the-oscars-logo 28 Feb

The Oscars have been on a pleasant trend these past few years. Not to the point of being any shorter, less self-congratulatory or overall entertaining, mind you. But the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and popular opinion have been uncharacteristically in sync. The last “proper Best Picture” to be robbed was Brokeback Mountain, and the most unpopular choice the Academy has made in terms of over-awarding its celebrities was making Anne Hathaway and James Franco host.

The 86th Annual Academy Awards (airing this Sunday, March 2 starting at 4pm PST) holds a lot more room to surprise this year, with both the Best Actor and Picture races being the closes in decades. This genuine uncertainty is  the best thing has going for it. The return of Ellen DeGeneres reads strongly of a safe back-step away from Seth McFarlane and his boob song. Producers have confirmed tributes to “Everyday Screen Heroes” and the 75th Anniversary of the Wizard of Oz, which gives everything lead up to (and in between) the Big Six categories a “we need Grandma to watch again!” vibe. The most heart-wrenching In Memoriam segment in generations and the all-but assured brilliance of Idina Menzel’s live performance of “Let it Go” should still liven things up a bit.

On the betting side of things, you will find all 24 categories listed below with the most likely winners, those that should have won, and any dark horse bets. I’ve abstained from providing a preferred winner in categories I have not seen the majority of nominees in. Feel free to list your own predictions below, or watch the show along with me on Twitter by following @GameDevGav.


And the nominees are…


Documentary Short Subject

CaveDigger – Jeffrey Karoff

Facing Fear– Jason Cohen

Karama Has No Walls – Sara Ishaq

The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life – Malcolm Clarke and Nicholas Reed

Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall – Edgar Barens

Who Will Win: The Lady in Number 6 – A holocaust survivor story is a pretty solid guarantee on its own, but (as horrid as it sounds) the subject’s death could not have been timed better. The shorts categories are likely the last votes cast by the procrastinating members of the Academy, and nothing helps a film stick out in an oft-overlooked category more than your lead personality passing away just two days before voting closes.

Who Should Win: Abstain

The Dark Horse Bet: Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall – Prison story + terminally ill protagonist + heart-warming story of the human condition. That’s some pretty strong Oscar math. 


Short Film – Animated

Feral – Daniel Sousa and Dan Golden

Get a Horse! – Lauren MacMullan and Dorothy McKim

Mr. Hublot – Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares

Possessions – Shuhei Morita

Room on the Broom – Max Lang and Jan Lachauer

Who Will Win: Get a Horse! – Any short that runs before a mainstream hit gets a massive boost in odds when it comes to the Animated Short category. There was no animated movie bigger this year than Frozen, and most of the Academy will (as always) not seen anything else. A victory by default is still a victory.

Who Should Win: Abstain 

The Dark Horse Bet: Possessions – If voters managed to watch any other animated shorts (and that’s a big if), the simple and organic charms of Possessions could manage to side-step the competition.


Short Film – Live Action

Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me) – Esteban Crespo

Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything) – Xavier Legrand and Alexandre Gavras

Helium – Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson

Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?) – Selma Vilhunen and Kirsikka Saari

The Voorman Problem – Mark Gill and Baldwin Li

Who Will Win: Helium – Another case of the heartstrings winning over the adrenaline glands. The tale of a hospital janitor telling fanciful stories to a dying child has the sentimental vote down cold. Enough voters could be swayed by the intensity of Just Before Losing Everything, especially being in the always awards-laden woman-overcoming-abuse category.

Who Should Win: Abstain

The Dark Horse Bet: That Wasn’t Me – Rumor has it that most voters that managed to see all shorts preferred That Wasn’t Me. Whether or not this is a big enough chunk of the voting base is a shaky chance.


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 and Chris Ward

Lone Survivor – Wylie Stateman

Who Will Win: Gravity – On the sound front, no movie made a bigger impact this year than Gravity. It’s as if the Inception trailer music was given it’s own movie. Like costume design, the award is often given to the movie that makes the most noise without blowing out the theater speakers. The Hobbit would have this down pat in any other year, but in 2013, the satellite alarms and zero-g fires have it.

Who Should Win: Gravity – Glenn Freemantle’s smart emphases made the vacuum of space ring with sound. Coupled with Steven Price’s score, it’s an audio track that immerses deeper than most entire films.

The Dark Horse Bet: All is Lost – The “This is the Movie’s Only Nomination” pity vote is something that should never be underestimated. But it is also the only chance a film other than Gravity has here.


Sound Mixing

Captain Phillips – Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro

Gravity – Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher 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

Who Will Win: Gravity – The sound categories are handed out in pairs more often than not. And if the Sound Editing category isn’t a lock for Gravity on its own, Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro’s mixing of such an audio-dependent movie should help sew up both categories for Cuarón and company.

Who Should Win: Gravity – Few films have to rely on incidental sounds as Gravity. The relatively dialogue-light script means we have to be sold on the rising tension just as much – if not more so – by strained zip cords and fumbling spacesuit fingers as we do Sandra Bullock gasping. The film survived as a tentpole cinematic adventure partly thanks to such a mix. 

The Dark Horse Bet: Captain Phillips – Grated floors and heavy metal doors make a pretty strong, natural impression. Whether this wins or not, Chris Munro has his bets hedged.


Production Design

American Hustle – Judy Becker (Production Design); Heather Loeffler (Set Decoration)

Gravity – Andy Nicholson (Production Design); Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard (Set Decoration)

The Great Gatsby – Catherine Martin (Production Design); Beverley Dunn (Set Decoration)

Her – K.K. Barrett (Production Design); Gene Serdena (Set Decoration)

12 Years a Slave – Adam Stockhausen (Production Design); Alice Baker (Set Decoration)

Who Will Win: The Great Gatsby – American Hustle throws its sets enough in your face to force a stubborn victory here, if not enough voters fall under the spell of the lavish Gatsby. When Luhrmann and Martin get together, the result is a visual feast that’s hard to take in on one viewing. If voters treat Production Design with the same logic as Costume Design, nothing can touch Gatsby.

Who Should Win: 12 Years a Slave – 12 Years’ is a classic example of solid set construction and production design. Like many effective period pieces, it gains a timeless through its attention to detail. Adam Stockhausen and Alice Baker conveyed over a decade on both sides of the volatile slave trade, so well that the emotional pace of the film can be charted by just panning the camera over its sets. 

The Dark Horse Bet: 12 Years a Slave – The historical has to win over the pomp of Gatsby and the indulgences of American Hustle. If both of those overt designs split the vote, 12 Years’ could managed a deserved steal.


Makeup and Hairstyling

Dallas Buyer’s Club – Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa – Stephen Prouty

The Lone Ranger – Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny

Who Will Win: Dallas Buyer’s Club – This category almost feels like a farce, managing a 2/1 split of crowd pleasers (one of which is still box office poison) to one of this year’s critical favorites. There is no competition between Johnny Depp’s chalk face, old Johnny Knoxville and an AIDs-stricken McConaughey/Leto. 

Who Should Win: Dallas Buyer’s Club – Losing weight can only go so far to sell a deadly disease. Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews put some of the most beautiful people in the most painful of circumstances with black blotches and old age foundation. That’s impressive during any year. 

The Dark Horse Bet: Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa – This bet is devoted entirely to the idea that there are enough Academy members that want to inscribe “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” onto an Oscar. That requires Xbox Live-levels of trolling. 


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

Who Will Win: The Great Gatsby – The Invisible Woman is the habitual pick, given its time period. But nothing this year has been as garish as The Great Gatsby. And when it comes to costumes, the bigger and shinier always wins. Always.

Who Should Win: The Great Gatsby – Luhrmann’s vision of the 1920s was flawed in many respects, but costumes were not one of them. The Moulin Rouge director seemed born to encapsulate the Flapper era. Class divides and the excess between them are better embodied by the wardrobe than the actors that wore them.

The Dark Horse Bet: The Grandmaster – There is a sharp style to The Grandmaster’s period costumes. If enough attention is paid to the actual cut and authenticity of each costume, The Grandmaster will definitely pull ahead in the charts.


Film Editing

American Hustle – Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten

Captain Phillips – Christopher Rouse

Dallas Buyer’s Club – John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa

Gravity – Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger

12 Years a Slave – Joe Walker

Who Will Win: Gravity – Oddly enough, a film famed for its long, unedited takes will draw out an editing Oscar. Spending so long with each beat makes every cut sharper, giving a memorable presence than any other nominee. This appearance of an judicious edit is what will be in voters’ heads when it comes time to cast the ballots.  

Who Should Win: Captain Phillips – Making two chase scenes between a massive freighter and a skiff shouldn’t work well on paper, let alone what Christopher Rouse managed on camera. 

The Dark Horse Bet: 12 Years a Slave – A lot of 12 Years’ painful honesty comes directly from Joe Walker. If the Academy votes with their instinct, this could manage an upset.



The Grandmaster – Philippe Le Sourd

Gravity – Emmanuel Lubezki

Inside Llewyn Davis – Bruno Delbonnel

Nebraska – Phedon Papamichael

Prisoners – Roger A. Deakins

Who Will Win: Gravity – The oldest, stodgiest members of the Academy came out of the theaters with just as much childish glee as most audiences. The long, luxurious one takes leave little room for competition.

Who Should Win: Gravity – Emmanuel Lubezki should win this twice. Once for the film as a whole, and a tiny-Oscar for the first tracking shot. 

The Dark Horse Bet: Prisoners – Roger A. Deakins’ sharp and lonely camera might pull in enough of a contrarian vote to go against the tide of Gravity. Any other year, it would deserve it too. 


Visual Effects

Gravity – Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, David 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 Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier

Star Trek into Darkness – Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton

Who Will Win: Gravity – Yeah, there is just no way this could lose.

Who Should Win: Gravity – Absolutely no way. 

The Dark Horse Bet: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Smaug was pretty kick ass though. 


Music – Original Song

“Happy”, Despicable Me 2 – Music and Lyric by Pharrell Williams

“Let it Go”, Frozen – Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

“The Moon Song”, Her – Music by Karen O; Lyric by Karen O and Spike Jonze

“Ordinary Love”, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom – Music by Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen; Lyric by Paul Hewson

Who Will Win: “Let it Go” – Like last year with Skyfall, the Academy won’t waste an opportunity to select a song that actually has a chart presence. Most of them could sing it as well, and there is rarely a better situation in which to be an ear worm.

Who Should Win: “Let it Go” – It’s one of the only tunes to come out of a Disney film since the Renaissance that actually means something to the popular audience. Handing Idina Menzel a microphone and stepping back is rarely the wrong choice.

The Dark Horse Bet: “Ordinary Love” – This wins if enough voters vote with their U2 fandom. 


Music – Original Score

The Book Thief – John Williams

Gravity – Steven Price

Her – William Butler and Owen Pallett

Philomena – Alexandre Desplat

Saving Mr. Banks – Thomas Newman

Who Will Win: Gravity – John Williams is here because he is John Williams, Alexandre Desplat’s and William Butler and Owen Pallett’s work is a bit too subtle to recall outside the film by voters. Steven Price’s score for Gravity was in your face, loud, and is set to be performed by an 80-piece orchestra on Oscar night. It forced itself on this category like a homeless man on a discarded cigarette butt.

Who Should Win: Her – Beautifully shadowing the film’s message on man/machine love, Butler and Pallet infuse natural instrumentation with soft trance and scaling techno undercurrents. It’s the only score this year to reflect the film it’s connected with, not just trace the emotional beats.

The Dark Horse Bet: Saving Mr. Banks – This is in case voters confusedly lump the classic Sherman Brothers tracks in with Newman’s work. 

86th Academy Awards Nominee Luncheon - Inside

Documentary Feature

The Act of Killing – Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen

Cutie and the Boxer – Zachary Heinzerling and Lydia Dean Pilcher

Dirty Wars – Richard Rowley and Jeremy Scahill

The Square – Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer

20 Feet from Stardom – Morgan Neville, Gil Friesen and Caitrin Rogers

Who Will Win: The Act of Killing – Restaging the atrocities committed by Indonesia’s political death squads is one hell of a hook. Many documentaries this year focused on classic Academy-fodder like the evil of the United States’ perpetual war machine, unappreciated musical talents, and timely political subjects. Only Act of Killing sears itself into memory though, it’s a strong enough first watch to blur all competitors.

Who Should Win: Abstain

The Dark Horse Bet: 20 Feet from Stardom – Bet this if you REALLY believe in the Colbert bump.


Foreign Language Film

The Broken Circle Breakdown – Belgium

The Great Beauty – Italy

The Hunt – Denmark

The Missing Picture – Cambodia

Omar – Palestine

Who Will Win: The Great Beauty – The Hunt couldn’t hold onto the conversation long enough to get more than just a chance here. The Great Beauty has the momentum from the Golden Globes to translate into a win here.

Who Should Win: Abstain

The Dark Horse Bet: Omar – Addressing the Israel/Palestine divide will always – ALWAYS – give you a chance for a Foreign Picture Oscar. 


Animated Feature Film

The Croods – Chris Sanders, Kirk DeMicco and Kristine Belson

Despicable Me 2 – Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin and Chris Meledandri

Ernest & Celestine – Benjamin Renner and Didier Brunner

Frozen – Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Peter Del Vecho

The Wind Rises – Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki

Who Will Win: The Wind Rises – Frozen seems far too popular a choice for Oscar voters, it’s victory will be in the song category. Since the last time the Academy Awards actually had an impact on pop culture was its championing of Miyazaki’s masterpiece Spirited Away, it’s a solid bet that they will want to repeat the move.

Who Should Win: The Wind Rises – The Croods, Frozen, and Despicable Me 2 were family-pleasers, and no one has seen Ernest and Celestine. Most of the animated films this year had technical chops, many had a heart, and a couple even managed a soul. But The Wind Rises is the only one that also sported a brain.

The Dark Horse Bet: Ernest and Celestine – This is in case the Academy wants to not seem like total posers man, and go for the non-conformist vote.


Writing – Adapted Screenplay

Before Midnight – Written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke

Captain Phillips – Screenplay by Billy Ray

Philomena – Screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope

12 Years a Slave – Screenplay by John Ridley

The Wolf of Wall Street – Screenplay by Terence Winter

Who Will Win: 12 Years a Slave – An epic retelling of a national shame. John Ridley’s adaptation of the real-life Solomon Northup’s memoir is a punch to the gut, leaving few to measure up for too long after their respective films end. If Winter took a strong edit, there would have been a fight in this category.

Who Should Win: Philomena – Simplicity is often looked down upon when in competition with bombast and anguish. But Coogan and Pope’s nuanced examination of faith under duress is a restrained expose made masterful by Dench’s heartbreaking performance.

The Dark Horse Bet: The Wolf of Wall Street – If the Academy wants to seem cool, or is doing the college professor method of grading by throwing each script down a flight of stairs, Terrence Winter should pull ahead.


Writing – Original Screenplay

American Hustle – Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell

Blue Jasmine – Written by Woody Allen

Dallas Buyer’s Club – Written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack

Her – Written by Spike Jonze

Nebraska – Written by Bob Nelson

Who Will Win: Her – In concept alone Spike Jonze captured the imagination (if not the money) of a lot of audiences this year. Her is a classic science fiction idea brought to its most intimate level. It’s got the high concept to help it stay in voter’s minds, and the heart to justify the vote. It’s a Charlie Kaufman script that makes you feel more than think, and that’s music to Academy ears. 

Who Should Win: Nebraska – The wit in Bob Nelson’s script is so dry you couldn’t use it for kindling. But it’s the work of Dern and Squibb, along with the rest of the bluntly funny cast, that draws every charming nugget of humor out of the words.

The Dark Horse Bet: Dallas Buyers Club – With Woody making himself a bit controversial these days, Dallas Buyers Club stands the only real chance of circumventing Her. If enough of the Academy didn’t get the nuances of Jonze’s love story, or are afraid enough of the Singularity, Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack stand to benefit.


Actor (in a Supporting Role)

Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips

Bradley Cooper – American Hustle

Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave

Jonah Hill – The Wolf of Wall Street

Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

Who Will Win: Jared Leto – Leto was basically in a Ginger Rogers position to McConaughey’s Fred Astaire. The selective performer had to do everything that made the film’s star newsworthy – massive weight loss, unflattering vulnerability – and be in heels the entire time. Being an effeminate character with a major death scene helps buffer his Oscar math above his competition of real-world doppelgangers, uncomfortably intense villain and Bradley Cooper. 

Who Should Win: Jared Leto – Leto’s complete absorption into Rayon is mesmerizing.

The Dark Horse Bet: Jonah Hill – If the Academy really is interested in playing Star Makers, granting this statue will make this former Superbad-star unstoppable. He’s the most watchable thing in an imminently engaging film of the year, despite of – or perhaps because of – a ridiculously set of fake teeth. 


Actress (in a Supporting Role)

Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine

Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle

Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave

Julia Roberts – August: Osage County

June Squibb – Nebraska

Who Will Win: Lupita Nyong’o – The Academy doesn’t love Jennifer Lawrence to award her for playing period dress up over an undeniable star-making turn. Especially with once-favorite Ejiofor likely to be passed up, Lupita could be taking this one home as a representative for the entire cast of the year’s best performed film.

Who Should Win: Lupita Nyong’o – Lupita gave a rare, unhindered performance in a film full of bold and loud choices. She is the heart and soul of a film desperate to cling to both. 

The Dark Horse Bet: June Squibb – The old, cranky vote can never be discounted at Oscar-time. And no other performance is better suited to sweep that demographic than Squibb’s witty senior citizen. The legacy factor could also be in Squibb’s factor if the Lawrence/Nyong’o race grows too close for its own good.


Actor (in a Leading Role)

Christian Bale – American Hustle

Bruce Dern – Nebraska

Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street

Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave

Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club

Who Will Win: Matthew McConaughey – The Academy has a tough choice between a performance of the decade, and a performance for all time. Voters seem to have tended toward the former, making McConaughey the easy favorite. His charming campaign season and across-the-board wins at various Guild awards and the Golden Globes all but chains him to a podium at the Dolby Theatre.

Who Should Win: Michael B. Jordan – There are enough snubs in this category to have a full B-side: Idris Elba in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Robert freakin’ Redford in All is Lost, Joaquin Phoenix in Her, the late James Gandolfini in Enough Said. But the one whose absence hurts the most is Michael B. Jordan in Fruitvale Station. A star-making turn if ever there was one, Jordan was an early favorite that couldn’t manage to stay in the selectively Alzheimer’s-ridden memories of voters. It makes Christian Bale’s inclusion here a sick, unfunny joke.

The Dark Horse Bet: Leonardo DiCaprio – Finally making DiCaprio an Oscar bride after all this years would be a great move for the Oscars from a production standpoint. The guy’s fan base is chock full of audiences the Academy Awards haven’t seen in a generation, and it would be hard to blame them for going for this easy sell.


Actress (in a Leading Role)

Amy Adams – American Hustle

Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine

Sandra Bullock – Gravity

Judi Dench – Philomena

Meryl Streep – August: Osage County

Who Will Win: Cate Blanchett – No other performance has been able to dethrone Blanchett from her early buzz. Woody Allen’s women characters have trended away from just Oscar nominations recently, and Blanchett balances on a thin line of timely upper-class victim and classic aging debutant. 

Who Should Win: Judi Dench – Subtlety is for the boys this year, it seems. As most acting nominations have gone to the more theatrical, tear-stricken female performances. Dench’s Philomena is the outlier in this equation, a soft-spoken but loudly-felt victim of long-term abuse by the Catholic Church. It’s a quiet earthquake of a role that could only be brought to life by a veteran’s class of actors, and Dench once again proves herself to be at the top of that pack.

The Dark Horse Bet: Judi Dench – There is a chance that Woody Allen’s recent time in the news could affect more than the director’s chances at the Screenplay category. If the Academy is that fickle (Jessica Chastain losing to a CIA scandal comes to mind), expect Dench to finally get a Leading Actress statue.



American Hustle – David O. Russell

Gravity – Alfonso Cuarón

Nebraska – Alexander Payne

12 Years a Slave – Steve McQueen

The Wolf of Wall Street – Martin Scorsese

Who Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón – With Gravity, Cuarón has managed an impressive act of cinematic sleight of hand. While most of his team’s general methods for simulating movement in space were revealed even before the film’s blu-ray release, their seams are so well hidden in the actual movie that it fooled the most veteran of producers. That alone will push Cuarón over the top.

Who Should Win: Alfonso Cuarón – There are times in which junk food spectacle must be rewarded. The mastery of the craft Cuarón aptly displayed in Children of Men has been honed to a razor edge with Gravity. Even if you found the archetypal story to be flimsy, it is impossible to watch this movie and not be stunned into submission at the filmmaking prowess on display.

The Dark Horse Bet: Anyone but Alfonso Cuarón – Take your pick.


Best Picture

American Hustle – Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison, and Jonathan Gordon, Producers

Captain Phillips – Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca, Producers

Dallas Buyers Club – Robbie Brenner and Rachel Winter, Producers

Gravity – Alfonso Cuarón and David Heyman, Producers

Her – Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze and Vincent Landay, Producers

Nebraska – Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa, Producers

Philomena – Gabrielle Tana, Steve Coogan and Tracey Seaward, Producers

12 Years a Slave – Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen and Anthony Katagas, Producers

The Wolf of Wall Street – Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joey McFarland and Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Producers

Who Will Win: 12 Years a Slave – The fervor over American Hustle has died down since the Golden Globes, but not enough to completely reduce this to a two movie race. It’s by a thin margin that 12 Years a Slave and Gravity still lead the pack. Most of the last minute favor is trending to Gravity, but again I’m going to take the risk and give this to 12 Years. Such predictions have bitten me back in the past (I still think Lincoln should have taken it), but 12 Years’ unflinching depiction of such an important and rarely addressed subject should edge it out. 

Who Should Win: 12 Years a Slave – There have been a lot of good movies this year, many great ones. But 12 Years a Slave remains 2013’s sole films to be on the path to legendary. Recall how Tarantino and company were lauded for merely addressing slavery at all during Django Unchained’s run-time. Steve McQueen and his team took a bold risk and a big budget to tackle the darkest sin of the United States, and did so with a fervent and bloody passion. Future films will likely surpass on the breadth of the issue of slavery, but they would never have had the chance if 12 Years a Slave didn’t take the first step. 

The Dark Horse Bet: Dallas Buyers Club – The race between the leading three contenders leaves little room for a surprise, but Dallas Buyers Club is the thoroughbred in this litter of probabilities.