Oscars 2013: Picks, Votes, Analysis, Rankings

It’s that time again.

For some reason, during the most competitive (at least, Best Picture-wise) year in a long time, I find myself less excited about this night than I have been in a while. Honestly, I think it’s because most of the technical awards are pretty much sewn up. It takes the element of surprise out of most of the night and saves it for the very end, as opposed to knowing the end and being excited along the way.

I’m also glad I’m out doing this on my own. I don’t even want to think about the kind of bitterness and hatred and blind campaigning that’s going on at all those Oscar blogs and sites I used to read.

This will be the same as every year. I’ll guess each category. What I think will win, what I think its main competition is, what the spoiler is, what I’m picking, and what you should probably pick if you want to win your Oscar pool. I also color-code everything to make it as easy to follow as possible.

I’m expecting to do pretty horribly this year. If I can manage 16 correct, I’ll be pleased. So take my opinions as they are: opinions. I have no idea what’s going to happen. Let me also specify that while this (obviously) is all my personal opinion it also will not include my personal opinion. This is all what I think will happen. Whether or not I think that’s a good decision is something else entirely. I’m in the picking business, not the deciding business. I also don’t need to know your opinion. I have a difficult enough time deciding my own as to who’s gonna win. More would be chaos.

So, with that, let’s roll up the sleeves:

(Note: In the title of each category, I’ll link to my breakdowns of those categories, in case you want any further information.)

Best Picture

American Hustle (Columbia, Annapurna)

Captain Phillips (Columbia)

Dallas Buyers Club (Focus Features)

Gravity (Warner Bros.)

Her (Warner Bros., Annapurna)

Nebraska (Paramount Vantage)

Philomena (The Weinstein Co.)

12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight)

The Wolf of Wall Street (Paramount, Universal)

(So we’re clear, in case people don’t know — the way the voting on this works is that it’s a preferential ballot. I will explain that in a second. These both my rankings as well as what I’d put on a preferential ballot. Just so we’re clear.)

My Rankings:

  1. Gravity
  2. Her
  3. The Wolf of Wall Street
  4. Captain Phillips
  5. 12 Years a Slave
  6. American Hustle
  7. Philomena
  8. Dallas Buyers Club
  9. Nebraska

The real surprises on here for nominations were Philomena and Dallas Buyers Club. Not so much Dallas Buyers Club, since that did get a PGA nomination and we knew they liked it. I think we were more surprised at how many nominations it got, specifically that Best Editing nomination. (Think about that — the film ended up with six nominations, and it’s likely to win three of them. And it’ll lose Picture, Editing, and most likely Screenplay. Which would be noble losses. That’s a huge win for them.) Philomena we knew was circling, but I don’t think we quite expected it to get on there, mostly due to it being small. But Harvey Weinstein does it again. He was possibly gonna end up sitting out his first Best Picture race since ’07 (since The Butler never had a chance, and Fruitvale fell out of favor at the end), and pulled off the Philomena inclusion. Outside of that one, the other nominees were expected. They all had major support elsewhere.

The notable exclusions were Saving Mr. Banks — which made the PGA list and was the obvious choice for inclusion. The Blind Side made it on there (same director), and it just felt like the kind of “Oscar” movie voters were likely to embrace. And yet, no dice. Left off everywhere but Score. Maybe it’s the allegations of them treating Disney with kid gloves and making Emma Thompson out to be the bad one, even though Disney was a horrible misogynist. Maybe they just didn’t take to the film like we all expected. (Mostly because, while it was good, it wasn’t that good.) And then Inside Llewyn Davis is gonna be the big black mark for years to come. I can’t believe they left that off. It had no precursor support, so we weren’t really expecting it (it was more of a pipe dream than anything), yet it’s still incredible that film got left off. I also feel like people are gonna wonder how Prisoners got left off in ten years as well.

But, for the most part, no surprises here, and we were all very likely to have gotten seven nominees correct on our ballot guesses.

For the vote — I rewatched all of these again, just to get a definite feeling where I stand on them. (And for yesterday’s articles.) I’m not feeling American Hustle as much as I was. Not that I still don’t like it… I just would drop it lower in my top ten, which I figured might be the case when I did it. It’s just… it just doesn’t grab me the way all of Russell’s previous films do. It feels too much like artifice. I can’t vote for that.

Otherwise… Wolf of Wall Street holds up just as well as it did in the theater. Gravity much more so. Her is still beautiful, even though I can’t see that actually being a winner. Still my second choice, though. 12 Years — absolutely incredible. But I can’t vote for it. I think my big thing against it is, I didn’t feel the twelve years. It’s got a weird sense of time, the film. And I think that’s keeping me from truly embracing it for a vote. (It’s still in my top 12 for the year, don’t get your panties in a bunch. And quite frankly, if you give me six months, it’ll probably make the top ten over American Hustle. So let’s not jump to conclusions here.)

Captain Phillips totally holds up. I really enjoyed that. Nebraska I liked better the second time, but still don’t love it. Philomena is beautiful, but not something you vote for. Just nice to see it on there. And Dallas Buyers Club — performances are great, don’t mind it on here, but it’s not a winner. I think we all knew that going in.

Anyway, the way the balloting system works is as such:

Everybody is told to rank all nine films from 1-9, in order of their preference. So, unless someone refuses to vote for anything, everybody will have a #1 vote. If a film gets more than 50% of first place votes, it will win Best Picture then and there. But if not (and it’s likely none will), what they then do is tally up all the first place votes. Say there are 6,000 people in the Academy. I think there are more now, but let’s say 6,000. And say all 6,000 of them vote. This is a hypothetical scenario. You’ve seen the presidential election turnouts, I’m sure.

So 6,000 votes are cast, and everyone puts a #1 for Best Picture. No film gets 3,001 #1 votes. So, we count. This film has 1,800 votes, this one has 1,650. This one has 750, and so on. The film that comes in ninth in the first round of voting — with just the #1 votes — is out. It’s just out of the race, and cannot win Best Picture. Let’s say, of the 6,000 votes, it had 150 of them. What happens to those 150 votes is, they look at what film those 150 people had at #2. And then that film gets that vote.

So now we have 8 films left. The film with the lowest tally the second time is now eliminated. Say that had 300 #1 votes. Now those 300 get absorbed to whatever film was ranked #2 on their ballots. And, if by chance the film ranked #2 was the film that was already eliminated, the votes go to the #3 choice. And this process continues until one nominee has more than 50% of the votes. And that’s your winner.

So, that means we have to look at that as well as the precursors in figuring this out. This is only the fifth year they’ve been doing this (technically not. Technically they did it a couple times in the 30s and 40s, but I don’t think we can really call those precursors to this), and it doesn’t seem to have affected things that much. Typically the film we assume is the favorite ends up winning. Only this year, we have three frontrunners, so it’s really hard to tell.

As for the precursors: usually you can just use the PGA to tell you what’s going to win, but the PGA had a tie this year, between Gravity and 12 Years a Slave. And American Hustle still looms large. BAFTA went for 12 Years a Slave (though they also hedged with Gravity as Best British Film) and the SAG ensemble went to American Hustle. They’re all right there.

I pretty much have it going down between those three, and I suspect that, with this preferential voting system, the film that benefits the most from it is Gravity. Because think about it — the person who loved 12 Years a Slave and puts that #1 — what’s their second choice? It might be Gravity. The older member of the Academy who thinks 12 Years is overrated and puts American Hustle number one — what’s their second choice? It might also be GravityGravity might win this based solely on second and third place votes. Since I doubt people will dump it to the bottom of the list, the way they might dump either American Hustle or 12 Years a Slave. One for being “awful” (because there are a lot of people who thought American Hustle was terrible), and one for… well… reasons. Maybe racism, maybe being old, who knows. Either way, you know there are people who will downgrade 12 Years a Slave, because we have 86 years of Academy history to tells us there are. Remember Brokeback Mountain? Remember The Color Purple? Remember how, in most years, there aren’t any black people nominated for acting Oscars? Remember how there have only been about four black directors nominated for Best Director and how none of them have ever won? It’s a fact of life. This is what we deal with.

Anyway, here’s how I see this one shaking out:

I think we all figure Philomena gets the least amount of first place votes. Harvey Weinstein can only do so much. Thing is, it’s hard gauging how many people Weinstein can get to vote for his film, how many people worked for/on it, how many people from the studio are voting, etc. But since I feel we all assume that’s the least likely of the nominees to win, let’s say it gets the least amount of first place votes. So that’s out first. Now, if you put Philomena #1, what’s most likely to be your second place film? Fuck if I know. Let’s just move on.

I then assume that either Dallas Buyers Club or Captain Phillips is next off the list. Dallas Buyers Club has support, but does it have #1 vote support? Or #2 support? Don’t know. And for that matter, how many #1s does Captain Phillips get? How many #2s? It feels like the kind of film more likely to get 3s and 4s and 5s than 1s. And then, how much greater is the #1 and #2 support for Captain Phillips than that of Dallas Buyers Club? I assume the #1 support is greater for Dallas Buyers but the 1 and 2 support is greater for Captain Phillips. So let’s say Dallas Buyers Club comes off next. It has fans, but not enough to win Best Picture. So that’s two down and seven films left.

Now — The Wolf of Wall Street is an interesting film. They’re campaigning like crazy for it, but there are a lot of Academy members who apparently were disgusted with it (though the surprise nominees in all the major categories do show support from certain branches). So, that means it’ll get downgraded on a few ballots. Also, how many #1s does it have? And #2s and possibly even #3s? Overall, I don’t think this has enough support to make any kind of run for it. And, I’m gonna throw a minor curveball here and say that Captain Phillips might have better overall vote support than that does, which means that even though it might have more #1 votes than Phillips, it quite possibly might be eliminated from the vote first. Because say it has 600 first place votes, and Phillips has 500. But since more people overall put Phillips second and third, it got a bunch of those votes, and say, by the end of those first three rounds, it has 620 overall votes to Wolf‘s 615 — Wolf is out, regardless of how many more #1s it got.

But don’t worry, I assume Phillips doesn’t have enough support to make it into the top five. Or maybe it can, and the Best Director swap is a mislead. But let’s say that’s off next, and that the films with the top five shots at this are Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Nebraska and Her. You’d think Wolf, as that got the fifth Director spot, but you know people will downgrade that. I don’t know how many of the rest of these get those severe downgrades without a bunch of #1 votes. I also know a lot of people didn’t necessarily care for Nebraska, so that might also be out at some point earlier than I’m guessing. My guess is, possibly. Wolf of Wall Street could crack top five. But this is beside the point. Since I’m still going to end up with the top three no matter how you shake it.

Now, the thing I’m curious about next is if Her has more overall support than Nebraska or Wolf of Wall Street does. Either way, I can’t see anyone having enough votes to crack top three, so let’s just take both of those off, however you want to split it.

And, to get to the nitty gritty of it all — it comes down to which has the most overall support, and I think that comes down to Gravity and 12 Years a Slave, hence the PGA tie. I think American Hustle gets a lot of support, but I think the PGA loss and BAFTA losses say a lot. One was a preferential ballot, and I think that came right as support was starting to peak, and the other wasn’t a preferential ballot. Which means that it could have won if they liked it the best, but they didn’t. So that gives me some pause. I just feel like, when it comes down to it, it’s either gonna finish second or third in the final voting. I feel like it ends up getting a lot of 2s and 3s and 4s, but also a lot of downgrades because some people just think it’s shit. However, I think 12 Years also gets downgrades because of old, racist people. So maybe American Hustle is second.

Either way, I still feel like Gravity is the film that will end up with a lot of #1s, a lot of #2s, and a lot of #3s, without much of the negative blowback, which means, if I’m trying to think logically about this, makes it the film that I should probably choose. I might be overthinking it, but even before overthinking it, that was still my choice. I was thinking that was gonna win on general popularity alone, and the only thing keeping me from being certain about it is the, “What if they think it’s a popcorn movie and not a Best Picture movie? What if people really do go for 12 Years a Slave?” You can drive yourself crazy with this. So I’m probably just gonna go with my gut (which ends up being the safe choice, actually), and figure, “Oh well, if I end up getting five wrong and this is one of them, that’s weird, but I still got five wrong.” If that happens.

Oh, but yeah, my vote would be Gravity, since fuck it, I liked it best, and I honestly don’t have a preference about this one.

My Vote: Gravity

What Would Be On My Ballot: Gravity. I honestly don’t care how it won’t hold up. That was just the film I liked best this year.

Should Have Been Nominated: Inside Llewyn Davis; Prisoners

– – – – –

I’m adding another section here, because I think it’s important. The pros and cons of each nominee winning. I’ll keep it all in a single comment, and by next year, will think of something to call it. Mostly, I want to discuss what we’ll take away from each winning the category, and if each one will turn out to be a good choice, historically. We’ll keep it to the big six, just because… do people really need me to explain whether something would be a good or bad choice for Best Sound Editing?

American Hustle — historically, it’ll be considered a weak winner. It will. Coming off of Argo, it looks like they’re pigeonholing themselves into a particularly kind of winner. This is gonna be the Oliver! of winners. The winner by an acclaimed director that’s looked at as a decent choice for its year (though there’s a space film also hovering around that many people consider the better film), but also a lesser entry into his filmography. The pros are that, if it does win, at least we’ll be able to say, “Goddamn, was everyone in this movie having fun.” On the other hand — we didn’t give it to Goodfellas, and this is how you try to make up for it? Is this really going to make up for that mistake?

Captain Phillips — the biggest thing about this if it won would be that it’s the second winner in 25 years without a Best Director nomination. Which would be the case for four of these, so I won’t mention it again. As a winner, it would be considered a fine film but not a particularly strong winner, historically. It’ll be a tight thriller and nothing more. I wanna say it’ll be the French Connection of choices, but The French Connection has that added element of being very indicative of the 70s and the changing of the guard of film style for that decade, so I can’t quite make that comparison. But in terms of a film, that is just a tight thriller and not too much more. (It’s not The Last Emperor, is what I’m getting at.) At this point, it would be weird if it won, since that’s pretty much what we’d take out of it. “Man, that was a weird choice.” It would hold up as a good film, historically, but not a particularly inspired choice. Mostly we’d be talking about the other three films cannibalizing each other and paving the way for  this. I feel like no one would dislike it as a film, but just as a choice.

Dallas Buyers Club — This would be a complete surprise story, if this won. It wouldn’t hold up, because every time we mentioned it, the narrative would be how “an quiet, independent movie about a dude’s AIDS struggle overtook three mighty competitors.” It wouldn’t hold up as a winner at all, tumbling down to the bottom of the historical list of winners. Not because it’s a bad picture, but because it would be a poor winner against the competition. Not all of it, but some of it. But what will actually be going in its favor is two major acting wins to go along with it, so people won’t be able to completely shake their heads, and can mostly end up going, “They liked what they liked.” And the story will be a happy one for all the people who worked on this, and we can all feel good that stories like this one were able to have a happy ending. (P.S. I’ve spoken to this guy. He’s incredibly nice and deserves all great things.)

Gravity — Now we’re talking in potential reality here. How will this hold up as a winner? It’s going to have the Best Director win, and it’s already considered a technical masterpiece, and is clearly by consensus one of the top two most loved films of 2013, so it actually will hold up. The thing about it, though, is how it’ll stand apart from every other Best Picture winner ever. It would be like if Avatar won. What would you do? How do you rank it? It’s so far apart from everything else. Hell, we run into that now with Return of the King. You kind of have to rank that as a trilogy, almost, when you look at it historically. This will be really tough to gauge, if it won. But, if it did, a lot of us will be happy, and a lot of people will be all right with it, since we all collectively like that movie, and there are few who dislike it. Is it of much substance? No. Not as compared to 12 Years a Slave. But who’s to say what a Best Picture winner is supposed to be? This is the definitive film of 2013, it’s a technical marvel, it’s gonna win a bunch of Oscars — does it end up like Star Wars? All those Oscars and no Best Picture? Not quite. Since we know Cuaron should win Director. So it’s got that over Lucas already. But if it does end up like Star Wars — what’s its Annie Hall? (Is it Her? Wouldn’t that be something?) Do people even feel bad that it lost? Or does it just make sense, because nothing like this ever wins. And then, if it does — “It’s a roller coaster ride. It’s not something that wins Best Picture.” And yet — in five years, are people still saying that? Does 12 Years really hold up that well, or is it just in the moment? I don’t know. I think it holds up fine as a winner, because when people look back to 2013, this is the film that’s gonna be remembered. No matter what happens, it has that going for it. Maybe that means it doesn’t need Best Picture (the way Avatar didn’t need it), maybe not. I don’t know. It may not be the classical choice, but it’s definitely not a bad one, all things considered.

Her — This might be a sneaky good choice for Best Picture… if they went for it. It’s a film championed by young people, who will only grow with it over the years. I’m curious how this is looked at in the future if it does win… in a way, it’s almost a weird version of Network. It might correctly guess what the future is going to be like, relationship-wise. And it might be looked at as the prophetic best choice of the bunch. Who knows? The cons are that it’s a relatively small film, and might be looked at the way Marty is — a forgotten winner — simply because it’s so small. That doesn’t mean Marty wasn’t the right choice for its year at all, though. This one would have the most interesting future if it won, since we can all easily prognosticate how most of them would fare, historically. This one is the one that would actually need time to figure that out. And that intrigues me.

Nebraska — This would be a poor choice, historically. Mostly because people liked more of his earlier films that were nominated here better. Plus, it’s so low-key, and so slow… I feel like everyone would collectively ignore this as a winner over time. Kind of the way we ignore Tom Jones. Only when you look closely would it seem like a poor choice. The upside to it is — Alexander Payne gets an Oscar for his film, and a beautifully told father-son story wins. But I feel like there’s more negatives to come out of this winning than positives.

Philomena — You know what would come out of this winning? Everyone going, “How the fuck did Harvey pull that off?” That would be the narrative here. Nothing else. This is a small movie, though beautifully written and acted, that would be completely ignored throughout history as a Best Picture winner. I’d compare it to A Man for All Seasons. That film won, and it’s a great film, but it didn’t need to win Best Picture. It features a strong lead performance, great writing, but ultimately, no one really thinks about it when they think of Best Picture winners, just because it’s kind of a small film. Again, more negative comes out of this than positive. But fortunately it’s a beautiful film that most people seem to like. So that helps. Still, the cons here seem to outweigh the pros. As they tend to do with the films that surprise as Best Picture nominees. (Put it this way — imagine if A Serious Man won Best Picture that year. How would people feel about that?)

12 Years a Slave — This would be the film that holds up best in the immediate future. It’s the classy choice, and fits right in with all the other winners throughout history. It’s probably the most critically acclaimed film of the year, along with Gravity, and would signify a great cultural achievement for the typically “behind the times” Academy (but not the biggest achievement, as it still probably won’t win Best Director). This winning makes up for the horrendous snub of The Color Purple almost 30 years ago. This losing opens that wound back up. If American Hustle beats this, people might revolt. They’ll call it the worst decision since Crash. If Gravity beats this, then people might be somewhat miffed, but they won’t be horrendously upset. Since they all liked that movie too. Though people act like this film winning removes years and years of racism, which it doesn’t. It doesn’t even begin to act as reparations. It winning could be viewed as an act of “white guilt.” But, historically, it would fit in just fine with Best Picture winners, settling in somewhere around the middle of the pack, maybe lower middle of the pack. It wouldn’t be too bad a choice. It’s gonna be hard to escape some kind of reaction when this wins, from either side, but at least there’s talk. That’s gotta be something. To me, this film not winning might make even more of a statement than if it does. And hey, if it wins, we can look at it the way we look at In the Heat of the Night.

The Wolf of Wall Street — Man, wouldn’t this be something. I don’t even know if I’d be okay with this as a winner. That would be completely bizarre. Imagine that. People call The Departed a “lesser” Scorsese movie that won (even though that was the best nominated movie that year. Had they nominated Children of Men and it lost to that, then we could talk). What would happen with this? The positives here, of course, are Scorsese. And DiCaprio. And the performances. And this being a commentary on the sad state of America, and how morally corrupt these people are and how it’s corrupted our culture and basically reflecting on the rest of us. Which would be a good choice, actually. But, also — imagine if Casino won. Or this. They’re both part of that Goodfellas trilogy… but they’re not Goodfellas. They seem like weak winners. So, while there are positives here, I feel like it can only go so far, historically, as a winner. Though this one will hold up better than people think. Hell, people hated this the second it came out. It’s already overcome that backlash. Imagine what five years is gonna do to it.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Gravity. It has the PGA tie, it still won Best British Film at the BAFTAs, and, like I explained up there, I think it’s most likely to have enough of those #2 and #3 votes to carry it to the win. So I consider that, probably, the most likely to win. Statistically.

Biggest Competition: 12 Years a Slave. I’m going to stick with the PGA. I honestly have no clue what’s going to happen, and any one of these three can win. This feels like it’s going to be the eventual winner, so don’t hold these to hard and fast predictions (as you’ll see in a second). But for now, I feel like, going into things, Gravity holds a slight advantage over this. (Not that it matters. Since the favorites don’t always win.) I’ll take broad support over “racist bait.” (Meaning, the likelihood of the old, reactionary members of the Academy to vote against it just because.) Oh, and the two other things that give me pause about this (though obviously it matters less nowadays given how the last few Oscar ceremonies have gone): this film only won the one Golden Globe for Best Picture (Drama). Only eight times has that happened, and only once of those times did the film that won that award go on to win Best Picture (Rocky). All the others (Babel, Bugsy, Spartacus, The Defiant Ones, East of Eden, The Robe, and A Place in the Sun) all lost at the Oscars, or weren’t nominated. (Spartacus and East of Eden weren’t even nominated for Best Picture.) And of the six remaining times: first, it’s been once in the past twenty years. Second, Babel and Bugsy lost to films they beat for the Globe, while The Defiant Ones and A Place in the Sun lost to the film that won the Globe for Comedy or Musical (Gigi, An American in Paris). (And also, in the Spartacus and East of Eden years, the film that won Comedy or Musical also won Best Picture.) And in the case of The Robe, there weren’t any other nominees announced, so we have nothing to go by. But there’s that. And 12 Years also only won the two BAFTAs (and one wasn’t fully on the level since McConaughey wasn’t nominated for Best Actor there). So it’s tough to think that a film with so little support elsewhere is still winning Best Picture. That’s why I have this here. But again, who knows, right?

Spoiler Alert: American Hustle. It’s the dangerous horse in the race and has been all along. The loud rush of support has waned, but support is still very much there for it. This could take it when all is said and done (you never know)

Rankings of likelihood to win: 1) Gravity 2) 12 Years a Slave 3) American Hustle 4) Her 5) Nebraska 6) The Wolf of Wall Street 7) Dallas Buyers Club 8) Captain Phillips 9) Philomena

If I were a betting man: I still have no idea. I guess if I wanted to play it safe, I’d say to take Gravity. But honestly, at this point, I think everyone should pick with their gut. Mine is telling me not to take Gravity. Mostly because, if I’m wrong, and it wins, cool. If not, I win regardless. But, thinking about it — the people who vote for American Hustle are more than likely not gonna have 12 Years a Slave second. And vice versa. But they most likely will have Gravity in that top three. A lot of people will. And I think that can carry it to the win. (I know someone who had American Hustle 1, Gravity 2 and 12 Years 3. Which adds a nice bit of intrigue to the whole thing. What if everyone did something similar?) So I’ll consider that the winner, just because the numbers are telling me it’s probably smartest, and, in a coin flip scenario, why not go with your favorite film of the year? (Not to mention the whole Departed precedent. Where, in a seemingly three-horse race, the Best Director lock vote swung Best Picture as well.

You should take: That’s a tough one. Probably you should take whichever one you’d feel bad about not taking. So, in my case, that film is 12 Years a Slave. I’d feel bad if I didn’t take it and it won. Though, to be quite honest — I don’t think it’s happening. I feel like, knowing this Academy, it’s smarter to assume racism and be pleasantly surprised than to assume that people will vote for it because “it’s the right thing to do.” It has the precursors. The PGA tie is big, the Globe win, the BAFTA — it managed to win them all. I can understand Gravity coming out and beating it, but to see American Hustle somehow pull an upset after all of that… that would be a lot. So I feel like this might be the “smart” thing to do, and yet — I truly feel in my gut of guts that American Hustle is the film to take. I hear so many people saying they’re voting for it. I honestly think that if it’s not Gravity, it’s American Hustle. So I will reiterate to everyone that you should take the film you feel will truly win, or the film you’d feel worst about not having. But I’ll tell you right now, my brain is telling me Gravity should win, but my gut keeps saying it’s gonna be American Hustle. And yet — PGA, BAFTA, the Globe (which doesn’t count so much, but we do consider it a precursor, and as it does match, it’s worth mentioning)… that’s a lot of stuff going this film’s way. And yet, each time, it barely wins any awards. One, two. I feel like the Academy still makes their statement if it wins and it only wins two Oscars. That’s basically as if it didn’t win. But will it even win? I honestly don’t know. I truly do not know, and right now, my gut is telling me to stick with American Hustle, even though 12 Years is probably the smart choice. (Then again, I said it before… I think… films that only won Best Drama at the Globes have a real shoddy track record at the Oscars. Babel being an example already (sort of) brought up a minute ago. That does point toward it not really being the choice.)

You can really go any way you want here, and this is the category I’ll most leave to other people instead of saying, “No… trust me… this is the choice.” There are a handful of categories each year where you just have to make your own mistakes, and this year, this is the one. It’s the biggest of them all, but that’s just how it is this year.

On My Ballot: Gravity. Fuck it. I’ll be least upset taking this, no matter what the outcome. I feel like I’m still gonna tell people to take Gravity, though, so at least on one of the ballots, I’ll do better. And if American Hustle wins, then fuck me. And if 12 Years wins — then, well, I get it. I assume I have a 33% chance of getting it right, and will assume I’ll be wrong no matter what, so that way I don’t feel bad.

– – – – –

Best Director

Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave

Alexander Payne, Nebraska

David O. Russell, American Hustle

Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street

My Rankings:

  1. Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
  2. Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
  3. Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
  4. David O. Russell, American Hustle
  5. Alexander Payne, Nebraska

The category turned out mostly as expected. Paul Greengrass was a mainstay on all the precursor lists, but got left off in favor of Alexander Payne, who has so much respect he earned a nomination purely on stature. (Then again, you can argue Scorsese did the same thing, so who cares, really? He’s here. This is the list) But mostly, that was the only minor surprise here. Everything else went as expected, and it’s a solid category.

And the vote is a complete no-brainer. (Sorry, Steve McQueen.)

My Vote: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

What Would Be On My Ballot: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

Should Have Been Nominated: Joel & Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis; Denis Villeneuve, Prisoners; Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips

– – – – –

The Pros and Cons of Winning

Alfonso Cuaron — this would be the best possible outcome here. It’s a technological marvel, it’s the best effort in the group, and the man is hugely popular and, by most accounts, deservedly overdue (Children of Men was probably the one, but we’ll take what we can get, right?). There’s really no downside here except the upside of the alternatives. Even if the film doesn’t win Best Picture, not too many people are going to argue with him as a Director winner. That is, they can’t really argue with the choice. They can argue that someone else also deserved to win and maybe was a better one, but ultimately, the effort is the effort, and I think we feel it’s the right one. (Kind of like Ang Lee last year. You can’t really argue with it, even if you would have went elsewhere.)

Steve McQueen — The cons of him winning are mostly, “He beat Alfonso Cuaron, and Cuaron gave the much better effort.” Which is a big con, but, outside of that, it’s all upside. He’s the first black director to win, ever, which is a huge, huge deal. The film likely also wins Best Picture, so it looks solid in Academy history, and the only thing you can argue is that another film should have beat it, and not that it’s a bad winner. (We prefer those years to years like 2005.) It represents a huge step forward for the Academy, and a much respected director (who has three really solid films on his resume) gets an Oscar. There’s not much downside here outside of the fact that he beats Cuaron. So, in all, we could do worse if he won.

Alexander Payne — Big downside here on most accounts. The man has Screenplay Oscars, but no directing Oscars. He’s not really the type of director who needs a Best Director trophy. The effort is fine, but by a lot of accounts, it’s not as good as previous works of his, which were much larger threats to win this. Plus, he beat Cuaron. Or McQueen. Or Russell. Or Scorsese. Whoever. He’s the least likely choice to end up with a positive review, historically. Of course, the upside is, “Alexander Payne has an Oscar.” That’s cool. Kind of like, “Carol Reed has an Oscar. Cool. Sure it’s for Oliver! and not for The Third Man, but he has an Oscar.” So that’s not terrible. But, when you analyze the category, mostly it’ll be looked at as a weak choice given the competition.

David O. Russell — This one would be a case of, “Well… they liked what they liked.” No one would argue with David O. Russell having an Oscar. Not with his filmography. We can all point to at least three of his films that we like a lot. He’s been on a crazy run, and is the only director to get four acting nominations in consecutive years. Hugely respected, and there’s a lot of upside in the win if they want to go there. The downside — “He won for such a weak film.” Kind of like when Scorsese won for The Departed, and you go, “He won for that, and not Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, etc. etc.” Of course, Russell’s films aren’t quite on that level, but relatively, you get what I’m saying. The film feels like a weak winner, historically, and that would be the huge mark against him. He beat the better effort in Cuaron’s and the classier choice in McQueen. So you get the worst of all possible scenarios. Meanwhile, if he directs something better in the future and wins for that (or doesn’t win), then you have this either being his sole win, which looks weak, or this being the effort where you go, “Why didn’t you just wait?” So, we’ll need some time to look at this one (though, honestly, the momentum he has now… he’s gonna be a serious contender next time out. He might win it on that alone). But, mostly, it would be good to see him get an Oscar, but bad to see him do it here, just because of who he beat and how the film is likely to be perceived in the future.

Martin Scorsese — Nobody will argue with Scorsese winning a second Oscar. No matter the film. So that’s taken care of. John Ford winning for How Green Was My Valley is still John Ford winning, even if it was over Citizen Kane. This isn’t quite that shocking, but it would be pretty surprising. It would be a bad decision in-category, but not necessarily historically. Martin Scorsese having two Oscars forgives a lot. But, when you look at it against Cuaron, and McQueen — it doesn’t look too great. So it’s a give and a take. Not the worst decision, but not the best, either.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity. It’s all but locked at this point. He’s swept every major director award so far. The DGA is the big one, and we know how often that syncs up. But he also won the Globe, BAFTA… all of it. He’s gonna win, and if he doesn’t, then we’re all wrong.

Biggest Competition: David O. Russell, American Hustle. He’s gonna get more votes than McQueen. They’ll give 12 Years Best Picture (begrudgingly), but they won’t go Director. Trust me on this. If anyone beats Cuaron (and that’s a real dicey proposition at best), it’s Russell.

Spoiler Alert: Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave. He’s the other choice, clearly. I can’t see it happening unless there’s some crazy sweep voting going on, but he’s obviously the choice if the first two don’t win. But, does anyone actually think that’s going to happen?

Rankings of likelihood to win: 1) Cuaron 2) Russell 3) McQueen 4) Scorsese 5) Payne

If I were a betting man: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity is the only choice here. I’ve never seen such a blatant call for a split ever. People are just convinced the split is going to happen. Which is incredibly odd. It probably points more toward Gravity also winning Picture than it losing here. And to keep going with that discussion, since I have the space (not needing to explain the choice)… looking back at the Picture/Director split years: last year, Affleck wasn’t nominated. So it had to happen. 2005, people expected Brokeback to take Picture. 2002, Polanski surged toward the end. 2000, a split was kind of predicted, yet the one that happened wasn’t the expected one. 1998, Saving Private Ryan was also right there for Picture as well. 1989, Bruce Beresford wasn’t nominated for Director. 1981, maybe, was the last time a split was predicted, and even then, I don’t have enough knowledge to speak much about it, and I assume Reds was very much in the conversation for Picture. (Another example of a crowd-pleaser winning it all.) Point is… this has never really happened, where people just assume a split is happening. Which leads me to believe… maybe it doesn’t. Either way, this is the one lock of the two, which is the strange thing.

You should take: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity. You really gonna bet against everything on a hunch? Be my guest.

On my ballot: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

– – – – –

Best Actor

Christian Bale, American Hustle

Bruce Dern, Nebraska

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street

Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave

Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

My Rankings:

  1. Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
  2. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
  3. Bruce Dern, Nebraska
  4. Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
  5. Christian Bale, American Hustle

A lot of really solid also-rans in this category. But as it is, the category is solid. Bale is pulling up the rear, but even then, I can point to another great performance (Out of the Furnace) that he gave this year and say it’s cool that he was nominated because you get to reward him for both.

Either way — outside of Bale, not many surprises. Hanks got left off, which, along with Greengrass’s omission in the previous category, were two big blows to Captain Phillips. (And I just watched that again — Hanks actually did deserve a nomination. The last 15 minutes of that movie are some all-time work.) Other than that, three of the five were nominated all along the way, and DiCaprio came in late despite the lack of a SAG nod. But even then, I picked it, and I think it was expected.

For the vote — after watching these again (all Best Picture nominees, by the way. Not a single outside performance on there) — I’m really torn. Bale is out. Clearly a #5. And Ejiofor — fine, but not vote-worthy for me. Dern, I thought was tremendous, and maybe without those other two, I’d more strongly consider him for the vote. His performance is sneaky good. It’s the kind of performance that’s so low key you can mistake him for not doing anything, and yet, what he’s actually doing is really difficult. So he’s definitely a #3 that should be higher than a #3.

DiCaprio was really incredible, but, honestly, after watching Dallas Buyers Club again — I’m sticking with McConaughey. I don’t see DiCaprio as a slam dunk winner here, and that’s really what I needed to not vote for McConaughey. The man is having a hell of a run right now, and, with all the performances he gave recently (The Paperboy, Mud, Magic Mike. Hell, even Tropic Thunder) — he stole The Wolf of Wall Street from DiCaprio in that one scene — plus True Detective is going on right now, and that’s probably the best single performance of his career, that really puts him over the top. Of course, I still think his performance is terrific on top of that, and that’s the main reason I’m voting for him. The rest is just the cherry. He’s really good here, and, even though he still sounds like McConaughey, he gives a really rich performance that cannot be discounted. He’s my vote.

My Vote: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

What Would Be On My Ballot: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

Should Have Been Nominated: Hugh Jackman and/or Jake Gyllenhaal, Prisoners; Robert Redford, All Is Lost; Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis (and Christian Bale for Out of the Furnace instead of American Hustle)

– – – – –

The Pros and Cons of Winning

Christian Bale — Bale gets another Oscar. A man who’s been putting in great work for years gets rewarded. Is it too soon after The Fighter? Possibly. Is it for a lesser work in his filmography? Almost definitely. Was there a better choice the same year? Probably. Does it lessen the victory? Maybe. Depends on what he has in store for us in the future. Him winning wouldn’t be a bad thing on the surface, based on who he is, but to me, it’s a bit like Jimmy Stewart winning for The Philadelphia Story  and not Mr. Snith Goes to Washington. It’s a lesser work. You’re just giving him an Oscar. Plus, in category, there are much better alternatives. There are way more cons here than pros.

Bruce Dern — he’s a veteran actor who delivered the performance of his career. This category is filled with these, historically, and occasionally they do win. Remember Art Carney in Harry and Tonto? The pros and cons there are evident (I think that was a terrible choice, personally, since he beat Pacino for Godfather Part II and Nicholson for Chinatown), but it’s not something we look too horribly on. It’s a veteran win. We understand them. The cons aren’t too great, outside of who he’d be beating. So it’s not the worst decision for them.

Leonardo DiCaprio — DiCaprio’s been chasing one of these for years. It’s become a joke, almost, at how much the Oscars refuse to nominate him. So he’ll be a deserving winner. And he does give a hell of a performance. But how much weight is there to it? Will he really seem like a good winner over McConaughey? That’s the negative here. The upside is — Leo has an Oscar, he gave a great performance, and the quaaludes scene is one of the great comedic moments in cinema. I feel like three of the five nominees would look okay as winners on their own, but how will the other two look next to McConaughey losing? That’s really the only con. Leo would be a fine winner.

Chiwetel Ejiofor — Well, I guess we have four winners that wouldn’t look too horrible. He’d need the film to win Picture to make the acting win look better. Without it, people would be fine with it, but it would look weak. Some people think he deserves the win as it is, I’m leery. It wouldn’t be the worst decision, but I feel it would be weak against the competition.

Matthew McConaughey — This will hold up. There are no downsides to this except maybe it being a little bit of an obvious choice. Otherwise, the most people can say against it is that someone else should have won. I think, consensus-wise, we all agree that he was one of the top two in the category, and we’d all be okay with him winning. And when you look at his run, and all that… it’ll hold up. All-time, he’ll hold up in the top half of the Best Actor winners of all time. It’ll be deserved.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club. I mean, can we consider anyone else likely to take this one? SAG, the Globe, most of the critics awards. He didn’t even lose the BAFTA. He just wasn’t nominated. So it’s basically his to lose. And True Detective works solidly in his favor as well. It’s his to lose.

Biggest Competition: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street. They’re pushing hard for this (he’s pushing hard for this), and if anyone’s gonna upset, I think it’s him. Then again, maybe not. Maybe he’s the spoiler and not the competition. Because, here’s a big stat I’m gonna share with you (it would mean more if it was a tighter race and McConaughey wasn’t running away with it): no lead actor has ever won the Oscar without a corresponding SAG nomination. And Leo does not have a SAG nomination. So we’d be bucking a huge trend here if it happens. (Granted, we’re only 25 years into SAG, but still. A trend is a trend.) So while I think he is the competition, I think he’s not at all close to touching McConaughey here.

Spoiler Alert: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave. If it’s not the first two, it’s Ejiofor. Some would consider him the competition and not the spoiler, but honestly — I think he’s the spoiler. I can’t see the film getting enough votes to win more than Picture and maybe two other awards. I can’t see this being one of them. He’s not galvanizing any support, and it’s not like we can say, “Hey, BAFTA prefers him to McConaughey,” since they didn’t have a chance to vote for McConaughey. We can say it over DiCaprio, but not McConaughey. So I consider him a spoiler at best, and would not even think about putting him on my ballot as a guess.

Rankings of likelihood to win: 1) McConaughey 2) DiCaprio 3) Ejiofor 4) Dern 5) Bale

If I were a betting man: You take Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club. Do I need to explain any further?

You should take: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club. All right all right all right.

On my ballot: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

– – – – –

Best Actress

Amy Adams, American Hustle

Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Sandra Bullock, Gravity

Judi Dench, Philomena

Meryl Streep, August: Osage County

My Rankings:

  1. Judi Dench, Philomena
  2. Sandra Bullock, Gravity
  3. Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
  4. Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
  5. Amy Adams, American Hustle

Amy Adams was the surprise nominee here, taking down Emma Thompson, who managed SAG, the Globe and BAFTA, but was left off the final list. This has been a trend the last few years. Remember last year, when Helen Mirren and Marion Cotillard were on all those precursor lists and then Quvenzhané Wallis and Emmanuelle Riva got on in the end? Same deal. They loved American Hustle and this made the most sense. Either way, the category was pretty much locked from the start and there’s been no movement in it whatsoever.

In terms of the vote — I can’t vote for Blanchett because all I see is a low rent Blanche DuBois. She gives a fine performance, but I can’t give it any more than a nomination. I didn’t buy into the character at all. All I was seeing was Cate Blanchett putting on a good performance in a Woody Allen movie. So she’s not my vote at all.

Amy Adams — no. I love her to death, but I would not have even nominated the performance. But, she’s here, and as such, I drop her to fifth, because I was least convinced by her at all. If I was watching Cate Blanchett putting on a good performance in that movie, I was watching Amy Adams put on an okay performance in this one. To me, American Hustle was like watching Ocean’s Twelve — nobody’s acting, and I’m just watching the actors have fun. Which is fine for the movie, but… these are the Oscars.

And then — Sandra Bullock. I appreciate what she had to do in that movie. It’s hard to carry a movie and maintain audience interest. Especially the way that one is structured. But, honestly, after watching it again — she didn’t do all that much. I think she should have been nominated for a lot of reasons outside of the pure performance, and I think the nomination will hold up well in the years to come, but I wouldn’t vote for her. Maybe if she hadn’t won before (and for The Blind Side), then this conversation would be different. But as it is — solid, but no vote.

Which leaves two people. One of whom is Meryl Streep. Meryl got her Oscar two years ago for what I feel is a subpar performance. I am now worried whenever she has a new one because — what if they gave her that Oscar and now she unleashes something too good to pass up? Fortunately, this year isn’t the case. She’s good in the movie, but it’s clearly Meryl Streep swinging for the fences and connecting on a solid shot off the wall. She’s really good in the movie, but I feel like Julia Roberts outdoes her (we’ll get into that category fraud in a minute). And, having just won, and me not being completely in love with the performance, Meryl is going to fall back to her typical bridesmaid status, which she’s done 15 times now. At least, in the pantheon of nominated Meryl Streep performances, it’s near the top of the list*.

(* I decided to try to break this list down for the fun of it. Of her 18 nominations, I think we can agree that Sophie’s Choice and Kramer vs. Kramer are tops. I’d also put Doubt right up there as well. Then, I think A Cry in the Dark, Silkwood and The Deer Hunter are also in that next tier. And then I think August: Osage County is in that tier right below that, along with The Iron Lady, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, and Ironweed. Then, Postcards from the Edge I like, but it’s more light than anything. Adaptation is the same. Nothing too major there. The Bridges of Madison County — she’s fine. The Devil Wears Prada — just fine. All in that “okay” tier. Out of Africa is the same. I haven’t seen that in a while, but that, to me, is one of those just “okay” performances. Then Julie & Julia, One True Thing and Music of the Heart — nah. The weak of the weak.)

So that leaves Judi Dench, who I love, and whose performance affected me the most (or, in this category… at all), so she becomes by default my vote. It’s a weak year, but the category is okay, considering (if that makes sense). So Judi, to me, by far is the choice.

My Vote: Judi Dench, Philomena

What Would Be On My Ballot: Judi Dench, Philomena

Should Have Been Nominated: Uhh… Brie Larson, Short Term 12. I guess. But I don’t have much to suggest. I’m mostly cool with it, all things considered.

– – – – –

The Pros and Cons of Winning

Amy Adams — Mostly it’s just an okay performance. She doesn’t particularly stand out, and she’s been nominated for better work before. This is her first lead nomination, of course, but mostly, it’s not going to be remembered particularly well. Then again, in this category, nothing would be particularly remembered, so it won’t matter. If she does win, the pro here is that she has an Oscar, and everyone else already had one. So really, there aren’t too many cons to any of them winning, outside of subjective feelings about each performance over another.

Cate Blanchett — If she wins, she has a lead Oscar, and it’s a classy choice. I’m not sold on the performance, but she’s fine, and the fact that she has an Oscar, and the category being what it is, it’ll hold up just fine. It won’t stick out as an all-time winning performance, but it’ll be there amongst the decent winners. Not great, not particularly weak. Just there. Which is fine. So many Best Actress winners don’t look great against the best winners ever, because they’re so dependent on context. So it’ll hold up just fine.

Sandra Bullock — If she wins, it’ll look bad because they gave it to her for The Blind Side. It’ll just make that look worse. Kind of like Glenda Jackson winning in 1973 after that horrendous 1970 win. The second performance was better, and makes you wonder even more why they bothered to give her the first one. Outside of that, it would be a fine winner on its own, especially if the film wins, just because she has to carry a lot of the film by herself. Of course, it might seem weak because it’s effects heavy and isn’t reliant on her performance (plus the performance is just okay, and not jaw-droppingly good), but in terms of what a Best Actress performance is, this would represent that fittingly. She carries a movie by herself, and we need more of that. So that’s why I think it would hold up okay, even if it wouldn’t be an all-time great winner. The win would mean more than the performance itself would suggest, if that makes sense. And like I said before, there really aren’t too many cons for any of them winning this year outside of comparing them against the other performances, mostly because there really isn’t so much of a “must win” performance there.

Judi Dench — If Judi wins, then I’ll at least be able to say the best performance won. Judi gets a second Oscar, and a beloved, veteran actress gets her due once again. More people get to see the film, and ultimately, it still doesn’t mean much historically, because this will go down as a mostly forgotten category. So the cons here are, again, her beating out someone else other people thought was more deserving. Otherwise, all upside.

Meryl Streep — The downside here is ,”Meryl? Again? So soon?” They gave her one for The Iron Lady two years ago, which not too many people agreed with, but she wanted, so they gave it to her. And now she gets to hang on the sidelines again. Mostly it makes that win look bad. Otherwise, she’s Meryl Streep and if she wins, no one is truly surprised. She’s our Katharine Hepburn. A win makes sense, no matter who its over. That said, in the next few years, if she wins, we look at it like, “How did she come out of nowhere and win?” A few years down the line, the knock will be against the performance. “It’s stagy, it’s her being too theatrical,” or whatever the knock is. It’ll be against that, and then they’ll say someone else was better, and “Too much Meryl.” She’s kind of on her own grading system by now. She’s based on what else she won for. So the win would look weak on her resume. Possibly. Especially if she wins again in the future. That’s really the con here.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine. She’s winning. That’s the deal. She’s won every single award thus far an there’s nothing that’s going to stop her. It’s a done deal. There isn’t even any competition here. It’s hers. She’s a mortal lock.

Biggest Competition: Amy Adams, American Hustle. She’s the only one that can take Blanchett down, and how likely does that scenario seem? Of all the five nominees, she’s the only one who hasn’t won, and she’s the one who seems overly due. She’s a distant second.

Spoiler Alert: Judi Dench, Philomena. Meryl just got another one and no one’s feeling Bullock, so Judi’s really the only one left. The real Philomena’s out making the rounds and Harvey is campaigning, so she’ll get votes. Not enough to win, but if there’s anyone who’s a third choice, it’s her. Some might say Bullock, but even she knows it’s not happening, and is just campaigning on behalf of the film and not for herself. And Meryl is an afterthought. Judi is the third choice if there is one.

Rankings of likelihood to win: 1) Blanchett 2) Adams 3) Dench 4) Bullock 5) Streep

If I were a betting man: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine. She’s winning. We all know this.

You should take: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine. Obviously.

On my ballot: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

– – – – –

Best Supporting Actor

Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips

Bradley Cooper, American Hustle

Mcihael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave

Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street

Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

My Rankings:

  1. Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
  2. Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
  3. Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
  4. Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
  5. Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips

The category went without surprise. Daniel Brühl hit the precursors, but those were the only things making us think he could be nominated. The Gandolfini thing wasn’t gonna make the Oscars, and Cooper was clearly the one to take that spot. Hill came out of nowhere, but I also saw that coming too. I figured the performance was too good to be left off and it wasn’t. So we end up with the best possible category we could have gotten. And again, I think that it might be the strongest of the acting categories. Possibly an all-timer. But only time will tell on that one.

As for the vote — Abdi was good, but he started on third base. I can’t vote for it. Fassbender was really good but not great. Wouldn’t vote for him, although he was convincing and solid in the role. Nomination but no vote. Cooper, I thought, gave the best performance of anyone in that movie, but I still wouldn’t vote for him. Although he was really good. Props, but no vote. And then, Leto — really good. I almost voted for him, but I felt the film didn’t do him enough favors. I think he needed one more scene to really drive the win home, even though he’s going to get it anyway. To me, the vote comes to Jonah Hill. I was watching that movie going, “That’s not Jonah Hill.” He’s so convincing there. I get that it’s a comic performance and people won’t vote for him because he’s Jonah Hill, but to me, he gave the best supporting performance of the year and deserves to win. So he’s my vote, even though I’m cool with Jared Leto winning.

My Vote: Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street

What Would Be On My Ballot: Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street

Should Have Been Nominated: Woody Harrelson, Out of the Furnace; John Goodman, Inside Llewyn Davis (but I’m totally happy with the category. Those were just other performances I really liked. So really, I’ll take this category as-is.)

– – – – –

The Pros and Cons of Winning

They’re all worth winning. The only downside for any of these is against the other performances. The cons are slight, if any. So I’m only going to focus on the positives, mainly.

Barkhad Abdi — The positives here are that he’s very convincing in a good movie. He’s menacing, and you totally believe him from beginning to end. And then he even infuses a lot of pathos for the character along the way as well. The only real downside with him is that he’s not as established as the others and won’t likely have the careers they will. So, if some of these other actors end up never winning an Oscar (like Cooper or Fassbender), then in the future it might seem like Abdi “took” one away from them. Of course, that’s not the purpose of the category, but it is something that can be looked at as a con of winning. Otherwise, it’ a convincing performance and would hold up just fine historically.

Bradley Cooper — He’d hold up fine, but some might consider it a co-lead, and some might think he was better in Silver Linings and it’s a makeup Oscar for that. Mostly he’d be remembered as the guy who won the award for the film (assuming he’s the only one of the four who won), and the representative of all the fine performances in it. But, he’d be looked at as the standout of a cast, and the one who was very good as the agent who gets more depraved and more unhinged as the film progresses, and it would stand as a solid piece of work. Maybe not as strong historically as other choices, but a solid choice at that.

Jonah Hill — To me, it’s the performance of the category. So I’d look at it as a transformative, memorable performance in a film full of excess and great performances. To stand out in this cast is truly an achievement, and I think Hill does that. If he wins, it’ll be looked at as a win for the film, and something Hill used to break away from his comedic beginnings and toward a place as a multi-talented actor, capable of doing both drama and comedy. Historically, it would stand up fine, though some would look at it as rewarding a comic actor for doing comedy, and a weak choice, given the competition. Otherwise, it’s the best performance in the category to a lot of people, and it’s one that really makes you rethink Jonah Hill as an actor. So on that note, there are a lot of positives to him winning.

Michael Fassbender — It’s a strong performance that comes off a few years of strong performances, mainly ones in Steve McQueen films. So it’s fitting that he’d win for another McQueen film, and would be a historically perfect fit among the other winners. A racist slave owner who likes to rape his prize slave and has alcohol problems. Sadistic, cruel, and completely believable. It’s a solid performance that stands out among a film of great performances, and this is truly one where the only downside is having preferred another nominee.

Jared Leto — It’s the perfect fit, role-wise. A transgender with AIDS. Fits perfectly, will hold up just fine, and will be looked at as a strong entry in a strong list of winners. The only cons here are people thinking it too on the nose and preferring someone else. (And maybe questions about Leto himself. But that shouldn’t affect the role and the category in any way.)

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club. SAG, the Globe, the performance — he’s the favorite, and I can’t really see him losing at this point. I don’t think I need to explain why he’s the favorite by now.

Biggest Competition: Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips. He won BAFTA, even though Leto wasn’t nominated, and does have some support. Originally this was going to be Bradley Cooper, because of that whole “when a film is nominated in all four, somebody wins” thing, but I think it’s clear which category that’s going to be in. I feel like he might be the one to get votes if not Leto, but honestly, at this point, pick anyone you want for second. They’re all fair game.

Spoiler Alert: Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street. It’s Hill. It’s not Fassbender. So many people love the performance, and the film, and this can be their way to vote for it. I truly think that if someone wins this category that’s not Jared Leto, Hill is by far the best bet. Some people think it’s Fassbender (some people think 12 Years has better footing than it does in the other categories), but I think we all figure it’s Leto, so what does it matter who’s third?

Rankings of likelihood to win: 1) Leto 2) Hill 3) Abdi 4) Cooper 5) Fassbender

If I were a betting man: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club is the vote. SAG, the Globe… it’s his. The others are too muddled to overtake him. You’d need a clear alternative emerging from the pack to take him down. I don’t see one.

You should take: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club. I want to say Jonah Hill, but I’m not voting for him. I just want to be surprised if it happens. I think it’s Leto’s to lose, and you have to stick with it. You want to spend time worrying about Best Picture, not the acting categories. Take the favorite and let someone else beat you.

On my ballot: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

– – – – –

Best Supporting Actress

Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine

Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle

Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

Julia Roberts, August: Osage County

June Squibb, Nebraska

My Rankings:

  1. Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
  2. Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
  3. June Squibb, Nebraska
  4. Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
  5. Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle

This category took no one by surprise. Four of the five were locked all along the way (like Best Actress), and the fifth was never on solid ground (though a lot of people were so certain it was gonna be Oprah), and Sally Hawkins managed a well-deserved nomination.

As for my vote… honestly, it’s a race of five #2s with no real standout for me.

Julia Roberts gave the best performance, and my favorite performance, but she’s so clearly a lead. Do I vote for something that’s so obviously category fraud?

June Squibb was entertaining, but I’m just not sold enough to vote for her. No idea why. I’m just not. But I love the nomination.

Sally Hawkins actually grew on me the second time I watched the movie. I thought she was sneakily good in that movie, and I completely support the nomination. Actually considering voting for her due to lack of anyone else. (Plus there’s that Happy-Go-Lucky snub… in a year where I can’t pick a winner, sometimes that does help me cast a vote.)

Lupita Nyong’o — I said all along that I didn’t see what was so special about the performance. She’s fine, but I really didn’t see anything that made it jump out at me as “the” one to vote for. In theory that’s the one that should take the category, but I felt she didn’t have enough scenes to do much and to stand out, and her one “Oscar” scene didn’t really feel that great to me. So I wouldn’t vote for her, even though I’d be completely fine if she won. And in a way, I’m rooting for her to win. She is my #2. So I did like the performance, but I also wouldn’t vote for it. Again, that’s just how I feel.

And then Jennifer Lawrence. I’m a big fan of her, and I unabashedly voted for her last year, and do not regret that decision one bit. Although this year — what the hell does everyone see in this performance that I don’t? It’s basically a Jewish housewife variation of her Silver Linings performance. And the fervor that everyone has for it — I just don’t see it. I wanted to love the performance, because I wanted something strong enough to vote for. But I just didn’t love it enough to vote for it. She’s good, but I can’t vote for her.

So that leaves me at an impasse. Do I vote for Lupita Nyong’o because she’d be the best winner to come out of the category? Do I vote for Sally Hawkins because I kind of liked the performance and I felt she got snubbed a few years back? Or do I vote for Julia Roberts in a completely blatant case of category fraud even though I liked her performance the best?

And the answer seems to be to just vote for Julia Roberts. I know it’s category fraud, but the performance is the performance, and it is my favorite, and my one rationalization for it is — I didn’t vote for Christoph Waltz last year, so to me, that makes it okay. And quite frankly, there’s no one else. So I’ll take my favorite performance, category fraud and all.

My Vote: Julia Roberts, August: Osage County

What Would Be On My Ballot: Hmm… good question. I might say Julia just because it was my favorite, but if I actually had a ballot, I might take Lupita Nyong’o just because I’d prefer she won over Jennifer Lawrence. So let’s say Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave.

Should Have Been Nominated: Carey Mulligan, Inside Llewyn Davis; Margot Robbie, The Wolf of Wall Street; Amy Adams, Her

– – – – –

The Pros and Cons of Winning

Sally Hawkins — If she wins, it would shock everyone. And we’d have two sets of winners from the same film (the males from the same film, and the females from the same film. Likely, anyway). Which would be the first  time that ever happened. And would be pretty unique. Otherwise, we’d be incredibly happy for Sally Hawkins, who many felt was robbed in ’08 of a nomination (and possibly a win, if she is nominated), and who constantly delivers solid work. The downside is that maybe someone like Lupita Nyong’o doesn’t win, or whoever. I think this is a pretty weak category, so I don’t see an issue with anyone winning, really. Well, mostly anyone. But even then — whatever. There’s not much downside at all here.

Jennifer Lawrence — The downside to her winning is, she just won. Two in a row, really? For pretty much the same performance? It’s gonna hurt her chances in the future, that’s for sure. And people will really turn on her for this. The upside to her winning is — the film upholds the tradition of four acting nominees bringing home at least one winner. And, it seems to be the flashy performance people love a lot. So I guess a lot of people will agree on it. So there’s that.

Lupita Nyong’o — It will just feel right, if it happens. There’s not much downside to her winning. There really isn’t. Her winning will be a nice story, of a classy woman, coming from PA work to being in a movie, to winning an Oscar. It’s actually a better story than Jennifer Hudson, and they loved that story. I don’t see much downside here, and the upside is, we’ll pretty much all feel she deserved it.

Julia Roberts — If she wins, pure category fraud. It happens, so it’s not the end of the world. And she beat (whomever). The upside is, she was the best performance in the film, and she gets welcomed back into the Academy with a win after a few years off from acting. It’s mostly downside, but historically, if she won, it wouldn’t be awful. Just… category fraud.

June Squibb — This would hold up okay. It’s kind of a one-note performance, in that, she’s just saying ridiculous shit and yelling at her husband most of the time, but she’s solid, and she’s lively. She steals scenes the way Jennifer Lawrence steals scenes. She’d probably hold up second best after Lupita Nyong’o for a win. She’s one of those nominees no one would hate if she won. It’s more “good job.”

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle. Oh, that’s right people… the tide has turned. This race seems all but over. I have not heard anything about Lupita Nyong’o over the past few weeks, and considering SAG is a much bigger voting body than the Academy, and Jennifer Lawrence won BAFTA and the Globe, and a lot of people are voting for her… she’s the one to beat, and I am now firmly convinced that she’s about to walk away with her second Oscar. Nyongo’s buzz peaked early, and I think the BAFTA lost will prove costly. Maybe she wins and I feel okay, but all I keep hearing is Jennifer Lawrence on so many people’s ballots. So to me, she’s the frontrunner, and Nyong’o has to pull an upset.

Biggest Competition: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave. She has SAG, so she really should be considered the favorite, but since she’s not, obviously she’s here. She could still take this, and I wouldn’t be surprised (and would even be pleased if she did), but for now, I’ll put her here. It won’t affect the vote at all (as in, it’s her and Lawrence and always has been). She’s just here. In other categories, there’s a gap between most likely to win and biggest competition. Here, it’s just one and two.

Spoiler Alert: June Squibb, Nebraska. I’m hearing a lot of June Squibb votes out there. She might surprise on Oscar night. Don’t rule that one out. That’s a shocker I’d see coming, but still wouldn’t expect. Don’t rule this one out.

Rankings of likelihood to win: 1) Lawrence 2) Nyong’o 3) Squibb 4) Hawkins 5) Roberts

If I were a betting man: I had Lupita Nyong’o here until about Thursday. It’s Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle. She’s gonna win, she’s gonna prove that “someone always wins when four actors are nominated from the same film” precedent true, she’s gonna win two Oscars in two years. It’s just going to happen. This is where they reward this film (if not elsewhere). If I’m wrong, then I’m happily wrong. But this has been building along the way, and in a way, has always been there. Remember when Viola Davis won SAG? Yeah. This is the same thing. Best Actress was geared toward someone like Meryl winning that year, and Best Supporting Actress is geared toward Jennifer Lawrence winning. You know why? Because some people either didn’t see or didn’t like 12 Years a Slave. And Jennifer Lawrence will get those votes. That’ll put her over the top. I’m totally convinced this is going to happen. To the point where, if Lupita Nyong’o wins, I will actually fist bump, even though all along she’s been the favorite, based on SAG and such. (Though Lawrence won the Globe and the BAFTA and not SAG, which is how Christoph Waltz won last year. Though he wasn’t nominated for SAG, so it’s different.)

You should take: Lupita Nyong’o12 Years a Slave. I need to know one of us has it. I want it to happen. Do what you like, but I truly think this one is a done deal. I know SAG is really good as a prognosticator here, so if she wins and I was wrongly swayed, then, like I said, I’ll be happily wrong. But the amount of love I’m hearing for Jennifer Lawrence is too big to ignore. (Plus, how does BAFTA not vote for Lupita Nyong’o? That’s the thing that really started turning me.) So, this is the second one where I’ll say you can do what you like. But I’m totally convinced Jennifer Lawrence is winning. Mostly because if I am, I can’t be upset with the outcome. Disappointed, but not upset. So I basically just told you to take Jennifer Lawrence. But you should take Lupita Nyong’o. Because fuck it. Hedge the bet. I’ll steer one of us wrong. And I’m hoping it’s me.

On my ballot: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle

– – – – – 

Best Original Screenplay

American Hustle

Blue Jasmine

Dallas Buyers Club

Her

Nebraska

My Rankings:

  1. Her
  2. American Hustle
  3. Dallas Buyers Club
  4. Nebraska
  5. Blue Jasmine

How do you think they’re feeling about that Woody Allen nomination right about now?

Outside of that (which I felt was wholly undeserved, albeit a foregone conclusion), I’m cool with the rest of the nominees. I understand Nebraska, even though I wouldn’t have gone for it myself. I really liked Dallas Buyers Club, but again, wouldn’t have gone out of my way to nominate the screenplay. And then Her and American Hustle are really the class of this category. My personal preference is Her, but I also really liked American Hustle as a screenplay. All that shit they threw on top of it detracts from what’s actually a solid script. So I’m not totally opposed to that winning… but I’d still take Her any day of the week.

My Vote: Her

What Would Be On My Ballot: Her

Should Have Been Nominated: PrisonersInside Llewyn Davis

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: American Hustle. This is another one. Even if this loses Best Picture, I’m convinced this walks away with Screenplay and Supporting Actress. I just see it happening. The love for Her has to be really big to overcome the blind voting for American Hustle. And I just don’t think it’s there. Again — happily wrong if I am, but I’d much rather go with what seems to be the obvious choice than voting from the heart and being crushed.

Biggest Competition: Her. The WGA went for it, which helps. The Globe win doesn’t mean all that much. And it lost the BAFTA to American Hustle (P.S. Django won the BAFTA last year en route to an Oscar win). So I’m gonna stick with this as the upset competition and not the favorite. I’m just feeling really pessimistic this year about my favorites. I want this to win, but I’m not going to let that blind me from the fact that American Hustle is the clear smarter choice in the category.

Spoiler Alert: No one. But if anyone, Nebraska. You’d think Dallas Buyers Club, but that won’t happen. It’s Nebraska that’s the spoiler, since Alexander Payne won the last two Screenplay Oscars he was up for (as in, for his last two films). He didn’t write this one, but do voters care? They just check shit off. Of course, that means something else is much more likely to win in that scenario, but if there is a spoiler from the rest of the pack, this is the one.

Rankings of likelihood to win: 1) American Hustle 2) Her 3) Nebraska 4) Dallas Buyers Club 5) Blue Jasmine

If I were a betting man: I’m taking American Hustle. I don’t care. I’ll be wrong. I’d rather not have my dreams shattered completely. At least I can be right if it wins and feel less bad about Spike Jonze losing. Not that I hate this as a winner, you see. I just really liked Her. But I’m still taking this. It feels like the smart choice. I’m rooting for me to be wrong here, just so we all know.

You should take: American Hustle. It’s the smart bet. But I need one of us to take Her. I need to know that one of us has it. It’s too good to not win. I need to have a hope that I’m wrong. So you should take that. Since you know we all want that to win. Someone should vote with their heart.

On my ballot: American Hustle

– – – – – 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Before Midnight

Captain Phillips

Philomena

12 Years a Slave

The Wolf of Wall Street

My Rankings:

  1. 12 Years a Slave
  2. Philomena
  3. The Wolf of Wall Street
  4. Captain Phillips
  5. Before Midnight

This was the right category. These were my top five adapted scripts and I’m glad they were theirs. The only alternative here was August: Osage County, which clearly fell flat to them. So they ended up with the right category.

For the vote — Before Midnight is a beautiful script, but I wouldn’t vote for it. Can’t explain why, just wouldn’t. Captain Phillips arguably was the best script of the bunch, in terms of what it had to do, but I also wouldn’t vote for it. Again, not sure why. The Wolf of Wall Street is a terrific script, but they openly talked about how much of the movie was improvised, which really hurt its stock in a lot of people’s eyes. Mine included. I know the script was really good and was a really tricky thing to pull off, but I still have the thought of, “Well, so much of it was improvised, what could have been in the script?” It’s wrong, but it’s still there, and for better or worse, that’s what’s keeping me from voting for it.

Which leaves Philomena and 12 Years a Slave. Both were tremendous scripts. And I thought Philomena would be my choice, but I really respect 12 Years a Slave and how it avoided your typical ‘Oscar’ type scenes. I think, all things considered, it would be a more deserving winner, and should win. And I’m going to take it. It’s a coin flip, but I’ll take the one that was a little weaker in execution but way higher in ambition. Philomena works better on paper and as a film, but 12 Years was trickier to pull off, and I feel that’s the right choice.

My Vote: 12 Years a Slave

What Would Be On My Ballot: 12 Years a Slave

Should Have Been Nominated: They got it right.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: 12 Years a Slave. Pretty sure we get this. It’s won all the precursors, it’s the classiest script of the year, it has everything going for it. They’d really need to not vote for it for it to lose. It’s the most likely to win until that happens.

Biggest Competition: Philomena. I don’t think I’m the only one to really like this screenplay. Maybe you can consider Wolf of Wall Street the alternative here, given how hard they’ve been promoting it, but I think that’s a red herring. Philomena is the one. Harvey might pull this one out. This isn’t a done deal for 12 Years. The WGA ruled it ineligible (and I feel like I read somewhere that it was due to him crossing picket lines during the strike), so if they’re bitter, that’s a strike against it, plus the general old backward-ness of the Academy — this is not a sure thing at all. And if anything’s gonna take it, it’s gonna be Harvey and Philomena. Watch out for this one. It has all the makings of a trap.

Spoiler Alert: Captain Phillips. It won the WGA over Wolf of Wall Street and is a very tight and well-written screenplay. This could score an upset, but I’d consider it a spoiler at best. (That’s why it’s here.) You could go here if you wanted (hell, you could go Wolf of Wall Street if you wanted), but I feel it’s a spoiler at best.

Rankings of likelihood to win: 1) 12 Years a Slave 2) Philomena 3) Captain Phillips 4) The Wolf of Wall Street 5) Before Midnight

If I were a betting man: 12 Years a Slave is probably still going to win, but I’d still caution everyone with this category. It is not a sure thing by any stretch of the imagination. If they really don’t want to vote for it, it might lose this. If it starts losing everything, then right there, you know it’s out for Best Picture. It needs this to hold onto its chances, and I think it’ll get it. But again — caution.

You should take: 12 Years a Slave. Just because I can’t confidently enough tell you which alternative to take. Maybe Philomena because of Harvey, and maybe Captain Phillips because of the writers. I’m saying to stick with this because broad support is bigger for this more than all those others. Wolf of Wall Street can also be considered a choice if you’re really feeling an upset. For now, I’ll stick with the favorite. It makes the most sense.

On my ballot: 12 Years a Slave

– – – – –

Best Editing

American Hustle

Captain Phillips

Dallas Buyers Club

Gravity

12 Years a Slave

My Rankings:

  1. Gravity
  2. Captain Phillips
  3. American Hustle
  4. 12 Years a Slave
  5. Dallas Buyers Club

The category turned out 4/5 as expected, with the three frontrunners there, and Captain Phillips the obvious other choice. The big surprise was Dallas Buyers Club being shown major support by getting a nomination here. That was the biggest surprise of nominations morning. A lot of people thought maybe Rush was gonna get on, or another Best Picture nominee, like The Wolf of Wall Street. But people do love that movie, so it got on.

Otherwise, I’m torn between Phillips and Gravity for a vote. They were both really good, but I’m honestly just gonna stick with my favorite film of the year here.

My Vote: Gravity

What Would Be On My Ballot: Gravity

Should Have Been Nominated: PrisonersThe Wolf of Wall Street

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Captain Phillips. Since 1983 (30 years), the film that’s won the Eddie went on to win the Oscar for Best Editing 21 times (one of them was in Comedy or Musical, Chicago, since they split the categories in 2000. Every other time the Dramatic winner won since they split them). (American Hustle won that Comedy/Musical category this year, FYI.) So there’s a 2/3 chance that Captain Phillips takes the Oscar. And if you cut that to 25 years, it’s a 76% chance, and if you cut it to 15 years, it’s 80%. Based on the past 15 years, you’re working on an 80% chance that Captain Phillips wins the Oscar. (Oh, also, the film that wins the Animated Eddie, which started in 2009, has won the Oscar 100% of the time, including last year with Brave. This year, Frozen won it. Again, just FYI.)

(And, if you guys want all the information — the 9 times the Eddie winners didn’t win the Oscar — The Descendants won the Eddie over The Artist and Hugo, paving the way for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to shock the world. The only surprise on that Oscar night. And then, Babel won the Eddie, and The Departed won the Oscar, one of its four big wins. That was an example of the Best Picture winner also taking Editing, the way Crash did the year before. Once that won Editing, most people saw how Picture was gonna go. So pay attention to this race. How it goes could dictate the big one. And then, 2000, Gladiator won the Eddie, but lost the Oscar to Traffic. Which is interesting. Then Braveheart won the Eddie yet lost the Oscar to Apollo 13. Space movie. Interesting. But also — weird how that went backwards. 1989, Glory won the Eddie, but lost the Oscar to Born on the Fourth of July. 1988, Rain Man won the Eddie, but lost to Who Framed Roger Rabbit. 1984, Amadeus won the Eddie, but lost to The Killing Fields. And then, 1983, WarGames won the Eddie but lost to The Right Stuff.

Biggest Competition: Gravity. It’s gonna be one or the other, I think. I doubt they cannibalize each other. This is obviously the other choice.

Spoiler Alert: American Hustle. Or 12 Years a Slave. Basically, if Editing goes to either of those two films, then you know how Best Picture is going to go. (Unless something absolutely crazy happens. On the other end. Not this end.) So both of those are your spoilers, with American Hustle the more likely, given how important editing is in the telling of that film. So that’s the spoiler. Call if it you want to, but know that Gravity doesn’t need Editing to win Picture. So unless your gut is telling you something, I’ll caution. Otherwise, go ahead if you think it’ll happen.

Rankings of likelihood to win: 1) Captain Phillips 2) Gravity 3) American Hustle 4) 12 Years a Slave 5) Dallas Buyers Club

If I were a betting man: The Eddie win does mean a lot, but maybe I’m just dumb. I’m taking Gravity. I think it’s a tight race, but I just feel like there’s enough showy editing there to win out. Plus, they edit on computers for everything now, so it’s not like that works against it the way it might in another race. So I’m just gonna take it, even though you might want to look elsewhere on your ballot.

You should take: Captain Phillips. This could be another Girl with the Dragon Tattoo moment. Think about it — Gravity takes a lot of votes. The editing is fantastic. But, there are people who go, “I’m not voting for it for everything.” You know there are. Does that factor into this category at all? I don’t know. But, say someone really likes American Hustle. So they vote for it. And say someone is really behind 12 Years a Slave, so they vote for that. You have some diluted votes. And you know the editors liked Phillips more than Gravity as an editing piece, Greengrass’s team won earlier for Bourne, plus it’s the editing showcase. You can see the editing, and that’s usually the way to go here.

On my ballot: Gravity

– – – – –

Best Cinematography

The Grandmaster, Philippe Le Sourd

Gravity, Emmanuel Lubezki

Inside Llewyn Davis, Bruno Delbonnel

Nebraska, Phedon Papamichael

Prisoners, Roger Deakins

My Rankings:

  1. Inside Llewyn Davis
  2. Gravity
  3. Prisoners
  4. The Grandmaster
  5. Nebraska

The Grandmaster was the real surprises here. A lot of people thought 12 Years a Slave would get on instead, but it didn’t happen. Otherwise, this was the obvious category. (Oh, and Captain Phillips was the other film of the 7 that got an ACS nomination.) So, technically, this wasn’t wholly surprising, since the cinematographers did nominate all five of these, but The Grandmaster was a choice that the fewest people saw coming. Though this category is very kind to foreign nominees, so it’s not particularly shocking. Just… they left off a Best Picture frontrunner. That’s really what’s interesting.

As for the vote — I loved Gravity, but I also loved Llewyn Davis. So I think I’m gonna take that. Just because… I don’t know. Maybe I’m still a sucker for cinematography work I can see was done on location and possibly only digitally aided later on, as opposed to done almost entirely on a computer. (Don’t worry, it’s not like it wasn’t my second choice or anything. I’m just voting for something else.)

My Vote: Inside Llewyn Davis

What Would Be On My Ballot: Inside Llewyn Davis

Should Have Been Nominated: Simon Duggan, The Great Gatsby

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Gravity. It’s winning. There’s no question about it. Don’t even bother taking anything else.

Biggest Competition: Nebraska. It’s the only other film they liked. They’re not gonna vote for Prisoners, because they don’t even know that Deakins was the DP. They barely even know The Grandmaster exists. And Llewyn Davis they obviously didn’t care for. So if they vote for anything else other than Gravity, this is it. It’s black and white, so to them that means good cinematography. So this is the second choice.

Spoiler Alert: Prisoners. Because I like to think that maybe Deakins has a chance. I doubt anyone goes past #1 and possibly #2 for an actual guess here.

Rankings of likelihood to win: 1) Gravity 2) Nebraska 3) Prisoners 4) Inside Llewyn Davis 5) The Grandmaster

If I were a betting man: Gravity will win this in a cakewalk. Or… a spacewalk.

You should take: Gravity. It’s the only choice.

On my ballot: Gravity

– – – – –

Best Original Score

The Book Thief, John Williams

Gravity, Steven Price

Her, Arcade Fire

Philomena, Alexandre Desplat

Saving Mr. Banks, Thomas Newman

My Rankings:

  1. Gravity
  2. Her
  3. Philomena
  4. The Book Thief
  5. Saving Mr. Banks

Somehow Mr. Banks gets left off everywhere else but here. Mostly owing to Thomas Newman’s respect among the branch. John Williams gets another nomination, which was expected. Desplat gets on, even though he had tough competition for that fifth spot. (I’m glad he got it over Hans Zimmer. Not a fan of that 12 Years score, outside of the title track.) Nice to see Her get on. That score was terrific. Though I’m pissed as all hell Alexander Ebert didn’t get on here. All Is Lost was one of the best scores of the year.

Also, my vote is Gravity. I picked it as the best score of the year, and nothing has changed.

My Vote: Gravity

What Would Be On My Ballot: Gravity

Should Have Been Nominated: All Is Lost, Alexander Ebert; Prisoners, Johann Johannsson

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Gravity. Because the music is a very noticeable and important part of a major Best Picture contender. Usually that’s a good path to take to the Oscar. And nothing else seems to have come up to meet its status as frontrunner, so it’s gonna remain that way throughout.

Biggest Competition: Saving Mr. Banks. I’m hearing a lot of people say, “I want to get Thomas Newman an Oscar.” I feel like this has become the default second choice. I doubt anything really has enough support to make a play for it, but this is as good a second choice as any. Williams is an afterthought here. No one saw that film. Maybe Desplat gets some votes. And I feel like Her is ultimately too young and hip for the Academy at large. That could be a potential spoiler as well, but I feel like you really need some Social Network size movie to really go with something young in this category. I’ll put this here, but I don’t know. If it’s not Gravity, it’s wide open.

Spoiler Alert: Philomena. I actually wanna say Her here, but I feel like it might be Philomena,if it’s anything. Harvey, Desplat being a respected composer. I just feel like he’s not gonna win for something like this. Though it’s possible. Maybe Her is the spoiler. I feel like more people will guess that than anything else. It’s not like I’m gonna tell you to pick anything but Gravity, so put whatever you want here.

Rankings of likelihood to win: 1) Gravity 2) Her 3) Philomena 4) Saving Mr. Banks 5) The Book Thief

If I were a betting man: I’m taking Gravity. What else seems like the best choice here? Looking at the five nominees, I can immediately think of the score for two of them when I think about it. And only one of them really brings to mind the score (particularly in its final scene). So that, to me, is the one that wins this. Because everyone else is gonna think that way too.

You should take: Gravity. But if you’re feeling an upset, be my guest. I don’t think this is 100% locked.

On my ballot: Gravity

– – – – –

Best Original Song

“Happy,” from Despicable Me 2

“Let It Go,” from Frozen

“The Moon Song,” from Her

“Ordinary Love,” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

My Rankings:

  1. “Let It Go,” from Frozen
  2. “Ordinary Love,” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
  3. “The Moon Song,” from Her
  4. “Happy,” from Despicable Me 2

This category had the controversy in it, when “Alone Yet Not Alone” was nominated and then the nomination was rescinded because of open campaigning by an executive of the branch. Which I get. It didn’t sound like he did anything horrible, but they rescinded the nomination because of his position. So we’re left with four. They still didn’t nominate the Gatsby song, so it doesn’t matter. We’re left with a stronger category without the weird, quality-questionable religious song taking up space.

As for the vote… come on, buddy.

My Vote: “Let It Go,” from Frozen

What Would Be On My Ballot: “Let It Go,” from Frozen

Should Have Been Nominated: “Amen,” from All Is Lost; “Young and Beautiful,” from The Great Gatsby

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: “Let It Go,” from Frozen. Of fucking course it’s the favorite. Have you heard this song? It’s the one that works the best in the context of the film, and it’s a fucking awesome song. Though this category seems far from a sure thing, with the surges the next two songs have made. But, when in doubt, stick with the class. This is what should win, and I’m sticking with it all the way through, because — fucking seriously, if something else wins?

Biggest Competition: “Ordinary Love,” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Oh, they’re been pushing hard for this motherfucker. They played it live on the Tonight Show, for god’s sake. They really want some votes. I wonder if it’ll be enough. This seems like the main competition. Harvey knows how to get votes. It could happen.

Spoiler Alert: “Happy,” from Despicable Me 2. This is the other choice. They pumped this hard in the last little section of the race. It’s been the most recent song to be getting radio airplay. Pharrell has all those Grammys and major exposure. The studio is backing this in a big way. It could happen. I’m not sure it has quite the exposure of Frozen, so I’ll consider it a spoiler at best. But it could happen. You never know. Worse Crazier things have happened. Keep an eye out for this one.

Rankings of likelihood to win: 1) “Let It Go” 2) “Ordinary Love” 3) “Happy” 4) “The Moon Song”

If I were a betting man: “Let It Go,” from Frozen. Because fuck that. If this doesn’t win, that’s their fault for not voting for it. Why the fuck would I take anything else here?

You should take: “Let It Go,” from Frozen. Do what you want. I say go with what we all want to win. But it’s not a sure thing. So you’re not wrong to think upset here. Or maybe we’re all overthinking it like people were with “Skyfall” last year, and this is the only choice. We’ll find out in a few hours, won’t we?

On my ballot: “Let It Go,” from Frozen

– – – – –

Best Animated Feature

The Croods

Despicable Me 2

Ernest & Celestine

Frozen

The Wind Rises

My Rankings:

  1. Frozen
  2. The Wind Rises
  3. Ernest & Celestine
  4. Despicable Me 2
  5. The Croods

Pixar gets left off in favor of Ernest and Celestine. I am not opposed to that. Though I’d much prefer they left off Despicable Me 2. That film is actually the first sequel to be nominated here without the first entry in the franchise being nominated. (Of course, it would have been, but there weren’t enough eligible films that year and the category was only three films. If they had five, then it would have been on. C’est la guerre.) Even if Pixar were nominated, I’m pretty sure this category would turn out the same way.

Again… come on, buddy.

My Vote: Frozen

What Would Be On My Ballot: Frozen

Should Have Been Nominated: Another hand-drawn entry. I’m sure there was another good one on the shortlist.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Frozen. It’s winning. It has all the precursors, and they took Pixar off the list. It has no competition here.

Biggest Competition: The Wind Rises. It’s probably not the second choice here, but fuck it. It’s Miyazaki, and maybe he gets votes. But I doubt people know it’s his last film, Academy-wide (or even know what the hell it is based on just the title on the ballot). It’s probably not the major competition, votes-wise.

Spoiler Alert: Despicable Me 2. This seems like it’ll get enough votes to make it a second choice, but I can’t see anything but Frozen taking this. It’s won everything so far, and made $385 million domestically. It’s not losing.

Rankings of likelihood to win: 1) Frozen 2) The Wind Rises 3) Despicable Me 2 4) The Croods 5) Ernest & Celestine

If I were a betting man: Frozen. It’s winning. One of the five biggest locks of the night, I feel.

You should take: Frozen. Unless you actually are crazy and want to lose. (There’s like a 5% you turn out to be a mad genius if you’re right. Go ahead and take the odds. That’s fine.)

On my ballot: Frozen

– – – – –

Best Production Design

American Hustle

Gravity

The Great Gatsby

Her

12 Years a Slave

My Rankings:

  1. The Great Gatsby
  2. Her
  3. Gravity
  4. 12 Years a Slave
  5. American Hustle

The only minor surprise here was the inclusion of Her, which is a bold choice for them. Of course, bold choices mean “never gonna win in a million years,” but it’s still a bold choice. “Contemporary” designs never make it onto the final ballot.

Otherwise, we all know what I’m voting for.

My Vote: The Great Gatsby

What Would Be On My Ballot: The Great Gatsby

Should Have Been Nominated: Inside Llewyn Davis

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: The Great Gatsby. Because it has the showiest design. I don’t think it’s a lock by any stretch, and they did go with a surprise winner here last year. So you don’t need to go with the obvious choice in a case that’s just asking for us all to be wrong by playing it safe.

Biggest Competition: American Hustle. I feel like it’s more likely to upset in Costumes than here, but you still can’t rule it out. It has its fans, and a lot of people will blind vote for this over Gatsby, which is the obvious choice but also isn’t the biggest and most beloved name in the category. This could win this outright. The problem is, though, a few others can win outright, and it’s not the easiest choice in the world, era-wise. I haven’t really known them to go for the 70s. So there are reasons to doubt this, but if they support the film the way it sounds like people support it, this is a major threat to land this one.

Spoiler Alert: 12 Years a Slave. They went for Lincoln last year, and it’s the same era. The thing there, though — those sets looked real nice and authentic. These, I’ll admit, I barely noticed the first time. The thing with these sets is…. they look deliberately old. Everything looks creaky, and worn out. but that’s exactly what those places would have looked like back then. So it’s pretty deliberate. I’m not sure these sets and things were showy enough for them, and I’m not sure if, when people voted, they thought most of the film took place outside, the way I did. But, if you’re looking for a spoiler, this is probably it. Gravity, I feel, won’t get the votes here, even though the designs there were good. But a lot of that takes place in open space and was obviously aided by digital effects. And then Her is futuristic, and they never go for stuff like that. I’d be truly shocked if that won. So, this is the spoiler, of the rest.

Rankings of likelihood to win: 1) The Great Gatsby 2) American Hustle 3) 12 Years a Slave 4) Gravity 5) Her

If I were a betting man: The Great Gatsby. Because I don’t know. How do you decide between American Hustle or 12 Years a Slave if you’re not taking Gatsby? I’m sticking with the flashiest choice. Last year, they took Lincoln. Maybe they continue that era trend with 12 YearsAmerican Hustle is the 70s. Maybe they like that. They almost never go for that decade or anything so recent, so it would be pretty surprising. Gatsby has the ADG Award, so I’ll go with that. Why not?

You should take: The Great Gatsby. Though, seriously, if you want a category to take a shot, this is one of them. This screams “alternative choice.”

On my ballot: The Great Gatsby

– – – – –

Best Costume Design

American Hustle

The Grandmaster

The Great Gatsby

The Invisible Woman

12 Years a Slave

My Rankings:

  1. The Great Gatsby
  2. The Grandmaster
  3. American Hustle
  4. The Invisible Woman
  5. 12 Years a Slave

The Grandmaster pops up in a third category that’s not Foreign Language Film. (How does that happen?) (Harvey Weinstein, I bet.) Otherwise, I think most of these others were expected. So it’s not a wholly surprising category.

We also know what I’m voting for here.

My Vote: The Great Gatsby

What Would Be On My Ballot: The Great Gatsby

Should Have Been Nominated: Inside Llewyn Davis

Most Likely to Win: The Great Gatsby. Again, showiest costumes, right in an era they love to vote for. I’ll consider that most likely to win any year.

Biggest Competition: American Hustle. A lot of people loved the costumes here, and they remember wearing a lot of the stuff. This is a major threat here, and dare I say, a probable winner. Oscar night is always full of surprises, and I just can’t shake the feeling that Gatsby isn’t walking away with two Oscars. Of course, I don’t know which of the two alternatives to go for, making my decision really difficult, but I will warn everyone, this is a pretty open category.

Spoiler Alert: 12 Years a Slave. It actually won the CDG Awards, which means, statistically, this is one to watch out for. They’re not always the biggest help (they voted for W.E. in 2011, and The Artist won), but they’re right a decent amount of the time. So, this is clearly a spoiler. This is another race where you have three films pulling ahead, getting votes. It’s just gonna come down to which one gets the most support.

Rankings of likelihood to win: 1) The Great Gatsby 2) American Hustle 3) 12 Years a Slave 4) The Invisible Woman 5) The Grandmaster

If I were a betting man: Of the three, honestly… I’m sticking with The Great Gatsby.

You should take: Honestly… I don’t know. I want to say American Hustle. Would you do that if I told you to? Because I don’t know. 12 Years a Slave could win. Don’t take The Grandmaster and The Invisible Woman seems like a real poor choice. So take any one of the three. 12 Years has the guild backing, Gatsby has the “obvious” factor (which seems dumb), and Hustle has the rabid support and the pretty obvious showiness factor in its own way. That might be the choice.

On my ballot: The Great Gatsby

– – – – –

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

Dallas Buyers Club

Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa

The Lone Ranger

My Rankings:

  1. The Lone Ranger
  2. Dallas Buyers Club
  3. Bad Grandpa

The surprise with this one is always in the shortlist stage and not here. Most people expected American Hustle to take that third spot, but the love for Dallas Buyers Club put that one over the top.

I think you guys might be surprised where I go for a vote here. (Well… probably not after I showed you my rankings.)

My Vote: The Lone Ranger

What Would Be On My Ballot: The Lone Ranger

Should Have Been Nominated: American HustleRush

Most Likely to Win: Dallas Buyers Club. They only had a budget of $250, but the makeup looked amazing. And with people just looking at categories and voting, this is their way to support this film. It’s gonna be this. They won’t vote for two films they didn’t see (one of whom they consider a huge bomb) over a beloved Academy film that’s gonna win something else.

Biggest Competition: Bad Grandpa. It’s the most transformative of the three nominees. They made Johnny Knoxville into a grandfather. It’s the best overall makeup job here, but they still won’t vote for it. No one knows what this is. And if they do, it’s against Dallas Buyers Club. Blind voting will prevent this from winning.

Spoiler Alert: The Lone Ranger. Obviously. The makeup here was really good, and would actually have been my choice. That said… still not winning. They won’t out and out vote for a bomb that no one saw. They’ll take the classy nominee. This will have to accept simply being “Two time Academy award nominee The Lone Ranger.”

Rankings of likelihood to win: 1) Dallas Buyers Club 2) Bad Grandpa 3) The Lone Ranger

If I were a betting man: Dallas Buyers Club should win. It seems crazy to go out on a limb with anything else.

You should take: Dallas Buyers Club. Do you really think you should take something else?

On my ballot: Dallas Buyers Club

– – – – –

Best Visual Effects

Gravity

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Iron Man 3

The Lone Ranger

Star Trek Into Darkness

My Rankings:

  1. Gravity
  2. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  3. The Lone Ranger
  4. Iron Man 3
  5. Star Trek Into Darkness

Pacific Rim getting left off is a joke. That immediately becomes second choice in this category if it’s on. Why do we need Star Trek here? Outside of that, completely expected.

Also — fucking really.

My Vote: Gravity

What Would Be On My Ballot: Gravity

Should Have Been Nominated: Pacific Rim

Most Likely to Win: Gravity. It’s winning. End of story. No alternatives.

Biggest Competition: Nothing. It’s not losing. But if we need something, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Spoiler Alert: Seriously… Gravity isn’t losing. But for the fuck of it, Iron Man 3.

Rankings of likelihood to win: 1) Gravity … and then no one else. But, for posterity’s sake… 2) The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug 3) Iron Man 3 4) The Lone Ranger 5) Star Trek Into Darkness

If I were a betting man: This is the easiest category I’ve seen in about ten years. Gravity.

You should take: Gravity

On my ballot: Gravity

– – – – –

Best Sound Editing

All Is Lost

Captain Phillips

Gravity

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Lone Survivor

My Rankings:

  1. Gravity
  2. Captain Phillips
  3. Lone Survivor
  4. All Is Lost
  5. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit makes it back on after a year off, which made me feel stupid, since I figured they were done with the franchise. Turns out the first one just didn’t have enough action in it. Lone Survivor rightly managed Sound nominations after thrilling work that really makes you feel right there with the men (the whizzing of the bullets and crunching of trees and rocks as they hit them really made me cringe). And then All Is Lost gets a token nomination (but a well-deserved one), that basically reminds you of what they ignored elsewhere (kind of like with Prisonersor the film that replaced it in the next category). And Captain Phillips obviously had some very nice design as well.

As for the vote… there’s only one choice here.

My Vote: Gravity

What Would Be On My Ballot: Gravity

Should Have Been Nominated: I’m cool with the category.

Most Likely to Win: Gravity. Really? Do you really think anything else is beating it?

Biggest Competition: Lone Survivor. I feel like that’s probably the second choice, given the strength of the design, but they don’t really love it over the entire Academy, given the total lack of nominations. So probably it’s not close to winning at all, and your alternate is probably…

Spoiler Alert: Captain Phillips. It’s the highest profile, so it’s really the only other choice here. Which tells you how big a favorite Gravity has to be considered.

Rankings of likelihood to win: 1) Gravity 2) Lone Survivor 3) Captain Phillips 4) All Is Lost 5) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

If I were a betting man: It’s Gravity. Can you rationalize taking anything else? Whenever there’s a Best Picture favorite like this in the Sound categories, it always sweeps them both. Hell, Hugo swept them both. It won the majority of the major MPSE awards (Captain Phillips took one, and is the only other film besides Gravity to win one of those, so that tells you the gap between the two, and seems like a shoo-in here.

You should take: Gravity

On my ballot: Gravity

– – – – –

Best Sound Mixing

Captain Phillips

Gravity

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Inside Llewyn Davis

Lone Survivor

My Rankings:

  1. Gravity
  2. Captain Phillips
  3. Inside Llewyn Davis
  4. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
  5. Lone Survivor

A four of five match, with a “musical” taking the fifth spot. No surprises here, really, outside of The Hobbit getting back on. But it’s not that surprising, considering.

Otherwise, the vote is again obvious.

My Vote: Gravity

What Would Be On My Ballot: Gravity

Should Have Been Nominated: All Is LostRush.

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Gravity. It’s not losing. It won CAS, and is gonna sweep the sound categories. It’s just gonna happen.

Biggest Competition: Captain Phillips. Again, the alternative. It’s the only film they’d vote for widely. Which means I can’t imagine a split is going to happen, with the same nominees in both categories.

Spoiler Alert: Honestly… none. But if we must…Lone Survivor. Just because Llewyn Davis doesn’t have enough support, and they’ve moved on from The Hobbit. So we’ll stick with that as the spoiler, even though it won’t happen.

Rankings of likelihood to win: 1) Gravity 2) Captain Phillips 3) Lone Survivor 4) Inside Llewyn Davis 5) The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

If I were a betting man: Gravity. Are you really gonna vote for it once and not the second time?

You should take: Gravity. It’s taking both.

On my ballot: Gravity

– – – – –

NOTE:

From here on out, for the first time ever, the Academy has an “honors system” in place for the rest of the categories.

That is to say, it used to be that you couldn’t vote for any of the categories unless you went to screenings of them, or, in the case of this next category, signed an affidavit saying you saw them all. Now, they’ve sent screeners of all of the films to every Academy member, and are allowing every member to vote in every category, going by an honors system that, if they’re voting in the category, they’re saying that they’ve seen all the nominees. Of course, this honors system counts for all the other categories as well. There’s no way you’re telling me every single Academy member watched Beasts of the Southern Wild last year when they voted on Best Picture. They skip shit and vote anyway. It just happens.

But really all this means is that it might change how the voting on these categories goes. There’s really no telling what’s going to win them, since, in an open vote, you might get more populist choices, you might get the ones that had the most campaigning (since it’s clear that voters will be easily swayed if someone tells them, “Hey, vote for this one”). We have no idea.

But it’s important to note that this is now the case for these categories, because it will affect the vote in some way, and it must be taken into account when making picks, since these categories might be more open than they would have otherwise.

– – – – –

Best Foreign Language Film

The Broken Circle Breakdown

The Great Beauty

The Hunt

The Missing Picture

Omar

Can’t rank. Haven’t seen them all. (But I have seen three of the five, so I’m in good shape.)

I haven’t seen The Missing Picture (nor will I), and I haven’t seen Omar. So I won’t vote here.

The category itself is never surprising, based on what they vote for, so I won’t even break that down. This is just what we have.

(The real surprises here always come in the shortlist stage and the eligibility stage. No Blue Is the Warmest Color, no The Past, etc. This happens every year, and this has become one of the biggest categories in need of a makeover in terms of voting process. Look what it did for Original Song. Way better than two years ago.)

My Vote: N/A

What Would Be On My Ballot: N/A

Should Have Been Nominated: Blue Is the Warmest Color; The Grandmaster

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: The Great Beauty. It’s got the highest profile of the bunch, and has some token wins already. So let’s consider that the favorite. Even though I have no idea how this race will turn out. I’ll stick with the flashy, high profile film over the others, just because, who knows?

Biggest Competition: I honestly couldn’t tell you. But for the hell of it, let’s say The Broken Circle Breakdown. It has the music, and that’s a turn on, but it’s depressing as shit, and will enough people actually have seen it? I don’t know. I assume the people who vote here have seen enough of the nominees, so theoretically this could be a major player here. I just don’t know.

Spoiler Alert: The Hunt. It has awareness. It’s been around since 2012 internationally and at festivals. People have heard of it. It’s a quiet, affecting film, and maybe they go for it. The subject matter is depressing, so maybe that shies them away from it. It doesn’t seem like a choice. It seems like a choice we go for and then it loses. That’s why I’m calling it a spoiler and not overly rushing to put it on my ballot. But it has a shot. I can’t imagine they go for the other two over this.

Rankings of likelihood to win: 1) The Great Beauty 2) The Broken Circle Breakdown 3) Omar 4) The Hunt 5) The Missing Picture

If I were a betting man: The Great Beauty seems like the major choice. It has the Globe win, and the perception is that this is the favorite, which is usually all it takes for something to win here. This is how In a Better World won a few years back, with no real sure thing and a Globe win. We had sure things the past two years. We forgot how, “I don’t fucking know” this category usually is. So I’ll stick with the film that won the Globe. It makes sense.

You should take: The Great Beauty. Or… whatever you want to. I’ll stick with the perception favorite. If it’s not this, then I don’t know and I’ll just be wrong. I’d rather have this going for me.

On my ballot: The Great Beauty

– – – – –

Best Documentary Feature

The Act of Killing

Cutie and the Boxer

Dirty Wars

The Square

20 Feet from Stardom

My Rankings:

  1. 20 Feet from Stardom
  2. The Act of Killing
  3. Dirty Wars
  4. Cutie and the Boxer
  5. The Square

Here’s the thing with this category — I enjoyed 20 Feet from Stardom the most, but that’s because it’s basically a series of awesome songs. The documentary doesn’t amount to much on the whole, which is why I wouldn’t vote for it. Because I also liked The Act of Killing, and that, in itself, is just incredible. Everything they did with that was incredible. So, I’ll make that my personal vote, even though it’s not my #1 ranking. The reason for this discrepancy is, as I always preface, because I really hate documentaries. I just don’t like them, they’re one of my least favorite types of movies.

As for the others — Dirty Wars was engaging, but it was really heavy-handed. There was too much of the journalist in it, and it just feels too preachy. But I did enjoy it. The Square — meh. Did not care at all. I tuned out within the first 25 minutes. I just did not care about any of it. And Cutie and the Boxer 

My Vote: The Act of Killing

What Would Be On My Ballot: The Act of Killing

Should Have Been Nominated: Stories We Tell

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: 20 Feet from Stardom. It seems like no one thinks The Act of Killing can win anymore. And frankly, I’m not so sure myself. This is the populist choice, and has Harvey Weinstein behind it. I’ll stick with this as the likely winner. Put it this way… it even got me to say I enjoyed it the most out of the five nominees. That’s usually enough to put it through a vote as the winner.

Biggest Competition:The Act of Killing. Maybe not, though. I don’t know what the hell is going to happen here. If it’s not 20 Feet from Stardom, it might be The Square. It might not be this. This is the most critically acclaimed of the group, and has a lot of big awards elsewhere. But I just haven’t heard much noise out of this lately, and it seems all the attention is on 20 Feet from Stardom. So let’s say this is a competitor that could take it, but is not likely to take it.

Spoiler Alert: I guess The Square. I really don’t know what’s going to happen with this new honors system they have in place. But, having watched the films… I think Cutie and the Boxer has zero shot whatsoever. And I think that, between Dirty Wars and this — they’re more likely to respond to this. That one has a lot of turn-off factor to it. The dude who made it thrusts himself too far in the center of things and comes off pretty unlikable. It almost plays like a glorification piece of himself. This is so obviously the wild card that can easily take it. And it’s Documentary. So it really can take it. It won the DGA for Documentary and something else. (Critic’s Choice, maybe? I’m not going back to look. But it’s definitely another precursor toward the end that I remember. I don’t need to know. It’s irrelevant.) And it’s on Netflix. It can make a late surge and win. It’s definitely “important.” But I’m gonna call it a red herring until it wins, and say it’s a spoiler at best. Maybe I’m wrong, though. It’s been known to happen (often).

This was definitely better off in a limited voting scenario, where only the people who saw all five (i.e. people inclined to like and care about documentaries) were voting. Now, I can’t see this being any more than a spoiler. Maybe they like Dirty Wars and that wins, but it just feels much too manipulative, and too much giving us stuff we already know. I don’t think they’re gonna care about this government stuff in an open vote. So I’ll say The Square is your dark horse spoiler, just because it does have the Netflix backing and has gotten quite a few billboards around LA these past two months.

Rankings of likelihood to win: 1) 20 Feet from Stardom 2) The Act of Killing 3) The Square 4) Dirty Wars 5) Cutie and the Boxer

If I were a betting man: 20 Feet from Stardom is the choice. I want The Act of Killing to win, and it has a crazy amount of precursors, but this is the populist choice, and it’s an open category, and it’s backed by Harvey Weinstein. That means that even people who haven’t seen any of the nominees who saw this can vote for it, and Harvey can just tell people to tick this off on their ballot and it’ll count. So this really seems like the one that’s gonna win. There’s no substance to it, but it has great music and everyone enjoyed this the most of all five (myself included). It’s probably going to win. We don’t have the documentary branch to rein this in and choose something else more “important.” Gotta stick with this until we see that quality wins out.

You should take: 20 Feet from Stardom. Unless you really think either The Act of Killing or The Square is going to win, then take those. But this seems like the smart choice.

On my ballot: 20 Feet from Stardom

– – – – –

Best Documentary – Short Subject

CaveDigger

Facing Fear

Karama Has No Walls

The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life

Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall

Can’t rank. Haven’t seen them all.

My Vote: N/A

What Would Be On My Ballot: N/A

Should Have Been Nominated: N/A

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: The Lady in Number 6. Holocaust survivor, music, transcending horrible circumstances… this has it all. And the lady just died right before nominations ended. So it’s likely the winner. But it’s Documentary Short. I won’t waste time explaining why anything should win. It’s completely up in the air and no one ever knows what’s going to happen.

Biggest Competition: Prison Terminal. Because sure. It’s apparently the most emotional of the bunch. Facing Fear reads like a 20 minute advertisement for a tolerance museum, so that’s out. And this seems to pack an emotional punch. So let’s say this is the alternative.

Spoiler Alert: CaveDigger. It has beautifully designed caves, and is very nice to look at. But I keep hearing that the subject is pretty cold and distant, and that usually keeps people from voting for something in this category. So maybe it’s not the alternative. Maybe Karama Has No Walls is the alternative. That’s more of a companion piece to The Square. So yeah, let’s make Karama Has No Walls the spoiler. That seems most likely to pull an upset.

Rankings of likelihood to win: 1) The Lady in Number 6 2) Prison Terminal 3) CaveDigger 4) Karama Has No Walls 5) Facing Fear

If I were a betting man: I’m taking The Lady in Number 6. I don’t know, so I’m sticking with the obvious choice.

You should take: The Lady in Number 6. That, Prison Terminal or Karama Has No Walls are your best bets. Stick with one of those. Personally, I’ll take my chances with Holocaust lady.

On my ballot: The Lady in Number 6

– – – – –

Best Live-Action Short

Do I Have to Take Care of Everything

Helium

Just Before Losing Everything

That Wasn’t Me

The Voorman Problem

Can’t rank. Didn’t see them all.

My Vote: N/A

What Would Be On My Ballot: N/A

Should Have Been Nominated: N/A

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Helium. Though, honestly… I don’t know if it’s going to win. It’s just the liveliest of the bunch, and this is the single most unpredictable category. So no one really knows what’s most likely to win. But, dying boy, janitor telling him stories, fantasy world… I’ll consider this the favorite without knowing any better.

Biggest Competition: The Voorman Problem. It’s the choice that screams “winner” to the most people. I don’t see it. Honestly, I’d say something like That Wasn’t Me is more likely to win. But honestly, in this race, anything can win. This has Martin Freeman and Tom Hollander in it, and is snappy most of the way through. I assume most people consider this the likely winner. You might too. I don’t know.

Spoiler Alert: Just Before Losing Everything. It’s really the only other logical choice, I feel. I mean, what the hell else are they gonna go for? It’s an open vote, which is either gonna swing things or be a giant red herring. I assume, in this category of all others, it’s a red herring. Because who the fuck is gonna cast a vote here without having seen anything? Why would you even bother? Maybe a handful of people vote because they know someone in one of them or who worked on them, but that’s about it. This will pretty much be left to the branch that nominated them and the handful of people who actually went to see them all. (And trust me — if I could get my hands on a screener, I would have too. As it is I’m running all nominated features, save two. And they’re foreign language, of all things.) That being said… I don’t know what the third choice would be. Objectively, Just Before Losing Everything looks like the best of the bunch. Do I have to Take Care of Everything… it’s short, it’s supposedly comedic. Maybe people will check it off. I don’t know. I doubt it. Apparently it’s a gag film. It builds to a single joke. So I doubt that’s the one. That Wasn’t Me could also win, since apparently it too packs an emotional punch. Though I’m assuming one of the first two wins. So really, if you’re digging past those two for the win, aren’t we really just picking anything? Since honestly, who the hell knows with this category? This is the biggest wild card of them all. No joke. Of all the categories, this is the single worst one, and the one I hate the most. (Picking. In terms of least-favorite in general, that honor falls to the previous category.)

Rankings of likelihood to win: 1) Helium 2) The Voorman Problem 3) Just Before Losing Everything 4) That Wasn’t Me 5) Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?

If I were a betting man: Helium. No fucking idea. I’m taking Helium, just because I’d kick myself if I didn’t pick it and it won. It’s light, and that usually is the sign of something that wins here. Not always, but, for me, anyway. I wouldn’t take The Voorman Problem, because that’s boring, and I think might be a red herring. It seems too easy a winner. I’d rather take Just Before Losing Everything or That Wasn’t Me instead. I’m really considering Just Before Losing Everything, though. But, like I said, I’d kick myself if I didn’t take Helium and it won. And in this category, that’s all I need. Since I expect to get this wrong.

You should take: The hell if I know. Do I Have to Take Care of Everything could win. This is a notoriously difficult category. Just because I have a good record in it doesn’t mean I’m not incredibly lucky. Take whatever you think is going to win. It’s a crap shoot. So, if you want, just go with me. Take Helium. It’s not like any of us know what we’re doing here.

On my ballot: Helium

– – – – –

Best Animated Short

Feral

Get a Horse!

Mr. Hublot

Possessions

Room on the Broom

My Rankings:

  1. Get a Horse!
  2. Mr. Hublot
  3. Feral
  4. Possessions
  5. Room on the Broom

(I’ll be totally honest. I’ve only actually watched three of the five. But I know myself well enough and know how I felt about the nominees well enough to know how I’d rank all five. Get a Horse! is #1. Maybe Mr. Hublot takes #1 after I see it, but I doubt it. And based on Feral being gorgeously animated and nothing more, it couldn’t take #2, which I thought it would at first. And then Room on the Broom is absolute crap. It’s fine, and all, but there were better films on that shortlist. (Requiem for Romance immediately springs to mind. And Gloria Victoria.) So let’s assume Possessions is better than that, and Mr. Hublot takes second. The only real switch I could see happening is if Possessions is really good and takes third from Feral. Either way, no one cares about this category so let’s just move on to the analysis of it.

This category pretty much follows the same trajectory every single year.

You have your Disney/Pixar nominee, which is the most widely seen of the bunch and the crowd-pleaser. It’s the film that people who know nothing figure will win. (Paperman, La Luna, Day & Night.) That film this year is Get a Horse!

You have your “classy” nominee. Which is the one that’s either made by classy animators and has the prestige factor going for it, or it’s based on a best-selling book and has a lot of celebrity voices on it. It’s the film that people who think they know the category expect to win. (Adam and Dog, The Gruffalo.) This year’s version of that is Room on the Broom.

Then you have your “winner.” That’s the film that is computer-animated, is the classically made short, and has just the right touches to it that make the voters feel like that’s the best film in the category. Mostly because they never believe the Disney/Pixar hype and want to vote somewhere else because they already gave them Animated Feature. (The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, The Lost Thing.) This year’s version of that is Mr. Hublot.

Then you have your abstract nominee. That’s the one that is beautifully made, but doesn’t seem to have a plot and pretty much just stands out on pure animation and not much else. (Actually, not many of these have actually made the final list in the past.) But that film this year is Feral.

Then there’s the wild card nominee. Where they pretty much go for either the most thematically interesting, or something that does something really cool — it’s just the one that has something about it they like. (Logorama, Fresh Guacamole.) This year’s version of that is Possessions. I think. Or maybe it’s Feral. And maybe the fourth category needs to be changed. I don’t know. It’s pretty much only the first three that matter anyway, since those are the only three that ever matter for the vote.

My Vote: Get a Horse!

What Would Be On My Ballot: Get a Horse!

Should Have Been Nominated: N/A

– – – – –

Most Likely to Win: Get a Horse!. Honestly, I see this as a two-horse race. It usually is, as well. It’s always between the one everyone saw (this), and the one that’s the classical winner in the category (Mr. Hublot). The difference this year is that whole open voting thing. People are now allowed to vote for this no matter how many shorts they’ve seen. They could have just saw it before Frozen and went, “That was good,” and vote for it. Though, from the sound of it, a lot of people won’t have seen any and will leave the category blank. That’s basically where the line is drawn for picking. I’ll get to that in a second. But, for now, let’s call this the favorite. It’s not like enough people really know the category to differentiate, but even in the year The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore won (which I picked), Day & Night was still considered the favorite, just because it was Pixar, it was amazing, and the most people saw it. But there wasn’t an open vote there, and the animators were allowed to decide, essentially, and the animators at that time were really riding the whole “Fuck Pixar” wave (that was the year Cars 2 was flat out not nominated… kind of like this year). So this is the favorite, regardless of what we all pick.

Biggest Competition: Mr. Hublot. It’s the only other choice. Either Get a Horse! will win because people liked it the best/it got swing votes because of the open vote, or the animators will rule, and this will win because it’s the classical choice historically in the category. Then again, the animators could also have loved Get a Horse! the way they loved Paperman last year. Who knows? Either way, if Get a Horse! is the favorite, this is its biggest competition. It’s a two-horse race (lot of horses going on here). One is the favorite, one is the competition. Either way doesn’t matter, since we’re picking between the two.

Spoiler Alert: Possessions. Because, after seeing all five, let’s assume that’s the one. Room on the Broom is literally a straight retelling of the short story and really has no substance to it whatsoever. I was amazed two years ago when people were so convinced The Gruffalo was the choice. It was the same thing. I can’t see that winning, especially in an open vote. If people are blind-checking anything, that’s not it. And then Feral — it’s nice, but I’m the kind of person who’d be most likely swayed by that, and I wasn’t swayed. There’s not really a narrative there, and there’s not much it does outside of being gorgeously animated. I can’t see that garnering enough votes to play spoiler. Which leaves Possessions. It was a spoiler nominee, so I’ll make it the spoiler for the win. Why not? Plus it’s thematically similar to Spirited Away, so maybe a few people vote for it? I don’t know. Does anyone think anything other than Get a Horse! or Mr. Hublot is winning this? So I figure, if that’s the case, let’s take the film the most people are discounting as the spoiler. So that way if it comes in, I can be like, “Hey, I said it could.” Not that it will, because the amount of people who saw all five and will pick this one to win is not equal to the people who only saw one of them and are picking that one to win. It’s a spoiler at best if you want to root for something different. That’s all. (And if it does win, I totally called that as a spoiler.)

Rankings of likelihood to win: 1) Get a Horse! 2) Mr. Hublot 3) Feral 4) Room on the Broom 5) Possessions

If I were a betting man: I’m sticking with Get a Horse! If the voting sticks to primarily animated branch members, then maybe Mr. Hublot edges it out. But Get a Horse! is popular and has the Frozen audience having seen it. It’s wildly inventive and should be popular enough to win in an open vote.

You should take: Either Get a Horse! or Mr. Hublot. It depends on how much of an open vote you think it’s going to be and how much you think they like Get a Horse! I’ll say stick with Get a Horse! personally, but if you don’t want to vote for that, Mr. Hublot is the other choice.

On my ballot: Get a Horse!

– – – – – – – – – –

And those are the picks.

I’ll post a “quick picks” version just before showtime, mostly for reference throughout the show.

Otherwise… good luck. Let’s hope our favorite films win, and let’s hope they don’t make any bad decisions

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