Will win: Based on precursors, it looks like the race is tight between three major contenders: American Hustle, Gravity, and 12 Years a Slave. Of those three, 12 Years a Slave is both the most important and the most well-rounded artistic accomplishment. That combination of prestige and quality should make it an obvious winner, yet it hasn’t been sweeping awards as consistently as expected. There’s constant stories about Academy members refusing to watch it, either because they’re scared of the brutality or because they’re racist. I’m gonna be optimistic and say 12 Years a Slave still manages to win. Though if Gravity takes it, can we declare it the first animated Best Picture winner?
Should win: I’ll be happy with 12 Years a Slave winning, but if I was filling out a ranked Academy ballot, it’d be my #2 after Her, a movie which has no chance of winning (maybe if the median Academy member’s age was 20 years younger and less scared of technology) but is the most entertaining and thought-provoking of the nominees I’ve seen (I still haven’t seen Nebraska, Dallas Buyer’s Club, or Philomena, though I somehow doubt they’d top Her).
Was robbed: As a British comedy about drunks, aliens, and not-robots released over the summer, The World’s End was never on any Oscar contender list. But wouldn’t it be a better world if it was?
Will win: Alfonso Cuaron’s taken almost every other directing award for Gravity. He pulled off an immense technical achievement similar to last year’s winner Ang Lee for Life of Pi, many feel he’s owed after not even being nominated for Children of Men, and he’d be making history as the first Latino director to win the award. The only other contender that even has a chance of winning is Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave.
Should win: Personally I’d go with McQueen over Cuaron for making a better film overall.
Was robbed: Spike Jonze really should be here for Her.
Best Lead Actor
Will win: Close race here. Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyer’s Club, Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave, and Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street all have a shot. McConaughey has won most of the precursors, plus he has True Detective goodwill working for him, yet I think DiCaprio might have the upper hand, having been generally well-liked for more time than McConaughey, the sense that he’s “due”, and being the hilarious centerpiece of a hit movie that doesn’t really have a chance of winning elsewhere.
Should win: I honestly don’t know how I’d chose between Ejiofor’s dramatic heft and DiCaprio’s comedic strength. It’s decisions like these that make the Golden Globes’ Comedy/Drama split make sense.
Was robbed: A lot of people. Tom Hanks in Captain Philips, Michael B. Jordan in Fruitvale Station, Joaquin Phoenix in Her, and Simon Pegg in The World’s End are all more impressive performances that Christian Bale as the least interesting character in American Hustle.
Best Lead Actress
Will win: Cate Blanchett seems close to a sure thing for her work in Blue Jasmine. But given the minefield everything to do with Woody Allen has become, how the hell is she supposed to say in her acceptance speech? She’s also won before, so that might give the edge to the one nominee who hasn’t won: Amy Adams in American Hustle, which would also be the best chance to award that movie.
Should win: I didn’t like Blue Jasmine, but Blanchett carries the movie. I’d probably still end up voting for Adams.
Was robbed: I’m not sure. Sadly not many actress-driven films out there, and I missed Saving Mr. Banks and Blue is the Warmest Color, the two films with performances most frequently called out as snubbed here. Jennifer Lawrence was great in Catching Fire, but Oscar-worthy?
Best Supporting Actor
Will win: Jared Leto in Dallas Buyer’s Club has dominated the conversation, so I’m not gonna bet against him.
Should win: Barkhad Abdi’s amazing in Captain Philips, especially for someone who hasn’t acted before.
Was robbed: Wasn’t a fan of the movie in general, but it sure would have been something if James Franco’s hilarious turn in Spring Breakers managed to get nominated.
Best Supporting Actress
Will win: The race is between Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years a Slave and Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle. Everyone loves Lawrence, but she won last year and hasn’t even been campaigning this year. I’m guessing Nyong’o wins.
Should win: As she should, since Nyong’o’s performance is simply heartbreaking. Lawrence was fun in Hustle, but Nyong’o had a much more difficult role.
Was robbed: If only voice acting was recognized, then Scarlett Johansson in Her would take it (I guess theoretically you could consider her a co-lead but she was campaigned in supporting).
Best Original Screenplay
Will win: American Hustle could win, but given Her‘s screenplay has won a lot of awards and is also simply brilliant, I think Her will take it.
Should win: I pick Her.
Was robbed: The World’s End.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Will win: This should be the easiest award for 12 Years a Slave to take. There’s an off-chance Philomena could somehow take it with Harvey Weinstein’s aggressive Oscar campaigning, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Should win: 12 Years a Slave.
Was robbed: It’s a weird sort of adaptation, being based on two separate sources combined into one script, but The Wind Rises deserves mention.
Best Animated Feature
Will win: Frozen might seem unstoppable, but The Wind Rises is great, the final work of a master, and might be more on the minds of late voters with its recent expanded release. Is that enough to bet against Frozen? I’m not sure. But ties have happened at the Oscars before, most recently last year. So, if Miyazaki’s fans are numerous and passionate and there’s enough people either skipping voting in this category or going with the other three chance-less nominees (The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Ernest and Celestine) then maybe there will be a Frozen/Wind Rises tie?
Should win: Obviously I’m really rooting of The Wind Rises here.
Was robbed: Monster’s University probably should be here. People complain about Pixar falling back on sequels, but this one was solidly good with a really clever third act.
Best Foreign Language Feature
Will win: The Great Beauty seems to be sweeping everything, so I guess that.
Should win: N/A, haven’t seen any of the nominees
Was robbed: I haven’t seen it, but one of my friends swears by Wadjda as the year’s best film.
Best Documentary Feature
Will win: 20 Feet From Stardom made the most money, but The Square has political relevancy and The Act of Killing has a serious “wow” factor. I’ve only seen that last one, but I’ll bet on it just the same.
Should win: The Act of Killing (though again, haven’t seen the competition)
Was robbed: Not sure, since I haven’t seen them, but I remember a lot of surprise that Blackfish and Stories We Tell didn’t make it.
Best Costume Design
Will win: Gatsby could win if they’re OK with voting for a movie people generally hate, but I think the more likeable American Hustle has it.
Should win: All the nominees feature good costume work. I’d be fine with any winner.
Was robbed: Catching Fire certainly deserves points for creativity in costuming.
Will win: Gravity seems to have this locked, even while containing barely any cinematography in the traditional physical-cameras-recording-imagery sense (if movies like this, Life of Pi, and Avatar keep winning, why not nominate Pixar films in this category?).
Should win: For more traditional cinematography, The Grandmaster was stunning.
Was robbed: 12 Years a Slave‘s snub here might be one of the most egregious.
Best Production Design
Will win: Could be Gatsby or Hustle, but I think this could be another win for 12 Years a Slave.
Should win: Her‘s LA-meets-Shanghai near-future was brilliantly realized, but maybe too subtle/modern for voters who prefer big period pieces.
Was robbed: Pacific Rim‘s Shatterdome and pre-apocalyptic Hong Kong.
Will win: Philips, Gravity, Hustle, and Slave all have a serious chance (only Dallas Buyer’s Club would be a surprise winner). At the moment, I’m expecting this to be Philips‘ single win of the night.
Should win: Close one. Slave has extremely well-edited sequences but loses a bit of momentum in the middle. Gravity‘s amazingly constructed but given it’s mostly animated how much was editing and how much was set in storyboarding? Philips was also well-edited but I was too annoyed with the cinematography to appreciate it as much as I should have. So I guess Hustle.
Was robbed: If I had to pick one category to nominate The World’s End in, this would be the most deserving.
Best Visual Effects
Will win: Gravity. Duh.
Should win: Gravity. Duh.
Was robbed: Seriously, how is Pacific Rim not nominated?
Best Make-Up and Hairstyling
Will win: Dallas Buyer’s Club is the most well-liked of the nominees by a longshot, but “the Oscar-winning Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa” is just too perfect-sounding a phrase not to become true.
Should win: The Oscar-winning Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa.
Was robbed: This should have been the easiest Oscar for American Hustle to win.
Will win: Gravity‘s taken a lot of the precursors, but I found the overbearing score the weakest part of the movie. It could still win, of course, but I’m pulling for the surprising nomination for Arcade Fire’s score for Her to turn into a surprise win.
Should win: Her.
Was robbed: Pacific Rim.
Best Sound Mixing/Editing
Will win: Gravity takes both awards, unless Captain Philips is stronger than expected or Inside Llewyn Davis‘s fans rally around its Sound Mixing nomination.
Should win: Gravity seems worthy.
Was robbed: Pacific Rim.
Best Original Song
Will win: How could “Let It Go” from Frozen not win? (Also, that bizarro-nom for the title song from the unreleased vaguely racist-looking Christian Dominionist movie Alone Yet Not Alone has been revoked due to foul play in campaigning)
Should win: “Let it Go.”