A visual stunner about the terrifying dilemma of being adrift in space. A harrowing exploration of slavery in the years before the Civil War. A dramedy depicting the true story of when con men, mobsters, and politicians clashed in New Jersey more than 30 years ago.
Those are the top three films vying for the most attention this Oscar season. As for the rest of the contenders? There are plenty — especially in the Best Actor and Supporting Actor categories.
We’ll know who’s in on Thursday morning when the 2014 Academy Award nominations are announced. Until then, allow Pop-Break’s resident awards guru Brent Johnson and film editor Daniel Cohen to predict who’ll have their names called.
Prediction: American Hustle, Blue Jasmine, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity; Her, Nebraska, Saving Mr. Banks, 12 Years A Slave, The Wolf Of Wall Street
Possible Spoilers: Blue Is The Warmest Color, Philomena, Rush, Inside Llewyn Davis, Lee Daniels’ The Butler
Notes: Anywhere from five to 10 films can be nominated, depending on how many votes they get. Expect a full 10 this time, since 2013 was a solid year for film. The only locks are American Hustle, Gravity, and 12 Years A Slave, but Captain Phillips, Her, and Nebraska are just behind, while the buzz for Dallas Buyers Club, Saving Mr. Banks, and The Wolf Of Wall Street should be loud enough for them to make it, too. So if there is indeed a 10th and final slot, who takes it? Even though the haunting Llewyn Davis is my pick for the year’s best film — and the Academy often loves the Coen Brothers — it hasn’t gotten much attention from the guild awards, which makes it a weak candidate here. That means the real surprise pick could be Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, which isn’t on many prognosticator’s lists but was another strong late-career effort from another one of the Academy’s most beloved auteurs. The biggest possible spoilers are the charming Philomena or the foreign film Blue Is The Warmest Color, though there may not be a big enough voting bloc to push either through.
Predictions: 12 Years A Slave, American Hustle, Blue Jasmine, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, The Wolf Of Wall Street
Notes: Due to its stupid controversy, The Wolf Of Wall Street isn’t a lock, but it should be fine. I included Dallas Buyers Club because the performances have garnered the film a lot of attention, and a couple guild nominations (Producers and Writers) doesn’t hurt either. Blue Jasmine is my wild card entry — there’s always at least one random movie not released at the end of the year that gets thrown in. I know everybody wants it to be Lee Daniels’ The Butler, but my money’s on Blue Jasmine.
What doesn’t get in? Saving Mr. Banks and Inside Llewyn Davis. Saving Mr. Banks is a nice little film, but with this being such a competitive year, there’s just no room for it. em>Inside Llewyn Davis was my last cut. Even though the Academy has a love affair with the Coen Brothers, with zero guild nominations across the board, it just doesn’t seem likely.
Prediction: Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity), Spike Jonze (Her), Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave), Alexander Payne (Nebraska), David O. Russell (American Hustle)
Possible Spoilers: Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips), Martin Scorsese (The Wolf Of Wall Street), Joel & Ethan Coen (Inside Llewyn Davis)
Notes: This was the wacky category last year, when Ben Affleck’s name was shockingly absent on the morning of the nominations. Will there be a similar uproar this time? Not likely. The Directors Guild’s awards — which until last year traditionally mirrored the Oscars pretty closely — picked Cuaron, Greengrass, McQueen, Russell, and Scorsese. But the powerful directors’ branch of the Academy has tended to skew more avant-garde in recent years. In that case, sub Jonze in for Greengrass. And because reaction to Scorsese’s lengthy tale of debauchery has been divisive, that leaves room for Payne’s touching, more personal work to slip in.
Predictions: Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity), Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave), Spike Jonze (Her), David O. Russell (American Hustle), Martin Scorsese (The Wolf Of Wall Street)
Notes: Other than Best Actor, this was easily the most difficult category. Nothing would surprise me here (Ben Affleck/Kathryn Bigelow anyone?). I gave a spot to Scorsese because I just can’t imagine the majority of Academy voters looking at the ballot and saying, “Eh, I’m leaving Scorsese out.” So we basically have three guys left for that fifth spot: Paul Greengrass ), Spike Jonze, and Alexander Payne. Greengrass seemed like a sure thing for months, but I think the Academy will want to give one spot to the “little movie that could,” and because Her has a slight better chance of winning Best Picture over Nebraska, and because it’s gaining momentum, and hell, maybe it’s just wishful thinking on my part … I’m going with Spike!
Prediction: Bruce Dern (Nebraska), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf Of Wall Street), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave), Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
Possible Spoilers: Robert Redford (All Is Lost), Christian Bale (American Hustle), Joaquin Phoenix (Her), Forrest Whitaker (Lee Daniels’ The Butler), Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis), Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station), Idris Elba (Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom)
Notes: If only this category had 10 spots. In possibly the tightest Best Actor race in ages, the only locks are Ejiofor and McConaughey. But Hanks is close behind for his best year since 2000. (Can you believe he hasn’t scored an Oscar nod since Castaway 13 years ago?) As for the final two slots, Dern will likely grab the veteran’s nom away from Redford, who has been largely absent from the campaign trail. And while Bale’s performance is arguable more nuanced, DiCaprio has gained momentum lately for his manic turn. Then again, he is often snubbed by the Academy, so who knows?
Predictions: Bruce Dern (Nebraska), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf Of Wall Street), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave), Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
Notes: Where the hell do I begin? In one of the most insane Oscar races in years, let’s talk about who didn’t get in. I know Forest Whitaker got a SAG nomination, but whatever, that’s not happening. Christian Bale and Joaquin Phoenix gave extraordinary performances, and in any other year they would be locks, but not in 2013. As for Robert Redford, All Is Lost just isn’t getting enough attention, but more importantly Bruce Dern fills the “Old guy with a legendary career” quota, and there just isn’t room for both. While I think DiCaprio could actually win this award, I’m extremely nervous about him just getting in the race. It’s hard to call a snub in this category, but let me just say this: If DiCaprio gets screwed, I’m going to have a hard time taking the Academy Awards seriously this year.
Prediction: Amy Adams (American Hustle), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)
Possible Spoilers: Meryl Streep (August: Osage County), Brie Larson (Short Term 12)
Notes: Can you imagine a Best Actress race that shuns Streep? It could happen. Blanchett and Bullock are locks — with Blanchett the early favorite to win — and Dench and Thompson are trailing closely. That leaves Adams and Streep battling for the final spot. Adams is likely to nab it, since she’s been gaining steam and Streep gave an scenery-chewing performance in a film that has received lackluster reviews.
Predictions: Amy Adams (American Hustle), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)
Notes: Judi Dench is pretty much a lock, but there’s a teeny bit of doubt. This category is certainly a lot simpler than Best Actor. The only question is will it be Meryl Streep, or Amy Adams for that last spot? It’s tough cutting out Streep, but I think she has enough accolades already, and with American Hustle picking up insane momentum, Adams should get it.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Prediction: Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), Bradley Cooper (American Hustle), Michael Fassbender (12 Years A Slave), James Gandolfini (Enough Said), Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Possible Spoilers: Daniel Bruhl (Rush), Jonah Hill (The Wolf Of Wall Street), Tom Hanks (Saving Mr. Banks), Colin Farrell (Saving Mr. Banks)
Notes: Yet another crowded race. Fassbender and Leto are two locks that are likely to fight for the statue come Oscar night. After that, Abdi is the closest, and Gandolfini is likely to draw posthumous votes for his tender final turn. The final slot? Cooper’s maniac FBI agent might just beat Bruhl, a little-known actor in an underperforming film. But never count out surprises in the supporting categories. That means Hill, Hanks, or even Farrell — who was amazingly underrated in Disney’s film — might make it.
Predictions: Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), Bradley Cooper (American Hustle), Michael Fassbender (12 Years A Slave), James Gandolfini (Enough Said), Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Notes: I wasn’t buying into the whole James Gandolfini sympathy card, but after seeing him get a SAG nomination, that swayed me. For the fifth spot, it’s between Cooper and Daniel Bruhl . With American Hustle gaining momentum, and nobody caring about Rush, it will be Cooper. I wouldn’t be shocked if Barkhad Abdi got left out, though.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Prediction: Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years A Slave), June Squibb (Nebraska), Oprah Winfrey (Lee Daniels’ The Butler)
Possible Spoilers: Octavia Spencer (Fruitvale Station), Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
Notes: The locks are Lawrence, Nyong’o, and Squibb — and any of them could end up winning. Though Winfrey was famously snubbed by the Golden Globes, she should make the cut here. The final slot may be the biggest surprise: I have a hunch the talented but never-nominated Hawkins will pop up in a category that often packs the most shocks — edging out Spencer in a little-seen film and Roberts in a modestly received picture.
Predictions: Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years A Slave), Julia Roberts (August: Osage County), June Squibb (Nebraska)
Notes: Blue Jasmine getting a couple guild nominations should bump Hawkins into the race, leaving that fifth spot between Oprah Winfrey and Julia Roberts. I went with Roberts because its been a while since she’s been nominated, and August: Osage County has been making a late season push in all categories. Sorry, Oprah. BUT … don’t be surprised if Octavia Spencer made a surprise appearance in this category.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Prediction: Eric Warren Singer & David O. Russell (American Hustle), Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine) Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack (Dallas Buyers Club), Spike Jonze (Her), Bob Nelson (Nebraska)
Possible Spoilers: Alfonso Cuaron & Jonas Cuaron (Gravity), Joel & Ethan Coen, (Inside Llewyn Davis)
Notes: Expect to see the stellar scripts to American Hustle, Her, and Nebraska have their names called, while Woody Allen’s most topical screenplay ever should score him his 16th nomination in this category. The last slot will be a battle between Dallas Buyers Club — this year’s underdog champion — and Gravity, which many saw as more of a technical achievement.
Predictions: Eric Warren Singer & David O. Russell (American Hustle), Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine), Craig Borten &Melisa Wallack (Dallas Buyers Club), Spike Jonze (Her), Bob Nelson (Nebraska)
Notes: Everything here is pretty much set, with the only question being Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack for Dallas Buyers Club, or the Coen Brothers for Inside Llewyn Davis competing for that last spot. I’m giving the bump to the Dallas Buyers Club team, who also got the WGA nomination. If Gravity gets nominated in the screenplay category, I will lose all faith in humanity.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Prediction: Richard Linklater, July Delpy, and Ethan Hawke (Before Midnight), Billy Ray (Captain Phillips), Steve Coogan & Jeff Pope (Philomena), John Ridley (12 Years A Slave), Terence Winter (The Wolf Of Wall Street)
Possible Spoilers: Tracy Letts (August: Osage County), Peter Berg (Lone Survivor), Abdellatif Kechiche & Ghalia Lacroix (Blue Is The Warmest Color)
Notes: This is one of the more unpredictable categories — with 12 Years A Slave being the only lock, followed by Before Midnight and Philomena. Captain Phillips is probably in, though some questioned its accuracy. The Wolf Of Wall Street is also likely, though its liberal use of the F-word put off some. Still, don’t be shocked if Lone Survivor pulls off an upset, considering this category has also been known for surprises.
Predictions: Tracy Letts (August: Osage County), Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke (Before Midnight), Billy Ray (Captain Phillips), Steve Coogan & Jeff Pope (Philomena), John Ridley (12 Years A Slave)
Notes: Before Midnight is very screenplay friendly for the Academy, and while I haven’t seen August: Osage County yet, it feels like a quintessential screenplay nominee. This is the category where Academy members will shrug their shoulders at The Wolf Of Wall Street and snub Terence Winter.