Best Picture Nominees:
12 Years a Slave – American Hustle – Captain Phillips – Dallas Buyers Club – Gravity – Her – Nebraska – Philomena – The Wolf of Wall Street
Will Win: Though it will be extremely close, I think that the uber-popular (and amazing) Gravity will take it over 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle – if the race was a month longer, and more people would take the plunge and actually watch 12 Years, it would probably win.
Should Win: Tough call, because I’d be thrilled with 12 Years or Gravity, but my personal vote would go to Spike Jonze hypnotic romantic sci-fi masterpiece Her.
They Forgot: Richard Linklater’s devastating finale to the “Before” series, Before Midnight
Best Actor Nominees:
Christian Bale (American Hustle) – Bruce Dern (Nebraska) – Leonardo DiCaprio (Wolf of Wall Street) – Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) – Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
Will Win: So, so close. But McConaughey checks all the Academy boxes – biopic, weight-loss, illness, career comeback. He’s brilliant in Dallas but he’s certainly the first amongst equals here. DiCaprio could shock for Wolf, but if anyone else has a chance its Ejiofor who anchors the most emotionally spellbinding of the Best Pic nominees, 12 Years a Slave.
Should Win: There’s not a dud in the group, and if I were voting, I don’t know how I’d decide between Ejiofor’s powerhouse performance and DiCaprio’s spellbinding, surprising comic chops.
They Forgot: I thought Christian Bale was the best performance in American Hustle, but I’d replace him with either Tom Hanks’ devastatingly real performance in Captain Phillips or Joaquin Pheonix’s centered, high-degree-of-difficulty lead turn in Her.
Best Actress Nominees:
Amy Adams (American Hustle) – Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) – Sandra Bullock (Gravity) – Judi Dench (Philomena) – Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
Will Win: Cate Blanchett, who is overdue and gives the showiest performance of the five in Blue Jasmine. It would be a huge upset, but the only other contender is the equally overdue Amy Adams, who anchors actor-heavy American Hustle.
Should Win: Sandra Bullock, for keeping the awesome spectacle of Gravity grounded in emotional reality. An incredible performance in a brilliant film.
They Forgot: The Academy doesn’t really do “low-key,” but Julia Louis Dreyfuss understated turn in the wistful, sad Enough Said was a quiet revelation.
Best Supporting Actor Nominees:
Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips) – Bradley Cooper (American Hustle) – Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave) – Jonah Hill (Wolf of Wall Street) – Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Will Win: Jared Leto, no contest. The emotional anchor, with at least three “Oscar clip” scenes, of a much-loved Best Picture nominee.
Should Win: It’s hard to argue against Leto, but as amazing as he was in Dallas, Michael Fassbender’s ability to find humanity in his despicable, terrifying character in 12 Years a Slave really blew my mind.
They Forgot: The late, great James Gandolfini as a heartbroken but hopeful single dad in Enough Said would have been a worthy inclusion.
Best Supporting Actress Nominees:
Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle) – Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) – Julia Roberts (August: Osage County) – June Squibb (Nebraska) – Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
Will Win: A very tough call, but I can’t imagine a movie as obviously loved as American Hustle not winning a single acting award. Jennifer Lawrence will edge out her closest competition, 12 Years a Slave’s Nyong’o.
Should Win: For anyone who has seen 12 Years a Slave, the scene where Nyong’o’s character tries to explain to her master why she needs soap alone would win an Oscar.
They Forgot: Nyong’o’s co-star Sarah Paulson, who plays the slave owner’s wife, is arguably the scariest character in the film – the performance is unpredictable and mesmerizing.
Best Director Nominees:
Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street) – David O. Russell (American Hustle) – Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity) – Alexander Payne (Nebraska) – Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)
Will Win: Again, I think this is going to be a close call between the artfully austere 12 Years a Slave and explosively propulsive Gravity. Expect Cuaron to pull it off in the end.
Should Win: I gotta join the chorus here touting Cuaron’s mind boggling accomplishment, though Scorsese’s exuberant Wolf of Wall Street is also the director’s best showing in years.
They Forgot: J.C. Chandor also made a film about a lone survivor in impossible circumstances – his low-budget, analog All Is Lost was nearly as impressive as its blockbuster cousin, Gravity.
Best Adapted Screenplay Nominees:
John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) – Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke & Richard Linklater (Before Midnight) – Terence Winter (The Wolf of Wall Street) – Billy Ray (Captain Phillips) – Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope (Philomena)
Will Win: 12 Years a Slave, not only for bringing this incredible story to the public, but also for being the most artfully effective examination of slavery ever put on film
Should Win: 12 Years a Slave, in a walk. (As much as I love Before Midnight and The Wolf of Wall Street, it’s really no contest.)
They Forgot: The Spectacular Now, a gritty, grounded piece of young adult drama
Best Original Screenplay:
David O. Russell and Eric Singer (American Hustle) – Bob Nelson (Nebraska) – Spike Jonze (Her) – Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack (Dallas Buyers Club) – Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine)
Will Win: Because of how loved it is amongst actors, and because Russell has been pumping out great original scripts (indeed, better ones than this) for years, I think Hustle will edge the more “out there” Her.
Should Win: Her, for not only being the most creative script in competition, but for against all odds also being the most emotionally effective of the bunch.
They Forgot: Some people think the story and dialogue of Gravity were weak (I’m not one of them) but even still, the blueprint it provided for one of the year’s most extraordinary films certainly deserves notice.