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For Your Consideration: A Mid-November Take On All The Major Oscar Races

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

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

Best Actress:
Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”) and Sandra Bullock (“Gravity”) are looking very good here, both nailing extremely challenging (in
extremely different ways) roles of a mentally unstable alcoholic lost
without money and an emotionally damaged astronaut lost in space.  At this point, it looks likely that the three women that will join them — though probably won’t challenge either for the win — are Emma Thompson (“Saving Mr. Banks”), Judi Dench (“Philomena”) and Meryl Streep (“August: Osage County”).

READ MORE: For Your Consideration: 10 Underdog Actresses Who Deserve Oscar’s Attention This Year

are a few interesting things about this potentially mighty quintet. For
one, all five of them have already won (and have been nominated a collective 33 times). Last year, the best supporting
actor race offered a first-time situation
where every single nominee had already won, and it seems like we could
be heading there again.  Even more notable is that all four
likely-to-be-nominated woman collectively represent great roles for
woman over 40, with Dench (age 78), Streep (64), Bullock (49), Thompson (54) and
Blanchett (44) offering an average age of 57.8 years old. Never has the best
actress race featured all five nominees over 40 (it’s even quite rare
where all five were over 30), and even last year the average age was a
lower 49, despite the nomination of 86 year-old Emmanuelle Riva.  

But then there’s the one
contender I haven’t mentioned, Ms. Amy Adams — really the only possibility to take one of these actresses out of contention that wouldn’t be a huge upset — who has never won an Academy Award, despite four
nominations in under a decade. She also — as of two months ago — is 39
years old. Granted, no one has seen David O. Russell’s “American Hustle,” but the buzz for Adams
performance is strong (which seems fair enough based on the trailer).
If there’s anyone that can steal this race (and ruin the all-winner,
all-40-and-over dream), it’s her. Given the competition, though, she’d
have to really hit it out of the park. 

Predicted Nominees (in alphabetical order):
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench
, Philomena
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks

The Spoiler Nominee: Amy Adams, American Hustle

Totally Unwarranted Winner Prediction: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Best Actor:
Like its female counterpart, there’s an assumed five nominees here already that would take a lot of effort to break into:
Chiwetel Ejiofer (“12 Years a Slave”), Robert Redford (“All Is
Lost”), Matthew McConaughey (“Dallas Buyers Club”), Tom Hanks (“Captain Phillips”) and Bruce Dern (“Nebraska”). 

READ MORE: For Your Consideration: 10 Underdog Actors That Deserve Oscar’s Attention This Year

Unlike the best actress race, though, Hanks is the only previous winner, while Ejiofer and
McConaughey would both be first time nominees and Redford and Dern have not been nominated since 1973 and 1978, respectively (though Redford did win a
directing Oscar for “Ordinary People”). And also notable is that while Amy Adams is seemingly the only contender waiting to break in to the presumed five, there’s like a dozen men in waiting here (typical!): Oscar Issac (so great in “Inside Llewyn Davis”), Joaquin Phoenix playing
way against his role in last year’s nominated “The Master” in Spike
Jonze’s “Her,” Forest Whitaker
(the lead in the hugely successful, Oscar-aiming “Lee Daniels’ The
Butler”), Michael B. Jordan (one of the year’s biggest breakouts is
heartbreaking in “Fruitvale Station”) and Idris Elba (commanding as Nelson
Mandela in “Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom”). Any other year you’d think
any of those were pretty safe bets. And then there’s still Christian Bale (who has what looks like a very
showy role in David O. Russell’s “American Hustle”) and the long overdue
Leonardo DiCaprio (who sure looks like he’s on fire in Martin Scorsese’s
“The Wolf of Wall Street”). It’s only mid-November, so there’s time for any of these men to rally into the top five (at the expense of probably Dern or Hanks, but it’s so hard to see either of them missing out). But I’m not willing to bet on any of them doing so just yet.

Predicted Nominees (in alphabetical order):
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Robert Redford, All Is Lost

The Spoiler Nominee: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street

Totally Unwarranted Winner Prediction: Robert Redford, All Is Lost

Best Supporting Actress:

Oprah vs. Lupita? That seems like the potential showdown here, though
watch out for June Squibb (“Nebraska”), Octavia Spencer (“Fruitvale
Station”) and “August: Osage County” pair Julia Roberts (category fraud,
much?) and Margo Martindale. Those would seem like the final six women battling it out for five slots, unless of
course Jennifer Lawrence (“American Hustle”) skyrockets when the film
gets seen, which could very well be the case (this clip sure makes it seem likely). And then of course there’s Scarlett
Johansson’s voice only performance in “Her,” which is a long shot
considering the Academy’s history with not nomination voice work, but
something to consider given buzz is building for it to happen.

It also is notable that this race could very likely feature the first instance in Oscar history of three black nominees, and if the race does come down to Oprah and Lupita and one of them win, it would mean four of the past eight best supporting actress winners have been black women. Which is both
50% of the past eight years of winners, and would more notably mean that
more black women have won Oscars in the past eight years than the 78 years
that came before them. Though it would not change the fact that only one black woman has ever won the leading actress trophy, with this year an extraordinarily unlikely to change.

Predicted Nominees (in alphabetical order):
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Octavia Spencer, Fruitvale Station
June Squibb, Nebraska
Oprah Winfrey, Lee Daniels’ The Butler

The Spoiler Nominee: Julia Roberts, August: Osage County

Totally Unwarranted Winner Prediction: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

Best Supporting Actor:
This is the definitely the least clear of all the acting races, with
Michael Fassbender’s turn in “12 Years a Slave” and Tom Hanks take on
Walt Disney in “Saving Mr. Banks” the only truly safe bets.  Beyond them,
there’s more potential contenders we haven’t seen here than in any other category, namely Bradley
Cooper and Jeremy Renner in “American Hustle” and Jonah Hill and Matthew
McConaughey in “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

How they end up being received
will make or break the strong possibilities of Jared Leto (“Dallas
Buyers Club”), Daniel Burhl (“Rush”), Barkhad Abdi (“Captain Phillips”), Will Forte (“Nebraska”)
and the late James Gandolfini (“Enough Said”). Either way, with the other three acting categories looking relatively locked down, it’s fun to have a little excitement left in one of the major races.

Predicted Nominees (in alphabetical order):
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
James Gandolfini, Enough Said
Tom Hanks, Saving Mr. Banks
Jonah Hill
, The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

The Spoiler Nominee: Bradley Cooper, American Hustle

Totally Unwarranted Winner Prediction: Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave

Peter Knegt is Indiewire’s Senior Writer and awards columnist. Follow him on Twitter.

Check out Indiewire’s latest chart of Oscar predictions here.

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