The Oscars are mere days away now, so it's time to get your bets in! You would do well to heed my advice, unsolicited though it may be--let's get right into it, taking a look at what's likely to happen in the six marquee categories.
Leto has been racking up the critics' awards for his role as a transgender woman with AIDS, and he did the whole physical-transformation-for-a-role thing that the Academy just LOVES. Bet on him for sure.
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"
This will probably the closest race of the night. The supporting categories are where the Academy has sometimes given pat-on-the-back lifetime achievement type awards to veteran actors, so I wouldn't rule out June Squibb. It's more likely, though, that it comes down to a contest between Jennifer Lawrence and Lupita Nyong'o. Both have won their share of shiny statues this season--Nyong'o took the SAG Award and the LA Film Critics' Award, while Lawrence won the New York Film Critics Circle Award, the BAFTA, and the Golden Globe. With "American Hustle" nominated in all four acting categories, the Academy is likely to award one of the actors, so I give a slight edge to Lawrence.
Christian Bale - "American Hustle"
Bruce Dern - "Nebraska"
Leonardo DiCaprio - "The Wolf of Wall Street"
Chiwetel Ejiofor - "12 Years a Slave"
Matthew McConaughey - "Dallas Buyers Club"
DiCaprio has become the male equivalent of Glenn Close, doomed to lose Oscars left and right to the likes of Cher. McConaughey has built a more impressive film résumé lately than the Mother of Drag Queens ("Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" notwithstanding), so his win will come as less of a shock to poor Leo, but it is inevitable. Like his costar Jared Leto, McConaughey has nabbed a ton of awards for his role in "Dallas Buyers Club" and will likely claim the Oscar as well. The real suspense is over he'll bust out the "All right, all right, all right" at the podium.
Only the recent kerfuffle between Woody Allen and the Farrows could derail the momentum behind Cate Blanchett, and I don't think that will be enough. Her performance in "Blue Jasmine" is transcends any problems with the film itself (and it has quite a few); she's stunning, and has had this locked up for months. This is my most confident pick, not to mention the win I'm looking forward to most.
Steve McQueen - "12 Years a Slave"
David O. Russell - "American Hustle"
Alfonso Cuarón - "Gravity"
Alexander Payne - "Nebraska"
Martin Scorsese - "The Wolf of Wall Street"
"Gravity," more than any of the others, is a feat of direction, an achievement in innovative film-making. I'd be surprised if it didn't earn Cuarón his first Oscar.
12 Years a Slave
Dallas Buyers Club
The Wolf of Wall Street
The true contenders here are likely "12 Years a Slave," "American Hustle," and "Gravity." Maybe throw in "Dallas Buyers Club" as well. "12 Years..." and "Gravity" are the weightier, more classically awards-friendly films, and with the former likely to collect a lot of the technical awards as well as Best Director, I say that the Best Picture prize goes to "12 Years a Slave." It'll likely get an extra push from Academy voters who are worried about the embarrassment they'll face if they let an Important Topic movie walk away without any awards.