86th Annual Academy Awards: Predictions



Well, it’s that time of year once again and the 86th Academy Awards are here! It’s time for the biggest awards ceremony and celebration of the past year’s best films, according to Academy voters, and a declaration of the best performances in movies by some of the top actors in Hollywood along with a few fresh faces.

We’ve seen favorites during the Golden Globes, SAG and BAFTA and now it’s time to see which films pull out the big win. While it is hard for me to pick winners in certain categories, because they’re were so many great performances in nearly every nominated film, I will try my best to predict whom I think the coveted gold Oscar statue will go to on awards night.

Nearly every year there is a surprise win in at least one category, so here are my choices for whom I think will win, why and who the possible upset could go to:

Best Motion Picture of the Year:

American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

The likely winner: 12 Years a Slave
Possible surprise winner: Gravity

“12 Years a Slave” has been on the winning radar for quite some time, being called Best picture of the Year ever since it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. But even though it was hailed by critics, it didn’t exactly impress as much at the box office as “Gravity” did. But its subject nature is very much along the lines that the traditional voters choose and it’s for that very reason, along with some stupendous performances and the new voting system being implemented by the Academy, that I have chosen it to beat out the space thriller “Gravity,” which was liked by more people but seen as somewhat lighter fare. I must say that on any other year any of these nine top contending films could have had a chance in this category. This year has been especially well-filled with award-winning performances, but they all can’t be winners in the end.

Best Achievement in Directing

David O. Russell for American Hustle
Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity
Alexander Payne for Nebraska
Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave
Martin Scorsese for Wolf of Wall Street
The likely winner: Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity
Possible surprise winner: Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave

This is one of those rare years where it looks like the top honors of Best Picture and Best Director might be split. Just as with last year’s votes were split between Best Picture “Argo” and then Best Director going to Ang Lee for “Life of Pi,” this year seems to be split between Steve McQueen’s dramatic “12 Years a Slave” and Alfonso Cuarón’s epic 3D space thriller “Gravity.” This year’s results should mirror last year’s, with Cuarón winning for his stellar mastery over creating one of the most realistic and terrifying trips to space, not to mention him helming some amazing performances from his stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney and the perfect utilization of not only new technology but by some of the best use of 3D and depth of space – no pun intended – in a film that I have ever seen. Well liked and respected, Cuarón is a generally nice guy and beloved in Hollywood for his diverse work in film, he easily has the advantage here.

Best Performance by Actor in a Leading Role

Christian Bale for American Hustle
Bruce Dern for Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club
The likely winner: Matthew McConaughey
Possible surprise winner: Leonardo DiCaprio
The winner for this category for me was easy, it was the possible upsets that had me thinking very hard. McConaughey was stellar in his portrayal of a man who finds out he has the AIDS virus and chooses not to sit by and wither away and die, but instead goes looking for unapproved medications that he can use to save his life – while also making a profit selling them, too. His dramatic weight loss and the personal and moving nature of this performance he has earn Oscar Gold. Who would have thought just a few years ago this man known more for his abs then his acting chops would be here today? I sure didn’t and that may be why he has an even bigger edge on the competition. The dramatic turnaround of his career and the stigma associated with his cheesy performances just a few years ago are all but forgotten after quite a few award-worthy performances in film over the past few years. My first thought for runner-up would have been Chiwetel Ejiofor – that is until I saw “The Wolf of Wall Street” and Leonardo DiCaprio’s over-the-top performance convinced me that he had a chance at this as well. Although DiCaprio won the Golden Globe for his performance, McConaughey has a Golden Globe as well as a SAG award and it’s pretty clear this is his award to lose.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Amy Adams for American Hustle
Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock for Gravity
Judi Dench for Philomena
Meryl Streep for August Osage County

The likely winner: Cate Blanchett
Possible surprise winner: Amy Adams

This category is pretty much locked as Blanchett has already taken the SAG, Golden Globe and BFTA for her performance in “Blue Jasmine.” Her character is such a mess in the film and you dislike the person she is while secretly rooting for her to somehow succeed and change. For the possible runner-ups, I was torn between Adams and Bullock, but decided on Adams because Bullock has yet to win a major award for her amazing performance in “Gravity.” While I will openly admit I was not a fan at all of the story in “American Hustle,” it was the performances and characters the actors created that I appreciated and liked. Unless something major has spooked Academy voters from rewarding Blanchett’s performance – insert Woody Allen pun here – this category is all but won by the talented Cate Blanchett.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Barkhad Abdi for Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper for American Hustle
Michael Fassbender for 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill in the Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club

The likely winner: Jared Leto
Possible surprise winner: Michael Fassbender
One again, “Dallas Buyers Club” and dramatic weight loss and body transformation should equal a win, but this time for Leto as he is another category that everyone seems to think is a guarantee. I was very impressed by the complete transformation for the star, who completely disappeared into his role as a transgendered prostitute who also has contracted the virus. Leto becomes McConaughey’s helper in distributing illegal medication to others in the community also afflicted with this horrible disease. Fassbender is a close second as he was the guy we all loved to hate in his role of vicious slave owner in “12 Years a Slave.” I legitimately wanted to punch him in the face and any actor that can evoke that strong of an emotional response in the audience deserves the praise he gets.

Best Performance of an Actress in a Supporting Role

Sally Hawkins for Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts for August Osage County
June Squibb for Nebraska

The likely winner: Lupita Nyong’o
Possible surprise winner: Jennifer Lawrence

This is one of the hardest categories to predict as audiences, critics and predictors seem split on who should win this category. I choose to go Nyong’o because I feel that she truly deserves it and for her very first film role, too. On the other hand, Lawrence is a crowd favorite and the youngest nominee ever to have three nominations under her belt at this young of an age. While Nyong’o could very well not take home this award, I choose her out of pure will that she will win as I wasn’t as impressed with Lawrence’s part in “American Hustle.” Don’t get me wrong, I like Lawrence and she is seeming like the favorite to win at this point after nabbing the Golden Globe and BFTA already, but I am putting it out into the universe that the clearly talented Nyong’o should win this year and give Lawrence a break from falling down the stairs this year.

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Ernest and Celestine
The Wind Rises
The likely winner: Frozen
Possible surprise winner: the Wind Rises

One word: Disney. Once again, the animation domination is in the cards for the studio as “Frozen” was one of the best received and highest-grossing animated films of the year. And while I appreciated some aspects of the other contenders, “Despicable Me 2” was a letdown and “The Croods” was a fun film but it doesn’t hold the same weight in its story. The only other nominated film that I feel could have any chance is “The Wind Rises” by famed Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki in his final film. But Disney has the win here with “Frozen,” a very relatable film that showcases two Disney Princesses in a simple story about embracing who you are and how love can melt even the coldest heart. The songs are catchy, it’s beautifully animated and the voice talent is stellar. This should be an easy win for this chilly tale that warms the soul and has you singing along.

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year

The Broken Circle Breakdown
The Great Beauty
The Hunt
The Missing Picture

The likely winner: The Great Beauty
Possible surprise winner: The Broken Circle Breakdown

It is very hard to see all of these films if you’re not on the list to get the Oscar screeners, but a little searching can find a few on DVD or digital download via pay-per-view or Video on Demand. Made in the spirit of a bygone era of classic Italian cinema, the wonderfully shot, Fellini-esque “The Great Beauty” captured the attention of Academy voters when it nabbed the Golden Globe. “The Broken Circle Breakdown” also captured critics with its use of bluegrass songs about loss and despair to provide inspiration and the score for this Belgium, Flemish-language musical drama.

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

American Hustle
Blue Jasmine
Dallas Buyers Club

The likely winner: Her
Possible surprise winner: American Hustle

Once again, another category that has the top contenders neck and neck, but because of my unimpressed attitude, as I stated earlier, for the “American Hustle” storyline, I chose “Her” to win. “Her” not only had an incredible and moving performance by Joaquin Phoenix falling in love with his OS, but its themes about our evolving world and our connection to technology and the question of how could someone generally love something that’s not physically alive was very powerful and moving. What could have easily been taken as a cynical one-joke plot, turned it into something powerful and moving and that is why it’s getting my vote.

Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published

12 Years a Slave
Before Midnight
Captain Phillips
The Wolf of Wall Street

The likely winner: 12 Years a Slave
Possible surprise winner: Captain Phillips

The eloquent wordplay along with the moving subject matter makes “12 Years a Slave” the probable winner of this category. Take the fact that this is a true story about a real man, add in that it is devastatingly hard to watch at times and include the importance of this source material and all that makes this film Oscar bait for the Academy. Once again, being a true story that moves you, makes you think and evokes an emotion is a factor here. The other top contender would be “Captain Phillips,” which is also a true story and very well could have taken this award if it had held its momentum for a bit longer. Although we all love Tom Hanks, this great film won’t be winning all of the accolades as his projects have in the past.

Best Achievement in Costume Design

American Hustle
The Grandmaster
The Great Gatsby
The Invisible Woman
12 Years a Slave

The likely winner: The Great Gatsby
Possible surprise winner: American Hustle

This category is almost always dominated by period pieces and once again that is true with the glitz and glam of the roaring 1920s and the groovy 1970s. It is the remarkable vision of the well known story of the elusive millionaire Jay Gatsby that will win this award. The fun clothes amidst the parties and eventual downfall of this film’s namesake capture the attention of everyone with its remarkable vision and flair while slightly fantasizing the era as well. I was not alive in the ’70s, but I was told that “American Hustle” did an outstanding job of realistically portraying that era in its costumes and that’s why it is runner up for Best Costume.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song

Despicable Me 2: Pharrell Williams (“Happy”)
Frozen: Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (“Let It Go”)
Her: Karen O. and Spike  Jonze (“The Moon Song”)
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom: Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen (“Ordinary Love”)

The likely winner: Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (“Let It Go”)
Possible surprise winner: Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen (“Ordinary Love”)

Since Disney started this race off very early with its unabashed lobbying for the nomination by promoting this song and its singer Idina Menzel months before the nominations were announced, and even releasing the entire scene from the film where this song takes place, “Let It Go” has had the advantage in this category. I was also rooting for this song to win because of its singer and my familiarity with her past work in film and on Broadway. “Ordinary Love” is doing a great job lobbying for votes as well with the band U2 out shamelessly promoting its song to anyone who will listen. While “Let it Go” is more family friendly and “Ordinary Love” has such heart to it, it’s the early lead that will help Disney snag this golden statue.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

John Williams for The Book Thief
Stephen Price for Gravity
William Butler and Owen Pallett for Her
Alexandre Desplat for Philomena
Thomas Newman for Saving Mr. Banks

The likely winner: Stephen Price for Gravity
Possible surprise winner: Alexandre Desplat for Philomena

What “Gravity” has achieved wouldn’t be possible without an amazing score that really helped to increase tension to the mood, letting you know when something was about to go down and really helped set the tone for the film. I just watched Gravity again today and I will tell you that I noticed the score even more at home than I did in the theater and I can remember thinking how much I liked it. “Philomena” is also a contender, but the more subtle score is no match for “Gravity” and its amazing composer, Stephen Price.

Best Documentary, Feature

The Act of Killing
Cutie and the Boxer
Dirty Wars
The Square
20 Feet From Stardom

The likely winner: 20 Feet From Stardom
Possible surprise winner: The Act of Killing

While “20 Feet From Stardom” might not have the serious nature of some of its competitors in this category, it is inspiring and eye-opening nonetheless. The subject of background singers and their struggle to make it into the spotlight on their own makes for a touching and very informative film. Plus, it deals with singers from thirty or forty years ago, which will appeal to the older voting members of the Academy because it is and was the music of their younger years, so the nostalgia factor is strong with it. Now the runner up and possible upset is “The Act of Killing,” which is far harder a subject and more political. “20 Years of Stardom” is a lighter type of film and a real crowd-pleaser with the moving songs and awesome behind-the-scenes look at some great singers of days gone by.

Best Documentary, Short Subjects

Facing Fear
Karama Has No Walls
The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall

The likely winner: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Possible surprise winner: Facing Fear

“The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life” will win because of its subject: Alice Herz-Sommer and her miraculous story of being not only an expert musician and adept pianist who was 109-years-old at the time the documentary was filmed, but she also happened to be the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor. Sadly, she passed away a week ago at the age of 110 in London surrounded by her family and loved ones. It is because of her tale of bravery and her loving spirit I hope this film wins. “Facing Fear” is the story of a former Neo-Nazi and the gay victim of his senseless hate crime attacks who have a chance meeting 25 years after their original interactions and they both embark on a journey of forgiveness and healing. This also happens to be just the type of story that the Academy likes to promote and that’s why it stands a chance to win the Oscar.

Best Achievement in Makeup & Hairstyling

Dallas Buyers Club
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
The Lone Ranger

The likely winner: Dallas Buyers Club
Possible surprise winner: Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

“Dallas Buyers Club” seems to be the favorite in this category for a few reasons: period hair, makeup and clothes, as well as the nostalgia factor once again for voters. Before you say anything, I can’t believe I am writing about Academy Award predictions and I am naming a “Jackass” movie either, but I can see the reasoning behind its nomination, the transformation of Johnny Knoxville into the old man becomes really convincing. After watching the film for a while, you forget who is under the prosthetics and makeup. 

Best Achievement in Production Design

American Hustle
The Great Gatsby
12 Years a Slave

The likely winner: The Great Gatsby
Possible surprise winner: American Hustle

Even though I have seen the special features on the Great Gatsby Blu-Ray and know how they made that film so visually pleasing and how they used set extensions and green screen to enhance the movie, it almost makes me more impressed with the sets they did build and the look of the film and how it all flows together so seamlessly. I put “American Hustle” as runner up because I was impressed with the look of the movie, plus with it being a favorite early on, I was thinking this could be one area the Academy voters reward it since it won’t be winning the bigger categories.

Best Achievement in Film Editing

American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
12 Years a Slave

The likely winner: Gravity
Possible surprise winner: Captain Phillips

Let’s just say right up front that even though I’m not predicting “Gravity” will win Best Picture, I know that it will be sweeping the majority of all the technical categories and editing is one of them. The opening to the film is one continuous shot and from there it just keeps getting better with the camera becoming Sandra Bullock’s point of view inside of her helmet on one occasion and many more reasons why this film will win. “Captain Phillips” is looking to take second due to its impressive use of editing to drive the emotions and pace of the story, but I would just get used to hearing the word gravity a lot during the earlier part of the telecast.

Best Achievement in Cinematography

The Grandmaster
Inside Llewyn Davis

The likely winner: Gravity
Possible surprise winner: Inside Llewyn Davis
Once again, this is a technical award and everything technical seems to be swinging in the direction of “Gravity” which gave us breathtaking views of space, Earth and much more. Even though the majority of this film is CGI, it still looked amazing and that’s why it is my pick. Any of the other nominees could be considered a possible upset, but I chose “Inside Llewyn Davis” because of its very stylized hue and graininess, which set it apart from the others.

Best Achievement in Sound Editing

All is Lost
Captain Phillips
The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug
Inside Llewyn Davis
Lone Survivor

The likely winner: Gravity
Possible surprise winner: Captain Phillips

Just like with the film editing I see “Gravity” and “Captain Phillips” battling it out, with “Gravity” coming out ahead. I do think that “Lone Survivor” is a strong choice as well because I was very impressed with the sound design of it, but the lack of sound in space in “Gravity” is not only terrifying but also how I imagine it would be up there because it is a vacuous empty place with no oxygen. Also, how they made us hear only what the astronauts would hear from inside their space suits was a pretty cool choice as well.

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing

Captain Phillips
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Inside Llewyn Davis
Lone Survivor

The likely winner: Gravity
Possible surprise winner: Lone Survivor

Unlike with the previous category, I think “Lone Survivor” stands the better chance at an upset here because of that movie’s sound effects and how it felt so real. But here I go again, “Gravity” will win this award as well. This movie was a technical marvel, even though it might have had a basic premise, the sound mixed with the visuals made this film pretty epic to see in IMAX 3D. As a side note, I would suggest you see this film for the first time in 3D, without the 3D you would lose part of what makes it so great.

Best Achievement in Visual Effects

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
The Lone Ranger
Star Trek into Darkness

The likely winner: Gravity
Possible surprise winner: The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug

Of course, by now you know from all of my ranting that “Gravity” will win this category as it is a lock. I put “The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug” as a runner up just because I liked it a lot and wanted it to get some recognition. “Gravity” is a far more technical achievement in visual effects than many movie-goers realize. Once you watch the special features on the DVD or Blu-Ray, you will understand why. Here’s a hint: those aren’t Sandra Bullock’s or George Clooney’s bodies you see during the majority of the film. They are digital replacements and they use just their faces and motion capture on the rest of them. Amazing!

Best Short Film, Animated

Get a Horse!
Mr. Hublot
Room on the Broom

The likely winner: Get a Horse!
Possible surprise winner: Mr. Hublot

I know, finally a category Gravity won’t win. As you could tell from my praise of Disney’s “Frozen,” the studio also will be winning this category for a very funny and inventive short film. Just like with last year’s “Paperman,” it reinvents itself and surprises you. It starts off as a black and white letterbox hand drawn animation and morphs into a 3D C.G.I. cartoon. It is very cool. I picked “Mr. Hublot” as a runner up because it is a cute short and I liked the slightly odd way its animated.

Best Short Film, Live Action

Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)
Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything)
Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything!)
The Voorman Problem

The likely winner:  The Voorman Problem
Possible surprise winner: Helium

This is a hard to predict category since it isn’t included in many of the precursor award shows and it is hard to see all of these from the comfort of your own home, but I choose “The Voorman Problem” because it stars two great actors – Martin Freeman and Tom Hollander – and is a great little film about a doctor who goes into a jail to treat a prisoner who believes he is God. I picked “Helium” for a possible upset because it is a whimsical short filled with emotions and fantasy as a young dying boy is told stories about Helium, a magical fantasy world by the hospitals eccentric janitor.

Well, those are my predictions. I have wanted to change a few of them during the course of writing this, but decided to stick with my gut instincts. As always, there will be some upsets and maybe even in some of the bigger categories, but overall I think most of my picks will do quite well.

As always, you should try to get out to see these amazing films and performances in theaters, rent the DVD or even digitally download them as every movie has something unique to tell you and how will you know what to think of its win on Oscar night if you haven’t even seen it?

The 86th Annual Academy Awards air tonight at 7 p.m. Eastern or 4 p.m. Pacific Time on ABC and it will be hosted by the very funny and talented Ellen DeGeneres. Red Carpet arrivals will, of course, take place beforehand and there are even options to watch it live online if you wish. So gather your family and friends and enjoy the show!

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