So, the final predictions today for the big two, Best Director and Best Picture. Let's get to it:
- Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
- Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
- David O. Russell, American Hustle
- Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
- Alexander Payne, Nebraska
This looks pretty settled for Alfonso Cuaron. He's won virtually everything- the Golden Globe, Critics Choice, DGA and BAFTA awards for director. At this point it'd be very surprising to see him lose. The only possibility that I can see is if the Academy decides to go nuts for 12 Years a Slave and award it in Picture and Director. But if even McQueen's hometown BAFTA awards wouldn't choose him it's hard to see how the Academy does. Cuaron or McQueen would make history, becoming either the first Latino or the first black director to win this award.
Winner: Alfonso Cuaron
Alternate: Steve McQueen
Dark Horse: David O. Russell (for the movie third in line to win Best Picture, but unlikely to happen).
- 12 Years a Slave
- American Hustle
- Captain Phillips
- Dallas Buyers Club
- The Wolf of Wall Street
Well, this is it. Obviously, you know by now that the top prize of the night belongs to either 12 Years a Slave or Gravity, but the truth is I have no idea which one it's more likely to be. American Hustle is in third place and could be the spoiler, and even though that would be the biggest surprise, it shouldn't be counted out completely- it has the actors branch behind it and this is a genuine three-way race. With the rest of my predictions, I've chosen Gravity to win 6 Oscars, and Picture would be its 7th. Very few films win that many awards without winning the top prize, but sci-fi is a genre that has never been awarded by the Academy in that way. Winning the directing prize alone will be a victory for it in that sense. But it won the Producers Guild (in a tie) and the Directors Guild, a combination which has been historically all but unbeatable for Best Picture in the past.
As for 12 Years, I've tapped it to win two, and Picture would make three, but It may not even win that many (I'm taking a risk on costumes). The last film to win just Picture and Screenplay was 1952's The Greatest Show on Earth, so if it pulls that off it'd be in very rare company. But the importance and the social significance of the film may tip the scales in its favor. It's won the Golden Globe, Critics Choice, Producer's Guild (where it tied with Gravity) and the BAFTA for Best Picture, but Steve McQueen has won no major awards for Best Director, which is very unusual for a Best Picture frontrunner, and places it in a weaker position than would normally be the case.
At this point, whatever wins is going to be some kind of anomaly, because the precursors have been so split between these two films. And to make things even more difficult, for this category only, the Academy uses a preferential ballot- a system no other awards body uses (except for the PGA, where they tied) that tallies the votes according to how a movie is ranked from 1-9. That basically means that in a razor tight race like this one, what matters most is where voters who didn't place either film at #1, for example the American Hustle voters, placed it relation to each other. In other words, whatever movie can rack up the most #2 and #3 votes is the winner. So if the voters intended to deliberately split the difference and give Cuaron director and 12 Years a Slave picture, the way all the other awards groups have done, that might not happen here.
I think if it was a simple popular vote then 12 Years a Slave would narrowly win. But in my opinion, the preferential ballot gives Gravity the edge (or even American Hustle), because it's a less divisive and more broadly popular movie that can tally up those second and third place votes.
But that's just a guess. And since I have no particular insight into the minds of the voters and I believe it's an honest-to-god 50% chance for either movie, I'm going to just go ahead and say 12 Years a Slave, because the importance of the subject will outshine the sci-fi genre (even though it's not really sci-fi) for the top honor, even if it manages to win very little else on its way to Best Picture. Or maybe I'm just too chicken to predict Gravity, given the Academy's long history of ignoring other movies like it, despite the fact that I have this little voice in my head screaming at me that the PGA/DGA combination plus the preferential ballot points to that film winning. Just know that I'm very torn about this and wouldn't be surprised to hear either name called.
Winner: 12 Years a Slave
Dark Horse: American Hustle
My Choice: Well, if I was voting it'd be Gravity. You know that Gravity was my favorite film of the year, and American Hustle was on my top ten as well, so I'd be happy to see either of those win. But I honestly wouldn't mind seeing 12 Years a Slave win either- it's a very good movie and so many people feel so passionately about it that I can't take anything away from it, even if it wasn't my personal favorite of last year (it would have made my top 20). Still, whatever wins I'll be fine with, because all three movies are a whole lot better than the last few winners for Best Picture (Argo, The King's Speech, The Artist), at least in my opinion. So, for one of the closest Oscar races in years, I'll be tuning in Sunday night excited to hear which name is called out on that envelope (and crossing my fingers to have gotten most of these predictions right as well). Don't forget to come back Sunday for my recap of the show, along with the full list of the night's winners!