T-minus 4 hours, so I'd better get these on the record quick! I didn't play The Alternate Game the last two years so I decided against it again this year despite the temptation with such a wide-open field. There are some categories that are really tough to call this year so I did offer some elementary analysis, though the trickiest question remains not which films will be nominated, but rather, how many. Thanks to all the bloggers I've enjoyed reading this awards season including but certainly not limited to Steve Pond, Scott Feinberg, Jeff Wells, David Poland and MCN's Gurus O' Gold, Kris Tapley and the Team Hitfix's Gregory Ellwood, Guy Lodge and Gerard Kennedy, Sasha Stone, Anne Thompson, Pete Hammond, Anthony Breznican, Nathaniel Rogers, the fine folks at The Playlist and Grantland's Wesley Morris and Mark Harris, the latter of whom I was glad to see back on the awards beat after sitting out last year due to a conflict of interest. I'd call this a work-in-progress but fortunately, we've run out of time and these will have to do. Good luck to all the contenders! Upward and onward to Phase Two...
1. 12 Years a Slave
2. American Hustle
5. Captain Phillips
6. The Wolf of Wall Street
8. Dallas Buyers Club
9. Inside Llewyn Davis
ANALYSIS: There's so much competition for that 10th slot, but it's a tough mathematical possibility, and ultimately I think the Academy sticks with 9 nominees. If I had to rank the others in order, it would be Philomena, The Butler, Blue Jasmine, Saving Mr. Banks and August: Osage County.
FLASHBACK: I predicted "The Wolf of Wall Street," "12 Years a Slave," "Gravity" and "Captain Phillips" would all be nominated. Curious to know the other six films? In order, "Monuments Men," "August: Osage County," "Foxcatcher," "Saving Mr. Banks," "Fruitvale" (I'd seen it at Sundance) and, oddly enough, "Star Trek Into Darkness." HA! "Nebraska," "Inside Llewyn Davis" and "Dallas Buyers Club" appeared on my "Next 10," while "Her" was listed as a "possible contender." "American Hustle" was not considered for ANY 2013 awards because I assumed it would debut in 2014.
1. Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
2. Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
3. David O. Russell, American Hustle
4. Spike Jonze, Her
5. Alexander Payne, Nebraska
ANALYSIS: Due to the discrepancy between last year's DGA nominees and the eventual Oscar nominees, I feel like this category is bound to surprise. I couldn't decide whether Paul Greengrass or Martin Scorsese would fall out, or whether it'd be Jonze or Payne replacing them. I'm going out on a limb and predicting both will get in, as I think The Playlist could be on to something. I'm just guessing people will vote with their hearts, but that may be my own romanticized image of the Academy.
FLASHBACK: I predicted McQueen and Cuaron, along with Scorsese, George Clooney and J.J. Abrams. Again, HA! Payne was in my "Next 5" list and Jonze was simply overlooked, while Russell was never considered a possibility.
1. Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
2. Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
3. Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
4. Bruce Dern, Nebraska
5. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
ANALYSIS: I don't think Robert Redford really has a shot. He didn't campaign, and his movie wasn't really distributed by a major studio. This is the most competitive field in years, and you just can't afford not to play the game. I think that final slot comes down to DiCaprio and Christian Bale, though Forest Whitaker remains an outside possibility. All due respect to Michael B. Jordan and Oscar Isaac, who are just too young and have to "pay their dues" a la DiCaprio and McConaughey.
FLASHBACK: Believe it or not, I predicted the SAME five actors nearly a full year ago. This is me patting myself on the back right now... but that could change in a few hours. We'll find out soon enough!
1. Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
2. Sandra Bullock, Gravity
3. Judi Dench, Philomena
4. Amy Adams, American Hustle
5. Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks
ANALYSIS: The "experts" are saying the final slot comes down to Adams and Meryl Streep, but I think it's Emma Thompson who is the most vulnerable. That said, I think voters hold Streep to a higher standard and the film was more of an ensemble piece. I think the Academy is ready to give someone else a turn, and they love Adams, who has four nominations in the supporting category.
FLASHBACK: I had Bullock and Thompson, as well as Streep and a pair of princesses. I predicted that Naomi Watts was the most likely to score a nomination thanks to "Diana" (HA!) and that Nicole Kidman would grace the field with her presence thanks to "Grace of Monaco." Alas, that film was pushed to 2014. Blanchett was in my "Next 5" field and I considered Dench a "really long shot," while Adams wasn't even on my awards radar because I thought the film would debut in 2014.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
1. Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
2. Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
3. Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
4. Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
5. James Gandolfini, Enough Said
ANALYSIS: Another tough call, leaving out Daniel Bruhl from "Rush." But I'm afraid he's an outsider in Hollywood, his leading role may hinder more help his chances, and "Rush" isn't a serious awards contender this year, even though it was a really good film. I think Hollywood really likes Cooper and he coasts in on the strength of "American Hustle," while Gandolfini gets a posthumous nod for playing against type and his overall body of work. Jonah Hill and Will Forte are both deserving and could play the spoiler for someone.
FLASHBACK: Fassbender is the only one I predicted early on, and he was joined by Hill, Tobey Maguire ("Great Gatsby"), Benedict Cumberbatch ("Star Trek Into Darkness") and Javier Bardem ("The Counselor"). Obviously, this category didn't shape up quite like I imagined. Leto was on my "Next 5" list, while Abdi, Cooper and Gandolfini weren't even on my radar back then. That's because Abdi was a total newcomer, I thought Cooper would be campaigning for "Serena" and "Place Beyond the Pines" (d'oh!) and Gandolfini was still alive. To be fair, I wasn't sure Nicole Holofcener's movie would open this year and had no idea it would be so good!
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
1. Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
2. Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
3. June Squibb, Nebraska
4. Oprah Winfrey, The Butler
5. Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
ANALYSIS: This category seems sewn up to me. I don't think Sally Hawkins is that much of a threat, and while Jennifer Garner could surprise, I'm not prepared to predict she'll land a nomination. That's going a little too far, though I'd be delighted for her, as "Dallas Buyers Club" was terrific and she never really got her due because her male co-stars hogged all the awards attention.
FLASHBACK: Oprah was actually the only one of these actresses who I predicted nearly a year ago. She was joined by Carey Mulligan ("Inside Llewyn Davis"), Amy Adams ("Her"), Octavia Spencer and Hawkins. I thought Roberts would campaign in the lead category, while neither Lawrence or Squibb were on my radar at the time.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
3. American Hustle
4. Blue Jasmine
5. Dallas Buyers Club
ANALYSIS: There are six deserving screenplays and only five slots, so something really good is going to get cut. Is Woody Allen really a shoo-in? How can the Academy completely ignore the Coen brothers? Something's gotta give, and for some reason, I don't think it's going to be "Dallas Buyers Club," which took many years and a ton of passion to come together. I suspect my anti-Llewyn stance is affecting my judgment here, but a boy can dream, can't he? I don't think "Saving Mr. Banks" or "Gravity" represent much of a threat here, but stranger things have happened. If only one of those was "Fruitvale Station" making the cut...
FLASHBACK: I didn't predict the Screenplay nominees last year.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
1. 12 Years a Slave
2. The Wolf of Wall Street
3. Before Midnight
4. Captain Phillips
ANALYSIS: This is another category that I think is sewn up, though if there's a dark horse looming, it's Tracy Letts' script for "August: Osage County," which is based on his Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning play. "Lone Survivor" received a WGA nomination but that's because "12 Years a Slave" and "Philomena" weren't eligible.
FLASHBACK: I didn't predict the Screenplay nominees last year.