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For Your Consideration: Predicting the 2014 Academy Awards

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In just a few short days, Hollywood will (mostly) put all of the lobbying and horse-trading behind them and honor the best movies of the prior year. Actually, they'll honor the best movies that had the best marketing campaigns and threw the best parties with the most awesome swag, but that's a discussion for another day. This year we're basically looking at a three film race to clean up practically everything: American Hustle, Gravity, and 12 Years A Slave. They've cleaned up on the overlong awards drive leading up to this point, and there's little reason to think that will end now. A few surprises could bubble up in the acting categories, though, thanks to Matthew McConaughey who seems especially tough to keep down. The same can't be said for Robert Redford, Emma Thompson, or Tom Hanks, who were expected to be contenders but couldn't quite cross the finish line.

Enough jabbering. Here are my picks for who will win, the dark horse, who should win, and in some cases what was criminally left out of the discussion. Feel free to come back here when all is said and done to mock my wild misfires, of which there usually many.

Best Picture

Well, here's where everything will come to a head. A few weeks ago one would have said this was Gravity or 12 Years a Slave's award to win, but the late release of American Hustle was a brilliant bit of chess. Ignore those other six movies on the list; they're only here to bump up Blu-Ray sales. The popular theory is that 12 Years a Slave will win here, with Alfonso Cuaron getting his due in the Best Director category. But I say screw that; Cuaron takes both in a shocker.

Who Will Win: Gravity

Who Should Win: 12 Years A Slave

The Dark Horse: American Hustle

Shoulda Been a Contender: Short Term 12

Best Director

What Steve McQueen was able to accomplish with 12 Years a Slave is truly extraordinary, but nothing compares to the groundbreaking technical achievements of Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity. And let's face it, most people would rather feel like they're in space than at the end of Michael Fassbender's whip. Regardless of who takes it they'll be making history, either as the first African-American or Latino Best Director winner. Again, the only other nominee with any glimmer of hope is David O. Russell for American Hustle, but that was more of an actors' showcase.

Who Will and Should Win: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

The Dark Horse: David O. Russell, American Hustle

Shoulda Been a Contender: Spike Jonze, Her

Best Actor

Wow, no other category is quite as competitive as the Best Actor field, so much so that Tom Hanks, Robert Redford, Joaquin Phoenix, Michael B. Jordan and Oscar Isaac couldn't get in despite many finding them deserving. A few months ago this seemed like a shoe-in for Chiwetel Ejiofor's powerful turn in 12 Years a Slave, but after a string of victories it's looking like Matthew McConaughey may have the edge for Dallas Buyers Club. Matthew McConaughey, Oscar-winner. Yeah, wrap your head around that one. Still, I think Ejiofor edges him out, but just barely. A lot of love out there for Bruce Dern and Nebraska but a long career does not a great actor make, in my opinion. Christian Bale's hair and gut were impressive, but American Hustle belonged to the ladies. Leonardo DiCaprio dropped a ton of F-Bombs in what I think was his finest performance in a string of great ones, and any other year he would easily take it.

Who Will and Should Win: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave

The Dark Horse: Bruce Dern, Nebraska

Shoulda Been a Contender: Robert Redford, All is Lost

Best Actress

Probably by default or something, Cate Blanchett seems to be the favorite here for her vastly overrated, modulation-free performance in Blue Jasmine. Despite the presence of Meryl Streep in the mediocre August: Osage County, the only one who may stir things up is Amy Adams for American Hustle. Like Blanchett, she was the best thing about the film she was in, however the difference is that American Hustle is a good film with a tremendous cast, making Adams' performance all the more impressive. Blue Jasmine is a subpar effort stashed with stand-up comedians from Woody Allen, who just so happens to be embroiled in an ugly controversy, the kind of controversy that could keep voters from supporting his film.

Who Will Win: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Who Should Win: Amy Adams, American Hustle

Shoulda Been a Contender: Brie Larson, Short Term 12

Best Supporting Actor

If there's one sure-fire lead pipe lock it's that Jared Leto is walking away with some gold this weekend. He's dominated the award season for his transformative performance in Dallas Buyers Club, with the only losses coming when he wasn't even nominated, like at the BAFTAs. If Matthew McConaughey can also sure a win it'll be the first time since Mystic River that Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor victors came from the same movie. There's a lot of love out there for Jonah Hill to get the win he didn't get for Moneyball, and Barkhad Abdi's debut performance in Captain Phillips is a great Cinderella story, but neither has a chance this year.

Who Will and Should Win: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

The Dark Horse: Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street

Shoulda Been a Contender: James Franco, Spring Breakers

Best Supporting Actress

Ding ding ding! In this corner we have Lupita Nyong'o, the Kenyan beauty who turned heads with her heartbreaking performance in 12 Years a Slave, her first major acting role. And in this corner is the defending champion and Hollywood darling, Jennifer Lawrence, the firecracker of American Hustle. Really, there are no other contenders in this fight, and the momentum seems to be behind Lawrence after big wins at the Golden Globes and BAFTAs. It's probably hers to lose, but the campaign for Nyong'o has been fierce and persistent. She's been in front of every darn camera on the west coast and attended every awards ceremony big or small, and that definitely has an effect. This one is almost too close to call, but my money is on Lawrence going 2-for-2.

Who Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle

Who Should Win: Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave

Shoulda Been a Contender: Octavia Spencer or Melonie Diaz, Fruitvale Station

Best Animated Feature

The world loves legendary animator, Hayao Miyazaki, and his sterling biopic The Wind Rises has more than enough fans to drown out any detractors, but this is Disney's award to win for the Frozen. A beloved smash at the box office with a soundtrack that has parents and kids singing "Let it Go" at the top of their lungs, Frozen would be Disney Animation's first win in this category since...ever. Kind of crazy, huh?

Who Will Win: Frozen

Who Should Win: The Wind Rises

Best Adapted Screenplay

Who Will Win: 12 Years a Slave, John Ridley

Who Should Win: The Wolf of Wall Street, Terence Winter

The Dark Horse: Before Midnight, Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke

Shoulda Been a Contender: Short Term 12, Destin Daniel Cretton

Best Original Screenplay

Who Will Win: American Hustle, Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell

Who Should Win: Her, Spike Jonze

Best Foreign Language Film

Who Will Win: The Broken Circle Breakdown

Who Should Win: The Hunt

Shoulda Been a Contender: The Past

Best Documentary Feature

Who Will Win: The Square

Who Should win: The Act of Killing

Shoulda Been a Contender: Stories We Tell

Best Cinematography

Who Will and Should Win: Gravity, Emmanuel Lubezki

The Dark Horse: Inside Llewyn Davis, Bruno Delbonnel

Shoulda Been a Contender: 12 Years a Slave, Sean Bobbitt

Best Production Design

Who Will Win: Gravity

Who Should Win: The Great Gatsby

Best Costume Design

Who Will Win: American Hustle

Who Should Win: The Great Gatsby

Best Film Editing

Who Will and Should Win: Gravity

Best Make-Up & Hairstyling

Who Will Win: Dallas Buyers Club

The Dark Horse: Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

Best Original Score

Who Will Win: Gravity, Steven Price

Who Should Win: Her, William Butler and Owen Pallett

Shoulda Been a Contender: Short Term 12, Joel P. West

Best Original Song

Who Will Win: "Let It Go, Frozen

Who Should Win: "Happy" by Pharrell Williams, Despicable Me 2

Best Sound Editing

Who Will Win: Gravity

Best Sound Mixing

Who Will Win: Gravity

Shoulda Been a Contender: Rush

Best Visual Effects

Who Will and Should Win: Gravity

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