By Ryan Maddux and Andy Stuckey
---- — The 86th Annual Academy Awards air at 8 p.m. this Sunday on ABC. Here are our predictions in the six main categories:
Best Supporting Actress: Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine); Julia Roberts (August: Osage County); Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave); Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle); June Squibb (Nebraska).
Ryan: Arguably the biggest unknown of the major categories, the Best Supporting Actress race will ultimately be between ingénues Nyong’o and Lawrence. Both give scene-stealing performances and both would be worthy winners. Ultimately, I believe Lawrence will pull the rare trick of being a back-to-back Oscar winner.
Andy: With a great crop of performances, it is appropriate that the race for Best Supporting Actress seems so up in the air. Sally Hawkins gives the type of performance that is difficult to maintain, but is often overlooked by the Academy. Her nomination is noteworthy, but it is unlikely that she will win. June Squibb was great in Nebraska, but her nomination is a kind of recognition for a lifetime of work. Nyong’o gives a surprisingly subtle performance for such an over-the-top story, and she certainly deserves an Oscar. Ultimately, I agree with Ryan that Lawrence’s just-as-good, but flashier performance will take home the statue.
Best Supporting Actor: Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips); Bradley Cooper (American Hustle); Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street); Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave); Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Andy: Another category teeming with great performances, Best Supporting Actor looks to be a three-person race. Cooper and Hill were both great, but do not seem like realistic options to win. Jared Leto is the odds-on favorite, but I personally like Abdi’s ability to be both gritty and deeply human at the same time. Michael Fassbender may have given the most impactful performance of the year, so it would be easy to be happy with any of those three winning.
Ryan: Fassbender delivered the most haunting performance from this group, but I believe it’s going to come down to either Abdi or Leto in winning the Oscar. In the end look for Leto to win on Sunday. He did deliver a great performance and voters tend to award actors who undergo transformations of some sort with their respected performance.
Best Actress: Amy Adams (American Hustle); Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine); Sandra Bullock (Gravity); Judi Dench (Philomena); Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
Ryan: I would actually vote for Bullock. I thought she matched the technical brilliance of Gravity with a tough yet heartfelt performance. But look for Blanchett (a worthy winner as well) to take home her second Oscar as she’s won every major Oscar precursor.
Andy: Everyone seems to think this category is already decided for Blanchett. She was great, but I definitely preferred both Bullock (can’t believe I’m saying that) or Adams. Amy Adams’s performance has an immense amount of range — more than an actor is typically given, and she nails every scene of it. I doubt she wins, but she would have my vote.
Best Actor: Christian Bale (American Hustle); Bruce Dern (Nebraska); Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street); Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years of Slave); Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
Andy: I am going to be completely honest about this one; I do not want Matthew McConaughey to win Best Actor. However, against all odds, he may have given the best performance of the year. The only performance in the group that seems unlikely to win is Christian Bale’s, which is the most low-key in the group. DiCaprio is a bit of a dark horse as well, though at some point the fact that he has never won an Oscar is going to present itself as an issue. Ejiofor and Dern both gave career defining performances that are easily worthy. Ultimately, the award goes to McConaughey, for acting at a level that I don’t think anyone thought he was capable of.
Ryan: McConaughey is probably going to win as it seems that everything of relevance is trending in his direction. Now if I were really voting I would have a tough time making a decision. The other four choices all delivered solid and noteworthy performances. In the end I would vote for Dern, but I do believe that McConaughey is going to win.
Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity); Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave); David O. Russell (American Hustle); Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street); Alexander Payne (Nebraska).
Ryan: Cuaron is the odds own favorite to win as he’s already won the Golden Globe and the Director’s Guild Award for this very category. But I do think that out of this very loaded category that he is the most deserving to win. His sci-fi tale of survival and rebirth was a true cinematic achievement.
Andy: The obvious choice here is Cuaron, who created a cinematic world that seemed both endless and isolated at the same time. He also made stylistic choices (the opening, cut free sequence that lasts several minutes is technically and visually stunning) that boarder on showing off. Such technical prowess seems likely to be rewarded, even if it does not have the pathos of some of the other films.
Best Picture: American Hustle; Captain Phillips; Dallas Buyers Club; Gravity; Her; Nebraska; Philomena; 12 Years a Slave; The Wolf of Wall Street.
Andy: Since the Academy lifted the five picture limit for Best Picture, predicting a winner has become trickier. Some of this year’s choices do not seem like realistic winners. Unfortunately, one of those is my favorite film of the year—Her. It is not going to win, but it had the greatest impact on me, and is likely to be the one that has the most resonance years hence. The most likely victors seem to be American Hustle, Gravity, and 12 Years a Slave. I would probably take American Hustle of those three, but my prediction is that 12 Years a Slave will win.
Ryan: This is a two-horse race between 12 Years a Slave and Gravity and both would be worthy winners as they were two of the best films of the year. I think Gravity is going to win and that’s what would get my vote as well. I don’t get the argument that Gravity’s actual story was lacking. The existential journey of Bullock’s character is as emotionally moving as anything I saw this year in cinema.
After Sunday night’s Oscar ceremony, we will turn our attention back to new releases.