When he’s not anchoring SportsCenter, Outside the Lines, co-hosting ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike, or filling in for Keith Olbermann (as he did this week), ESPN’s Adnan Virk is likely watching, discussing, or reading about movies.
“Movies were always my first love, and I tried for years to be a film critic, but then this sportscaster thing took off,” Virk said.
Front Row solicited Virk’s expertise prior to last year’s Academy Awards presentation, and the admitted “Film Geek” went 4-for-6 in predicting the key categories. Below, he tries to better that record with this year’s picks.
The 86th Annual Academy Awards are Sunday, March 2, at 7 p.m. ET on ABC.
WHAT SHOULD WIN: The Wolf of Wall Street. It’s a tribute to the greatest director of his generation. At 71 years of age, Martin Scorsese quite possibly has made the funniest movie of his celebrated career. His oeuvre is filled with criminal rascals, but this is GoodFellas on Wall St. The film, in Marty’s words, is a “modern-day Caligula,” dripping in decadence, and the scene of Belfort trying to get home after taking way too many quaaludes is marvelous in its audacity.
WHAT WILL WIN: 12 years a Slave. The technical virtuosity of Gravity is tough to ignore and there’s been a surge for the highly overrated American Hustle among the actors in the academy, but Slave is a thought-provoking, powerful piece of filmmaking from director Steve McQueen that is brave and uncompromising, telling the story of the ugliest chapter in American history. Voters may be dissuaded from voting for it since it’s uncomfortable viewing, but many cinematic epics, including Schindler’s List, are not for the faint of heart.
WHO SHOULD WIN: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street. The best performance of the year wasn’t even nominated: Robert Redford’s career-capping performance, acting in silence in a modern day telling of Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea, in the criminally ignored All is Lost. But DiCaprio should be recognized for his fearless and unapologetic performance. Even if you didn’t care for the manic energy of his star turn, it’s about time he is recognized as one of the best actors of his generation.
WHO WILL WIN: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club. “All right, all right, all right. . .” Matthew McConaughey has this award locked up. Hollywood loves a comeback story, and after a string of forgettable romantic comedies and undercooked turkeys, the laconic Texan has shown a renewed commitment to his work, and this movie finally fulfills the promise we’ve expected of him.
WHO SHOULD WIN: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine. Woody Allen writes terrific characters for women, and this Blanche Dubois homage to A Streetcar Named Desire mixed with Ruth Madoff is expertly handled by Blanchett. She’s high-strung and delusional in her fall from grace — from high class to working class — and ultimately heartbreaking.
WHO WILL WIN: Blanchett
WHO SHOULD WIN: Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave. Fassbender was robbed of a nomination playing a sex addict in Steve McQueen’s previous film, Shame. As the raging racist slave-owner, Fassbender is the chilling embodiment of true evil. He’s monstrous and terrifying in his villainy, and his cruelty makes the audience empathize that much more with the tortured souls at his mercy.
WHO WILL WIN: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club. The film, directed by Canadian Jean Marc Vallee, is a ’70s throwback, gritty and character-driven, and anchored by two superlative performances by McConaughey and especially Leto. His character’s tragic descent – not before changing the McConaughey character’s bigoted attitudes towards those with alternative lifestyles – is a real triumph.
WHO SHOULD WIN: June Squibb, Nebraska. Her ribald turn as the wife of the doddering Bruce Dern is the true definition of the category — someone who supports a film indelibly. Her blunt and memorable turn would be nice recognition for Alexander Payne’s black-and- white paean to middle America, a father-and-son story that features the most poignant ending of any movie this year.
WHO WILL WIN: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave. This is the toughest category to call – it’s either going to be her or Jennifer Lawrence, channeling Sharon Stone in Casino in her boisterous work in American Hustle. There may be some backlash in giving Lawrence back-to-back Oscars at such a young age, something no one’s done since Tom Hanks went back-to-back for Best Actor in the 90s. That’s why I’m going with Nyong’o, who has been humble and gracious in accepting the Screen Actors Guild Award and Broadcast Film Critics Award.
WHO SHOULD WIN: Martin Scorsese every year!
WHO WILL WIN: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity. Masterful and groundbreaking work.