Welcome to The Screen Life’s Oscar Predictions! This is last in a 6-part series, in which you will find a quick breakdown of each category, accompanied by ranked predictions. Also be sure to check out the complete OSCAR PREDICTIONS page (in the menu up top), which will be continually updated throughout the week. This is your grand guide to this Sunday’s big night!
Martin Scorsese and Alexander Payne crafted incredible films – #1 and #2 respectively on my Top 10 List. Nevertheless, they’re all but sitting this one out. This is a close 2-man race, with a third nipping right behind their heels. That third is David O. Russell who, with his third nomination in only 4 years, already feels overdue for an Oscar. Many believe this is his crowning achievement (though not yours truly), but as American Hustle’s buzz has quieted a bit, so has his chances to win here. That leaves the other two to duke it out.
Steve McQueen has created a groundbreaking, monumental achievement. He is only the third black director ever nominated and the first to get anywhere close to winning. He could definitely win this. Splits between the picture and director are very rare and nearly impossible to predict, so if his film wins, he could easily scoop up this award as well.
Alfonso Cuarón is not making it that easy, however. He too has created a groundbreaking, monumental achievement. Plus, he has swept the director awards in nearly every precursor imaginable, including the all-important DGA. All signs seem to point to his direction. If Best Picture is still murky, Best Director is just a little clearer. Not clear, mind you, but clearer.
1. Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
2. Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
3. David O. Russell, American Hustle
4. Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
5. Alexander Payne, Nebraska
And finally we come to the biggest question mark of the season. That the ceremony is 2 days away still nobody really know who is going to win is incredible. Add to that the highest quality line-up of nominees in years (8 of these 9 movies made my Top 10 List), and we have the most fun and exciting awards race in recent memory.
What we do know, for the most part, is who’s not going to win. So let’s start there.
Her and Philomena both have a great deal of passionate supporters. The former has a nice bunch of critics’ awards, and the latter has the full attention of the great Harvey Weinstein campaign-machine (admittedly having an unusual off-year). But they are bringing up the rear of this powerful pack. Just ahead of them is Dallas Buyers Club, with far more nominations than expected and 2 likely acting wins. Nebraska is the kind of touching and hilarious film no one can not adore, and managed to wrestle a director nomination away from Captain Phillips.
If I were voting, The Wolf of Wall Street would be #1. If it had been released sooner it might have been more of a contender. As it is, much of the initial scandal has subsided and more people are appreciating its brilliance. Captain Phillips seemed doomed after Tom Hanks and director Paul Greengrass were shutout, but ever since then it has picked up several guild awards in the tech categories. If it weren’t for that missing director, I’d be tempted to put it ahead of American Hustle. That film, meanwhile, at one time appeared to be locked in a 3-way dead heat for the win. After multiple top awards from critics, winning the SAG ensemble, and tying Gravity for the most nominations, Hustle was really “hustling”. But ever since the other 2 tied for the PGA, it lost a bit of mojo and hasn’t picked up much since then.
The Top Two…
That PGA tie was basically a microcosm for the entire season. The PGA is the only other award besides the this one to use a preferential balloting system, which makes ties particularly difficult, and yet it still happened. Gravity and 12 Years a Slave have been sharing the top spot ever since their premiers within days of each other back in Telluride. Every time one appeared to gain the edge, the other pulled right back up. There hasn’t been a race this close since 2000’s Gladiator vs Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon vs Traffic. And if you think of Hustle as still being in the mix, it’s even closer.
Gravity might appear to have the slight edge with that DGA win. The DGA is still the biggest and best predictor for the Best Picture Oscar, even more so than Director. As I mentioned, splits between picture and director are rare and impossible to predict. (Last year was a very unusual exception.) Generally voters will vote the same for both. So by that logic we may see our first ever 3D sci-fi Best Picture winner.
But despite all of Cuarón’s directing victories, 12 Years a Slave has continued to win the top prize just about every time. It’s taken the vast majority of every “Best Picture” award out there. The only thing it has really lost is that ½ PGA. What’s more, it still has all the buzz it’s ever had. Despite missing out on some of the tech guild awards, it hasn’t appeared to lose any momentum.
What it really comes down to is that none of the predictors are really telling us anything. The only choice is to go back to the first awards – the critics’ awards. Ever since the King’s Speech/Social Network nightmare, the critics have seemed less important, but this year they’re the only steady trend we have to go by. And that trend is clear: Cuarón for Director and 12 Years a Slave for Picture. A split.
As crazy as it sounds, that’s what I’m predicting.
1. 12 Years a Slave
3. American Hustle
4. Captain Phillips
5. The Wolf of Wall Street
7. Dallas Buyers Club
Check out the other parts of the Oscar Predictions Series here:
Part 1 – Animated, Foreign, Doc, and Short Films
Part 2 – Technical Categories (Cinematography, Costumes, Makeup, Production Design, and Visual Effects)
Part 3 – Sound and Music
Part 4 – Storytelling (Editing and Screenplays)
Part 5 – Acting
Part 6 – Picture and Director