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Oscar Watching: Let It Go

The theme of this year’s Oscar ceremony, it seems, will be the heroes of film – real and fictional. No telling how that’ll turn out, but speaking of heroes, Thor, a.k.a. Chris Hemsworth, and Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the president of the motion-picture academy, will announce the major nominations for the 86th Academy Awards tomorrow at (approximately) 5:35 a.m. PT. The announcement will put an end to the debates, knee-jerk reactions, and arguable campaign chicanery we’ve already seen this season, only to begin a new slew of debates, knee-jerk reactions, and campaign chicanery more quickly than you can click “Tweet.”

The year-end picks of the major film critics, minor film critics, guilds, and even the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) – the small group of folks that votes on the Golden Globes, which will be touched on later – all influence the race.

But these groups’ glimpses at industry love for certain films, for various reasons, don’t always tell the full story. Sometimes we have to go with what our gut tells us – to use the phrase that Awards Daily founder and editor Sasha Stone has made into an awards-season mainstay, no guts, no glory.

Like Gold Derby, I see 12 Years a Slave leading with 13 nominations. Five of the nine films to snag 13 Oscar nominations won the top prize. However, if 12 Years also manages a mention in the original song category for “My Lord Sunshine (Sunrise)” – not widely predicted but very possible given the unpredictable music branch – that will push its tally up to 14, a nomination total previously earned by only two films, which both won best picture.

Without any further ado, my final predictions for every Oscar category.

Best Picture

Surprise, surprise, the HFPA named American Hustle the best comedy – or musical, I guess – of 2013. However, the win for 12 Years as the year’s best drama keeps it in the conversation. But can Steve McQueen’s gritty film about slavery win with the Directors Guild of America (DGA), Producers Guild of America (PGA), and/or Screen Actors Guild (SAG), or will David O. Russell’s glitzy, more easily accessible film about cons in 1970s America prove a hindrance? (12 Years was ineligible for Writers Guild of America (WGA) consideration.)

Alfonso Cuarón‘s Gravity, the technical marvel of the year in the vein of Avatar and Life of Pi, gets in, as do Alexander Payne‘s Nebraska and Paul Greengrass‘s Captain Phillips.

Beyond those five, one finds trouble claiming a sure thing, but Spike Jonze‘s Her should have enough crucial support to get in. The unexpected guild love for Dallas Buyers Club bodes well for its chances, and one can’t ignore the recent surge for Martin Scorsese‘s The Wolf of Wall Street.

But Oscar might allow for a ninth film into the picture lineup as it has for the last two years. While Saving Mr. Banks struck a chord with audiences in the States after a weak limited opening in areas that favor art-house fare over, well, movies like Saving Mr. Banks, we expected the film to have more support within the industry. Critical favorite Inside Llewyn Davis struggled to connect with voters and failed to even sneak into the WGA’s original screenplay lineup. The Weinstein Company has focused on Philomena as of late with hopes that it can sneak into Oscar’s lineup. Frankly, it’d be strange to see this particular distributor miss the best picture race completely.

1. American Hustle (David O. Russell)

2. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)

3. Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)

4. Nebraska (Alexander Payne)

5. Captain Phillips (Paul Greengrass)

6. Her (Spike Jonze)

7. Dallas Buyers Club (Jean-Marc Vallée)

8. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)

9. Philomena (Stephen Frears)

10. Saving Mr. Banks (John Lee Hancock)
11. Inside Llewyn Davis (Ethan and Joel Coen)
12. Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen)
13. Lee Daniels’ The Butler (Lee Daniels)
14. Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler)
15. August: Osage County (John Wells)
16. Rush (Ron Howard)
17. Blue is the Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche)
18. Prisoners (Denis Villeneuve)
19. Enough Said (Nicole Holofcener)
20. Before Midnight (Richard Linklater)
21. The Book Thief (Brian Percival)
22. Labor Day (Jason Reitman)
23. All is Lost (J.C. Chandor)
24. Short Term 12 (Destin Cretton)
25. Lone Survivor (Peter Berg)


Best Director

Cuarón, McQueen, and Russell shouldn’t worry about their all-but-assured spots. But Greengrass, Jonze, Payne, and Scorsese all have their supporters, and this lineup can provide some interesting twists and turns – last year’s “front-runners” Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow missed out on bids – so no one is safe.

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. Spike Jonze for Her

6. Alexander Payne for Nebraska
7. Martin Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall Street
8. Woody Allen for Blue Jasmine
9. Ethan and Joel Coen for Inside Llewyn Davis
10. Jean-Marc Vallée for Dallas Buyers Club


Is anyone taking down Cate Blanchett?

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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.