For the most part, the major categories at the Oscars are fairly easy to predict. But some years there are upset winners (‘Shakespeare in Love,’ Marcia Gay Harden, Juliette Binoche, Adrien Brody, to name a few) that remind us that anything can happen.
This year is a little different. Who remembers a year where the race for Best Picture is down to three films, two of which are so close that they tied at the Producers’ Guild? It seems like there are some definite locks this year (Hello, Cate Blanchett) but you read it here: Nothing is guaranteed. Nothing.
That said, here are the most likely winners at Sunday’s Oscars, along with potential spoilers and dark horses. Here we go!
Nominees: ‘American Hustle,’ ‘Gravity,’ ‘Her,’ ‘Philomena,’ ’12 Years a Slave,’ ‘The Wolf of Wall Street,’ ‘Captain Phillips,’ ‘Nebraska,’ ‘Dallas Buyers Club’
Most likely: ‘Gravity.’ OK, I went out on a limb here. This is where it gets really complicated. Alfonso Cuaron, the director of ‘Gravity,’ is almost surely going to win the Best Director award. He won the DGA, and only a handful of times has the winner of that award not gone on to win the Oscar (one exception, of course, being Ben Affleck last year). On top of that, the film claiming the Best Director Oscar typically goes on to win Best Picture, with a few exceptions. That said, it’s extremely rare for a film to win Best Picture without being nominated for a screenplay award (which ‘Gravity’ wasn’t). The last film to win without being nominated for Best Screenplay? ‘Titanic.’ The film before that? ‘The Sound of Music.’
Potential Spoiler: ’12 Years a Slave.’ This film has an extremely good shot. It’s been neck and neck with ‘Gravity’ all awards season. But despite the acclaim, there’s been nothing to push it over the top in terms of Academy love. It did win the Golden Globe, but it lost the DGA, and the SAG Ensemble Award went to ‘American Hustle.’ Which leads us to…
Dark Horse: ‘American Hustle.’ This movie is a real contender, thanks to the pedigree of director David O. Russell, who has for two years in a row managed to help his actors snag nods in all four categories (last year for ‘Silver Linings Playbook’). That’s an extremely rare feat – the last movie to do it was 1981’s ‘Reds.’ It’s also a box-office hit and certainly has a light, refreshing tone compared to ‘Gravity’ and ’12 Years a Slave.’
Nominees: Alfonso Cuaron, ‘Gravity,’ Martin Scorsese, ‘The Wolf of Wall Street,’ Alexander Payne, ‘Nebraska,’ Steve McQueen, ’12 Years a Slave,’ David O. Russell, ‘American Hustle’
Most likely: Alfonso Cuaron. Already discussed. ‘Gravity’ is a masterful feat of filmmaking, and the combination of beauty, digital effects and nuanced acting makes this a towering nominee.
Potential spoiler: Steve McQueen. ’12 Years a Slave’ is incredibly well-respected, but Cuaron has beaten McQueen in pretty much every head-to-head match-up, including the Golden Globes and the DGA.
Dark horse: David O. Russell. He’s an actor’s director. Don’t count him out.
Nominees: Leonardo DiCaprio, ‘The Wolf of Wall Street,’ Chiwetel Ejiofor, ’12 Years a Slave,’ Matthew McConaughey, ‘Dallas Buyers Club,’ Bruce Dern, ‘Nebraska,’ Christian Bale, ‘American Hustle’
Most likely: I’m on the edge on this one, but I’ll lean toward Matthew McConaughey – he’s won the Golden Globe and the SAG award, but he wasn’t nominated at BAFTA (where Ejiofor was victor). The interesting thing: he’s never gone head-to-head with DiCaprio; they were in separate categories at the Golden Globes and Leo wasn’t nominated at SAG. So…
Potential spoiler: Leonardo DiCaprio. This is his fourth nomination, and ‘The Wolf of Wall Street,’ though divisive, has surprising momentum. Don’t be shocked if his name is called.
Dark horse: Chiwetel Ejiofor. His performance is much-admired, and the British actor won the BAFTA. Still, it’s his first nomination and there are likely more to come.
Nominees: Cate Blanchett, ‘Blue Jasmine,’ Sandra Bullock, ‘Gravity,’ Judi Dench, ‘Philomena,’ Meryl Streep, ‘August: Osage County,’ Amy Adams, ‘American Hustle’
Most likely: Cate Blanchett. There’s not much to say here. Her performance and her dominance this awards season are undeniable. If she doesn’t win, it will be a shock.
Potential spoiler: Amy Adams. Although she wasn’t nominated at SAG, she won the Golden Globe, and she’s on her fifth nomination, making her on the brink of being an Academy bridesmaid. She’ll be rewarded sooner or later.
Dark horse: Judi Dench. She hasn’t won since 1999, and it’s hard to know how many more chances she has to win again. Plus, her performance in ‘Philomena’ is considered one of her best.
Best Supporting Actor
Nominees: Barkhad Abdi, ‘Captain Phillips,’ Jared Leto, ‘Dallas Buyers Club,’ Michael Fassbender, ’12 Years a Slave,’ Jonah Hill, ‘The Wolf of Wall Street,’ Bradley Cooper, ‘American Hustle’
Most likely: Jared Leto. Aside from Cate Blanchett, there’s nothing closer to a lock. Leto has won virtually every major award for his performance in ‘Dallas Buyers Club.’
Potential spoiler: Barkhad Abdi. While Leto wasn’t nominated at BAFTA, Abdi was the surprise victor. And ‘Captain Phillips has a lot of support, as evidenced by its nomination for Best Picture.
Dark horse: Michael Fassbender. The problem? He’s done no campaigning. It worked for Mo’Nique for 'Precious,' but probably won't for Fassbender this time.
Best Supporting Actress
Nominees: Sally Hawkins, ‘Blue Jasmine,’ Lupita Nyong'o, ’12 Years a Slave,’ Jennifer Lawrence, ‘American Hustle,’ Julia Roberts, ‘August: Osage County,’ June Squibb, ‘Nebraska’
Most likely: Lupita Nyong'o. This is a tough one. She won SAG and the Critics’ Choice Award, which is a good indication of support. But Lawrence won the Golden Globe and BAFTA, and she’s already an Academy darling at age 23.
Potential spoiler: Jennifer Lawrence. Her role is showy, but is the academy willing to give her a second Oscar in two years? They might.
Dark horse: June Squibb. How fun would it be to see 84-year-old Squibb’s name called? She’s got a lot of clout in Hollywood.
What about you? Who do you think will win?
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