Tomorrow is the auction draft for my big fantasy baseball league with a group of friends and former co-workers. I’ve read through many strategy posts online, and they all start with “nominate players that you don’t want.” If everyone reads these ideas, the hive mind will adjust and render this approach useless. Someone has to want the players that are up for bid (in most cases). This situation connects to the predictions leading into Sunday’s Oscar ceremony. Movie fans read predictions and often base their own thoughts on those picks. That creates a consensus that all chooses the same movies. This helps to make the awards predictable, and the past few years have gone according to the expected trends. Will that continue this year? If it does, this will be another snoozer that offers few surprises.
Fortunately, there are several contenders that have a solid chance to grab the top prize. Will a front runner emerge and sweep most of the awards? It’s possible there will be a split where nothing wins more than four or five awards. That would be interesting and seems likely given the wide range of winners in awards from guilds and other associations. Tom Hanks might be a strong pick for Captain Phillips, but he wasn’t even nominated! There’s a frustrating lack of depth to the options, which are spread mostly among a small group of movies. That distribution could lead to the awards falling to three or four movies, however. There are some obvious categories like Best Supporting Actor, while others seem wide open.
This is the first year in a long time that I haven’t run an Oscar pool. After struggling to watch the show and tabulate all the results last year, I decided it was time for a break. I’m excited to just sit back and not be staring at a spreadsheet after each award. Of course, this could inspire a lot of boredom. I’ve joined a few online contests to at least have some involvement with the winners. My study in making these picks has included countless days minutes devoted to the pursuit. I also still need to see a lot of the films, so the choices will often not focus on the actual quality of the movie.
Best Picture – 12 Years a Slave
The general consensus is that we have a three-team race for Best Picture with Gravity, American Hustle, and 12 Years a Slave as the top contenders. By the time this award is announced, I expect that we’ll have a pretty good idea about where it’s heading. While all three could win, I have a strong feeling that the voters will go with Steve McQueen’s depiction of the horrors of slavery. The others will likely win some awards, but this has the sense of being the fitting winner.
Actor in a Leading Role – Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Fans and critics really like McConaughey, and voters seem ready to reward the guy for changing his career path. He’s handled the attention so well and has delivered so many great performances over recent years. This role also includes massive weight loss, and those moves can sometimes charm the Academy.
Actress in a Leading Role – Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
All the indications point to Blanchett being a shoo-in for this role, though controversy towards Woody Allen has removed some of the luster from it. I’m unsure when the voters submitted their ballots, and it may have been prior to the scandal resurfacing. Regardless, I don’t see it taking away from her victory.
Actor in a Supporting Role – Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Leto’s dropped off the map until this point, so his emergence is stunning. This feels like the most certain of any of the categories, and I’d be shocked by a different result. Bakhad Abdi did a remarkable job in Captain Phillips, but upsetting Leto doesn’t seem likely.
Actress in a Supporting Role - Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
There’s a strong chance that Jennifer Lawrence will take this award despite winning last year. Even so, I’m not expecting American Hustle to grab any of the major categories. Nyong’o has earned raves, and her chances seem best from the actors in that film.
Directing – Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
The technical achievements in Gravity are incredible, and it’s clear there’s a definite vision behind it. Using CGI effectively, he builds a world that promises death around every corner. From the other contenders, David O. Russell and Martin Scorsese have plenty of fans, and Steve McQueen could benefit if 12 Years a Slave takes a lot of awards. Even so, I still believe that Cuarón is the most likely candidate to take home this prize.
Animated Feature Film and Original Song – Frozen
Given its rampant popularity with audiences and critics, I can’t see a scenario where Frozen doesn’t win the Animated Feature Film award. “Let It Go” also has a similar vibe to “Skyfall” and is the most recognizable from the group. I’m less convinced about Original Song, but it’s the obvious choice.
Cinematography, Film Editing, Visual Effects - Gravity
Although it may not win Best Picture, I’m expecting Gravity to end the night with the most awards. The reason is the technical awards, which are made for this type of movie. Visual Effects is a no-brainer, and the editing is designed to maximize the intensity. Cinematography is interesting because such a computer-driven film might not seem like the right fit. Even so, that didn’t stop Life of Pi from winning last year.
Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Original Score – Gravity
I’m most convinced about the two sound categories, which stand out because it plays such a key role in making the scenario believable. Original Score may be trickier, and the acclaim for Her makes me wonder if that’s the better choice. Even so, it’s hard to pick against Gravity with any of these.
Costume Design and Original Screenplay – American Hustle
Given its four acting nominations, there’s a chance that American Hustle will end up winning a lot of awards. That said, it still feels like most of them are going to other movies. I’m picking it for Original Screenplay as the consolation for not grabbing top awards. Costume Design feels like a shoo-in, though The Great Gatsby’s could grab that prize.
Adapted Screenplay – 12 Years a Slave
I would love to see a victory for Before Midnight in this category, but I don’t get the sense it has enough support to pull the upset. The winner will probably come from one of the major players, and the obvious candidate is 12 Years a Slave. If it wins Best Picture like I predict, it should also grab this category.
Documentary Feature – The Act of Killing
I’ve enjoyed both 20 Feet from Stardom and The Square and would be happy if either won. I’m thinking they’re going to play second fiddle, however. The set-up for The Act of Killing is stunning, and getting killers to re-enact their atrocities should push it over the top.
Foreign Language Film – The Broken Circle Breakdown
This is one of the trickiest categories to predict given the love for three of the contenders. The Great Beauty feels like the front runner, but this category frequently surprises. There’s also plenty of love for The Hunt, but my choice is The Broken Circle Breakdown. Despite its difficult subject matter, plenty of viewers have really taken to its story and music.
Makeup and Hairstyling – The Dallas Buyers Club
This one seems pretty obvious.
Production Design – The Great Gatsby
If nothing else, Baz Luhrman can deliver in the realm of production design. His films always look amazing and go way over the top in this area. Assuming the bombast doesn’t turn off voters, it should be destined for victory.
Short Films – Get a Horse!, Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn't Me), The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
I’ll admit that I’m following the trends here. The general approach is to choose heavy subject matter and expect it to outweigh all other concerns for the ultimate winners.