You should have your Oscar pool by now. Twenty-four categories. One hundred and twenty-one choices. And, no, "The Lego Movie" is not among them. (Next year. Next year.)
We've been here for you for the last six months, starting back in September when "12 Years a Slave" and "Gravity" pulled to the front of the pack after wowing at the Telluride and Toronto film festivals. And here we are ... yes, same as it ever was, with the Oscars coming around the bend on Sunday.
So, one last time, the envelopes, please. Here are our final picks, including two new (and hopefully improved) picks in the editing and live-action short categories that will seal the deal for you if you're playing at home.
"American Hustle," "Captain Phillips," "Dallas Buyers Club," "Gravity," "Her," "Nebraska," "Philomena," "12 Years a Slave," "The Wolf of Wall Street"
And the winner is: "12 Years a Slave." With so many choices, it feels like a year when picture and director will split. Some pundits see "Gravity" winning as the result of the academy's preferential voting system, which rewards movies that win a broad consensus. But "12 Years" should pick up plenty of first-place votes and appear high on a lot of ballots. Admittedly, it's a gut pick. But we're sticking with it.
Alfonso Cuarón, “Gravity”; Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”; Alexander Payne, “Nebraska”; David O. Russell, “American Hustle”; Martin Scorsese, “The Wolf of Wall Street”
And the winner is: Cuarón. Well-liked and respected, Cuarón took Directors Guild of America honors for his landmark effort. He should repeat with the academy.
Christian Bale, “American Hustle”; Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”; Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street”; Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”; Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”
And the winner is: McConaughey. All right, all right, all right!
Amy Adams, “American Hustle”; Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”; Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”; Judi Dench, “Philomena”; Meryl Streep, “August: Osage County”
And the winner is: Blanchett. After winning every prize leading up to the Oscars, the academy won’t shun her for headlines involving Woody Allen.
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”
And the winner is: Leto. He and McConaughey will become the fifth pair of male actors from the same film to win lead and supporting Oscars.
Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine”; Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”; Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”; Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County”; June Squibb, “Nebraska”
And the winner is: Nyong’o. She’s deserving, and many will feel it’s a bit soon to reward Lawrence again.
“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
And the winner is: “12 Years a Slave.” A landing spot for academy members not voting for “Slave” for best picture or director.
“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
And the winner is: "American Hustle" probably won't win many Oscars, yet academy members will want to acknowledge it somewhere. This is the likeliest place, though it faces a tough challenge from "Her." Still, it seems counterintuitive to believe that voters loved "Hustle" enough to reward it with the most nominations (along with "Gravity") and then shut it out completely.
“The Croods”; “Despicable Me 2”; “Ernest & Celestine”; “Frozen”; “The Wind Rises”
And the winner is: “Frozen.” Commercial juggernaut gives Disney its first win for animated feature.
“The Grandmaster,” Philippe Le Sourd; “Gravity,” Emmanuel Lubezki; “Inside Llewyn Davis,” Bruno Delbonnel; “Nebraska,” Phedon Papamichael; “Prisoners,” Roger A. Deakins
And the winner is: “Gravity.” Cinephiles rejoice! Lubezki finally prevails ... for the kind of computer-generated spectacle that angers purists in this category.
“American Hustle,” Michael Wilkinson; “The Grandmaster,” William Chang Suk Ping; “The Great Gatsby,” Catherine Martin; “The Invisible Woman,” Michael O’Connor; “12 Years a Slave,” Patricia Norris
And the winner is: “Gatsby.” Flash and fabric always rule, and "Gatsby" edges out "Hustle" on those counts. It wouldn't be shocking though if "Hustle," a best picture nominee filled with polyester and plunging necklines, pulls off an upset.
“The Act of Killing,” “Cutie and the Boxer,” “Dirty Wars," “The Square,” “20 Feet From Stardom”
And the winner is: “20 Feet From Stardom.” The acclaimed “Killing” could eke out a victory, but we lean toward the crowd-pleaser.
“American Hustle,” Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten; “Captain Phillips,” Christopher Rouse; “Dallas Buyers Club,” John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa; “Gravity,” Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger; “12 Years a Slave,” Joe Walker
And the winner is: "Captain Phillips." We originally leaned toward “Gravity,” but Rouse gave “Phillips” a gripping urgency and is the more obvious piece of work. Should voters go for "Gravity" in a big way, it will be part of the sweep here.
“The Broken Circle Breakdown,” “The Great Beauty,” “The Hunt,” “The Missing Picture,” “Omar”
And the winner is: “The Great Beauty.” Its Golden Globe win raised its profile; comparisons to Fellini hooked academy cinéastes.
MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
“Dallas Buyers Club,” Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews; “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa,” Stephen Prouty; “The Lone Ranger,” Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny
And the winner is: “Dallas Buyers Club.” With a median age of 63, the academy is not quite ready to hear “And the Oscar goes to ... ‘Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa!’” Not to mention the fact that not enough voters saw it in the first place. Go with the best picture nominee.
“Happy” from “Despicable Me 2,” music and lyrics by Pharrell Williams; “Let It Go” from “Frozen,” music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez; “The Moon Song” from “Her,” music by Karen O, lyrics by Karen O and Spike Jonze; “Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” music by Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, lyrics by Paul Hewson
And the winner is: “Let It Go.” Because there isn’t a singalong version of “Mandela,” is there?
“The Book Thief,” John Williams; “Gravity,” Stephen Price; “Her,” William Butler and Owen Pallett; “Philomena,” Alexandre Desplat; “Saving Mr. Banks,” Thomas Newman
And the winner is: “Gravity.” The score’s prominence — and excellence — gives Price an Oscar in his first try.
“American Hustle,” production design: Judy Becker; set decoration: Heather Loeffler. “Gravity,” production design: Andy Nicholson; set decoration: Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard. “The Great Gatsby,” production design: Catherine Martin; set decoration: Beverley Dunn. “Her,” production design: K.K. Barrett; set decoration: Gene Serdena. “12 Years a Slave,” production design: Adam Stockhausen; set decoration: Alice Baker.
And the winner is: Martin won for “Moulin Rouge,” and voters are likely to go for her brand of razzle-dazzle again. "Gravity" is the dark horse, should it dominate the night.
“All Is Lost,” Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns; “Captain Phillips,” Oliver Tarney; “Gravity,” Glenn Freemantle; “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” Brent Burge and Chris Ward; “Lone Survivor,” Wylie Stateman
And the winner is: “Gravity.” Bullock’s breathing, the NASA chatter, the good (and bad) vibrations. Brilliant work.
“Captain Phillips,” Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro; “Gravity,” Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro; “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson; “Inside Llewyn Davis,” Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland; “Lone Survivor,” Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow
And the winner is: “Gravity.” For the way it uses silence, among many other reasons.
“Gravity,” Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, David Shirk and Neil Corbould; “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds; “Iron Man 3,” Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick; “The Lone Ranger,” Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier; “Star Trek Into Darkness,” Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton
And the winner is: “Gravity.” Seamless work established a new standard for the medium.
ANIMATED SHORT FILM
“Feral,” “Get a Horse!,” “Mr. Hublot,” “Possessions,” “Room on the Broom”
And the winner is: “Get a Horse!” Inventive Disney short rides “Frozen’s” coattails.
DOCUMENTARY SHORT FILM
“CaveDigger,” “Facing Fear,” “Karama Has No Walls,” “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life,” “Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall”
And the winner is: “The Lady in Number 6.” Moving portrait of a 109-year-old pianist, who was the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor before her recent death.
LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILM
“Aquel No Era Yo” (That Wasn’t Me); “Avant Que De Tout Perdre” (Just Before Losing Everything); “Helium”; “Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa?” (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?); “The Voorman Problem”
And the winner is: "Helium." A number of academy members have told me how much they loved this sentimental story of a dying boy, so we're going with that. Yes, “The Voorman Problem" is the only one without subtitles. And it has Martin Freeman. But it's slight. And it just doesn't seem to be moving the needle with voters.
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