In addition to being my own pick, this seems to be widely considered the favorite. “12 Years a Slave” is an extremely well made film about what is perhaps the single most important topic in our nation’s history. This film is an ideal match for the Academy Awards: It tackles a tough subject, but manages to soften it in the right places to appeal to the more squeamish voters without diminishing its overall meaning.
“Nebraska” is an incredibly intimate and emotional film made only more special by the fact that just so little of it fits our traditional definition for an Oscar movie. Allowing such a pensive, calm and, perhaps, most importantly low-budget film to win Best Picture would open the gates for far more experimental and edgy films in the future and work to further legitimize true independent film as a main-stream success.
Will win: “12 Years a Slave”
Should win: “Captain Phillips”
“12 years” will win, hands down. The Academy is full of old white guys full of guilt, and they will take any chance they get to vote for the most “politically correct” film (see “Schindler’s List,” 1993), not to mention films “based on true events,” although that point is complicated by the fact that all the films in this category, save for “Gravity,” “Her” and “Nebraska,” were also based on true events. “Captain Phillips” was also great, and incredibly entertaining, but it won’t win.
Prediction: Alfonso Cuarón for “Gravity”
It used to be that this category mainly seemed to focus on how the director worked with actors; but over time, it seems to have changed to a more widely applicable category which treats directors as creative centers for their films, rewarding them for taking risks that pan out well. In this respect, Cuarón is a prime candidate.
Favorite: Alfonso Cuarón for “Gravity”
This one is well deserved. Since “Children of Men,” I’ve been an ardent follower of Cuarón’s work and this is no exception. In addition to the creative energy he seems to exude, his talent for working with actors is abundantly clear in “Gravity.”
Will win: Alfonso Cuarón for “Gravity”
Should win: David O. Russell for “American Hustle”
Russell is a great director and I loved “American Hustle.” The fact that it has more than two main characters does make it a more impressive accomplishment, in my opinion.
Prediction: Chiwetel Ejiofor for “12 Years a Slave”
Fan blogs across the web have been alight this year with predictions that Leonardo DiCaprio might finally win his first Oscar, but the truth is that his performance just wasn’t flashy enough to be a likely candidate for the Academy’s attention. Ejiofor, on the other hand, conveyed incredible suffering and happiness in some of the most detailed, human acting I have seen on screen in a long time.
Favorite: Chiwetel Ejiofor for “12 Years a Slave”
I also find this award very well deserved. As far as I’m concerned, nobody else even comes close this year.
Will win: Chiwetel Ejiofor for “12 Years a Slave”
Should win: Christian Bale for “American Hustle”
I don’t mean to say that Ejiofor shouldn’t win. I mean, he will win, so it isn’t an issue. He was very good. But Christian Bale? So great. I’m not just saying that because he gained 40 pounds for the role. I’m also saying it because of his incredible comb-over. Also worth mentioning: Leo the Wolf. Whoa. That was quite the performance!
Prediction: Cate Blanchett for “Blue Jasmine”
The Academy has always shown a propensity towards Woody Allen, but this one seems to be a perfect storm. A former Supporting Actress winner and three-time Best Actress nominee in a dramatic Woody Allen role just seems like it will be too hard for voters to pass up.
Favorite: Sandra Bullock for “Gravity”
Bullock holds her own and then some here. Her performance is one I really believe I will take with me for a long time.
Will win: Cate Blanchett for “Blue Jasmine”
Should win: Sandra Bullock for “Gravity”
Cate Blanchett was really great. She certainly stole the show. Her emotions were top-notch, and so was the writing for the part. I think she will win. But hey — Sandra Bullock was out of this world. Wow, I am sorry about that pun. But she was so great!
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Prediction: Jared Leto for “Dallas Buyer’s Club”
This one blindsided me at the Golden Globes. I honestly hadn’t expected “Dallas Buyer’s Club” to win any awards, but nominations in this category this year are fairly scarce. Maybe it’s Leto’s time.
Favorite: Michael Fassbender for “12 Years a Slave”
Fassbender does an incredible job here at playing an absolute creep. His performance is another one that will haunt me for quite some time.
Will win: Barkhad Abdi for “Captain Phillips”
Should win: Jonah Hill for “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Barkhad Abdi had never acted before. Whoa. That’s nuts. Do you know what is also nuts? Jonah Hill’s fake teeth. And accent. Mind blown.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Prediction: Jennifer Lawrence for “American Hustle”
Though I’m extremely skeptical that “American Hustle” will be an awards magnet this year, Lawrence was by far the best part of the film and voters have already showed us just how much they love her. Giving her an Oscar two years in a row would be highly unusual, though; I cannot recall a single other instance of this happening.
Favorite: June Squibb for “Nebraska”
It may not have been flashy, but June Squibb gave an incredibly nuanced and layered performance in the guise of simply playing a grumpy old woman.
Will win: Lupita Nyong’o for “12 Years a Slave”
Should have been nominated: N/A
I’ve been hearing a lot about how, if Jennifer Lawrence wins, she will be the first person to win best actress/best supporting actress Oscars back-to-back since Katharine Hepburn. This is a fiercely competitive field this year, with every nominee giving a performance which would win the award were this a weaker year.
Prediction: Emmanuel Lubezki for “Gravity”
It may seem strange for a film so visual effects-heavy to win an award devoted to cinematography, but the Academy has certainly proven it is possible after Claudio Miranda’s controversial win last year for “Life of Pi.” Like it or not, when there’s a film as technically impressive as “Life of Pi” or “Gravity,” voters are likely to check it for every technical category, cinematography included.
Favorite: Phedon Papamichael for “Nebraska”
There are no visual effects here. Heck, there isn’t even color! With “Nebraska,” Papamichael took cinematography back to its simpler roots and still managed to deliver the most stunning images all year.
Will win: Emmanuel Lubezki for “Gravity”
Should win: Phedon Papamichael for “Nebraska”
Gravity was beautiful. The scenes of Sandra Bullock and George Clooney floating through space were breathtaking. But let’s be honest: They were not floating through space. Almost the entire film was CGI. Sure, Lubezki is a big name. He can film a good film. But what was he filming? That which was not 100% CGI was still green-screened. So where’s the talent in that? Give the film the best visual effects award, not this one.
I love black and white photography, that’s no secret. That being said, that is not why I think Papamichael should win. I think he should win because his film was actually one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in years. Hollywood motion pictures are commercial products, but Papamichael is an artist.