Matt's Blog


Interview - Nick Frost Brings Us Some Cuban Fury

Nick Frost

We’re used to seeing Nick Frost in supporting roles (or working alongside Simon Pegg) but he gets a chance to take the lead in Cuban Fury, a romantic comedy that also stars Rashida Jones and Chris O’Dowd.  I caught up with him recently to have a chat about the experience. You can download a short audio extract from the interview by clicking here.

Matt:  I believe this is your baby, your idea.  Can you tell us where it first came from?

Nick:  I think I’m known for playing a certain role… and for being in Simon and Edgar’s films and the three of us making genre comedies with a sci-fi / cult slant.  For years and years, I’ve harboured a dream to be a dancer and to make a dance film.  I’ve had the idea of a long time and whenever I had a few beers, it would pop into my head and I’d go “this is a good idea… you have to tell someone about this”.  But I had a fear that if I told someone then somewhere down the line I’d probably have to do it.

About two and a half years ago, I plucked up enough courage and I wrote an email pitching the film to Nira, my producer.  I pressed “send”, went to bed, and when I woke up the next morning, slightly worse for wear, there was an email back from Nira saying “what a great idea, let’s do this.”  That was that.  I’d been caught and it was now out of my hands.

Matt:  So if you’ve always wanted to make a dance movie do I assume that you’ve always known how to dance?

Nick:  Yeah, I could dance and I like dancing but I’d never danced with anyone in a competition or anything.

Matt:  So did you have to do a lot of training?  How much work did you have to put in to get ready for the main scenes in this film?

Nick:  Yeah.  It was 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 7 months.  I had a team of 15 people who would rotate around and they taught me how to salsa dance. 

Matt:  Was it what you thought?  Now having been through the whole process, is there stuff that you would have done differently looking back?

Nick:  I probably wouldn’t have sent the email!  It was just really hard all the time.  It never got easier because as soon as you think “I’ve got this” then they pile more stuff on you.  One of my greatest fears in life is having people watch me dance.  You come to this place where you’ve been training for these scenes for 7 months… and then you’re standing on a stage with your partner being watched by 500 of the country’s best salsa dancers.  It was an absolute nightmare… but it also made me feel great.  I felt like I’d conquered something which had held me back as a person in my life. 

Matt:  There’s a stigma associated with dance and it’s touched upon in the film.  Your character is teased for doing it at high school and then you’re bullied again by someone at your work.  Is it actually like that?  When you went your through training, did you get any odd comments or looks from anyone?

Nick:  Yeah.  I was training at Pineapple Dance Studios which is a really famous studio in London.  Sometimes I’d be outside having a break and someone would walk past and say “what are you doing here, why are you at Pineapple?” and I’d say “well I’m training to be a dancer” and they’d often laugh and walk off. 

Matt:  What’s interesting is that in the early scenes of the film, you actually have to dance not-so-well.  Is that as easy as it sounds?

Nick:  No, it was a pain in the bum!  When we were looking at the early takes of those scenes, it was kind of too good.  We had to tone it down and I was talking to the director and producer and saying “why didn’t we shoot this 7 months ago?”

Matt:  We’re going through a wave at the moment of dance films – like the Step Up series – and TV shows – like Dancing With The Stars and So You Think You Can Dance.  Do you have any idea where this surge in popularity has come from?

Nick:  I don’t know.  That’s a really good question that I haven’t been asked yet.  I think it’s cyclical.  We’ve always had dancing on TV and I think that Australia has always had a rich history of dance when you look at the success of films like Strictly Ballroom. 

Matt:  Were you involved in the casting process?  How do you pick out who would be a good fit for these roles?

Nick:  I wanted Chris O’Dowd straight away.  I’ve worked with Ian McShane on Snow White and me and Nira thought he’d be perfect for it.  As for Olivia Coleman, I’ve always wanted to work with her on everything I do.  I just did a sitcom with her and she was also in Hot Fuzz.  As you can see, you end up with a list of people you want to work with and then you end up being very lucky if they want to come and hang out and make a film.

With Rashida, she was someone on the top of most people’s lists.  I met her for a cup of tea in a restaurant in town… that turned into a glass of wine at 5pm… and before you knew it, it was 9pm.  We just got along.  It was one of those meetings where I felt like I’d found a friend for life even if we didn’t end up working together.

Matt:  Chris O’Dowd is sensational in this.  It’s as if you gave him the instructions of being the most annoying, irritating, offensive individually imaginable.  I’m guessing he had fun with it?

Nick:  He did have fun with it but to be honest, he found it difficult to come to terms with the fact that he was going to have to play this horrible scumbag and that’s not who he is in real life.  He’s actually a lovely charming man.  Often during a scene he’d turn to me and say “oh my God, I can’t say those things to you” and I’d say “come on, let’s do it, let’s do it”.

Matt:  The film recently had its premiere in the UK so finally people have had the chance to see it.  What sort of comments have you been receiving so far?

Nick:  I think people seem to be liking it on the whole.  I realise that not everyone is going to like every film and that’s just how it is.  What’s surprised me is that men are enjoying it too.  Getting men to see a dance film was thought to be difficult but because Rashida and Chris are in it, they’re going along for that and then enjoying the dancing too. 

Matt:  I always finish up by asking what’s next.  What projects do you have in the works?  Will I be seeing you in the next Step Up movie?

Nick:  I could play an old, wrangled hip-hop artist!   I did a film with Vince Vaughn just before Christmas and I think that’ll be out in the autumn.  It’s called Business Or Pleasure and it was a lot of fun to shoot.  I’ve also shot a sitcom called Mr. Sloane with Olivia Coleman and that comes out in the UK in May.

2014 Oscars: 12 Years Takes Gravity In Technical Knockout

Another Oscars race has come to an end and here’s everything that I think needs to covered…

Oscars Competition

A big thanks to the 76 people who entered my 14th annual Pick The Oscars competition.  I tried to come up with a few tricky categories but in the end, there weren’t a lot of upsets this year.  17 different entrants managed to score 5/6 but only 3 pulled off the perfect score of 6/6.  It seems the hardest category was original screenplay with Her edging out American Hustle.

The three entrants with the 100% result were Rob Eddy, Geraldine Rodriguez and Solo Fogg.  It therefore came down to the tie-breaker question – what would be the age of the person who presented the Oscar for best picture.  Many would have been surprised by the choice – 45-year-old Will Smith.  It turns out Solo Fogg was closest to the mark with his guess of 57.  Solo wins a $100 Amazon voucher for his efforts and it’s worth noting that he won back in 2011 with another perfect score.

Oscar Betting & Tipping

In terms of overall tipping, I can’t really complain.  I managed 20 out of 24 with the misses being best picture, best documentary feature, best foreign language film and best animated short film.  I believe it’s my best effort since The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King swept all and sundry back in 2004.

Did I manage to turn that into a financial gain?  Nope, not quite.  My big bet of Gravity didn’t come off but thankfully Matthew McConaughey’s best actor win helped stem the damage.  I lost $400 on the Oscars which offset the $328 win at the Golden Globes.  If you do the math, that’s an overall loss of $72.  I can’t complain but it continues my mediocre Oscars gambling form…

1996 – profit of $750 – won on Susan Sarandon
1997 – profit of $300 (cumulative profit $1,050) – won on Frances McDormand
1998 – loss of $250 (cumulative profit $800)
1999 – loss of $250 (cumulative profit $550)
2000 – profit of $620 (cumulative profit $1,170) – won on Kevin Spacey and Michael Caine
2001 – loss of $190 (cumulative profit $980) – won on director Steven Soderbergh
2002 – profit of $480 (cumulative profit $1,460) – won on Halle Berry
2003 – profit of $275 (cumulative profit $1,735) – won on Catherine Zeta-Jones and Adrian Brody
2004 – profit of $150 (cumulative profit $1,875) – won on Sean Penn
2005 – profit of $214 (cumulative profit $2,089) – won on Hilary Swank
2006 – profit of $350 (cumulative profit $2,439) – won on Reese Witherspoon
2007 – profit of $1,463 (cumulative profit $3,912) – won on Eddie Murphy at Globes, Alan Arkin & West Bank Story at Oscars
2008 – profit of $268 (cumulative profit of $4,280) – won on Tilda Swinton and the Coen brothers
2009 – profit of $253 (cumulative profit of $4,533) – won on Mickey Rourke & Kate Winslet at Globes, Kate Winslet at Oscars
2010 – loss of $830 (cumulative profit of $3,703)
2011 – profit of $30 (cumulative profit of $3,733) – won on Social Network at Globes, Tom Hooper & King’s Speech at Oscars
2011 – loss of $640 (cumulative profit of $3,093) – won on Jean Dujardin at Oscars
2012 – loss of $850 (cumulative profit of $2,243) – won on Ang Lee at Oscars
2012 – loss of $72 (cumulative profit of $2,171) – won on Matthew McConaughey at Globes and Oscars

Oscar Results

The winners in the major categories were as follows:

Best Picture – 12 Years A Slave
Best Director – Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)
Best Actor – Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
Best Actress – Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Best Supporting Actor – Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Best Supporting Actress – Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years A Slave)
Best Original Screenplay – Spike Jonze (Her)
Best Adapted Screenplay – John Ridley (12 Years A Slave)
Best Animated Feature – Frozen
Best Foreign Language Film – The Great Beauty

For the second year in a row, we had a split in the best picture / best director race (which doesn’t happen all that often).  Gravity dominated the technical awards with 6 wins, then added to the collection with its best director prize… but it couldn’t quite take the big one.  12 Years A Slave took best supporting actress, best adapted screenplay en route to the best picture crown.  It’s worth noting that only Cabaret in 1972 won more Oscars (8 in total) without best picture.  Gravity now ranks second on that list.

You’d have to say that Dallas Buyers Club was the night’s other big winner.  It took two acting actors for Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto.  I’d have never have picked those guys to win an Oscar several years ago.  McConaughey was stuck in formulaic romantic comedies and Leto had taken a break from acting to focus on his music.  The film also won the award for best makeup and hairstyling – preventing Jackass: Bad Grandpa from a surprising/historic victory.

The Aussies couldn’t have asked for much more.  Cate Blanchett won as expected and becomes the first Australian to have won 2 acting Oscars.  She’s just 44 years of age and there’s plenty of time to build on that total.  Catherine Martin took home two Oscars herself for best production design and best costume design on The Great Gatsby.  This gives her 4 in total (she won twice for Moulin Rouge) making her the most honoured Australian in Oscar history.  Beverley Dunn picked up her first Oscar – sharing the production design award with Martin.  That only left 2 Aussies who went home empty handed – David Clayton (who was never going to win visual effects for The Hobbit as it was up against Gravity) and Michael Wilkinson (who’s American Hustle costumes lost to Catherine Martin).

Just as notable as the winners… were the high number of shutouts.  Despite earning best picture nominations, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Nebraska, The Wolf Of Wall Street and Philomena all came away with a blank scorecard.  It’s particularly surprising for American Hustle given it led the nominations with 10 in total (including all 4 acting categories).  Its best chance was in the original screenplay category but in one of the only minor surprises of the night, it was beaten by Spike Jonze’s Her.

Frozen was the night’s only other multiple winner – taking best animated feature and best song.  I remember meeting producer Peter Del Vecho last November at the Australian International Movie Convention and talking about how a Walt Disney Animation Studios production had not won the animated feature Oscar since it was introduced in 2001.  That’s now changed and it was cool to see Peter on stage with his Oscar in hand.  It’s also worth mentioning the win of The Great Beauty in the foreign language film category.  I had a few small issues with the film (would have preferred Denmark’s The Hunt to win) but it’s a visual feast that I’m sure I’ll see again in the near future.

I’m normally fairly forgiving when it comes to Oscar hosts but Ellen DeGeneres was not good.  She tried for a few edgy jokes in her short opening monologue but none were particularly funny.  It didn’t get much better from there.  DeGeneres seemed to spend the rest of the show trying to improvise with members of the audience.  She took selfies with ordered pizza.  Perhaps this was designed to target the show at a younger crowd?  I’m not convinced it worked.  None of the presenters made a mark and John Travolta will forever be remembered for his atrocious pronunciation of the name Idina Menzel.  Could he not read the autocue?  Or did he not go to rehearsals?

Well, that’s it for another year.  The book is closed, the statuettes engraved and in a few months, I’m sure we’ll be speculating as to next year’s winners.  Hopefully my finger is a little closer to the pulse.

Interview - All Is Lost For Director JC Chandor

J.C. Chandor

His first feature, Margin Call, made by top 10 list in 2012 and so I was very excited to be talking to J.C. Chandor about his new film, All Is Lost. You can download a short audio extract from the interview by clicking here.

Matt: To quickly go back, Margin Call was released in early 2012 here in Australia and it was my 3rd favourite film of the year.  It premiered back at Sundance back in January 2011 and it propelled you all the way to an Oscar nomination.  When did you realise that the film was taking off?

J.C.:  That was quite an experience.  It was my first ever feature film and it was an amazingly slow build.  We took the film to the Sundance Film Festival not knowing what it was.  We were well received there but we certainly weren’t the darlings of the Festival that year.  Over the next 12 months, the film built up momentum until the point where I got an amazing treat with an Oscar nomination for writing.  I’ve been at it a long time and it’s been 10-15 years of struggle so 2011 was a pretty special year.

Matt:  So we’ve gone from Margin Call – which has some of the best dialogue you could imagine – to All Is Lost – which has none at all.  How long has the idea for this film been with you?

J.C.:  In a weird way, some of the set pieces and the big moments in the film have been bouncing around in my head for years but there really wasn’t a movie there.  It was during the editing process of Margin Call that I was taking a train back and forth between New York City where I was working and up the coast where I was living.

During the winter months, I was looking out all these boats that get stowed away up on land and it was kind of a sad, depressing thought of a boat just sitting there on stilts.  I wrote this letter that begins the film and it was that letter that really got things going.  So I was kind of writing the film as I was editing Margin Call.  I didn’t know it at the time but this idea was growing that was very different.

Matt:  In curious to know what a script looks like on a film with no dialogue?

J.C.:  It’s a funny thing as it’s still quite detailed.  It was a 31 page document, so it’s a little shorter than your average script, but it was very, very specific.  It was written scene-by-scene and shot-by-shot so that when you were done reading it, you literally felt like you had watched the movie.  That was the only document we ever used to attract Mr Redford, to attract financing, to attract distribution and to attract a crew that would go out and make it. 

Matt:  What sort of reactions did you get when showing it to studios and trying to get some interest in financing the film?

J.C.:  They were not as shocked as you might think.  I know that sounds weird to say but when you finish reading the document, it really did explain how he was going to speak, what was going to be happening, what the emotional arcs were going to be, what each scene was about, what the end goal was.

We attached Mr Redford first and that certainly helped frame it.  We ended up putting the financing together in a very conservative way.  Universal Pictures and Lionsgate, who financed the movie, are conservative groups and so I think they liked the budget range we were trying to do it on and they also liked the idea. 

Matt:  Robert Redford is a much loved actor but we’ve seen him in so few movies of late.  How did you go about approaching him for the film?

J.C.:  It goes back to that first trip to Sundance.  I had a completed version of the script and I knew I always wanted the role to be for an older actor.  I thought there was something fascinating about the character having lived a pretty full and successful life but still having a drive to survive.

Mr Redford gives this welcoming talk at the Festival each year and there’s a breakfast that he invites people to on the first morning where we welcomes the filmmakers.  I was sitting in the back of the room and I didn’t realise it at the time but the speaker over my head had been unplugged so I couldn’t hear Robert Redford who was standing at the front of the room.  Someone then plugged the speaker in and suddenly I heard a voice that we all know so well.

It was at that time that I started to think of him for the movie – taking his voice away and seeing what you’re left with and what kind of performance that would be.  A month later I sent him the script and a week after that I was sitting in a room with Robert Redford and he said “yes” probably 5 minutes into our meeting.  He never lost faith in the project from that point forward despite the fact it took a year to get the financing together and work how we were going to shoot it.  This was also before Margin Call had come out so there was something in this project that he really loved

Matt:  He’s a fit guy but Robert Redford is still 77 years of age and this is a very physical role.  We see him on the ship making repairs and treading through water.  How easy was it for him?

J.C:  It was a long, gruelling undertaking.  Shooting on the water is a very slow and methodical and infuriating enterprise.  Everything on film takes 3 times as long as it should and then when you add water into the mix, it can be quite maddening.

We used that to our strength as we shot the film in order and it really is about this character who was going through this insane endurance over 8 days.  The shoot was over 2 and a half months and the total preparation time was 6 months so it was a really long project. 

Matt:  And how do you shoot a film like this where you’re either in the tiny confines of the boat or looking out into the ocean?  Is this done in a studio?  In a dock?  On the open water?

J.C.:  A combination of all three.  A lot of the large storm sequences, where we’re flipping the boat upside down and putting it through its paces, we did in a more controlled environment in a huge tank that was built right on the edge of the Pacific Ocean in Mexico where they shot Life Of Pi and Titanic. 

We also shot in the Pacific off both Mexico and Los Angeles and then also in the Caribbean and the Bahamas which are in the Atlantic.  It all came together like a jigsaw puzzle and hopefully when you’re watching the film, it all feels like one thing. 

Matt:  I couldn’t help but notice in the credits that there’s a director of photography and an underwater director of photography.  Is there a speciality that’s important when shooting under water?

J.C.:  Yeah, it’s a very complicated endeavour.  You’re using a large motion picture camera with all the different focal lengths and lighting conditions.  When you see the film, there are very intense and very extreme underwater sequences and so he was a key component in shooting the film.

Matt:  It’s a technique that’s often used in films where we begin with part of the ending.  We hear Robert Redford talking about the desperate situation that he’s in and the length of time he’s been out there.  What’s behind that?  Giving the audience a glimpse of what’s ahead?

J.C.:  It’s a letter that he’s reading and often with any survival film there’s a moment of “reckoning” that is done through a letter.  You hear this letter but yet the character seems to have some communication issues.  It’s not as specific as one might be in a letter like that.  In a way, that letter is what started the project for me and it always felt right to start the film with it.  Then you get to learn how this guy ended up in that predicament.

Matt:  Like what you did with Margin Call, this film has been doing the film festival circuit before getting a wider release.  It premiered at Cannes before moving onto a bunch of other festivals.  It screened here in Brisbane at the Brisbane International Film Festival.  How would you describe the value that comes from film festival screenings?

J.C.:  It’s very simple.  These films don’t have the marketing and distribution budgets that a huge blockbuster film would and so what you’re trying to do is build some momentum and some critical acclaim.  You can then use that to help get the word out.  Of course on the flip side, it doesn’t work if the film is not well received and it can backfire very quickly.

Matt:  You’re two for two in my book with Margin Call and now All Is Lost.  Can you share what you’ll be working on next?

J.C.:  We’re shooting a film in February/March which is a film that I wrote called A Most Violent Year.  It’s set in New York City in 1981.  It’s a different film but it’s something that I’m very excited about.

Matt's Super Mega Awesome 2014 Oscars Form Guide

Ok.  It’s time for my annual super mega awesome Oscars form guide!

It’s an interesting race in 2014 with one of the tightest categories being best picture.  I think we’re going to see a few surprises on the night.  Just a hunch.

My 14th Annual Oscars Contest!

As I have done for the last 13 years, I am conducting my annual "pick the Oscars" competition. I have selected 6 of the more wide-open categories (it's such a tricky year) and everyone is invited to pick who they think will be the winner.

In the event of a tie, the winner will be determined using my traditional tie-breaker question. You just have to guess the age of the person who presents the award for best picture. If two or more people present, an average age will be used.

The first and only prize is a $100 Amazon voucher. Hopefully you'll be able to use it wisely and buy some great DVDs.

The awards are held at 11am on Monday, March 3 (Brisbane time) and entries close at this time. You can only enter once so think it over and choose carefully.

The entry form is online and you can check it out by clicking here.

Oscar Betting

As I also do each year, I like to put a small/large wager on the Academy Awards.  I’m not normally a big gambler but this is the one time of the year where I have fun and try to hope my predicting skills are better than others.  I steer away from favourites and tend to look for a bit of value.

I had a small win on the Golden Globes (finished up $328) but I already lost $200 on the Oscars by backing Robert Redford early in the race (who wasn’t even nominated).  Here’s a look at my current bets and I’m happy with the odds achieved…

Best Picture – Gravity - $500 at $7.65 to return $3,825 (current odds on Sportsbet are $5.00)
Best Actor – Matthew McConaughey - $200 at $3.50 to return $700 (current odds on Sportsbet are $1.17)
Best Picture – Jennifer Lawrence - $200 at $3.00 to return $600 (current odds on Sportsbet are $2.20)

Gravity is the deal breaker for me.  It’d be my largest ever collect on the Oscars if successful and my fingers are crossed.  I still think it’s a coin flip between it and 12 Years A Slave (evidenced by the tie at the Producer’s Guild).

Super Mega Awesome Oscars Form Guide

On that note, let’s get to the form guide.  Here’s a look at all the categories with my thoughts on who will take home the coveted statues.

Best Motion Picture of the Year
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
12 Years A Slave
The Wolf Of Wall Street

This is a very interesting race.  When you look at all lead up awards, you won’t find a stronger correlation that the Directors’ Guild Award.  Since 1950, only 7 directors have won the Guild and not won the Oscar for directing.  In 3 of those cases, the director wasn’t nominated at the Oscars (making it impossible for Academy members to vote for said person).  So the bottom line is that in 95% of cases, he who wins the Directors’ Guild, wins the directing Oscar.  That makes Gravity’s Alfonso Cuarón a short favourite (and for good reason).  To take that a step further…. Since 1957, only 9 films have won best director and not won best picture Oscar since 1957.  That’s an 84% strike rate.  This leads me to conclude that Gravity will win best picture.  That said, we know this has been a close year.  The Producer’s Guild award was a tie (between Gravity and 12 Years A Slave) for the first time in history.  While there isn’t usually a split between director and picture, a surprisingly large number of lead up awards (including the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs) have fallen that way.  I’m saying it’s a coin flip right between the two leading contenders and while American Hustle isn’t completely without hope, I think Gravity will edge out 12 Years A Slave by the narrowest of margins.   Matt’s Pick: Gravity.

Best Achievement in Directing
American Hustle (David O. Russell)
Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)
Nebraska (Alexander Payne)
12 Years A Slave (Steve McQueen)
The Wolf Of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)

For those who think 12 Years A Slave is going to win best picture, you might want to consider Steve McQueen in this category given the correlation I mentioned above.  Hard to see Cuarón getting beat though.  He’s won pretty much everything else in the lead up.  Matt’s Pick: Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón).

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Christian Bale (American Hustle)
Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf Of Wall Street)
Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave)
Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

This is a trickier race that people might think.  The Golden Globes were split between Leonardo DiCaprio (comedy) and Matthew McConaughey (drama).  McConaughey then took the honours at the important Screen Actors Guild Awards where Leo wasn’t nominated (largely because the nominations were announced before most had seen The Wolf Of Wall Street).  The reverse applied at the BAFTAs where McConaughey missed a nomination (no one had seen his film either) and most tipped Leo to win… but it was Chiwetel Ejiofor who took the win in an upset.  McConaughey is a short priced favourite here but I think he’s vulnerable.  With Jared Leto also looking like a winner in the best supporting actor category, this might be the spot where voters reward The Wolf Of Wall Street (as opposed to another win for Dallas Buyers Club).  It’ll be close but Hollywood does like a comeback story and so I’ll stick with McConaughey at this stage.  Matt’s Pick: Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club).

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
Judi Dench (Philomena)
Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)

On my national ABC Digital show last December, I said that if Cate Blanchett doesn’t win this category, I’ll walk to Sydney.  I am still just as confident.  If Cate gets on stage and proclaims that she didn’t expect to win, she’ll be lying.   Matt’s Pick: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine).

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
Michael Fassbender (12 Years A Slave)
Jonah Hill (The Wolf Of Wall Street)
Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

While I think Barkhad Abdi and Michael Fassbender had much “meatier” roles, most of the key lead up awards have been falling the way of Jared Leto and he’s hard to tip against at this point.  Matt’s Pick: Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club).

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years A Slave)
Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
June Squibb (Nebraska)

It’s hard to work out who has the momentum at this point in time.  Lawrence won the Golden Globe, Nyong’o rebounded with the Critics’ Choice Award and the Screen Actors Guild Award.  Lawrence then countered by winning the BAFTA.  It’s looking like another coin flip category.  The Academy clearly loves Jennifer Lawrence but will they really give her two awards in two years (she won in 2013 for Silver Linings Playbook)?  Or will then honour a largely unknown actress instead?  Matt’s Pick: Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years A Slave).

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
American Hustle
Blue Jasmine
Dallas Buyers Club

All five films are best picture nominees but this would appear to be a race between American Hustle and Her.  I think both films are overrated but I’d still like to see Spike Jonze pick up his first Oscar (he was nominated previously for directing Being John Malkovich) so I’ll take his side.  Matt’s Pick: Her.

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published

Before Midnight
Captain Phillips
12 Years A Slave
The Wolf Of Wall Street

Another category were upsets are possible but given it’s the favourite to take the best picture prize, I’ll go with 12 Years A Slave.  Matt’s Pick: 12 Years A Slave.

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Ernest & Celestine
The Wind Rises

Frozen is currently $1.05 on Betfair and those odds look to be good value.  A Walt Disney Studios production has never won in this category (the honours have been dominated by Pixar and Dreamworks) but that will change.  Frozen can’t lose.  Matt’s Pick: Frozen.

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium)
The Great Beauty (Italy)
The Hunt (Denmark)
The Missing Picture (Cambodia)
Omar (Palestine)

Here’s another category with a history of upsets.  The Great Beauty has been popular in early lead up awards but I’m a huge fan of The Hunt and I’m hoping Denmark will pick up its 2nd win in the last 4 years.  Matt’s Pick: The Hunt (Denmark).

Best Achievement in Cinematography
The Grandmaster
Inside Llewyn Davis

Most would acknowledge at Gravity is a special effects driven film… but it looks so beautiful and realistic.  Who deserves the credit?  The visual effects guys?  Or the cinematographer?  Recent winners in this category have been in films heavy on special effects (Life Of Pi, Inception, Avatar) so I see Gravity continuing that trend.  Matt’s Pick: Gravity.

Best Achievement in Film Editing
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
12 Years A Slave

A lot of people subscribe to the theory that the film that wins best editing is the film with the best chance of taking best picture.  It doesn’t always hold true though.  Some think Captain Phillips has a chance to surprise here (it won the Guild Award) but given it was overlooked for best director and best actor, I don’t think it’ll have enough support to stop Gravity.  Matt’s Pick: Gravity.

Best Achievement in Costume Design
American Hustle
The Grandmaster
The Great Gatsby
The Invisible Woman
12 Years A Slave

The Great Gatsby made a substantial amount of money around the Globe and this might the one chance where the Academy can recognise its popularity.  They tend to go for flashy, extravagant period piece films in this category and The Great Gatsby ticks a lot of boxes in that regard.  Matt’s Pick: The Great Gatsby.

Best Achievement in Production Design
American Hustle
The Great Gatsby
12 Years A Slave

This one isn’t as easy as costume design.  The Great Gatsby is the early favourite but the likes of Gravity and 12 Years A Slave could surprise here.  I’m going to stick with Gatsby though.  Matt’s Pick: The Great Gatsby.

Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling
Dallas Buyers Club
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
The Lone Ranger

I’m still laughing at the fact that a Jackass movie has been nominated for an Academy Awards ahead of films like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, American Hustle and The Great Gatsby (which all made the shortlist).  As the only best picture nominee in the bunch, this is one award Dallas Buyers Club should have in the bag.  Matt’s Pick: Dallas Buyers Club.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score
The Book Thief
Saving Mr Banks

One of my favourite categories is best music and I think all five of these nominees are terrific.  I’ve listened to them often.  I’d like to see Thomas Newman finally manage a win for Saving Mr Banks (he’s been nominated 11 times previously without success) but it’s the film’s only nomination and appears unlikely.  I’m also a fan of Alexandre Desplat and his beautiful Philomena score.  Perhaps this is his chance after 5 nominations previously?  That said, given the lack of sound in Gravity and the prominence of the music, I have to lean with Steven Price.  Matt’s Pick: Gravity.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song

“Happy” from Despicable Me 2
“Let It Go” from Frozen
“The Moon Song” from Her
“Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom

There are a lot of U2 supporters out there but given so many people saw and loved Frozen, I think it’s home and hosed here.  Matt’s Pick: “Let It Go” from Frozen.

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
Captain Phillips
The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
Inside Llewyn Davis
Lone Survivor

The sound categories tend to go hand-in-hand and as you can see, 4 of the 5 nominees for best sound mixing also pop up for best sound editing.  Gravity is a staggering technical achievement and I think that’ll swing voters in its favour.  Matt’s Pick: Gravity.

Best Achievement in Sound Editing
All Is Lost
Captain Phillips
The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
Lone Survivor

See commentary above.  Matt’s Pick: Gravity

Best Achievement in Visual Effects
The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
Iron Man 3
The Lone Ranger
Star Trek Into Darkness

Of all the categories, this is the one that is least in doubt.  Gravity is $1.02 on Betfair and if loses here, they should launch an inquiry.   Matt’s Pick: Gravity.

Best Documentary, Feature
The Act Of Killing
Cutie And The Boxer
Dirty Wars
The Square
20 Feet From Stardom

I’ve only seen one of this year’s documentary nominees (20 Feet From Stardom) and it’s in the mix along with The Act Of Killing and The Square.  Matt’s Pick: The Act Of Killing.

Best Documentary, Short Subject

Cave Digger
Facing Fear
Karama Has No Walls
The Lady In Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Prison Terminal: The Last Days Of Private Jack Hall

We’re now getting down to some of the more random categories.  Very few members of the Academy and the public will have taken the time to seek out these films and watch them.  Matt’s Pick: The Lady In Number 6: Music Saved My Life.

Best Short Film, Animated
Get A Horse!
Mr. Hublot
Room On The Broom

Get A Horse! appeared before screenings of Frozen which gives it a distinct advantage over the other, lesser known animated shorts.  Matt’s Pick: Get A Horse!

Best Short Film, Live Action
Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)
Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything)
Pitaako Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have To Take Care Of Everything?)
The Voorman Problem

I’m going with Helium because it has the shortest title.
Matt’s Pick: Helium.

The Oscars will be held on Monday, 3 March 2014 at 11am Brisbane time.  Don’t forget to enter my contest!