How will it go down on Oscar night?

Final predictions for the 86th Academy Awards

Well folks, it’s time. After going back and forth on pretty much every category this year, I must lay down my final predictions, and ultimately stand by them. Go hard or go home, that’s how it must be done. As always, I must state that no matter how hard anyone tries to convince you, nobody knows anything with how the night is going to play out. We can predict these things until we’re blue in the face, but anything can happen at the Oscars, and this year that rings even more true. The precursor awards haven’t provided solid frontrunners in most categories, but we must at least try to guess, otherwise what’s the point of this post. So, without further ado, here are my predictions for the 86th Academy Awards.

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

Will win: 12 Years A Slave
Should win: American Hustle
Possible shocker: The Wolf of Wall Street

The toughest category of the night, something I haven’t said in a good decade or so. Each of the three psuedo-frontrunners (12 Years, Gravity and American Hustle) have held my prediction over the past few months. Each has felt like the eventual winner at different stages, and even now at the eleventh hour, I still don’t know how it’s going to end. Whatever happens will be wonderful, and I will truly be happy no matter what. My heart wants American Hustle, but my head is going with 12 Years A Slave. It has the edge, it has the importance, it has the history-making element, and it will win Best Picture. That said, I won’t be surprised to hear Gravity read out. I said back in November that it was the best film of the year, but it would never win Best Picture, and I’m sticking with that prediction to the end.

Alfonso Cuarón – Gravity
Alexander Payne – Nebraska
Steve McQueen – 12 Years A Slave
David O’Russell – American Hustle
Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street

Will win: Alfonso Cuarón
Should win: Alfonso Cuarón
Possible shocker: Steve McQueen

For the second year in a row, we’re heading for a Picture/Director split vote. This used to be such a rarity, but perhaps it’s becoming the norm. Last year, they had no choice, after Affleck’s surprising snub, but this year it seems like they will purposely make this call. After claiming every major precursor award, Cuarón stands as one of the few locks of the night. His masterful direction cannot be ignored, and Gravity is nothing but his triumph to revel in. Adding to that, he’ll make history as the first Latino director to take the prize. Sure, McQueen would make history too, but not this year. If McQueen does pull off the shock win, there won’t be any doubt about Best Picture. Whatever O’Russell directs next will sweep the awards. He’s now officially overdue.

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

Will win: Matthew McConaughey
Should win: Leonardo DiCaprio
Possible shocker: Leonardo DiCaprio

The McConaissance cannot be stopped. He will win an Academy Award for Best Actor, something none of us dreamed would happen just a few years ago. His performance has everything the Academy loves, and it seems impossible for them to ignore him. I will give him the due credit. He does a phenomenal job, and winning the award also seems a solid nod to the way he’s transformed his career, much like Sandra Bullock’s win a few years ago for The Blind Side. You have to feel bad for Leo. This kind of performance would normally win. Ditto with Christian Bale. Transformative performances (Leo gets dirty, Bale gets ugly) are normally showered with awards. Any other year, and the prize would be theirs. Bruce Dern also had the winning formula for an Oscar too. A seasoned, but only once nominated, veteran actor, in a moving and timeless performance. His nomination will be the only prize. Likewise with Chiwetel Ejiofor. Sadly, I don’t think he’ll ever get close again, but what a ride it’s been.  I still have the feeling deep down that Leo can pull off an upset. He has a huge groundswell of support, and there could be voter exhaustion with McConaughey, meaning they turn elsewhere. You never know.

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

Will win: Cate Blanchett
Should win: They all should win. Seriously.
Possible shocker: Amy Adams

Possibly an even bigger lock than Director. Our Cate will win her second Academy Award, and perhaps, in some small way, make up for her shameful loss to Gwyneth Paltrow all those years ago. It seems the last-minute Woody Allen controversy thankfully hasn’t affected her chances, and she’s the only performer this season to win all the major precursor awards. Her performance in Blue Jasmine is truly one of the greatest ever seen on screen, and she must win. That being said, the other four women are all astonishingly good, and any other year, they would have easily won. Adams steals the show in a movie full of showstealers, Bullock carries an entire film literally by herself, Dench gives the most beautiful performance of the year, and Streep knocks it out of the ballpark, yet again. It is a crying shame we can’t just have a five-way tie, because they all should take home something this year. I honestly can’t see it happening, but if somehow the Allen scandal sways voters, Adams will steal the award.

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

Will win: Jared Leto
Should win: Michael Fassbender
Possible shocker: Barkhad Abdi

If not for BAFTA, Leto would have made a clean sweep as well. Despite that, he will take the Academy Award, and just like his co-star, this seemed incredibly unlikely a few years ago. Like McConaughey, he has delivered a powerhouse performance, while at the same time delivering some truly gracious and moving acceptance speeches over the past few months. The Academy cannot overlook a man playing a transsexual dying of HIV/AIDS. It has Oscar written all over it. I personally think Fassbender’s performance is better, but his lack of campaigning from the beginning hurt his chances. It’s amazing that Hill scores his second nomination. Not that he doesn’t deserve it, because he does, but who would have thought the chubby kid from Superbad would end up being a double Oscar nominee? Cooper does a superb job again, and he’ll get there one day. The only possibly shocker I can see is the Abdi. BAFTA loved him, and Oscar does love to reward debut performances.

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

Will win: Lupita Nyong’o
Should win: Jennifer Lawrence
Possible shocker: June Squibb

The one major category I am completely unsure of. I thought it was Lawrence’s for the longest time, and I still do think it could happen. Had she not won last year, the award would be hers. Her performance is just sublime. There hasn’t been a back-to-back winner since Tom Hanks in the early 90s, so I know it’s almost impossible to imagine it happening. Her somewhat surprising BAFTA win, and the fact Oscar voting opened just after those awards, is the one glimmer of hope for J-Law. That said, my money is on Nyong’o. As I already mentioned, they love to award debut performances, and hers is of the highest calibre. She gives a brilliant and heart-wrenching performance, and has quickly become the darling of the awards circuit. It’s a coin-flip between the two. Do I honestly think June Squibb can pull off a shocker? Maybe. The two frontrunners could split the vote, and my feeling is Squibb will be in third, and could be the surprise winner. Roberts and Hawkins are just happy to be there.

American Hustle
Blue Jasmine
Dallas Buyers Club

Will win: Her
Should win: American Hustle
Possible shocker: Blue Jasmine

Another coin-flip category. It’s an incredibly tight race between Her and American Hustle. I have absolutely no idea how this will go. Her is the best screenplay, and certainly the most original, so that’s why I’m laying my bet there. It won more precursor awards, so it definitely has the momentum. But it seems unimaginable that American Hustle won’t win a single award, and this is the only category it stands a real chance. I’ve changed my mind on this one a dozen times. Either way, I’m happy.

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

Will win: 12 Years A Slave
Should win: The Wolf of Wall Street
Possible shocker: Philomena

Where Best Picture goes, so too usually does the Screenplay, which is why I’m going with 12 Years A Slave. It’s probably not the best screenplay of the pack, but it rides the momentum to take the award. That said, I could really see a Philomena upset.

“Happy” – Despicable Me 2
“Let It Go” – Frozen
“The Moon Song” – Her
“Ordinary Man” – Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom

Will win: “Let It Go”
Should win: “Let It Go”
Possible shocker: “Happy”

Nothing but “Let It Go” should be winning this award. There is a strong chance for U2’s sappy Mandela tribute to steal it, especially given how hard Bono has been campaigning, but I’m confident this won’t happen. “Let It Go” has become a phenomenon, and it has to be rewarded. If the two split the vote, Pharrell could dance his way up onto the podium. Dear god, no.

I’m not going to bother going into great detail with the other awards. I’m predicting Gravity to clean-up the tech awards (Cinematography, Editing (possible upset for Captain Phillips though), Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Score), Disney will take home both Animated categories, with Frozen taking out Feature and Get A Horse! taking home Short, and The Great Gatsby will score both Costume and Production Design, a double win for Australia’s Catherine Martin. As for things like Foreign Film, Documentary, and the short film awards…flip a coin, or go with whatever seems the most bleak.

There’s a lot of Oscar watchers predicting locks of shocks and surprises, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that happen. Take my predictions with a grain of salt. I could be completely wrong on everything, it’s one of those years. Have a great Oscar day, and I’ll be back tomorrow to wrap up my thoughts on the winners and losers.