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Oscar Watching: This Race Needs Some GRAVITY

Best Picture

Gravity would get a boost here due to its massive weekend and glowing reviews, but it’s already in my runner-up spot, and I don’t see it taking down 12 Years a Slave – well, at least not for now.

The mixed reception for Walter Mitty could restrict its Oscar chances to the crafts races. The Book Thief, on the other hand, got a standing ovation at the Mill Valley Film Festival on Thursday, Oct. 3, though Kristopher Tapley of In Contention mentions that one should keep such ovations in perspective. He also notes on his supporting actor contenders page that word from test screenings of American Hustle suggests trouble.

Lastly, The Weinstein Co. set David Frankel’s One Chance for a limited release on Dec. 27. The film debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival with little fanfare, but perhaps this light crowd-pleaser about Britain’s Got Talent star Paul Potts is one to watch after all.

1. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)

2. Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)

3. American Hustle (David O. Russell)

4. Lee Daniels’ The Butler (Lee Daniels)

5. Captain Phillips (Paul Greengrass)

6. Nebraska (Alexander Payne)

7. Inside Llewyn Davis (Ethan and Joel Coen)

8. Philomena (Stephen Frears)

9. Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler)

10. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller)
11. Saving Mr. Banks (John Lee Hancock)
12. August: Osage County (John Wells)
13. Rush (Ron Howard)
14. The Book Thief (Brian Percival)
15. The Counselor (Ridley Scott)
16. Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen)
17. The Monuments Men (George Clooney)
18. Dallas Buyers Club (Jean-Marc Vallée)
19. All is Lost (J.C. Chandor)
20. Prisoners (Denis Villeneuve)
21. Labor Day (Jason Reitman)
22. Enough Said (Nicole Holofcener)
23. Before Midnight (Richard Linklater)
24. Blue is the Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche)
25. One Chance (David Frankel)

Also in the running: Out of the Furnace (Scott Cooper), Her (Spike Jonze), The Past (Asghar Farhadi), Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (Justin Chadwick), The Conjuring (James Wan), Side Effects (Steven Soderbergh), Ender’s Game (Gavin Hood), Mud (Jeff Nichols)

(Before proceeding, I noticed that I’ve listed Jeff Wells as the director of August in my director predictions. The aforementioned Wells is a respected film journalist who runs Hollywood Elsewhere (LINK). John Wells, who helmed The Company Men, is the director of August. Apologies.)

Best Director

I can’t see the motion-picture academy snubbing the vision that Cuarón brings to Gravity – even if 12 Years walks away with the top prize. Buzz builds for Greengrass and, to a lesser extent, Alexander Payne, while we still have no idea about David O. Russell.

1. Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity

2. Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave

3. David O. Russell for American Hustle

4 Paul Greengrass for Captain Phillips

5. Alexander Payne for Nebraska

6. Lee Daniels for Lee Daniels’ The Butler
7. Ethan and Joel Coen for Inside Llewyn Davis
8. Ryan Coogler for Fruitvale Station
9. Stephen Frears for Philomena
10. Brian Percival for The Book Thief

Also in the running: Brian Percival for The Book Thief, Ben Stiller for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, John Lee Hancock for Saving Mr. Banks, Ron Howard for Rush, John Wells for August: Osage County, Woody Allen for Blue Jasmine, Ridley Scott for The Counselor, George Clooney for The Monuments Men, Jason Reitman for Labor Day, Jean-Marc Vallée for Dallas Buyers Club, Richard Linklater for Before Midnight, Denis Villeneuve for Prisoners, Asghar Farhadi for The Past, J.C. Chandor for All is Lost, Abdellatif Kechiche for Blue is the Warmest Color, David Frankel for One Chance

Best Actress in a Leading Role

In her corner, Bullock boasts a bigger mainstream hit and a film more likely for widespread Oscar recognition. Blanchett, however, has early front-runner status and only a supporting actress Oscar to her name. (“Only” is subjective here, but the silly theory that a supporting Oscar isn’t “as good” as a leading trophy pervades the awards-season mindset.) Of course, it’s not Blanchett vs. Bullock just yet: Amy Adams could give both a run for their money if American Hustle becomes a favorite. (It’d also help if Her became a contender.)

Maybe I’m just stick in the mud, refusing to believe that no newbies will adorn this year’s actress lineup. Still, every other acting race this year features at least one talent without a previous nomination, and the best actress race always welcomes a promising newcomer – even when the buzz, hype, and precursors suggest that it won’t. (Remember when Rooney Mara got in instead of Tilda Swinton?)

Adèle Exarchopoulos leads the controversial but acclaimed Blue is the Warmest Color; Brie Larson earned raves for her turn in the indie drama Short Term 12; and Sophie Nélisse gets the spotlight in the aforementioned Holocaust drama The Book Thief. If the best actress race embraces any new talent this year, it’ll likely be one of the aforementioned three; I’m sticking with Exarchopoulos for now.

And no, my No. 6 is not a typo.

1. Amy Adams for American Hustle

2. Sandra Bullock for Gravity

3. Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine

4. Adèle Exarchopoulos for Blue is the Warmest Color

5. Judi Dench for Philomena

6. Meryl Streep for August: Osage County
7. Emma Thompson for Saving Mr. Banks
8. Sophie Nélisse for The Book Thief
9. Brie Larson for Short Term 12
10. Kate Winslet for Labor Day

Also in the running: Julia Louis-Dreyfus for Enough Said, Bérénice Bejo for The Past, Julie Delpy for Before Midnight, Léa Seydoux for Blue is the Warmest Color, Greta Gerwig for Frances Ha, Shailene Woodley for The Spectacular Now, Rooney Mara for Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Paulina García for Gloria, Felicity Jones for The Invisible Woman, Rooney Mara for Side Effects, Alexandra Roach for One Chance, Chloë Grace Moretz for Carrie, Amanda Seyfried for Lovelace, Lake Bell for In a World…, Hailee Steinfeld for Romeo and Juliet

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Chiwetel Ejiofor leads the current best picture front-runner, but he’s up against four actors with more footing in the industry. McConaughey and Bruce Dern look like the ones to beat at this point, but cases can be made for Tom Hanks and Robert Redford. Keep an eye out for Forest Whitaker, too.

1. Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club

2. Bruce Dern for Nebraska

3. Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave

4. Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips

5. Robert Redford for All is Lost

6. Forest Whitaker for Lee Daniels’ The Butler
7. Oscar Isaac for Inside Llewyn Davis
8. Michael B. Jordan for Fruitvale Station
9. Christian Bale for American Hustle
10. Ben Stiller for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Also in the running: Joaquin Phoenix for Her, Hugh Jackman for Prisoners, Matt Damon for The Monuments Men, Michael Fassbender for The Counselor, Chris Hemsworth for Rush, Idris Elba for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Christian Bale for Out of the Furnace, James Corden for One Chance, Ethan Hawke for Before Midnight, Will Forte for Nebraska, Casey Affleck for Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Ralph Fiennes for The Invisible Woman, Tye Sheridan for Mud, Mads Mikkelsen for The Hunt

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Tapley also mentions that Fox isn’t pushing Ridley Scott’s The Counselor for awards consideration – at least not for now – so maybe Cameron Diaz isn’t a threat after all. That leaves more room for Oprah Winfrey, but I can’t see her taking down Lupita Nyong’o. Jennifer Lawrence might lose any footing she has if American Hustle flounders, which is a strong possibility at this point. There’s also June Squibb to consider.

1. Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave

2. Oprah Winfrey for Lee Daniels’ The Butler

3. Cameron Diaz for The Counselor

4. Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle

5. June Squibb for Nebraska

6. Margo Martindale for August: Osage County
7. Octavia Spencer for Fruitvale Station
8. Sally Hawkins for Blue Jasmine
9. Amy Adams for Her
10. Julia Roberts for August: Osage County

Also in the running: Sarah Paulson for 12 Years a Slave, Carey Mulligan for Inside Llewyn Davis, Emily Watson for The Book Thief, Juliette Lewis for August: Osage County, Melissa Leo for Prisoners, Kristen Wiig for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Shirley MacLaine for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Naomie Harris for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Jennifer Garner for Dallas Buyers Club, Penélope Cruz for The Counselor, Julianne Nicholson for August: Osage County, Julianne Moore for Carrie, Alfre Woodard for 12 Years a Slave, Cate Blanchett for The Monuments Men, Zoë Saldana for Out of the Furnace

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Michael Fassbender and Jared Leto look like today’s only “locks,” but the former stars in a movie Oscar will more readily embrace. The Counselor might help Fassbender’s case if it performs well at the box office. John Goodman feels vulnerable, but could be a stealth contender for the win if momentum builds. Same for Jeremy Renner, who might falter if Bradley Cooper gets more buzz after American Hustle screens for certain members of the press. The box office for Enough Said helps the case for the late Gandolfini, though he’s hardly a certainty in this jumbled race. On that note, watch out for Barkhad Abdi.

1. Michael Fassbender for 12 Years a Slave

2. Jeremy Renner for American Hustle

3. John Goodman for Inside Llewyn Davis

4. Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club

5. Barkhad Abdi for Captain Phillips

6. James Gandolfini for Enough Said
7. Bradley Cooper for American Hustle
8. Daniel Brühl for Rush
9. Tom Hanks for Saving Mr. Banks
10. Harrison Ford for 42

Also in the running: David Oyelowo for Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Geoffrey Rush for The Book Thief, Javier Bardem for The Counselor, Steve Coogan for Philomena, Matthew McConaughey for Mud, Josh Brolin for Labor Day, Chris Cooper for August: Osage County, Jake Gyllenhaal for Prisoners, Benedict Cumberbatch for August: Osage County, Woody Harrelson for Out of the Furnace, Sam Shepard for August: Osage County, James Franco for Spring Breakers

Best Original Screenplay

I see this as a showdown between Gravity and American Hustle. However, screenwriters might be cold to Gravity, and American Hustle is an unknown factor in this race and, again, might falter if buzz from test screening means anything. Blue Jasmine, Inside Llewyn Davis, and Nebraska are well-positioned for nods at least, and might contend for the win if the perceived front-runners slip out of the mix.

1. Alfonso Cuarón and Jonás Cuarón for Gravity

2. David O. Russell and Eric Singer for American Hustle

3. Bob Nelson for Nebraska

4. Ethan and Joel Coen for Inside Llewyn Davis

5. Woody Allen for Blue Jasmine

6. Ryan Coogler for Fruitvale Station
7. Spike Jonze for Her
8. Danny Strong for Lee Daniels’ The Butler
9. Cormac McCarthy for The Counselor
10. Nicole Holofcener for Enough Said

Also in the running: Peter Morgan for Rush Asghar Farhadi for The Past, Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith for Saving Mr. Banks, Aaron Guzikowski for Prisoners, Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack for Dallas Buyers Club, Scott Cooper and Brad Inglesby for Out of the Furnace, J.C. Chandor for All is Lost, Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright for The World’s End, Jeff Nichols for Mud, Carey W. Hayes for The Conjuring, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash for The Way, Way Back, David Lowery for Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig for Frances Ha, Justin Zackham for One Chance, Scott Z. Burns for Side Effects, Derek Cianfrance, Bob Coccio, and Darius Marder for The Place Beyond the Pines

Best Adapted Screenplay

If 12 Years has to win just one of the major awards, it’ll likely be this one, but Captain Phillips and even Philomena might pose serious threats. Yesterday’s contenders are quickly becoming today’s who-knows, so August and Before Midnight get a surprising, if not temporary, bump into the top five.

I have no idea what to make of the The Book Thief even though some apparently appreciate it. (Is it a great drama marketed as sap, or sap or marketed as it is?) But we should know more about the film by the end of the month.

1. John Ridley for 12 Years a Slave

2. Billy Ray for Captain Phillips

3. Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope for Philomena

4. Tracy Letts for August: Osage County

5. Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, and Richard Linklater for Before Midnight

6. Michael Petroni for The Book Thief
7. Steve Conrad for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
8. George Clooney and Grant Heslov for The Monuments Men
9. Abdellatif Kechiche and Ghalia Lacroix for Blue is the Warmest Color
10. Jason Reitman for Labor Day

Also worth mentioning: Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber for The Spectacular Now, William Nicholson for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Listing them just because: Abi Morgan for The Invisible Woman, Andrew Bovell for A Most Wanted Man, Joss Whedon for Much Ado About Nothing, Robert L. Baird, Daniel Gerson, and Dan Scanlon for Monsters University, Josh Singer for The Fifth Estate, Peter Berg for Lone Survivor, Julian Fellowes for Romeo and Juliet, Phillipa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo Del Toro, and Fran Walsh for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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The Author

Donovan Warren

Donovan Warren

Donovan Warren loves the wonderful world of film and all that comes with it. He specifically loves long takes, fabulous actresses, and keeping up with the Oscar season - even when it's far too early to make sense of anything.