Predicting the Academy Awards

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 12.56.22 PMThe Academy is in for a long night. The ballots have already been cast but the story has yet to be told. The different directions the night could take, and Monday morning water cooler conversations that follow, are as exciting as they are unpredictable.

Will members deliver a surprising American Hustle domination and award the film a heavyweight sweep in all of the major categories (best picture, director, screenplay, actor, actress, supporting actor & actress)? Perhaps Gravity will emerge victorious and win literally all the editing and sound categories with a best picture, director and actress thrown in to boot. Or maybe 12 Years a Slave, the best picture frontrunner, goes on a winning tear? Better yet, what if delightful films like Her or Philomena emerge from the depths of nowhere and rise to the top? Oh the possibilities!!!

Sadly, even with all the opportunities and potential story-lines that abound, the truth is that the golden statues will likely follow the expected. Tremendous films like The Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club and, most of all, Nebraska, will likely play second fiddle all night to the  powerhouses American Hustle, Gravity and 12 Years a Slave. There is true competition for a handful of awards, including major ones like best picture and original screenplay but as viewers have come to expect, expect the expected when it comes to the Oscars.

If viewers are lucky, at least one major surprise will be thrown like June Squibb winning best supporting actress or The Wind Rises besting Frozen but if any surprises are on behalf of the stunningly terrible Captain Phillips, viewers really will be better off with the expected. Either way, if the evening is boring, just play Oscar bingo and get tanked playing Oscar drinking games. Entertainment is on the way regardless.

As for the following Oscar predictions, use the “What will win” section when filling out your (printable) ballot. And cross check it with the Huffington Post’s fool proof predictions if you want to really ensure your victory. Note, a few of the categories are true toss-ups, so on those, just cross your fingers, drink your wine and you’ll be just fine!

best-pictureBEST PICTURE: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street
What will win: 12 Years a Slave. Clear frontrunner after sweeping previous award ceremonies.
What ought to win: Nebraska. A true dark-horse without any hope of winning.
What could win: Gravity. The epic space film has real momentum and a genuine opportunity to unseat the heavy favorite.

BEST DIRECTOR: David O. Russell, (American Hustle), Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity), Alexander Payne (Nebraska), Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Who will win: Alfonso Cuaron. Created a visionary work of art and the Academy will absolutely reward him for it. 
Who ought to win: Alfonso Cuaron.
Who could win: Steven McQueen. The subject matter is dark but the deft hand of McQueen gives him a fighting chance.

BEST ACTOR: 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)
Who will win: Matthew McConaughey. The McConaisssance continues former romantic comedy star brings home the big prize for his shocking, powerful performance.
Who ought to win: Bruce Dern. Unmatchable, quietly powerful performance.
Who could win: Leonardo DiCaprio or Bruce Dern. Both actors deserve wins for their impressive body of work alone and one might very well be rewarded for it.

BEST ACTRESS: Amy Adams (American Hustle), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
Who will win: Cate Blanchett. Overwhelming favorite.
Who ought to win: Cate Blanchett. She’s the vehicle that drives Blue Jasmine.
Who could win: Amy Adams or perhaps even Sandra Bullock. Both have their supporters and strong Oscar profiles but this is Blanchett’s category to lose.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: 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)
Who will win: Jared Leto. Clear leader in a two horse race with newcomer Barkhad Abdi.
Who ought to win: Jared Leto. A pure joy to watch and after 6 years away from acting, he couldn’t have come back more impressively. Simply superb.
Who could win: Barkhad Abdi. Would be truly shocking for this first time actor to claim victory but he has many supporters.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave), Julia Roberts (August: Osage County), June Squibb (Nebraska)
Who will win:Lupita Nyong’o. Another newcomer but unlike Abdi, the impeccably dressed and immensely likeable actress is sure to win.
Who ought to win: Lupita Nyong’o. How is she a first-time actor?
Who could win: Jennifer Lawrence. Academy favorite who is won a golden statue last year and who knows, maybe the Academy will reward her again.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: American Hustle, Blue Jasmine, Dallas Buyers Club, Her, Nebraska
What will win: Her. Spike Jonze created a masterpiece that has to be seen to be believed.
What ought to win: Her. Entirely deserving for the vision of a not-so-distant future alone, let alone the brilliant dialogue that permeates the film.
What could win: American Hustle. There is real buzz for this film and an upset win would not be shocking.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Before Midnight, Captain Phillips, Philomena, 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street
What will win: 12 Years a Slave. A race that isn’t even close and with good reason.
What ought to win: 12 Years a Slave. The Wolf of Wall Street has its supporters but it is miles behind McQueen’s film in this category.
What could win: None

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: The Broken Circle Breakdown, The Great Beauty,
The Hunt, The Missing Picture, Omar

What will win: The Great Beauty. Beautiful film that has already won at a number of award shows but the tough competition makes it far from a lock.
What ought to win: The Hunt. Not only the best foreign language film but the best film of the year overall.
What could win: The Broken Circle Breakdown. A true contender that is the buzziest film of the moment. A good underdog to add to your ballot.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Ernest & Celestine, Frozen,
The Wind Rises

What will win: Frozen. Never good to bet against Disney in animation.
What ought to win: The Wind Rises. A darkhorse with an emotional punch courtesy of it being the last film of legendary anime director Hayao Miyazaki.
What could win: None. The female heroine will likely carry Frozen to victory but a win for The Wind Rises would be the talk of the night.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: The Grandmaster, Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, Prisoners
What will win: Gravity. Frontrunner with sweeping, truly impressive and believable imagery.
What ought to win: Gravity. Without question.
What could win: Nebraska. If voters have Gravity fatigue or simply want to recognize another film, Nebraska has the best outside shot.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN: American Hustle, The Grandmaster, The Great Gatsby,
The Invisible Women, 12 Years a Slave

What will win: The Great Gatsby. Without question, the clear frontrunner.
What ought to win: The Great Gatsby. With the legendary Martin at the helm, flappers will do it.
What could win: American Hustle. Some real support but not likely enough to topple the favorite…

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: The Act of Killing, Cutie and the Boxer, Dirty Wars,
The Square, 20 Feet from Stardom

What will win: 20 Feet from Stardom. The Academy is typically a sucker for feel good documentaries and this is far and away the only feel good one in the bunch. And a great one at that.
What ought to win: The Act of Killing. Astounding. Revealing and and shocking as it is angering.
What could win: The Act of Killing or The Square. Both certainly have the capacity to surprise in this category.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT: CaveDigger, Facing Fear, Karama Has No Walls, The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life, Prison Terminall: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall
What will win: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life. This short is not only uplifting but it is about the holocaust, which the Academy is known to reward often.
What ought to win: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life. Clear frontrunner.
What could win: Facing Fear. If any short could upset the favorite, it is Facing Fear.

BEST FILM EDITING: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity,
12 Years a Slave

What will win: Gravity. Clear frontrunner, a loss here would be shocking.
What ought to win: Gravity.The entire film is editing intensive. A truly impressive job.
What could win: Captain Phillips. The definite dark-horse here but it would make for an unlikely winner.

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING: Dallas Buyers Club, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, The Lone Ranger
What will win: Dallas Buyers Club. Definitive favorite because of the film itself, not the actual work.
What ought to win: Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa. Body of work is more impressive than the understand DBC but winning would be shocking.
What could win: Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa. Can you imagine a world where Academy voters give Johnny Knoxville an Oscar?

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: The Book Thief, Gravity, Her, Philomena, Saving Mr. Banks
What will win: Gravity. Beautiful score carried a film that often had little more on the screen then a few astronauts, floating debris and the background of Earth.
What ought to win: Gravity. Expected winner.
What could win: Her. The film isn’t likely to win but the score of the film was critical to the staging of all the action, as every Jonze film is.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG: “Happy” (Despicable Me 2), “Let It Go” (Frozen), “The Moon Song” (Her), “Ordinary Love” (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom)
What will win: Let It Go. A commercial hit for a wildly adored film. You do the math.
What ought to win: Let It Go. Not just a good but actually great title track for a fun, imaginitve film.
What could win: Ordinary Love. A win here would be shocking. Don’t bet against Frozen.

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: American Hustle, Gravity, The Great Gatsby, 12 Years a Slave, Her
What will win: The Great Gatsby. Definitive favorite
What ought to win: The Great Gatsby. Support for other films is to scattered to really threaten in this category.
What could win: Gravity. Unlikely to win but fervor for the film could carry it to a surprise victory.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT: Feral, Get a Horse!, Mr. Hublot, Possessions, Room on the Broom
What will win: Get a Horse!. Never bet against Disney. Not when they feature a throwback Mickey Mouse and tie it to the well-respected Frozen.
What ought to win: Mr. Hublot. A true study in creativity that is unlikely to get the statue.
What could win: Mr. Hublot. Could and will are far apart but a surprise here wouldn’t be unfathomable.

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT: Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me), Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything), Helium, Pitaako Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?), The Voorman Problem
What will win: The Voorman Problem. The definite frontrunner given that it stars Martin Freeman and, sadly, because it is the only film without subtitles in the category.
What ought to win: The Voorman Problem. Bet against it at your own risk.
What could win: Helium. This short is gaining momentum and could surprise here but in a category that is always unpredictable, choosing any short will come with risk so go bolder here.

BEST SOUND EDITING: All Is Lost, Captain Phillips, Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation
of Smaug, Lone Survivor

What will win: Gravity. This category is closed and belongs to Gravity.
What ought to win: Gravity The visual and sounds achievements were fantastic.
What could win: None. Don’t get cute.

BEST SOUND MIXING: Captain Phillips, Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,
Inside Llewyn Davis, Lone Survivor

What will win: Gravity. This category is closed and belongs to Gravity.
What ought to win: Gravity.
What could win: None. It would be great to see the underrepresented Inside Llewyn Davis win here but it won’t happen.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Iron Man 3,
The Lone Ranger, Star Trek Into Darkness

What will win: Gravity. This category is closed and belongs to Gravity.
What ought to win: Gravity.
What could win: None. Though it would be pretty great to see the critically panned The Lone Ranger win an Oscar.

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