It always sneaks up on you. This year’s Academy Awards are here, and whether you were a fan of the blockbuster ensemble or indie darling, chances are it will be represented at the 86th such event as the winners are selected.
2013 presented audiences with a wide range of quality cinema, and the selection process was no doubt daunting for the Academy (and it wasn’t easy for me, either). So without further delay, here’s my ballot for the 2014 Oscars – in eight of the major categories, at least.
American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Philomena, The Wolf of Wall Street, 12 Years a Slave
Winner: 12 Years a Slave
Steve McQueen’s brutal introspective is the safest bet in a pool so deep. All eight nominees are deserving of a look, but 12 Years a Slave is the kind of story that the Academy salivates over. Gravity’s spellbinding cinematography might give it a run for its money, but 12 Years is just too strong. Look for McQueen and company to pick up the win in the best picture department.
Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity; Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave; Alexander Payne, Nebraska; David O. Russell, American Hustle; Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
Winner: Alfonso Cuarón
He picked up the Golden Globe and he’s going to be going home with an Oscar tonight. The voters will want to award Gravity and a Best Director nod will the category in which they do so. Cuarón is a well-respected director and it’s fitting that he gets his first Academy Award for such a universally acclaimed entry.
Christian Bale, American Hustle; Bruce Dern, Nebraska; Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave; Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street; Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Winner: Matthew McConaughey
Sorry, Leo. MM takes home the gold and leaves you empty handed, again. Maybe next year?
Amy Adams, American Hustle; Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine; Sandra Bullock, Gravity; Judi Dench, Philomena, Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
Winner: Cate Blanchett
Despite some negative publicity resurfacing around Woody Allen’s personal life, Blanchett’s startling portrayal of a fallen New York socialite is too good to ignore. A lot of critics have Adams winning here, but I think the Academy sticks with the enduring, dramatic turn, as she’s taken home a lot of hardware for this one already.
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
Winner: Barkhad Abdi
Fassbender is too cruel, Hill is too outrageous, and the powerful ensemble in Hustle doesn’t help Cooper stand out (I actually preferred Jeremy Renner’s performance), which narrows the race down to Abdi and Leto. I think the former will outdo the latter, giving Captain Phillips its only major category win.
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine; Jenifer Lawrence, American Hustle; Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave; Julia Roberts, August: Orange County; June Squibb, Nebraska
Winner: Lupita Nyong’o
I honestly wouldn’t have an issue taking Miss Lawrence here if it weren’t for her winning an Oscar last year, so Nyong’o will step in and claim the prize. She was great in 12 Years and doesn’t face much mainstream competition, making this a much more manageable victory.
Before Midnight, Richard Linklater; Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke; Captain Phillips, Billy Ray; Philomena, Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope; 12 Years a Slave, John Ridley; The Wolf of Wall Street, Terence Winter
Winner: Philomena, Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
What’s this, no 12 Years a Slave? That’s right – the Academy might be a bit more sentimental this year than people are predicting. With two awards already heading in the direction of 12 Years and Wolf being a little too foul mouthed for the panel, I think Philomena might just slide in and snag the award for best adapted screenplay in an upset.
American Hustle, Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell; Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen; Dallas Buyers Club, Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack; Her, Spike Jonze; Nebraska, Bob Nelson
Winner: Her, Spike Jonze
Speaking of upsets, this one’s a stretch. Maybe I’m letting my love of this odd indie cloud my judgement, but Original Screenplay has the makings of being the biggest surprise this year (barring a win for Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa in the makeup and hairstyling department) and Her is the kind of film that could come out of left field and snatch the Oscar at the last second.