American Hustle (shown)
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street
Saving Mr. Banks
Dallas Buyers Club
It was a two-way race between 12 Years a Slave and Gravity — until both were hit by the swinging ’70s. The disco-era con-artist saga American Hustle came on very strong late in the season, and is now a lock for a nomination and the film some voters think could take the big prize. EW’s top five includes those films, plus Nebraska and Her, but there could be as many as 10 nominees. (Remember, according to Academy rules, at least 5 percent of voters need to rank a film No. 1 on their ballots for it to make the cut. Being everyone’s No. 4 choice isn’t enough.) The Wolf of Wall Street has bitterly divided voters, but still probably has enough support to secure a nomination, along with Saving Mr. Banks and Captain Phillips. If there ends up being a ninth or 10th slot, the smaller but passionate fan bases of Dallas Buyers Club and Philomena make them the likeliest candidates.
Wild-Card Contender: Inside Llewyn Davis
The big question mark this year is the Coen brothers’ folk-music dramedy Inside Llewyn Davis. It has won a lot of critics’ awards but hasn’t fared well in the guild contests, where Joel and Ethan Coen are traditionally favorites. This is a movie a lot of people just don’t get, although some absolutely adore it. The weighted ballot rewards enthusiasm, so if the list does go to 10, Davis could sneak in.
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave (shown)
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
Robert Redford, All Is Lost
There’s no way for this to end that doesn’t hurt. Lead actor was already the toughest race of the year, with many more worthy performances than the five allotted positions. Then came Leonardo DiCaprio’s debauched turn in The Wolf of Wall Street and Christian Bale’s waistband-busting, hairpiece-torturing con man in American Hustle, while the Screen Actors Guild awards threw Forest Whitaker’s somber servant in Lee Daniels’ The Butler back into contention. The five men above remain the safest bets, based on what voters are telling EW. The most vulnerable on this list? Robert Redford for the one-man survival saga All Is Lost — which would be his first acting nomination since 1973’s The Sting. Redford’s been largely absent from the meet-and-greet campaign surrounding the awards season, so there could be some wiggle room for actors whose buzz is at its peak right now.
Wild-Card Contender: Christian Bale, American Hustle
Mr. Method delivered yet another shape-shifting, awards-bait performance for American Hustle. He didn’t get many major acting nods from the early awards, but the movie has been a late-coming juggernaut that could give him the momentum he needs to unseat one of the front-runners.
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine (shown)
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks
Judi Dench, Philomena
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Cate Blanchett is unstoppable for her role as the unhinged wife of a Wall Street crook in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine. She’s the obvious front-runner in a category filled with bold performances. At least three of her competitors are also locks for a nomination: Judi Dench (as a woman who teams up with a journalist to search for her long-lost son in Philomena), Emma Thompson (as the cantankerous Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers in Saving Mr. Banks), and the always popular Sandra Bullock (as an imperiled astronaut in Gravity). It’s that fifth position that remains enigmatic. As the crowd-pleasing American Hustle built an immense following in recent weeks, Amy Adams’ smoke-show turn as a sultry grifter has given voters a new performance to root for. Too bad her double-sided tape can’t be nominated for its supporting work.
Wild-Card Contender: Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
Whether you like August: Osage County or not, Meryl Streep truly transformed herself as a woman dying of cancer who seems to thrive on her children’s anguish. There’s a fair chance the big-screen adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play will snag Streep her 18th nomination.
Best Supporting Actor
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club (shown)
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
James Gandolfini, Enough Said
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
This is probably the most fluid of all the races. Here’s what we do know: Jared Leto is the clear front-runner for his heartbreaking transgender prostitute in Dallas Buyers Club. He’ll get a nod and, most likely, the statuette come March 2. As for the remaining slots, any number of other actors could break in. Newcomer Barkhad Abdi has definitely made Academy members remember his name as the desperate lead pirate in Captain Phillips, and Michael Fassbender’s terrifying slave master in 12 Years a Slave made quite an impression. Both are probable nominees, but neither is a sure thing. Voters have a soft spot for Enough Said, and so a nod for the late James Gandolfini is also a strong possibility. After that, it gets really murky. Bradley Cooper’s reckless FBI agent has a slight edge, since American Hustle is peaking at just the right moment as Academy voting reaches its deadline.
Wild-Card Contender: Daniel Brühl, Rush
Ron Howard’s Formula One drama Rush has faded from the awards conversation, but voters still admire Daniel Brühl’s depiction of combative racer Niki Lauda. The German actor (Inglourious Basterds) also landed nominations for a SAG award and a Golden Globe, which certainly gives his campaign a boost.
Best Supporting Actress
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave (shown)
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
June Squibb, Nebraska
Oprah Winfrey, Lee Daniels’ The Butler
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
Two of the year’s biggest breakthroughs can be found in this category, and they couldn’t be more different: 30-year-old newcomer Lupita Nyong’o for her fearsome and heartrending slave Patsey in 12 Years a Slave, and 84-year-old June Squibb for her star-making turn as an elderly trash-talking housewife in Nebraska. Count them in as definite nominees. Jennifer Lawrence, hot off her lead-actress win last year, is also assured another nod for her manic, menacing con artist’s wife in American Hustle. (Any one of those three could win come Oscar night.) The final two nods are much less certain. Oprah Winfrey’s boozy servant’s wife in Lee Daniels’ The Butler isn’t universally beloved, but this is probably the lightest of the acting categories this year, which lowers the bar. Voters struggle to even think of a fifth nominee, and tend to settle on Julia Roberts’ put-upon daughter in August: Osage County.
Wild-Card Contender: Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Sally Hawkins’ Blue Jasmine role as a woman forever living in her glamorous sibling’s shadow already earned the actress a Golden Globe nomination and an Indie Spirit award bid. If voters take a moment to look beyond the obvious before filling in that fifth position, Hawkins could end up among the finalists.
Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity (shown)
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
David O. Russell, American Hustle
Spike Jonze, Her
Alexander Payne, Nebraska
This is the troublemaker category. The directors branch threw the entire race into turmoil last year when they snubbed Ben Affleck for Argo, galvanizing Best Picture support for that film. Kathryn Bigelow and Tom Hooper — both recent winners — were also overlooked, while Michael Haneke and Benh Zeitlin were the surprise inclusions. Suffice it to say, these voters like to go off script. Alfonso Cuarón, Steve McQueen, and David O. Russell should be sure things. (And if any are excluded, expect an Argo-esque backlash.) EW predicts the two other slots will go to two offbeat visionaries who painted intimate stories on big canvases: Alexander Payne for Nebraska and Spike Jonze for Her.
Wild-Card Contender: Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips
The Academy’s directors branch has tended to skew avant-garde in recent years, but Paul Greengrass’ tense, taut storytelling for the true-life pirate tale Captain Phillips has enough admirers to keep his name in the conversation.
Best Original Screenplay
Spike Jonze, Her (shown)
Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell, American Hustle
Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine
Bob Nelson, Nebraska
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis
Very hard to call a leader among these possibilities. Each is strikingly original, and could ultimately prevail on March 2. If we’re acknowledging sheer imagination, Spike Jonze’s Her is the one that takes a step back and uses the tropes of both science fiction and humor to explore the nature of what it means to love someone. It tends to stick with viewers for a long time, and that is largely due to the words and thought Jonze put on the page.
Wild-Card Contender: Nicole Holofcener, Enough Said
Nicole Holofcener’s epic little romance. She writes jokes that’ll make you cry, and somehow finds the absurdity even in the most cringe-inducing moments. She also boldly allows her main character, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, to stray from our good graces and venture into unlikable territory as she mistrusts her sweet, but awkward new boyfriend, played by the late James Gandolfini. Because they are so beautifully drawn, even their flaws are endearing.
Best Adapted Screenplay
John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave (shown)
Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, Philomena
Billy Ray, Captain Phillips
Richard Linklater & Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy, Before Midnight
Terence Winter, The Wolf of Wall Street
John Ridley is the hands-down favorite for his adaptation of Solomon Northup’s 1853 account of his kidnapping and imprisonment as a field slave in the pre-Civil War south. Ridley captures the grandiloquent language of the time, and crafts almost unbearable tension in even the most casual exchanges between master and slave.
Wild-Card Contender: Tracy Letts, August: Osage County
Tracy Letts won the Pulitzer and the Tony, so his play-turned-film has an awards gravity that can’t be ignored. Whether writers admired his screenplay as much as his play is the unanswered question.
Best Animated Feature
The Wind Rises
Ernest & Celestine
A lot of great work in the field of animation this year. Frozen is undoubtedly ahead in this race, and is a box-office juggernaut. Its strongest competition is Hayao Miyazaki’s graceful The Wind Rises, although the boisterous and surprisingly tender prehistoric family comedy The Croods is more sophisticated than its silly name implies.
Wild-Card Contender: Despicable Me 2
One word: Minions. If this film gets a nomination, it will be on the backs of those little yellow critters.
Best Original Score
Steven Price, Gravity (shown)
Hans Zimmer, 12 Years a Slave
John Williams, The Book Thief
Thomas Newman, Saving Mr. Banks
Arcade Fire, Her
Transcendent and rousing, Steven Price’s compositions for Gravity quicken the pulse and underline both the beauty and the menace of that story.
Wild-Card Contender: Alex Ebert, All Is Lost
His mournful and meditative score won the Golden Globe, and if it ends up with an Oscar nomination from the music branch it could easily lead voters to let the compositions from this otherwise dialogue-free drama speak to them.