Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Alexander Payne, Nebraska
David O. Russell, American Hustle
Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
Will Win: Cuaron or McQueen, obviously—but who? Probably Cuaron, receiving the Ang Lee Memorial Award for Technical-Emotional Achievement Somehow Not Considered as Good as a Movie about History.
Should Win: Any of them would do, really.
Missing: Seriously: a sterling list. I would’ve been psyched to see Spike Jonze alongside fellow 90s upstarts Payne and Russell or, dare to dream, Michel Gondry (The We and the I) and Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) for their daring experiments that paid off. But who to bump in their favor? I get why Best Picture makes sense to expand beyond five movies, to show a fuller spectrum of the year’s accomplishments. But given that lead and supporting actors have 10 slots, maybe Best Director is the category that should have 10 nominees instead. Then again, I’m probably just movie-drunk, coming off a year where Jonze, Gondry, Baumbach, the Coens, Sofia Coppola, Baz Luhrmann, David Gordon Green, Edgar Wright, Park Chan-wook, and Richard Linklater all did great work, alongside newcomers like Deston Daniel Cretton and Adam Leon.
Dallas Buyers Club
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street
Will Win: It seems like 12 Years a Slave—Gravity is too exciting, right?—but as I look back over my predictions, I see that the only other awards I’m predicting for Slave are Supporting Actress and Adapted Screenplay, while I’m guessing that its chief rival will float away with seven. That seems contradictory: if I think voters will choose other movies all over the board, why will they rally behind Slave for the big prize? But again we turn to last year’s Life of Pi, which won in many of the categories where Gravity should clean up (director, cinematography, effects, score) and failed to unseat Argo for Best Picture, even with an arguably more emotional story hook than Gravity‘s. So I’m still guessing 12 Years a Slave based on its perceived importance.
Should Win: Rare is the year that I can say there are six winners that deserve it, but Gravity, Her, Nebraska, The Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle, and 12 Years a Slave all do. The remaining three have no shot, so the Oscar is going to a very good movie this year!
Missing: Usually I include a long, vaguely insulting list of movies that are superior to the presumed Best Picture winner. But unless Philomena or Captain Phillips or Dallas Buyers Club pull out the aforementioned impossible victories, those lists would be very short. Sure, I prefer Frances Ha to most of these movies and Inside Llewyn Davis to every single one of them, and I like 10 or 11 2013 more than I like 12 Years a Slave, but if either Slave or Gravity wins Best Picture, it’ll be the best all-around choice since that Departed/No Country for Old Men one-two back in 2006-2007. So there’s no reason to pick on Philomena by talking about how much I preferred The Wolverine, right? I’ll store up that snottiness for next year.