When this blog started with its first post on early critics’ choice announcements, it was still 2013 and most of the big Oscar contenders had not even been released in the UK. Now, with the biggest night of them all just over the hill, it’s time for the biggest gamble of them all – predicting the winners of 86th Oscars. (If you want to quickly remind yourself of how the nominations went down, you can find the post here.)
Predicting the Oscars is, in some respects, easier than doing so for other ceremonies. Unlike awards like the Golden Globes, there has already been two and a half months of winners, losers, surprises and snubs. It is easy to pick out favourites, especially when there are certain barometers that historically indicate Oscar success.
On the other hand, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is infamous for making some very unusual decisions, as well as having very particular views regarding some genres of filmmaking that are not looked down on by other bodies. This is not to say it is impossible to narrow down a select few favourites. But it is impossible to pick the full 24 winners without having any doubts, especially because the likely winner may not be the deserving one.
With that lengthy explanation of why this post is likely going to be at the very least 50% wrong, here is a look at what the categories are and who I think will win in each case, with mentions of possible upsets also thrown in. As with previous prediction posts, this includes a mix of careful consideration for the most part and a few random guesses on the side.
Nominees: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Clubs, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street
Despite being the strongest year for cinema in a very long time, the biggest category of the night is a two-way race between Gravity and 12 Years a Slave. Both of them have been dominating the major awards, including tying for a win at the Producers’ Guild of America Awards. Despite the possibility of American Hustle scoring an upset off the back of its SAG Ensemble win if the other two split their votes, I somehow doubt that is going to happen. The historical – and well-executed – subject matter of 12 Years a Slave pushes it just slightly ahead of Gravity for me; the latter’s mislabelling as “science fiction” will probably scare off some of the snobbier voters. It also helps that awards like the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs picked 12 Years a Slave.
Nominees: Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity), Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), Alexander Payne (Nebraska), David O. Russell (American Hustle), Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)
The Academy usually prefers to go for a Picture-Director double, but there are notable exceptions, including last year, when Argo won the former and Ang Lee (Life of Pi) winning the latter. Some of those results have been controversial, as was the case with Crash and Shakespeare in Love winning Best Picture in their respective years despite Best Director going to other projects. However, the general agreement this year seems to be that the diversity and strength of the nominees means each one should be judged quite separately in different categories. With that in mind, 12 Years a Slave possibly winning Best Picture should not affect this category. The Academy might be a little old-fashioned, but even they have to acknowledge the brilliance of Directors’ Guild of America Award-winner Alfonso Cuarón and that is where I am placing my faith.
Nominees: 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)
Could we please recognise the sad fact that Leonardo DiCaprio might have to be content with being a multiple Oscar nominee, and might even have to watch someone else win an award for portraying him a few decades down the line? As deserving as his nomination is, however, this race boils down to two contenders. Both Ejiofor and McConaughey did amazing jobs with their respective roles and, while the American may have edged more wins, including at the Golden Globes and the SAGs, the Brit has momentum coming in from the BAFTAs. That being said, I think Matthew McConaughey is going to be delivering the winning speech and the reason is simple. The Academy likes to see and reward career transformations. Whether that is a good enough justification is debatable – and Ejiofor might still win it – but my money is on the former rom-com king picking up the trophy.
Nominees: Amy Adams (American Hustle), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
Poor, poor Amy Adams. She’s been nominated – and grossly overlooked in my opinion – in the Supporting Actress category four previous times and it looks like her first Best Actress nomination will not be going any better. But while it might have been nice for the Academy to reward the only non-Oscar holder in the group, they would be mad to ignore Cate Blanchett’s turn in Blue Jasmine. No other major awards have had the guts to do it, after all. It is a juggernaut of a performance and the fact that the film is very unlikely to win any of its other nominations (not the case for Adams, Bullock and possibly Dench) only strengthens the Australian’s chances.
Best Supporting Actor
Nominees: 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)
I really, really want Fassbender to win this. I think he gives a stellar performance and it should more than make up for being snubbed for Shame a while back. Kudos too to Abdi, especially for scoring the BAFTA. However, in the same vein as rewarding co-star McConaughey’s career renaissance, the Academy is probably going to go with Jared Leto. My deep reservations about letting a cisgender man playing a transgender woman aside, I have to admit it is a well-acted role and it has all the ingredients to make it a popular choice in Hollywood, as evidenced by his Golden Globe and SAG wins. Then again, can you imagine how absolutely glorious it would be if Jonah Hill followed up his surprise nomination with a surprise win? I’ll be waiting with my popcorn and bated breath.
Best Supporting Actress
Nominees: Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave), Julia Roberts (August: Osage County), June Squibb (Nebraska)
Watch out Meryl. Jennifer Lawrence is just 23 and she already has an Oscar and two further nominations. She also won the Golden Globe and the BAFTA this year and no one has ever won both of those and failed to win an acting Oscar. But – and this is a big but – the Academy might not be willing to give the same actress back-to-back wins (albeit in different categories), especially when there is such strong competition. It does not help her cause that she is likely to pick up a nomination next year as well for Serena and the year after for East of Eden. Furthermore, the Supporting Actress category has a history of recognising rising talent, such as Tatum O’Neal for Paper Moon, Anna Paquin for The Piano, Jennifer Hudson for Dreamgirls and Octavia Spencer for The Help. Although this is the one acting category where things really could go either way, even more so than Best Actor, I will therefore go with the deserving Lupita Nyong’o for the win. Her role as Patsey was the highlight of 12 Years a Slave for many audience members, including me, and it is only fair that such a devastatingly good performance gets some recognition. An Oscar to go with her SAG win would be the perfect icing on the cake.
Best Writing – Original Screenplay
Nominees: Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine), Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack (Dallas Buyers Club), Spike Jonze (Her), Bob Nelson (Nebraska), Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell (American Hustle)
There are many who believe that O. Russell should have taken home the statuette for Adapted Screenplay last year for Silver Linings Playbook and, had American Hustle been less improvised, he might have been able to take home the Original Screenplay prize this year. However, the level of freedom he gave his actors might hurt him and Singer in this category. This is sometimes considered the consolation prize for quirky and innovative nominees, so my guess is a win for Spike Jonze. And, in all honesty, the fact that he could make a love story between a computer and Joaquin Phoenix seem so normal means he definitely earned it.
Best Writing – Adapted Screenplay
Nominees: Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope (Philomena), Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke (Before Midnight), Billy Ray (Captain Phillips), John Ridley (12 Years a Slave), Terence Winter (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Coogan and Pope were popular winners at the BAFTAs but that is likely to be the highlight of their awards season. Linklater, Delpy and Hawke would be deserving winners too, especially as the Academy’s large acting membership might swing the vote their way. However, John Ridley did what the Academy loves the best – he took a very serious, very American story and told it beautifully, and for that, he is going to win. On a side note, can someone give Terence Winter some sort of award for squeezing in so many profanities and still scooping up an Oscar nom?
Best Animated Feature
Nominees: Despicable Me 2, Ernest and Celestine, Frozen, The Croods, The Wind Rises
Some might find this hard to believe, but Studio Ghibli has won more Animated Feature Oscars – one for Spirited Away – than Walt Disney Animation Studios has. The wins for Disney affiliate Pixar notwithstanding; the House of Mouse has failed to pick up a single trophy in this category, including getting robbed last year for Wreck-It Ralph. Taking that into consideration, something the Academy will likely be very aware of if the campaigning has gone as expected, Frozen should glide to the winner’s podium, gleefully mouthing “let it go” to the other competitors along the way.
Best Foreign Language Film
Nominees: The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium), The Great Beauty (Italy), The Hunt (Denmark), The Missing Picture (Cambodia), Omar (Palestine)
The absence of Blue is the Warmest Colour means that The Hunt is the top nominee to score an upset on the night. But, in order to do that, it has to stop Italy from picking up its 14th win in this category for The Great Beauty, which is unlikely to happen.
Best Documentary – Feature
Nominees: Cutie and the Boxer, Dirty Wars, The Act of Killing, The Square, 20 Feet from Stardom
This year’s nominees are all very powerful pieces of cinema and cover a range of topics, from artistic freedom and the realities of the entertainment world, to the politics of warfare and revolution. It is therefore a testament to its merit that The Act of Killing is coming in as such a strong favourite in a category that normally flies under the radar.
Best Original Score
Nominees: Gravity, Her, Philomena, Saving Mr. Banks, The Book Thief
John Williams might be on his zillionth nomination, but he will not be picking up the trophy here. Instead, Original Score is my pick to be one of the many categories that will add to Gravity’s tally on the night, likely making it the winningest film this year, albeit mostly in technical categories like this one.
Best Original Song
Nominees: “Happy” (Despicable Me 2), “Let It Go” (Frozen), “Ordinary Love” (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom), “The Moon Song” (Her)
This category had five nominations, but the song “Alone, Yet Not Alone” from the same-titled film got disqualified for breaching the Academy’s campaigning rules. While I personally think the idea of campaigning should be gotten rid of altogether, the decision does mean there will be one less filler to be read out on the night. This category is a case of heart versus brain for me, because I really want “Let It Go” to win, but I think “Ordinary Love” is going to take home the prize. If, by some miracle, the Academy is reading this, I want to go on record and say I would really not mind being proven wrong here.
Best Sound Editing
Nominees: All is Lost, Captain Phillips, Gravity, Lone Survivor, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
As much as I think All is Lost deserves recognition for its approach to sound and dialogue – or the lack thereof of the latter – it is almost guaranteed that Gravity is going to take home another technical win here.
Best Sound Mixing
Nominees: Captain Phillips, Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis, Lone Survivor, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Once again, Gravity is a favourite here, but I think the nature of the category – which recognises the bringing together of a range of different sources of sound, as opposed to the more clear-cut Editing category – would mean that Inside Llewyn Davis stands a good chance at winning. Especially because I somehow doubt the Academy would want to send the Coen brothers home empty-handed.
Best Production Design
Nominees: American Hustle, Gravity, Her, The Great Gatsby, 12 Years a Slave
The Academy has a long history of rewarding either historically accurate period pieces or extravagant fantasy sets. Given the fact that The Great Gatsby touches on both, being an extravagant take on a period piece, it is the likely winner. Though I cannot say I am happy at the prospect of the film taking home an Oscar, so if anyone sees me smiling the next day, it is probably because I made a horrible mistake with my choice here.
Nominees: Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, Prisoners, The Grandmaster
With yearlong competitor 12 Years a Slave missing out on a Cinematography nomination here, I see nothing being able to stop Gravity from picking up another win. And while some might get sick and tired of seeing one film dominate the night, there is no denying it would be a well-deserved victory.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Nominees: Dallas Buyers Club, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, The Lone Ranger
I can only assume that the Academy members got intoxicated by the fumes from the hair product in American Hustle. There is no other explanation as to how it got snubbed and The Lone Ranger became an Oscar nominee. Although I would love to see the Academy’s reaction if Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa picks up the award – and weird wins have happened, like the time The Wolfman was triumphant – I think Dallas Buyers Club is going to pick up one of its smaller awards.
Best Costume Design
Nominees: American Hustle, The Grandmaster, The Great Gatsby, The Invisible Woman, 12 Years a Slave
I want to take to take a minute and say that Trish Summerville was robbed – ROBBED I SAY – for her excellent work on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, a contribution that was recognised with a win by the Costume Designers’ Guild Awards. Another CDG winner was 12 Years a Slave, but, once again, I think the extravagance of The Great Gatsby will take it past the finishing line. Then again, the Academy seems to have a soft spot for American Hustle so if something is to challenge Gatsby’s BAFTA-winner Catherine Martin, it would be the wild outfits of the 1970s.
Best Film Editing
Nominees: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, 12 Years a Slave
This is one of the few categories outside of acting and direction where the corresponding guild award is an extremely reliable barometer of success. Since the turn of the century, only three winners of the American Cinema Editors’ Award – split between a drama and a comedy/musical category – have failed to win the Oscar. Academy voters also seem to have an affinity for rapid-cutting, such as the wins for Traffic, The Bourne Ultimatum and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, so I think technical darling Gravity will fall short to ACE-winner Captain Phillips.
Best Visual Effects
Nominees: Gravity, Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Lone Ranger
There are a number of reasons why I should not be picking “that space film” to win this category. For starters, this would be the fifth category I would be calling in its favour. I am also a self-professed Marvel addict and geek, so there is one definite nominee and two further possibilities that should be getting my undying love and support. Finally, I have not made any completely outlandish choices so picking The Lone Ranger could satisfy that argument. But, I am going to play it safe here and say Gravity is going to be the name in the envelope.
Best Documentary – Short Subject
Nominees: CaveDigger, Facing Fear, Karama Has No Walls, Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall, The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Short subject nominees rarely get much attention outside of their specialist branches of the Academy so it is a little tricky to predict a winner in any of the three corresponding categories. Given that usual level of obscurity however, it does look like The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life might pick up the win here just because of the buzz it has managed to generate with its heart-wrenching subject matter.
Best Live Action Short Film
Nominees: Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?, Helium, Just Before Losing Everything, That Wasn’t Me, The Voorman Problem
If you got Martin Freeman and Tom Hollander to act in a short film, it is more than likely you have enough of a pull in the industry to help with an Oscar campaign. And even if you don’t, all you need to do is say, “Look, we got Martin Freeman and Tom Hollander to act in a short film.” The Voorman Problem takes it here.
Best Animated Short
Nominees: Feral, Get a Horse!, Mr. Hublot, Possessions, Room on the Broom
In stark contrast to the Animated Feature category, Disney has a really good track record in this category, including a win last year for Paperman as well as letting Walt Disney himself pick up 12 of his 22 awards. Get a Horse! represents the first Oscar nomination for Mickey Mouse in years and it looks likely to continue the company’s dominance here.
And there you have it. Though I will be writing a few more posts for the blog, including a recap of the actual Oscars, the Razzies and possibly the last few smaller awards like the guilds and the Empire Awards, this is my final predictions post. And, as seems to have become the tradition with my previous two, I will end this with a harmless postscript. Ellen DeGeneres will be a better host than James Franco and Anne Hathaway combined. Thank you for your time.
(Header Image Source, Other images: cinemablend.com)