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cheat sheet

How to Fake Your Way Through Oscar Season

Look, it is hard to keep up with Oscar movies. Most of them get held until December and many of them are longer than the average movie. If it's not your job to follow the ups and downs of Oscar season, then it is pretty much impossible to actually do so. So, since it's actually our job, Vulture would like to help: We've made a 2014 Oscar Cheat Sheet, complete with early favorites and smart(-ish) things to say about all the major categories. You will impress everyone at the next bar or mythical cocktail party you go to! (You just sit around and talk Oscars at all social gatherings, right?)

Note: the full list of Oscar nominees is here. Maybe take a quick glance? You don't want to be surprised when people start talking about Her.

Best Picture
Nominees: Her, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, Philomena, Nebraska, The Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle
The Early Favorites: 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle
Possible Upset: Gravity, which tied with 12 Years at the Producers Guild Awards — the PGAs have a good track record lately of predicting Best Picture winners.
Smart Things to Say If You Haven't Seen All the Nominees:

  • "I was blown away by 12 Years a Slave, but I'm still not sure why Brad Pitt had to play the guy who saved the main character. It took me out of the film a little."
  • "I liked American Hustle better when it was Silver Linings Playbook."
  • "None of this matters, because American Hustle wasn't nominated for hair and makeup."
  • "Everyone is talking about how The Wolf of Wall Street lets its main characters off the hook for being crooks, but isn't that exactly what American Hustle does?"
  • "My parents saw Philomena. They liked it."

Best Director
Nominees: Martin Scorsese, David O. Russell, Alfonso Cuaron, Alexander Payne, Steve McQueen
The Early Favorites: Cuarón (Gravity), McQueen (12 Years), and Russell (American Hustle)
Possible Upset: It'll probably be one of these three.
Smart Things to Say If You Haven't Seen All the Nominees: 

  • "Gravity is such a technical achievement. Doesn't it makes sense for Cuarón to win this one?"
  • "This would've been closer if David O. Russell hadn't said that stupid thing about 12 Years a Slave."
  • "12 Years is beautiful, but doesn't it feel like McQueen is being too artsy in some moments — you know he was a visual artist before he was a director, right?"

Best Actress
Nominees: Amy Adams, Judi Dench, Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep
The Early Favorite: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine). She won the Golden Globe (Drama), the SAG award, and almost every critic's association prize. It is hers to lose.
Possible Upset: The Academy really seems to like the American Hustle performances — the movie received nominations in all four acting categories. So maybe Amy Adams? But again, Cate is a heavy favorite.
Smart Things to Say If You Haven't Seen All the Nominees:  

  • "These are all very good actresses, but did we just teleport back to the 1998 Oscars?"
  • "Did you see Enough Said? Julia Louis Dreyfus was robbed."
  • "No doubt about it, Cate Blanchett is a powerhouse. But her performance felt a little too much to me, you know what I mean?"
  • "No doubt about it, Meryl Streep is a powerhouse. But her performance felt way too much to me, you know what I mean?"

Best Actor
Nominees: Bruce Dern, Matthew McConaughey, Leonard DiCaprio, Christian Bale, Chiwetel Ejiofor
The Early Favorite: Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club), who won both the Golden Globe (drama) and the SAG Award.
Possible Upset: Leonardo DiCaprio won a Golden Globe, but not against McConaughey. (The Golden Globe separates comedies and dramas.) So a Leo win seems unlikely.
Smart Things To Say If You Haven't Seen All The Nominees: 

  • "And just think about all the amazing performances that didn't get nominated. Tom! Forest! Oscar! Redford!" [Feel free to shout out any other male names you like; basically everyone was a contender this year.]
  • "I understand that Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom was not a critical success, but why would you pass up a chance to see Idris Elba in a tux? Haven't you heard about his bow tie?"
  • "Bruce Dern's nomination strikes me as a lifetime-achievement-type thing."
  • "Do you remember how many close-ups there were in 12 Years a Slave? I mean, come on. That guy's face is half the movie!"
  • "You can't stand in the way of the McConaissance. Yeah, that's a term now."

Best Supporting Actress
Nominees: June Squibb, Jennifer Lawrence, Lupita Nyong'o, Julia Roberts, Sally Hawkins
The Early Favorites: Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave) and Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Possible Upset: It'll probably just be one of these two.
Smart Things To Say If You Haven't Seen All The Nominees: 

  • "Did you see Lupita's acceptance speech at the Critics Choice Awards? It was lovely. She'll give a great Oscar speech."
  • "Don't get me wrong: I love Jennifer Lawrence." [Be sure to say that part loudly, for fear of retribution.] "But did you really believe her as a thirtysomething mother?"
  • "You've probably seen June Squibb before. She was Jack Nicholson's wife in About Schmidt. And she's going to play Hannah's grandmother in Girls this season. But yeah, no, she's probably not going to win."

Best Supporting Actor
Nominees: Barkhad Abdi, Bradley Cooper, Jared Leto, Michael Fassbender, Jonah Hill
The Early Favorite: Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Possible Upset: Leto has really been sweeping the awards circuit; it is hard to imagine that changing.
Smart Things to Say If You Haven't Seen All the Nominees:   

  • "I was glad to see that Jared Leto acknowledged AIDS victims at the SAG awards. His Golden Globes speech was a little tone deaf."
  • "I hope Jonah Hill wears his fake teeth to the ceremony."
  • "Michael Fassbender has starred in all three of Steve McQueen's movies."
  • "Captain Phillips was Abdi's first movie. Amazing, huh?"
  • "Cooper used more than 100 curlers to get his hair like that every day."

Additional Smart Things to Say, for Various Categories:

Best Documentary: "No, but can you believe Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell did not get a nomination? Or Blackfish?"

Best Original Song: "Ugh, this category. The tiny evangelical movie gets a nomination, but nothing for Lana Del Rey's 'Young and Beautiful' (The Great Gatsby)? That song was made to be nominated for an Oscar! 'Young and Beautiful' is Kim Kardashian's favorite song!"

For Like Eight Different Categories: "I just don't understand what the Academy has against the Coen Brothers." Or: "Don't tell anyone, but I didn't love Inside Llewyn Davis either." Either view is acceptable.

Best Original Screenplay: "Sorry to keep repeating myself, but Enough Said? Hellooooo?"