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If We Were Members of the Academy: 2014 Edition, Part 3
Moviegoers casts its votes for who’ll claim Oscar Gold at the 86th Annual Academy Awards. This week we’ll tackle best director and best animated feature.

Fellow moviegoers, it’s hard to believe, but the 86th Annual Academy Awards telecast – hosted by comedienne and daytime talk show host Ellen Degeneres –  is just two short weeks away.

For the past two weeks, Moviegoers bloggers Mack Bates and Tom Fuchs have cast their votes for who they would vote for this year in the supporting actor and supporting actress races as well as in the original screenplay and adapted screenplay categories.

This week, they cast their votes for best director and best animated feature.

Best Director

Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity
Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave
Alexander Payne for Nebraska
David O. Russell for American Hustle
Martin Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall Street

Mack’s Pick: Talk about an embarrassment of riches. The year’s nominees for best director are a virtual who’s who of contemporary cinema’s most daring and risk-taking filmmakers. In any given year, all of these filmmakers would be considered the one to beat. That said, if Scorsese didn’t win for Raging Bull (1980) or Goodfellas (1990), he probably already got his due with landing the nomination. Same holds true for Payne with Nebraska after securing directing nods (but no wins) for Sideways (2004) and The Descendants (2011). I think Russell will have to be happy with the fact that his film is currently the talk of the cultural zeitgeist and will be honored elsewhere. It’s his time, but I think the Academy is going to make him wait for a few more years before they hand him his own golden man. McQueen peaked too early in the season. And so that leaves Cuarón whose responsible for 2013’s savviest cinematic undertaking. Against considerable odds, Cuarón brought Gravity to breathtaking life on the big screen and utilized 3D technology better than any other filmmaker has to date. In a year dominated by filmmaking heavyweights, he’s tops.

Tom's pick:  Even if it was just rewarding a director for previous work (like Scorcese winning for The Departed when he should've won the statue ten times over before that), it's time to give Alfonso Cuaron his due here. Children of Men remains as astonishing now as it did eight years ago, and his work on Gravity is a virtuoso performance the likes of which the academy simply can't ignore. Taking his immersive work on Children of Men and amping it up to 11, Cuaron has crafted a breathless experiment in tension, managing sequences that veer sharply between images of stark beauty and moments of sheer terror. It's the most exhilarating cinematic experience I had in all of 2013, and I suspect the Academy will feel the same way.

Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity

Dude, You Were Shafted: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen for Inside Llewyn Davis, Ryan Coogler for Fruitvale Station and Shane Carruth for Upstream Color

Best Animated Feature

The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Ernest & Celestine
The Wind Rises

Mack’s Pick: This category is really a no-brainer: Disney’s bold and imaginative Frozen will win by a landslide and deservedly so. Not only does it best last year’s winner Brave (which was also produced by Disney), Frozen is one of the best animated features Disney has made in years. Beautiful story, beautiful score and songs, beautifully executed across the board. The other contenders don’t really stand much of a chance of intercepting with the exception of Hayao Mizayaki’s The Wind Rises. The revered 73-year-old Japanese filmmaker might get sentimental votes since he announced last fall that The Wind Rises will be his final feature-length film.

Tom's pick:  I have to go with Frozen here, but there are some mitigating circumstances. Both The Wind Rises and Ernest and Celestine have yet to make their way anywhere near the Milwaukee area (and trust me when I say I'd be willing to make a considerable journey to see the newest work of Miyazaki or the creators of A Town Called Panic if they had even snuck into the Midwest) and it's entirely possible one or the other could win my heart over Disney's latest. That said, Frozen is the Mouse House's best animated feature since Aladdin in my estimation, a full-blown musical filled with memorable characters, songs and genuine emotion. The powerful message of self-acceptance rarely seen in children’s material is just icing on the cake.

Will Win: Frozen. But The Wind Rises might pull off the upset here if the academy truly believes that it is Hayao Miyazaki's swansong.

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