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This year’s Oscar race is the hardest to predict in years

Sandra Bullock in "Gravity"
Sandra Bullock in "Gravity"
Warner Bros.

The Academy Awards are little more than a week away, and predicting the winners for the March 2 telecast is the toughest it’s been in decades. The Oscar experts over at Gold Derby have been arguing for weeks about the closeness of a majority of the categories ( Still, you don’t have to dread filling out your office's Oscar pool ballot if you think more with your head and less with your heart.

The key to predicting the winners is to put your personal preferences on the shelf and concentrate on the news you can use to access with accuracy. Study the Guild winners, the critics’ awards, and follow pundit blogs devoted to the awards like ( Remember too that all Academy members are voting on the categories so they tend to award the obvious in each category (the most costumes, the most evident make-up, etc.)

Three films of the nine nominated for Oscar’s top prize have a real shot at winning: “Gravity”, “12 Years A Slave” and “American Hustle”. Each has won key victories elsewhere. “Gravity” took the Directors Guild (Alfonso Cuaron) and tied with “12 Years a Slave” for Best Production of the Year at the Producers Guild Awards. And the slavery drama won at the Golden Globes and BAFTA too. Still, “American Hustle” is arguably as formidable, having won the top comedy prize at the Globes as well as Best Ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Right now, “Gravity” may have the momentum due to its six BAFTA wins and technical prowess that will it assure it of a fistful of Oscars that Sunday night in March. It’s a shoo-in for Best Visual Effects and is the favorite to prevail in voting for Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, and the two Sound categories. Even if it doesn’t take the top prize, it will likely win at least 4-5 Oscars and be the night’s most honored.

But if those contests are fairly easy to predict, others are certainly not. Supporting actress, film editing, documentary feature, two screenwriting categories, and the shorts are too close to call according to most pundits ( And having less ‘sure things’ at this year’s ceremony will surely make it an exciting telecast no matter how good Ellen Degeneres’ jokes are. Nonetheless, here are this Chicago Movie Examiner’s predictions:

Best Picture – “Gravity”

It was my pick for the best film of the year (, but I’m not thinking with my heart here. It's won a slew of awards, made gazillions of dollars and is expected to dominate in the technical categories. I think that gives it an edge for the top prize.

Best Director – Alfonso Cuaron “Gravity”

He’s won so many directors awards already this season, I believe Cuaron is one of the safer bets for this Oscars.

Best Actor – Matthew McConaughey “Dallas Buyers Club”

He won the Golden Globe and at SAG, and having “True Detective” playing currently on HBO doesn’t hurt either. McConaughey should win an Oscar and an Emmy this year.

Best Actress – Cate Blanchett “Blue Jasmine”

Will the Woody Allen controversy stop her inevitability? I don’t think so. Nor should it. Amy Adams is due, what with five Oscar nominations in just eight years, but I don’t think she can best Cate this year.

Best Supporting Actor – Jared Leto “Dallas Buyers Club”

He’s won most everywhere else and Oscar night should cap his incredible run.

Best Supporting Actress – Lupita Nyong’o “12 Years A Slave”

I’m going with Nyong’o in a photo finish even though her competition Jennifer Lawrence is the hottest star in Hollywood right now, and could easily take Oscar gold two years in a row, this time for her scene-stealing work in "American Hustle".

Best Original Screenplay – “American Hustle”

Director David O. Russell and co-screenwriter Eric Warren Singer by a nose. If not, expect Spike Jonze for “Her”.

Best Adapted Screenplay – “12 Years A Slave”

“Philomena” won at BAFTA, but John Ridley’s work has the higher profile work here in the States.

Best Foreign Language Film – “The Great Beauty” (Italy)

Expect the Oscar voters to exclaim, “è il più bravo della class” to this front-runner. (That means best in class.)

Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song – “Frozen”

Can Oscar deny the almost billion dollar worldwide box office of this phenom? Hell has a better chance of freezing over.

Best Cinematography, Original Score, Visual Effects, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing – “Gravity”

Mesmerized audiences believed they were floating in space for 90 minutes and the achievements here had a lot to do with that.

Best Editing – “Captain Phillips”

Sometimes this award goes hand-in-hand with Best Picture. Sometimes, the film with the most obvious editing wins. Not for nothing did thrillers “The Bourne Ultimatum” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” steal Oscar gold from Best Picture contenders in 2007 and 2011. Thus, I’m predicting the thriller “Captain Phillips” to narrowly edge out “Gravity” here.

Best Make-Up & Hair – “Dallas Buyers Club”

And done with a budget of only $250 ( Heck, that doesn’t cover a day of bottled water on most sets.

Best Production Design and Best Costume Design – “The Great Gatsby”

Catherine Martin’s eye-popping work for her husband Baz Luhrmann filled every frame.

Best Documentary Feature – “20 Feet from Stardom”

The award should go to the edgier “The Art of Killing”, but this more likable entry will likely persuade more voters.

Best Documentary Short Subject – “The Lady in Number 6”

The stunning story about Holocaust survival, music and memory should be the winner here.

Best Live Action Short – “Helium”

Denmark’s tearjerker about a dying little boy and his helpful nurse has the heartstrings factor that the other nominees don’t.

Best Animated Short – “Get A Horse!”

All five nominees are worthy but Disney will prevail in this animation category too.

Despite a few locks, this year’s ceremony could go any number of ways in so many contests it will be exciting to see how it all plays out. Now, if Ellen Degeneres can just wash the bad taste of last year's host Seth MacFarlane from our palates, this could shape up to be the best Oscar telecast in ages.

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