Oscar Predictions

February 28, 2014

For film scholars, the Academy Awards are a source of much speculation and, sometimes, for material to add to the syllabus. Inside Higher Ed rounded up a few film experts to predict this year’s winners for best picture, best actor and best actress. They were also asked which film should have been nominated for an Oscar (but wasn't) and which nominated film would be worth teaching to an undergraduate class.

MIRANDA BANKS

Assistant professor of visual and media arts at Emerson College

Best Picture: "12 Years a Slave"

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Leonardo DiCaprio, for "The Wolf of Wall Street"

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Amy Adams, for "American Hustle"

Film that deserves an Oscar, but was not nominated:

"Stories We Tell." "It is complex, intimate storytelling that raises questions about emotional truth, family, trust, and narrative. It is a gorgeous film that is thoughtfully and beautifully constructed."

Film worth teaching in an undergraduate course:

"Twelve Years a Slave" and "Stories We Tell." "Both are examples of exquisite storytelling and use the medium of cinema to further the story the filmmakers tell. Narrative and aesthetics are in harmony in compelling and innovative ways."

LISA DOMBROWSKI

Associate professor of film studies at Wesleyan University

Best Picture: "12 Years a Slave"

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Matthew McConaughey, for "Dallas Buyers Club"

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Cate Blanchett, for "Blue Jasmine"

Film that deserves an Oscar, but was not nominated:

"Inside Llewyn Davis." "It should have been nominated for Best Picture, Director and Original Screenplay. It's more original than 'The Wolf of Wall Street,' more craftsmanship than 'American Hustle' or 'Dallas Buyers Club.' "

Film worth teaching in an undergraduate course:

"Depending on the topic, I could see teaching the following nominated films: '12 Years a Slave', 'The Act of Killing,' 'Before Midnight,' etc. Each has aspects that are particularly well-executed and lend themselves to lively discussion."

 

TREY ELLIS

Associate professor of film at Columbia University

Best Picture: Gravity

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Matthew McConaughey, for "Dallas Buyer’s Club"

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Judi Dench, for "Philomena"

Film that deserves an Oscar, but was not nominated:

" 'The Attack,' a film based on the best-selling French novel L’Attentat, by Yasmina Khadra, came out earlier in the year and I’m shocked that not only was it not nominated for best film but not even for best foreign film."

Film worth teaching in an undergraduate course:

"The day after I saw 'Her,' I made it an assignment for my M.F.A, screenwriting course. The structure of the film is exquisitely simple and so well laid out."

 

DENISE HART

Associate professor of theater arts at Howard University

 

Best Picture: "12 Years a Slave"

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Chiwetel Ejiofor, for "12 Years a Slave"

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Amy Adams, for "American Hustle"

Film that deserves an Oscar, but was not nominated:

“The Butler.” "Black men have served an interesting representation in the media and that stems from stereotypes like the 'brute Negro' or the 'sambo.' We're accustomed to that stereotype. We don't often get the opportunity to witness black men being human, holistic; complex in their emotional opinion. Even when Forest Whitaker's character was supposed to ignore his son, we could still feel he deeply loved and cared for [him]. We simply don't get enough of this."

Film worth teaching in an undergraduate course:

“ '12 Years a Slave' because that depth of portrayal of the history and truth of the African American slave experience is not introduced at the high school level. The opportunity wasn't afforded for a variety of reasons."

 

JONATHAN KUNTZ

Visiting associate professor of film, television and digital media at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television

Best Picture: "American Hustle"

Best Actor in Leading Role: Matthew McConaughey, for "Dallas Buyers Club"

Best Actress in Leading Role: Cate Blanchett, for "Blue Jasmine"

Film that deserves an Oscar, but was not nominated:

"I don't have any selection here; with the expanded best picture nominees and a separate category for all the wonderful animation, no obvious choices come to mind. My favorite 2013 film, 'Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters,' never had a chance."

Film worth teaching in an undergraduate course:

"For teaching undergraduates, all of the films are nice; I would love to use 'Gravity' to discuss modern filmmaking and the use of digital to create worlds on film impossible to capture through traditional filmmaking."

 

JOHN WARREN

Professor and head of operations and planning at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University

Best Picture: "Nebraska"

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Bruce Dern, for "Nebraska"

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Cate Blanchett, for "Blue Jasmine"

Film that deserves an Oscar, but was not nominated: "Her." "[Spike] Jonze took chances and, in my opinion, made a very risky story work. It gets my vote because it is not a 'trick film,' but a story with something to say."

Film worth teaching in an undergraduate course:

" 'American Hustle' for story and pacing. 'Captain Phillips' -- great three act structure. 'Her' for story and character (flaw and resolution). '12 Years a Slave' for everything. 'Dallas Buyers Club' for story and character (flaw and resolution)."

 

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