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Oscar Predictions Part I: Can anyone beat Jared Leto in Best Supporting Actor?

Jared Leto in 'Dallas Buyers Club
Jared Leto in 'Dallas Buyers Club
Focus Features

On Sunday, March 2nd, six months of intense campaigning, cajoling, glad-handing, and self-congratulating will finally come to an end when a Sidney Poitier opens the Best Picture envelope and proclaims, “And the Oscar goes to…”

Over the course of this week, I’ll be running down my winner predictions in each and every category that’ll be handed out an Oscar night. So, if you’re a fellow practitioner in the potentially maddening religion we call Oscar awards season, sit down, relax, and always remember what the late Damien Bona once said:

“The Oscars should not in any way be considered the last word in what constitutes excellence in film. What the Academy Awards represent is simply the collective judgment at a particular point in time of several thousand people who work, in, used to work in, or have ties to, the film industry. Demographically, the average Oscar voter is politically liberal, well educated, and much better off financially than most Americans. Academy members are primarily craftspeople, and generally don’t possess the critical faculties and scholarly approach of cinephiles and the best film reviewers, nor are they as steeped in Hollywood history as your garden variety movie buff. They tend to be drawn to movies that are aesthetically conservative, but which contain humanistic or “uplifting” attitudes... In all fairness, though, sometimes Academy voters do get it right.

“…The Academy Awards are a mirror that reflects social, cultural, and political trends. But when all is said and done, the Oscars are simply a lot of fun. They are filled with intelligence, integrity, and inspiration. They also provide ample illustrations of silliness, cravenness, neediness, cheesiness, boorishness, (often misguided) high-mindedness—in short, they are a microcosm of human nature. “

With that said, on to the predictions…

BEST COSTUME DESIGNNominees:

American Hustle
The Grandmaster
The Great Gatsby
The Invisible Woman
12 Years a Slave

Like many of the craft categories, the Academy tends to equate “most” with “best.” Unsurprisingly, they gravitate towards period pieces and films with opulent costume design. That would explain why Anna Karenina, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Alice in Wonderland, Marie Antoinette took home the Costume Design Oscar in previous years even though they hardly made a dent in other categories. The Invisible Woman fits the bill of a winner handsomely but it helps if your movie is seen. Ditto, The Grandmaster. That leaves us with The Great Gatsby and Best Picture nominees American Hustle and 12 Years a Slave. While Best Picture nominees are often nominated here, they hardly win – at least of late. So even though Patricia Norris’ costumes for 12 Years a Slave won her the Costume Designers Guild award this past weekend, I think Academy members are more likely to vote for the trashy, plot-integral costumes of American Hustle or the lavish threads in Baz Luhrmann’s visually ravishing The Great Gatsby. I’m sticking to my guns and going with The Great Gatsby.

Will Win: The Great Gatsby
Could Win: American Hustle
Should Win: The Great Gatsby
Should Have Been Here: Her

BEST VISUAL EFFECTSNominees:

Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
The Lone Ranger
Star Trek Into Darkness

No offense to the fine work in The Hobbit, Iron Man 3, The Lone Ranger and Star Trek Into Darkness but this will always be known as the year Gravity decimated the field and swept the craft categories. If there’s any category that Alfonso Cuaron’s groundbreaking film deserves to win, it’s here. It’s as simple as that. It also helps that Gravity is the only Best Picture nominee nominated in this field. Rule of thumb: Any time a Best Picture nominee is nominated for Visual Effects, it wins. This goes back all the way to 1977 when Star Wars won the very first award.

Will Win: Gravity
Could Win: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Should Win: Gravity
Should Have Been Here: Pacific Rim

BEST ANIMATED FEATURENominees:

The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Ernest and Celestine
Frozen
The Wind Rises

The Best Animated Feature category is usually one of the easier categories to predict because there’s always one critical and commercial phenomenon. Still, there have been times when the Academy has thrown curveballs. Brave winning last year over Wreck-it-Ralph and Frankenweenie in an example; so is the time when Happy Feet won over Cars. I don’t foresee something like that happening this year though. Although studio fare Despicable Me 2 and The Croods have their fans, and Ernest and Celestine and The Wind Rises represent the finest achievements in the animation medium this year, nothing’s coming in the way of Frozen taking home Walt Disney Animation’s first ever award in this category.

Will Win: Frozen
Could Win: The Wind Rises
Should Win: The Wind Rises
Should Have Been Here: Monsters University

BEST ANIMATED SHORTNominees:

Feral
Get a Horse!
Mr. Hublot
Possessions
Room on the Broom

For the first time in its history, voting for the three shorts, documentary and foreign language film categories will be open to the membership-at-large. I have no idea what the reasoning behind this move may have been but whatever it was, it’s a bone-headed one. Why? It’s because opening the floor to the entire Academy stacks the cards in favor of the most popular nominee of the bunch. In this case, it would be Disney’s Get a Horse, the inventive and hilarious short that preceded Frozen in theaters. Luckily, it’s also the best one of the lot. I had the chance to catch all five films last weekend and even though they all have their strengths, particularly the charming Pixar-esque Mr. Hublot and the atmospheric Feral, I have a feeling that the inventiveness and popularity of Get a Horse! will prove to be a combo too strong to ignore.

Will Win: Get a Horse!
Could Win: Mr. Hublot
Should Win: Get a Horse!
Should Have Been Here: -

BEST SUPPORTING ACTORNominees:

Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper – The Wolf of Wall Street
Jonah Hill – The Wolf of Wall Street
Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave
Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

For the first time in a very long time, the Best Supporting Actor category is populated entirely by actors below the age of 45. That’s in stark contrast to last year’s grizzled all-star lineup where the average age was 64. The oldest nominee in the group this time around is 42-year-old Jared Leto, who is, coincidentally, the frontrunner. For his transformative turn as a transgender woman dying of AIDS in Dallas Buyers Club, Leto has taken home awards that run the gamut from the African-American Film Critics Association to the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association. This vast list includes major industry precursors like the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild. The only major prize he missed out on was the BAFTA, and that’s only because members didn’t get to see the movie in time for voting. His closest competitors in the field are 28-year-old newcomer Barkhad Abdi who won the BAFTA for his memorable performance as a Somali pirate in Captain Phillips and 36-year-old Michael Fassbender for his terrifying turn as a ruthless plantation owner in 12 Years a Slave. If I had a ballot, my vote would go to Fassbender’s ferocious performance but my hope for that panning out on Oscar night is as likely as Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street) or Bradley Cooper (American Hustle) winning. In other words, very unlikely!

Will Win: Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club
Could Win: Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips
Should Win: Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave
Should Have Been Here: Daniel Bruhl – Rush

Come back tomorrow when I reveal my picks for Best Documentary Feature, Best Documentary Short, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing and the uber-tight Best Supporting Actress race.