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Academy Awards 2014: Your definitive Oscar prediction list
All the information you'll need to crush the ballots of your friends and colleagues on Oscar night
 
For starters, you should bet pretty heavily on 12 Years a Slave.
For starters, you should bet pretty heavily on 12 Years a Slave. (Facebook.com/12YearsASlave)

The Academy Awards are on Sunday night — and if you're doing it the right way, you already have an Oscar pool lined up. The Oscar pool is an annual rite of passage in many homes and offices: A rare, magical chance to prove you're better at guessing the highly subjective whims of 6,000 voters than your friends or colleagues.

How can you make sure you wind up on top this year? Allow The Week to help. We've collected the predictions of 14 top prognosticators in each of the night's major categories, and offered our own analysis for the likeliest picks. Read on (and rake in your winnings on Monday morning):

Best Picture

(Facebook.com/12YearsASlave)

The nominees:

12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
Nebraska
Philomena
The Wolf of Wall Street

The analysts say:

1. 12 Years a Slave (The Hollywood Reporter, The New York Times, Washington Post, Vulture, The A.V. Club, The Dissolve, Grantland, Indiewire, Yahoo! Movies)

2. Gravity (Deadline, Entertainment Weekly, The Wrap, BuzzFeed, HitFix)

And the Oscar goes to… 12 Years a Slave. This is one of the tightest Best Picture races in recent memory, so there are no guarantees here. But of the nine nominated movies, there are only three serious contenders: 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, and American Hustle (with Hustle at a relatively distant third). So which way will voters split? In many ways, the standoff between Gravity and 12 Years for Best Picture reflects 2010's neck-and-neck battle between Avatar (a technologically groundbreaking sci-fi blockbuster) and The Hurt Locker (a critically acclaimed, character-driven drama aimed squarely at adults). Once again, the latter is the safer choice, but it's a close enough call that you could cast your ballot either way.

Best Director

(Facebook.com/GravityMovie)

The nominees:

Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity
Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave
Alexander Payne for Nebraska
David O. Russell for American Hustle
Martin Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall Street

The analysts say:

1. Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity (The Hollywood Reporter, The New York Times, Washington Post, Deadline, Entertainment Weekly, The Wrap, Vulture, The A.V. Club, The Dissolve, Grantland, Indiewire, Yahoo! Movies, BuzzFeed, HitFix)

And the Oscar goes to… Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity. Though the Best Picture race remains a mixed bag, Cuaron has pulled far, far ahead in the running for Best Director. For decades, it was relatively rare for the Academy to split the Best Director and Best Picture trophies, but it looks like it's about to happen for the second year in a row. No one disputes the extraordinary technical accomplishment that Cuaron pulled off with Gravity, and with the DGA's Outstanding Directorial Achievement win under his belt — an award that almost always signals an impending Oscar win — his Oscar is all but assured.

Best Actor

(Anne Marie Fox / Focus Features)

The nominees:

Christian Bale for American Hustle
Bruce Dern for Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club

The analysts say:

1. Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club (The Hollywood Reporter, The New York Times, Washington Post, Deadline, Entertainment Weekly, The Wrap, Vulture, The A.V. Club, The Dissolve, Grantland, Indiewire, Yahoo! Movies, BuzzFeed, HitFix)

And the Oscar goes to… Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club. Chiwetel Ejiofor's starring turn in 12 Years a Slave was the early favorite for the award, and Leonardo DiCaprio's fearlessly debauched performance in The Wolf of Wall Street has enjoyed a late surge of support — but in the end, nobody could stop the McConaissance. Over the past few years, Matthew McConaughey has paved the way to this Oscar with a string of highly acclaimed performances in films like Killer Joe, Magic Mike, and Mud, alongside a buzzy performance in HBO's True Detective — and on Sunday, all that groundwork will pay off.

Best Actress

(Facebook.com/BlueJasmineMovie)

The nominees:

Amy Adams for American Hustle
Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock for Gravity
Judi Dench for Philomena
Meryl Streep for August: Osage County

The analysts say:

1. Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine (The Hollywood Reporter, The New York Times, Washington Post, Deadline, Entertainment Weekly, The Wrap, Vulture, The A.V. Club, The Dissolve, Grantland, Indiewire, Yahoo! Movies, BuzzFeed, HitFix)

And the Oscar goes to… Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine. Blue Jasmine hit theaters all the way back in July, but the Best Actress buzz for star Cate Blanchett has never really waned — and despite the speculation of some prognosticators, the controversy over the molestation charges leveled at Blue Jasmine director Woody Allen by Dylan Farrow have left Blanchett unscathed. Expect her to walk away with her first Best Actress trophy on Oscar night.

Best Supporting Actor

(Anne Marie Fox / Focus Features)

The nominees:

Barkhard Abdi for Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper for American Hustle
Michael Fassbender for 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill for The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club

The analysts say:

1. Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club (The Hollywood Reporter, The New York Times, Washington Post, Deadline, Entertainment Weekly, The Wrap, Vulture, The A.V. Club, The Dissolve, Grantland, Indiewire, Yahoo! Movies, BuzzFeed, HitFix)

And the Oscar goes to… Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club. From the very beginning, Jared Leto's performance in Dallas Buyers Club has had Oscar written all over it — and despite some insensitive and ill-advised comments on the awards circuit, the buzz for Leto's performance has never really faded. Barkhad Abdi's stunning debut in Captain Phillips will turn some voters' heads — but you'd still be crazy to bet on anyone but Leto.

Best Supporting Actress

(Francois Duhamel/2013 Annapurna Productions)

The nominees:

Sally Hawkins for Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle
Lupita Nyong'o for 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts for August: Osage County
June Squibb for Nebraska

The analysts say:

1. Lupita Nyong'o for 12 Years a Slave (Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, Vulture, The Dissolve, Grantland, Indiewire, Yahoo! Movies, BuzzFeed, HitFix)

2. Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle (The Hollywood Reporter, The New York Times, Deadline, The Wrap, The A.V. Club)

And the Oscar goes to… Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle. As the analysts' split shows, the Best Supporting Actress race is the closest acting race by far. Though a few critics have championed Sally Hawkins' supporting turn in Blue Jasmine, this is a two-horse race between Nyong'o's searing big-screen debut in 12 Years a Slave and Lawrence's flashy but overpraised turn in American Hustle. Call me a cynic, but I'm betting that the Academy's ongoing love affair with Jennifer Lawrence will unjustly edge out Nyong'o's more layered work; if you're feeling more generous, bet the other way.

Best Original Screenplay

(Francois Duhamel/2013 Annapurna Productions)

The nominees:
American Hustle
Blue Jasmine
Dallas Buyers Club
Her
Nebraska

The analysts say:

1. American Hustle (The Hollywood Reporter, The New York Times, Washington Post, Deadline, The Wrap, The A.V. Club, Grantland, BuzzFeed)

2. Her (Entertainment Weekly, Vulture, The Dissolve, Indiewire, Yahoo! Movies, HitFix)

And the Oscar goes to… American Hustle. Her was shut out of most of the major categories — and in a different year, the Academy might use the Best Original Screenplay category to ensure that the well-regarded film doesn't walk away empty-handed. But this year, I suspect that the Academy's American Hustle supporters are too entrenched; though David O. Russell won't walk away with a Best Picture or Best Director trophy, he'll probably end up with a Best Original Screenplay Oscar (alongside cowriter Eric Warren Singer) as a consolation prize.

Best Adapted Screenplay

(Facebook.com/12YearsASlave)

The nominees:
12 Years a Slave
Before Midnight
Captain Phillips
Philomena
The Wolf of Wall Street

The analysts say:

1. 12 Years a Slave (The Hollywood Reporter, The New York Times, Washington Post, Deadline, Entertainment Weekly, The Wrap, Vulture, The A.V. Club, The Dissolve, Grantland, Indiewire, Yahoo! Movies, BuzzFeed, HitFix)

And the Oscar goes to… 12 Years a Slave. If the Best Original Screenplay race is a toss-up this year, the Best Adapted Screenplay race couldn't be an easier call. In an odd assortment of scripts, bet on 12 Years, which took a long-overlooked 1853 memoir and turned it into one of the year's most acclaimed films.

Best Animated Film

(Facebook.com/Frozen)

The nominees:

The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Ernest & Clementine
Frozen
The Wind Rises

The analysts say:

1. Frozen (The Hollywood Reporter, The New York Times, Washington Post, Deadline, Entertainment Weekly, The Wrap, Vulture, The A.V. Club, The Dissolve, Grantland, Indiewire, Yahoo! Movies, BuzzFeed, HitFix)

And the Oscar goes to… Frozen. Another gimme. Frozen is an out-of-the-box smash with critics and audiences alike, and despite the critical acclaim for Hayao Miyazaki's swan song The Wind Rises, none of its competitors stand a chance of touching it. (While you're at it, you can also probably bet on a Best Original Song win for Frozen's "Let It Go.")

Best Documentary

(Facebook.com/TwentyFeetFromStardom)

The nominees:

The Act of Killing
Cutie and the Boxer
Dirty Wars
The Square
Twenty Feet from Stardom

The analysts say:

1. Twenty Feet from Stardom (The Hollywood Reporter, The New York Times, Deadline, Entertainment Weekly, The Wrap, Vulture, The A.V. Club, Grantland, Yahoo! Movies, BuzzFeed, HitFix)

2. The Act of Killing (Washington Post)

3. The Square (Indiewire)

And the Oscar goes to… Twenty Feet from Stardom. In a strong lineup of documentaries, Twenty Feet from Stardom is the biggest crowd-pleaser — and when faced with a similar lineup of docs last year, the Academy went for the feel-good Searching for Sugar Man. Expect them to make a similar choice this year.

Best Foreign Language Film

(Facebook.com/TheGreatBeautyFilm)

The nominees:

The Broken Circle Breakdown
The Great Beauty
The Hunt
The Missing Picture
Omar

The analysts say:

1. The Great Beauty (The Hollywood Reporter, The New York Times, Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, The Wrap, The A.V. Club, Grantland, Indiewire, Yahoo! Movies, BuzzFeed, HitFix)

2. The Hunt (Deadline, Vulture)

And the Oscar goes to… The Great Beauty. This loving ode to Fellini seems almost engineered to connect with the Academy's older members. Despite the raft of critical support for Denmark's Mads Mikkelsen-starring The Hunt, you can bet on on The Great Beauty nabbing the Foreign Language Film for Italy on Sunday night.

 
Scott Meslow is the entertainment editor and film and television critic for TheWeek.com. He has written about film and television at publications including The AtlanticPOLITICO Magazine, and Vulture.

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