by Sara Michelle Fetters -
SGN A&E Writer
The nominations for the 86th annual Academy Awards will be announced this coming Thursday, January 16, and it goes without saying Steve McQueen's slavery drama 12 Years a Slave and Alfonso Cuarón's interstellar survivalist sci-fi smash Gravity will be the two frontrunners. They're likely to snatch up a gigantic batch of the nominations, and as of right now, one can't help but imagine come the night of March 2 itself, they'll be the pair taking home the bulk of the Oscars handed out to the victors.
But in a year as packed with greatness as 2013 was, trying to figure out who is going to get nominated in what category and why is proving to be an incredibly difficult enterprise.
Normally, there are a handful of frontrunners in all the major categories, and while there are always a modicum of outliers that can steal a few slots, predicting the majority of the nominees isn't that much of a challenge. This year, however, the majority of the categories, especially in regards to acting, are so overstuffed with viable contenders, it goes without saying there will be a number of potential nominees who will wake up Thursday morning to bitter disappointment.
There are, by my count, 20 viable Best Picture contenders duking it out for a possible 10 slots (I'm anticipating nine nominees, but that number could end up being as low as seven depending on the Academy's cryptic and awkward voting systems), while there are more than a dozen actors and actresses who gave award-worthy performances fighting over five precious spots in each respective category.
The following are my thoughts as to who the likely nominees will be in the major categories, as well as some personal thoughts as to who and who shouldn't be a part of the conversation. Come Thursday morning we'll find out just how good my prognostication skills truly are.
The Contenders: 12 Years a Slave, All is Lost, August: Osage County, American Hustle, Before Midnight, Blue is the Warmest Color, Blue Jasmine, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Frozen, Fruitvale Station, Gravity, Her, Inside Llewyn Davis, Lee Daniels' The Butler, Nebraska, Philomena, Prisoners, Rush, Saving Mr. Banks, Short Term 12, The Wolf of Wall Street
The Locks: 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Gravity
Put Money On It: Captain Phillips, Nebraska, Saving Mr. Banks
Likely: August: Osage County, Dallas Buyers Club, The Wolf of Wall Street
Outside Looking In: Inside Llewyn Davis, Her, Lee Daniels' The Butler
Darkhorses: All is Lost, Before Midnight, Blue Jasmine, Frozen, Fruitvale Station, Rush, Short Term 12
Thoughts - It's hard to know what to make of the Best Picture situation. If there were five nominees this would be easy, 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Gravity and Saving Mr. Banks the obvious picks one can't help but assume the Academy would give preference to.
But with a potential five additional slots and so many solid films to choose from? Honestly, it's anyone's guess as to which motion pictures will fill out the nominee card.
Personally, I'm going with a final tally of nine to make the party, a number of noteworthy titles, including Short Term 12, Before Midnight and the Coen brothers latest masterwork Inside Llewyn Davis missing the cut.
FINAL PREDICTIONS: 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, August: Osage County, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Her, Nebraska, Saving Mr. Banks, The Wolf of Wall Street
The Contenders: Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), J.C. Chandor (All is Lost), David O. Russell (American Hustle), Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine), Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips), Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station), Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity), Spike Jonze (Her), Ron Howard (Rush), John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr. Banks), Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)
The Locks: Cuarón, McQueen, Russell
Put Money On It: Greengrass
Outside Looking In: Coen brother, Hancock, Payne
Darkhorses: Allen, Chandor, Coogler
Thoughts - Yep, I'm voting against Scorsese, not because I don't think he's worthy, but more because I feel like the controversy surrounding the film itself will keep him out of the final nomination pool.
More, there's always one surprise in this category, and in this case I kind of feel like Coogler and Fruitvale Station are the flavor du jour that could make the nomination cut.
FINAL PREDICTIONS: Coogler, Cuarón, Greengrass, McQueen, Russell
The Contenders: Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), Christian Bale (American Hustle), Robert Redford (All is Lost), Ethan Hawke (Before Midnight), Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club), Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station), Joaquin Phoenix (Her), Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis), Forest Whitaker (Lee Daniels' The Butler), Mark Wahlberg (Lone Survivor), Idris Elba (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom), Bruce Dern (Nebraska), Steve Coogan (Philomena), Hugh Jackman (Prisoners), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
The Locks: Ejiofor, McConaughey
Put Money On It: no one
Likely: Dern, Hanks
Outside Looking In: Bale, DiCaprio, Isaac, Jordan, Phoenix, Redford, Whitaker
Darkhorses: Coogan, Elba, Hawke, Jackman
Thoughts - No matter what happens here, a number of actors, whether they want to admit it or not, are going to come away disappointed when the final nominee list is announced. I honestly have no clue what's going to happen here (other than Ejiofor and McConaughey), so take my final predictions with a gigantic pillar of salt.
FINAL PREDICTIONS: Dern, DiCaprio, Ejiofor, McConaughey, Redford
The Contenders: Amy Adams (American Hustle), Meryl Streep (August: Osage County), Julie Delpy (Before Midnight), Adèle Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Enough Said), Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Kate Winslet (Labor Day), Bérénice Bejo (The Past), Judi Dench (Philomena), Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks), Brie Larson (Short Term 12), Rooney Mara (Side Effects)
The Locks: Blanchett, Bullock
Put Money On It: Dench, Streep, Thompson
Outside Looking In: Adams, Exarchopoulos, Larson, Louis-Dreyfus
Darkhorses: Delpy, Gerwig
Thoughts - Best Actress is as crowded a field as Best Actor, but when one understands the history and voting patterns of the Academy, predicting the nominees themselves is actually fairly simple.
In all honesty, I'm fairly positive the five women I'm guessing will get nods will prove to be correct, and it's safe to say this was the wrong year to be a young actress giving a spectacular performance if you were looking to be singled out for any sort of Oscar love.
That said, if Larson, Exarchopoulos or Adams (or even Gerwig or Louis-Dreyfus - you can sadly forget about Bejo, Delpy or Mara) edge their way into the final five, the squeal you'll hear is me losing my marbles in outright glee.
FINAL PREDICTIONS: Blanchett, Bullock, Dench, Streep, Thompson
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
The Contenders: Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave), Harrison Ford (42), Ben Foster (Ain't Them Bodies Saints), Bradley Cooper (American Hustle), Jeremy Renner (American Hustle), Chris Cooper (August: Osage County), Alec Baldwin (Blue Jasmine), Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club), James Gandolfini (Enough Said), Ben Foster (Lone Survivor), Matthew McConaughey (Mud), Will Forte (Nebraska), Jake Gyllenhaal (Prisoners), Colin Farrell (Saving Mr. Banks), Tom Hanks (Saving Mr. Banks), James Franco (Spring Breakers), Daniel Brühl (Rush), Sam Rockwell (The Way Way Back), Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street)
The Locks: Fassbender, Leto
Put Money On It: Abdi
Likely: Brühl, Gandolfini
Outside Looking In: Franco, Gyllenhaal, Hanks, Hill
Darkhorses: Baldwin, B. Cooper, C. Cooper, Forte
Thoughts - First things first: the fact Foster isn't going to get a nomination, for either Ain't Them Bodies Saints or Lone Survivor, I don't care which, is an absolute shame. After that, much like Best Actor, the Supporting category on the male side is also a crapshoot where just about anybody can sneak into the nomination pool. That said, I'm fairly happy with the picks I've made (emphasis on 'fairly').
FINAL PREDICTIONS: Abdi, Brühl, Fassbender, Gandolfini, Leto
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
The Contenders: Lupita Nyongo (12 Years a Slave), Sarah Paulson (12 Years a Slave), Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), Margo Martindale (August: Osage County), Julia Roberts (August: Osage County), Léa Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Color), Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Jennifer Garner (Dallas Buyers Club), Octavia Spencer (Fruitvale Station), Amy Adams (Her), Scarlett Johansson (Her), Carey Mullign (Inside Llewyn Davis), Oprah Winfrey (Lee Daniels' The Butler), June Squibb (Nebraska), Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street)
The Locks: Lawrence, Nyongo
Put Money On It: Squibb
Likely: Roberts, Winfrey
Outside Looking In: Garner, Martindale, Seydoux, Spencer
Darkhorses: Hawkins, Robbie, Johansson
Thoughts - This is a tough one to predict in many ways as well, because while Nyongo and Lawrence are most decidedly going to duke it out for the actual win, figuring out who the other three vying against them will be close to impossible.
Every actress here gave a superlative performance in 2013, each deserving of being recognized. It's all going to come down to what particular movie the Academy falls in love with most (I'm guessing August: Osage County or Fruitvale Station) that more than likely is going to be the determining factor as to which actresses take up the final three slots.
FINAL PREDICTIONS: Lawrence, Nyongo, Roberts, Spencer, Squibb
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