Oscars 2014 Predictions: See How We Did
Best Picture: Gravity
The handwringing is over. The narrow race between Gravity and 12 Years a Slave began to widen in Gravity's favor as voting drew to a close. True, 12 Years a Slave has come on strong this season, resonated deeply with fans, and won many top awards, including the BAFTA. But as I said in EW's Oscar Odds issue, published last week: 12 Years is heartbreaking, but Gravity is groundbreaking. Most of the voters I spoke to favored Gravity as their No. 1 choice, and it seldom falls below No. 3 for most voters, which favors it under the preferential voting system of the Academy. This is simply what I'm hearing from voters, not a biased call. I loved both and would be happy for either film to win. A tossed coin says it's 12 Years, though. We'll see if it's more accurate than my sources.
WINNER: 12 Years a Slave
Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
There was a time when it seemed Matthew McConaughey might fall out of the intensely competitive Best Actor race. Before Thanksgiving, too few voters had seen — or wanted to see — Dallas Buyers Club. Then word of mouth started to spread along with the screeners, and guild and Academy voters began pledging their allegiance to this defiant survival saga. McConaughey has dominated the awards season ever since, and despite rumblings of a late surge by The Wolf of Wall Street's Leonardo DiCaprio, McConaughey now seems unstoppable. That's especially true if you consider his other recent work: the gritty indie Mud, that chest-thumping role in Wolf, and his acclaimed turn on HBO's True Detective, which many voters call ''the anti-Norbit'' — referring to the embarrassing other project that derailed Eddie Murphy's Oscar chances for Dreamgirls.
WINNER: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Cate Blanchett is this year's Best Actress. That's what practically every Academy member has been saying since Blue Jasmine debuted last summer, and it's what you'll hear again on Oscar night when the winner is finally revealed. The uproar over the Woody Allen/Dylan Farrow abuse allegations has divided Oscar voters, but even those siding against Allen don't blame Blanchett for what may or may not have happened. If anything, voters say they are more sympathetic to her for having been dragged into it.
WINNER: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Another no-question race. Jared Leto hasn't appeared in a movie in six years (or a good one in more than a decade), but the minute Academy voters saw his dynamic, affectionate transgender prostitute Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club, the contest was over. Members point to one particular scene as the decisive moment: Rayon, dying of AIDS, turns up dressed awkwardly in a man's suit to beg for money from her disapproving father one last time. Few moments are as vulnerable — or as unforgettable.
WINNER: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
This is a nerve-wracking one. Jennifer Lawrence won the BAFTA and the Golden Globe, but Lupita Nyong'o claimed the Screen Actors Guild award, the Broadcast Film Critics prize, and the Los Angeles Film Critics honor. It's a battle of the ingénues, but it feels like a stretch that Lawrence will follow up her Best Actress victory last year with a Supporting Actress trophy for American Hustle. Many voters have said they like her, but another actress deserves a moment of Oscar glory. Back-to-back wins are a rarity (the last actor to do so was Tom Hanks two decades ago). Instead, Nyong'o has a very slight edge for her screen debut in 12 Years a Slave, playing Patsey, the strong-willed, fiercely punished field slave. This category is closer than most actor races, but it still tilts toward Nyong'o. Barely.
WINNER: Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Alfonso Cuarón remembers watching the Oscars as a boy and rooting in vain for Planet of the Apes to win. (Never mind that it was only up for costume and music, and received an honorary make-up prize.) That fusion of sci-fi and soul touched the future filmmaker deeply, and so it is particularly meaningful that he will collect the directing prize for doing the same with Gravity. Like Ang Lee last year, Cuaróon mastered an effects-heavy, 3-D tale of solo survival in a remote, hostile environment. Everyone who makes movies knows how difficult it is to create tension and realism in such situations. That Cuarón pulls it off with depth and heart despite these obstacles.
WINNER: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Best Original Screenplay: Her
Even voters who say the film didn't ultimately work for them say they are casting ballots for Spike Jonze's Her — such is the depth of admiration for his futuristic love-story about a man who falls in love with a woman who doesn't exist — at least not physically. It's the kind of story Ray Bradbury would swoon over — man and machine, entangled in a passionate, funny, and at times heartbreaking dance. Many voters count this as their favorite of the year, and this prize is where that love will go.
Best Adapted Screenplay: 12 Years a Slave
John Ridley's epic take on an 1853 memoir has given new life to the trials and sorrows of Solomon Northup. 12 Years a Slave has rejuvenated a text that for too long was known only among academics, but has now become like The Diary of Anne Frank for the era of slavery — a first-hand account that takes the massive scale of the tragedy down to human terms. It takes horror out of the abstract, and makes us see it, even if it hurts.
WINNER: 12 Years a Slave
Best Original Song: ''Let It Go,'' Frozen
Pharrell's late-blooming Despicable Me 2 hit ''Happy'' is giving it a run for its money, but Frozen's ''Let it Go'' is one of the most successful movie songs of the year, and even though the race is tight (and U2's relatively bland Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom theme could disrupt things — because, hey, it's U2), I suspect Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez's anthem will emerge as proud and victorious as an ice queen on the first day of winter. It's probably the only song every Academy member can sing by heart.
WINNER: ''Let It Go,'' Frozen
Best Original Score: Steven Price, Gravity
In a field of elegiac rivals, composer Steven Price's swelling score for Gravity starts small, but builds to a pulse-pounding triumph. There is also a surprising amount of voter affection for Saving Mr. Banks' score, which could be a dark horse.
Best Animated Feature: Frozen
The competition can eat snow. Walt Disney Animation Studios' Frozen will become the company's first Oscar-winner — something that would surely make Uncle Walt proud (even if his own story Saving Mr. Banks got snubbed this year.) This was a strong field, but there's no stopping this icy juggernaut.
Best Animated Short: Get a Horse!
Another race where voters are split. In previous years, the advantage may have gone to the French sci-fi story Mr. Hublot, about a neurotic man and his robot pet. But now that voters don't have to certify that they've seen EVERY film, it's possible that they will just vote for the single one they've seen — and that favors Get a Horse!, the Mickey Mouse retro-nouveau 3-D experience that preceded Frozen, a film most Academy voters saw in theaters. (If they have kids, perhaps multiple times.)
WINNER: Mr. Hublot
Best Editing: Captain Phillips
Two weeks ago, I was sure Gravity would take this. But most editors I've spoken to said they were voting for Captain Phillips' Christopher Rouse, who also won the editing guild's award. That branch is only 230 of the 6,058 Academy members, so this is a risk. (For the record, my editor Sean Smith thinks I should stick with Gravity. So I'll either impress him, or have a big ''I told you so'' coming.) He may be right, I may be crazy. But surprises have happened in the editing category: Remember The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo winning two years ago? Or The Bourne Ultimatum in 2007? Tension is often rewarded here. Gravity has that too, so this will be close. But in honor of the late, great Lou Reed — this is my walk on the wild side (which is not at all what he had in mind with that song.)
Best Cinematography: Gravity
Like last year's winner Life of Pi, Gravity is a remarkable blend of digital magic and snips of live-action — all rendered photo real and seamless. Credit the remarkable lensing of Emmanuel ''Chivo'' Lubezki, who will pick up his first Oscar on Sunday after five previous nominations.
Best Production Design: The Great Gatsby
Even if Baz Luhrmann's movie didn't work for you, few can deny that it's alternate title could be: Production Design — The Motion Picture! Production designer Catherine Martin and set decorator Beverley Dunn created a lush, Jazz Age world that put an alien spin on F. Scott Fitzgerald's tragedy of decadence.
WINNER: The Great Gatsby
Best Costume Design: American Hustle
The pundit consensus leans toward The Great Gatsby, so maybe I'm wrong. But I've heard enough voters cite American Hustle as their favorite that this doesn't feel like such a leap. Yes, Gatsby had lavish outfits — but do they spring from the memory as vibrantly as the low-slung blouses, disco gowns, and wide-lapel suits that Michael Wilkinson created for American Hustle? Nah. Plus, the majority of the Academy is male — and these achingly sexy costumes get the dirty-old-man vote.
WINNER: The Great Gatsby
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Dallas Buyers Club
The troublemakers in the Academy want to vote for Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, but I don't know if the rascal ballot is significant enough to give that movie the win. It may actually deserve it — that old timer make-up was spectacular. But the competition (which also includes The Lone Ranger) skews silly. The make-up and hair of Dallas Buyers Club is not only magnificent, but it was done on an ultra low budget. Count on hair stylist Adruitha Lee and make-up artist Robin Mathews to win.
WINNER: Dallas Buyers Club
Best Visual Effects: Gravity
The visual wizardry of Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk, and Neil Corbould made one reporter think Cuarón had actually shot part of Gravity in outer space. Even those who aren't so gullible marveled at the beauty of the world above our own that they created. Of all the awards this year, this is the one that is a triple-definite sure-thing.
Best Sound Editing: Gravity
The aural wonders and muffled cacophony of sound designer Glenn Freemantle make him the frontrunner.
Best Sound Mixing: Gravity
There is a slim chance that Inside Llewyn Davis could sneak up and run away with this in its guitar case, but Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead, and Chris Munro's inventive use of negative sound — letting us hear only what the soundless, airless void of orbit would allow — underscored the visuals in Gravity in a way we seldom see (or hear) and can't forget.
Best Documentary Feature: 20 Feet From Stardom
The Act of Killing is probably the more shockingly inventive film, but the feel-good voting bloc within the Academy will undoubtedly be swayed by this look at rock 'n' roll's great backup singers — who, by the way, were everywhere this award season serving as ambassadors for the film. That has a way of winning votes.
WINNER: 20 Feet From Stardom
Best Documentary Short: The Lady in Number 6
This study of a 109-year-old pianist who survived the Holocaust brims with emotion. Add to that the fact that she died two days before voting closed, ending a storied and musical life (now at 110), and there is no way this film loses. She doesn't win the grief vote — there is none for a life that well-lived, and for so long. She wins the joy and gratitude vote.
WINNER: The Lady in Number 6
Best Live Action Short: Just Before Losing Everything
The sentimental favorite in this field is Helium, the story of a dying boy who is told stories of a mystical land by a hospital janitor, which helps them both escape the pain of the real world. But most voters who have seen them all say Just Before Losing Everything, the harrowing saga of a mother who is finally triggering her plan to escape from an abusive life, was the most riveting and memorable. It's a close one, but as Prize Fighter places our final wager — let's put it on the one with the ominous title.