It’s that time of year again. We sat through all the buildup: the film festivals, the deluge of “prestige” films released at the end of the year, and a spat of awards shows allowing actors to share the acceptance speeches they’ve been rehearsing in their minds since they first stepped onto the set. Now, it’s time for the big show: the Oscars.
One of the most fun parts of following the Oscars is playing prognosticator. Everyone has their personal favourites and predictions of the winners of the big awards. So, here’s a breakdown of some of the major categories and our guesses about how they’ll pan out.
Nominated: 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, The Wolf of Wall Street
Will win: 12 Years a Slave
Should win: Her
Since the project was announced, 12 Years a Slave seemed primed for Oscar glory, as cynical and simplistic as that may sound. But in the same way that Crash and Schindler’s List were deemed culturally important and thus awarded Best Picture, 12 Years a Slave will likely become the next film that the academy fêtes for its social consciousness. Thankfully, 12 Years a Slave also happens to be an impeccably crafted film, so it would certainly be deserving of the honour.
12 Years a Slave might be the obvious frontrunner, but there are a couple of other films in this diverse group that could pull off a surprise win. Gravity ended up being a rare blockbuster with the artistry and vision required for Oscar glory. Meanwhile, the gaudy American Hustle has been a true crowd pleaser, and with 10 nominations it’s bound to pick up something. Even Dallas Buyers Club and The Wolf of Wall Street ended up scooping up more Oscar nominations than expected, so there’s obviously plenty of support for them.
While they may not have a chance of winning, it’s also nice to see a couple of smaller, more low-key films, like Spike Jonze’s Her and Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, find a spot in the list of Best Picture nominees. Of course, they still have big-name directors and relatively large budgets, while lower-profile, equally worthy projects like The Place Beyond the Pines, Fruitvale Station, and Mud were shut out entirely. Nonetheless, the relative diversity of the nominees is refreshing.
Nominated: Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity), Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), Alexander Payne (Nebraska), David O. Russell (American Hustle), Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Will win: Alfonso Cuaron
Should win: Steve McQueen
If 12 Years a Slave takes Best Picture, logic suggests that McQueen would also take home Best Director. But last year’s split between Best Picture and Best Director showed the two categories don’t always align. This paves the way for Cuaron, who has already won the Golden Globe and the Director’s Guild award. Then again, this is Russell and Payne’s third nominations in this category, and each is without a win, so some may see them as more deserving than first-time directing nominees Cuaron and McQueen.
Nominated: Christian Bale (American Hustle), Bruce Dern (Nebraska), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
Will win: Matthew McConaughey
Should win: Chiwetel Ejiofor
Most wonder why DiCaprio hasn’t won an Oscar yet, and his performance in The Wolf of Wall Street is probably the best shot he’s had in a while. Ejiofor is also a threat with his performance in 12 Years a Slave. However, McConaughey’s recent career reinvention and an impressive turn in the well-liked Dallas Buyers Club will make him tough to beat.
Nominated: Amy Adams (American Hustle), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
Will win: Cate Blanchett
Should win: Cate Blanchett
Everyone in this category has an Oscar to their name except Adams, and with the way things are shaping up, Adams may have to settle for the honour of being a five-time nominee. She does have an outside shot at the win, but things seem aligned for Blanchett to scoop up a second Oscar for her brilliant Blanche DuBois–inspired role in Blue Jasmine.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Nominated: Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), Bradley Cooper (American Hustle), Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave), Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street), Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Will win: Jared Leto
Should win: Bradley Cooper
Fassbender was once thought to be a strong contender in this category, but his refusal to campaign this Oscar season has all but put him out of the running. Leto, meanwhile, has been everywhere (and winning awards along the way). And certainly, his sensitive and subtle turn as a transgender woman in Dallas Buyers Club is a great reminder of just how wonderful Leto can be with the right material. Perhaps just for the sake of being a contrarian, though, my personal favourite is Cooper. To me his madcap, brazen performance felt like the only one in American Hustle that was a comfortable fit with the film’s “bigger is better” aesthetic.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Nominated: Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave), Julia Roberts (August: Osage County), June Squibb (Nebraska)
Will win: Lupita Nyong’o
Should win: Lupita Nyong’o
The closest Oscar race right now is arguably for Best Supporting Actress, where the young and impossibly talented Lawrence and Nyong’o are running neck and neck. The fact that Lawrence is a frontrunner is a little baffling to me, since she felt rather miscast in American Hustle and was saddled with a cliché, underdeveloped character. But while it’s possible that Lawrence will win her second Oscar in two consecutive years, I think the academy’s votes will still come out in Nyong’o’s favour thanks to her unflinching work in 12 Years a Slave.