No podcast this year for our Oscar picks so we won't be as all-encompassing, but we didn't want to let the ceremony go by without some thoughts. So check out the full list of nominations here, then read on as we make our picks for the major categories and who should be attending the ceremony as a nominee. Our votes in each category are in bold.
What will happen at the awards - There are only two clear contenders in this year’s Oscar race, 12 Years a Slave and Gravity. Both were critical and commercial successes that look to have a staying power well beyond this year. Still, there’s the chance that American Hustle or The Wolf of Wall Street could come from behind – but only if this was the year Occupy Wall Street was making headlines. Between 12 Years a Slave and Gravity, I have to hand it to 12 Years a Slave with a centimeter of breathing room.
What should have happened – Looking down the list of nominees I immediately wondered where the hell Lee Daniels' The Butler is. It was a smash hit, making over five times its budget back, and while it didn’t receive universal critical acclaim it was a modest success with the critics. It should have hurled Philomena off of its nomination so we could have a better nationwide discussion about how modern racial tensions are being reflected in film. It’s likely that Lee Daniels’ The Butler lost out on the nomination for this reason and not for the unwieldy title.
What will happen at the awards – 12 Years a Slave will get it. While Gravity has been successful at building up a narrative around itself as a technical masterpiece that pushes the limits of film, I think all of the appreciation for that part is going to go toward earning Cuaron a Best Director win. Impressive as the film-making is, the Academy is going to gravitate toward a movie with a loftier moral purpose, and Dallas Buyers Club simply isn't good enough to win. That leaves 12 Years a Slave, and it doesn't hurt that it genuinely is the best movie on this year's list as well.
What should have happened – Inside Llewyn Davis and Frances Ha both deserved spots on this list more than several of the others nominated. I would also give the win to Cutie and the Boxer, which for my money is the best of the bunch, but since that got a nod for Documentary (which is going to see an unjustified win for the idea behind the The Act of Killing) that will have to be good enough.
What will happen at the awards – 12 Years a Slave will squeak by with the win. I think a lot of people might love one of the other movies more but they feel that the very well made 12 Years deserves it for the story and how powerful it is.
What should have happened – My favorite film of the year was The Wolf of Wall Street so I am glad it was nominated and wish it had any chance of winning.
What will happen at the awards – There’s little doubt in my mind that Chiwetel Ejiofor will walk away with the statue. The other performances are a little flashier, but Ejiofor’s is grounded in such steadily controlled rage and focus that it surpasses the other nominees easily. The only other contender here is Matthew McConaughey and, while we all love a good comeback story, his impressive physical transformation doesn’t disguise the otherwise straightforward performance.
What should have happened – Leo’s fun in The Wolf of Wall Street, but his position should have been freed to make room for Ethan Hawke’s work from Before Midnight. Hawke has been a neurotic performer in the past and his roles have sometimes edged into a realm of nervous energy that seem like they would be better served by Nicolas Cage. But Hawke’s work in Before Midnight is tremendous, a pitch-perfect cynical passive-aggressive romantic who lets the right syllables linger and ends every defense with a question mark as a way to try and turn the long argument around. His work in the series has been beautiful before but he hits the series high-mark for performances now that Jesse finally got what he want and it still doesn’t solve all his problems.
What will happen at the awards – On instinct I'd say this is going to be Matthew McConaughey. He's had a massive career turnaround lately, there's the drastic physical transformation everyone likes to talk about, and the role is flashier than some of the others. Ejiofor could pull off a win easily as well, especially if the majority of voters are leaning toward 12 Years a Slave for an overall win. I think McConaughey has the edge, but if Ejiofor does win then that pretty well seals the deal for 12 Years a Slave over Gravity when it comes to Best Picture.
What should have happened – Tom Hanks deserved a nod for a performance in Captain Phillips that was a lot stronger than he got credit for. Having the strength to hold back a little probably robbed him of proper recognition in the end.
What will happen at the awards – McConaughey is going to win this one. He is beloved by everyone in the industry and lost tons of weight - which is catnip for voters. He is also putting in a great performance on TV every week on True Detective that is keeping him in voters minds.
What should have happened – Leo wins for the tight-wire performance from Wolf and Tom Hanks should have been nominated for the last 15 minutes of Captain Phillips alone.
What will happen at the awards –None of the nominated performances excite me. Bullock’s performance is a collection of high-intensity acting exercises, Dench is adorable but insubstantial, Adams has done better, and Streep’s nomination is there mostly to remind us that she was in a film last year. Blanchett did great work in Blue Jasmine so I’ll go with her.
What should have happened – There’s no surprise to me that her performance was not nominated, but Sherri Moon Zombie is nominated and wins for The Lords of Salem in an universe with a more interesting Academy. The pressure against her work is obvious – it was a film barely screened outside of festivals in a genre rarely nominated for performances. Yet Zombie’s performance is layered in decades of horror mannerisms culminating in nervous exclamation of terror and nightmarish haze that never over exaggerates. It’s a superb performance and deserves wider inspection that the Academy could have provided.
What should have happened – Amy Seimetz deserved not only a nomination, but the win for her performance in Upstream Color. That could apply to the Best Picture category as well, but Upstream Color wasn't quite the right kind of indie movie for the Oscars, and that lack of recognition is unfortunately all-encompassing.
What will happen at the awards – Cate Blanchett is going to win. I am taking a break from Woody Allen movies because I HATED Midnight in Paris but she has won every other award under the sun so I don't see that changing here.
What should have happened – Any number of women should have gotten a nomination in place of Streep's scenery chewing in the unbearable August: Osage County. Just because it was Meryl Streep doesn't mean it was a good performance.
Best Supporting Actor
What will happen at the awards – Fassbender has turned in consistently excellent performances so long and his performance in 12 Years A Slave deserves the award. However, Jared Leto has been in the American eye a bit longer, his performance as the transgender Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club is the timelier one, and he keeps winning awards, so I don’t see that streak ending.
What should have happened – This is the one category where the nominees are perfect. That said, the heir to the DeNiro throne of nervy and unpredictable Scorsese performances is Jonah Hill. In that tradition, we won’t see Hill take home the statue this year, but I am hoping with every fiber of my critical soul that the Academy surprises me. That said, it would have been great to see him joined by James Franco for his delectably creepy work as Alien in Spring Breakers.
What will happen at the awards – I think Jared Leto will win for many of the same reasons McConaughey has a chance—just much stronger here. There is a chance Fassbender will pick it up, again mainly depending on just how much Academy voters liked 12 Years a Slave.
What should have happened – I would love to see Jonah Hill win, and think he absolutely deserves to. His nomination was a surprise to some, so there's a tiny chance that signifies a lot more support than people are talking about, but I doubt it.
What should have happened – Either Jonah Hill or Bradley Cooper should win. Would have loved to see Jeremy Renner nominated in this category.
Best Supporting Actress
What will happen at the awards – Julia Roberts’ nomination serves the same role for Supporting as Meryl Streep’s does for Actress, so I don’t predict a surprise win here. But it’s a true tossup for the other nominees between the entertaining Squib, amazing Hawkins, and painful truth of Nyong’o. I wasn’t impressed with Lawrence’s performance – like her counterpart Bradley Cooper it’s good but not great – yet I can’t deny her chances are still strong. Since I can’t make a reliable prediction here I have to go with my favorite, which is Nyong’o.
What should have happened – Octavia Spencer won for her work in The Help a few years ago and apparently the people who smiled their way through that film didn’t turn out to see her work in Fruitvale Station. In one painful glance she communicated year’s worth of disappointment and, surprisingly, resentment toward Michael K. Williams’ Oscar (the character, not the statue, though it would have been nice to see Williams up for the award as well).
What will happen at the awards – I liked Lawrence's the best, but it was also likely one of the easiest. I'd be surprised if this doesn't go to Nyong'o, who had a difficult role made somewhat thankless by a denial of any convenient or flashy Oscar scenes. She deserves and I think will probably get it.
What should have happened – I can't think of any performances I wish had made their way into the category.
What will happen at the awards – I am picking a small upset and going with Jennifer Lawrence. She made a big splash in a small amount of screen time and American Hustle seems determined to win ONE acting award.
What should have happened – Sarah Pauslon was just as despicable as Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave, if he deserved it I think she did too.
What will happen at the awards – The typical Academy lore goes that whoever wins Best Director will win Best Picture. This year there are still only two big contenders, Gravity and 12 Years A Slave. But the margin for Best Director is not nearly as thin. Cuaron has been scooping up awards for Gravity with McQueen edging out not nearly as many. While I prefer McQueen twisting old American cinematic tropes to examine unexplored history, Cuaron is the likely winner here.
What should have happened – I probably have the only dream list on the internet that includes not one, but two nominations for the Zombie family. Rob Zombie’s work directing The Lords of Salem is a horror treat with impressive use of sound and deliberate pans of the camera to reveal a new nightmare with each movement. He maintains a constant state of dread that somehow keeps plummeting until the sight of a smiling, glassy-eyed Sheri Moon Zombie standing on a mountain of corpses is the most logical and terrible thing.
What will happen at the awards – Cuaron has this one on lockdown I think. Gravity's accomplishment is almost entirely technical, and in that regard it is impressive. The initial spectacle of everything almost makes it easy to overlook the challenge Cuaron overcame in sustaining the visual style for so long.
What should have happened – The Coens probably deserved a nomination here, though it's not a tragedy that they're missing. I'd much rather have seen Richard Linklater included for the somewhat tricky feat of pulling off Before Midnight.
What should have happened – Payne should be out and Paul Greengrass should be in.