NaFF’s Brian Owens Talks Oscars – Who Will Win Tonight?

86thOscars_LogoWith the thousands of films he’s seen over the years, frequent trips to the Sundance Film Festival and elsewhere and many movie industry contacts there’s no better local to ask about the possible outcome of tonight’s 86th Annual Academy Awards® than Nashville Film Festival Artistic Director Brian Owens.

Brian OwensHis picks, with some possible upsets, are listed below along with selected comments he made during discussion of the Oscars® ballot (click here to get a printable one courtesy of ©A.M.P.A.S.® and ABC) with ArtsNash. As he noted during that conversation, these picks are just for fun – if you’re the gambling type you’re on your own!

Broadcast coverage on ABC (WKRN Channel 2 in Nashville) begins at 6 p.m. CT with “Oscars Red Carpet Live!” followed at 7:30 p.m. CT by the ceremony hosted for the second time by Ellen DeGeneres (she also hosted the 79th Academy Awards in 2007); there are ways to watch through computers and mobile devices as well. And don’t forget to visit for information about the 2014 NaFF that runs April 17-26.


The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life

Owens: “It has everything Oscar voters are looking for – the story of a sweet elderly lady who’s a survivor. If I had an outsider to pick Karama Has No Walls wins if the Academy is looking to make a statement of support regarding the Arab Spring (uprisings).


20 Feet From Stardom

Owens: “This is a two-horse race. If they go audience pleasing, it’s 20 Feet from Stardom. If they go for artistry, it’s The Act of Killing. I’d say 51 percent for 20 Feet From Stardom, 49 percent for The Act of Killing.”


Mr. Hublot

Owens: While Disney’s Get a Horse! has a great deal of buzz its seemingly sure Animated Feature win with Frozen may tip the scales to Mr. Hublot. “I was happy to see Feral and Room on the Broom come through – we showed both at the (2013) festival – but I think Mr. Hublot will take it.”


Just Before Losing Everything

Owens: “This one is…a three-horse race. I have a feeling Just Before Losing Everything is going to take it. The others I’ve heard talk about are The Voorman Problem and That Wasn’t Me…but Just Before Losing Everything was a realistic drama about domestic violence that the Academy may embrace. The Voorman Problem, though, has some names involved with it (like Sherlock’s Martin Freeman). I’m wavering a little on this one!”



Owens: “If there is one sure bet on this list I would say this one is it.”


Gravity (Multiple Nominees)

Owens: While Owens, ArtsNash and other Nashvillians are rooting for the fourth career nomination of our own Peter Kurland to be a winning one (he’s up in Sound Mixing with two other colleagues for Inside Llewyn Davis), “There’s an elephant in that room…that’s going to run over everything in the technical categories. That’s particularly true in Visual Effects. …If there is one category where I see the potential for an upset it’s Film Editing where Captain Phillips (edited by Christopher Rouse) is up. Paul Greenglass (the film’s director) is highly thought of in the academy and this might be a way to honor one of his films. …I think Gravity is going to have the big haul of the night regardless of how Best Picture turns out.”


Dallas Buyers Club (Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews)

Owens: “Dallas Buyers Club please!”


The Great Gatsby (Catherine Martin)

Owens: “Probably between American Hustle and The Great Gatsby with Twelve Years a Slave charging up on the outside. But it’s hard to see anyone right now but The Great Gatsby.”


The Great Gatsby (Catherine Martin for Production Design and Beverley Dunn for Set Decoration)

Owens: “I’d like to see Her win. That world was so incredibly created that it was hard to see where the landscape had been altered though a great deal of work had been done. But I have to go first with Gatsby on that one.”


The Great Beauty (Italy)

Owens: “The talk has centered on this nominee. I think this film has kept its momentum.”


Her (Spike Jonze)

Owens: “The dialogue’s fantastic, it was a well-written world and I think Spike Jonze will win for it. But don’t count out Bob Nelson for Nebraska, though.”


12 Years a Slave (John Ridley)

“I think they’ll go with this very American story (scripted by John Ridley), but don’t count out Philomena (co-adapted by BAFTA winners Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope). They are the two to watch in this race for me.”


“Let It Go” from Frozen (Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez)

Owens: “I’m making this song my pick…but if I’m going with my gut that has more chance of an upset than some other categories. I still think it will win, though.”


Gravity (Steven Price)

Owens: “This one is very hard to pick. You could just as easily see any of the nominees (including William Butler and Owen Pallett for Her, Thomas Newman for Saving Mr. Banks, John Williams for The Book Thief and Alexandre Desplat for Philomena) pulling this one out.”


Gravity (Emmanuel Lubeski)

Owens: “If they follow suit with last year it will be (him). If they decide to (separate) traditional cinematography from cinematography with a great deal of special effects, it could be different.”


Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

Owens: Nyong’o and Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle) have been the frontrunners in this category that’s full of strong portrayals. “They are both great performances but Patsey (Nyong’o’s character) will be wired into my brain as long as my brain continues to work. That and the fact that she won at the SAG Awards will give her the win. Talk about a debut!”


Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Owens: “I don’t know if I’d pick a potential upset. I have heard that Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave) is getting a lot of votes, but I think it’s still (Leto).”


Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Owens: “Sandra Bullock (Gravity) is well liked in the academy and could siphon off enough votes for Amy Adams (American Hustle) to surprise, but I think (Blanchett) is a pretty safe pick.”


Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

Owens: “I still think he’ll win but I could see Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave… Either would be very deserving.”


Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity

Owens: “I do believe it will be (him). It’s a very apples-to-oranges comparison (between Cuarón and 12 Years a Slave’s Steve McQueen). Either one is a history-maker and either one is deserving. Voters might look at 12 Years a Slave and say ‘I might be able to do something like that’ but look at Gravity and say ‘There’s no way I could pull that off.’


12 Years a Slave

Owens: “In recent years when they’ve had the choice between the grandiose visual-effects-laden movie (like Gravity) and the smaller, historically significant movie, it’s always gone to the (latter). I have that feeling they’re going to go that way again. I think (the importance of the film’s subject) is going to carry it by a nose.”

*Image of Brian Owens courtesy the Nashville Film Festival; Oscars logo and statuette images courtesy ©A.M.P.A.S.®.

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About Evans Donnell

Evans Donnell is the chief theater, film and opera critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He wrote reviews and features about theater, opera and classical music for The Tennessean from 2002 to 2011. He was the theater, film and opera critic for from 2011 to 2012. Donnell has also contributed to The Sondheim Review, Back Stage, The City Paper (Nashville), the Nashville Banner, The (Bowling Green, Ky.) Daily News and several other publications since beginning his professional journalism career in 1985 with The Lebanon (Tenn.) Democrat. He was selected as a fellow for the 2004 National Critics Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, and for National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) arts journalism institutes for theater and musical theater at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism in 2006 and classical music and opera at the Columbia University School of Journalism in 2009. He has also been an actor (member of Actors Equity Association and SAG-AFTRA), founding and running AthensSouth Theatre from 1996 to 2001 and appearing in Milos Forman's "The People vs Larry Flynt" among other credits. Donnell is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (


  1. It’s worth noting that the knowledgeable Mr. Owens got 23 of 24 categories right – only missing the Live Action Short winner – when the awards were handed out Sunday night. Thanks for sharing your very on-target insights with ArtsNash readers!