The Alure, The Sparkle and the magic of the Oscars never go away. The first one was held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in 1929, I sat in the back, and the best picture was “Wings,” directed by William Wellman. Here we are 86 years later, and we still sit mesmerized by the scarlet carpet, the gowns, the diamonds, the beautiful people.

This year, there are more awards, more beautiful people and probably longer acceptance speeches where God, mothers and agents are praised ad infinitum. We all have our favorites and our choices. Here, are the nominees, and, for what it’s worth, my picks.

Best PictureShould Win:

“American Hustle:” Director David O. Russell who gave us the wonderful “The Fighter,” and the spectacularly successful “Silver Linings Playbook” adds almost the entire cast of “Silver Linings”: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro, to this movie about a New Jersey political scam. How can he miss? He doesn’t. Comedies don’t do well on the red carpet, and this is essentially a comedy with five of the best performances this year. If comedy truly were king, “American Hustle” would take the crown. America needs a laugh. It should win because it’s my favorite movie of the years. (It won’t.)

Will Win

12 Years A Slave:” The true story of Solomon Northrup, a free black man living with his family in New York in 1841, tricked by slave traders, kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana.


I pick this one to win Best Picture. The story of a free black man kidnapped and sent into slavery is the most honest and riveting movie of the year. I can’t wait for them to open the best actor envelope and try to pronounce Chiwetel Ejiofor. Everything about this picture, even the darkness of it is bright enough.

“Captain Phillips:” Heroic stand off on the high seas. Somalian pirates take a big ship and the captain hostage. A once-it-starts movie that never stops. Great performance by Tom Hanks, with the best of his moments coming after he is rescued and is being treated. He’s in shock and it’s incredible. It’s a strong story with buckets of hair raising moments, but won’t take the statue.

“Nebraska:” An old man gets a scam flyer that says he’s won a million dollars. Desperate for a breakout from an aging body and dreams once golden, now turned brown, he walks to to Lincoln,Nebraska. A movie is only as good as its leading actor. Bruce Dern, a fine actor back from movie limbo, could surprise and walk away with the gold. The movie itself however, sensitive and touching, shot in black and white, doesn’t have the Oscar power. Won’t win.

“Philomena:” A young Irish girl, imprisoned in a rigid Catholic orphanage, gives her baby away for adoption and spends her life regretting it. The fabulous Judy Dench plays Philomena who, now an older woman and with the aid of a cynical writer, journeys to America to find her baby. Dench will break your heart and the conclusion will scatter the pieces. Ms. Dench is a contender, but the film itself, border line soap weeper, won’t make it.

“Dallas Buyer’s Club:” Matthew McConaughey is officially off the pretty boy list and has emerged as a powerful actor. He’s doubling down by playing a super weird detective on HBO’s “True Detective.” Dallas Buyer’s Club is the true story of Ron Woodruff, a big Texas good ‘ol boy brought down by HIV. This is the story of a man who refuses to be a victim, and on the way back to health, starts a campaign to help millions of others. This one could fool the academy. Co-star Jared Leno, in a stunning role gives McConaughey a run for his money.

“Wolf Of Wall Street:” Leonardo Dicaprio and Jonah Hill in a wild rampage of greed. The Roger Ebert website called it, “shameless, and exhausting, disgusting and illuminating.” I found it to be a criminal waste of three hours. It should not even be on the list of ten best. Martin Scorsese has run out of gas.


“Her:” A tiresome, slow crawl into the near future. “HER” is the story of a creepy loner’s love affair with the voice on his smart phone. I’m sure it’s much deeper than that, but the pace and Joaquin Phoenix’s style kept me from caring. Despite my vivid misgivings, it has been nominated Best Original Screenplay, Original Song and score and the Writer’s Guild Best Screenplay. Despite all of these awards, it will wind up winning nothing. NOTHING.

“Gravity:” Due to my fear of heights and vertigo, I gave “Gravity” a pass. A film by Alfonso Cuaron starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock can’t be all bad. I think it may take Special Effects.

Second Choice: “Dallas Buyers Club”

Best ActorShould Win/Will Win.

Chiwetel Ejiofor: “12 Years a Slave.”

This is the man who, back in the day, David O. Selznick would have renamed Charles Ford and then made him the top banjo player in “Gone With the Wind.” Thank God times have changed, slavery, type casting, humming slaves and Selznick are all gone. It’s amazing to compare Ejiofor’s work in “Love Actually,” where he walked around looking pretty, and here in this stunning film.


Christian Bale for “American Hustle.”

Christian is one of the top five great American film actors and probably the most underrated. What he does here is what a film actor is supposed to do: innovate, surprise, dazzle. This is what Dustin Hoffman always does. His future in Hollywood is assured.

Bruce Dern: “Nebraska”

Dern’s performance was just right for the script and the rural setting. I love and admire Dern, but he always does Bruce Dern. This time, it was perfect, but there are too many power performances this year. Sorry, Bruce.

Matthew Mcconaughey “Dallas Buyer’s Club.”

It took me a long time, wading through a lot of good old boy misfires (“A Time to Kill,” “Killer Joe.”) But “Mud” and “True Detective” brought me into his fold. His Ron Woodruff in “Dallas” was an amazing piece of work, and in another season, maybe. Not this year.


Leonardo Dicaprio: “Wolf of Wall Street.”

Leo works hard at every role he takes on. His work in “The Departed,” and ” Titanic,” were two of my favorites. But his fan magic has never caught on with me. He’s slick and Errol Flynnish, and women love him. He’s a movie star.

My Second Choice: Christian Bale.

Best ActressShould Win/Will Win

Cate Blanchett: “Blue Jasmine.”

Cate’s retake on Blanche Dubois transplanted from “Streetcar Named Desire’s” New Orleans to Woody Allen’s San Francisco, is a work of art. The movie itself was delightful and fun but no contender. Cate’s work in it was however the best of her career. Monet had the waterlilies, Shakespeare had his “Hamlet.” Cate has her “Jasmine.”


We all hope that one day Hollywood will drop the “tress.” These are actors and this year, the very best.

Amy Adams: “American Hustle.”

I must confess to be mesmerized and completely seduced by Amy, but this was not her best work. Here, Russell set her out on the set looking like an expensive call girl. That’s not Amy.

Her work in “The Fighter,” and ” The Master,” was superior to this role. Maybe next year. No, SURELY next year.

Judi Dench: “Philomena.”

Ms. Dench is the grand dame of film in any country she works in. To look at her record is to view some of the greatest and breathtaking performances in movies. She was wonderful, funny and touching as Philomena Lee and, again, in another year she would be a challenger. On the other hand, THIS might be the year.


Meryl Streep: “August: Osage County.”

OMG. Is that Meryl again? The Great Meryl is another with the longest list of amazing performances in movies. There is never enough space to list her “Greatest Hits.” Meryl has been hired so many times for so many parts, that actors from George Clooney to Maggie Smith are afraid she’ll take their next part.

In “August,” Ms. Streep once again eats the carpet, the drapes and anything not painted or nailed down. One loves Meryl or hates her, or is just bored seeing her come up the stage again. Even she is bored with winning awards. What’s next? The Nobel ?

let’s move on.

My Second Choice: Judi Dench

Sandra Bullock: “Gravity”


I did not see the movie for reasons I’ve already stated. Some Hollywood friends twitted me that it’s best seen stoned. I shall not say who. I’m sure she was wonderful. Nobody does Sandra better than Sandra. No prize this time.

Best Supporting ActorShould Win/Will Win

(This is the famous “Trap Door” award. People who win it often tend to vanish. Remember George Chakiris?)

Jared Leto: “Dallas Buyers Club”

We first saw Jared in 1998 in “The Thin Red Line,” and then again as Angel Face in “Fight Club” in 2000. Jared is well known to music fans as the star of the American Band, singer, guitar player, song writer. He has a long list of good and forgettable roles behind him, and that’s all just background chatter now. A few minutes into “Dallas Buyer’s Club,” Jared came strutting down that hot Texas street in a nice flowered print and cheap heels, as the transvestite hooker, Rayon. When I finally realized who it was under the makeup and expensive wig, I couldn’t get my breath. Jared Leto is BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR of 2014. If anyone else gets it, the audience should rush up and rip it out of his hands. SHOULD WIN/WILL WIN.

Barkhad Abdi: “Captain Phillips.”


You’re kidding? He looks like a nice guy and for a debut, especially up against Tom Hanks, impressive. But up against Jared Leto?

Bradley Cooper: “American Hustle.”

Bradley is on his way now. After a string of comedies, “The Wedding Crashers,” and those stupid but profitable “Hangover” flicks, Bradley crashed right into “Silver Lining Playbook” and the rest is history. Here, in “American Hustle” Bradley really got to unpack all of his tricks and it soared. His crazy FBI agent is a piece of work, and I loved him in it. But up against Jared Leto?

Michael Fassbender: “12 Years a Slave.”

Fassbender is another up and coming, and his future is full of possibilities and excitement. He has that William Holden look and Gary Cooper stillness. His angry, vicious, repressed slave master is full of energy and power. We hated him, and that’s the winning ticket. But up against …?

Jonah Hill: “The Wolf of Wall Street.”


We love Jonah, even when his agent lets him make stupid choices like the excremental “Jump Street” flicks. He has a natural comedic talent, and we look forward to watching him in future.

My Second Choice: Bradley Cooper


Lupita Nyong’o “12 Years a Slave.”

Lupita’s role in Steve McQueen’s impressive “12 Years” is like a lightning flash out of a clear blue sky. Lupita, a Kenyan Mexican actress and film director, made her American film debut here and took everyone’s breath away. With Screen Actors Guild and Critics Choice Awards, plus nominations for Golden Globe, It’s my feeling that she will come up on the inside and take it. SHOULD WIN/ WILL WIN.

Sally Hawkins: “Blue Jasmine.”


We saw Sally in Mike Leigh’s “Happy Go Lucky” and yes, she was. Sally drove everyone nuts as a super ebullient London school teacher who could not shut up. She was wonderful. I knew it wouldn’t be long before Woody Allen found her and here she is, smashing up against one of the world’s greatest actresses and holding her own. But it’s not Sally’s year.

Julia Roberts: “August: Osage County.”

Julia, oh, Julia. After her first couple of movies, I realized that she was never going to surprise me. She was always going to be Julia, not that there is anything wrong with that. I was finally surprised in “August:” when she dropped that famous annoying six-inch smile, seven-thousand-dollar hair do, and let it all hang down. It was her best job as the poison apple that didn’t fall far from Meryl’s tree. But no cigar, Julia. Don’t worry fans, Julia will always get a job. The world needs six-inch smiles.

June Squibb: “Nebraska.”

Here is the tremor deep in the night that could become a six-point shake on Oscar night. June Squibb, the 83-year-old Oscar nominee, walked away with every scene she was in in “Nebraska.” June has starred in mostly television films but in each one, she dominated the action. Watch out for her.

My Second Choice:


Jennifer Lawrence: “American Hustle.” of course.

Lawrence keeps popping up and capturing the moments in ever movie she’s been in since her debut in ” Winter’s Bone.” Her shot in “Silver Lining Playbook” gave her her first Oscar, and surely there will be more to come. In “Hustle,” she once again lights up her scenes, but the pure electric force of Lupita dims her chances.


Best Director: Steve McQueen


Best Original Screenplay: “Blue Jasmine”


Best Adapted: “12 Years a Slave”

Best Foreign Film: “The Great Beauty.” Italy.

Alure, dazzle, sparkle. Set the lights, roll out the carpet, pop the corn, uncork the wine. Try to stay awake during the speeches and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian award.

J.P. Devine is a former stage and screen actor.

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