Another year, another Oscars ceremony; this is my eighth successive year covering the awards, and every time I think I have my predictions down pat. Having recently come off a 60 per cent accurate prediction record with the 2014 Golden Globes, I'm starting to second-guess my choices, but without any TV picks muddying the waters, I think statistically my predictions should perform better. Then again, I was never good at math...
For the 2014 Oscars, there are the obvious winners (Jared Leto for "Dallas Buyers Club") and the not-so-obvious categories (will it be Leonardo DiCaprio getting his long-overdue Best Actor Oscar? Or will McConaughey take it, just like he did at the Globes?). Any way you slice it, the Oscars are going to be like a longer, denser Golden Globes ceremony. Here are my picks for winners in the major categories, with a brief explanation as to why.
** DISCLAIMER: Don't email me with your rage if you lose your office pool because of me. Feel free, however, to disparage me on Twitter if you must.**
Why: There are a lot of great movies in this bunch, with "Her" being my favourite of the year and "Dallas Buyers Club" breaking my heart. I also fully enjoyed the vice-laden trip of "Wolf Of Wall Street" and the suspense of "Captain Phillips," but none of these films will beat out "12 Years A Slave." "12 Years" is heart-wrenching, and at times unbearable to watch. It is truth, it is history, and this is a year of volatile race relations in the United States -- there isn't a better time to honour a film that so directly addresses the ugly reality of slavery. The Academy loves to be "relevant," too, and that'll weigh into their decision for Best Picture.
Why: This race is the closest, but I think McConaughey is going to take it. It's been his year, with performances (thankfully) deviating from the rom-coms and cheesy dramas. He's taking serious roles and showing us all that he can play someone other than David Wooderson from "Dazed And Confused." Ejiofor and DiCaprio are runners-up in this race, and I would gladly accept the former as victor here -- he is absolutely electric in "12 Years A Slave." DiCaprio, if he won, would be winning for the wrong role; while his turn in "Wolf Of Wall Street" is charismatic and over-the-top, it doesn't have the same gravitas as Ejiofor or McConaughey.
Why: Despite all the Woody Allen backlash at the moment, it's still Blanchett's to lose. Her performance is stellar, and even though the movie is relatively unknown, it's enough for her to win. Adams and Bullock each stand a minute chance, and they're both as mainstream as you can get. If the Academy wants to lean towards public favour, then one of these A-list ladies might take the Oscar.
Best Supporting Actor
Why: Anyone other than Leto would be a shock. His performance is deserving, and his long absence from acting has only helped his cause. There have been some last-minute rumblings for Hill to win, but again, it would be a surprise.
Best Supporting Actress
Why: Just as I argued with my Globes predictions, Jennifer Lawrence is pretty much a lock. The only way she'll lose is if the popular current has fully swayed over to Lupita Nyong'o (which it may very well have). We all know this isn't necessarily about the best performance, but more who's dominating pop culture at the moment. Squibb is a dark horse, but methinks she's too under the radar (for now) to win.
Why: "Gravity" is what all action movies should aspire to be: a white-knuckled, intense film, with just enough levity to keep it -- pardon the term -- grounded. The balled-up napkin in my clenched fist at the end of the movie is testament to the suspense generated on-screen. Cuaron also has an amazing back-story that makes him all the more deserving. You can forget Russell or Payne taking home the prize, and McQueen is a long shot. Scorsese winning isn't a huge stretch, since we know how much the Academy likes its older veteran directors, but the "Wolf Of Wall Street" subject matter might hurt it.
Best Animated Feature
Why: I can't see any other animated movie taking this from "Frozen." Disney really hit the jackpot with this movie, which has been getting rave reviews from nearly every critic. Everything from the music to the plot to the characters is fun, so expect "Frozen" to take it home.
Best Foreign Language Film
Why: This is based strictly on momentum, and at this point, Golden Globe winner "The Great Beauty" -- a tale of Italian decadence -- is the front-runner. As of late, "The Broken Circle Breakdown" has been garnering more attention, so it stands an outside chance, and "The Hunt" was released very early in the year and that might hurt its chances.
Best Original Screenplay
Why: This is probably the one category where my personal bias is leaking in. "Her" is an absolutely spectacular film, and since there's only this one opportunity to reward Jonze's amazing script and not-too-far-fetched concept, he has to win it. The only thing(s) stopping him are the "old white guy" effect: "Her" might be too "out there" for a mainstream audience. If that's the case, expect "American Hustle" to win this, even though the story is about as deep as a wading pool.
I hope I wasn't too wrong -- enjoy the ceremony, folks!
Head on over to Moviefone Canada for a complete list of 2014 Oscar nominees, and for total coverage leading up to this year's Academy Awards.
Jason Sudeikis and pregnant Olivia Wilde enjoyed a romantic stroll in New York City for Olivia's birthday on March 10.
Britney Spears, her boyfriend David Lucado, her ex-husband Kevin Federline and his wife Victoria Prince watched their sons Sean and Jayden play soccer in Calabasas, Calif., on March 9.
"True Detective" star Michelle Monaghan picked up food from Earthbar in West Hollywood on March 7.
Aaron Paul arrived at the premiere of "Need for Speed" at TCL Chinese Theatre on March 6.
Sarah Jessica Parker presented The SJP Collection at LA Nordstrom on March 6.
James Franco, Leighton Meester and Chris O'Dowd attended the "Of Mice and Men" press conference at Signature Theatre, NYC, on March 6.
Taylor Swift headed to the gym in LA on March 6.
Ireland Baldwin and her new purple hair were spotted grocery shopping in Tarzana, Calif. on March 6.
"Gossip Girl" star Jessica Szohr went shopping in LA on March 6.
Lupita Nyong'o, Elizabeth Olsen, Bella Heathcote and Elle Fanning attended the Miu Miu show at Paris Fashion Week on March 5.
Jennifer Hudson stopped by the Sony Music offices in London on March 5.
Minka Kelly left her LA gym after a workout on March 5.
Mandy Moore was spotted out and about West Hollywood on March 5.
Julianne Moore was spotted on the set of "Still Alice" in NYC on March 4.
Courteney Cox and boyfriend Johnny McDaid of "Snow Patrol" did some shopping in West Hollywood on March 4.
Jared Leto arrived at LAX for a flight, March 4.
Engaged couple Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis went out for dinner at the Black Market Liquor Bar in Studio City, Calif., on March 3.
Jessica Biel caught a flight out of LAX Airport on her 32nd birthday March 3 in Los Angeles, Calif. Jessica is flying to Florida to meet up with her husband Justin Timberlake (who's currently on tour there) to celebrate her birthday with him.
Sophia Bush appeared on Nick Lachey`s first episode as Host of VH1`s Big Morning Buzz in NYC on March 3.
Jennifer Lawrence attended the 2014 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter on March 2 in West Hollywood, Calif.
Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner attended the 2014 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter on March 2 in West Hollywood, Calif.
Sofia Vergara attended the 2014 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter on March 2 in West Hollywood, Calif.
Ryan Seacrest posed with John Stamos at Mike De Luca and Dana Brunetti’s Oscar after party in the Hollywood Hills on March 2, where McDonald’s World Famous fries, Egg White Delights, Egg McMuffins, and hash browns were served.
"12 Years a Slave" wins Best Picture at the Oscars, March 2.
Matthew McConaughey wins Best Actor at the Oscars, March 2.
Cate Blanchett wins Best Actress at the Oscars, March 2.
Jared Leto wins Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars, March 2.
Lupita Nyong'o wins Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars, March 2.
Alfonso Cuaron wins Best Director at the Oscars, March 2.
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie arrived at the 86th Academy Awards on March 2.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz arrived at the 86th Academy Awards on March 2.
Meryl Streep arrived at the 86th Academy Awards on March 2.
Jennifer Lawrence arrived at the 86th Academy Awards on March 2 and fell, <em>again</em>.
Kerry Washington arrived at the 86th Academy Awards on March 2.
Anne Hathaway arrived at the 86th Academy Awards on March 2.
Pregnant Olivia Wilde and Jason Sudeikis arrived on the red carpet for the 86th Academy Awards on March 2.
Anna Kendrick arrived on the red carpet for the 86th Academy Awards on March 2.
Portia de Rossi arrived on the red carpet for the 86th Academy Awards on March 2.
Kristen Bell arrived on the red carpet for the 86th Academy Awards on March 2.
"12 Years a Slave" director Steve McQueen arrived on the red carpet for the 86th Academy Awards on March 2.
Camila Alves toasted her glam team with a Bailey's Glamour Shot before hitting the Oscars red carpet on March 2.
Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew McConaughey and Director Steve McQueen talked about creating a brighter future on the Yellow Carpet presented by Unilever Project Sunlight during the 2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards on March 1.
Kanye West attended the Celine show at Paris Fashion Week on March 2.
Kendall Jenner went sightseeing at the 'Musee du Louvre' in Paris, France on March 1.
Pregnant Kendra Wilkinson wowed at the 5th Annual QVC Red Carpet Style held at the The Four Season Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Feb. 28.
Julianne Hough met a friend for lunch at Joan's on Third in Los Angeles, Calif., on Feb. 28.
Leslie Mann and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau filmed scenes for the "The Other Woman" in LA Feb. 27.
Hilary Duff left her LA gym on Feb. 27.
Jessica Alba attended the Nina Ricci show at Paris Fashion Week Feb. 27.
Rihanna attended the Lanvin show at Paris Fashion Week Feb. 27.
Dwyane Wade lunched with fiancee Gabrielle Union in Miami on Feb. 26.
Follow Chris Jancelewicz on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CJancelewicz