Ms. Susan Granger — February 27, 2014

Westporter Susan Granger, film critic, entertainment industry maven and child of Hollywood, spoke on her views of who will be the winners at the 86th Academy Awards Presentation scheduled for Sunday, March 2 and to be emceed by Ellen De Generis.

Ms. Granger noted that, if she knew who will win on Sunday, she wouldn’t be in Westport talking to the Y’s Men, she would be in Las Vegas, but she can let us know what she thinks. The Oscars began when a group of industry bigwigs met at the Coconut Grove and decided to hold a competition in order to sell more movies, with the first ceremony in 1929. Oscar ceremonies were timed so that the morning newspapers would report the results.  Things have changed since then. Now, 6,028 members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences are voting electronically for their selections.

Ms. Granger’s predictions:                          

Best Picture:  It is basically a three-way competition between American Hustle, Gravity and 12 Years a Slave. The Producers’ Guild, frequently a good indicator of Oscar selections, gave the award to both Gravity and 12 Years a Slave. Based on a history of movies about black/white relations in the U.S. having done well in the past, starting with Gone with the Wind, Ms. Granger believes that 12 Years a Slave will win. If she were to choose, Gravity would be the winner. Gravity was a groundbreaking movie, “an unbelievable experience,” and 12 Years a Slave was a lesser movie, Ms. Granger believes.

Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity. Note that David O. Russell, up for American Hustle, has for the second year in a row (Silver Linings Playbook last year), nominees in all four acting categories.

Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey for his work in Dallas Buyers Club. “His is the most remarkable performance of the year,” said Ms. Granger. He brought his successful career as a light-weight romcom star to a halt and decided what he really wanted to do was be an actor, and he has since been in Mud, The Wolf of Wall Street, the Dallas Buyers’ Club and True Detective on TV. Ms. Granger believes that Leonardo DiCaprio’s chances are diminished because audience reaction to The Wolf of Wall Street is divided – women don’t like it; it is a 3-hour frat party.

Best Supporting Actor:  Jared Leto for his role as a transvestite in Dallas Buyers Club. He was “amazing,” per Ms. Granger. Ms. Granger feels the other nominees are strong contenders: Bradley Cooper in American Hustle, Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave, Jonah Hill in The Wolf of Wall Street, and Barkhad Abdi, formerly a limousine driver in Minnesota, as the lead pirate in Captain Phillips .

Best Actress: Cate Blanchette, in Blue Jasmine, who has won every single award in the run-up to the Oscars. According to Ms. Granger, her success motivated Mia Farrow’s recent attacks on Woody Allen. Ms. Granger hopes Mia’s campaign has no effect on the voting. If Cate Blanchette loses, Ms. Granger picks Amy Adams as the favorite. Amy Adams is a darling of Hollywood who did a remarkable job in American Hustle.

Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o, a graduate of the Yale School of Drama who did a remarkable job as a slave in 12 Years a Slave. If Jennifer Lawrence wins, she will be the first woman to win Best Actress one year and Best Supporting Actress the next.

Best Animated Feature: Frozen, a choice that would give a boost to Disney.

Best Original Screenplay: Her, written by Spike Jones, which Ms. Granger considers a wonderful, insightful relationship story that features a man who falls in love with the voice on his computer.

Best Adapted Screenplay: 12 Years a Slave, with screenplay by John Ridley. Ms. Granger believes that the Academy will feel by the time they get to this selection that 12 years a Slave hasn’t earned enough awards.

Best Foreign Film: The Great Beauty from Italy, from what Ms. Granger considers a great selection of movies, featuring a man of 65 who looks back on what he could have done differently.

Best Documentary:  20 Feet from Stardom, in part because it doesn’t need subtitles and Ms. Granger does not like reading movies.

In the Q and A, Ms. Granger made the following points:

She believes that Robert Redford was not nominated for his work in All is Lost because Mr. Redford refuses to play the game of showing up at events and boosting the movie. It isn’t “show art,” it’s “show business.” Actors who shun the publicity game tend not to be nominated. Those actors who were the most active in boosting their films were all nominated.

She believes that Leonardo DiCaprio is not a front-runner for Best Actor because the movie is too polarizing. Women hate it; men like it.

Ms. Granger is not a fan of Pauline Kael as a film critic.  According to Ms. Granger, Kael vilified Penelope Gilliatt, a fellow critic at the New Yorker, in order to elbow her way to the top. Ms. Granger prefers her fellow critics who met at the “Polish Tea Room,” a restaurant in the Edison Hotel in the Theatre District.

The business is making money from the movies that are made directly for streaming to TVs and other devices. The business has changed. Players have learned to adapt as they did back in the late 40’s and early 50’s, when television was seen as a threat. Big screens are for extravaganzas, sequels, comic book heroes and 3-D.  Ms. Granger believes that Under the Candelabra with Michael Douglas, a movie made for TV about Liberace, would have won an Oscar had it been a big screen movie. The reason there are so many 3-D movies is that China loves them. Many movies are tailored for the foreign market.

She believes that Nebraska was made almost entirely in black and white because it fit the grey mood of the movie.

The Academy made a terrible mistake in not awarding Alfred Hitchcock an Oscar.

There are twenty-four branches in the Academy, one for each award category. To be selected, a person must work in a branch, have the support of 2-3 members of the branch and be nominated.

Generally, the mover-and-shaker for a movie is the lead Executive Producer, the top dog of the money men. When her son wanted to produce a movie on World War II, he contacted a writer friend to write a script and identified Steven Spielberg as the director who could make the movie a success. This required discussions between Paramount, with whom her son had connections and Dreamworks, Spielberg’s outfit. As a result, Saving Private Ryan was a co-production between Paramount and Dreamworks. Leonardo DiCaprio, star and producer, was the driving force to get The Wolf of Wall Street made.