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Academy Awards 2014: Predicting the nominees

Jared Leto ('Dallas Buyers Club') / Jennifer Lawrence ('American Hustle') / Cate Blanchett ('Blue Jasmine')
Jared Leto ('Dallas Buyers Club') / Jennifer Lawrence ('American Hustle') / Cate Blanchett ('Blue Jasmine')
Focus Features / Annapurna Pictures / Sony Picture Classics

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce its nominees for the 86th Academy Awards at 5:30am PST on Thursday, Jan. 16.

Until then, here are the predicted nominees for Oscars this year:

Best Visual Effects -------------

Who doesn't make the the cut: Ten films remain in the running for this award - but only five will receive nominations. 'World War Z' would be the film that just barely misses the cut.

Thoughts: This category has previously nominated 'The Hobbit,' 'Star Trek (2009)' and many Marvel movies. 'Pacific Rim' is too big to be snubbed. But the lock for a nomination is 'Gravity.'

Best Film Editing -------------

  • Captain Phillips
  • Gravity
  • Rush
  • 12 Years a Slave
  • The Wolf of Wall Street

Who doesn't make the the cut: 'American Hustle'

Thoughts: 'Gravity' and 'Rush' are the leaders of this pack -- their frantic pacing is a large component of what makes these two films work.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling -------------

Who doesn't make the the cut: Seven candidates remain in the hunt for this award - and only three will be nominated. 'Catching Fire' could be the one film that just barely misses the cut.

Thoughts: If this is the field, then the award will come down to two period pieces - the crazy hair/styling of the '70s in 'American Hustle' and the elaborate costumes of the Roaring Twenties in 'The Great Gatsby.'

Best Cinematography -------------

  • Inside Llewyn Davis
  • Gravity
  • Nebraska
  • 12 Years a Slave
  • All is Lost

Who doesn't make the the cut: 'Prisoners.'

Thoughts: The front runners are 'Llewyn Davis' and 'Gravity' -- but the black-and-white, stark film 'Nebraska' is just behind them.

Best Animated Feature -------------

Who doesn't make the the cut: There are 19 animated features that made this category's shortlist - and only 5 will receive nominations.

Thoughts: 'Frozen' is one of the most financially successful films of 2013 - and that goes a long way in this category. 'The Wind Rises' has flat out won Best Animated film honors all Award Season and been nominated in the Foreign Language category -- but the Animated Feature award has long, sad history of going to inferior films. This has a lot to do with name recognition. 'Monsters University' and 'Despicable Me 2' will make this category just to round out a few more recognizable animated movies.

Best Documentary – Feature -------------

Who doesn't make the cut: Fifteen films remain in the hunt for this award - but only five will be nominated. The only sure picks to receive nominations are 'Act of Killing,' 'Stories We Tell' and '20 Feet from Stardom' - the remaining two nomination slots is basically a pick'em.

Thoughts: This category will come down to 'The Act of Killing' or 'Stories We Tell.' Virtually all major Award Season wins for 'Best Documentary' have gone to either 'Killing' or 'Stories.' A win by another doc would be considered an upset -- although '20 Feet from Stardom' has received a number of Award Season nominations in this category.

Best Foreign Language Film -------------

Who doesn't make the cut: The major surprise in this category is the three films that have dominated the foreign language category ('Blue is the Warmest Color,' 'The Past' and 'Wadjda') did not even make this category's shortlist of nine movies. 'Blue' was ruled ineligible because it was released too late, while 'Past' and 'Wadjda' simply did not make the semifinalist cut. 'The Hunt,' 'The Grandmaster' and 'The Great Beauty' are the three most likely to receive nominations - the remaining two nominee slots are a pick 'em.

Thoughts: 'The Great Beauty' is a lock for a nomination -- mainly due to its upset win at the Golden Globes and the fact that its main foreign language competition will not be nominated. By process of elimination, that leaves 'The Great Beauty' as the de facto/presumptive winner of this category ... however, 'The Hunt' has received a number of Award Season nominations.

Best Adapted Screenplay -------------

Who doesn't make the cut: 'August: Osage County' is a Pulitzer Prize-winning stage play - but its film adaptation has received moderate to cool reviews.

Thoughts: '12 Years a Slave' would be the odd-on favorite in this field - but don't count out 'Before Midnight,' which has earned a number of Award Season wins and nominations in the screenplay categories. And the over-the-top comedy 'Wolf of Wall Street' could very well steal a win in this category.

Best Original Screenplay -------------

Who doesn't make the cut: 'Dallas Buyers Club' and 'Enough Said.'

Thoughts: Aside from the 'main' categories (acting/directing/picture), this may be the toughest to call.

Best Supporting Actress -------------

  • Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
  • Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
  • Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)
  • Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
  • June Squibb (Nebraska)

Who doesn't make the cut: Léa Seydoux (Blue Is the Warmest Color) and Oprah Winfrey (Lee Daniels’ The Butler).

Thoughts: Hawkins, Roberts and Squibb will have front-row seats to the Lawrence-Nyong'o rematch -- these two actresses have traded off wins for Supporting Actress all Award Season. But Squibb is best positioned for a steal if either J-Law or Nyong'o lose momentum.

Best Supporting Actor -------------

  • Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
  • Daniel Bruhl (Rush)
  • Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
  • James Gandolfini (Enough Said)
  • Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

Who doesn't make the cut: James Franco (Spring Breakers) - but just barely.

Thoughts: This is Jared Leto's award to lose - but don't count out the underdog Barkhad Abdi. And if Gandolfini does not receive a posthumous nomination, then don't be surprised if James Franco's outlandish performance in 'Spring Breakers' earns him a place on this list.

Best Actress -------------

  • Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
  • Amy Adams (American Hustle)
  • Brie Larson (Short Term 12)
  • Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)
  • Judi Dench (Philomena)

Who doesn't make the cut: Adèle Exarchopoulos (Blue Is the Warmest Color), Sandra Bullock (Gravity) and Meryl Streep (August: Osage County).

Thoughts: Cate Blanchett will win this award. That said, it would be nice to see Brie Larson receive a nomination for her incredible, emotionally raw performance in 'Short Term 12.' Adams and Thompson have earned their nominations with their numerous Award Season wins and nominations. Dench also deserves a nomination for her guilt-ridden/daft Irish woman in 'Philomena.'

Best Actor -------------

  • Christian Bale (American Hustle)
  • Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
  • Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
  • Robert Redford (All Is Lost)

Who doesn't make the cut: Golden Globe winner Leonardo Dicaprio - but it's a fairly regular occurrence for a Globe winner to be shut out of an Oscar nomination (recent examples: Kate Winslet, Colin Farrell & Paul Giamatti). The most vulnerable on this list is Redford, who will probably receive an Oscar nod for his body of work and his great performance in 'All is Lost.' But Joaquin Phoenix ('Her') and Oscar Issac ('Inside Llewyn Davis') are waiting on deck.

Thoughts: This is the toughest category in this year's Award Season. Anyone of these men has a rightful claim to the award.

Best Director -------------

  • Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)
  • David O. Russell (American Hustle)
  • Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity)
  • Joel & Ethan Coen (Inside Llewyn Davis)
  • Alexander Payne (Nebraska)

Who doesn't make the cut: Spike Jonze (Her) and Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips).

Thoughts: This battle for Best Director would likely be a battle between Cuaron and McQueen. The Coen Brothers and Payne failed to nab Best Director nominations from the Directors Guild Awards -- this does not usually bode well for their Oscar odds.

Best Picture -------------

Who doesn't make the cut: This year's list could easily do without 'The Wolf of Wall Street' - but this cautionary tale of excess is among the Award Season leaders in Best Film nominations (but no wins). 'Captain Phillips' and 'Philomena' are poised to pick off nominees who may not connect with the 'old man' Academy voting block - which leaves 'Her' and 'Dallas Buyers Club' vulnerable.

Thoughts: The only reason 'Saving Mr. Banks' will likely receive a Best Picture nod is because the Academy voting block is primarily old men (many of whom probably knew Walt Disney) who love movies about Hollywood (examples: 'The Artist,' 'Hugo' & 'Argo'). But if the Academy does the right thing and goes with a Best Picture field of eight movies (and does not nominate 'Mr. Banks'), then this Best Picture field will be tough. Although the Academy's rules made 'Blue is the Warmest Color' ineligible for the Foreign Language category, this French film is still eligible for the Best Picture category and find a place on this list, much like 'Amour' did last year.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce the nominees for the 2014 Oscars at 5:30am PST on January 16.

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