This coming Sunday ushers in the 86th Annual Academy Awards in which the Association of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences will honor the best in film the coveted Oscar statues for the 2013 calendar year .
Here is a summary of all the nominees and The Movie Awards Examiner's predicted winners:
Nominees for Best Actor are Christian Bale for "American Hustle," Chiwetel Ejiofor for "12 Years a Slave," Matthew McConaughey in "Dallas Buyers Club," Bruce Dern for "Nebraska" and Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Wolf of Wall Street." All the actors in this category brought unique characters to the screen in 2013, but the lead on favorite to win the Best Actor Oscar is Matthew McConaughey for "Dallas Buyers Club."
Playing a newly diagnosed man with AIDS during the first days of the AIDS crisis, McConaughey's character Ron Woodruff takes matters into his own hands and learns more about his disease than most physicians during the same time. In this true story, Woodruff turned a one-month life expectancy to an additional seven years and in turn it brought more meaning to his life than his life before his life was turned upside down.
Nominees for Best Actress are Amy Adams for "American Hustle," Meryl Streep for "August: Osage County," Cate Blanchett for "Blue Jasmine," Sandra Bullock for "Gravity" and Judi Dench for "Philomena." This category is also a clear choice. Cate Blanchett has won the Golden Globe Award, the SAG Award and just recently the BAFTA Award for her magnificent performance in Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine."
Cate plays a complex character of a woman of privilege that loses more than just all her money when her husband is arrested for scamming investors on Wall Street in "Blue Jasmine." She ends up living with a sister that is the only one left in her life that still supports her and even as promise comes to rescue Jasmine, her own personality deficiencies just may ruin her completely. It's a multi-layered performance and Cate Blanchett's best performance to date.
Best Supporting Actress:
Nominees for Best Supporting Actress are Jennifer Lawrence for "American Hustle," Sally Hawkins for "Blue Jasmine," Lupito Nyong'o for "12 Years a Slave," Julia Roberts for "August: Osage County" and June Squibb for "Nebraska." This category is not so clear cut. Jennifer Lawrence won the Golden Globe Award and the BAFTA Award. Newcomer Lupito Nyong'o won the SAG Award. I think that with "12 Years a Slave" being a bit stronger of a film for Best Picture that Lupito will be victorious and win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
Best Supporting Actor:
Nominees for Best Supporting Actor are Barkhad Abdi for "Captain Phillips," Bradley Cooper for "American Hustle," Michael Fassbender for "12 Years a Slave," Jonah Hill for "The Wolf of Wall Street" and Jared Leto for "Dallas Buyers Club." Although Barkhad Abdi had an amazing first screen performance in "Captain Phillips" and won the BAFTA Award just recently for Best Supporting Actor, he is not the front-runner for the Oscar. On this side of the pond Jared Leto has won the Golden Globe and SAG Award for his portrayal of Rayon in "Dallas Buyers Club." Add in the fact that Leto was not even nominated for the BAFTA Award, it is a pretty safe bet that Leto will be winning his first Oscar this coming Sunday.
The winner of the Directors Guild Awards almost always wins the Oscar for Best Director. So, for the year 2013 the DGA winner Alfonso Cuarón for "Gravity" is the smartest prediction. But there are other reasons that Cuarón will most assuredly receive gold on Sunday. First "Gravity" was one of the most highest grossing films in the year, which the director was not expecting for this film and it was definitely was the most watched of all the Oscar contenders. Also, many of the film techniques used to create a space-like look on screen were techniques developed during the shooting of "Gravity" and makes this film ground-breaking in this aspect.
This may be the biggest contest of the night. "Gravity" would definitely get the Oscar if it was awarded for most popular film, but an Oscar goes to the best and it is most likely that Academy voters will give vote the slave saga "12 Years a Slave" as Best Picture as its story is of a much more serious nature.
This seems like a small award, but the winner of Best Editor is almost always the winner for Best Picture. This year, though, it is most likely to be awarded to "Gravity" as a perfect edit was incredibly important to believability of the picture. So, this may be one of those years when the Editor award is not matched with Best Picture.
Here is another category in which "Gravity" has a huge advantage. Emmanuel Lubezki's photography is second to none and he has been winning awards all season long. Watch for "Gravity" to add cinematography to its list of wins.
Best Original Screenplay:
Many are predicting that Spike Jonze's deftly written screenplay for "Her" is most likely to win here. He was the winner at the Writers Guild and he is a very popular with actors to boot - which never hurts when it comes to getting votes. But don't count out David O. Russell for his very imaginative turn with "American Hustle." As far as most predictions are coming out, if Russell doesn't win here, "American Hustle" could go home without any awards. Since this film tied with "Gravity" for most nominations, I am taking a risk by claiming victory for Russell for this award.
Best Adapted Screenplay:
The Writers Guild voted "Captain Phillips" as having the Best Adapted Screenplay, but with the strong possibility that "12 Years a Slave" is going to win Best Picture, watch for John Ridley to be going home with an Oscar for his splendid dialogue that runs throughout this incredible film.
Best Production Design:
Many filmgoers may not remember almost a year ago when "The Great Gatsby" was released, but this film boasted the most lavish sets of the entire year. Although the understated plantation grounds in "12 Years a Slave" were perfectly tuned to the story, when it comes to the art awards the more extravagant, the better.
Again, this category is most likely to go to "The Great Gatsby" with its sparkling flapper get-ups to the snazzy regalia worn by Leonardo DiCaprio - this is a sure bet.
Best Animated Feature:
Cinephiles are going to be rooting for Hayao Miyazaki's final film "The Wind Rises" for its poetic adult beauty, but it doesn't look like the mainstream Academy voters are going to vote for this film as much as the popular Disney film "Frozen."
Best Documentary Feature:
This award is going go to either the award-winning "The Art of Killing" or the incredibly popular "20 Feet From Stardom." With its more positive appeal, I think voters will opt for the later giving the beautiful film made by Morgan Neville the Oscar in this category.
Best Documentary Short Subject:
With the theme of music saving lives, watch for "The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life" to be honored here.
Best Foreign Language Film:
"The Great Beauty" won the Golden Globe in January and still has great potential to win the Oscar, but don't count out the incredible story telling of "The Broken Circle Breakdown." This film has been gaining momentum over the last few weeks and it is an amazing piece of filmmaking from beginning to end.
Hairstyle and Makeup:
It is unknown why "American Hustle" didn't get a nomination in this category. With its elaborate perms and come-over's it had possibility to win here, but with its absence it is most likely that "Dallas Buyers Club" will win here. Having just the right touch with both the makeup and hairstyling helped to tell the story of those inflicted with AIDS and brought believability to the main characters.
Best Original Score:
This is another category that is expected to go to Steve Price for his inventive musical score in "Gravity." Not only does the music complement the film, but it adds to the sound effects and in this way is an important change in the use of a musical score.
Best Original Song:
It is the song that best tells the story of a film that usually wins an Oscar for Best Original Song. And the best way to tell a song's impact is to think of each nominee without the component of its nominated song. Would the story still be the same and told as well? In this case, many think that "Frozen's" "Let it Go" will win, but I think that U2's love song to Nelson Mandela, "Ordinary Love" for "Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom" is the clear winner here.
Easy - "Gravity"
Watch for "Gravity" to walk away with these awards as well. But special notice should be given to "Inside Llewyn Davis." Remember the constant sound bites voiced by Anne Hathaway last year stating how remarkable it was that the songs in "Les Misérables" were sung on set? Well, the many songs in the Coen Brother's film "Llewyn Davis" were also sung on set. Although it will not win an Oscar here, it would be nice if it did, just for the filmmakers modesty and not boring us throughout award season.
Best Animated Short Film:
Just for its nostalgic vibe - "Get a Horse!" should win for bringing Mickey Mouse back to the screen in such a delightful way.
Best Live Action Short:
For its stunning visual effects and hopeful theme, the Oscar should go to "Helium."
The 86th Annual Academy Awards will be held on Sunday, March 2, 2014, and will be held at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center. The night will be hosted by Ellen DeGeneres live on ABC and will be televised in more than 225 countries worldwide.
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Whatever your movie choice this week, please remember your movie theater etiquette: silence your cell phones and no texting, please don't talk during the film and remove your children if they become a distraction to other audience members. Don't forget that laughing, crying and cheering are always approved behavior and even encouraged.
-Kay Shackleton is a film historian with special focus on Silent Films, see her work at SilentHollywood.com