The time has come!
I'm never sure I should say this out loud as an Oscar pundit of some degree of reknown but I love being wrong. That generally means the film year is still chalk full of films and performances people are still considering. As well they should. It also means that, try as they might to game the system, the distributors who shove everything into a three week window of releasing and the abundant precursor bodies that aim to predict future Oscar nominations rather than really thinking about what they loved most in an entire film year, can't really control it. The Academy will do as the Academy does. And thank god lest all joy be stamped out of the process through ruthless homogeny (Jared Leto again? Must we?! And I like Jared Leto in that movie, despite that tone deaf Globe acceptance speech)
So herewith my best guesses as to what the shortlists will look like come Thursday morning... and my apologies for the late at night no sleep train of thought messiness to follow... I'm working through the night before my plane to Los Angeles...
Locks: American Hustle, 12 Years a Slave, Gravity and Captain Phillips will be fighting for the statue that matters most and they're currently running in probably that order.
If there were only five: that last spot would be a bloody battle between Dallas Buyers Club, The Wolf of Wall Street and Nebraska, three films which with distinctly different temperaments though all three are very concerned with merciless socioeconomic systems. As it is, though, I think all three are safe... which makes seven best picture nominees.
Expanded Field: From there it gets cloudier. SAG suggests The Butler. PGA rallied for Saving Mr Banks and Blue Jasmine. The Globes liked Her and BAFTA joins them in loving Philomena. Critics are gaga for Inside Llewyn Davis. And so on... I'm guessing we get 8 nominees this year and that the Picture lineup ends with the unbuzzy Philomena (not exactly an internet sensation but different crowds, you know?) but if we stay locked up at 9 nominations, which we've had the past two years, make room for hipster Her (which appeals to the type of people who write about movies and thus gets talked up more).
Locks: Cuaron, McQueen, Greengrass, Russell... though last year's shockeroos in this category suggest that no one is truly safe.
But Who Gets The Last Spot? The Globes suggest Payne and the DGA wants what it often wants: Scorsese. Scorsese is highly probable --he also scored with BAFTA -- and you absolutely shouldn't bet against him but i'm going for the no guts no glory factor. I'm guessing just enough people were turned off by Wall Street, which was under constant fire during voting (which can work for you or against you but who knows which it did?). I want to say something crazy like Jean Marc Vallee or JC Chandor just so I have bragging rights but I think i"m going to guess Spike Jonze... purely on the anecdotal evidence that Darren Aronofsky will be voting for him.
Locks: Dern, DiCaprio, Ejiofor, Hanks, McConaughey, Redford, McConaughey
OH MY GOD THAT'S SIX PEOPLE AND MY BRAIN IS GOING TO EXPLODE. I keep changing my mind about which of these six men isn't going to make it and literally ANY of them seem both possible and unthinkable as The Snubbee. Statistically speaking DiCaprio is probably running seventh or eighth (SAG went for Whitaker and the BFCA went for both Bale and Isaac ahead of him) but his prospects were rising during voting as that BAFTA nod suggests and he seems like a very real threat to me... but then who gets the golden boot in their hard-working ass? I kept flipping between Redford and McConaughey but given the shocking (to me at least) strength that the somewhat standard Dallas Buyer's Club has shown across the board at guilds, it became Redford. Leo or Bob? Both are blonde handsome true movie stars who can come across as a bit above it (they're not going to beg you for your vote). One is a gargantuan celebrity to anyone fortysomething or younger and the other a gargantuan movie star to anyone fortysomething or older. I've noticed in my online travels that there are sizeable huge swaths of younger people out there that don't have any connection to Robert Redford but that shouldn't fool them into thinking nobody else. His cinematic legacy is rich from the 60s classics and on through the enormous influence of Sundance. The question is really whether Bruce Dern is hogging all the attention for legacy votes, whether voters liked All is Lost, and whether all the Wolf of Wall Street controversies helped or hurt DiCaprio. My biggest hesitation in predicting Leo is essentially that BFCA snub. The BFCA, to which I belong, really has made a mess of the voting adding additional categories without actually renaming the traditional one. So essentially they have a traditional Best Actor category that is not labelled as "drama" and wherein comic performance sometimes appear and they've added a Best Actor in a Comedy category without changing the original category to Drama. So is it telling that Leo wasn't strong enough to compete in the traditional category from a group that had clearly seen the movie given its nominations elsewhere?
Locks: Blanchett, Bullock, Thompson, Dench
Fifth Slot Madness: Who'da thunk that Meryl Streep could possibly be the odd woman out for a role as mammoth as Violet Weston? And yet here we are and the knives seem to be out (at least on the internet) and everyone has been talking about Amy Adams and American Hustle is inarguably way more popular than August: Osage County. So I'm guessing it's Adams who is, lest we forget, on part with Meryl (at least lately) in the Academy's willingness to scribble her name down reflexively. I saw all of this with a tear in my eye for Brie Larson and Adele Exarchopoulus, both of whom never quite took as contenders despite being so damn good in films that critics and media types seemed to feel genuinely passionate about... at least until they had to start predicting Oscars voting habits voting for their own year end prizes.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Locks: Jennifer, June, Lupita
Probable: Julia Roberts... unless voters, opt out on Meryl and realize they COULD, you know, put Julia where she belongs in leading
Fifth Slot Battle: But it's probably between Oprah Winfrey and Sally Hawkins and my guess is that The Butler won't quite tank as hard as the internet is thinking/hoping with Oscar voters. They are, don't forget, willing snubbers of the great Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky *sniffle*) and major Oprah fans giving her an Honorary despite a scant filmography (sure sure it was for humanitarian work, but it's still a film-community honor given to someone with a scant filmography).
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Locks: Barkhad Abdi, Jared Leto
Probable: Michael Fassbender
With Two Spots To Be Divvied Up Among: Bradley Cooper, Daniel Brühl, Jonah Hill or James Gandolfini.
But as I've been saying all year, posthumous nominations are quite rare so I think Gandolfini is the easiest to cut but from there it gets tricky. Daniel Brühl has all the precursors and leading roles have an obvious edge when they're competing for supporting slots (so unjust!) but he's a low profile actor, however talented, and few people are talking about the film. Bradley Cooper and Jonah Hill -- does the category really have room for two amoral hyena types? It's possible that all three could make it in and push the non-campaigning Michael Fassbender out, but that'd be a real shame. As for now I'm thinking that Wolf of Wall Street has to show somewhere and in this relatively quiet category might be its best shot outside of Picture.
And, okay, maybe I should get at least two hours of sleep before LA...
You should also check out the final thoughts from the Gurus of Gold
But clearly in 2014 I have to up my game. Now people are even singing their Oscar predictions.
I'm not going to do that unless you all buy ear plugs but I'll step it up a notch for 2014. I will. I will. I'll explain the hows and whys. Pinky swear. Stick around.