Oscars 2014 Nominations Predictions

Ellen DeGeneres, Oscars 2014

One week from today, Jan. 16, the nominations for the 86th Annual Academy Awards will be announced. In a year as crowded as this one (even George Clooney admits that he's never seen a year quite like this), we could see multiple movies with equal numbers of huge nominations. 

This is quite different from last year's Oscars, where following precursor awards such as the Golden Globes, the SAG awards, the Producer's Guild Awards, the Director's Guild Awards and the BAFTAs, some clear frontrunners emerged well before Oscars Sunday (ahem, Anne Hathaway for Best Supporting Actress and Daniel Day Lewis for Best Actor). Last year also was a year of shocking snubs: no Best Director for Ben Affleck, who won at the Globes and the DGAs for his film Argo, and ditto for Tom Hooper (Les Miserables) and Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty, both of which were wracking up the noms in the weeks prior.

How will this year fare? Will everybody get a little love, or will one film swoop in and nab the biggest awards despite the strong competition? While the Oscars are never completely predictable, and some years are certainly more predictable than others, I've tried to narrow down the biggest awards and the most likely names you'll see announced come next Thursday. Once the nominees are announced, be sure to check back here for a reaction to the nominations and a list of winner predictions!

Best Picture

The last two years the Academy has nominated nine films in its Best Picture category and I don't anticipate this year being any different. American Hustle, 12 Years a Slave, and Gravity are shoe-ins with key Globe, SAG, and BAFTA nominations. The remaining slots will likely go to Her, The Wolf of Wall Street (despite it's divisive nature, it's hard to imagine it won't garner the necessary 5 percent to be nominated), Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, Captain Phillips, and Dallas Buyers Club. If there are remaining slots to be filled, which is always possible given the intense competition, my money is between Philomena, Saving Mr. Banks, and Rush, all of which have a few big nominations going for them, but not nearly as many as their peers.

Best Director

Also known as the predictably unpredictable category, Best Director caused some big waves last year. Despite being nominated for Director's Guild Awards, Ben Affleck (Argo) Tom Hooper (Les Miserables), and Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) all failed to receive nods from the Academy. As a matter of fact, only two directors nominated at the DGAs went on to be nominated at the Oscars: Steven Spielberg (Lincoln) and Ang Lee for Life of Pi, which he won the Oscar for. This year the DGAs nominated Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity), Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips), Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street) and David O. Russell (American Hustle). This could be the year that the DGAs line up perfectly with the Academy voters, but thanks to Ben Affleck, I wouldn't bet my paycheck on it. Look for locks with McQueen, Cuaron, and Russell. The fight for the remaining two slots in the category is a tough one, but my guess is it will come down to three: Spike Jonze (Her), Alexander Payne (Nebraska) and Joel and Ethan Coen for Inside Llewyn Davis. However, look for plenty of snubs in this category!

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Again, here we have an incredibly overcrowded race. Leonard DiCaprio is now famous for always being a bridesmaid and never the bride at the Oscars, and unfortunately for him, I think this year will be no different. All of the incredible actors who have a shot (Robert Redford, Tom Hanks, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Joaquin Phoenix, Bruce Dern, Christian Bale, Matthew McConaughey, etc.) could have easily been the no-contest winners in other years, but will probably walk away empty handed this year. However, if there ever was a lock, it'd be Bruce Dern (Nebraska) who has already won Best Actor in key critics' awards and been nominated in all the key precursor awards. That being said, the other aforementioned gentlemen have not fared too poorly either, with Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), Hanks (Captain Phillips), and McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) all receiving nominations from SAG and the Golden Globes. I'm going to go out on a limb here and give the remaining spot to poor Leo, but it really could be anyone's guess (I'm sensing a theme, here).

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Last year it was the Best Supporting Actor category that had the prestige of being the first time all nominees in a category had already won in said category. This year, it's looking like the Best Actress category could follow suit so long as Amy Adams (American Hustle) doesn't veer in and steal someone's spot (I'm thinking Meryl's or Judi's). If that doesn't happen, it will be Meryl Streep (August: Osage County), Judi Dench (Philomena), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Sandra Bullock (Gravity) and Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks). If it does happen, and she were to win, it would be the first time in Academy history that Best Actress has gone to two actresses who worked with the same director two years in a row. (Last year it was Jennifer Lawrence for David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Here is where things start to get a little bit more clear; however, this category is also known for its shocks and surprises. I would be hardpressed to find anyone who thinks Jared Leto won't be nominated for his work in Dallas Buyers Club. I would also be stunned if Michael Fassbender was not on the list for 12 Years a Slave. The remaining three spots are probably going to go to Daniel Bruhl (Rush), newcomer Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips) and Bradley Cooper (American Hustle).

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Best Supporting Actress gets easier still, with Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle) and Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)  basically guaranteed slots. June Squibb (Nebraska), Julia Roberts (August: Osage County) and Oprah Winfrey (Lee Daniels' The Butler) seem to be sitting pretty in the race as well. There's been buzz about Scarlett Johansson's voice-only role in Her, which is a long shot, but the near-constant buzz on the topic makes you wonder.

Best Original Screenplay

They might as well name this category after Woody Allen, who's been nominated 15 times and won 3 (the most of any one ever). Just for that alone, I predict Allen to be nominated for Blue Jasmine. Joel and Ethan Coen have also been in this category before, so expect to see their names for Inside Llewyn Davis here as well. David O. Russell/Eric Singer (American Hustle) and Spike Jonze (Her) seem like good bets, too. The remaining nod will be a toss up between Craig Borten/Melisa Wallack (Dallas Buyers Club) and Bob Nelson (Nebraska) but I'm not-so-secretly holding out for a spot for Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith for Saving Mr. Banks.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Finally, a breather category. The following five films should all get nominated, maybe minus one at worst. Expect to see John Ridley (12 Years a Slave), Terence Winter (The Wolf of Wall Street), Bill Ray (Captain Phillips), Tracy Letts (August: Osage County) and Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke & Richard Linklater for Before Midnight. My guess on a replacement? Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope for Philomena

Best Animated Feature

This category, sadly, is also a bit of a breather category. Not very many outstanding animated films were released this year, at least compared to the last few years. Although I personally loved Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, the Academy more than likely won't show love to the Sony Pictures Animation flick. The love will most likely be saved for Disney and Disney-owned Pixar, which means you can expect to see Frozen, The Wind Rises, and Monsters University up there. Despicable Me 2 should pick up the rear, and from there it's anyone's guess between The Croods and Epic, which are both doubtful at best to win anything.

Official Plot Synopsis

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