The question isn't who will be nominated for an Oscar this year, the question is who will get snubbed. Every year the announcement of the Academy Awards nominations comes with its fair share of WTF moments - Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow got left out of the Best Director race last year, and we still don't know what they were thinking - but typically there are only so many potential nominees in every category worth getting excited about. 2014 is the exception, with all the major categories seemingly flooded with potential, worthy nominees, so narrowing down who seems most likely to make the Oscar short list is really something of an ordeal. We're going to give it a go anyway in this, CraveOnline's 2014 Oscar Nomination Predictions.
We're taking a serious look at all four acting races, along with Best Picture, Best Director and Best Animated Feature, taking all the guild award nominations, critics and audience buzz, and Oscar history into account. (We're sticking to those categories because the technical categories are even trickier, for the most part, and the screenwriting categories are so packed that any predictions would be a crap shoot.) We could go on for pages about this, of course, but ultimately this really is just an exercise in gauging the impact of publicity and reading the Academy voters' collective minds, so we'll try not to bore you with minutia and stick to the bullet points: who we think has the best chance of getting nominated this year, who has the potential to spoil their Oscar season, and which long shots shouldn't be discounted yet, just in case.
How will CraveOnline's 2014 Oscar Nomination Predictions match up to the real thing? Find out when the Academy Award nominations are announced for real on Thursday, January 16, 2014.
The best way to describe this year’s Best Actor race is “crowded,” with at least a dozen worthy nominees vying for five open slots. Only two actors seem to have the traction necessary to be a lock: Bruce Dern for Nebraska, and Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave. The bravura final scene in Captain Phillips should be memorable enough to secure Tom Hanks the third slot, and his physical transformation in the inspirational Dallas Buyers Club is probably what Matthew McConaughey finally needed to be recognized by the Academy. They love that sort of thing.
That fifth slot is pretty much up for grabs, with the frequently snubbed Leonardo DiCaprio seeming like a possibility for The Wolf of Wall Street, Joaquin Phoenix likely to get another shot at Oscar gold for Her, Robert Redford possibly earning rare recognition for his acting in All is Lost, Christian Bale maybe getting extra credit for looking like a schlub in American Hustle, and Forest Whitaker potentially poised to take the sentimental vote for Lee Daniels’ The Butler. But we’re betting Oscar Isaac gets some love from the Academy for his impressive performance on and off the stage in Inside Llewyn Davis.
Longshots include Idris Elba for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and Michael B. Jordan for Fruitvale Station, but we’re secretly hoping the Academy thinks to recognize Miles Teller for his impressively complicated coming of age performance in The Spectacular Now.
There were more standout lead performances by an actress this year than any in recent memory, which crowds the field at the Oscars this year and probably guarantees that a worthy performer will get snubbed. The safest bets are certainly Cate Blanchett for her tragic and comical turn in Blue Jasmine, Sandra Bullock for her technically impressive (and nearly solo) turn in Gravity, and perennial nominee Judi Dench for Philomena.
Buzz hasn’t exactly swirled around the youngest potential nominees, who nevertheless look like potential spoilers. As a non-guild member, Adele Exarchopoulos has been shut out of most races leading up to the Oscars, but she may wow voters with her powerful performance in Blue is the Warmest Color. Greta Gerwig has the potential to snag a nod for the title role in Frances Ha, and Brie Larson has a lot of acclaim on her side for her leading performance in Short Term 12.
But those last two spots seem most likely to be reserved for Oscar legacies, either former nominees Berenice Bejo for The Past or Amy Adams for American Hustle, or – more likely – Meryl Streep for August: Osage County and Emma Thompson for Saving Mr. Banks.
Still, we hold out hope that the Academy will finally recognize Julie Delpy for Before Midnight, her most complicated performance yet in the motion picture trilogy that has impressed the Academy before, albeit in the screenwriting category.
Best Supporting Actor
Another crowded category (are you sensing a pattern here?), Best Supporting Actor nevertheless has fewer obvious nominees than the other major categories, with only Michael Fassbender and Jared Leto seeming like safe bets for 12 Years a Slave and Dallas Buyers Club, respectively.
Those other nominations could go to a number of worthy, heavily buzzed contenders, including Tom Hanks for Saving Mr. Banks, Will Forte for Nebraska, Jonah Hill for The Wolf of Wall Street, Bradley Cooper for American Hustle, Matthew McConaughey for Mud, and even an acclaimed (though hardly Oscar-friendly) performance by James Franco in Spring Breakers.
Still, we’re predicting those final three slots are going to be filled by Barkhad Abdi for Captain Phillips, Daniel Bruhl for the racing drama Rush, and James Gandolfini, earning a posthumous nomination for his gentle performance in the romantic indie Enough Said.
The long shots look like long shots to us, but there’s still potential for Chris Cooper to sneak into the race for August: Osage County, George Clooney to get a little love for his short appearance in Gravity, David Oyelow or any of the prominent presidential cameos to get recognition for Lee Daniels’ The Butler, or even – and we never thought we’d say this – Andrew Dice Clay, who impressed critics and audiences alike with a sweet, sadsack turn in Blue Jasmine.
Best Supporting Actress
Unlike the other acting categories, Best Supporting Actress is crowded but seems to have four “sure things” lined up already: Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle, Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave, June Squibb for Nebraska and Oprah Winfrey for Lee Daniels’ The Butler.
Unless there’s a huge shakeup, a number of worthy contenders are all vying for a single position on the ballot, including Sally Hawkins for Blue Jasmine, Octavia Spencer for Fruitvale Station, Naomie Harris for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and even Margot Robbie for The Wolf of Wall Street.
We’re publicly hoping that Lea Seydoux impresses the Academy with her incredible performance in Blue is the Warmest Color, but that final nomination actually seems most likely to go to Julia Roberts in August: Osage County, for a performance that – admittedly – is quite probably the best she’s ever given.
Best Animated Feature
Decidedly less than crowded is the field for Best Animated Feature, with Disney poised to dominate the category with three nominations for Frozen, Monsters University and The Wind Rises, the reportedly last film from previous Oscar-winner Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away).
Vying for those last two slots are a whole slew of family-friendly blockbusters and would-be blockbusters, including Epic, The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, Turbo and Walking with Dinosaurs. Half of those were non-starters for audiences and critics alike, leaving only Despicable Me 2 and The Croods feeling like real contenders, but given the Academy’s relative reluctance to nominate sequels in this category, we’re betting The Croods has a better shot.
That final nomination could go to Despicable Me 2, but the Academy is often willing to skew independent in the Best Animated Feature category, meaning the magical Ernest & Celestine has a real opportunity to turn heads by earning a nod based on quality alone. How novel!
The impressive range of serious Best Picture contenders makes predicting the Best Director nominations harder than usual this year, but the films that seem most likely to earn a nomination for the top category will probably make an appearance here as well. So put some money on Alfonso Cuaron to be nominated for Gravity, Paul Greengrass to earn his second career nomination for Captain Phillips, Steve McQueen to join the still embarrassingly short list of Oscar-nominated directors of color for 12 Years a Slave, and David O. Russell to earn his third consecutive Best Director nomination for the popular dramedy American Hustle.
Again, predicting who will pop up in the final slot is tricky, with Woody Allen earning raves for Blue Jasmine, Spike Jonze directing the critically-acclaimed Her, Lee Daniels wooing the softer side of the Academy with Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Jean-Marc Vallee directing the popular message movie Dallas Buyers Club, Alexander Payne once again impressing voters with Nebraska, Richard Linklater practically becoming beloved for Before Midnight, and The Coen Bros. once again working their magic with Inside Llewyn Davis.
We hope the Academy dares to recognize Harmony Korine for the scuzz masterpiece Spring Breakers (or the equally unlikely Abdellatif Kechiche for the phenomenal Blue is the Warmest Color), but we're betting more than anything else that the showstopping work of Martin Scorsese in The Wolf of Wall Street earns him a nomination for its glossier depiction of horrifying American hedonism.
The Oscars can nominate anywhere from five to ten films for Best Picture, but we're going to hedge our bets and pick ten anyway. This year just has so many serious contenders, from feel-good message flicks to feel-bad message flicks, from disturbing dramas to light comedies, from period pieces to contemporary tales of woe in America.
American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Gravity, Nebraska and 12 Years a Slave all seem like sure things to us. Lee Daniels' The Butler has lost a lot of steam over the past few months, but we're betting it can eke out a nomination from the older Academy members. Dallas Buyers Club is hardly a guarantee, but the performances are likely to be honored and the subject matter is timely.
Those final three slots, if they go to anything, could go to Before Midnight, Inside Llewyn Davis, or (we hope) Blue is the Warmest Color. We're betting the unexpectedly genuine romance of Her will woo the voters, however, along with Woody Allen's contemporary update of A Streetcar Named Desire, Blue Jasmine.
That final position (again, if it goes to anyone), could go to The Wolf of Wall Street, but it's a controversial film that's dividing audiences across the board. We're betting the Academy skews safer with the historically inaccurate but feel-good love letter to Hollywood Saving Mr. Banks instead.