Oscar Nominations Predictions

The 85th Academy Awards® will air live on Oscar® Sunday, February 24, 2013.

Themes

These are the overarching themes, as I see them, going into Oscar nomination morning:

  • I am not expecting American Hustle to sweep the acting categories. It’s possible, but I’m predicting that Christian Bale isn’t able to squeak in in the toughest category in years.
  • I still expect 12 Years a Slave to lead the nominations. It’ll get three acting, Best Picture, director, cinematography, and some miscellaneous sound ones I can’t ever keep straight. At minimum.
  • If it doesn’t, it’ll be American Hustle, and the nation itself will weep.
  • Gravity will be in the mix as the second or third most nominated movie.

Best Actress

This category is boring because it doesn’t matter who gets nominated since Cate Blanchett is having her name engraved on the statue as we speak. There are three locks in this category and three more fighting for the last two spots:

Locks:
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena

Fighting for spots:
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks

It’s only really between these six, honestly. Blue is the Warmest Color is too long, foreign, and sexually explicit for newcomer Adèle Exarchopoulous to get a nomination. No one saw Short Term 12, as good as it’s supposed to be, so Brie Larson is out. Everything else that could generate a contender is either not good enough or not enough people have seen to be worth contemplating (The Great Gatsby, The Book Thief, The Past, etc).

It’s worth nothing that regardless of which combination of these six actresses gets nominated, this category will repeat last year’s Supporting Actor feat of having previous nominees in every category. If Amy Adams is left out, they will all be previous winners. Adams has been nominated four times, but never won. Which would be a great narrative, if Cate Blanchett didn’t already have this wrapped up.

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

Supporting Actor

This is an equally boring category, except replace “Cate Blanchett” with “Jared Leto.” The rest of the field is much fuzzier, though; there are only six real contenders for Best Actress, where there are a whole bunch of options here and no strong case for any one over the other (outside of Jared Leto, future category winner).

Locks:
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips

Contenders:
James Gandolfini, Enough Said
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Daniel Bruhl, Rush
James Franco, Spring Breakers
Will Forte, Nebraska

It would be Category Fraud (the Oscars’ favorite pastime) if either Bradley Cooper or Will Forte got nominated in this category, as they’re both leads. Doesn’t change whether they will or not, but it had to be said. In addition to the above, any Major Actor who appeared on screen this year seems to have an outside shot, everyone from George Clooney in Gravity to most of the rest of the casts of 12 Years a Slave, Saving Mr. Banks, and The Wolf of Wall Street.

Official predictions:
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Daniel Bruhl, Rush
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle

Best Actor

This category is insane. There are upwards of a dozen people who have a legitimate shot at a nomination:

Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyer’s Club
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Robert Redford, All is Lost
Christian Bale, American Hustle
Forest Whitaker, The Butler
Iris Elba, Nelson Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Joaquin Phoenix, Her
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips

That’s 11 that I feel like they all have a shot, without even considering such early-season projected shoe-ins like Michael B. Jordan for Fruitvale Station. Sorting the list a little bit, Matthew McConaughy and Chiwetel Ejiofor feel like the only safe bets. McConaughey is on a fantastic career-renaissance arc and he lost 40lbs for the role. Ejiofor is in The Slavery Movie (and good in it).

After that, things crumble mightily. Will Oscar Isaac get left out because he plays an unlikable character and there isn’t much of a campaign? What about Joaquin Phoenix for a remarkably effective performance that doesn’t involve any screaming, whipping, or peril at sea? Leo is chronically undernominated; is there any reason to assume the trend won’t continue? What about Lifetime Achievement Awards for Bruce Dern and Robert Redford? This whole category is a mess in the best possible way. One could get on one’s soapbox and remark on the fact that if half of these roles for women then maybe there would be more than 10 total nominatable performances on that side and this category would be more fair, but that’s a post for another time.

Honestly, I’d like to make my official prediction be “the five nominees come from the above list in some order,” but that’s a cop out and we all know it. Plus, I wouldn’t get to gloat as much as if I managed to nail all five.

Official Predictions
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyer’s Club
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Robert Redford, All is Lost
Leonardo DiCaprio, Wolf of Wall Street

Screenplay

I don’t do this nonsense about adapted v. original. It’s totally made up and the Academy has a tendency to shoehorn whatever they want into whatever category. Instead, here are the things I believe will get a nomination in one category or the other:

Blue Jasmine
Her
American Hustle
12 Years a Slave
Inside Llewyn Davis
Nebraska
Philomena

I will officially be offended if Gravity gets a screenplay nod, as that script was actively bad.

Best Picture

As we all know, the fun in this category comes not only from picking what will get nominated, but from how many films will get nominated. Since the Academy changed the rules in 2011, there shall be between 5 and 10 nominated films, depending on how many films get at least 5% of first-place votes. I can assure you now, given the number of excellent movies this year, there will be more than five. slow clap

The Primary Contenders:
12 Years a Slave
All is Lost
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
Inside Llewyn Davis
Nebraska
Philomena
Saving Mr. Banks
Wolf of Wall Street

That’s 11 right there, so not all of them will make it. It’s doubtful they fill up the slate with a full 10 anyway. It’s much harder to know in this category who is For Sure Safe and For Sure Out, as it all comes down to what segment of the Academy wins out. For example, if the elderly, conservative contingent reigns (which wouldn’t be surprising, given that the Academy is traditionally both very elderly and very conservative), Saving Mr. Banks and Philomena are both in for sure and Her and Wolf of Wall Street are out without question. If the young upstart types have their say, reverse the above and include Gravity and American Hustle. If both American Hustle and Wolf of Wall Street get nominated, expect discussions on Scorcese and his immense influence on other directors. If both All is Lost and Wolf of Wall Street get nominated, look for at least one obnoxious mention by the blogosphere about the contrast between All the Words and None of the Words.

I’ve been wrestling with this for more than 24 hours, and I just can’t bring myself to predict anything less than a full 10 movies. 12 Years a Slave is classic Academy fodder. Gravity is spectacle. The directors of American Hustle, Inside Llewyn Davis and Wolf of Wall Street have gotten Best Picture nominations for their last combined 11 movies (that’s 3 + 3 + 4, for the record). Nebraska and Captain Phillips also have Well Known directors and have Very Well Regarded Performances working for them. Something old and sentimental is getting in and it’s either Philomena or Saving Mr. Banks; and some people hated Saving Mr. Banks. Dallas Buyers Club has great performances and an awardsy premise, and Her is daring and sweet and, by the way, an actual love story (the only one in this list), and the people who love it really love it. I don’t expect the list to be 10 long tomorrow, but I just can’t leave any of these off.

Official Predictions:
12 Years a Slave
All is Lost
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
Inside Llewyn Davis
Nebraska
Philomena
Wolf of Wall Street

Miscellaneous

The above are all the categories I have real opinions on. Here’s a grab bag of miscellaneous predictions:

  • Frozen, Ernest and Celestine, and The Wind Rises get nominations for Animated Feature.
  • There are less than five nominees for Animated Feature.
  • The Great Beauty gets nominated for Foreign.
  • “Let it Go” gets nominated for song, there are more than three nominees for song, and I haven’t seen the movie that at least two of them belong to.
  • Supporting Actress picks: Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle, Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave, Julia Roberts, August: Osage County, June Squibb, Nebraska, and then probably Oprah for The Butler, but this whole category feels too easy. I am mistrustful and look forward to seeing how the Academy totally throws me off. Sally Hawkins took Oprah’s place at the Globes, but it’s hard to pick against Oprah.
  • Gravity gets nominated and wins for Visual Effects.
  • Documentary nominees: The Act of Killing, Blackfish, Stories We Tell, 20 Feet from Stardom, The Square.

I’ll see you all back here tomorrow morning after the announcement to make wild proclamations and speculate madly. Until then!

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