Then of course there's Jeff Nichols' "Mud" and Derek Cianfrance's "The Place Beyond The Pines" -- both of which have turned into major indie box office breakouts coming off of festival debuts last year ("Mud" at Cannes, "Pines" at Toronto). Both could definitely be in the best picture mix too, or perhaps more likely screenplay nominees. But for now we are calling these 7 nominees as the "safe bets" come January, six from the aforementioned editions of this year's Cannes and Sundance, and one more for the just released Pixar pic "Monsters University" (which despite lukewarm reviews is making serious money and the animated feature category looks pretty weak so far this year):

  • "Inside Llewyn Davis" will be nominated for best picture and best original screenplay.
  • Robert Redford will be nominated for best actor for "All Is Lost"
  • Octavia Spencer will be nominated for best supporting actress for "Fruitvale Station"
  • "Fruitvale Station" will be nominated for best original screenplay
  • "Before Midnight" will be nominated for adapted screenplay
  • "Monsters University" will be nominated for best animated feature.

As for acting possibilities beyond the noted Redford and Spencer, there's quite a few folks that are almost certain to be fixtures from films we've already seen, it's just that there's so many performances still to come it would be questionable to call them sure things -- Marion Cotillard in "The Immigrant"; Julie Delpy in "Before Midnight"; Berenice Bejo in "The Past"; Oscar Isaac in "Inside Llewyn Davis"; Michael B. Jordan in "Fruitvale Station"; Bruce Dern in "Nebraska." All six of them could easily end up being nominated alongside Redford and Spencer (who could very well end up this year's Hawkes and Dench instead).


Another potentially interesting nominee is Matthew McConaughey, who is gunning for a second year in a row of an extraordinary body of work being released in a short time frame. Last year, he seemingly just missed the cut for "Magic Mike," and he already has an acclaimed performance from a successful film this year with "Mud." Will that finally get him a nomination, or will his extremely promising work in fall's "Dallas Buyers' Club" (where he plays a man dying of AIDS) and "The Wolf of Wall Street" (the trailer for which suggests its a scene-stealing performance) do the trick instead. We'll go ahead and make one other call: McConaughey is getting an Oscar nomination (maybe even two) this year, though it seems like "Mud" is the least likely film to help him do it.

But in the interest of keeping this first column from excess, we'll stop here. The rest of the story can be told through the list on the following page. In 12 major categories, it details the chances of films that have officially screened at either a festival or in theaters. Keep in mind the difficulty of picking candidates in the categories of best foreign language film and best documentary feature, both of which are notoriously unpredictable even at the end of the year (with regard to foreign language, we don't know which films will even be submitted for consideration).

At the end of the summer, this column will relaunch with thoughts on what Venice and Toronto could soon tell us about Oscar. Until then, continue to the next page to see what we might already know about the eventual nominations (and here's updated charts featuring guesses that include the films no one has seen yet).