By Jennifer Vineyard
Special to CNN
Oscar nominations remain to be announced, but it's already time to predict what will happen at the Golden Globes this Sunday. Who will win? Who should win? To keep track of the various Globes races, here are some of Entertainment's most educated guesses, thanks to input from the nominees themselves.
Best motion picture -- drama
Since the Globes separate drama from comedy (and musicals), the toughest race this year (for once) will be in comedy/musicals, not drama. Still, there are some strong contenders in this category: "12 Years a Slave," "Captain Phillips," "Gravity," "Philomena" and "Rush." Each of these (except "Gravity") is based on a true story; that usually gives a film a boost in the awards department, but the real question this year might be, how does each film make you feel?
Although "12 Years a Slave," based on the experiences of Solomon Northup, a free man who was kidnapped and forced into slavery, is an exceptional and important film, it can also be hard to watch, given the lingering attention paid to such horrors as lynching, whipping and rape. (The word often used to describe the film: "harrowing.")
"It's obviously a situation where people have had their difficulties with the subject," director Steve McQueen said. "It's understandable in a way, because it's such a grave and painful part of that time in history." Still, McQueen hopes people are able to "find out who they are and what they are and how far they've come" when they consider the film.
An easier sell is "Gravity," also an amazing film, but more because it provides an experience of what it would be like to be in space. (The word often used to describe this one: "spectacular.") So even though there are some disturbing moments in the movie, viewers tend to find the depiction of zero-gravity a more exhilarating experience and might vote accordingly. If we were feeling cynical, we would guess that the lighter "Gravity" will circle the Globe, even if the heavier "12 Years a Slave" deserves to.
Best motion picture -- comedy or musical
Here, the contenders are "American Hustle," "Her," "Inside Llewyn Davis," "Nebraska" and "The Wolf of Wall Street." And because so many of the great films this year have a dramedy/comedy aspect, this is a trickier category than usual -- with no one film sweeping the all-important predictors, the critics awards.
"American Hustle" snagged the New York Film Critics Circle Award for best picture, "Her" got National Board of Review's nod, "Inside Llewyn Davis" won the National Society of Film Critics Awards, and so on. It might be that two films are dividing the vote: two period piece con-man stories that cancel each other out. Can David O. Russell's Scorsese-like "American Hustle" out-hustle Scorsese's own film, "The Wolf of Wall Street?" Could both be elbowed aside by Spike Jonze's enchanting computer-age love story, "Her"?
All the crazy outrageousness, the controversies over glamorizing not-so-victimless crimes and even the quite excellent performances in both "Hustle" and "Wolf" seem just a lot of noise when compared with the quiet but more inventive "Her," which plays like a fable for our times. "Her" should win, but "Wolf" will probably blow down the Globes door.
Ben Affleck was the surprise winner in this category last year, so anything could happen. Each of the nominees -- Alfonso Cuaron (for "Gravity"), Paul Greengrass ("Captain Phillips"), McQueen ("12 Years a Slave"), Alexander Payne ("Nebraska") and David O. Russell ("American Hustle") -- is a strong contender, but Cuaron's accomplishments in creating film technology could push him ahead of his peers, as might his easygoing, self-deprecating meet-and-greet campaign strategy.
"A movie about an astronaut alone in space for an hour and a half? Doesn't sound appealing!" he said with a laugh. "It was how the media presented the whole thing that made the difference. I'm surprised at what the response has been."
Still, it's more likely that this will go to a helmer for a film other than the one that takes home best picture to snag this as a consolation prize -- and yes, we mean you, McQueen.
Best performance by an actor in a motion picture -- drama
The leading men in the drama category are Chiwetel Ejiofor for "12 Years a Slave," Idris Elba for "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom," Tom Hanks for "Captain Phillips," Matthew McConaughey for "Dallas Buyers Club" and Robert Redford for "All is Lost." Ejiofor will probably win for his intelligent, emotional portrayal of Solomon Northup, but he's got some strong competition in McConaughey (who lost a ton of weight for his role) and Redford (an industry favorite). Although Redford's unnamed man had a rough time of it trying to survive at sea, the actor himself had it relatively easy, which means he can't rely on the usual awards narrative of suffering for his art.
"I just had the one ear infection," Redford said. "They worked very hard to protect me. I mean, there were certainly points where all hell was breaking lose, but you can't control everything."
First-time nominee McConaughey could downplay his "suffering" as well, but unlike the others, it doesn't matter what he says. His physical appearance in the film says it for him. But McConaughey's commitment to his performance as a man refusing to die from AIDS isn't just about the weight loss; it's about how he keeps transforming himself and disappearing into new identities. McConaughey should win.
Best performance by an actress in a motion picture -- drama
The leading ladies in the drama category are Cate Blanchett for "Blue Jasmine," Sandra Bullock for "Gravity," Judi Dench for "Philomena," Emma Thompson for "Saving Mr. Banks" and Kate Winslet for "Labor Day." Unlike most of the other categories this year, this one has a clear forerunner in Blanchett, whose bravura performance in Woody Allen's film has won her accolades from the National Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics Circle. In fact, one of the biggest surprises at the Gotham Awards was that Blanchett did not win: Up-and-coming actress Brie Larson managed to snag an award away from her. But that won't happen at the Globes, where Blanchett will and should win.
Best performance by an actor in a motion picture -- comedy or musical
Only Oscar Isaac can lay claim to the musical part of the category, with his breakthrough performance in "Inside Llewyn Davis," but the rest of the guys are nominated for making us laugh: Christian Bale in "American Hustle," Bruce Dern in "Nebraska," Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Wolf of Wall Street" and Joaquin Phoenix in "Her." The real race here is between DiCaprio, who goes all-out in "Wolf," and the long-overdue Dern, who puts in a more subdued performance as a confused alcoholic who thinks he's won a million dollars in "Nebraska."
The irony is that Dern himself doesn't even drink. "A lot of times, I just get a virgin pina colada," he said.
But a scene in which DiCaprio's character takes quaaludes, which could have become slapstick in someone else's hands, is what should convince the Globes that they need a new drug. Dern as the sentimental favorite will win, but DiCaprio should.
Best performance by an actress in a motion picture -- comedy or musical
Meryl Streep, who was nominated last year for "Hope Springs," might hope to dominate this category this year with her bitter pill of a character in "August: Osage County." Lucky for her, her competition does not include Jennifer Lawrence. Instead, she faces off against Amy Adams in "American Hustle," Julie Delpy in "Before Midnight," Greta Gerwig in "Frances Ha" and Julia Louis-Dreyfus in "Enough Said."
Streep will probably win, but Delpy's performance in "Before Midnight," the final installment of her walk-and-talk trilogy with Ethan Hawke, is the bigger accomplishment. Not only did Delpy co-write the film with Hawke and director Richard Linklater, but her biggest moment -- a fight scene in a hotel -- is performed half-nude. The effect is so real, so raw, that you almost refuse to believe it was scripted at all.
"It was trying to find the idea of romanticism without being overall romantic and silly and cheesy," Delpy said. "How do you find the right balance of real but romantic but not too cute but not too horrible, either? Because otherwise, a relationship could be a horror film!" Delpy should win.
Best performance by an actress in a supporting role in a motion picture
Here the separation between drama and comedy/musical ends. As a result, Jennifer Lawrence's manic turn in "American Hustle" is up against Sally Hawkins for "Blue Jasmine," Lupita Nyong'o for "12 Years a Slave," Julia Roberts for "August: Osage County" and June Squibb for "Nebraska."
And though Lawrence might be the favorite after winning last year in another Russell film, "Silver Linings Playbook," newcomer Nyong'o gives her a run for the money as a slave forced to be her master's mistress.
"I suspected that there was still something very childlike about Patsey, because her childhood was ripped away from her," Nyong'o said. "And she was probably very artistic, because she picked 500 pounds of cotton a day, which speaks of very nimble fingers. So I was just asking myself, 'What else could she do with her hands?' "
Nyong'o did her research and found that it would be historically accurate for slaves to use corn husks for arts-and-crafts projects. "So I suggested that she made dolls out of the husks, and Steve McQueen loved it. For me, playing with the dolls is an externalization, an externalization of Patsey that could not be enslaved."
With that kind of creativity, Nyong'o should win.
Best performance by an actor in a supporting role in a motion picture
The supporting actors who will have to duke it out this time are Barkhad Abdi for "Captain Phillips," Daniel Bruhl for "Rush," Bradley Cooper for "American Hustle," Michael Fassbender for "12 Years a Slave" and Jared Leto for "Dallas Buyers Club." This is a tough race, and none of the contenders has won a Golden Globe before. Bruhl (who really shared enough screen time to be considered the lead in "Rush") managed to make a difficult personality (real-life race car driver Niki Lauda) actually sympathetic.
"It was a crucial thing to get that voice right, because it adds a sense of humor, of irony, of cockiness, you know? How can someone be so blunt? But then I thought there was something funny about it, too, and admirable, because he is so straightforward and a hundred percent honest," Bruhl said.
In any other year, Bruhl might win. But this year, he's facing off with Leto, the clear favorite, whose portrayal of a transsexual AIDS patient, like his co-star McConaughey in "Dallas Buyers Club," required him to become ultra-thin. "I did it before, for 'Requiem for a Dream,' so I had some experience with it," Leto said. "It's a lot easier the second time!"
And this time, his dedication is being rewarded. Leto will and should win.
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