all of your Oscars

Don’t let go…of all of your Oscars


Typically, Best Editing goes to the movie which appears to the untrained eye as having the most editing, because everyone who isn’t actually a film editor seems to have no idea what it is that editors actually do.

So what do we have here? Hm, none of these nominees looke like—oh, wait: Gravity wins another. Personally, I’d give it to 12 Years A Slave, but the genius there is in how long shots are allowed to play out. Meaning—that’s right—fewer cuts. And fewer Oscars.


The most important question first: is John Williams nominated? He is! Oh, but for The Book Thief. No sharks or superheroes in there. Sorry, John. Which leaves nothing but the one movie here that people actually saw: Gravity.


Gee, I don’t know. Think it’ll go to the Disney movie or not to the Disney movie? That’s what I thought. “Let It Go” from Frozen wins by a mile.


Now we’re into the tricky categories. The little movies nobody actually watched. How do voters vote on movies they haven’t seen? They must rely on buzz. Or on the voices in their heads.

Unless, as in this case, there’s a Disney-related short. Get A Horse! actually features Mickey frickin’ Mouse. It will win.

Mickey gets himself in trouble again, that rascally rodent

Mickey gets himself in trouble again, that rascally rodent


For this one, it’s all about the actors. Anyone famous in there? (Or best of all, did a famous actor direct a short with all of their famous buddies?) Looks like we have a winner in The Voorman Problem, starring Martin Freeman and Tom Hollander. Nobody’s ever heard of anyone in the other movies, one of which is set in war-torn Africa, fer cryin’ out loud. How very depressing.


Let’s not beat around the bush: is there a Holocaust doc among the nominees? No—but hold on! Facing Fear is about a former neo-Nazi who, when he was young, almost beat to a death another kid for the crime of being gay. The two men meet again in later life and learn to forgive. Wow. Neo-Nazi and gay-bashing? No way this one loses.


Holocaust doc? No? How about a movie people have heard of? Yes indeed, The Act of Killing, which is one hell of a movie besides, I might add. It’s the only nominated doc I’ve managed to see this year. It’s produced by Errol Morris and Werner Herzog.

20 Feet From Stardom is the other contender, but it just doesn’t have the gravitas of The Act of Killing.


Sorry, Grandmaster, this was the category you had a shot in, and they didn’t even nominate you. I’ve heard great things about The Broken Circle Breakdown, but haven’t seen it yet. I’ve also heard that the Italian entry, The Great Beauty, is kind of treacly and heartwarming and beautiful. What more could an Academy voter ask for? They love heartwarming Italian movies. It’s going to win.

Oh, you delightful Italians, you!

Oh, you delightful Italians, you!


2013 marked the year of animation great Hayao Miyazaki’s final film, The Wind Rises (which I hope to see this weekend). Certainly, there’s no way it could lose.

Unless the most popular Disney flick in ages came out this year. Sorry, Miyazaki. It’s Frozen by a cool mile.


Now we’re getting to the fancy awards. Actors! This one’s a bit tricky. Jonah Hill gives his best performance ever opposite DiCaprio, but then there’s Michael Fassbender going deep into pain and evil in 12 Years A Slave, and finally, in a performance I found completely bizarre and unconvincing, Bradley Cooper in American Hustle. I don’t know why people like this guy, but they do.

And then again, there’s Jared Leto in Dallas Buyer’s Club, who’s won every preliminary award there is. He’ll win the Oscar too.

How can the Academy resist a man in drag?

How can the Academy resist a man in drag?


The Academy loves Jennifer Lawrence, but they love even more doing what they imagine will be perceived as the “right thing,” which in this case would be awarding it to newcomer Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years A Slave–a very important film indeed, not some lark like American Hustle. As a bonus, she’s absolutely fantastic in the film. As for Lawrence, she got a statue last year. She won’t mind.

The winner is Lupita.

Happier times

A moment’s peace


12 Years A Slave. No competition. Aside, maybe, from The Wolf of Wall Street, but let’s be serious. 12 Years A Slave, adapted from Solomon Northrup’s book by John Ridley (and McQueen, uncredited), will win.


How on earth is Inside Llewyn Davis not nominated here? Absurd.

What are we left with? Something of a muddle. Woody Allen earns his record breaking 17th writing nomination. He won’t win. The Original Screenplay award is notorious for going to whatever indie film people loved that’s too indie to give a Best Picture Oscar to. Which means Her is looking strong. I know, it’s not actually an independent movie, but it’s got that indie vibe.

But what about American Hustle? People sure fell for that mess. It’s got a shot, but Her is so damn charming, and so far it’s won all kinds of other writing awards, including the WGA’s. The Oscar is going to Spike Jonze.

Spike chats with him

Spike chats with him


This is what they call a crowded field. Many potential winners. Bruce Dern is the best thing about Nebraska, he’s old, he’s been around forever, he’s Hollywood royalty.

Chiwetel Ejiofor gives what I think is the best performance of the year in 12 Years A Slave. He’s stunning. Problem is, he’s kind of a newcomer in the eyes of Hollywood. Plus, nobody knows how to pronounce his name.

DiCaprio is all over Wolf of Wall Street. His scene on Valium is insane. But nobody liked the movie enough to vote for him.

Oscar Isaac…oh, right, he wasn’t nominated, despite killing it in Inside Llewyn Davis.

Christian Bale goes deep into his hair—sorry—his role in American Hustle, but it’s a little too broad to win.

Leaving Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyer’s Club. He’s been acting up a storm lately, giving wildly different (and great) performances in all sorts of random movies. He’s been around a long time. People know him. They like him. He’s an easy vote. He’s going to win.

Hollywood loves an emaciated actor

Hollywood loves an emaciated actor


Another crowded field. Everyone here could win. But they won’t. Five way ties are not common. But wouldn’t that be fun? No? Fine.

Streep is Streep. Academy rules require her nomination. She won’t win.

Dench is Dench. She’s endearing, strong, and fragile in Philomena, but isn’t she always? Not a winner.

Amy Adams is okay in American Hustle, but she’s out-acted by her breasts. Outraged at not getting their own nod, they—her breasts, stay with me here—have been waging a campaign in the trades against Amy, so it’s not looking good. Hollywood hates a controversy.

Sandra Bullock in Gravity. She puts on a good show, sure. And she puts up with the crazy technical requirements of the role. But by the end, she’s kind of annoying, and she doesn’t say much, and she’s all alone. Boring. Not a winner.

Cate Blanchett, on the other hand, she tears it up in Woody Allen’s otherwise trite and annoying Blue Jasmine. Everyone loved her. She’s got this sewn up.

Cate touches Alec's head for luck

Cate touches Alec’s head for luck


And it’s the Coens for Inside Llewyn Davis! Oh, wait, they weren’t even nominated. Sigh.

So what do we have here? It’s between Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity and Steve McQueen for 12 Years A Slave. I’d vote McQueen. Cuaron should have gotten the Oscar for Children of Men (was he even nominated?).

Yes, yes, but who will win? It’s going to be Cuaron. McQueen is too much an outsider. He’s British. He makes art movies. 12 Years A Slave isn’t at all flashy or overtly heartstringy. It’s full of long, slow takes. I mean for god’s sake, it almost looks European! In the worst way!

There’s no shame in voting Cuaron. He’s a great director. He did amazing, unique work with Gravity. He’ll win.

Cuaron estimates the size of his Oscar

Cuaron estimates the size of his Oscar


Not Upstream Color? The best movie of the year? How odd.

This appears at first to be a tough one. Gravity and 12 Years A Slave have both been winning awards all over the place, and American Hustle, bad as it is, is also a strong contender. None of the other nominess has a chance.

Who wins this three way race? Fear not. We’ve worked our peppy young laborers round the clock for weeks, and bless their tiny, love-starved hearts, they’ve come up with a scientifically proven answer:

12 Years A Slave. It’s important. It’s history. And it is, after all, excellent in every way. Gravity, impressive as it is, is, ultimately, a roller coaster ride. A unique one, yes, but with no meaning beneath the thrills.

Cuaron gets his director Oscar, and McQueen, as producer, gets his picture Oscar. As does Brad Pitt, also a producer of 12 Years A Slave. It’s a weird world.

McQueen crushes the heads of all who would oppose him

McQueen crushes the heads of all who would oppose him

Please remember to send 10% of your Oscar pool winnings to Stand By For Mind Control. Thank you and goodnight.

Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man.

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