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by Peter Knegt
November 19, 2013 1:10 PM
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For Your Consideration: A Mid-November Take On All The Major Oscar Races

All the major fall festivals have come and gone, and the Oscar prognosticators have come out in full force. And while there's still two months until the nominations are announced, it's finally fair game. Yes, there are a few major films that could still shake things up significantly (two, really: Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street" and David O. Russell's "American Hustle"), the vast majority of the films that will be nominated have been seen by many, either at festivals or in theatrical release. And it's quite likely we've already seen our best picture winner, too. The last time a film won best picture that hadn't had its world premiere somewhere by the end of October was way back in 2004 with "Million Dollar Baby."

So let's take a look at some of Oscar's major races to see where things stand before the onslaught of precursor awards begin (in two weeks time there will be announcements basically every day for an entire month). Notably, the version of this article last year got 15/20 acting nominees and four out of six of the winners in the top categories, so this could end up somewhat close to where we're heading. Or just as easily, not. And for full predictions in every Oscar category (save, for now, the short films), click here.

"12 Years a Slave." Fox Searchlight

Best Picture:
If it is indeed true that we've already seen the film that will win the best picture, it's likely to be among these two: Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave" and Alfonso Cuarón's "Gravity." Each have been met with pretty overwhelming critical responses (save some minimal backlash in both regards) and impressive box office numbers (though clearly more so for "Gravity," a bonafide blockbuster approaching a $250 million domestic gross).

Unless December's two question marks -- the aforementioned "Wall Street" and "Hustle" -- each hit it out of the park, the race seems between these two.

Beyond that, it's still somewhat murky. Until we see those two films (which in terms of press screenings, could be before November's over), this category seems like the least clear of them all, especially because of that sliding scale of nominees rule. As everyone's probably aware by now (this is year three of the rule), depending on how many number one votes each film receives on voters' ballots, anywhere from five to 10 nominees could wind up in the category, making it very difficult to predict. Currently, my totally uneducated guess is that it's going to be nine, just as it was the previous two years.

So there's "Gravity" and "12 Years a Slave." And then say "American Hustle" and "Wolf of Wall Street" both meet expectations and join them. That leaves one-to-six spots for the competitive likes of J.C. Chandor's "All Is Lost," John Wells' "August: Osage County," Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine," Paul Greengrass's "Captain Phillips," Jean-Marc Vallée's "Dallas Buyers Club," Spike Jonze's "Her," Joel & Ethan Coen's "Inside Llewyn Davis," Lee Daniels' "Lee Daniels' The Butler," Alexander Payne's "Nebraska" and John Lee Hancock's "Saving Mr. Banks."  10 films, and at maximum six of them get in. Here's my best guess for now...

Predicted Nominees (in alphabetical order):
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Inside Llewyn Davis
Saving Mr. Banks
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

If There's a 10th Nominee: Blue Jasmine

The Spoiler Nominee: Lee Daniels' The Butler

Totally Unwarranted Winner Prediction: 12 Years a Slave

Best Director:
Imagine how crowded the aforementioned best picture race just sounded, and make it so there's definitely only five nominees. Add in the fact that the director's branch tends to go their own way, rewarding more challenging work than the general Academy (hence last year's Michael Haneke and Benh Zeitlin over Ben Affleck), and the best director's race seems incredibly crowded.  Alfonso Cuarón and Steve McQueen -- neither of them ever nominated in this category -- are locks that would prove Affleckian-sized snubs if they didn't make the cut.

Paul Greengrass, Joel & Ethan Coen, Spike Jonze and Alexander Payne seem like the impressive bunch battling it out for those last three slots at this point. But then of course there's David O. Russell and Martin Scorsese. Russell has been nominated for both his previous two films, while Scorsese has received nods for three of his last four films. Hard men to bet against...

Predicted Nominees (in alphabetical order):
Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
David O. Russell, American Hustle

Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street

The Spoiler Nominee: Alexander Payne, Nebraska

Totally Unwarranted Winner Prediction: Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave

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  • Steve G | November 20, 2013 3:13 PMReply

    No Weinstein film in your Best Picture nominees?! First rule of Oscar predicting: never underestimate Harvey! It's not clear yet if the critics will bring back Fruitvale Station, or if Philomena will be a big crowd pleaser in release, or if the newly locked ending to August will win over the crowds, but I'd have thought The Butler was comfortably in the top 9.

  • Des Brown | November 20, 2013 11:15 AMReply

    This is one of the strongest Oscar races in years and I think there's still a few surprises left. Last time this year, no one was tipping Christoph Waltz for Supporting Actor in DJANGO UNCHAINED and only when he won the Golden Globe in January did the momentum build towards his Oscar win. This year the Supporting Actor category is even harder to call. Barkhad Abdi and Jared Leto could be major surprises in that category.
    GRAVITY, 12 YEARS A SLAVE and CAPTAIN PHILLIPS look likely to dominate the nominations. SLAVE ticks so many Academy boxes that it may be hard to beat. McQueen could make history and become the first black director to win (ironically British rather than American). Blanchett is favourite for Best Actress, but I would hold fire on that prediction. She's been here before. In the 2007/08 awards season she was the shoo-in as Best Supporting Actress for I'M NOT THERE and entered the Oscar race having won the Venice Best Actress prize and Golden Globe. Tilda Swinton for MICHAEL CLAYTON was an outsider, 4th of the five nominations in terms of betting. Then, two weeks before the Oscars, Swinton won the BAFTA, then the Oscar. Swinton was helped by MICHAEL CLAYTON also being a Best Picture nominee. If BLUE JASMINE is't nominated for Best Film, it'll hurt Blanchett's chances and the the odds will start to move in Sandra Bulllock's favour (and don't rule out Emma Thompson).
    PHILOMENA is my dark horse tip for a Best Picture nomination - opened here in the UK earlier this month to 5 star reviews and is likely to do the same in the US in December.

  • JACK DAWSON | November 21, 2013 8:03 AM

    I remember after reading the script I thought Dicaprio would steal the film

    after watching the movie I think Samuel L Jackson was the best performance

    neither were Oscar nominated,, but dicaprio won the NBR

  • Refnfan270 | November 20, 2013 10:47 AMReply


  • Franco | November 20, 2013 10:24 AMReply

    I somehow think James Franco will get an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. His role is iconic compared to some mentioned on the above list, as they were awesome but not iconic. It will be a serious crime if he is ignored but whatever happens, Spring Breakers is already a cult classic and will last longer than most movies on this list.

  • Joe H. | November 20, 2013 1:30 AMReply

    I still think Daniel Bruhl is getting a nomination. Been calling it for months, and I stand by it.

  • BK | November 19, 2013 11:57 PMReply

    The sad part about all of this is that my favorite film of the year so far (Prisoners) is going to be left in the cold...except for maybe cinematography.

  • Howard Casner | November 19, 2013 6:11 PMReply

    I believe you are underestimating two movies: I think Blue is the Warmest Color can be the Amour of this year and get a Picture, Actress, Director and Screenplay nom. Also, I believe you are seriously erring in noting including Captain Phillips in the supporting actor category. In fact, the race right now may be between Barkhad Abdi and Jared Leto.

  • Onias | November 19, 2013 4:29 PMReply

    fassbender with an oscar. *_*

  • asd | November 19, 2013 3:57 PMReply

    Saying your last Oscar prediction list got a lot of things right isn't a humblebrag, it's just a brag. Though, ironically, apologising for it being a humblebrag kind of turns it into a humblebrag.

  • B | November 19, 2013 3:47 PMReply

    Why would I want to read an article where the author is continually demoting his/her own abilities as a critic by saying things like "Totally unwarranted response" and "my uneducated guess". Those are really annoying things to read on a trade website by someone who genuinely cares about cinema. Why would I want to read an article by someone who is joking that they are not qualified to even speak about the topic?

  • M. | November 19, 2013 3:40 PMReply

    I highly doubt Redford has the momentum to carry a win, he's already won an honorary Oscar and Best Director, plus his movie didn't do so hot at the box office. I predict Dern or Ejiofor winning that coveted Best Actor, 12 years will dominate everything else it's nominated for.

  • Jack | November 19, 2013 3:05 PMReply

    Wow, mmkay, so you pretty much have "12 Years A Slave" sweeping the Oscars.

    This is why you are a critic.

  • Scott | November 19, 2013 2:39 PMReply

    The amount of spurious Oscar coverage on this website is now officially off-the-charts. I can't bear it silently anymore—I thought this was supposed to be Indiewire! Everyone who cares about quality moviemaking, including the author of this article, knows the Oscars are BS, but Indiewire is now more complicit than anyone in making them a year-round obsession, further degrading the cultural conversation. Hope you're proud of yourself, guys.

    —Scott, a former reader.

  • Alex | November 19, 2013 3:46 PM

    Year-Round? it's November which means Oscar season!

    Step outside for once hipster

  • Ian | November 19, 2013 2:00 PMReply

    The new nominating practice for Best Picture started in 2009. There have already been 4 years of this new practice, making this year the fifth, not the third.

  • Peter Knegt | November 19, 2013 2:12 PM

    Ian... In 2009, they expanded to 10 nominees but in 2011 they started the sliding scale 5-10.