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Who Should Win, Who Will Win: The Playlist’s Final Oscar Predictions

Who Should Win, Who Will Win: The Playlist's Final Oscar Predictions

On August 28th, “Gravity” premiered at the Venice Film Festival and pretty much marked the start, in full force, of the awards season. Between then and Oscar night on Sunday, six months will have passed. 27 weeks. 186 days. It’s been a long, vicious, and sort of fascinating Oscar season, and one of the most unpredictable in years.

But the light at the end of the tunnel is approaching. Three days from now, on Sunday, March 2nd, the 86th Academy Awards take place. Which means that, before we disappear to a beach somewhere to watch nothing but vulgar auteur movies, we have one more thing to do: our final Oscar predictions.

We’ve certainly felt more confident in the past, as there’s a lot still up in the air, but you know, go big or go home. Take a look at our final, final picks, for the films and people we believe will win, and the ones we wish were going to, below. 

Best Documentary Short Subject

Facing Fear
Karama Has No Walls
The Lady In Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Prison Terminal: The Last Days Of Private Jack Hall

Should Win:Prison Terminal” was my favorite of the five. The story of a WW2 vet dying in a prison hospice, it’s more complex, and more formally playful, than the other entries. It airs on HBO on March 31st, FYI.
Will Win:
This category can be a shot in the dark, but “The Lady In Number 6,” about the oldest living Holocaust survivor (who only passed away last week), a proficient pianist, seems to tick all the right boxes for the win. “Karama Has No Walls,” about a massacre during the recent uprising in Yemen, could be a dark horse, but “The Lady In Number 6” is the safest bet.

Best Animated Short Film

Get A Horse!
Mr. Hublot
Room On The Broom

Should Win: I was charmed by “Room On The Broom,” from the makers of the also-nominated “The Gruffalo,” and a significant tick up from that film. It’s arguably a touch long, but beautifully animated and voiced.
Will Win:
Many prognosticators are backing Mickey Mouse-starring Disney short “Get A Horse,” but even aside from it leaving me fairly cold, I think that’s optimistic: generally speaking, this isn’t a category that favors the better-known competitors (Disney’s “Paperman” won last year, but twelve years separate that and the last Disney/Pixar victor, 2001’s “For The Birds“). A slight loosening up of the rules might give it more of a chance, but my money’s still on the more distinctive “Mr. Hublot” to take the Oscar over the Disney behemoth.

Best Live Action Short Film

Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)
Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything)
Pitaako Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have To Take Care Of Everything?)
“The Voorman Problem

Should Win: I didn’t really like any of the nominees this year (that’s not usual for this category, in fairness), but “The Voorman Problem,” which stars Martin Freeman and Tom Hollander, was the least egregious—reasonably clever, and very well-acted, though not the home-run that something like “God Of Love” was a few years ago.
Will Win
: American movies have dominated the category in recent years, but none are nominated this year. That might give “The Voorman Problem” an advantage, as it’s the only English-language candidate, but the smart money is on “Helium,” a sentimental would-be tear-jerker with some admittedly impressive visual effects. It’s going to be close between them, but “Helium” feels more to voters’ tastes in this category.

Achievement In Sound Editing

All Is Lost” – Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns
Captain Phillips” – Oliver Tarney
Gravity” – Glenn Freemantle
The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug” – Brent Burge
Lone Survivor” – Wylie Stateman

Should Win:All Is Lost.” “Gravity” might be showier (and there’s no denying it would be a deserving winner), but “All Is Lost” does more with less, and with even less dialogue, the soundscape does so much to maintain the film’s mood. Plus the film was one of the most overlooked by the Academy this year, so it’d be nice to see it win something.
Will Win
: “Gravity.” This category veers between either a well-liked action movie (last year’s tie-winner “Skyfall,” “The Bourne Ultimatum,” “The Dark Knight“) or the noisiest of the Best Picture nominees (“The Hurt Locker,” “Inception,” “Zero Dark Thirty“), and Alfonso Cuaron‘s film ticks both boxes. Plus the film, like “All Is Lost,” relies so heavily on sound that it’d be remarkable if it didn’t win.

Achievement In Sound Mixing

Captain Phillips” – Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro
Gravity” – Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christoher Benstead and Chris Munro
The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug” – Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson
Inside Llewyn Davis” – Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland
Lone Survivor” – Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow

Should Win: Again, partly for the quality of the craft, and partly because it got so outrageously overlooked elsewhere, my vote would go to “Inside Llewyn Davis.” The mixing of live performance is one of the trickiest things to do, and the songs in the Coen Brothers‘ movie all sound terrific. Sadly, it doesn’t have much of a chance. As Adam Driver would say: Uh oh!
Will Win:
As Adam Driver would also say: “Outer. Space!” This one, again, goes to “Gravity.” More often than not, these categories go hand-in-hand, and there’s no reason to think that won’t be the case with “Gravity,” especially as many Academy members can’t tell, don’t know, or don’t care about the difference between mixing and editing. That’s not to say it’s not deserving, but again, the big Best Picture film is the one to stick with here.

Achievement In Visual Effects

Gravity” – Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould
The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug” – Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds
Iron Man 3” – Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick
The Lone Ranger” – Tim Alexander, Gary Bozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier
Star Trek Into Darkness” – Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton

Should Win: Absolutely, 100% “Gravity.” You can criticize other aspects of the film if you want to, but “Gravity,” like last year’s winner “Life of Pi,” represents a new high watermark in visual effects, approaching absolute photo-realism while, crucially, imbuing the work with real weight and character.
Will Win
: In theory, this should be a competitive field, because the work is very good across the board here (though there were some uncharacteristically patchy moments in ‘The Hobbit‘ this time around). But there’s no question that this chalks up another victory for “Gravity,” nothing else is even within a sniff of winning.

Achievement In Makeup And Hairstyling

Dallas Buyers Club” – Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” – Stephen Prouty
The Lone Ranger” – Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny

Should Win: We almost can’t believe we’re saying this, but probably “Bad Grandpa.” Old-age make-up can so often be a film’s downfall, but for an unashamedly stupid movie, the work in the “Jackass” spin-off is world-class, turning Johnny Knoxville into a legitimately convincing pensioner.
Will Win
: The Vanity Fair interview in which team “Dallas Buyers Club” revealed that their total budget was $250 was one of the campaigning masterstrokes of the season, making the film’s work seem all the more impressive. But it was likely the front-runner even before that: in the relatively rare case that a Best Picture nominee is up for this award, it almost always wins (1997 was the last time that wasn’t the case, when “Men In Black” beat “Titanic“). Had “American Hustle” been nominated, the many wigs might have seen it through, but with the film missing out, this is ‘Dallas’ all the way.

Achievement In Production Design

American Hustle” – Production Design: Judy Becker; Set Decoration: Heather Loeffler
Gravity” – Production Design: Andy Nicholson; Set Decoration: Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard
The Great Gatsby” – Production Design: Catherine Martin; Set Decoration: Beverley Dunn
Her” – Production Design: K.K. Barrett; Set Decoration: Gene Serdena
12 Years A Slave” – Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Alice Baker

Should Win: A strong line-up, but I’d lean towards “Her,” which does a lot with a little in terms of creating a vivid and distinctive near-future world that’s entirely plausible. Non-period work gets recognized so rarely that it’s never going to have a chance of winning, but it would certainly be my pick.
Will Win:
This is actually one of the harder categories to call this year, and could well be a crucial one in terms of indicating how the night that goes. Aside from “Her,” anything is a viable winner. “The Great Gatsby” is perhaps the showiest of the nominees and picked up precursors like the equivalent BAFTA. But last year, the Academy went with the more dour “Lincoln” over razamatazz, which suggests that maybe “12 Years A Slave” is the one to watch. But “Gravity” could also continue its technical sweep, and if there’s enough love for “American Hustle,” it might figure in as well. I’m leaning towards “The Great Gatsby” for the win, but this is definitely an award to keep an eye on; this could be a category where voters just pick their favorite movie, and if that’s the case, the winner might end up going on to Best Picture.

Achievement In Costume Design

American Hustle” – Michael Wilkinson
The Grandmaster” – William Chang Suk Ping
The Great Gatsby” – Catherine Martin
The Invisible Woman” – Michael O’Connor
12 Years A Slave” – Patricia Norris

Should Win: Hmm, nothing here is particularly grabby (though I’ll admit I haven’t seen “The Grandmaster” yet), but I wouldn’t be against “American Hustle” picking up the prize, as those 70s threads were pretty well done.
Will Win:
Another reasonably close one. “12 Years A Slave” got the guild award at the weekend, while “The Great Gatsby” took the BAFTA, but “American Hustle” is in with a chance (and given the Academy’s propensity for awarding any British costume drama—see “The Young Victoria“—”The Invisible Woman” shouldn’t be counted out). In the end, I’m just gonna lean towards the guilds and “12 Years A Slave,” but it’s going to be very, very close and either “Gatsby” or “Hustle” could break through instead.

Achievement In Music Written For Motion Pictures (Original Song)

Happy” from “Despicable Me 2” — Music and Lyrics by Pharrell Williams
Let It Go” from “Frozen” — Music and Lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
The Moon Song” from “Her” — Music by Karen O, Lyrics by Karen O and Spike Jonze
Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom” — Music by Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, Lyrics by Paul Hewson

Should Win: It’s pretty slight, but “The Moon Song” is sort of lovely, and as a big Karen O fan still stinging that none of her “Where The Wild Things Are” work was recognized, I’d love to see her pick something up here.
Will Win:
Let It Go.” Disney was so confident about this one that they didn’t submit any other songs from “Frozen,” and as the sole movie musical among the nominees, it’s at an immediate advantage. This is an easy one.

Achievement In Music Written For Motion Pictures (Original Score)

The Book Thief” – John Williams
Gravity” – Steven Price
Her” – William Butler and Owen Pallett
Philomena” – Alexandre Desplat
Saving Mr. Banks” – Thomas Newman

Should Win: One of the weakest line-ups I can remember for this category, with three veterans turning in eminently forgettable work. I’d go with Arcade Fire‘s “Her” score. Partly because I’m a terrible hipster, and partly because “Gravity,” for all its strength, becomes a bit overbearing at the end.
Will Win:
“Her” could be a dark horse (don’t forget Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor winning a few years back), but this looks likely to go to Price and “Gravity“, given the importance of the score to the movie. I’ll close my eyes and pretend it was for his work on “Attack The Block” instead.

Best Animated Feature Film

The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Ernest & Celestine
The Wind Rises

Should Win:The Wind Rises.” It’s not Miyazaki’s very best film (check out our Miyazaki ranked feature), but it’s one of his most personal, and certainly great work from a hall-of-fame filmmaker, one that’s apparently the director’s last. The maestro has one Oscar, for “Spirited Away,” but it would be a great way to close off his career to give him another.
Will Win:
Unfortunately, the Academy are unlikely to be as sentimental about the director, particularly given the allegations from some quarters (entirely unfair) that the film is an apologia for Japanese actions during the war. Given that it was such a box-office juggernaut, this is “Frozen” all over.

Best Documentary Feature

The Act Of Killing
Cutie And The Boxer
Dirty Wars
The Square
20 Feet From Stardom

Should Win:The Act Of Killing.” There isn’t a bad film here—it’s one of the strongest line-ups in the history of the category, I’d say—but “The Act Of Killing” is certainly the most inventive and powerful, and would be a deserving winner.
Will Win:
“The Act Of Killing” is definitely in the running, but there’s a tendency to go with crowd-pleasers or more obviously issue-driven movies over the critical favorite here. As such, I’m going to predict a win for “The Square,” though “20 Feet From Stardom” could still figure in.

Best Foreign Language Film

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

Should Win: The Missing Picture” is an extraordinary film, and one of the most atypical nominees in this category in a long time (it also makes a handy companion piece for “The Act Of Killing“). It probably doesn’t have a hope though.
Will Win
: It’s going to be close between the Belgian, Danish and Italian films, and any one could conceivably take the prize. Most are leaning towards “The Great Beauty,” which did will with precursors, including BAFTA. “The Hunt” is viable, but divisive enough that I think it’ll fall short. But for some reason, I have a gut feeling about “The Broken Circle Breakdown,” which is the kind of respectable melodrama that often wins out in this category over more formally audacious fare like the Sorrentino film.

Achievement In Film Editing

American Hustle” – Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten
Captain Phillips” – Christopher Rouse
Dallas Buyers Club” – John MacMurphy and Martin Pensa
Gravity” – Alfonso Cuaron and Mark Sanger
12 Years A Slave” – Joe Walker

Should Win:Captain Phillips” might have the more impressive micro-editing, but it’s the structural rigor of “12 Years A Slave“‘s cutting that feels more substantial and memorable to me.
Will Win
: Between “Gravity” and “Captain Phillips,” and this’ll be another telling one. If “Gravity” wins, it’s also taking Best Picture. If the other does, it would seem to point the way towards something else taking the top prize. Right now, I favor “Captain Phillips,” if only because the long takes of “Gravity” can, incorrectly, give the impression that there’s less work to be done than on Paul Greengrass‘ rapid-fire film.

Achievement In Cinematography

The Grandmaster” – Philippe Le Sourd
Gravity” – Emmanuel Lubezki
Inside Llewyn Davis” – Bruno Delbonnel
Nebraska” – Phedon Papamichael
Prisoners” – Roger A. Deakins

Should Win:Gravity” and “Prisoners” are gorgeous (I’m sure “The Grandmaster” is too, but again, haven’t managed to see it yet), but I’d pick Bruno Delbonnel‘s work on “Inside Llewyn Davis,” if only for the shot of the cat looking out the subway window. But basically, anything except “Nebraska.”
Will Win:
It’s finally Chivo’s time—having missed out a number of times, “Gravity” looks like a home-run here, especially given the way that the Academy has favored 3D effects extravaganzas in this category over the years: “Avatar,” “Hugo” and “Life Of Pi” all won.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Before Midnight” – Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
Captain Phillips” – Billy Ray
Philomena” – Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
12 Years A Slave” – John Ridley
The Wolf Of Wall Street” – Terence Winter

Should Win: It’s not my favorite of the trilogy, but the writing in “Before Midnight” is admittedly exquisite, with a third-act extended argument that should be studied in writing classes.
Will Win:
A three-way race between Ray, Ridley and Coogan & Pope, and it’s going to be close. “Philomena” is well-liked enough that it could pick up the consolation prize here, while Ray won the WGA award for “Captain Phillips.” In the end, despite his controversial status in the writing community due to actions dating back to the writer’s strike (which could have hampered his nomination, but which voters at large will likely be unaware of), my gut says Ridley and “12 Years A Slave” here.

Best Original Screenplay

American Hustle” – Eric Warren Singer and David O Russell
Blue Jasmine” – Woody Allen
Dallas Buyers Club” – Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack
Her” – Spike Jonze
Nebraska” – Bob Nelson

Should Win: Her,” the richest and most distinctive of the five nominees, and in some ways the most dialogue-driven; so much of the film is made up of conversation between Phoenix and Johannson.
Will Win:
Again, this category is often used as a way to reward original and distinctive fare that doesn’t pick up anything elsewhere. And for that reason, I give “Her” the edge over “American Hustle“—even those who don’t quite get Spike Jonze‘s film kind of like it, and it’s the most original of the five films. But if they’re not voting for ‘Hustle’ in other categories, Academy members could lean towards it here as a consolation prize as well. But ultimately, it’s a little more familiar than “Her,” and isn’t quite the awards juggernaut that could have carried it with sheer momentum either.

Performance By An Actress In A Supporting Role

Sally Hawkins in “Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence in “American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o in “12 Years A Slave
Julia Roberts in “August Osage County
June Squibb in “Nebraska

Should Win: Nyong’o is fantastic, but I’d love Sally Hawkins to win, as she’s utterly superb in “Blue Jasmine” (I’d argue even better than Cate Blanchett) and should have been at least a nominee a few years back.
Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence
and Lupita Nyong’o have been almost alternating wins with critics’ groups and precursor awards: Lawrence took the Globe and BAFTA, Nyong’o the SAG win. But I think that the Academy will hesitate to give someone as young as Lawrence back-to-back Oscars, even if they love the performance, so my money’s on Lupita Nyong’o. Could still go either way, though.

Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role

Barkhad Abdi in “Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper in “American Hustle
Michael Fassbender in “12 Years A Slave
Jonah Hill in “The Wolf Of Wall Street
Jared Leto in “Dallas Buyers Club

Should Win: A strong line-up, for the most part, but I’d actually place my vote for Jonah Hill. Some are still disbelieving that he’s a two-time Oscar nominee, but he’s great both in “Moneyball” and, in particular, this, carrying a lot of the comic weight of the movie on his shoulders.
Will Win
: This is my annual potentially crazy roll of the dice. Jared Leto dominated the precursor awards, but I’ve sensed his heat fading a little late, and Barkhad Abdi gathering steam, not least after his BAFTA victory (they can be a good predictor of this category, as with Christoph Waltz last year). Of all my picks, I’m aware that this is the riskiest, but I’m guessing a shock upset for Barkhad Abdi in the end.

Performance By An Actress In A Leading Role

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

Should Win: I’d honestly be happy with anyone but Streep, who I thought was legitimately terrible in “August Osage County.” Sandra Bullock might be my favorite performance of the five, when I think about it; there’s an extent to which she hasn’t got the credit she deserves for a film that, for all its bravura, needs her presence to connect emotionally.
Will Win:
Unless you’ve been in a coma for the last nine months, you’ll already know the answer: Cate Blanchett.

Performance By An Actor In A Leading Role

Christian Bale in “American Hustle
Bruce Dern in “Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf Of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor in “12 Years A Slave
Matthew McConaughey in “Dallas Buyers Club

Should Win: Chiwetel Ejiofor, who’s been my favorite actor for a decade, and delivers the performance of his career so far in this film. Unshowy and unsentimental, he makes the difficult dialogue sing, and pulls the film along with him.
Will Win:
Arguably the most interesting race in an interesting year, it’s possible to imagine anyone but Bale winning this year (Dern hasn’t got many column inches of late, but has a lot of love). DiCaprio’s had some late momentum, but perhaps not enough, and Ejiofor’s absolutely in the running. But Matthew McConaughey has the best narrative (the career revival, his current outstanding turn on “True Detective“), a gift of a role, and the demonstrable commitment of a whopping great weight loss. It’s not quite in the bag, but this feels like it’s in the stars.

Achievement In Directing

American Hustle” – David O. Russell
Gravity” – Alfonso Cuaron
Nebraska” – Alexander Payne
12 Years A Slave” – Steve McQueen
The Wolf Of Wall Street” – Martin Scorsese

Should Win: Another tough one, but I’d just give Alfonso Cuaron the edge. No film here is as much of a directorial tour-de-force, and it would also serve as a long overdue recognition for one of our finest filmmakers, and one who was left out in the cold for a while.
Will Win:
It’s been theoretically a three-way race for a while, and though Russell’s overdue at this point, it’s unlikely to be his year (next time, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with), and McQueen hasn’t campaigned as much as his rivals. Regardless of what happens in Best Picture, this should safely go to Alfonso Cuaron.

Best Motion Picture Of The Year

American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
12 Years A Slave
The Wolf Of Wall Street

Should Win:12 Years A Slave.” Yes, partly because of the meaningfulness of its win, but also because it’s the best film of a mostly strong line-up (I really like all of the nominees bar “Nebraska” to some degree). For all of the power and craft of the other movies on display, this one feels like it’ll sit in the hall of Oscar fame.
Will Win:
Assuming that I’m right, and “American Hustle” misses elsewhere, it’s probably stuck in third place here. “Gravity” is a major force, though, as it’s an easier watch than ‘Slave,’ will do well with the preferential voting system, and has history on its side, in terms of Oscar shying away from the more ‘difficult’ choice in order to go for the more watchable (and it would be a great winner too—either would probably be the best film to take the prize since “No Country For Old Men“). It’ll be very, very close, but I’m ultimately going with “12 Years A Slave,” even if voters didn’t like it, they likely respect it enough, and feel it deserves the win.

You’ve a couple of days of free rein in the comments section to make your own predictions if you fancy, or to call us out on our more outre picks (Barkhad Abdi) and don’t forget to check back here Sunday night for the results, commentary and booze-fueled live-tweeting.

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