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2014 Oscars: Predicting the race for Best Picture

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Welcome to Oscar week 2014. The 86th Academy Awards, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, are this Sunday and it's time to break down and analyze just who or what is going to be walking off the stage with an Oscar. If you follow my website, you will know that I've been tabulating all of the minor and lead-up award winners in all of the Oscar categories since last November on my 2014 Awards Tracker. To put it in educational terms to match this website's theme, those numbers have been by "data analysis" to predicting just what films are going to win. It's time to make my formal predictions. In this seventh and final post, we have come to the big finish. Here is my breakdown for the race for Best Picture. This is the big one and the cherry on top for my prediction series. Stick with me and I will win you your Oscar pool. Let's go!

BEST MOTION PICTURE OF THE YEAR

The nominees: "American Hustle." "Captain Phillips," "Dallas Buyers Club," "Gravity," "Her," "Nebraska," "Philomena," "12 Years a Slave," "The Wolf of Wall Street"

AWARDS TRACKER (number of prior award wins in this category):

25- "12 Years a Slave," 7- "Gravity," 7- "Her," 3- "Inside Llewyn Davis," 1- "American Hustle," 1- "Fruitvale Station," 1- "Blue is the Warmest Colour," 1- "Star Trek Into Darkness"

Who was snubbed: Let me start the annual rant right here. I hate and despise that the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences expanded the Best Picture field from a firm five nominees like every other category to a flexible field that can expand up to ten films, depending on votes. That expansion weakens the award's importance, anoints false contenders, and waters down the race. This is supposed to be the "best of the best," not "all the ones people want to see and talk about." If the Oscar TV ratings were low because no popular movies made the Best Picture race it should be a challenge to make better movies not a moment to lower the bar for anyone to get in for ratings sake. Therefore, I don't think there's a need to even bring up snubs. There are too many movies in this category in the first place. I'm sure you can chirp about "Fruitvale Station," "Inside Llewyn Davis," or "Saving Mr. Banks" on some level, but then you sound like the sub-.500 record bubble team that complains about not making the 64-slot NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament or the old BCS college football rankings. You sound weak. Play better and make the field outright.

Happy to be there- AKA "The First Cut": Each year in my Oscar predictions for Best Picture, I finish off that rant by trimming the fat of the extra movies that don't belong in an expanded field. There's no reason for more than five nominees. Look at the total nominations and other nominees in the major categories and you will see the true frontrunners. By that rationale, to trim four names from these nine, "Nebraska," "Philomena," "Captain Phillips," and "Dallas Buyers Club" would have to go. Sorry, but they aren't the five true juggernauts for Best Picture. The cut that breaks my heart is "Dallas Buyers Club." It has six total nominations, which is higher than two of my upcoming finalists ("Her" and "The Wolf of Wall Street," but it hasn't won any prior Best Picture awards on the Awards Tracker. Also, the lack of a Best Director nomination for Jean Marc-Vallee hurts its stance, as well as no technical or artistic backup that you see for films like "Gravity" and "12 Years a Slave." "Her" has only four nominations, but it has equal Best Picture award wins to "Gravity" which leapfrogs "Dallas Buyers Club." From a pedigree standpoint, which matters to Oscar voters, the Scorsese and DiCaprio clout of "The Wolf of Wall Street" is also greater than the indie feel of "Dallas Buyers Club."

The true finalists: "American Hustle," "Gravity," "Her," "12 Years a Slave," and "The Wolf of Wall Street"

Who should win and who will win: The final award of the night gets both the "should" and the "will." "12 Years a Slave" was, simply, the best film of the year. It was #1 on my "10 Best" list for a reason. It has outdistanced all of the nominees for total Best Picture wins for a reason. This is a groundbreaking and important film that deserves its placement in cinema history. Moreover, it's the right choice. Yes, for many who will be watching the show, it will be the proverbial "boring" pick, but I bet those Twitter troll-types haven't seen Steve McQueen's masterpiece film. Those other flashier nominees populated by red carpet stars like "Gravity" and "American Hustle" can't hold a candle to the quality and message of "12 Years a Slave." Mark it down now. If you've been keeping score, I have a shutout rolling for "American Hustle." It will lose here and I think Jennifer Lawrence is it's only shot, in a win I'm not predicting. It's not always the case, but the Best Picture Oscar winner should be the most important film from the past year. No other film matches that honor more than "12 Years a Slave." I think it weathers the pressure of a "Gravity" or "American Hustle" upset bid and stands alone at the end of the night.

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