By Eric Henderson

The critics have spoken. The Golden Globes have been handed out. And the Oscar ballots have been in for a week now — and in case you were wondering, James Franco got his vote in (here’s hoping he remembered to vote for himself for his hysterical turn in Spring Breakers). The Academy Awards are unquestionably the Super Bowl of the entertainment world and thus they’re fair game for cheap, pointless speculation.

So with that in mind, who’s going to get nominated for the awards on Thursday morning? Some races are overcrowded with contenders, while a few others seem virtually locked down to scarcely more than five possibilities.

Here are the people and films I expect to be nominated this year, along with the closest potential spoilers. The lists for the top six categories are not in alphabetical order, but hierarchical. The most likely nominees are listed first, and the lesser likely in descending order.


12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
The Wolf of Wall Street
Inside Llewyn Davis
Potential Spoiler: Philomena

As with the last couple years, there could be anywhere from 5 to 10 nominees in this category, based on how many first-place votes the films receive. Ever since switching over to this new format, there have been nine best picture nominees, and truth be told, there’s little reason to think there won’t be as many this year. The precursors generally narrow the field down so much before ballots are distributed that there aren’t generally more than two or three dozen serious contenders by the time we get to this stage, so the magic number of 5 percent is hardly untenable. I’m going with nine again, though both Her and Inside Llewyn Davis seem sort of on the cusp. Still, if A Serious Man could land a nod in 2009, I expect Llewyn can too. And ever since the expansion of the field, there’s always been room for the Academy’s most avant voters to get at least one title on the board (The Tree of Life, Amour). Conversely, there’s also always been room for the feel-good, actor-centric, politically liberal and artistically conservative human interest piece (think The Blind Side), and this year the troops are clearly rallying around Dallas Buyers Club. The biggest potential spoiler in the race will come from the Weinstein Company, but it won’t be Lee Daniels’ The Butler or August: Osage County. It’s be the genuinely crowd-pleasing Philomena.


Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
David O. Russell, American Hustle
Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
Spike Jonze, Her
Potential Spoiler: Ethan & Joel Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis

History and common sense would dictate that Best Picture and Best Director go hand in hand, but this year’s narrative has rather uniformly coalesced around splitting the two categories — with 12 Years a Slave winning Picture on historical merit and Gravity winning Director for its breathtaking showmanship. I don’t see the final results going down that way, but there’s no denying that Cuarón’s getting a nod. Further down the list, if Scorsese can get nominated for movies no one’s talking about (hello, Hugo!), then he should have no trouble getting noticed for a movie that everyone’s talking about, even if some aren’t exactly extending their compliments. Spike Jonze is a risky pick, but I have to go with my heart here. I don’t see the workmanlike direction of DGA-nominated Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips) competing against the spells Jonze or the Coens, for that matter, conjure.


Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
Potential Spoiler: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Blue is the Warmest Color

Talk around this category has been “Cate Blanchett and four other women unlucky enough to compete against her” for so long that I think people have been taking it for granted who those other four will actually be. Everyone in sight has named the exact same names — Bullock, Dench, Streep, and Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks) —  that I think everyone’s overlooking the possibility that voters are going to be more apt to gravitate (ahem) toward names that have been outside the realm of obligatory conversation. Foremost among them is obviously Amy Adams, who will benefit from her film’s ensemble nature, but I also can’t help but notice how consistently trade magazines and other Oscar bloggers have kept that French name no one can pronounce on the tips of everyone’s tongues. There are also still big cases to be made for Before Midnight‘s Julie Delpy and Short Term 12‘s Brie Larson, but there’s probably only so much wiggle room here (if any at all). Streep could still get in on sheer career inertia, but I suspect Thompson’s engine has stalled out.


Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Potential Spoiler: Robert Redford, All Is Lost

In contrast, this race has been among the most unsettled in recent memory, and it’s difficult to write off just about anyone.  So contentious is the race that I can scarcely call anyone fully and truly locked, though I’d be as shocked as anyone if either McConaughey or Ejiofor missed out. Beyond that, it’s a free for all. Many see the last three slots going to a trio of veterans: Hanks, Dern and Redford. But only the first of those three gets a truly showy moment of overwhelming emotional release (and it’s easily some of the best acting in his entire career). Bruce Dern has sentiment behind him, but the Academy has never been exactly kind to Redford as an actor, even during his salad days. The introspective nature of his work in All is Lost leaves the door open for a young Turk to steal his thunder, and no one seems more ready to reap the rewards than DiCaprio’s tour de farce white collar criminal. Redford can rest on his dignity; DiCaprio wolfs down as much scenery as his character downs Quaaludes. If Dern’s character proves too soft-spoken for voters, then American Hustle‘s Christian Bale could also manage to slip into the lineup. Sadly, Inside Llewyn Davis‘ Oscar Isaac and Her‘s Joaquin Phoenix don’t have a prayer.


Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
June Squibb, Nebraska
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
Oprah Winfrey, Lee Daniels’ The Butler
Potential Spoiler: Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine

No one mentions it, but this race is practically as set, gamed and matched as Best Actress. It’s a shame, because it’s only so because of some serious category fraud in the way of Julia Roberts’ clearly leading role being “demoted.” Similarly, Oprah Winfrey hasn’t been much in the conversation as of late, but without many other alternative candidates gaining traction in the Oscar season echo chamber of white noise, she’ll probably hang on. Outside of Harvey Weinstein’s rooting interests, Jennifer Lawrence and Lupita Nyong’o are locks, and June Squibb very near so as Bruce Dern’s salty-tongued wife, who singlehandedly perks up the entire proceedings at the halfway point. Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) may have been a bigger player if she wasn’t sharing screen space with Blanchett; Margo Martindale (August: Osage County) may have been a bigger player if she wasn’t yielding screen space to Roberts; and Scarlett Johansson (Her) may have been a bigger player if she had any screen space at all.


Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Daniel Brühl, Rush
Potential Spoiler: Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street

Sorry, James Franco. You were magnificently sleazy (in the film, too), but once again it feels as though the received conventional wisdom — I stop just short of calling it “the handiwork of dedicated publicists” — will carry through here. Leto is still the presumptive frontrunner (nearly as big a lock as Blanchett), and Fassbender and Cooper are likely to get carried in on the strength of their respective films overall. It seemed for a while that the heat behind Barkhad Abdi (who was famously discovered while he was working as a limo driver in Minneapolis) had faded, but nominations from the Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globes have turned that around. Similarly, Daniel Brühl’s borderline leading turn may just eke out a nod despite the near-total collapse of Rush as a player elsewhere. I’d love to be higher on James Gandolfini’s chances in Enough Said, but it’s likely too quiet a performance to garner widespread support. It would be sad and appropriate if his slot ended up getting snatched by the eye-popping antics of Jonah Hill, no?


(contenders listed alphabetically)

Best Original Screenplay
American Hustle, David O. Russell & Eric Singer
Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen
Her, Spike Jonze
Inside Llewyn Davis, Ethan & Joel Coen
Nebraska, Bob Nelson

Best Adapted Screenplay
Before Midnight, Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke
Blue is the Warmest Color, Ghalia Lacroix
Philomena, Steve Coogan & Jeff Pope
12 Years a Slave, John Ridley
The Wolf of Wall Street, Terence Winter

Best Foreign Film
The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium)
The Great Beauty (Italy)
The Hunt (Denmark)
The Notebook (Hungary)
Omar (Palestine)

Best Documentary Feature
The Act of Killing
The Square
Stories We Tell
20 Feet from Stardom

Best Animated Feature
Monsters University
The Wind Rises

Best Cinematography
Gravity, Emmanuel Lubezki
Inside Llewyn Davis, Bruno Delbonnel
Nebraska, Phedon Papamichael
Prisoners, Roger Deakins
12 Years a Slave, Sean Bobbitt

Best Film Editing
American Hustle, Jay Cassidy & Crispin Struthers
Captain Phillips, Christopher Rouse
Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón & Mark Sanger
12 Years a Slave, Joe Walker
The Wolf of Wall Street, Thelma Schoonmaker

Best Music (Score)
All is Lost, Alex Ebert
August: Osage County, Carter Burwell
Gravity, Steven Price
Philomena, Alexandre Desplat
12 Years a Slave, Hans Zimmer

Best Music (Song)
“Amen,” All Is Lost
“Let It Go,” Frozen
“Ordinary Love,” Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
“Rise Up,” Epic
“Young and Beautiful,” The Great Gatsby

Best Production Design
The Great Gatsby, Catherine Martin & Beverly Dunn
Her, K.K. Barrett & Gene Serdena
The Invisible Woman, Maria Djurkovic & Tatiana Macdonald
The Lone Ranger, Jess Gonchor & Cheryl Carasik
12 Years a Slave, Adam Stochausen & Alice Baker

Best Costume Design
The Great Gatsby, Catherine Martin
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Trish Summerville
The Invisible Woman, Michael O’Connor
Oz the Great and Powerful, Gary Jones
12 Years a Slave, Patricia Norris

Best Visual Effects
Iron Man 3
Pacific Rim
Star Trek: Into Darkness
World War Z


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