By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com January 15, 2014 at 2:08PM
Best Cinematography - Emmanuel Lubezki - "To the Wonder"
Despite five nominations, the great Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki has never won an Oscar, though that should be rectified this year thanks to his work on "Gravity." It's overdue, and it's doubly appropriate given that he could have been nominated twice over this year, thanks to equally spectacular and very different work on Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder." The film divided critics, and was mostly ignored by audiences, but few who caught it would argue that Lubezki's images weren't consistently gorgeous: the director and DoP doubled-down on the style from "The Tree of Life," with a restless, ever-moving camera that twists and wanders like a dancer, but isn't afraid to come in close and pick up the tiny details—intertwined hands, hair in the wind, water coming in over sand. No one captures natural light like Malick, and Lubezki's so in sync with him at this point that they feel virtually inseparable. Even if they don't like the whole—and plenty don't—anyone who saw the film is sure to find some of its images seared into their brains months later, and to us, that's a sign of a beautifully photographed film. Hopefully Lubezki and Malick will find their way back to nomination with the upcoming "Knight of Cups" or its untitled companion film.
Best Editing - Jennifer Lame - "Frances Ha"
Comedy is often ignored when it comes to the Editing Oscar in favor of flashier action or thriller pictures, which is odd, because it might be the genre in which editing makes or breaks it—it's no coincidence that a great comedy filmmaker like Hal Ashby started off in the cutting room. The difference between great comedies last year—"The World's End," "The Wolf of Wall Street"—and the bad ones—most of the others—so often comes in the editing, and this was never more true than in "Frances Ha." The cutting in the film is so precision-timed and perfectly-executed that we assumed that Noah Baumbach had brought in some legendary veteran to edit his secret project, but in fact, it was newcomer Jennifer Lame, who had only a single feature under her belt before that and was only promoted because original cutter Tim Streeto dropped out to work on "Boardwalk Empire." But she and Baumbach clearly work beautifully together (the film took a year to cut, but it shows in how finely tuned it is), and she's now set to work on his next two features.
Best Original Song - “Doby” - “Anchorman: The Legend Continues”
"Anchorman: The Legend Continues" was somewhat mixed as a follow-up to a legitimately great comedy, but it had a bold third act, and in particular, the most hilariously absurd, strange and overlong tangent in recent memory, which we’ll call the “Lighthouse Blues” section of the movie. And at its center is “Doby,” a loving and moving tribute Ron Burgundy sings with his family to a pet great white shark. Sounding strangely like a mid-period Nick Cave ballad, stuffed with hilarious lyrics, and culminating in a children's choir, it'd undoubtedly bring down the house (or just confuse the hell out of everyone) if it was performed at the Oscars, but unfortunately, it's likely to miss out on an Original Song nod. Bo-ring.
Best Original Score - Jóhann Jóhannsson - “Prisoners”
Perhaps one of the most underrated scores of the year, and even one you might not remember so much, is Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson’s chilling score for Denis Villeneuve’s crime drama “Prisoners.” The film centers on a father (Hugh Jackman) whose daughter and her friend are suddenly abducted during the cold, late fall in the suburbs of Pennsylvania and the vigilante-like lengths he goes to in attempts to return them to safety. Chasing down the suspects is a young, brooding detective (Jake Gyllenhaal) who is just as determined to find the missing children. “Prisoners” is gray, dark and brooding. A man begins to lose his soul, his family and all hope as the hours the children have been missing begin to add up insurmountably. Jóhannsson’s score is thus akin to an unforgiving chill that burrows into your bones, a haunting hymnal of death, a dread that creeps into your soul that will never let go once it consumes you. It is perhaps then one of the year’s scariest scores and yet it acts nothing like a horror score; it is ghostly church organs, throbbing cello drones, chimes that glisten like you can feel their breath in the frigid air. The “Prisoners” score is the sound of your tomb being closed as snowflakes gently fall from the sky, melting into the ground never to be seen again; eerie psalms acting as preludes to the forever darkness.
Best Picture - "Inside Llewyn Davis"
It's rare that we remember quite such a large disconnect between critics and Academy members on a potential contender as the gulf that appears to have sprung up with "Inside Llewyn Davis." Writers, this one included, mostly did backflips over the Coens' latest, and it was widely expected to be a Best Picture nominee. But once voters and audiences started watching it, it was clear that they weren't responding in the same way—finding the film chilly and its central character unsympathetic. We're not saying that they're wrong, but, well, they're wrong: "Inside Llewyn Davis" is one of the very best films by two of our very best filmmakers. Rich and complex like an especially good novel, and with a melancholy tone reminiscent of "Barton Fink" and "A Serious Man," it's undeniably a little bleak, but about as funny as a bleak film could be. And the Coens' clearly share a love for their broken, bitter protagonist, and an empathy for his struggle and failures that may not be shared by Academy voters whose own difficult days are long behind them, not least because he's played by Oscar Isaac (who, see above, is goddamn amazing). Every performer, from Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan to Garrett Hedlund and John Goodman, does stellar work; it looks beautiful, courtesy of Bruno Delbonnel; and it sounds doubly wonderful, thanks to its authentic and brilliantly performed folk soundtrack. We know we shouldn't take the Academy as a measurement of quality, but the idea that this isn't one of the best films of the year is, frankly, an absurd one.
There are lots of other performers and films that we’d love to see recognized from our earlier For Your Consideration pieces. When we took a look at the Supporting Actresses, we highlighted Sally Hawkins from “Blue Jasmine” (who’s gathered steam since, and actually has a decent chance of making the cut), Mickey Sumner from "Frances Ha" and Kaitlyn Dever from "Short Term 12," while also mentioning Maria Bello and Viola Davis from "Prisoners," Alexandra Maria Lara from "Rush," Kristin Scott Thomas from "Only God Forgives," Reem Abdullah from "Wadjda," Maggie Siff from "Concussion," Ellen Page from "Touchy Feely," Rooney Mara from "Ain't Them Bodies Saints," Joanna Vanderham from "What Maisie Knew," Pauline Burlet from "The Past" and Emma Watson from "The Bling Ring."
For the Supporting Actors, we shone a light on "Short Term 12" 's Keith Stanfield, "Spring Breakers" ' James Franco and "Mud" 's Ray McKinnon, with "Parkland" 's James Badge Dale, "About Time" 's Bill Nighy, "Saving Mr. Banks" ' Jason Schwartzmann, "The Place Beyond The Pines" ' Emory Cohen, "Computer Chess" ' Myles Paige, "This Is The End" 's Danny McBride, "Iron Man 3" 's Ben Kingsley, Moises Arias from "The Kings of Summer" and in particular, "Pain & Gain" 's Dwayne Johnson.
For our expanded piece on our Best Actress favorites, we named Julia Louis-Dreyfus from "Enough Said," Greta Gerwig for "Frances Ha," Berenice Bejo from "The Past," "Touchy Feely" 's Rosemarie DeWitt, "Wadjda" 's Waad Mohammed, "Side Effects" 's Rooney Mara and "Mother Of George" 's Danai Gurira, while Olivia Wilde from "Drinking Buddies," Lake Bell from "In A World," Amy Seimetz from "Upstream Color," Felicity Jones from "The Invisible Woman," Mia Wasikowska from "Stoker," Amy Acker from "Much Ado About Nothing," Lumita Georghiu from "Child's Pose," Alice Lowe from "Sightseers," Veerle Baetens from "The Broken Circle Breakdown," Robin Weigert from "Concussion"and Kathryn Hahn from "Afternoon Delight" were the equally worthy runners-up (next time someone tries to tell you that there's a shallow pool for Best Actress, show them this list, before or after slapping them in the head).
And for Best Actor, we named Mads Mikkelsen from "The Hunt," "A Hijacking" stars Pilou Asbaek and Soren Malling, Jack Reynor from "What Richard Did," Ethan Hawke from "Before Midnight," Toni Servillo from "The Great Beauty," Ali Mosaffa from "The Past" and Hugh Jackman from "Prisoners," with Conner Chapman of "The Selfish Giant," Dane DeHaan from "Kill Your Darlings," Chris Hemsworth from "Rush," Michael Shannon of "The Iceman" and Tony Leung of "The Grandmaster" also getting mentions.
Who do you hope gets nominated tomorrow? Let us know in the comments section below.