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It’s that time of year again, when everyone across the country watches Hollywood’s most popular celebrities schmooze in an evening sure to be filled with just as many triumphs as shocks. Sunday, Mar. 2 marks the 86th Academy Awards, and whether or not you agree that the Oscars hold any actual merit in the film community, you can’t deny that it’s fun to watch and speculate who will take home the golden statue every year. With 2013 being such a strong year for film in comparison to those prior, this year’s telecast should prove worthwhile (for once). Here are this writer’s predictions for the 2014 Academy Awards ceremony.

 

Best Picture

What this category really comes down to is the voters deciding between the viewing experience of the decade (“Gravity”) or the “will stand the test of time” historical period drama (“12 Years a Slave”). The criminally overrated “American Hustle” was being thrown around in the mix for a bit, but I have a feeling it has since lost steam. That said, it’s hard to accurately predict this kind of thing when there are nine Best Picture nominees. The fact that David O. Russell’s subpar film somehow made the cut while “Inside Llewyn Davis” was edged out proves that anything can happen during the voting process.

In terms of my personal opinions on Best Picture, I believe the award should go to the film that exhibits the best blend of every category. This is why I would have selected “The Social Network” in 2011 and why I think Zimmer’s score and Pitt’s cameo in “12 Years” puts it just a smidge below Alexander Payne’s masterpiece “Nebraska.”

 

Will Win: “12 Years a Slave”

Close Second: “Gravity”

Upset: “American Hustle”

If I Chose: “Nebraska”

 

Best Director

If “12 Years a Slave” takes home the Best Picture win, it will likely be the only award that director Steve McQueen will leave with. Though there’s no denying that McQueen has been deserving of every ounce of praise for all three of his films (“Hunger” and “Shame” being the other two), the Academy will more than likely award this one to Alfonso Cuarón. “Gravity” certainly has its own flaws (writing), but the power it holds over the audience is all because of Cuarón’s visionary direction. His first feature since 2006’s excellent “Children of Men” will surely take home at least one award outside of visual effects, editing, and sound. This will be it.

 

Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón

Close Second: Steve McQueen

Upset: David O. Russell

If I Chose: Cuarón and McQueen are equally deserving.

 

Best Actor

If you had told me a few months ago that Chiwetel Ejiofor was going to win Best Actor this year I would have simply nodded in agreement. No one else, not even everyone’s favorite (Leo), made sense. Now I’m not so sure. Matthew McConaughey, comeback actor of the millennium, seems to continually gain momentum and it’s hard to say if anything will stop him. A win for him would really be for his entire career in 2013 rather than for this film alone, although he really is the go-to choice next to Ejiofor. With “True Detective” keeping him fresh in everyone’s mind and “12 Years a Slave” being almost too brutal to rewatch enjoyably, it makes sense that McConaughey won’t leave empty-handed. But don’t be surprised if he has to wait another year or two for his due recognition. Watch out for Bruce Dern’s nuanced brilliance in “Nebraska,” too. He’s a force to be reckoned with.

 

Will Win: Matthew McConaughey

Close Second: Chiwetel Ejiofor

Upset: Bruce Dern (McConaughey and Ejiofor splitting the vote. It could happen…)

If I Chose: Chiwetel Ejiofor

Best Actress

When Cate Blanchett says she “wasn’t expecting this” as she starts off her acceptance speech, it’ll be a humble but blatant lie. Woody Allen’s inconsistent “Blue Jasmine” has no redeeming qualities outside of Blanchett. This is a great example of a film whose sole purpose is to show off the talent of the lead actor or actress; it’s unfortunate that nothing else can be said of a movie with such an incredible performance. What frustrates me the most is that I know Blanchett will win despite this being the only year in the history of the universe that I would have ever said “give Sandra Bullock an Oscar.” I doubt I will ever say it again. Bullock was the real deal in “Gravity.” Miles better than in “The Blind Side” (remember that one?). Bullock brought me to tears in a film that placed emphasis on visual storytelling rather than actual character plot. Who would have thought it?

 

Will Win: Cate Blanchett

Close Second: N/A

Upset: Amy Adams

If I Chose: Cate Blanchett sharing with Sandra Bullock

Best Supporting Actor/Actress

Both of these categories come down to the two best ensemble films of the year: “Dallas Buyers Club” and “12 Years a Slave.” “Dallas Buyers Club” likely won’t take home any gold aside from acting so it makes sense that both of the main actors in the film are currently poised to win. Jared Leto’s transformative role, controversial or not, is a wonder. For his first film in four years, Leto certainly brought everything he had and knocked it out of the park as a result. On the other end of the spectrum, while there’s certainly momentum surrounding Jennifer Lawrence for her admirable , but more hype-driven than anything, supporting role in “American Hustle,” Lupita Nyong’o’s first feature role is heartbreaking, career-defining, and as powerful as anything you can find in every other acting category this year. To rob her of the award might be seen as the biggest upset of the year.

 

Will Win: Jared Leto/Lupita Nyong’o

Close Second: Michael Fassbender/Jennifer Lawrence

Upset: Barkhad Abdi/June Squibb

If I Chose: Jared Leto/Lupita Nyong’o

Best Original/Adapted Screenplay

To be quite honest, I really thought I was going to name “Her” Best Picture of the year as I was going into it. Maybe my expectations were too high. But despite my few qualms with it (mostly length and minor plot holes), I can’t deny how incredible of a story it is. Flawed or not, it is undoubtedly the best original story of the year next to “Nebraska” or “Inside Llewyn Davis” (once again, not nominated). Meanwhile, “12 Years a Slave” commands a strong lead above anyone else. You’ll be hard pressed to find an adapted work with more praise.

 

Will Win: “Her”/“12 Years a Slave”

Close Second: “Before Midnight”/ “American Hustle”

Upset: “Blue Jasmine”/“Philomena”

If I Chose: “Her”/ “12 Years a Slave”

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