Betting on Oscar 

Our reviewers predict who wins this year’s Academy Awards

Earlier this week AOL announced the end of Moviefone, the instantly recognizable voice of film times for an entire generation of theatergoers. While that unfortunate passing helps prove just how much the movie business continues to evolve, film fanatics can take some solace in the fact that at least one part of the industry—the Oscars—remains stubbornly and star-studdedly the same.

Sunday night’s Academy Awards broadcast will provide the usual gaudy, overwrought and long winded—at least until the cut-off music—celebration of Hollywood’s best. It’s pop culture’s Super Bowl and, much like a sporting event, it provides ample opportunity to develop rooting interests in underdogs, bad boys, sentimental favorites and overdue legends. To prepare for this year’s spectacle, we asked three of our film reviewers to predict winners in the night’s major categories. May the best movie buff win.

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  • Pick me!

Best Picture

ML: 12 Years a Slave

I hope people recognize that this isn’t just a token vote for the most important or “necessary” film of the year. Beyond the subject matter, 12 Years a Slave features some of the very best acting, an eerie soundtrack, haunting visuals and a jarring narrative.

SB: Gravity

Like Forrest Gump beating Pulp Fiction in 1994, Crash edging Brokeback Mountain in 2006 and Titanic over, well, anything in 1997, the Academy has a tendency to put box office numbers ahead of artistic risk.

MP: 12 Years a Slave

Frankly, I’m going to chalk this one up to the fact that Academy members love to have their noses rubbed in historical trauma. Slavery, the Holocaust and genocide are always big winners on Oscar night.


Best Actor in a Leading Role

ML: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

The competition in this category is fierce, and if there are any surprises on Oscar night I think they’re going to happen in the major acting categories. This is McConaughey’s year, but I’d be just as happy if Leonardo DiCaprio or Chiwetel Ejiofor pulled an upset.

SB: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street

McConaughey should win, but it feels like the Academy will finally reward one of its brightest young stars with his first statue.

MP: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

Like the interwebs, I’d love to see Screaming Leo D. go home with the little gold statue, but his character in Wolf of Wall Street, though fun, had nowhere to go. McConaughey’s got it over Bruce Dern because his frailty is feigned and nuanced, whereas Dern really is old and meandering. That is not acting, that is just Bruce Dern.


Best Actress in a Leading Role

ML: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

It’s Blanchett’s award to lose. If Amy Adams takes it instead, I hope she thinks to thank the costume designers on American Hustle for her many plunging necklines—the real star of the show.

SB: Judi Dench, Philomena

Has anyone seen this movie? It’s great, in large part because of Dench’s moving performance. She’s also my pick because I’m the only person—Woody Allen controversies aside—who didn’t love Blue Jasmine.

MP: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

The wild card is whether Allen’s alleged grossness (and factual lecherousness, let’s be real) will scare voters away. I doubt it will.


Best Actor in a Supporting Role

ML: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Leto’s flawless performance as contrasted with his glib attitude at the Golden Globes (and pretty face) seems like good evidence to me that acting must not be that hard.

SB: Bradley Cooper, American Hustle

But wouldn’t it be funny if two-time nominee Jonah Hill won?

MP: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Straight up deserves it ahead of anyone else nominated. All other nominees are fairly one-note.


Best Actress in a Supporting Role

ML: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

There might be room for some competition in this category, but momentum for Nyong’o has been building since the BAFTAs and I think she’s going to take it.

SB: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

I had to look up BAFTA. Molly is just showing off with a British Academy of Film and Television Arts reference.

MP: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle

Duh.


Best Animated Feature Film

ML: Frozen

I dislike children’s movies and haven’t seen any of the nominees; I’m just repeating what I’ve overheard.

SB: Frozen

Speaking as a parent who has been forced to listen to this soundtrack more than any sane person should, I’d like to address the utter travesty of undermining Idina Menzel’s original version of “Let It Go” by releasing Demi Lovato’s cheap cover as the radio single. I call bullshit and demand … wait, where are you going?

MP: Frozen

People love this damn thing. And really, Despicable Me 2 aside, the others just don’t stand a chance to the bandwagon.


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  • No, pick me!

Best Director

ML: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

I assumed early on Steve McQueen would win, but it’s been decided: 12 Years a Slave takes Best Picture, and we’re celebrating the technical masterpiece that is Gravity by honoring its director.

SB: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

If you haven’t seen it online yet, check out the short film Aningaaq, directed by Cuaron’s son. It fills in a key part of this film.

MP: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

You can’t even refer to this as a movie anymore. It’s a spectacle, or an achievement. Plus, the man spent four years doing this thing. They’ll throw him a bone.


Best Documentary Feature

ML: The Act of Killing

Josh Oppenheimer’s documentary is unequivocally the best film I’ve seen all year. It will challenge your ideas of what it means to be human with unforgettable characters and images. I can’t say enough good things about it and I’ll be devastated if it doesn’t win.

SB: The Act of Killing

What they said.

MP: The Act of Killing

Indonesian death squad perpetrators reenact killings in various cinematic genres. Say that out loud to yourself, then ask yourself how it won’t win.


Best Foreign Language Film

ML: The Great Beauty

I haven’t seen any of the nominees, and I know I was critical of Blue is the Warmest Color, but I find myself offended on behalf of lesbians the world over that it wasn’t nominated anyway.

SB: Broken Circle Breakdown

I’m a sucker for Belgian bluegrass. Plus, it screened at the Roxy.

MP: Omar

The Academy enjoys showing how chic and hip they are, particularly when it comes to being cool about Islamic and Arabic tensions. Throw in some espionage, a love story and boom goes the Oscar.


Best Acceptance Speech

ML: Hopefully Spike Jonze takes Best Original Screenplay and livens up the broadcast a bit with some antics, but he’ll probably just be cute and nervous in a tux like everybody else. Still.

SB: Did you know Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa is nominated? If it wins for Best Makeup and Hairstyling (key point: American Hustle was somehow snubbed in this category), you could see Johnny Knoxville—Johnny Knoxville—on the Oscar stage.

MP: Jennifer Lawrence will be just the right amount of goofy and endearing, mixed with a down-to-earth guffaw, adding to a charm that—if she’s not careful—will get tiresome soon. Or she’ll just flat-out fall over again.


Best Display on the Red Carpet

ML: Um, duh. Jennifer Lawrence.

SB: Aside from the stunning Nyong’o, it’ll be McConaughey who pours on the charm and stoner charisma while towering over Ryan Seacrest.

MP: The bromance that has bloomed between Leo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill. I think both men wish they could somehow assimilate a small part of the other.

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