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« Review: Non-Stop | Main | Reading the Signs in the Stars for Best Original Song »
Friday
Feb282014

2 Days Til Oscar. Final Oscar Predictions

This article originally appeared in my column at Towleroad and is reprinted here (albeit slightly altered for the TFE crowd) with their permission

Gravity will win how many Oscars? The most at any rate.

Oscar Weekend is upon us! Those damn Olympics forced it into March so it already feels like its running late and pushing back the local news broadcast yet further into the AM hours. And it hasn't even started yet! But soon Ellen Degeneres will be dancing down the aisles and we'll be on our way. [Before we get there make sure to like TFE on facebook so you don't forget about us during the spring/summer. We hit it all year round!]

I've been an Oscar blogger for over ten years (yikes) and usually predicting the winners in the high profile categories is easy; it's about getting out of your own way since it's easy to overthink it and create scenarios which aren't likely to happen. This year is more volatile than usual, though, with Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, and American Hustle all displaying strength after strength during "precursor season" but meeting plenty of resistance, too, on their awards path. Anything might happen in Best Picture, which is not something you can usually say going into the big night. It'll be a groundbreaking night almost any way it turns out with a first in Best Director (first Hispanic winner or first black winner) and a first in Picture (first sci-fi winner or first film that's totally about black people) 

Oscar never presents the categories in the exact same order from year to year, but let's take these in the order the envelopes opened last year just as an outline on which to hang our predictions after the jump... 

What will Jared Leto wear to the Oscars?

SUPPORTING ACTOR 
In all likelihood last year's Queen of Supporting Actresses Anne Hathaway presents this one returning from her self-imposed exile, wherein she presumably licked her wounds by unplugging the hateful internet and snuggling with her Oscar with her new husband. I love the Academy's super quaint longstanding cross-gender statue passing ritual. It's a bit like we're all at Hollywood High and the pretty girl has to cross the gymnasium to ask the cutest boy (Jared Leto) on the other side to dance. Barkhad Abdi recently won the BAFTA for his Somali pirate in Captain Phillips but awards bodies of all stripes love straight actors playing dying gays STILL in 2014 so this one is Leto's. He's won virtually everything so the other men are non-factors: Bradley Cooper (American Hustle) and Jonah Hill (Wolf of Wall Street) scene-steal like they're on a coke bender all throughout their movies but it's hard to win for comedy and both seem like they're just now hitting their strides in the movies. Michael Fassbender, brilliant again as an evil plantation master in 12 Years a Slave, opted not to campaign this year. Who can blame him after that season of Shame (2011) in which everyone just wanted to talk about the size of his cock instead of the size of his talent - and for the record it's enormous (his talent, pervs!). 

Will Win: Jared Leto, The Dallas Buyers Club (read our interview)
Spoiler: Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
My BallotYour Vote in the Poll

ANIMATED SHORT
The rules have changed slightly for the lower profile categories. Academy members no longer have to prove they've seen all the entries in these categories so that should help Mickey Mouse to his first win in this category. Why? Visibility. Everyone has seen Frozen. and his 2-D vs 3-D comic battle pushes the medium in fun ways and its high energy and hilarious. Oh yeah, his first win, yep, you heard that right. Though Walt Disney himself holds the record of most Oscar wins by any one person (20), Mickey Mouse lost all seven of his previous nominations for short film. 

Will WinGet a Horse
SpoilerFeral and Mr Hublot also seem to have devout fans
Tim's take on this category 

Which actress will dress the most like Elsa on Oscar night?

ANIMATED FEATURE
Against all odds in what initially seemed like a terrible year for toons, this category turned out all right. They chose well with five well liked films including three big box office hits The Croods, Despicable Me 2Frozen and two obscure beauties: the enormously charming hand drawn Ernest and Celestine about a bear and a mouse who defy convention to become fast friends and roommates and Hayao Miyazaki's unsettlingly gorgeous final film The Wind Rises which is about an aeronautical engineer. Any of these films could have been winners ifFrozen hadn't just exploded upon release, reaching a level of popularity that surprised everyone including Disney. It's only challenger is the Miyazaki but since that Japanese master has already won the Oscar (Spirited Away), there's no compelling reason to deny Disney its biggest hit in decades.

Will WinFrozen
SpoilerThe Wind Rises
Tim's take on this category 

1 OscarCINEMATOGRAPHY
This competition hasn't been a competition ever. Not once this year. Inside Llewyn Davis, The Grandmaster, Nebraska, and especially Prisoners (by the legendary Roger Deakins) are good-looking films but I'd argue this win was wrapped up for Emmanuel Lubezki, one of the world's greatest, since the moment he signed on to Gravity. In the past five years Oscar voters have come to equate cinematography with visual effects, handing both awards to the same film. That's a depressing development since they're different skills by very different craftsmen but you can't win this category anymore without lensing a giant effects epic. But regardless, Lubezki deserves his career Oscar since every single one of his films looks spectacular (Y tu mama tambien, Children of Men, The Little Princess, The Tree of Life, The New World, Sleepy Hollow and more)

Will WinGravity
SpoilerInside Llewyn Davis
My Ballot & Oscar Visual Charts

2 Oscars

 VISUAL EFFECTS
Iron Man has flying costume pieces. The Hobbit has a big-ass dragon. The Lone Ranger has colliding train sets. Star Trek is still Star Trek. But this is all about Gravity which really pushed the envelope of what movies can do technologically. 

 

Will WinGravity
Spoiler: HAHAHAHAHA 
My Ballot & Oscar Visual Charts 

Michael Wilkinson with American Hustle costumes

 

COSTUME DESIGN
Like many Oscar categories, including all four acting fields, "Best" is often interpreted to mean "Most". If Most is the criteria this year they could do a lot worse, and have done a lot worse, than The Great Gatsby. Catherine Martin, Baz Luhrmann's wife, won this category for Moulin Rouge! and she'd be a valid choice again for that pink suit alone. But this is a competitive bunch. If it's not Gatsby it's going to be either the period versimilitude of 12 Years a Slave (by a costuming legend who is now 82!) or the disco-hot duds in American Hustle. The safe bet isGatsby but I'm guessing they'll finally honor costumes of the 1970s. Oscar has generally been unkind to this era when it comes to wins but how can they pass up Most Cleavage when it's presented this wittily and with character-specificity and variety on a bunch of stars at the peak of their beauty and acting powers.

Will Win: American Hustle
SpoilerThe Great Gatsby
My Ballot & Oscar Visual Charts  

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
The Academy's makeup and hairstyling branch killed all the suspense in this category on nomination morning by snubbing American Hustle which everyone expected to be a formidable contender what with those story-telling toupees, pink curlers, and giant sexy mops of hair on JLaw and Amy Adams. So now the only Best Picture nominee in the field (Dallas Buyers Club) has an unobstructed road to gold. Even more incredible is this little factoid making the rounds: the budget for Dallas Buyers Club makeup department was only $250 which is probably less than each Queen is spending on RuPaul's Drag Race... each episode. 

Will WinThe Dallas Buyers Club
SpoilerThe Lone Ranger and Bad Grandpa are the other two nominees and could win if they are really into old age makeup this year.
My Ballot & Oscar Visual Charts 

LIVE ACTION SHORT
Happily the shorts categories have become more popular lately by screening in movie theaters but who will win is usually still a mystery. There are five nominees of course but three that have the kind of buzz that screams potential winner: Just Before Losing Everythingis a tense story of a woman trying to escape her abusive husband, Helium is about a dying little boy and the hospital's janitor, and The Voorman Problem has Bilbo from The Hobbit in it and recognizable stars can help. I'm flipping a coin (three-sided?) and going with the dying boy because it makes people cry rivers and Danish films have done fairly well in the shorts categories over the years.

Will WinHelium
SpoilerJust Before Losing Everything

DOCUMENTARY SHORT
We could debate the merits of each of these for a long time but the fact is that one of them is about the world's oldest living Holocaust survivor (who just died as voting was in process) so it's hard to imagine that one losing. 

Will WinThe Lady in Number 6
SpoilerCavedigger

It'll be 20 Feet... unless the Academy wants something more "important"

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
The Act of Killing, a highly disturbing documentary about mass murderers recreating their kills as if they're making a movie, would be the winner if it were up to critics. But critics don't vote on Oscars. I'm guessing this is a tough battle between an uplifting documentary about backup singers and a heavier one about the Egyptian Revolution that's quite topical right now.

Will Win20 Feet From Stardom
SpoilerThe Square
Glenn's take on this category: Part 1 | Pt 2 | Pt 3 

FOREIGN FILM
If you're voting in a pool go with Italy's The Great Beauty which is the safest choice since it keeps winning prizes and invites comparisons to the great Federico Fellini (who won a handful of Oscars himself). But this category often houses surprises and I can't shake the feeling that either Belgium's The Broken Circle Breakdown which is about bluegrass musicians whose daughter suddenly becomes terminally ill or Denmark's The Hunt is going to upset the favorite. The Hunt stars the great Mads Mikkelsen as a man falsely accused of child molestation. If it wins expect another agonizing round of op-eds about the Woody Allegations, the Academy's love of Woody & Roman Polanski, the court of public opinion, and presumptions of innocence or guilt. Can't wait because there were just too few of them the first time.

Will WinThe Hunt (Denmark)
SpoilerThe Great Beauty (Italy) or The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium)

3 and 4 Oscars

 SOUND MIXING & SOUND EDITING
Technically these are two different categories but since the sound branch and Oscar voters of all branches rarely treat them separately (they usually have very similar nominations and often share a winner) I'm grouping them. Inside Llewyn Davis has great music and there was no single sound better than Oscar Isaac's singing this year. All is Lost, shunned elsewhere, also makes great use of its sound but Gravity will clean up in the tech categories.

 

Will WinGravity
SpoilerCaptain Phillips
My Ballot & Oscar's Sound Categories 


SUPPORTING ACTRESS
June Squibb, the oldest nominee in any category this year at 84, is funny in Nebraska as a totally inappropriate perpetually pissed off old lady but it's not the kind of role that wins. Julia Roberts won "best in show" reviews for August: Osage County but the film isn't well liked and she's already had her day in the Oscar sun. Sally Hawkins is undoubtedly just happy to be nominated for the first time for Blue Jasmine after her horrific snub in 2008 for Happy-Go-Lucky (she should've won the actual Oscar and she wasn't even nominated. Oh the humanity). But this is a two-woman battle. Precursor Season, which stretches from early December through the Spirit Awards the day before the Oscars, has not really declared a winner splitting prizes between Jennifer Lawrence (Globe & BAFTA) & Lupita Nyong'o (SAG & BFCA). Jennifer's gonzo star turn as a shut-in housewife with issues in American Hustle is hugely entertaining and she's the belle of Hollywood's perpetual ball but she did just win last year. The last month has also felt like a coronation for Lupita Nyong'o for her heartbreaking film debut as an abused slave. So how to choose? It helps that Lupita is competing in the acting category most likely to reward someone nobody had heard of before Oscar season and she's aced every red carpet event to become a media darling herself. Don't think that doesn't help. I think she'll win but it's going to be close. 

Will Win: Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave (read our interview)
Spoiler: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
My Ballot & Your Vote in the Reader Poll

FILM EDITING
The easiest way to win an Oscar pool might be to just put Gravity down for everything but despite its below the line strength, here's an interesting tidbit: it hasn't managed to win previous editing competitions. Is it because the shots go on so long and the editing is basically in-camera? Perhaps but I think this is the perfect opportunity to reward the tense exciting Captain Phillips which will otherwise go home empty-handed. Despite the weird Tom Hanks snub in Best Actor, I think they'll want to.

Will WinCaptain Phillips
Spoiler: Gravity
My Ballot & Oscar's Visual Charts


PRODUCTION DESIGN (FORMERLY "ART DIRECTION")
Another nail biter and, I'd argue, the only genuine five-wide race this year. You can make a case for any of them taking the gold. Lately Oscar has preferred super gaudy efforts that scream MOST ART DIRECTION as well as highly computerized efforts which, as with cinematography, aren't really what the category is about. Recent winners include: Avatar, Alice in Wonderland, Hugo  which would suggest that this is a battle between The Great Gatsby and Gravity. But last year Oscar voters went with Lincoln which was neither gaudy nor computerized but just really good at setting the mood and building the world that the actors would inhabit. Is that good news for the 70s bedrooms and hotels and dry cleaners ofAmerican Hustle, the pre-Civil War plantations in 12 Years a Slave or the futuristic Los Angeles of Her? If I had a vote I'd cast it for Her which is enormously convincing in its world-building but totally subtle. But I don't have a vote. 

Will WinThe Great Gatsby
SpoilerGravity

5 Oscars

 ORIGINAL SCORE
Gravity makes a big point of telling us that there's no sound in space. It never explains where that blaring score is coming from but I don't think that's going to matter in a weak field.

 

Will WinGravity
SpoilerPhilomena
My Ballot & Oscar's Sound Chart 

 

ORIGINAL SONG
Pharrel's "Happy" from Despicable Me 2 just went to no 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 so if he wins the Oscar this weekend it's going to easily be the best week ever for him and certainly the first time an Oscar winning song is also the #1 song in the land. But given the billions of YouTube covers of "Let it Go" (my favorites are here) this category has its first genuine phenom nominee in forever and how could they pass that up? U2's Golden Globe for that Mandela song seems like a million years ago in our Frozen era.

Will Win: "Let it Go"
Spoiler: "Happy" 
My Ballot & Oscar's Sound Chart 

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Another toss up race. I think Wolf of Wall Street's improv-friendly quotability could help it here. A lot of people would like to see Before Midnight win. Dallas Buyer's Club fans are fanatically devoted. Philomena never stopped campaigning trotting the real Philomena Lee out to every event and that definitely won't hurt. But since votes will be all over the place, I'm guessing the film with the most best picture heat is the winner. It's worth noting that the filmmakers of 12 Years a Slave won an even better prize than Oscar already. It was recently announced that Solomon Northup's memoirs on which the film is based will be added to high schools in America

Will Win: 12 Years a Slave
Spoiler: Philomena 

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Most signs point to Spike Jonze's 'a man and his operating system' romance taking this one so that's the safe bet. Jonze is well liked and it's very much a writer's film. But I'm risking this one assuming that American Hustle's actor friendly hijinx and very funny dialogue are going to pay off somewhere. Why not here? I'm guessing it just barely ekes out a win. It would be weird if a film that popular went home empty-handed. 

Will WinAmerican Hustle
SpoilerHer

Gravity-direction


6 Oscars

 BEST DIRECTOR
Martin Scorsese (Wolf of Wall Street), Alexander Payne (Nebraska), and David O. Russell (American Hustle) are all perennials in this category but being a perennial is different than winning. The contest is between Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity) who'd be the first Hispanic director to ever win and Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) who'd be the first director of African descent to win. But Hollywood is more likely to reward Cuarón because they love directors who set themselves enormous technical challenges and overcome them. (See also: James Cameron)

 

Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Spoiler: Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave

Queen & King of Hollywood... for the next 12 months at least

BEST ACTRESS
Who will Daniel Day-Lewis hand the Oscar to? It's not much of a mystery. Cate Blanchett's been veritably unbeatable since she first said she was from "New York... [beat] Park Avenue" in Woody Allen's summer-release Blue Jasmine about a shamed suddenly penniless woman on the verge of (another) breakdown. The performance is so mammoth it could almost win in any year. Which leaves Amy Adams still without an Oscar but it happens to the best of them (see: Moore, Close, Bening, Weaver, Pfeiffer, and dozens of other movie goddesses) 

Will Win: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Spoiler: Amy Adams, American Hustle
My Ballot & Your Vote in the Reader's Poll 

BEST ACTOR
If they handed out Oscars for "Hardest Working Campaign" than Bruce Dern would win for his career best work in Nebraska with Leonardo DiCaprio as runner up for his comic debauchery in Wolf of Wall Street - neither have ever stopped campaigning for it. If they handed out Oscars for "Most Moving" than Chiwetel Ejiofor as a freeborn man kidnapped into slavery would win. If they handed out Oscars for "barely recognizable physical transformation" than Christian Bale might factor in for his pot bellied, toupee wearing conman in American Hustle. They hand out Oscars for those reasons sometimes but this year it's going to be a practically unbeatable combo of reasons including "Most Breathtaking Commitment", "Most Emotionally Affecting", and "Best Career Renaissance"  to Matthew McConaughey who lost 47 lbs to play an homophobe rodeo man with AIDS in Dallas Buyers Club. It's worth noting that "True Detective" was all the rage on HBO during voting, reminding voters yet again that we're all better off for the McConaissance that's been going on these past few years. (He's great inDallas, make no mistakebut I'll just pretend the Oscar is for playing "Dallas" in Magic Mike last year because I'd vote for Chiwetel or Dern this time round)

Will Win: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club (read our interview)
Spoiler: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
My Ballot & Your Vote in the Reader's Poll  

BEST PICTURE
The big one. The one people reference for years to become. Best Pictures go in the history books even if they sometimes collect unflattering footnotes like "didn't deserve it" "hasn't aged well" and the like. In this category only the Oscars use something called "preferential voting" which is a very complicated process that's best understood by watching this video from The Wrap.

What this means is that in a tight race between 12 Years a Slave (the important historical drama with 'masterpiece' reviews but no traditional catharsis that Oscar voters often need) and Gravity (the important technological breakthrough with great reviews that might not age well once the next technological breakthrough occurs) the eventual Best Picture winner might well be decided by the fans of films which probably have no chance of winning like HerDallas Buyers Club and Philomena. My guess is 12 Years a Slave wins enough #1 votes that it needs less of the #2s and #3s that Gravity will have less of a problem getting since it's not a particularly divisive film. Either way it'll be close.

Will Win12 Years a Slave
SpoilerGravity
Who do you think SHOULD win? Last chance to vote on the reader poll. 

 

SECOND THOUGHTS ALREADY ? 

Will Win the Most Statues Even If It Loses the Big One: Gravity. Please to note that I fully believe that Gravity has a strong chance of (nearly) sweeping and I've predicted the bare minimum for a statue count (6)... but it could win as many as 9 though that would be a surprising achievement since usually films that win that many are very clear frontrunners (it hasn't happened since Titanic and The English Patient in the 90s and Return of the King which were all indisputable favorites to win Best Picture rather than in tight races). So far this season we've been playing this game at every ceremony wherein during the course of the ceremony everyone is convinced that 12 Years a Slave is going to lose... until it wins. The same thing will play out on Oscar night... until it wins. 

Or doesn't.

Stay tuned. So much drama ahead on Sunday night. And yes I'll be live-tweeting and maybe live-blogging Hollywood's High Holy Night. In some form I will be here. 

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Reader Comments (43)

"usually films that win that many are very clear frontrunners (it hasn't happened since Titanic and The English Patient in the 90s"

Slumdog Millionaire won 8 out of 9 possible (double Best Original Song nominee)
Return of the King swept all 11

February 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterA.J

If the folks at Gold Derby counted Squatter's Rights as a Mickey Mouse film then they'd technically have to count Lend a Paw as one as well. He plays a supporting role in both films but had been billed as a Mickey Mouse film. (The focus in Squatter's Rights is on Pluto and the chipmunks that would become Chip and Dale.) That would make him 1 for 8 before this year.

February 28, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterajnrules

A.J. -- i don't know why people keep bringing up slumdog when I say this. 8 ≠ 9. :) but why do i keep forgetting Return of the King. Boo me.

February 28, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I agree with most of your predictions, but I (sadly) think that Jennifer Lawrence will take BSA and that 'Gravity' will win Best Picture. I just don't think that 12YAS can survive a preferential ballot, unfortunately.

February 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike M.

A.J. -- but also that underlines the point. Slumdog Millionaire was a very clear frontrunner.

February 28, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I agree with most of your choices and reasoning except Foreign (Great Beauty will win), Original Screenplay (its going to Her) and Adapted Screenplay (Philomena).

February 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

I would so rather see Leo win -- unlike Matthew he has always done solid work and never just took a paycheck for the sake of it. Leto is really the only one who deserves kudos.

February 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBia

Nate- I don't quite understand this statement:

"My guess is 12 Years a Slave wins enough #1 votes that it needs less of the #2s and #3s that Gravity will have less of a problem getting since it's not a particularly divisive film. Either way it'll be close."

Are you saying that 12 Years will win on round one of voting or that it's the most likely to receive the highest number of two and three votes on the remaining ballots? Because that's what it needs to win correct?

February 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMichel

Still think "Gatsby' will take both design categories.

February 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoel V

Joel V -- it very well might. so many categories are up in the air this year. I expect to do terribly :)

Michel -- I'm not saying it will win on first round. But just that it will win enough to be ahead of the game so that when 2s and 3s are being counted it will get their the quickest even though Gravity will probably have more 2s and 3s I assume it won't have quite as many #1s.

February 28, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I agree with most of your choices, except I have American Hustle and JLaw winning Best Pic and Supporting Actress and think Her will win Or Screenplay.

However, a different question than usual on here: is there anyway you can change your comment section so you can reply directly underneath someone's comment?

February 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJames

"He's got a HUGE tawent!"

February 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterN8

James -- that's a good question. I'm not sure if i can. but maybe. I am not sure, though, that i like that on other sites but I see why it might be useful.

Anyone Else -- have feelings on that?

February 28, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

@Nathaniel: I had two tags open of this site, and I commented on that on the "My link will go on" page.

February 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMe34

@ Nathaniel - Regarding the comment section, I like the way it's currently set-up. I find other sites where you can reply directly underneath the initial comment is just too messy. Besides, I find the people that leave comments here are usually responding to the corresponding blog post as opposed to each other.

February 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

I'm pulling for Just Before Losing Everything and Possessions in the shorts and hoping for anything other than "starving myself and ugly crying" in best actor and Gravity BP.

February 28, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercatbaskets

Does anyone still think American Hustle will win? I don't know how much McQueen is campaigning (he doesn't seem the type (a huge compliment)), but it seems Russell is everywhere, and it seems like such a Hollywood-type film, just like Argo. So my gut tells me it'll win.

Also, I'm a pessimist, and I disliked it, so maybe it's just unwishful-thinking.

February 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMarsha Mason

No watch Philomena win Best Picture.

Which would be diabolical on a quality-meter basis, but just so damn hilarious on every other basis that I almost want it to happen.

I definitely feel it shouldn't be underestimated in the Adapted Screenplay and Score races.

February 28, 2014 | Unregistered Commentergoran

I've been having a really bad feeling for the past few days that Jennifer Lawrence is gonna take Best Supporting Actress... hope I'm wrong.

February 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

I still think there's going to be at least one big upset this year, but I don't know where it will be. Part of me thinks it might be in Best Actor. And when I say "big upset," I don't mean like Ejiofor winning, because to me, that would only be a minor upset. I think he's close enough behind that it wouldn't be a *huge* shock for him to win. Now, if it doesn't go to either of those two, I know most people would say DiCaprio would be the spoiler, but I personally think Dern is the upset to watch in this category. I mean, it's very unlikely, but my gut tells me it would be Dern rather than DiCaprio in the event of a big upset in Best Actor. He's a respected veteran who has campaigned his ass off, and they clearly love his movie too. I'm not saying it will happen, but I'm just saying this so I can still be a jerk and take credit for it if it does.

But really, I think Best Original Screenplay is where a big upset is most likely to occur, at least out of the big 8 categories. I honestly think it's so tight between American Hustle and Her that it's quite possible that a third contender rises up from the middle and emerges the winner. It could be Nebraska, but I'm leaning more towards Dallas Buyers Club. I know that would be a bit much considering it's already expected to win 3 Oscars and this would make 4, but there's probably enough of a passionate support group for it within the Academy to make it happen *if* it really is that close between Hustle and Her.

February 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEdwin

I like the comments this way. The other way is too messy.

February 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

I like your comments the way they are. I see far more flame wars on sites where you can answer directly and you (thankfully) have few of those.

February 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Yes, exactly what Henry said!

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTravis

edwin -- i've never understood all season why people think Chiwetel has such a good shot. I love his performance but he doesn't have any of the trappings of a winner. He's not overdue (Leo). He's not an aging trouper on his last shot (Dern). He's not in the middle of a career peak reinvention (McConaughey). If it weren't for Bale I would think he's coming in last place.

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

Nathaniel -- The expectation came from the movie being the presumed front runner for best picture giving him a default advantage. He has worked with several prominent auteurs and is well liked and respected from some very marquee name actors in the business.

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

@Edwin: You're describing a "vote-splitting" situation that only works if it's, as you say, a "tight" race between Hustle and Her, but one in which neither one of them is truly *strong*: If there are, say, 6000 votes cast, and Hustle and Her each get around 2000, with one of them (the winner) slightly ahead, the remaining 2000 are split among the other nominees, and none of them can get enough to "rise up from the middle." The only way Dallas (or Nebraska) wins, as I see it, is if it's stronger than both Hustle and Her from the gitgo, regardless of how "tight" their race is. (In that version of my 6000 vote scenario, Dallas gets around 2000, Hustle and Her around 1500 each, Nebraska gets about 700 and Blue Jasmine the rest.

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I love 12 years a slave, but i'm not blown away by lupita's performance, I think people reward the role more than the peformance itself. She is barely in the movie, and she has not a lot to do. The 4 minute scene of torture is horrendous but she didn't do anything special than we already have seen in many other movies. I think Sally Hawkins gives the most subtle performance, Julia's performance is very theatrical but she's very good, June Squibb is very funny but nothing spectacular, and Jennifer Lawrence is a complete scene-stealer. She has a showy part in a not very good movie, and gives something very substancial and funny enough, very reliable. She trusts a lot her instincts. I'm torn between Sally and Jennifer, and I'm very unhappy that Sally is barely in the conversation.

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCole

I'm afraid Fassbender is one of those actors who will never get an oscar because the thinking is that he's always so good that "he'll get one eventually," so let's vote for this other guy; and because he is based in England and therefore can't campaign during the 6 months-long Oscar season (and doesn't in any case seem willing to be idle for six months). I hope at the end of his career he'll refuse the lame lifetime achievement award that will probably come his way.

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnnie

Cole -Firstly, my nephew is named Cole.

Secondly, I also wish that Sally Hawkins was more in the conversation. Hers really is the definition of a Supporting Role. I'm hoping that the people who don't want to give Jennifer another Oscar yet, and think that Lupita isn't in her movie enough, will tick Sally's name.

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRobMiles

I don't think that Gravity will look dated when other people use it's technology. I think it will look even better in retrospect, as others fumble with the technology and make movies that have no heart. Cuaron's pictures are always about more than the technology, they are elegant, humane, and well thought out. That particular combination is very rare.

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Just a quibble that's been bugging me all Awards Season:

Gravity is NOT science-fiction. It's set in space, but not everything set in space is science fiction, which should involve futuristic technology or some similarly imaginative and fictional elements. Thank god Cuaron just declared as such in an interview so I know I'm not crazy.

My favorite Oscar podcast and website, Nathaniel. Thanks for the always great, thorough and witty work!

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnne

Anne -- i know that people keep saying this but i guarantee you the same crowd that loves it and makes this point now is going to be like "a science fiction film finally won!!!!" with pride if it does.

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I know it's your blog, but I'm not particularly fond of the way you throw shade here or there for your favorites in the -supposedly more objective- predictions. Not as in who you'd like to see win (you're in your very right for that) but as to how your opinion of a film (and perceived weakness) might actually hinder its chances to win.

In here "12 Years a Slave (the important historical drama with 'masterpiece' reviews but no traditional catharsis that Oscar voters often need) and Gravity (the important technological breakthrough with great reviews that might not age well once the next technological breakthrough occurs"

I am a bit annoyed at how you just try to discredit everything that Gravity has to its favor, or its accomplishments. Basically reading "it's between this awesome, correct pick that will go down in history as such and that other thing that clearly will". My argument is it harms a bit credibility of the writing. Since last time I checked Gravity was at an almost equal level of reviews as 12 Years a Slave, so for example, I'm not sure what merits that "masterpiece" reviews for 12YaS but "great" for Gravity.

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Steve -- i've never claimed to be an objective journalist who just warns to report facts. It's an opinion site and art will always be a subjective topic. I thought i was being somewhat fair there (since i mentioned the issue people have 12 years) but reading it back yeah, it is kind of "oh, he does not like Gravity" - haha. so i see your point.

But i do not discredit everything about Gravity. If you look at my own awards in progress, it's also finding multiple nominations in technical categories and will definitely have some gold medals to its name. I am not, unlike Oscars and other awards bodies, the type that will discredit an entire film just because i don't like it as a whole. I think Gravity is super average in terms of emotional affect and story and screenplay and all that but it's a total "A" in its craft elements.

March 1, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Anne:

did Cuaron say it recently? Cause that has been bothering me ALL SEASON. It kept getting nominated in the sci-fi categories and I was always like "but where's the science fiction in that?" . It's a completely contemporary movie, with no scientific elements we don't have right now.

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLucky

I see what you're saying, Nathaniel. Well, my Oscar wish would be that both fans and detractors will crow using genre-accurate terms. It will still be remarkable if a "space themed film" or "special effects-driven film" takes home best pic.
(For what its worth, I adore Gravity and 12 Years and was tremendously moved in very different ways by both. I'm routing for 12 Years to take it tomorrow, but would love some miraculous deus ex machina Best Pic tie.)

Here it is, Lucky:
from 2/28/14
http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-26381335

Cuaron: "To be honest, I never thought I was doing a science fiction movie," he told the BBC in an exclusive interview in Los Angeles.
"I thought I was doing a drama of a woman in space....I don't think the film is a science fiction film in the sense that it takes place in the present with technology that exists...We heighten the reality because obviously there are plausibility issues, but I'm happy with whichever label [it has]."

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnne

A) I agree with Mark Harris on the "vote-splitting" theories. It really only makes sense if you have two nominees with a similar fanbase (i.e., if Redford and Dern were the frontrunners up against each other, I could imagine it).

B) The BP race comes down to two questions for me: 1) Which film out of American Hustle, Gravity, and 12 Years a Slave is likely to finish in third place?; and 2) Which of the remaining two films will that film's voters prefer? Those redistributed ballots in the final round will likely determine the winner in a race that's closely divided to that point, as I imagine this one will be.

For me, I'm betting AH gets eliminated in third and, based on simulations I've seen across the net, its ballots will favor Gravity slightly more than 12 Years a Slave.

But I could of course be wrong. This is the first year where I've not cared how well I do on my predictions, largely because so many categories are up in the air or total shots in the dark.

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

I just saw " 12 Years A Slave" it's one of those movie one respectfully admires but never really likes- yes it's well directed , written and acted. But I found black characters too passive ( yes yes I know that is what the evil of slavery has done to them) And are the two kidnappers suppose to be swishy gays? Would a white director had gotten away with so much brutal whipping?! And I was distracted by Brad Pitt in the role of the good white man. This was like Masterpiece Theater version of "Mandingo"

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

Fantastic work as always Nathaniel- Once again you prove to be one of the top 3 sites I visit every year for the Academy Awards. Keep up the rich and exceptional work. And I am HUGGING You from afar when Cate Blanchett prevails!
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FINAL PREDICTIONS – March 1, 2014

BEST PICTURE: Gravity

It’s been a back and forth battle for me all season; this is arguably the toughest Best Picture race to call since 2000, when we had Gladiator vs. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon vs. Traffic. Here are five reasons why I have switched from 12 Years a Slave to Gravity at the last minute. It’s bold, it’s crazy- and I’m probably wrong. But my gut says otherwise. My heart though (eg Carrie Bradshaw channeling now) – my heart says 12 Years a Slave. But my reasoning to join the dark forces of outer space:

1) Gravity is clearly going to win in other key categories, including Best Director. It’s also locked down in places like Visual Effects, Sound and Sound Mixing, and Cinematography. We feel comfortable knowing it’s going home with more Oscars than any other movie. It’s also solid for places like Original Score and Film Editing. In fact- the only two categories it doesn’t seem to be close for are Production Design and Best Actress. 12 Years a Slave, on the other hand, is shaky in ALL categories it competes for. Best Supporting Actress seemed like Lupita’s to lose, until Jennifer Lawrence won the Globe and BAFTA. Now it’s a toss up. Adapted Screenplay seems like Ridley’s to lose, until Philomena started gaining last-minute steam. People seem passionate about the later film, they WANT to reward it some place. After these two categories, 12 Years a Slave is an underdog at best- Best Director probably won’t go to McQueen; Chiwetel Ejiofor most likely won’t win Best Actor; Production Design and Costumes most likely will go elsewhere. Film Editing would be a surprise. So in terms of where both movies sit leading up to the final prize, Gravity is more comfortable.

2) Gravity will win Best Director. Yes, we’ve known this for months now. But that doesn’t stop it from being any less obvious or prestigious. Most films that win here, win Best Picture. Last year was an odd exception. Before last year, it was when Crash came out of left field because arguably voters weren’t ready for a “gay” film to be top dice. But will voters split two years in a row? And has that ever happened?

3) 12 Years a Slave is still heavily divided. Camps that like it, love it. Those that don’t are either too afraid to watch the whole thing, or abstain their votes all together. With such a tight race, that is not a good factor.

4) Preferential Ballot. Which film is gnarring most number 2s, which seems to be the golden number? My bet is Gravity still is high. There’s also the business of where American Hustle lies in this mess, and if it will take key votes away from 12 Years a Slave. In a year of circling winners, I would say McQueen’s film takes the cake. In a year of a weighted system like this- where we truly have a race, I just think it bolds better in the Gravity camp.

5) Luck. This is just one of those years where a lot of theories should be tossed out of the window. It’s a nailbiter until the envelope is opened. The fact that I have changed my prediction four times this season shows how close this is. I will be happy with either outcome. But my final conclusion is that based on the two films, based on the over-all academy- Gravity has just a few more supporters to give it the edge. We’ll know soon.

BEST DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

This could be flipped, and Steve McQueen takes director and his movie- Best Picture. But I think the Director’s Guild win plus the assertion that people truly rally behind this pick, are going to favor Cuaron’s masterpiece of vision.

BEST ACTOR: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

I had Leonardo DiCaprio pegged for a few weeks, and Tom O’Neil still makes me want to keep him in. But I just can’t get over that BAFTA loss- this was his chance to take a significant lead. Plus I think the obsession with Leo getting his Oscar lies mainly within the Internet and blogging world. He would get my vote in a heartbeat, but the Oscar voters think differently. If you’re going to be a pretty boy winning the Oscar, you have to play ugly- which is what McConaughey does. Plus the HBO show doesn’t hurt. Plus he’s IN Leo’s film. And much like Bullock in 2009, voters are wowed that “he finally shows us he can be serious.” Both performers consistently starred in fluff UNTIL their Oscar projects (and I know Bullock had Crash), but you know what I mean. DiCaprio has grown up with the industry, so they might just view him as a solid member of the team that doesn’t need one yet. Who knows. It’s a win-win situation for me; if Leo loses, I got my prediction right. If Leo wins, I’ll jump for joy. Some talk of Ejiofor upsetting is possible, but not likely.

BEST ACTRESS: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

This is an example of something that will happen, and something I NEED to happen. I have been rooting for her since I saw this in the summer. Best performance in this category since Theron ten years ago. And yet why am I still nervous? Will be the highlight of my night.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Barkhad Abdi could spoil, but Leto has been the surest thing for me since he began sweeping the critics. And the role is also very key and emotional. Who says two guys can’t win for the same movie? Mystic River did this ten years ago, and like 2003 we also had the best female performance in a while (Theron) take it, like Blanchett this year. Crazy theories we come up with when we’ve analyzed the race to death.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

A very wobbly prediction, and I am close to swapping her for Lawrence. But I think voters will be warmed up enough by Nyongo’s freshness and strength in her role, to allow her to pull through. Still- Lawrence has a lot going for her, and precursors aside- she’s also the It girl of Hollywood, in a well loved movie that’s all about the actors, and playing a very appropriate role for older males- sex goddess who kisses Amy Adams in the bathroom. Grandpa members love this stuff, believe me. And- I can’t get the inkling out of my head that SAG and Oscar will match up 4/4. Is there an oddball out? Does June Squibb maybe steal it last second? I’ll stand by Lupita for now.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: 12 Years a Slave, John Ridley

Again- are the tides changing and Philomena wins? A close race too. I keep reading that voters “will feel obligated to give 12 Years” best screenplay, to validate it’s best picture win. Maybe in an Argo year where there wasn’t a clear alternative. But this year we have Gravity- not a Screenplay nominee- that is obviously the competition. So voters may want to just check off what they like. And they adore Philomena, and it is a Best Picture nominee (something I feel we often forget with such a crowded field of 9 contenders- does being a best picture nominee lose it’s value with extra nominees?) I’ll go for Ridley- barely.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: American Hustle, David O. Russell and Eric Singer

And so, after long battles with other users and people alike- I have swapped out Spike Jonze’s original brilliance of Her, for the horrid but well publicized American Hustle- which I don’t think leaves empty handed Sunday. And yep- it’s time to reward David O. Russell, I guess. If I get this right, I will still not be happy. But If I’m wrong, best believe you’ll see smiles.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Gravity

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: The Great Gatsby

Decided Her was too risky, and 12 Years a Slave too subtle. They will probably give this something, so I bank on the sets. But I am still not sold here – and I also think there’s strong possibility that Gravity wins here as well.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN: 12 Years a Slave

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING: Dallas Buyers Club

BEST SOUND MIXING: Gravity

BEST SOUND-EDITING: Gravity

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Gravity

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Gravity

BEST SONG: “Ordinary Love” (U2), from Long Walk to Freedom

I am sticking to my original notion that this will still take the pie. It’s U2, it won the Golden Globe and it’s got a political relevance- much like Melissa Etheridge’s “I Need to Wake Up” managed to do in 2006 from An Inconvenient Truth. Mind you- this song managed to trump a song from animated flick Cars and 3 (count ‘em) songs from Dreamgirls, including the one I thought had a shot- “Listen”. So don’t underestimate the power of political venues like this, and also that Harvey is a big plugger. “Happy” could spoil, and that would be A okay with me.

BEST FILM EDITING: Gravity

I was originally on the Captain Phillips boat literally- and Kris Tapley makes a good point when he observes that voters often go for more traditionalized editing- in which case the Tom Hanks thriller wins hands down. But I suspect that the love for Gravity and appreciation for it being a technical marvel, squeaks it by.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: The Great Beauty (Italy)

Not positive about this pick at all; I hear a lot of folks claiming voters respect it, but not necessarily like it. This is also a category where upsets happen. So look out.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: Frozen

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: 20 Feet from Stardom

With new rules- and allowing all 6,000 voters to select their favorites in all categories, this much more uplifting movie probably trumps The Act of Killing, but who knows.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT: The Lady In Number 6: Music Saved My Life

BEST ANIMATED SHORT: Get a Horse

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT: Helium

Many have The Voorman Problem but perhaps it’s another herd mentality; I think voters will have soft hearts for Helium, which not only boasts a beautiful story but also impressive special effects.

WILL ELLEN SHINE?

I predict Ellen DeGeneres will be a welcome addition compared to last year’s controversial Seth McFarlane. However, I still think we’re in for a very safe and sweet comic presentation from her; much like her last round.

STANDING OVATIONS?

I think of the acting winners I am predicting, Lupita Nyong’o and Matthew McConaughey will get them- just a hunch. I think Blanchett could, but at the Globes and SAG awards she didn’t and I feel the audience views her as a Helen Mirren or Charlize Theron- the best in show, but no need to stand (I would Stand and Cheer after everything she went through this season). I also think Steve McQueen will get one if he wins Director/and or his film wins Picture.

GOOD LUCK EVERYONE! AN EXCITING RACE FACES US

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJason Travis

My big fear of the night... Amy Adams... If she wins over Cate Blanchett is the end of Oscar. The sentimental factor could make this possible.

Cate is stunning in "Blue Jasmine". I want to see her with the best Actress award this night!

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEloy

Nat, my predictions line up pretty much with yours, except for four categories:

LIVE ACTION SHORT - I'm going with Avant de tout perdre, as it's by far the best of the bunch. (I sort of liked Helium, but found it really too sappy.) Incidentally, in one of your other posts, some people were saying that they'd like to see a feature length version of Avant de tout perdre. Well, this short was the only one of the five that was really, trully complete in itself...there's no need for a feature length version; that would only ruin it, IMHO.

FEATURE DOCUMENTARY - I'm going with The Act of Killing, which was one of the most impressive films of the year, all categories combined.

FOREIGN FILM - This is the first year ever that I've seen all five nominees before Oscar Night, and frankly, I wouldn't be unhappy if any of the five came out on top. However, I'm predicting The Great Beauty...which you really, really have to see...and in a theatre, not on a screener.

PRODUCTION DESIGN - I think Gravity will take this one, in its run of technically-oriented awards.

I'll be reading your blog during the ceremony, so bring it on!

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBill_the_Bear

Oops, we actually disagree in a fifth category: I'm predicting Philomena for Best Original Score. Granted, it's not Desplat's best, but at least I found it quite memorable, which I can't say about the score for Gravity. Besides, it's about time that Desplat won for something!

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBill_the_Bear

Mconaughey -alright. alright . alright. Please academy give the statue to
Bruce Chewetel or even Leo. Matthew gives chalk on blackboard speech. Enough already..

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMark

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